Starship captain John Sheridan is surprised to learn of
his new assignment: command of the space station Babylon 5.
Its previous commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, has been mysteriously
reassigned to the Minbari homeworld. Sheridan steps aboard
B5 to find his security chief in a coma and the Minbari ambassador
in a cocoon...
Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) comatose and Ambassador Delenn (Mira
Furlan) undergoing a metamorphosis at the end of the first
series, at the time I expected at least one of these characters
to be written out. But these must have been contingency plans
or complete red herrings on the part of the creator J. Michael
Straczynski. The last thing I expected was for a new commanding
officer to be written in.
John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) is like a breath of fresh
air - a more dynamic and charismatic main character than Michael
O'Hare's Jeffrey Sinclair had been. Note how upbeat he is
during the opening episode, Points of Departure. Then
watch how he develops over the next four seasons, growing
steadily more stressed-out, aggressive... and grey-haired!
It was only upon watching this excellent season for the second
time that I realised how much drama and tension are created
by mere words rather than visuals. The sinister Shadow vessels,
though more prominent than they had been during the first
season, are still used quite sparingly. Nevertheless their
menace, and the implication that something really bad is going
to happen, pervades this series, thanks to numerous characters
who warn us that a great darkness is coming. These prophets
of doom range from the mystical Techno-mages in The Geometry
of Shadows to the sadistic interrogator Sebastian (Wayne
Alexander) in Comes the Inquisitor.
A more tangible threat to galactic harmony is presented by
the Centauri/Narn conflict, which is re-ignited under truly
tragic circumstances in the pivotal instalment, The Coming
of Shadows. The war escalates to dramatic peaks in The
Long, Twilight Struggle and the nail-biting season finale,
The Fall of Night. We have come a long way since the
first season's jocular Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) and the
then hostile G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas). By now Londo has developed
into a character who has painted himself into a corner through
his dreams of greatness for the Centauri Republic, while G'Kar
has become a victim of aggression rather than a perpetrator
of it. Both characters possess a tragic quality. In Acts
of Sacrifice, Londo finds that his old friendship with
Garibaldi has been tainted forever.
ever enigmatic Ambassador Kosh (Ardwight Chamberlain) is curiously
absent during the first half of the season, but comes to the
fore again during All Alone in the Night, and thereafter
takes an active interest in Captain Sheridan.
episodes are useful memory-joggers. Knives reminds
the viewer about what became of the Babylon 4 station in the
previous season's Babylon Squared - which is vital
to understanding Series Three's War Without End. Similarly,
The Long, Twilight Struggle sees the return of Draal
(now played, in eccentric mode, by John Schuck), the "caretaker"
of Epsilon 3.
from those already mentioned, other classic episodes include
And Now For a Word, which is ingeniously structured
to be conveyed as though it were a news broadcast. In the
Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum builds up the intrigue by connecting
the slimy Shadow agent Morden (Ed Wasser) with the disappearance
of Sheridan's wife, Anna. Confessions and Lamentations,
like last season's Believers, is a heart-rending medical
There are no truly weak episodes in this season, just those
that are less brilliant. The less brilliant ones tend to be
those penned by writers other than Straczynski and which have
little or no overt connection with the upcoming Shadow war.
The most apparent examples of this are A Spider in the
Web, written by Lawrence G. Ditillio, and Soul Mates,
written by Peter David, although these do contribute to an
effective Psi Corps/Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) trilogy,
which culminates in A Race Through Dark Places.
extra features are comparable to those in the previous box
set, with two short documentaries (13 minutes and 8 minutes)
and 25 x 30-second "data files" on various characters and
concepts from the show. In addition, three episodes are accompanied
by audio commentaries (that's one more than last time) and,
as an added bonus, trailers to all 22 instalments are included.
The picture quality is far more consistent this time around,
with little of the visual noise that blighted the Series One
only real downside to this box set is that we will have to
wait (eagerly) for another six months or so for Series Three!
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