on July 11, 2004
Back in the mid-nineties I really wasn't watching any TV show religiously. There was the occasional "Married...with children" episode, or once in a while I would watch "Star Trek: the Next Generation." Then I caught a single episode from season 2 of some Sci-fi show called "Babylon 5." The reason I know it was season 2 is because Bruce Boxleitner(of "Tron" fame) was the commander of the space station. At first I thought, "Okay, this looks like a slight variation on Deep Space 9, nothing more." I could not have been more wrong. What makes all "Star Trek" shows so frustrating is that they become predictable through repitition of plotting with only a handful of predictable characters. One knows that somehow the characters will resolve to succeed, usually in some positive re-affirmation of humanity. But on "Babylon 5" all the characters are flawed, there are many episodes that are left unexplained and/or unresolved. This makes for a very fresh experience with each story. More or less, there is a through story about "The Coming of Shadows," creatures that are oddly reminiscent of the "Buggers" from the Orson Scott Card novels "Ender's Game," "Speaker for the Dead," and "Xenocide." There are side stories, many of which are very humorous, that keep the show interesting most of the time. There are many reviews here that state that starting with season 2 is the way to go because of a respectable but fairly lackluster first season. I never saw the first season; even in syndication the networks only showed "Babylon 5" from season 2 on. There are also many reviews here noting all the references to "The Lord of the Rings." There are quite a few. There is "Za-Ha-Dum," then there is the Minbari council know as "The Nine," just to name a couple. There is an underlying reference, I feel, to the writing style of Jack Vance and his use of various cultures clashing violently and politically. Other none-too-subtle references come from George Orwell's "1984," such as the "Ministry of Peace" and the Psi-Corps(a thinly veiled nod to the "Thought Police"). Obviously, this is a thoughtfully well-written series. The acting from everyone is solid character acting of the highest quality. There is the occasional down moment, or ill-conceived sub-plot/side story, but overall I was thoroughly entertained and more often than not, completely enthralled with the through story leading me to the coming darkness. It arrives in season 3. Thank you.
Fascinating, sometimes maddening mix of wonderful and silly,
intelligent and dumb, insightful and obvious.
At it's best it's the 'Wire' of science fiction, challenging
'Battlestar Galactica' for intelligence and emotional depth.
The most interesting thing; this was an early case of a series having a
pre-planned multi-year arc, so throughout there are sometimes intentionally
confusing or mysterious details that return to be finally explained as
having great importance a season or two or three later.
On the other hand, because this preceded the acceptance of truly serial cable shows,
each episode is more self contained than more recent shows in a sometimes annoyingly
The show is also full of allusions; Shakespeare, the Bible, Buddhism,
King Arthur, the Koran. Certainly the writing is grounded in pretty
Season 2 brought in some stronger cast, and somewhat better effects than
the slightly rocky season 1.
The stories in season 2 continued to be a mix, mostly quite good, a few
great, and some subplots that were to be honest, dopey. But overall it
remained pretty riveting, with lots of interesting allusions to history
and philosophy. And it was great to see characters that seriously
evolve as the show goes on.
What may be the series' biggest problem; if this show could have been
12 episodes a year instead of 22, as is the case with most current serialized
series, there would be a lot fewer episodes that felt lacking
in substance, as if the show were just marking time.
I wish it was even more consistently great, but - in the end - it was
more than good enough.
P.S. To echo what others have written here, be careful with the special
features. They sometimes have a nasty habit of acting as spoilers and
giving away plot twists to come.
Without question, season 2 of "Babylon 5", "The Coming of Shadows", made it the science fiction television series to watch, highlighting creator J. Michael Straczynski's five year story arc for this vast "novel for television". Bruce Boxleitner's Captain John Sheridan is a major improvement as the commander of Babylon 5 over Season 1's Michael O'Hare (Commander Sinclair); much to his credit Boxleitner portrays Sheridan as the noble, but flawed, character that is implied from his past. During the course of Season 2 we shall witness the epic struggle between the Narn Regime and the Centauri Republic as well as the initial skirmishes in the new war against the mysterious Shadows. Sheridan will be thrusted into a pivotal role as the on site leader of a resistance movement against an increasingly fascist Earth Alliance government. Ambassador Mollari (Peter Jurasik) will unexpectedly find himself as Babylon 5's most hated, most feared individual due to his involvement in the new Centauri war against the Narns. And Ambassador G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) will emerge by the end of the season as a tragic, heroic figure.
