Babylon 5 is still my favorite TV show of all time, and season 4 holds a very special place in my heart. This is the season where I first started watching the show. I look back at the first episode I ever saw now and laugh. It was probably the biggest episode of the series ever, and I didn't know it at the time. Anyway, the action and characters were interesting enough to encourage me to catch reruns of the show when they started to air. And when viewed in proper sequence, the amount of storytelling genius is even more amazing.
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Babylon 5 is set on the fifth Babylon space station, located deep in neutral territory. The station is not only a port for interspecies trade, but it also serves as the UN of the future, with ambassadors from all the races on board to try to work together for greater understanding between their species.
And before you say Star Trek clone, this show is something very different. It set out to tell a complete story in five years. Keep in mind this was the 90's, before the time of serialized television we enjoy today. This was an experiment and something completely new. That's why I don't recommend jumping in here. While you can understand much of what is happening (especially if you have friends willing to explain things at every commercial break), it will be so much more powerful if you know the characters and what has led up to these moments. Plus, things mentioned and forgotten in earlier seasons come back into play here.
Season four starts where season three ended. Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) is missing and presumed dead on Z'ha'dum. Security Chief Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) is also missing. With the ancient races of the Shadows and Vorlons on the move, any alliance between the aliens is quickly crumbling as every race fights to preserve themselves.
Meanwhile, Centauri Ambassador Londo (Peter Jurasik) has discovered that the new emperor on his home world is crazy and must enlist Vir (Stephen Furst) to help him plan an assassination.
With trouble looming all over the galaxy, things are looking very bleak for our heroes. And even if they do find a way out of their current messes, there's always evil President Clark back on Earth to worry about. Will they make it through the season?
Frankly, this just scratches the surface of the season. While earlier seasons had stand alone episodes that did little more than develop the characters or help fill out the universe, every episode this season moved the story forward in some way. Part of that is because show creator J. Michael Straczynski didn't know he'd get to have the final season until the very last minute. As a result, he worked hard to wrap up as much as he could of the story here. Honestly, if he'd finished things off here, I would have been happy.
Now this isn't to say that character gets sacrificed on the altar of plot here. While we don't get entire episodes telling us more about the characters, we do still get moments in each episode that allow their personalities to shine through. And it's not all serious, either. While this season doesn't have quite the same number of funny moments, there are still plenty of laugh out loud moments as things progress.
Everything seems increased here, which could put a strain on the cast. But they never show it. Some of the characters do go through the ringer this year, and their actors rise to the occasion. Whether called on to give news reports or have a complete breakdown, the rise to the occasion admirably.
The special effects have also come a long way. These episodes originally aired in 1997, and this show pioneered using computers for special effects on a TV show. There are very few shots this season that don't hold up over a decade later. Still, the effects are only there to tell the story.
This brings us to the final episode of the season. As I mentioned, season 5 was a very last minute deal, so the series finale was actually shot as part of season 4. JMS decided to save it for the real series finale, so they filmed a new season 4 finale. It's a very different take on our characters, looking back at them from the future. It's not quite as good as what came before, but it is still an entertaining look at how legends can be dissected over time.
Frankly, I don't recommend doing what I did. Starting the series here is like starting a 300 page novel on page 200. You can do it, but it isn't going to mean as much as it would when read in context. Fortunately, with TV on DVD, you can easily go back and watch Babylon 5 from the very beginning. By the time you get to season 4, you'll be amazed at just how everything comes together.
This review is part of the Good Movies 3 Write Off.
Season Four Episodes:
1. The Hour of the Wolf
2. Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
3. The Summoning
4. Falling Toward Apotheosis
5. The Long Night
6. Into the Fire
8. The Illusion of Truth
10. Racing Mars
11. Lines of Communication
12. Conflicts of Interest
13. Rumors, Bargains, and Lies
14. Moments of Transition
15. No Surrender, No Retreat
16. Exercise of Vital Powers
17. The Face of the Enemy
18. Intersections in Real Time
19. Between the Darkness and the Light
21. Rising Star
22. The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
Other Babylon 5 Reviews
The Gathering/In the Beginning
Crusade - The Complete Series
The Legend of the Rangers
Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark
Psi Corps Trilogy
Centauri Prime Trilogy
The Long Night of Centauri Prime
Armies of Light and Dark
Out of the Darkness
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