25 October 2012

B5 Review: To Dream in the City of Sorrows

There is no episode in the Babylon 5 series with this title, but I was fortunate enough to have been recommended to read this novel by some good friends and am very thankful they did so.

To Dream in the City of Sorrows
To Dream in the City of Sorrows book coverWhat happened to Jeffrey Sinclair after he was reassigned from commanding Babylon 5? What happened to Catherine Sakai and their plans to get married? To Dream in the City of Sorrows answers those questions and more.

It felt appropriate to start reading this novel after we finished Season One with the finale, Chrysalis. The novel (while told from a future point in the story at 2260) is mostly based amongst the events of 2259. As we were watching through the second season, I was seeing parallels in events between the novel and the series. We see Sinclair learning about the coming darkness and sending his messages via Ranger to Garibaldi and Delenn (The Coming of Shadows) and we find out that Sakai visited Babylon 5 during the crisis with Sheridan and the Streib (All Alone in the Night). 

We learn of Sinclair's difficulty adjusting to life on Minbar with no one telling him exactly what he needed to know and no one allowing him contact to Earth or Babylon 5. Amidst all this, he has to deal with Neroon and the uncooperative Warrior Caste who dislike humanity and appear to take it out on Sinclair and the other humans who come to Minbar to join the Rangers. 

We witness Sinclair's journey to becoming Entil'zha, leader of the Rangers, but then having to deal with Vorlon Ambassador Ulkesh. Vague enough for a Vorlon, but so different to Kosh who we have come to 'know' in the series and in this book. 

We learn more about Sakai and her work, but she discovers something quite strange and ominous in her travels. When she finally gets in contact with Jeff again, she decides to stay with him on Minbar and train to become a Ranger. 

The third piece of the story lies with Marcus Cole, a businessman whose brother, William has joined the Rangers. William visits Marcus to get him to come to Minbar, but their colony is attacked and William dies. Marcus then joins the Rangers and with Sakai and Sinclair, become the team to take part in an important mission to Sector 14 - with unfortunate consequences.

This is a great book and it fills in the story of Sinclair following his departure in 2259. Knowing where his path will take him later in the series, I will have to let Eleonor read this a little later, since the Prologue and Epilogue occur towards the end of 2260. But aside from those two parts, this book is worth reading throughout the series' second season - with pretty much no spoilers for the events that are coming.

Rating: 8/10

22 October 2012

B5 Review: Knives & Confessions and Lamentations

On the heels of In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum, season two, The Coming of Shadows is about to come to a thrilling run of episodes. But first, a slight break with Knives...

Urza Jaddo An old friend of Londo's, Urza Jaddo comes to Babylon 5 to ask for help. Sheridan on the other hand starts seeing strange visions after coming into contact with a dead Markab in an area of Grey Sector known as 'The Triangle'.

Urza and Londo's family names are among the most noble in the Centauri Republic. But now, Urza's family is in danger as he has been declared a traitor to the Republic. Urza informs Londo of the happenings back on Centauri Prime involving the murder of Prime Minister Malachi following Emperor Turhan's death (in The Coming of Shadows) in order to install Emperor Cartagia to the throne. Londo offers to assist Urza, as his old friend but when Urza learns that Londo is in league with Lord Refa, things drastically change and a duel between the two is called.

In the meantime, Sheridan must make sense of his visions or is it merely stress as Dr Franklin suggests? Or perhaps the answer lies in Sector 14 (from Babylon Squared), a prohibited sector of space the dead Markab happened to travel through on his way to Babylon 5.

Not the most important episode we have come across but some interesting bits of information come out of it. It would seem Londo has an opportunity to make some good from his recent decisions, things are not well back on Centauri Prime and you can play baseball on Babylon 5 and what was going on in Sector 14?

Rating: 6/10

Confessions and Lamentations
Sheridan and DelennA deadly plague has devastating effects on the Markab community while the other races take to violence against them.

This is one of those emotionally powerful episodes, much like Believers from the first season. We have known the Markab since the beginning, even if we hadn't realised it or noted their significance in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. The situation they face is a plague that is 100% contagious and has a 100% mortality rate. Once symptoms are detected, death occurs within 24 hours. 

Dr Franklin works with Markab Dr Lazarenn to find some sort of cure or way to combat the plague. But the Markab have locked themselves into an isolated area of the station to remain contained from the other communities. Delenn and Lennier visit to offer them some hope.

This episode is mostly focussed on the Markab situation with some reactions from the station staff about whether the plague will affect other species. We also witness a Minbari meal 'ceremony' which Delenn shares with Sheridan in return for him sharing an Earth meal with her earlier in the year. We also learn that Lt Keffer has been using his StarFury in his free time to search for the strange ship he witnessed in A Distant Star. Sheridan has Ivanova order him to stop, possibly due to what he has learned from Delenn and Kosh in In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum. Finally, are we seeing the beginning of something possibly between Delenn and Sheridan? He does ask her to call him 'John' the next time they meet after she informs him she will be visiting the Markab in isolation...

Christopher Franke provides a beautiful theme to accompany this deeply sad episode. 

