Babylon 5
The complete second season: The Coming of Shadows (region 1 edition)

Starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle & Mira Furlan
Warner Home Video
RRP $99.98
Certificate: 12
Available now

Babylon 5 is a spacestation which replaces four abortive attempts to create a meeting place for the representatives of the five major races, as well as the non-aligned worlds. Although a major city in itself, housing defence systems, trade centres and recreation, its primary purpose is as an independent embassy for diplomatic negotiations between the Mimbari, the Narn, the Centauri, the Vorlons and the Humans, represented by the Earth Alliance. There's plenty of action and intrigue, and nobody is exactly the person they seem to be...

Every so often a TV show emerges which annihilates all the current competition in terms of subject matter, storylines and production values. In case you were wondering, I'm talking about Babylon 5. How refreshing it is to have such diverse characters, who are changed forever by events. This is not your standard story of the week science fiction, featuring injuries, near-death experiences and emotional conflict which is conveniently forgotten by the next episode. Every major decision has far-reaching consequences, and every choice repercussions that might affect people immediately or come back to haunt them when they (and you, as the viewer) least expect it. It reminds me somewhat of the political chess-moves of ancient China or Japan; honour and diplomacy is always in the forefront, with assassins or covert arrangements made in the background.

Season Two sees almost as many changes as there were between the feature-length pilot, The Gathering, and the start of season One. There is a major personnel change, with Commander Jeffrey Sinclair being replaced with the more dynamic Captain John Sheridan. Sinclair is mysteriously spirited away to the Mimbari homeworld, and pops up now and again in future stories. Ambassador Kosh goes from enigmatic soothsayer to anti-hero manipulator, as the others learn there is an ulterior motive for everything he does. From short-tempered aggressor, G'Kar becomes a poet, diplomat and religious ikon. Londo makes the transition from drunken reveller to the most dangerous individual around. Of course, none of this happens overnight, and creator J. Michael Straczynski kept his plot-strands bible close to his chest, giving the actors no inkling of what was to come, so it's compelling to witness the transmogrifications and the events that cause them.

This season there's significantly less stand-alone stories; Straczynski pens fifteen of the twenty-two episodes, and the five-year arc begins to take a firmer hold. The Coming of Shadows season teases us with the coming threat to all the races, but for the meantime centres primarily on the present conflict between the Narn and the Centauri. Particularly strong episodes include: In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum, wherein Sheridan pushes his luck to learn more information about his presumed-dead wife, and finds himself confronted with the original homeworld of the Shadows; The Long, Twilight Struggle, which follows a major battle between the Narn and the Centauri; and The Fall of Night, in which surprising connections are made between the Shadows and Kosh's race, the Vorlons.

This six-disc set benefits from digital widescreen transfers and is beautifully remastered in Dolby digital 5.1. Two episodes contain an optional commentary by the man himself, J. Michael Straczynski, The Geometry of Shadows has a joint commentary by Bruce Boxleitner (Sheridan), Claudia Christian (Lt. Com. Susan Ivanova) and Jerry Doyle (Security Chief Michael Garibaldi). There is also a Season Two introduction from Straczynski and various cast and crew. Other extras include two new documentaries: Building Babylon: Anatomy of an Episode, and Shadows and Dreams: Honors of Babylon ( in which the crew talk about the Hugo awards success). There is an Audio-visual Archive split into Personnel Files, Data Files, Tech Files, and an Historical Timeline.

Season Two is the final place that I would advise any new viewers to jump on board. From here on in it is essential to follow every episode. I would have given this excellent release a 10, but as anyone who has seen season four will testify, the best is yet to come!

Ty Power

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