30 August 2012

B5 Review: The Geometry of Shadows & A Distant Star

Season Two continues with these next two episodes which includes one of the funniest of the series.

The Geometry of Shadows
Green, PurpleIvanova is given the task of settling a Drazi conflict while Londo tries to gain an audience with a group of techno-mages to further his influence and ambitions back home.

The Drazi conflict forms the humourous side of this episode which Ivanova must deal with as part of her promotion to Commander. The idea that people would fight for a meaningless piece of coloured cloth is funny, but as the Drazi argue, how is it any different to a flag?

In the meantime, we meet Lord Refa, who informs Londo of trouble back on Centauri Prime and how Londo has been noticed by the right people. This prompts Londo to seek an audience with a group of techno-mages, passing through Babylon 5 on their way beyond the rim - fleeing an approaching darkness.

There are some good moments in this episode, including Ivanova's broken leg which was worked into the script, Garibaldi's return to form and more signs that something bad is coming. For those with the DVD collection, make sure to listen to the audio commentary provided by Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian and Jerry Doyle :)

Overall Rating: 7/10

A Distant Star
Explorer Ship CortezAn old friend of Sheridan's comes to Babylon 5 to re-supply his Explorer ship and Dr Franklin imposes a diet (food plan) on the senior staff. Meanwhile, the Explorer ship hits trouble in hyperspace and several B5 fighters encounter more of those hellish, black ships...

We get a little bit more in John Sheridan's back story with the arrival of Jack Maynard at Babylon 5, to replenish supplies for his ship, the Cortez.

To assist in their recoveries, Franklin puts Garibaldi and Ivanova on a food plan to help them and includes Sheridan as well. 

En-route to her next mission, the Cortez is thrown off course in hyperspace. A distress call is received by Babylon 5 and a rescue is mounted using Starfury's from Zeta Squadron. During the attempt, Commander Galus, Zeta Squadron Leader is killed when a black, sinister alien ship collides with his and Keffer's. Keffer is able to direct the Cortez to the jumpgate and find his own way home eventually - and is promoted to Squad Leader.

A Distant Star provides us with some more back story to Sheridan and also moving along the storyline of the strange alien ship sightings. They seem to be becoming more frequent and more dangerous. Meanwhile, the Minbari population on Babylon 5 seem to be reacting to Delenn's transformation.

My only negative from this episode comes from the DVD transfer that omits the scene where a Starfury on patrol is completely dwarfed by the approaching Explorer ship. Due to the cropping of top and bottom of the effects shot, on DVD, the Starfury is almost unseen at the bottom as the Cortez passes by. Oh well... it's a ship geek thing :P

Overall Rating: 6/10.

28 August 2012

Trek Review: Star Trek The Animated Series

I thought it would be a good idea to sum up my thoughts on The Animated Series, as a whole. Just as I have done with the three live action seasons of The Original Series.

The Animated Series serves a purpose in continuing the adventures of the crew of the starship Enterprise in what could be described as their fourth season. Most of our regulars return with the notable exception of Ensign Chekov at the helm, instead replaced by the three armed and three legged Edosian, Lt Arex. The familiar dynamics between Kirk, Spock and McCoy remain and the advantages of animation shine through with other strange alien crew and characters, including the Caitian communications officer, Lt M'Ress who occasionally fills in for Uhura. There were also returns from familiar characters including Mudd, Cyrano Jones, Kor and others.

The Ambergris Element

The series started reasonably well, with early episodes showcasing that animation can create wonderful alien vistas that would have been too expensive for the live action series. Aside from this, the production crew were able to show they could still deliver Trek stories, in animation and even in a shortened timeslot. Perhaps the most popular of these is Yesteryear, which also scored highest of the entire series with an 8/10.

Other notable episodes for me include More Tribbles, More Trouble which sees a return of those furry creatures and the Klingons, The Jihad which introduces some new aliens and a quest to stop a war that could affect the galaxy (even with the reset button ending!) and The Pirates of Orion, each of these scoring a 7/10.