Rating: 7/10

18 October 2012

B5 Review: And Now For a Word & In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum

And Now For a Word
Cynthia Torqueman
An Interstellar Network News crew come to Babylon 5 to do a story on the station now that it has been operational for 2 years amidst heightening Narn-Centauri conflict in the area.

Cynthia Torqueman of ISN interviews the crew and ambassadors of Babylon 5 throughout her 36 hour stay. During her stay she and her crew see the Narn-Centauri conflict first hand, meet a less than optimistic Dr Franklin, catch a glimpse of Ambassador Kosh and upset Ambassador Delenn.

The Narn accuse the Centauri of shipping weapons of mass destruction to be used in the war through neutral territory. There are differing views on each side from both Londo and G'Kar about who started the hatred between the two races.

Amongst all that is going on, we hear minor tidbits of things back home including the establishment of the Office of Public Information and the Ministry of Public Morale. Senator Hidoshi, someone who had a lot of contact with Commander Sinclair in the first season is no longer in office and it seems that support for Babylon 5 might be waning. We also get to see a rather corny recruitment commercial for the Psi-Corps which reminded me of something from the movie Starship Troopers, but it provided some laughs at least.

I find it hard to like this episode but it is quite informative and well done. As a result, I give it a 6/10.

In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum
Icarus at Z'ha'dumSheridan is alerted to the fact that Morden, who has frequented Babylon 5 many times was on board the Icarus, the science vessel Anna Sheridan was on when it exploded.

Meanwhile, Narn refugees continue to fill the station and a spokesperson from Earthdome's newly formed Ministry of Peace comes to talk with Earthforce personnel about a new initiative.

This is a significant episode for this season with many more answers coming our way regarding the coming darkness and we learn a lot more about Morden in the process. Captain Sheridan becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to his wife by illegally detaining Morden, putting him at odds with Garibaldi, Ivanova and Winters. The Centauri want him released as a guest of the Republic and Delenn and Kosh reveal some disturbing information about why Morden must be released.

The Narn-Centauri War continues to go badly for the Narn and Dr Franklin is doing all he can to help the refugees coming through the station but at what cost? 

In a recruitment drive, the newly formed Ministry of Peace has formed the Nightwatch, an incentive for Earthforce personnel to earn an extra 50 credits to wear an armband and report any unusual activities or suspicious behaviour. It appears Earthdome is becoming quite paranoid back home with this and the Ministry of Public Morale seemingly designed to keep people under control and muzzled.

A lot comes out of this episode and we see Vir maturing in his role as attache along with everything else we learn. Sheridan has new resolve by the episode's end and Kosh even serves a warning to him about where this path will take him.

Rating: 7.5/10

07 October 2012

B5 Review: Hunter, Prey & There All The Honor Lies

Hunter, Prey
Franklin & Garibaldi incognitoDr Everett Jacobs, the personal physician to the Earth Alliance President is on the run and reportedly on Babylon 5 with stolen data and looking to defect to an alien government. Meanwhile, Sheridan makes it his mission to learn more about their resident Vorlon, Ambassador Kosh.

Following on from the developing story about trouble back on Earth, brought up in All Alone in the Night, we have a Doctor on the run with evidence to suggest that President Clark was not unwell when he disembarked Earthforce One prior to its destruction - killing then President Santiago and allowing Clark to take over the Presidency. Sheridan comes into contact with others who want Jacobs and his information kept safe while Earthforce Special Intelligence Agent Cranston and Babylon 5 security begin tearing the place apart looking for him.

Kosh's ship is sort of a character in this episode and plays an important part towards the end, allowing the crew to learn something about Vorlon technology in the process. Sheridan meets with Kosh and convinces him to teach him more about the Vorlon's. Kosh agreeing to teach Sheridan so that he will be able "to fight legends". 

This episode sees the continuation of a movement gathering information and intelligence against the current government on Earth - are we on the right side of things? It also sees what could be a beneficial relationship between Sheridan and Kosh in the making - why will Sheridan need to be ready to fight legends?

Rating: 6/10

There All The Honor Lies
Apparently, the Minbari never lieSheridan is accused of murdering a Minbari citizen and the key witness is found to be 'in error where the truth is concerned'. Meanwhile, Ivanova looks into a Babylon 5 merchandise shop that has opened in the Zocalo and Vir receives some disturbing news.

We learn a bit more about the Minbari in this episode in that apparently, they never lie as it is a great dishonour for their race. Only through a quick chat with Londo, do we realise this is not entirely true.

Amidst the turmoil Sheridan faces in this episode, Kosh comes to him and continues their lessons where Sheridan finds something beautiful in an unexpected place.

Londo is unimpressed by his likeness in figurine form on sale at the shop in the Zocalo and neither is Sheridan when he is shown a teddy-bear with his initials sewn into its jacket. The fate of the bear had Eleonor laughing out loud - bringing a lighter-toned end to what was mostly a serious episode.

Vir is out of sorts here with news that he is to be replaced as his position has become too important. Thankfully, Londo sorts it all out for him, allowing Vir to stay at his post.

