This season of B5 is bittersweet for fans, because it was both the best of seasons and the worst of seasons. The best, because it had some of the most moving moments in the whole B5 canon (the scene where the Liberation Fleet jumps out of hyperspace to Earthspace, with the music reaching it’s height, is indelible).
The worst because both the shadow war AND the earth war each their conclusion, prematurely, in this season. It is one slam-bang episode after another, as JMS fought was he thought was the fight to tell the last two seaons in one season – it left the cupboard bare for season five, but it left us with a powerful season of TV!
I won’t bother with a show-by-show description of what happens. Others, better qualified than I, will surely do so. But I will share what i think were the highlights of the season:
1. Sheridan’s speech when arriving at earth was extremely well-written and delivered. Though Boxleitner has been called “wooden” in his style, this speech was a vindication for him.
2. The whole thread having to do with Sheridan’s sacrifice on Zha’ha’dum was well-done. Not overplayed by anyone, it still cast a delicious pall over the season, making all choices seemingly minor in comparison.
3. The end of the Shadow War was well-handled. It showed that the enemy was not the one most alien in body, but the one most alien in mind, that was the foe. In the end, we understood the Shadows and Vorlons but never understood Bester or Clark. The former were beaten by reason, the latter only by force.
4. Tactics, especially those at Proxima Three, were interesting and important. It is a rare show that show more than just shooting until one side figures out a dodge to win against imposible odds. Sheridan’s forces and tactics had this one won from the start – the cost was the only variable.
There are some poorly-done elements. The Shadows and Vorlons are pathetic at the end. Lorien was a bit TOO deus ex machina for my tastes. Jerry Doyle is a bit too much overtaxed by the script, as is Patricia Tallman (both needed a couple of more episodes to make charactor changes believable).
However, the season as a whole is magnificent. The intro sequence alone is worth the price of admission. This is must-get for B5 fans and TV sci-fi fans alike.
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Things are looking dark for our heroes. As this year opens, Garibaldi is missing and Sheridan is missing, presumed dead. Even though they are both alive (as we learn from the opening credits), things are dark. The Vorlons and the Shadows are no longer hiding behind allies and have launched a full scale war, using the younger races as the targets. Can Sheridan use what he’s learned to bring a peaceful end to the fighting? Plus there’s the situation on Earth with dictator President Clark. Throw in Garibaldi’s weird behavior and you’ve got a full season that catches your interest and never lets go.
Since JMS didn’t know for sure if he’d actually get season 5, he worked hard to bring major plot threads together in season 4. As a result, this year is packed with action and story, but there are some wonderful character arcs as well. I’ve always found Garibaldi’s to be the most interesting of the season, but Vir gets some great moments early on as well. Londo and G’Kar’s relationship also takes some unexpected turns that are wonderful. I love watching that duo at work.
Frankly, this season will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s when I started watching. Hard for me to believe now, but my first episode was “Into the Fire.” If it weren’t for some very patient friends, I would have been lost, but I managed to stick in there, getting so hooked on the Earth plot that I couldn’t stop watching. Later, when I’d seen the rest of the show, I realized exactly what I had missed in way of back story. Naturally, I don’t recommend starting here. The way JMS is able to bring plot threads together is truly amazing this season and worth every hour spent watching the first three seasons for the payoff (not that that’s a chore by any stretch of the imagination.) Still, I’ll always have fond memories of waiting impatiently each week to see what happens next and the long wait over the summer to see how they’d resolve the mid season cliffhanger.
This DVD set is in perfect keeping with the others that have come out. Picture quality is mostly good with the occasional grain or spot. A tad distracting, but overall sharper then my video tapes. Sound is wonderful in full surround. Again we get three commentaries. The cast commentary, featuring Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik, and Patricia Tallman is entertaining if not very informative. (I’ll never look at Jerry’s head the same way again, however.) JMS does his usual two commentaries. He’s joined by director Michael Vejar on “Face of the Enemy” for a fascinating look at creating that pivotal episode. And he does his usual interesting look at “Deconstruction of Falling Stars,” the unusual fourth season finale. The special features are rounded out by an introduction on disc 1, a new documentary on the music of the show, a new suite of music set against visuals from the season, the usual data and personnel files, and finally a gag reel. I will confess I almost missed this, but it was great. Makes me wish more then ever that we’d gotten to see the gag reels from the previous seasons.
If you’re a fan of this show, you must get this set. It’s worth every penny spent. And if you’ve never seen the show, DVD is a wonderful way to discover this wonderful show. I just suggest being smarter then I was and starting with season 1.
The fourth season of Babylon 5 wraps up the series admirably, and in my view is much stronger than season five. If not for “Sleeping in Light” it would be fine if the entire series ended with “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”.
The season itself is very tight. There isn’t a lot of non-arc stuff, which is fine with me. Of the many subplots and loos ends that get resolved, look for Londo to sink even deeper into darkness while in Emperor Cartagia’s court. The Minbari civil war comes to a head, with a very unexpected outcome for both the war and for Neroon.
The acting is more than adequate. Of particular note, Wortham Krimmer is fantastic as the sadistic and depraved Emperor Cartagia. Andreas Katsulas has never been better as Citizen G’Kar.
We understand the reason for the Shadow/Vorlon conflict…if if you don’t know what the reason is, stay tuned…you might just find yourself agreeing with the Shadow point of view.
Looking forward to a good long acquaintance with this B5 season.