A few nights ago I stayed up a little later than I should have to finish the second season of Babylon 5. I was NOT disappointed. The second season was really amazing. The first season had its moments but the second season was great. As always, though, I will start with what I did not like:
Warning spoilers from here on out!
The not so good:
First and foremost among the bad is the fact that Commander Sinclair was replaced. Sinclair was one of my favorite characters. He was a great commander who was a really nice mix of idealist, clever, and hard line. I really enjoyed the way he was written in season 1. I did not like Sharadin at first. I have come to appreciate him, but he is no Sinclair. I am not sure why Sinclair was replaced, perhaps the actor went to pursue other projects. Sharadin has started to come into his own near the end of season 2 though and that is a good thing.
The second sad thing about season 2 is the shift in the way space battles are portrayed. Season 1, though pretty low budget, dazzled me with the space battles because they were so “real” in terms of physics. Alas some of that has gone away. The fighters now constantly burn propellant (Star Wars style) without really accelerating. The massive ships do not seem to have the obvious high inertia that they showed in the first season. Making the capital ship to ship battles look more like Star Trek. All in all there seems to be a shift in the thinking from season 1’s ideals of “moving in space” to the old (and inaccurate) “flying in space” seen in Star Trek and Star Wars. This is a shame because Season 2’s budget and technology was much higher and the scope of the battles is much larger so it would be really nice to see them in season 1’s more realistic style. Ohh well now on to the good stuff,
The good stuff:
The second season did a fantastic job building on the first season. The nice thing about Babylon 5 is it is obviously thought out so far. Unlike many series, Babylon 5 feels more like a mini series that has so far been around 44 episodes long. Every episode progresses one of the many story arches. There is a very good balance of episodes about the external story arches (the Narn/Centari war, and the rise of the Shadow) and the internal story arches (within Babylon 5, and the slide of the Human government towards a despotic state (but NOT a flamboyantly despotic state)). The march of events is not always steady but not overly fast. The big events are all appropriately foreshadowed, and built. It feels very realistic.
The characters are also very solid. The first season of Babylon 5 saw some pretty crummy acting and bad writing. Though there still is an occasional line of dialog that makes you cringe, I am a fan of Star Wars and we all know Lucas’s inability to write dialog (even in the 3 Star Wars I really like there are some pretty horrible lines). It is easy to overlook the occasional bad line when presented with the quality of ideas present in Babylon 5 (and SW: episodes 4-6). The acting seems much more solid this time around as well. Though many one shot characters are not so hot, the staring cast have really settled into their strides. The actors playing Londo and G’Kar both deliver amazing performances. Londo’s slide into darkness started last season is so well played out. Even by the end of season 2, there is a part of you that still loves Londo. We still get flashes of him when he speaks with Ver. The best scene was when he was on the heavy cruiser and the Narn world was being bombarded. The scene was shot over Londo’s shoulder. Londo’s reflection could be seen in the window of the cruiser. He wore a horrified and sickened expression on his face. As he watched the Narn world being destroyed another cruiser descended in front of his. Slowly a shadow fell over his reflection. It was subtle in just the right ways, and obvious in all the others. G’Kar’s transformation has been equally well done. We watch his pride slowly being broken as the realization sets in that his people will once again be enslaved by the Centari. We also feel his anger and joy very poignantly. The roles of Londo and G’Kar really shine in this season!
I can’t wait for season 3. I am currently downloading season 4 so I can start right in after 3.