REVIEW: BABYLON 5 – SEASON 2

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Starring

Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl)
Claudia Christian (9-1-1)
Jerry Doyle (Open House)
Mira Furlan (Lost)
Richard Biggs (Strong Medicine)
Andrea Thompson (24)
Stephen Furst (Animal House)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2)
Mary Kay Adams (Guiding Light)
Andreas Katsulas (The Fugitive)
Peter Jurasik (Tron)

Bruce Boxleitner in Babylon 5 (1993)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Robin Sachs (Buffy: TVS)
Robert Foxworth (Transformers)
Kim Strauss (ER)
Beth Toussaint (Red Eye)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Russ Tamblyn (The Haunting)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Jessica Walter (Archer)
Jeff Conaway (Grease)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lois Nettleton (Centennial)
Jane Carr (Legends of Tomorrw)
Carel Struycken (The Addams Family)
Walter Koenig (Star Trek)
Fredric Lehne (Lost)
Malachi Throne (Catch Me If You Can)
Michael O’Hare (C.H.U.D.)
Ardwight Chamberlain (Swiss Family Robinson)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Ryan Cutrona (Hot Shots!)
Ken Foree (The Devil’s Rejects)
Jsu Garcia (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Marshall R. Teague (Road House)
Paul Williams (Battle For The POTA)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Julie Caitlin Brown (All My Children)
Kim Zimmer (Body Heat)
Alex Hyde-White (The Fantastic Four)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
Andrew Craig (Conan The Adventurer)
Patricia Tallman (Dead Air)
William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers)
Roy Dotrice (Hellboy 2)

Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, and Jerry Doyle in Babylon 5 (1993)“It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind… the year the great war came upon us all.” This evocative phrase, in the new opening credits voiceover for the second season of Babylon 5, captures the anticipation, suspense, and drama that are waiting for us as we embark upon a season appropriately, and ominously, named “The Coming of Shadows.”Stephen Furst in Babylon 5 (1993)As I commented in my review of Season 1, what makes Babylon 5 really stand out is its storytelling. Creator and main writer J. Michael Straczynski is telling one story, planned from the beginning to develop over the course of five years; within that larger story are interconnecting story arcs that span several seasons. As a result, Babylon 5 has the richness, depth, power, and complexity of a great novel; it’s not like anything else on television.Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan in Babylon 5 (1993)If you’re used to “reset button” style television shows in which everything must return to the status quo at the end of the episode – for instance, however much I love Star Trek, that series is a prime example – then Babylon 5 offers quite a shock in this respect, especially now that the plot is really developing in Season 2. Each episode is a piece of the larger story, and it moves that larger story along; the events in an episode matter in the larger sense. That means that in any given episode, major events can happen: events that will shape the course of the season, or dramatically affect a character, or shed new light on any number of mysteries.Bruce Boxleitner and Claudia Christian in Babylon 5 (1993)From the large-scale plot to the pacing of the individual episodes, Babylon 5 is an extremely well-conceived and well-written show. What’s more, it’s an intelligent and challenging one. Viewers are richly rewarded for paying attention and thinking about what’s going on: what happened last week, or last season, may very well turn out to be of utmost importance as the plot develops. Season 2 starts out with an excellent reminder of this, when the events of a first-season episode turn out to be crucial in Dr. Franklin’s attempt to save Garibaldi’s life.While Season 1 set the stage, introduced the players, and got a few seemingly small events rolling, it’s now, in Season 2, that things really get explosive. Season 2 jumps into a tangled weave of plot threads from the very beginning, clearly showing that we’re in for quite a ride. Since Babylon 5 is so intensely plot-driven, I’m taking pains here to avoid spoilers. If you are watching the show for the first time, you absolutely, positively do not want to have any of the fantastic plot developments spoiled for you… and if you’re watching it for a second (or third, or fourth…) time, then a few hints will be enough to whet your appetite for seeing the episodes again.Bruce Boxleitner in Babylon 5 (1993)Commander Sinclair has been mysteriously removed from his command of Babylon 5, and sent to Minbar as an ambassador; indeed, strange things are afoot with the Minbari, as Ambassador Delenn embarks on a perilous transformation in accordance with prophecy, and the Minbari reveal something that they have previously kept hidden from the humans… though they aren’t telling the whole story. A new commander, Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) takes command, but with a past that’s shadowed by personal grief as well as by his infamy among the Minbari, who call him “Star-Killer.” Is he a pawn in some larger political game? Will he be able to continue Babylon 5’s mission?Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, and Jerry Doyle in Babylon 5 (1993)Then there’s the issue of Earth President Santiago’s death, which may have been foul play at the hands of a conspiracy… but just how deep does that conspiracy go, and who can the Babylon 5 crew really trust? The Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari is on the ascendance after the destruction of the Narn colony in Season 1… but it seems that Londo’s relationship with the mysterious Mr. Morden is far from finished. In fact, the events of Season 1 have only served to increase the tension in the bitter rivalry between the Narn and Centauri empires. We also get developing threads about the Psi Corps and the Mars colony tied in, with the return of the Psi Cop Bester (Walter Koenig) as well as the telepath Lyta Alexander. And in the background, we learn of the appearance of strange ships, ships that G’Kar has a theory about…Bruce Boxleitner, Mira Furlan, and Bill Mumy in Babylon 5 (1993)I haven’t mentioned any specific episode titles so far, in part because the story threads are so interwoven that it’s difficult to pick out individual episodes to discuss and in part because it’s hard to talk about specific episodes without spoilers. Season 2 has 22 episodes, and they’re all good ones; even the more “ordinary” episodes are very entertaining stories in their own right, and serve to lay the groundwork for later high-tension episodes, both in terms of plot developments and in terms of pacing and theme. I’ll point out a few highlights, and leave you to find out exactly why they’re so important.Stephen Furst and Bill Mumy in Babylon 5 (1993)“The Coming of Shadows” should tell you from its title alone that it’s a momentous episode… and trust me, it is. “All Alone in the Night” likewise moves forward into deeply dramatic territory, involving Sheridan as well as Delenn. Then there’s “In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum”… let’s just say that you’ll be seeing more of Mr. Morden. “A Spider in the Web” and “A Race Through Dark Places” showcase interesting developments among the Psi Corps. “The Long, Twilight Struggle” brings certain events of the Narn-Centauri struggle to a head. And “The Fall of Night” will have you biting your nails for Season 3.

