The Babylon 5 saga begins with this pilot movie set in the Earth Year 2257 where a huge space station, Babylon 5 located in neutral space awaits the arrival of ambassadors from the major governments, the last of these, a Vorlon named Kosh.
The Gathering has a huge task to accomplish in not only establishing the universe within which our characters exist (this isn't Star Trek after all!) but also having a storyline to keep viewers interested and wanting to come back and watch the series too.
As events unfold we are introduced to our main characters. Commander Sinclair who has a decorated past serving the Earth Alliance, now commands this space station but for how long once he is connected to an assassination attempt on the new Vorlon ambassador? Ambassador G'Kar of the Narn Regime is quite aggressive and seems he would do anything to throw Earth into war at the expense of Sinclair's reputation while Ambassador Londo Mollari of the Centauri Republic is happy to lose credits in the casino and relive old stories from the glory days of his Republic. There is a strange connection as yet unexplored between Sinclair and Ambassador Delenn of the Minbari Federation while we get to know very little about Sinclair's crew except they're all not quite perfect with Garibaldi and Takashima's pasts coming up throughout the story and Dr Kyle trying a risky procedure to attempt to save the Vorlon Ambassador.
Without giving too much of the story away, there is a lot more going on and it opens up a decent amount of questions that I hadn't realised on my first viewing, but these would eventually be covered throughout the series.
No doubt for me as a 10 year old watching The Gathering for the first time in 1993, the special effects would have grabbed me and had me hooked. I remember I had the episode on VHS, recorded from the TV broadcast. The original, unfinished version with different scenes and soundtrack before Dad purchased the series on VHS and I then went and purchased the DVD's in the 2000's. Re-watching the Special Edition, 19 years later has helped me realise just how good the series was, with so many threads begun from this point.
This is my third visit to the Babylon 5 universe and this time my companion is my wife. Her initial reaction I would say is positive. She watched and paid attention to what was going on. She made connections with actors who had appeared in other things she had seen (Tamlyn Tomita from The Karate Kid II) and seemed impressed with some of the scenes (the Vorlon fleet arriving to take Sinclair to their homeworld). Hopefully the series will wow her as much as it did me. We will have to see.
The Gathering is a slow pilot but as I said above, it has so much to establish. In some ways I find it a shame that this is the only time we would see Laurel Takashima and Benjamin Kyle in the series. Ultimately replaced in the first episode of Season One. Don't get me wrong, I like Susan Ivanova and Stephen Franklin, but after reading on The Babylon 5 Project wiki and other sources the storyline that Takashima would have followed, it just makes me wonder how the series would have panned out if Tamlyn Tomita decided to stay on.
Without being tainted of what is to come in the series, I give The Gathering an overall rating of 6/10.