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The A.V. Club reviews Babylon 5

David of MacDavid of Mac Elite RangerCa
The A.V. Club, the Onion's non-saterical entertainment/pop culture spin-off, [url=,355/]have added Babylon 5 to the roster of shows they're reviewing on a weekly basis.[/url]

So far, they're doing two episodes a week (which seems to be standard for their retro-reviews), and have already gotten up to "Mind War." Just thought it might be interesting for anyone wanting to revisit the show.

I'm especially taken with a regular commenter using the name "Delenn" who posts in-character, and takes the suggestion given in the finale that Babylon 5 was a documentary/reenactment to it's logical conclusion, providing a fan-fic meta-story "recollections" about how things really happened compared to how they were depicted, and side-stories that were never told. While I'm not thrilled with the "here's what really happened" aspect (I never really bought into the whole "ISN special documentary" thing meaning the show as-is was meant to be second-hand, unreliable narrator fiction), some of the side story ideas really intrigue me, such as the stuff about the Earth Alliance having a broad coalition of support for the Babylon Project thanks to hawks who wanted to exploit it as an espionage tool, so the whole place was full of listening devices (the bit about the command staff's rooms as well as the ambassadors' being bugged fits nicely with the little jammer device Sheridan was always using in season two), as well as the EA's lackluster support being evidenced by them not assigning an Ambassador to the station, instead having the military contingent double as a diplomatic staff despite being wildly under-qualified and under-ranked compared to the alien ambassadors. G'Kar and Delenn were both highly-placed government officials, and even Londo was a Centauri noble who had pressed the flesh with the Emperor's family a few times.


  • BigglesBiggles <font color=#AAFFAA>The Man Without a Face</font>
    That's a really good review. I'm particularly happy to see them classify the end of [i]The Parliament of Dreams[/i] as one of the finest scenes in the series.
  • Parliament of Dreams is a really good episode. I rate it higher than most people. The G'kar plot is actually quite awesome, and of course the ending scene is one of the best for sure.

    I think Midnight was rated fairly well, but I probably would have given more love to Born to the Purple. Yeah the plot is kinda silly, but we do get Adira ;) and the Homeworld quote that both ambassadors give is humorous enough to hold the episode up.

    I probably would have rated Mind War a bit lower myself.
  • A2597A2597 Fanboy
    Not enough B5 news lately, thanks for finding this
    I've posted to the front page, and linked to this thread. :)
  • croxiscroxis I am the walrus
    I remember reading that the original style of the series was a documentary, where older versions of the still living characters would occasionally be on screen telling their stories and their voice overs as a narration.

    Its an interesting idea that could of worked out well, but they were taking a big enough risk with doing a full series arc.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    I've never heard that Croxis. JMS didn't mention anything like that in his script books either. Do you remember where you read that? For the documentary thing, it's made even more clear in the script for "Sleeping in Light" that the whole show was a dramatic documentary about the actual events. That episode was even originally going to have a small ad for things like a collection of the Books of G'quan and G'kar.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    I'm reading the site now. Go read the comments for "Midnight on the Firing Line/Soul Hunter". It looks like JMS actually commented there!
    And I have to say that so far I agree with quite a bit of what the reviewer says. I'm so glad that he's keeping in mind the time that the show aired and is mentioning these things for people who wouldn't know, while also comparing the show itself to how other shows that have attempted the same sort of things have done.
  • David of MacDavid of Mac Elite Ranger Ca
    [QUOTE=DarthCaligula;195416]I've never heard that Croxis. JMS didn't mention anything like that in his script books either. Do you remember where you read that?[/quote]

    I believe the bit about interviews and narration with other members of the crew was in the longer pre-production outline of the show (not the one-page shower-notes, the long one that becomes totally different halfway through and ends with the Minbari warrior caste blowing up Babylon 5 and Sinclair stealing Babylon 4 from the past to lead into the second five-year-series, "Babylon Prime.") But if it was, you'd remember that since you have the script books... (hey, can you look up something for me I've been wondering about for my "Points of Departure" project?)

    [QUOTE=DarthCaligula;195416]For the documentary thing, it's made even more clear in the script for "Sleeping in Light" that the whole show was a dramatic documentary about the actual events. That episode was even originally going to have a small ad for things like a collection of the Books of G'quan and G'kar.[/QUOTE]

    There's enough stuff in the show to contradict the documentary angle (like "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars," and what other examples do I need?) that I consider it window-dressing and not a fundamental point of B5 that it was an unreliable narrator story. Like how a lot of novels that are told in the first person don't address when this person wrote it all down, or how he remembers everything so exactly.