 

REVIEW: STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE – SEASON 1-7

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MAIN CAST

Avery Brooks (Roots: The Gift)
Nana Visitor (Dark Angel)
Rene Auberjonois (Boston Legal)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Terry Farrell (Hellraiser 3)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Cirroc Lofton (Soul Food)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Nicole de Boer (Rated X)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Felecia M. Bell (Nightman)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Aron Eisenberg (Puppet Master 3)
Max Grodenchick (Apollo 13)
J.G. Hertzler (Roswell)
April Grace (Lost)
Majel Barrett (Babylon 5)
Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser)
Gwynyth Walsh (Taken)
Bertila Damas (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Vaughn Armstrong (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Rosalind Chao (I Am Sam)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Jennifer Hetrick (L.A. Law)
John De Lancie (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
Tom McCleister (Angel)
Gregory Itzin (Firefly)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Julie Caitlin Brown (Babylon 5)
Chris Latta (Transformers)
Barry Gordon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride)
Cliff De Young (Glory)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Keone Young (Men In Black 3)
Jack Shearer (Star Trek: First Contact)
Harris Yullin (Rush Hour 2)
Louise Fletcher (Heroes)
Frank Langella (Masters of The Universe)
Stephen Macht (Galaxina)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
John Glover (Smallville)
Tim Russ (Samantha Who?)
Daphne Ashbrook (The Love Letter)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Brian Thompson (The Terminator)
Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend)
William Schallert (Innerspace)
K Callan (Lois & CLark)
Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play)
John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Michael Ansara (Batman: TAS)
William Campbell (Dementia 13)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Michael Bell (Rugrats)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Salome Jens (Superbot)
Martha Hackett (Leprechaun 2)
Ken Marshall (Krull)
Mary Kay Adams (Babylon 5)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Brett Cullen (Lost)
Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners)
Tricia O’ Neil (Gia)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Free Enterprise)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Richard Lee Jackson (Saved By The Bell: The New Class)
Andrew Prine (V)
Tracy Scoggins (Lois & Clark)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
Leland Orser (Seven)
Chase Masterson (Terminal Invasion)
Penny Johnson Jerald (Castle)
Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog)
Diane Salinger (Batman Returns)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Robert O’ Reilly (The Mask)
Obi Ndefo (Stargate SG.1)
Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
Galyn Gorg (Robocop 2)
Jeremy Roberts (Veronica Mars)
James Cromwell (Species II)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Conor O’Farrell (Lie To Me)
Robert Foxworth (Syriana)
Brock Peters (Soylent Green)
Casey Biggs (Broken Arrow)
Tony Todd (The Flash)
Robert DoQui (Robocop)
D. Elliot Woods (Agents of SHIELD)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Ron Canada (Just Like Heaven)
Jeffrey Nordling (Flight 93)
Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2)
Cliff De Young (THe Craft)
Jim Jansen (Death Becomes Her)
Tom Towles (Fortress)
Philip Anglim (The Elepehant Man)
Bruce Gray (Cube 2)
Ron Taylor (The Simpsons)
Larry Cedar (Deadwood)
Bill Mondy (Smallville)
Michael Reilly Burke (Mars Attacks)
Heidi Swedberg (Hot Shots)
Amanda Carlin (Friends)
Bernie Casey (Under Siege)
Molly Hagan (Izombie)
Michael Jace (The Fan)
Dennis Christopher (IT)
Joseph Ruskin (The Scorpian King)
Lawrence Pressman (Dark Angel)
Jill Sayre (Hercules and The Amazon Women)
Jonathan Frakes (Sar Trek: TNG)
Tina Lifford (Babe)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Lark Voorhies (Save By The bell)
John Doman (Gotham)
Marshall R. Teague (Babylon 5)
Susanna Thompson (Arrow)
Clarence Williams III (The Butler)
Loren Lester (Batman: TAS)
Charlie Brill (Silk Stalkings)
Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Lawrence Tierney (Resevoir Dogs)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Paul Popowich (Rupture)
Courtney Peldon (Out on a Lamb)
Michelle Krusiec (The Invitation)
Clayton Landey (Staragte: Atlantis)
Kevin Rahm (Bates MNotel)
Mike Starr (Ed Wood)
James Black (Anger Management
Meg Foster (Masters of The Universe)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
John Prosky (The Devil Inside)
Hilary Shepard (Power Rangers Turbo)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Charlie Brill (Silk Stalkings)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Marjean Holden (Hostage)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Christopher Shea (Bounty Killer)
Marc Worden (Ultimate Avengers)
Gabrielle Union (Ugly Betty)
Shannon Cochran (The Ring)
Iggy Pop (The Crow 2)
Brad Greenquist (Alias)
Leslie Hope (24)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Michael Weatherly (NCIS)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: TTW)
James Darren (T.J. Hooker)
Bill Mumy (Babylon 5)
Kevin Rahm (Bates Motel)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
William Sadler (Roswell)