From our Minbari witness, Ashan, we see more of that hatred towards Sheridan, 'Star Killer' and he also focusses some of that towards Delenn who he no longer recognises as Minbari and has no hesitation in letting her know so. Sadly, this appears to be an unfortunate consequence of her transformation among her people with her expulsion from the Grey Council in All Alone in the Night and other examples we have witnessed this season.

Rating: 6.5/10

04 October 2012

Fun with a Go Pro

I realise that for quite a while I have been abusing my blog a bit - the past year has been mostly filled with reviews of sci-fi TV shows which admittedly have given the blog a new lease on life but don't really live up to the blog's title: 'The World of Daniel' - even though sci-fi is certainly a big part of my life.

So I thought I'd write up this entry about a recent new toy I purchased and am quite enjoying - a Go Pro HD Hero 2.

If you haven't heard of a Go Pro before, it's basically a small (perhaps tiny?) camera capable of recording in full 1080 high-definition. It features three shooting modes, including fish-eye and can be taken just about anywhere to film anything. At lower resolution, video can be shot at 30 or 60 frames per second allowing video editors the option of smoother slow motion sequences. It can also perform as a still frame camera!

The Motorsport edition that I have comes with a robust mount that can be attached to most hard surfaces including car windscreens and exteriors, or even aeroplanes! The camera itself has a waterproof casing making it ideal for surfboarders, or wet weather conditions.

I have always been interested in attaching a camera to the side of a car to recreate those motorsport shots capturing the wheels in motion or just to get another perspective, but the thought of rigging up a dodgey mount and hanging a near $2000 camera from it was a bit scary. I knew the equipment was out there but it generally was always pricey. Roll on the Go Pro, at a cost of under $400AUD it is reasonably inexpensive for what it allows videographers to do. It opens up new possibilities.

My brother first took the Go Pro overseas and did some filming on the ski fields in New Zealand. It also did well filming some in-flight footage (from inside the cabin). When he returned home we tested it out in the car, mounted to the inside of the windscreen first and then we got a bit more adventurous and mounted it outside the car where it performed exactly as expected. 

Attached to inside of the windscreen for a car cruise.

Attached to the car door through some scenic roads.

These are basic applications but still offering more than we have been able to shoot effectively in the past. Here are some cool examples of Go Pro's being used in aviation (these aren't my videos)...

Go Pro + F-18 = Awesome!
Attached to the tail of a TwinStar.

A quick YouTube search will uncover many applications for the Go Pro and it appears to be the camera of choice for extreme situations due to its durability and low cost. Definitely a worthwhile investment - so much so I'm thinking that some time down the track I might acquire another one... or two :)

If you're in Australia and interested, JB Hi-Fi have recently begun stocking Go Pro's in store for about $369AUD and V-Sport are the Australian distributor. Many accessories are also available and of course it's worth shopping around for the best prices!

03 October 2012

B5 Review: All Alone in the Night & Acts of Sacrifice

All Alone in the Night
Sheridan and Kosh
Strange occurrences near Babylon 5 prompt Sheridan to go and investigate with a flight of Starfuries. His squadron comes upon an alien ship that takes out several fighters and captures the Captain. A lone pilot is able to return to the station to inform the crew.

Meanwhile, Delenn is called before the Grey Council to face the repercussions for her recent transformation.

Sheridan's situation brings him to meet a fellow Narn captive aboard the Streib ship. Fortunately, Delenn is able to assist in the recognition of the Streib and direct B5's forces to their homeworld. Delenn's situation is less fortunate with the ruling of the Grey Council and the realisation that not everyone shares her beliefs in the 'darkness' that is to come. Both Sheridan and Delenn, to some point become 'All Alone in the Night' as per the episode's title - a title that has been recited in both the first and second season's opening monologue.

General Hague returns, in person this time from his prior appearance in Points of Departure to meet with Sheridan and ends up assisting in the Captain's rescue from the Streib. The reason for his meeting confirms suspicions that many of have probably been aware of since the Season One finale, Chrysalis. Things are not well back on Earth - and what was Sheridan's dream all about?

Rating: 7/10

Acts of Sacrifice
Ivanova closes the deal with the Lumati
The Narn-Centauri War continues to wage on, forcing G'Kar to look for assistance from the other major governments, while Londo is coming to term with his new 'friends' coming to him for favours due to his new influence back home. Meanwhile, Ivanova is given the assignment of getting a new race, the Lumati to sign on with the Earth Alliance.

This is actually a more important episode than it appears to be. Each time I come to it, I forget a lot of what goes on, including the reactions to Londo's changed character (which hasn't suddenly changed, but this episode makes it stand out), the overly pompous views of the Lumati that make me laugh and the hard times the Narn are experiencing, particularly G'Kar, wanting more support to bring the war to an end while trying to keep his population under control on the station. It's the first we get to see of the Narn-Centauri conflict since the declaration of war in The Coming of Shadows and it may appear that things are not going so well for the Narn. Londo is quite confident the Centauri will win, though of course, he could be relying on making a call to Mr Morden should things not go quite as planned.

Definitely worth a watch. There is a lot covered in G'Kar's story and this is balanced out with the humour that comes from Ivanova's experiences with the Lumati.

Rating: 6.5/10