    On the other hand, it seemed like JMS was implying that the documentary angle was going to be critical for the abortive WB direct-to-download series that almost happened a few years ago, with it being another "documentary," or the actual events that inspired the original series.

    I feel like unless you're going to do something really interesting with it (like if the "Delenn" fanfic I mentioned in the OP was an official product that came out contemporaneously with the show), its cheap to throw it in. It adds an unnecessary layer of separation between the audience and the characters, same as the "And it was all a dream" ending does. There's a reason that's considered a cop-out even in stand-alone stories.

    And then, of course, you can really screw it up, like the guys behind the Myst games did with their ill-considered attempt to rewrite their storyline to support a new title that didn't end up going anywhere.

    [QUOTE=DarthCaligula;195417]I'm reading the site now. Go read the comments for "Midnight on the Firing Line/Soul Hunter". It looks like JMS actually commented there![/QUOTE]
    Oh, I thought they'd removed that.

    It's not actually JMS, just someone posting dramatized versions of stuff he said on-line and in interviews. The real JMS was fairly irritated about that. I'm pretty sure I didn't see anything "him" in the latest review comments, so I guess the poster was banned.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    Oh, it's not him....
    And there you go pointing out things I really should have remembered. Yeah, "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" is the most obvious thing to point at to prove that this couldn't all just be a dramatic documentary within the setting (Unless it aired after the point the sun explodes!) And I'll have to check the original five year plan again I guess. I've read that thing at least three or four times, but I just don't remember it being mentioned that the characters would be making those sort of commentaries (actually, they sort of are in it. "I was there at the dawn of the third age of mankind" and such). This also reminds me that I always intended to rewatch the first season with the original plan in mind to see all the foreshadowing and the different meanings to the foreshadowing. "Babylon Squared" itself is very impressive. JMS did a great job of taking the foreshadowing in that episode and changing it while still having everything make sense.
    And what did you want me to look up?
  • David of MacDavid of Mac Elite Ranger Ca
    In Act 3 of the episode, between Lennier coming to Sheridan and Ivanova after the question the bad Minbari captain, and the scene in Sheridan's office where Lennier starts to explain what happened at the Battle of the Line, there's an establishing shot of the station.

    The sun goes down in that shot, and comes up again in another establishing shot at the beginning of the tag, right before the scene in Earhart's. I'm curious if that detail is mentioned in the script, or if it just says "EXT: SPACE - Babylon 5 spins."
  • croxiscroxis I am the walrus
    It was something I read pre-script books actually. Although I can not tell you the source.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    This is pretty intertesting. Comparing the script and the episode, yes, you are right that after Lennier says "...and the reason we surrendered at the Battle of the Line" it shows the station with the sun "setting". However, in the script:

    Captain, I apologize... [cutting a bit here so I don't have to type it all] ... and the reason we surrendered at the Battle of the Line.

    Off their reaction, we go to


    START on Lennier and PULL BACK to REVERSE Sheridan and Ivanova.

    Then Lennier starts talking about the war.

    At the beginning of the Tag, it says nothing about any CGI shot of the station. Instead it says:

    FADE IN:


    Rising like a giant mushroom out of the garden. PUSH IN on the large window on its side, and into

    And it goes into the stuff in Earhart's. So there's no mention of the station and the sun setting and rising. Maybe the director thought it would be good, or JMS or one of the other producers thought of it at some later point after it was written.
  • David of MacDavid of Mac Elite Ranger Ca
    Cool, I feel better about my decision now to switch the shots. It make more sense for the first part to be at "dawn" (what with all the metaphorical light being shined on everything) and a [i]lot[/i] more sense for everyone to be unwinding at the bar and C'n'C to be closed down at "night."
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    It sure is nice to be talking about this show again. Two topics going even.
    Oh yeah, it's also possible that the director or producers or whoever just decided that shots of the station at those points would be good for the flow, but maybe the sun rising and setting idea came from the CGI people. It's really hard to say. Like I said, all I know is that the script doesn't mention anything about it.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    Oh boy! Next time it's Grail and TKO! Two of the most godawful episodes of the series. Grail is just plain embarassing to watch. At least TKO has Ivanova's Shivah storyline. "Hey everyone! I'm Jinxo! Deuce is trying to kill me, but do I look worried? Heck no! I say turn that frown upside down! Golly!"
  • David of MacDavid of Mac Elite Ranger Ca
    I saw on the TrekBBS that Jinxo teaches an acting class, now. David Warner is always good, though.