DS9 is one of my all-time favourite television shows. It edges out Star Trek’s original series just barely as my favourite in the franchise. I am not going to state that it’s the best Star Trek series, because it definitely will not appeal to everybody, but it is my favourite.

DS9 deviates from the Trek franchise formula in an important way – it is based on one location – a Cardassian-built space station near the planet Bejor. So even the architecture of the main set is alien – not another sterile militaristic star ship inhabited by a primarily white European crew – but a true Babel. Bejor has just been liberated from 60 years of occupation by an expansionist militaristic race – the Cardassians. Both Bejorans and Cardassians will play important roles throughout DS9. Since the station does not move much during the show’s seven year run, DS9 has a much stronger sense of place than the other ST series, and is able to develop story arc and character continuity much more powerfully than the others.

All of the major characters and most of the frequent returning characters have their own interwoven story arcs – most of which span the entire series. Ben Sisko (Avery Brooks), the station’s commander, is a somewhat disgruntled Star Fleet officer who has several personal vendettas which have almost driven him from Star Fleet. He is also a single parent and a genius. In the very first episode, Sisko’s arc begins and it is clear that his story will be the frame within which the entire series is organized – though the reasons for this will no become entirely clear until near the end. Also memorable are the gruff, shape-shifting Chief Constable Odo(Rene Auberjunois) who does not know what he is and where he came from; Kira (Nana Visitor) Sisko’s aggressive and intense Bajoran second officer; Garak (Andy Robinson) a Cardassian Tailor and – possibly – spy, who is easily the most well-developed, well-acted and interesting recurring guest star Star Trek has ever had; Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) – the beautiful Trill science officer whose consciousness is enhanced by the memories and personality of a 600 year old symbiotic slug who lives in her stomach and has inhabited dozens of previous hosts; Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) the station’s young, brilliant, adventurous and naive doctor; and Quark (Armin Shimmerman), the greedy, conniving, but entirely lovable Ferengi casino owner.

The characters, cast, and serialized stories make DS9 stand apart from the franchise as the most powerfully plotted, intensely dramatic and politically charged Star Trek ever. The show is, however, not for those with limited attention spans and a disdain for complexity. While it isn’t exactly hard to follow, the dialog is often dense and DS9 – more than any other Trek show – uses non-verbal communication very well. Brooks, Visitor and Robinson – all of whom are masters at this – are particularly non-verbal and make a big impression from the first few episodes.

Throughout the series, there are constant underlying political intrigues and surprisingly little filler. Almost every story connects with the main story arc (Sisko’s and Bejor’s) in one way or another, and no time is wasted with aimless experimentation by the writing team (a problem Voyager and Enterprise both suffered from).

The production is consistently theatrical in scope. The special effects are still – even today – above average for television, and even the new BSG doesn’t approach the scope and coherence of the plot.Highly recommended for bright people looking for something more than typical TV drama normally delivers.