Babylon 5: Season 2 DVD Review

The Coming of Shadows
It was a year of change in season two of Babylon 5.

After the first season had wrapped up production it was mutually agree by all that Michael O’Hare wasn’t working out as the show’s leading man. O’Hare amicably agreed with creator J. Michael Straczynski to depart from the show (least that’s what they keep telling everyone) and was soon replaced by Bruce Boxleitner as Captain John J. Sheridan. The former Tron fitted in quite well on B5 and after about a few episodes you’d easily be forgiven for thinking he’d been there the whole time.

The first episode ‘Point of Departure’ serves to introduce and establish Sheridan as the new station command and show how he handles in a crisis. It’s not until episode two ‘Revelations’ that JMS got around to resolving all the cliff-hangers from the first season. Delenn came out of her cocoon with L'Oreal hair (because she’s worth it) and instantly caught Sheridan’s eye. Garibaldi woke from his coma to expose the man who shot him in the back. And G’Kar returned to the station with grave warnings about the darkness to come.

Season two has the look and feel of a show more assure of its self, more confident in what it can accomplish. This was the year Babylon 5 stopped looking like just another Star Trek clone and became the small screen sci-fi epic to be reckoned with. There were still a number of rubbish standalone episodes such as ‘The Long Dark’ and ‘GROPOS’ to put up with but they weren’t as bad as they had been in the first season. Besides when you have episodes as good as the Hugo Award winning ‘The Coming of Shadows’, ‘In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum’ and ‘The Long Twilight Struggle’ what’s a few duff ones here and there.

Walter Koenig returned as Bester in ‘A Race Through Dark Places’ and continued to make us forget he was ever Chekov. ‘And Now For a Word’ looked at life on the station from a perspective of a news program. Later in the season Lyta Alexander, not seen since the original pilot, would return in ‘Divided Loyalties’ to expose a sleeper agent on the station that had devastating consequences for Ivanova. And ‘Comes the Inquisitor’ sees the Vorlons test Delenn with the help of Jack the Ripper (no, seriously).

With the addition of Boxleitner the main cast was considerably stronger this season albeit there were still a few redundant characters that needed to be gotten rid off such as Lt. Keffer, a hotshot fighter pilot character the network insisted that Straczynski add to the line up. But JMS was not one to let even an unwanted character go to waste and used Keffer’s fate to further along the Shadow War arc. The same could not be said for G’Kar’s aid, Na’Toth, who just sort’ve vanished after two episodes without anyone, her boss included, noticing.

It’s no small thing to say that Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik were the series best actors and this season they took their performances to another level. For most of the first season Londo was nothing more than the comic relief but this season Londo’s story went in a much darker direction as he grew closer and closer to Mr. Morden and his ‘associates’. Similarly as Londo fell further into darkness G’Kar began his long and painful journey towards redemption and spiritual enlightenment.

The season finale ‘The Fall of Night’ managed to end the season on a suitably downbeat note but lacked the universe shacking impact of ‘Chrysalis’. While the future looked bleak for the characters the show’s future looked ever brighter. With the flaws and weakness of the first season overcome Babylon 5 would continue from this point on to go from strength to strength.

Rating: 5/5

DVD Extras:
-All-new introduction and audio commentary on 3 episodes by J. Michael Straczynski and cast including Bruce Boxleitner
-"Building Babylon: Blueprint of an Episode" featurette
-"Shadows and Dreams: Honors of Babylon" featurette, including coverage of the Hugo Award
-10 personnel files
-10 data files
-5 tech files
-Historical timeline
-Gag reel
-Original episode previews


Paul Kelly said...

Season one had its moments but when Sheridan arrived the show felt complete. How often does that happen? They dump the commander and bring in a new guy -- and the fans actually prefer him? I could understand it if Michael O'Hare had been terrible. But he really wasn't. I sometimes wonder how Sinclair (and the show) would have fared had he stayed on as commander (I know it wasn't an option, but still). The show looks a bit dated now. The visual effects were very much a product of their time. But it holds up to scrutiny better than Star Trek IMHO.

Mark Greig said...

Re-watching the show now from my 2010 perspective the single thing that dates it for me more than anything isn’t the CGI effects (which, while basic, still gave the show a broader scope) but the hairstyles and the fashions of humans. They just scream 1990s. Nothing dates quicker than yesterdays vision of how we’ll all dress in the future.

For instance, I’m watching Blake’s 7 at the mo (not sure why, just felt like it) and it couldn’t look more 70s if it had Blake and Avon strutting their stuff on the disco floor. Same can be said for classic Star Trek (unashamedly 60s) and early Next Gen (so 80s it’s actually hurts to watch).

Makes me wonder what it’ll be like too look back at Battlestar Galactica and Firefly 15 or 20 years from now. See how they stand up.

Paul Kelly said...

I haven't seen Blakes 7 since it first aired (probably alongside Space 1999). How does it hold up? I imagine pretty badly. I remember the show finale vividly.

Mark Greig said...

So far still only on the first few eps of the first series but have to say a lot of it (the effects, costumes, wobbly sets, some of the acting) doesn’t hold up at all.