The Pirates of Orion

The series only dipped as low as a 5/10 on a few occasions for episodes that probably felt a bit monotonous or repetative. This was probably the only criticism for the series. While the live action shows would remain new and could be revitalised with a new soundtrack, by the time any viewer gets to about half way through The Animated Series, they would have likely heard each of the music pieces to accompany a particular scene. So much so that I could predict which music piece was about to play. This and the sometimes very still scenes that would play out (to keep down production costs) made the series a bit of a struggle to watch through at times.

There's no question that the episode content is mostly good, but some of the fun from The Original Series is missing due to the format. However, I still consider The Animated Series an important part of Trek, for its contributions to other episodes and for continuing the adventures of Kirk, Spock and co on the small screen for a little longer.

23 August 2012

B5 Review: Points of Departure & Revelations

Following the events of the previous episode and season finale Chrysalis, we rejoin the crew of Babylon 5 in the year 2259 for the show's second season entitled The Coming of Shadows.

Points of Departure
EAS AgamemnonBabylon 5 has been struggling following the death of Earth President Santiago, the attack on the Narn Outpost in Quadrant 37, the strange goings on with Delenn and the recall of Cmdr Sinclair to Earth.
Relief appears to be on the way when Captain John Sheridan arrives to take command of the station, following word that Sinclair had been permanently reassigned as Earth Ambassador to Minbar.

Meanwhile, a rogue Minbari warship has been spotted close to Babylon 5 with Sheridan's orders to alert the Minbari government should it appear.

Change is afoot with this episode, a new commanding officer, a new opening theme (something I liked about the series) and still a lot of questions unanswered. But this episode is quite significant in revealing a bit more about the truth behind the reason for the Minbari surrender at the Battle of the Line - ending the Earth-Minbari War.

For the ship geeks we get to see Sheridan's ship, the Agamemnon and a couple of Minbari War Cruisers. We are introduced to John Sheridan and Warren Keffer, a StarFury pilot in Zeta Squadron while Garibaldi remains in a coma and Delenn in a cocoon.

The only criticism came from when Kalain arrives at the station and asks a computer interface to show him a map, the first thing the computer informs him is where Green Sector is and that it's off-limits to unauthorised personnel!

A decent pilot episode for the new season. Good information, a bit of action but not too heavy - 6.5/10.

Narn Cruiser at Z'Ha'DumG'Kar barely makes it back to Babylon 5 following an expedition to the Rim, Garibaldi is brought out of his coma and his shooter identified and Delenn emerges from her Chrysalis.

This is probably the episode fans would have expected to open the second season. Regardless of it being the second episode it definitely delivers and felt like it had a longer run time than most other episodes just to fit everything in.

G'Kar warns the council of an ancient race, gathering its forces on the Rim and mentions a planet named Z'Ha'Dum. The Narn government dispatch a ship to investigate briefly but it is destroyed - unknown to the others, via Londo alerting Morden of the fact.

Garibaldi regains consciousness after Franklin and Sheridan work to revive him using the alien healing device (confiscated in The Quality of Mercy). With Talia's help, Garibaldi is able to recall who shot him - what happens to the gunman though reveals that a lot more is wrong in the universe and back on Earth than we would like to believe.

Finally, the mystery about what's happening to Delenn is revealed when she returns to the council. The reasons for her 'change' to be revealed as the series progresses - I'm trying really hard to remain spoiler-free!

With all of that happening, we meet John Sheridan's sister, Lizzy who, through their interactions provides us some back story about John's past, his wife who has passed away on an exploration mission a few years prior and how John hasn't come to terms with it yet - burying himself in his job.

For all this episode has to give and all that it sets up for arcs to come, 7.5/10!

16 August 2012

Trek Review: How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth & The Counter-Clock Incident

The Animated Series comes to a conclusion with these final two episodes. The last television episodes for the original crew and the Enterprise in the form we've come to know her.

How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth
KukulkanThe crew of the Enterprise are tracking an alien probe that scanned Federation worlds and Earth's solar system and headed out into space. They soon encounter a strange alien space ship that reveals itself in the image of a huge serpent, recognised as Kukulkan.

