25 June 2012

B5 Review: Grail & Eyes

Grail
Delenn & Lennier meet with Aldous & Jinxo
Aldous Gajic, a human seeker arrives on Babylon 5 in search for the legendary 'holy grail'. Having searched every place on Earth he believes he must take his search to the stars and meets with the various Ambassadors on the station for their help.

Meanwhile, a lurker known as Jinxo is finding himself in trouble in Downbelow and learns that Deuce, who he owes a lot of money to has a tentacled alien with the appearance of Ambassador Kosh on his side killing people who would act against him.

This is a story that doesn't take the arc in any lengthy directions but one about faith and how different people perceive Aldous' search. We see the Minbari treat him with great respect, our own humans think it's a bit of a joke and a waste while the Centauri look at the inconvenience of it all. We don't see G'Kar in this episode and we don't get to see how Aldous' meeting with Kosh might have gone unfortunately.

On the other side we learn something about the judicial system on Babylon 5, seeing the courtroom, including a civil suit between a human and a Vree, we see one of the most fascinating looking aliens to grace sci-fi screens so far (once the truth is revealed at least) and we learn a little bit more about the previous four Babylon stations.

It's one of those episodes to makes you think a little bit, so I'll give it an Overall Rating of 7/10.

Eyes
Colonel Ari Ben Zayn meets the B5 Command Staff
An Earthforce Colonel and a Psi-Corps Telepath come to Babylon 5 to interview the Babylon 5 command staff while Lennier assists Garibaldi in his project of assembling an old Earth motorcycle.

Colonel Ari Ben-Zayn begins asking B5 staff and crew questions while undercover. When finally discovered, he blasts into a full blown interrogation intending to discredit Commander Sinclair for his actions in the recent year over incidents including Ragesh III, the dockers strike, the sabotaged cobra bays, Deathwalker and death of a Psi-Cop (among others). Alongside is telepath Mr Grey (played by that actor from so many Star Trek series, Jeffrey Combs) which shows us that things are changing back on Earth with the Psi-Corps being given more power in the military. 

The episode touches on Ivanova's dislike of the Corps once again as we get to see her mother in a dream and are left wondering if Susan may be hiding something. On the lighter side of things, we see Garibaldi working on a motorcycle and enlists Lennier's help in putting it together.

A lot of information and back story in this episode which makes it slightly important. A lot is covered from past events and a lot is going on back home and on Mars that we may need to pay attention to.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

22 June 2012

Trek Review: The Eye of the Beholder & The Jihad

The Eye of the Beholder
Lactran Infant
The crew of the Enterprise arrive at Lactra VII in search of missing crew from a science ship. On the surface they are captured by undetected life forms and put into a type of zoo exhibit. Learning their captors are quite intelligent and by interfering with their telepathy, the crew are able to convince the Lactrans they should be allowed to go.

This is a decent episode to show off the advantages of animation over live action with the array of strange and wonderful alien creatures shown as well as the colourful Lactran city, but it also displays the drawbacks with no emotional connection either with the crew or the sluglike captors. It is hard to view them as anything else or to feel any sympathy for them.

Ultimately, much like the other episodes in the series, the resolution is all too quick and simple with very little else. An accompanying text commentary on the DVD provides some further insights into the series and this episode in particular, but still I'll award an Overall Rating of only 6/10.


The Jihad
The Soul of the Skorr
A group of specialists from different species and ships are called to work on a mission to recover the Soul of the Skorr in order to save the galaxy from a Holy War.

Kirk and Spock are called upon from the Enterprise for their contribution to the team by a member of the Vedala, a cat like race, apparently the oldest space-farers known to the Federation (whom we have never seen before or since). The Skorr are a birdlike race who we also haven't seen prior or since but can breed massive armies if needed and would go to war with the galaxy over the disappearance of their artifact.

So it comes down to a team of two humans (Kirk and a woman named Lara, who takes a fancy to Kirk of course), a Vulcan (Spock), a lizard, an insect and the birdman (Tchar) to locate the artifact on a 'mad planet'.

This is another episode that makes good use of animation with creatures like Tchar and the zero-gravity fight sequence at the climax. My only nitpicks would come from the introduction of new space-faring species who were never seen prior or since this episode, specifically the Vedala, who are supposed to be old, wise and time manipulators, whatever happened to them then? And the Skorr? A warrior race but only seen in this single episode. A Klingon might have been a better choice. No wonder the Animated Series was never considered part of Star Trek canon. It probably isn't the fault of the Animated Series writers though and rather that these references were never incorporated into the live action shows of later Trek adventures.