    I was actually a little surprised that those two are coming up next. I've been ripping the episodes from the DVDs recently, and I'm numbering them in [url=]the Lurker's Guide Order[/url] (otherwise it'll drive me nuts when Delenn has a Triluminary two episodes before she gets it, not to mention when "Day of the Dead" apparently happens entirely while Byron and Lyta are getting it on). In that order, TKO is the third-to-last episode in the season (which I guess makes the "Watch your back" foreshadowing more effective). I watched a bit of TKO in the process a few days ago, and I think the worst part of it is all the over-the-top future-slang Garibaldi and Walker use.
  • I never thought Grail was terrible. It wasn't great, sure, but it wasn't terrible. TKO is terrible. Not even Ivanova's B-plot can save it from being the worst episode.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    TKO worse than Grail? Oh please. Jinxo smiles through the whole episode, Chris Franke was on drugs or something when he made that horrible music that plays in every scene with Londo or Vir... everything in that episode sucks! The only good part is that alien on trial at the beginning. Like I've already said, TKO has the Shivah part, which is probably one of the few times a TV has ever talked about the Jewish tradition of Shivah.
    Since we're talking about the show and the first season and stuff that sucks in it, how about the fact that we kept getting promised that Sinclair screwing around with the rules and pissing off people back at Earth Gov was going to come back to bite him, and then we get Eyes, but oh how convinient that the guy they send is some nutcase who eventually pulls a gun on everyone. Well, Sinclair is eventually removed from the station and replaced with someone they think will be more like what they want, so I guess it still works.
    And we don't exactly know how they might have retaliated if Sinclair had stayed.

    Oh yeah, also about TKO, as someone who actually has a good amount of martial arts experience, every part in that episode that has to do with martial arts is just embarassing to watch. I also like what Andy Lane pointed out about how these are all different species so it would be totally uneven. We see in the show that Narns can take more of a beating than humans, Minbari can lose more blood and are stronger, the Soul Hunter was able to pick Sinclair up with one arm, and well, the Centauri seem pretty even with humans, and what about other aliens? What if a Centauri had to go against some guy with an exoskeleton? Like hell that would be fair.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    I love the comments people are making about TKO and Grail. These are hilarious! My favorite line is from Micheal-Is-My-Co-Caine:

    " Walker is fighting for the right to participate, not to win, and he doesn't win. He fights bravely and well, but uses no special tricks. A completely sold-out version of the trope would have him pull a space-crane-kick and win while "You're the Best!" blared on the soundtrack."
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    [QUOTE=David of Mac;195528] (otherwise it'll drive me nuts when Delenn has a Triluminary two episodes before she gets it,[/QUOTE]

    It's been a while since I've watched the show. What episodes are you referring to with that?
  • David of MacDavid of Mac Elite Ranger Ca
    In "Babylon Squared," Delenn visits the Grey Council, and at the end of the episode, one of the councillors gives her a triluminary, so she can finish building the chrysalis device. In "Legacies," there's a scene where a bunch of Delenn's religious-caste goons steal the body of that Minbari general, and one of them uses the triluminary to stun some warrior caste guards.

    Which is fine in production order, where "Legacies" is the second-to-last episode of the season, but less so in airdate/DVD order, where "Babylon Squared" is three or four episodes after "Legacies."

    Speaking of "Legacies," I'm glad that the reviewer mentioned that it was odd that emigration and naturalization was never really brought up on Babylon 5. It's especially odd since this is the biggest example, and the rogue telepath situation in season 5 would've been resolved handily if they all became Minbari or Centauri citizens.

    I suppose it's possible that Psi Corps influenced Earth to make sure they had extradition treaties for rogue human telepaths with all the alien governments, but in that case, how could the girl in "Legacies" get away with moving to Minbar or Narn?

    And then the "Ivanova" gimmick poster mentioned something that's occasionally amused me, that the most advanced human vehicle was an antique motorcycle sitting in a self-storage locker somewhere on Babylon 5.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    Really, I think this whole thing of posting as the characters is pretty stupid. It's like they're saying "Oh no, what you see in the show isn't how it happened. I know how it REALLY happened!" Like they're trying to make themselves feel so important. I just want to slap them and say "YOU ARE NOT DELENN. YOU ARE JUST A FAN. GET A LIFE!" I just skip all those stupid comments.

    And I'll have to check that scene in Legacies.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    Well I'll be damned. It is the Triluminary that the Minbari uses in Legacies. Good old plot device! It can stun people! It can turn you into a Minbari! It can turn you half human! It can bake waffles and turn Anna Sheridan into a different actress too I'll bet!
  • BigglesBiggles <font color=#AAFFAA>The Man Without a Face</font>
    Is it actually called the triluminary in the episode? What do the script books say about it? It could just be a case of "whatever prop is handy."
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    Very good point Biggles. If you watch the scene in the episode and pause it, you'll see that it's clearly the Triluminary. I watched the scene when the Grey Council member gives Delenn the Triluminary in Babylon Squareed first, just so to reconfrim that with myself and to make sure I'd recognize the prop, then I went to the scene in Legacies (I'm so glad they were on the same DVD), and it sure is the Triluminary in that scene. Now let's see what the script says...