It is thought that Kukulkan visited Earth's ancient civilisations, appearing as a god to the Aztec's, Mayan's and perhaps other societies. 

Taken aboard Kukulkan's ship, Kirk and co decipher a quick puzzle that brings them to a room where Kukulkan has collected a number of creatures from around the galaxy. Kirk and co work to free the creatures and so, show that Kukulkan is in fact a mere mortal.

An interesting episode and one I remember watching on a Saturday morning as a kid. I mostly remember the intricate design of Kukulkan's serpent ship (ship geek!) The idea that an alien being visited Earth's ancient civilisations is quite plausible and well represented in this colourful episode. My only critique would be the less than subtle replacement of Mr Sulu for Ensign Dawson Walking Bear, conveniently introduced in this episode as a Native American who would recognise Kukulkan when he reveals himself to the crew.

Otherwise, a decent episode and as the commentary revealed, one that won the Animated Series an Emmy! Overall Rating, 6/10.

The Counter-Clock Incident
Sarah April and Children Crew The finale of The Animated Series begins with a look at Commodore Robert April and his wife, Sarah who are being transported to Babel aboard the Enterprise for his mandatory retirement ceremony.

En-route, the crew discover a strange alien ship heading for the heart of the Beta Niobe supernova. In pursuit and attempting to rescue the ship, the Enterprise is inadvertently pulled through with the alien ship and finds itself in an alternate universe where space is white and the stars are black.

The crew must work to return to their universe and enlist the help of the Captain of the alien ship, but not before the crew begin de-aging in this reversed universe, leaving April and his wife, the eldest people aboard to take over and perform one last mission.

A somewhat fitting finale to the series, I do like the connection to Robert April as the original commander of the Enterprise and the conversation shared between himself and Kirk in the opening scenes. The reference to the Beta Niobe supernova from All Our Yesterday's is a nice tie-in for both series, however the warp scale is considerably different here than what we would see and hear of in future series - a ship travelling at Warp 30+ and the distances covered across the galaxies in this episode are unheard of in such a short time when we get to the 24th century Trek stories. 

The transporter saves the day for the crew in probably the first convenient resolution in the Trek universe and probably also dictated by the short episode timeframe of 20 minutes. It would have been nicer for a solution other than the transporter keeping a memory of everyone to fix the de-aging process. Technically, if anything happened to anyone on the ship, just throw them into the transporter and they'll be restored?

It was at least fun to see the bridge crew as little children I suppose :P 
Overall Rating: 6/10.

Anyway, The Animated Series has concluded after 22 episodes. The stories weren't quite there as they were in the live action series but it definitely was Trek (with most of the actors returning to lend their voices for the parts) and I consider this series just as canon as the rest of them. I'll post a summary review shortly.

06 August 2012

Trek Review: The Practical Joker & Albatross

We're getting close to the end of The Animated Series - it feels like it's been a long ride. The cinematic releases will be a breath of fresh air when it's time to get into those I'll admit!

The Practical Joker
Kirk gets pranked After being attacked by Romulan's and pursued into a strange cloud, the crew of the Enterprise begin falling victim to a series of practical jokes across the ship. Turning on each other, it is soon realised that the true culprit is someone, or something else entirely...

This episode breaks with canon (as established in later series) as we see the Enterprise equipped with what look like food replicators and even a holodeck!

The idea is an interesting one although you would have to question the intelligence of the Romulan commander - was the Enterprise really violating Romulan space to begin with and how did they not see that the large target they attacked was in fact an inflatable starship?

In over-analysing the episode, how could the Enterprise contain such a large inflatable version of itself and how did the ships computer fashion together a microscope that just appeared at Spock's station on the bridge?

In any case, it's an episode meant with fun in mind and it gives the Enterprise a larger role than usual.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Dr McCoy and Dramians Dr McCoy is charged with genocide after a race of aliens he treated many years prior had fallen ill and died. Kirk and Spock work quickly to prove his innocence before an alien legal system claims their doctor.