End of that rant. This was still a decently enjoyable episode for a change in this series.

Overall Rating: 7/10

21 June 2012

B5 Review: Signs and Portents & TKO

We're at the turning point of Babylon 5's first season. From the beginning, JMS had given each season a title and although the first of the episodes to be reviewed here was originally known as 'Raiding Party', it would eventually be renamed Signs and Portents, as it would prove to be one of the most important episodes of the first season.

Signs and Portents
Mr Morden meets with Delenn
Londo receives a precious Centauri artefact known as 'The Eye' which belongs to a noble family led by Lord Kiro who arrives at Babylon 5 to bring it back to the Emperor.

Babylon 5 faces more problems from Raiders whose attacks are becoming more problematic and circling closer to the station, threatening security for ships en-route to the station. Ivanova is sent to investigate.

Meanwhile, a human named Mr Morden arrives on the station and asks G'Kar, Delenn and Londo the same question...

"What do you want?"

In honesty, that's about as spoiler-free as I can make this review. Suffice to say this is probably the first proper action packed episode of Babylon 5 if you're into space battles, with a decent amount of the episode focussed on the Raider attacks and their final showdown with the space station while Sinclair coordinates B5's defense grid and two squadrons of StarFury's to take them out.

I couldn't help but get a cold shiver at the arrival and successive appearances of Mr Morden. To the new viewer, this man doesn't really appear to be anything special but why is he approaching the main ambassadors? What happened when he came face to face with Kosh? How did Kosh's encounter suit get damaged? Why was he asking the ambassadors what they wanted? 

Finally there is the Centauri thread of the story with Lord Kiro dreaming of glory and becoming Emperor when he returns home with The Eye, ultimately double-crossed. What did Lady Ladira mean about him being killed by a 'Shadow'? What was that thing that took out the Raider battlewagon and what fate awaits Babylon 5 from Ladira's vision?

There's more with Sinclair asking for Garibaldi's help in finding out more about what happened to him during the Battle of the Line which continues the questions about why the Minbari are so interested in Sinclair and why they wanted him to run the station.

An important episode for sure, but mainly because of everything that will stem from it. An action piece more than dramatic and not really touching on deeper issues as recent episodes have, I give it an Overall Rating of 8/10.

TKO
Ivanova finally performs Shiva
A transport ship from Earth arrives at Babylon 5 carrying Rabbi Koslov, an old family friend of Susan's and Walker Smith, an old friend of Michael's.

Smith meets Garibaldi about to get in trouble taking on two thugs in Downbelow. Smith was a boxer who showed much promise before being setup and expelled. He wants to enter the Mutai, an alien only championship so that he may be respected again.

Meanwhile, Koslov meets with Susan and asks if she has has sat Shiva following her father's death. He is concerned when he learns she hasn't and continues to avoid doing so, even after meddling by informing Commander Sinclair of her situation.

Walker Smith eventually finds a way into the Mutai while Susan decides to let go and asks Rabbi Koslov to help her sit Shiva with Sinclair invited as her friend.

This episode ties up the story from Born to the Purple when we learn of Susan's father's death while it preludes to future episodes where Garibaldi hasn't learned to watch his back. While it doesn't take us anywhere in relation to the larger storylines of the series, there is at least some closure for Susan and some decent martial arts to admire!

Overall Rating: 7/10

17 June 2012

Trek Review: The Ambergris Element & The Slaver Weapon

The Ambergris Element
Kirk and Spock Underwater
The Enterprise is investigating planet Argo, whose surface is almost completely water but was once predominantly land. They hope to study what happened to Argo to assist another Federation planet facing a similar fate.

With the use of an aqua-shuttle, a landing party go to the planet surface but are soon attacked by a large creature known as a sur-snake. Kirk and Spock go missing and are located nearly 5 days later, mutated into sea creatures who can no longer breathe oxygen. 

Hoping to return themselves to normal, Kirk and Spock go in search of who did this to them and they discover an underwater species on Argo, wary of 'air breathers' from the surface.