Some of the best episodes include "The Coming of Shadows", which chronicles an ill fated attempt by the dying Centauri emperor (Turhan Bey) to forge a long-lasting peace with the Narns, "The Shadows of Z'ha'dum", in which Sheridan learns a terrifying secret about Mr. Morden (Eric Wasser), and "Comes the Inquisitor", whereby Sheridan and Delenn (Mira Furlan) are tested by a human agent of the Vorlon Empire (Wayne Alexander, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Lorien in Season 3). But these are not the only fine episodes in this epic-filled season of "Babylon 5".
The sound and image transfers of Season 2 are a substantial improvement over Season 1, though they fall short of the quality I've expected from films such as "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". The accompanying commentaries offer valuable insight into Straczynski's plans for the entire "Babylon 5" saga as well as the cast's recollections on the filming of Season 2. For those who are not familiar with "Babylon 5", then this DVD collection is a fine place to start. Truly, "Babylon 5" hit its stride during Season 2, and kept its excellence through the very end of Season 5.
on April 27, 2003
Finally! After waiting two years to start to fill the gaps in my collection, the second season has arrived on DVD! I hadn't seen "Revelations" or "And Now For A Word" since their original syndication broadcast in the 1994-1995 season. After spending the past day reviewing this season on DVD, it's really evident that this is where Babylon 5's arc truly comes into his own.
Where writing, acting, and production are concerned, the second season is perhaps a better point of introduction for new fans than the first, where the cast and production team were still getting into the swing of producing a stellar show on a meager budget. The second season manages to preserve much of the "darkness" that gives Babylon 5 its realism, while higher production values remove some of the grittiness felt throughout the first season. Remarkably, the CG - state-of-the-art at the time - doesn't yet look dated - an amazing testament to the effort that went into the series.
Although Bruce Boxleitner's (Captain Sheridan's) "happy-go-lucky" attitude for much of this season can be grating at times, seen as part of his development across the next three seasons, one begins to appreciate his talents -- although I must admit that I do miss Michael O'Hare's weighty performances from the first season. The returning cast puts in solid performances: Mira Furlan (Delenn), Peter Jurasik (Londo) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) consistenly steal the show as the alien ambassadors. While Mary Kay Adams as Na'Toth doesn't equal Caitlin Brown's acerbic performances from the first season, and Robert Rusler is unremarkable as Lt. Keffer.
A slew of fantastic guest stars compensates amply for any weaknesses in the main cast: from Michael Ansara (Elric), Dwight Schultz (Amos), Ed Wasser (Morden), Paul Winfield (Gen. Franklin), and Pat Tallman (Lyta Alexander) among many others. Some of the most memorable stand-alone episodes: "GROPOS," "And Now For A Word," "Confessions and Lamentations," and "Comes the Inquisitor" take approaches almost never seen in science fiction television.
The DVD itself feels more professional than the first-season release -- it includes a booklet listing which episodes are on which discs... a tremendous asset missing from the first set. Although I'm not qualified to comment on the quality of the DVD transfer, I must say that (for eccentric and unexplainable reasons of my own) Babylon 5 only looks "right" to me in widescreen.
The two commentaries provided by creator and executive producer J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) - on "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum" and "The Fall of Night" are less illuminating than his remarks from the first season -- he repeats much of his material between the two commentaries -- and despite his brilliance in concieveing of and writing B5, how many times can you hear him talk about "choices, consequences, and repsonsibility" before you become nauseated. However, the high-energy and irreverent running commentary given by Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle, and Bruce Boxleitner on "The Geometry of Shadows" provide a hysterical glimpse into the minds of the actors looking back on the series 8 years later. Interestingly, they express a desire to work on a B5 feature film -- something which the success of these DVD sets might just eventually inspire -- if they can demonstrate financial viability.
The DVDs also include an introduction to the set and two small featurettes: "Building Babylon: Blueprint of an Episode" and "Shadows & Dreams: Honors of Babylon", featuring new interview with the actors (including Claudia Christian, Andrea Thompson, Peter Jurasik, and Bruce Boxleitner -- not interviewed for the first season set) I personally found the comments from the production staff on the first season DVDs more illuminating; it feels like Warner has focused more on the actors for greater market draw, sacrificing real content.
Overall: 4 stars. This is some of the best television production and writing you'll run across, especially in science fiction. Babylon 5 remains unmatched, and the second season (matched only by the third season) is its best. The DVD is long overdue, and I can only hope that Warner will continue this series, and release all 5 seasons, plus the TV movies and the short-lived Crusade spinoff on DVD -- good sales figures should encourage this. This set would be well worth the money for the episodes alone, although the actors' commentary is a very nice bonus. The other DVD extras are dissapointing.
on March 7, 2003
The Coming of the shadows picks up directly where signs and portents leaves off with the exciting climax, chrysalis, where earth-alliance President Santiago is assasinated, Ambassador Delen enters a Chrysalis, Kosh attempts to warn sinclair of the coming of the shadows, and the narn military outpost is destroyed in the first large scale involvment of the shadows.