It is interesting that the Dramian's waited nearly 20 years for Dr McCoy to return to their planet and have him arrested. It is also interesting they waited for the Enterprise to finish delivery and almost beam out before they took action - particularly for a race with such a swift legal system.

Of course our Doctor is in fact innocent, which Kirk and Spock are able to prove on a visit to Dramia II, the planet where the plague wiped everyone out - however, it was caused by an aurora in space which just coincidentally passed the planet around the same time as when McCoy was last there.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Two more episodes remain...

01 August 2012

B5 Review: Signs and Portents, Season One

It didn't feel like it took too long but the first Season of Babylon 5 is already behind us and it was just as memorable this time as all the others. From putting the pieces together and developing our characters with their back stories, right through to the interesting stories that build up the season, certainly the way things are at the end of Chrysalis are very different from how they began in Midnight on the Firing Line.

Sinclair in And The Sky Full of Stars

I have a renewed appreciation of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair this time. Chosen for the position he holds at Babylon 5 but not quite sure how or why. After the confrontation with the Minbari assassin in The Gathering, he is left wondering about the hole in his mind and this is touched on many times throughout the season. There are hints that there is more to the Minbari and Delenn, keeping an eye on him. We soon learn what happened to him at the Battle of the Line and just when we think we might get all the answers in Chrysalis, we're denied as the events of that episode unfold.

We see Sinclair's character change throughout the season, with him throwing himself into any situation and risking his life each time at the beginning, trying to find a purpose. We also see the calculating strategist and diplomat with the many conflicts and situations that bring themselves to the station.

Londo & G'Kar in Midnight on the Firing Line

Each of the crew get their character development moments, from Ivanova's family situation and her hatred of the Psi Corps to Garibaldi's past problems, friendship with Sinclair and regrets with Lise Hampton on Mars. Dr Franklin gets fewer family oriented stories but we learn of his conviction as a doctor when he decides to operate on a child in Believers and setting up a clinic in DownBelow in The Quality of Mercy.

G'Kar and the Narn go from being the aggressors in Midnight on the Firing Line to the victims by the end of the season. Also, notably G'Kar goes quiet/missing for much of the later part of the season. Meanwhile, Londo struggles with his position and feeling unwanted and dreaming of better days. Only after his meeting with Mr Morden in Signs and Portents do things start to change and he takes his first steps on a dangerous path in Chrysalis. 

G'Kar in By Any Means Necessary

Delenn's story sees her constructing a device in her quarters for much of the season with little bits of information coming at us throughout different episodes. What will become of her after the season finale, what did Kosh show her? The Minbari are mysterious but nowhere near as mysterious as Kosh who has few appearances and even fewer words.

Standout episodes would include And The Sky Full of Stars, the first episode where we feel we are given some of the answers to questions brought up in the pilot; Signs and Portents, where a mysterious man asks the Ambassadors a simple question and the station comes under attack by Raiders; Babylon Squared, where we learn something about the fate of Babylon 4, the previous station, but are left wondering a whole lot more from what was shown and Chrysalis, the dramatic season finale that turns the entire show on its head.

Delenn in Chrysalis

I think Eleonor's enjoyed watching through the episodes so far. She has admitted to liking Sinclair, Franklin, Garibaldi and Londo. I have tried to keep her attention on important episodes and occasionally surprised myself when an episode comes across as slightly less important than I remembered or the opposite. Definitely, Chrysalis seemed to have the most impact on her with President Santiago's fate, while Babylon Squared appeared to confuse her. Other episodes that seemed to stand out for her included Mind War and Believers.

With all of the episodes reviewed, Season One averages a score of 6.82/10, higher than any of the three seasons of Star Trek's Original Series (6.52, 6.3, 6). The highest scoring episode was Chrysalis (9) followed by And The Sky Full of Stars, Signs and Portents and Babylon Squared all scoring 8's. Infection scored the lowest with a 5.5.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the Babylon 5 story fares. As I know there's much more to come and am pleasantly surprised that Season One has scored so well. Once we finish up on some other sci-fi series we are currently watching through, the adventure will resume...