Not familiar with Babylon 5? Well let me nick a section from my review of the movie length pilot episode which should give you a rough idea about what's going on in the show.
|"Abso-fraggin-lutely, Damn it!"|
The Babylon project was designed by the Earth government to be a meeting place for space faring species'. To be constructed in neutral space, it is intended to be a place to trade, exchange ideas, educate and, most importantly, settle
differences in a peaceful manner. The first three Babylon stations were sabotaged during construction while the fourth mysteriously disappeared shortly before going online. Financially unable to support the construction of a fifth station alone, the concept looked doomed until it was saved by sponsorship from four alien species'; the Minbari, Centauri, Narn and Vorlon. However, their financial assistance came with a price. Each partner would have a place on an advisory committee to be chaired by the humans. Now fully operational, the human crew and alien ambassadors must try to resolve all manner of galactic problems. Meanwhile,
mysterious and dark forces are manipulating key races, turning one against the other for reasons known only to themselves.
The story of Babylon 5 follows the well worn path of good versus evil. Within this broad framework lies a number of story threads that weave their way through each episode and season. Designed from the ground up to run over five years, each season was given a title by creator J. Michael Straczynski (typing his name repeatedly is going to get old fast, from now on look for JMS) that gives a clue to the overall story. The season titles are...
Season One - Signs and Portents
Season Two - The Coming of Shadows
Season Three - Point of No Return
Season Four - No Surrender, No Retreat
Season Five - The Wheel of Fire
Each season builds on the next, gaining momentum towards the climactic fifth and final season. Well that was the idea anyway, alas the threat of cancellation was always there and at some point during season four, JMS was asked to rework the story arc to complete it within four seasons. History reveals that TNT (Turner Network Television) stepped in at the eleventh hour and injected the money needed to take
the show on to its fifth and final year. Sadly, this came after season four was more or less complete and having all but finished the story, JMS had to come up with enough new material to fill a fifth season! Predictably, season five is by far the weakest and the fourth, while exciting, suffers from trying to say too much in far to few episodes. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that JMS said that the story was not adversely affected by the rework to end it in season
four! Well that, in this reviewer's (most humble) opinion, is a great big, steaming pile of bovine excrement! That comment must have been made to avoid burning his bridges. Whoever was involved in the decision to wrap the show after four seasons, I hope your 'good bits' fall off!
Anyway, he says pushing the soap box back into the cupboard, lets get back on track! This review covers the superb season two, season one has previously been reviewed by Terry. His excellent review can be found here.
What is only hinted at in season one is slowly revealed in this set of 22 episodes. The presence of dark forces is confirmed and the result of their manipulations felt. This is truly one of the magical seasons of B5. Season one has several excellent episodes and it lays the foundation for what is to follow, but the show doesn't quite hit its straps. No such problems with season two, it's brilliant! If you want to know how great Babylon 5 can get, find a way to see the episode The Long, Twilight Struggle.
The episode list for season two is:
Points of Departure
The Geometry of Shadows
A Distant Star
The Long Dark
Spider in the Web
A Race Through Dark Places
The Coming of Shadows
All Alone in the Night
Acts of Sacrifice
And Now for a Word
There All the Honor Lies
In the Shadow of Zha'Ha'Dum
Confessions and Lamentations
The Long, Twilight Struggle
Comes the Inquisitor
The Fall of Night
My review set consists of six discs, five of which contain four
episodes per disc with the final disc containing two episodes and most of the extras.
The video transfer for all discs is the same. They are 16:9 enhanced with an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1.
Most of the time the transfer is very good, but for short sections in some of the episodes it becomes quite grainy and decidedly soft. One example is during the episode A Race Through Dark Places, where Sheridan and Delenn are having dinner together. In this scene the camera is cutting back and forth between characters as they are talking. The shots of Sheridan are much grainier than those of Delenn. You will also see an obvious drop in image quality immediately before and after CG work and during scenes in which live action and CG effects are combined. Region 1 review site dvdfile.com have this review of the NTSC version of Babylon 5 Season Two. At the end of the video transfer section you will see a link to an article that examines the transfer for B5. It provides useful information about why the CG quality is not as sharp and clear as we might expect.
The print used for this transfer is a little on the dirty side with
fibres, dust particles and nicks semi-frequent visitors to the image. Most of these pesky little buggers are minor in nature
and I didn't find them distracting. Film-to-video artefacts are also noticeable, particularly during CG effects shots, mostly in the form of our old enemy Mr. Aliasing. The problem is quite noticeable during some passages, but to be honest I didn't find them to be anything other than a minor nuisance.
Firstly kudos to Warner Bros. for creating a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer for these discs. A nice surprise.
The result is clear and crisp with no obvious problems and includes both the surrounds and the subwoofer, but is hampered by its humble origins as a budget-restricted, made for television production. What does that mean you ask? Well it means that you will hear some action from the surrounds both for ambience and during action sequences, plus your subwoofer will stay awake in most episodes, but you won't be
using any of these discs as demo material.
As a science fiction series, Babylon 5 has few equals and season two is one of the strongest. It's not without its flaws, but the good far outweighs the bad. Don't just take my word for it, read the comments over at the Internet Movie Database.
As far as the box set for season two is concerned, it is a must
purchase for fans of the series. The quality of the video is let down slightly by source material problems, but is still light years ahead of the video versions. Audio-wise things are much better with clear vocals and as much clarity and dynamics as can be extracted from the made for television audio source.