16 May 2016

Crusade Review: Racing the Night & Visitors from Down the Street

The Excalibur continues its search for a cure to the Drakh plague on Earth, coming across a promising find and some interesting aliens...

Racing the Night
Gideon and crew have come across a planet of interest where the inhabitants have disappeared but the cities remain intact.

After a crew member is killed, Galen uses a probe to locate the source and alarmingly discovers that the inhabitants of the planet have been vivisecting visitors for centuries.

Indeed, this world was hit with a similar plague to the one on Earth and the inhabitants failed to find a cure. Instead deciding to lure and capture alien visitors to their world in the hopes they can help, or have an immunity.

This is a great episode from a visual effects standpoint alone. It was meant to be the original pilot for the series which shows with the action sequences and some of the dialogue used to introduce characters that wouldn't be needed for any other episode. This dialogue, and some of the other scenes conflict with what we were shown in the new pilot, War Zone - how Gideon got the Excalibur, how Max came to be part of the crew are two examples.

I prefer that this episode wasn't the pilot as the crew finding another planet hit by the Drakh plague so soon would seem a little too easy/convenient. 

Seeing the flashback to the Shadows from a thousand years ago was interesting and cool, and Gideon taking action against the aliens shows what kind of person he is - for the moment.

I like this episode, despite the flaws that come up by the existence of War Zone and the reordered episodes. My rating, 7/10.

Visitors from Down the Street
The Excalibur picks up two unknown and frightened aliens who believe that humans have been interfering with their people and their planet for centuries.

This episode has a bit of fun and a definite nod to another popular sci-fi series, 'The X-Files'. There's a role reversal here though with the aliens uncovering a conspiracy on their own world that involves humans and Earth visiting and creating UFO sightings on their world.

Gideon and crew are thrown into this when they pick up the two Mulder and Scully aliens and find out the whole story when Durkani arrives to take them back home. 

We get to see some new ships, aliens and more effects in this video, including a showdown in the 'tube' aboard the Excalibur. We learn a bit about plumbing on starships and once again witness Gideon's unusual approach to things at the end.

A bit of fun for sci-fi buffs. My rating, 6.5/10.

10 May 2016

Crusade Review: The Memory of War & The Needs of Earth

The Excalibur and her crew continue to search for a cure to the Drakh plague back on Earth...

The Memory of War
Gideon and crew are investigating a planet, much against Galen's warnings, whose inhabitants perished due to some sort of plague. However, when crew members begin dying on the planet, something appears to be a miss.

Galen of course is right, and it is discovered that an artificially created virus wiped out the planet's inhabitants. What is unexpected, is what, or who created the virus.

This episode makes good use of special effects for the time. Something Babylon 5 was already well known for, but Dureena's exploration up high in the city, and that bridge she crosses, were certainly impressive (for the time).

We also continue to learn more about our characters; Gideon has a strange, talking box which he listens to - coming to this planet was one of its suggestions. Due to watching these episodes in a different order than broadcast, I'm not sure when the box is formally introduced. It's not exactly a continuity glitch, but the audience will be wondering what exactly is this box he's talking to, why does he have it, how does it know things?

Galen's encounter with the 'rogue' technomage links us back to the main Babylon 5 series of course, but we have to wonder what are those things on Galen's body, and how is his staff so important to him? It's also clearly very powerful.

The main takeaway from this episode is the viral shield that Dr Chambers develops from their stop here.

I thought this episode has a good balance of exploration, suspense and character, my rating is 6.5/10.

The Needs of Earth 
The Excalibur is tasked with retrieving information deemed important from an alien who is willing to sell to the highest bidder.

Gideon and crew head to Praxis 9, outside of Alliance jurisdiction to meet the seller who is wanted by his own people for his actions. What he holds has no medical information of help, but a message of hope and not losing ones own identity - as his people have done.

This episode takes a slight step away from the search for a cure to remind us to remember who we are while all of this doom and gloom unfolds - particularly around Earth. We also get to see some new aliens, new worlds and ships as the Excalibur heads into new parts of the B5 universe. Action and suspense mixed in with humour surrounding Max's viewing habits make this episode enjoyable.

My rating: 7/10.

08 May 2016

BSG Review: The Original Battlestar Galactica

Having finished a recent run through of the original Battlestar Galactica series, I thought it might be a good idea to summarise the journey in the series' first and only season.

The difficulty I face is drawing too many comparisons with its modern day counterpart, the reimagined series that aired in 2004.

Overall, Battlestar Galactica is quite enjoyable as it focusses on the last remnants of a civilisation who are looking for a new home after a terrible attack by the Cylons, a robotic/cybernetic race who want the human race destroyed. The Cylons pursue the fleet through much of the first half of the series. What at least gives us a sense that the characters are travelling is that the Cylon attacks eventually become less frequent, to the point we don't hear from them until the final episode.

Using the effects of the time, the show holds up reasonably well, though the many dogfights and battle sequences do get quite repetitive after a few episodes. The reuse of shots is not limited to the special effects either and budget cuts later in the series mean for less dynamic set design or stories told in less extravagant locations.

Drama, politics, action and disaster all come in to the different stories. While most of it centres on the key characters; Adama, Apollo and Starbuck, there are many others we are introduced to as well - and some we are forced to say goodbye to.

Of the villains, Baltar is there from the beginning and to the end. No doubt he would have continued in some form if the series had gone into another season. Then there were the Cylons and later threats from a mysteriously powerful being known as Count Ibli and the fleet came up against the Eastern Alliance as they approached a new star system.

There were also allies in the ship of lights, another lost Battlestar and some of the people on planets the crew passed.

The series had plenty of stand alone stories which were easy to jump in to, which were interspersed with two-parters for longer adventures which usually held more importance to the storyline. 

Most episodes ended on a lighter note and I have to say that even though Baltar would threaten the fleet and plot and scheme, I never truly believed he could ever overwhelm our heroes as his character became more like Wile E. Coyote vs the Roadrunner than anything that seriously had teeth and could actually do harm to the main characters. Which is a shame - but maybe for the time it played out better for weekly viewers. Perhaps this is a drawn comparison with the new BSG where almost every episode ended with some peril, danger or threat that was actually felt.

In any case, my ratings for each episode give the series a score of 6.21/10, which isn't too bad.

I'll soon have a look through the follow-up series 'Galactica 1980' to see what that was like. I'm not too confident from articles and reviews I've read but it's still part of the BSG universe.