Season 2 introduces new characters including Bruce Boxlinger(sp) as Captian John Sheridan. In this season you will also bear witness to the building of the army of light, and the regrouping of the shadows, as well as a very dramatic rise to power of the tainted influences of the HomeGaurd. Season 2 captures events on the rise as they move towards season 4's climax.
All around I, as most Fivers, Praise this Saga as one of if not the best story ever told, for it's romance, realism(as far as characters go),drama, and it's overall thematic power.
This Story will move you in ways you cannot yet imagine, however, it will take the full 5 year series to do so. If you have the paitience, and the capasity... youare in for a treat you will not soon forget.
on February 12, 2004
There is not much to add here, but B5 truly became the best SF TV show in history beginning in this season. The story line was filled with tragedy and triumphs which mirrors real life and with the B+Narn/Centuari War and the beginning of the love between Delen and Sheridan. Like many others, I was disappointed by the disappearance of Michael O'Hare, but Bruce Boxleitner soon came to fill his role as Captain Sheridan with some powerful acting--epsecially when he tries to find out how Morden escaped the destructionj of the Icarus. It proves, if it has to be, that good SF TV is just plain good TV. One major fault--why didn't Bruce, Jerry, and Claudia do the commentary on an episode that had more of their scenes? Still, that is a small complaint when you consider the wealth of story-telling, tears, and smiles that come with this season. Get it folks, the best is yet to be!
on April 30, 2003
I have purchased boxed sets of X-Files, Star Trek TNG, Buffy and Angel. I liked the extras that X-Files has, but I wished the TV Promos were on the disks with the appropriate episodes. Buffy and Angel had good extras, but they didn't include the TV promos. Star Trek TNG had good extras, but they also didn't include the promos, and since it is Star Trek, you would think they could have included tons of extras. The Babylon 5 boxed sets are almost perfect. The menus are great, and the fact that they have the TV promos right next to each episode is perfect! The extras are outstanding! They have behind the scenes info, commentaries and station tours (and a gag reel on season 2). The style of the box is like a book, which I like the best because I don't have to have 3 feet of space on the table to get a disc out. I can't wait for season 3!!
on April 22, 2013
I had forgotten how much I liked this series. I remembered that It was good but after getting all 5 seasons and watching them all, I have to say I'm very glad to have watched it again, all these years later. Well worth the price. I know I will watch all five seasons again a couple of time over the years.
The regular characters are well defined, you really get to like and dislike some of them. For all the weird costumes and hairstyles, and what not, the acting gets you beyond laughing at them and brings you right along to caring about them.
Very good Sci-Fi series. A great addition to my collection.
on April 22, 2004
After reading reviews of all the box sets and some of the problems some people have had,I just wanted to add my experiences.
I too had a few occasions where the picture would break up and even freeze as someone else has mentioned.
I removed the dvd from the player and cleaned it useing a cd/dvd spray cleaner.When I reinserted the dvd and played it again I had no further problems.
I have encountered this on one or two other brand new dvds of other shows and in each instance a good cleaning solved the problem.
The discs never look dirty or scratched and are always played fresh out of the case which leads me to believe it may be a coating of something that cant be seen by the naked eye but is detectable by the players laser.
It may not solve everyones problem but its worth trying before returning the discs for an exchange and then encountering the same problem.
I hope this helps as the series itself is great and nothing is more frustrating then having a problem in the middle of watching it.
on February 23, 2004
After Season 1, its time for Season 2. And what a new season to begin with.
New captain, unsolve problems and unexpected turn-of-events had made Season 2 something more.
Firstly, we get to see more of the mystery of the "Shadows", the deadliest aliens in the whole galaxy. Then the unexpected fall of G'Kar (played by Andreas Katsulas) & his species to the Centauri. The rebellion decision new captain John Sheridan (played by Bruce Boxleitner). And more mysteries unfold, added and so on.
Season 2 opens full speed ahead that what began in Season 1 had allow us viewers to get into the saga itself with problems and the realization of a big epic tale created by J. Michael Strazynski. The special effects are much better. The sets outlook looks bigger. And with the script, I finally understand why my friends recommend me to start off with Season 2 first.
Season 2 had finally begin its tale where Season 1 left us with the introduction of the beginning. Its the space saga that continues that leads to Season 3 into a full-scale war. A season you will never forget...