    Hazy and fogged at the edges. we see the draped coffin and two Minbari guards at attention. We see two grey-robed persons ENTER. One holds a small triangular device. The grey robe stretches the device out toward the guards. The TRIANGLE GLOWS. The two guards suddenly go rigid, staring straight ahead, caught in a stasis field.

    So it just says that it's a triangle of some kind. The capital letters are like that in the script, by the way, not my emphasis. It's hard to say if it really is supposed to be the Triluminary, but the prop is absolutely the same. An interesting difference between the script and the episode is that Delenn actually invites Alisa into her mind in the script, instead of Alisa just looking in on her own. I guess they changed that because it would be pretty stupid of Delenn to invite a telepath into her mind when she's got this huge secret going.
  • BigglesBiggles <font color=#AAFFAA>The Man Without a Face</font>
    It might not be intended to be a triluminary then. The Minbari have a thing for triangles and anything else matching the number three, so the intention could have been some triangle-shaped weapon, and the director or props department or whatever said "Hey, we already have a Minbari triangle!"
  • I agree after thinking about this a bit more. I always thought it was the trilumenary (considering its the prop), but I don't think that's what it was intended. Aren't there only three triluminaries? And if so, would Delenn be so brash to use it herself, or, god forbid, give it to an underling to essentially 'raid' a location, where if things went wrong, it could be damaged? I don't think she'd risk that.

    Plus, it seems silly that the triluminary, which acts as some sort of do-many-things device, also be used as a weapon?
  • David of MacDavid of Mac Elite Ranger Ca
    We should also consider that, before the episodes were shuffled around for production reasons, "Legacies" was supposed to come after "Babylon Squared." In fact, it was supposed to be the last episode before the finale (hence the ominous music when the last line of the episode is Alisa telling Sinclair that Delenn was preoccupied with a "chrysalis"). Using the Triluminary, even in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene, would fit in with the style of the show when it was still a little wobbly about serialization (something similar was supposed to happen with "Knives" and "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum," where Sheridan hallucinates seeing the Icarus in the episode before the one where the Icarus is a big deal, so its fresh in your mind. Of course, that one was also thrown off by air date reshuffling so that "Knives" came afterward).

    [url=]JMS also mentions[/url] that "Legacies" would best be seen after "Babylon Squared," but doesn't say why (since B2 hadn't aired yet). I can't think of anything else that would've had an effect from that episode, though.

    Besides, it makes more sense than the later implication that the Triluminary was just a piece of the species-switcher machine, and that it glowed when near one of Sinclair blood. If that was all it was for, why would they shove it up into the face of a human they were torturing? Why would Draal have (apparently) given Sinclair two spares? Anything that gives the Triluminary some actual utility is good in my book.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    It's hard to say. Maybe Fontana just had some generic triangle shaped stunning thing in mind, and then JMS and the other producers decided to make it the Triluminary to add more to it.
  • DarthCaligulaDarthCaligula Elite Ranger
    And now they're at Babylon Squared. I looked through the comments, wondering if anyone there actually knew about the original plan for what was going on with B4, and thankfully I saw that there was at least one. Really, we here at this board might be a bit less fan boy worshipy towards JMS, but I have to say that with an episode like this especially, I am very impressed with how JMS was able to take his original idea, with all it's foreshadowing in the first season, and then change it. This episode is especially noteworthy because there is just so much foreshadowing, and not just in the Babylon 4 parts. I was actually more impressed with the Grey Council parts when I rewatched the episode after reading the original plan.
    I mean, what I think is so impressive about what JMS did is that after all these years, I have never seen anyone come up with a "how the show would have gone with Sinclair" theory that didn't involve Sinclair becoming Valen. I also especially love how everyone thought that Sinclair stealing B4 would have been the last episode of the show, when it absolutely was not going to go that way.
    If any of you want me to go into more detail about the original plan, I could do so. I've also finally starting rewatching the first season with the original plan in mind. The Gathering had a few interesting things.
  • Man, what's with all the hate for Michael O'Hare in the comments at that site? I've noticed this throughout the entire run so far. Well, Sheridan is coming soon, so I guess they'll all be happy. It's weird, the older I get, the more Sinclair appeals to me. It's not just wondering what the show would have been like with him, but that old traumatized soldier thing... or something like that. There's just something that appeals to me more now than when I was younger.
    I wonder if they'll all be bitching and moaning when War Without End comes. "OH NO HE SUCKS HE'S SO WOODEN SUX SUX SUX!!!!!!"
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