Certainly, this episode could not have existed in the live-action series and this is a fairly decent episode that is only let down by the episode length and therefore, much quicker pacing that takes away from what is happening to our Captain and Science Officer. For me, there were too many instances of going to the Enterprise, returning to the surface and then beaming up again to solve the mystery and of course Kirk and Spock are able to pick exactly the right scrolls in a totally unexplored submerged city that will provide the key to saving them. Of course, this is an animated show and has a limited time span. It was good to see the production crew try something different. I also enjoyed seeing some new support craft in this episode, including the aqua-shuttle and the boat/dinghy.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

The Slaver Weapon
Spock, Uhura and Sulu
Spock, Uhura and Sulu are en-route to Starbase 25 with a precious 'Slaver stasis box' aboard shuttlecraft Copernicus. Such stasis boxes are extremely rare and have been known to contain great discoveries and dangerous weapons. When the box suddenly glows, Spock realises there is another stasis box in the area and orders Sulu to turn the shuttle to investigate.

On an ice planet, the trio are captured and placed in a 'Police web' during an ambush set up by a group of Kzinti who have an empty stasis box. Taking the other stasis box, they discover a green device and put it to use to discover its purpose.

Amidst the devices many settings, one disables the Police web and allows them to escape. Retaking the device, Sulu and Spock discover a setting that contains a highly destructive weapon. The Kzinti see the effects as well and demand the device be handed back as they have re-captured Uhura. Ultimately, the Kzinti are undone by the device itself when it self destructs and takes the Kzinti party with it. Our crew are able to continue, sans Slaver device.

This episode stands out for the mere fact it doesn't feature Captain Kirk or the Enterprise at all. Instead it focusses on the story surrounding Spock, Uhura and Sulu against the feline Kzinti, who are probably scarier in 'real life' but just don't seem to have any teeth in this animated episode. The episode is a bit more action oriented than recent adventures and provides a bit more back story as well, particularly as Spock describes it was a Slaver stasis box that uncovered a flying belt which provided the key to the artificial gravity fields used on starships - who knew?

Overall Rating: 6/10

14 June 2012

B5 Review: Survivors & By Any Means Necessary

Survivors
Sinclair & Garibaldi face off against Kemmer & Cutter
President Santiago is enroute to Babylon 5 to deliver a brand new fighter wing to the station among other things. Following an explosion in one of the Cobra Bays, the President's Head of Security, Major Lianna Kemmer arrives to investigate the explosion and make sure everything is in order for the Presidential visit.

Garibaldi knew Kemmer's father and it is obvious she hasn't forgotten this when she confronts Sinclair and coldly dismisses Garibaldi who through the course of the episode becomes implicated in the Cobra Bay explosion and turns fugitive to prove his own innocence and uncover the real perpetrator.

This is a great episode offering insights into Earthforce as well as uncovering a bit more about Garibaldi's past and his on again, off again relationship with drinking. We see Kemmer is so driven by her hate towards Garibaldi that it blinds her to what is really going on, leading almost to disaster.

While we don't actually see President Santiago (we hear him), we do get a good look at his ship, Earth Force One which of course works out nicely for me as a ship geek. There are a number of humourous moments again, one of my favourites being the interaction between Kemmer and Ivanova - 'Request denied. Have a nice day!'

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

By Any Means Necessary
G'Kar meditates
It's a busy day for Babylon 5 with a lot of ships awaiting access to the docking bays. Ivanova is in CnC attempting to get the ships in while the dock workers are doing their best to keep the wheels turning. A malfunction in the docking bay while a Narn transport arrives is the tipping point resulting in the destruction of the Narn ship and the death of a dock worker.

Union member Neeoma Connoly talks with Sinclair and insists her workers were not to blame for the accident and have been pushed too far to keep the station running. A security investigation proves that faulty equipment was responsible. Meanwhile, G'Kar is left without a special plant for his religious ceremonies which was due to arrive on the destroyed transport.

The political wheels are set in motion when the dock workers call in sick. Earth send a representative over to negotiate and to end the strike while G'Kar is forced to go to Londo in search of his G'Quan Eth plant.

This isn't the most pivotal episode of the season but it certainly is a good one. Realistic work conditions and substandard equipment put in place resulting in a strike scenario echoes situations we see day-to-day in the 21st century. Governments cutting costs to get more for their bottom lines still exist 200 years from now. Sinclair saves the day again with some clever thinking and interpretation while G'Kar and Londo nearly kill each other. Again!

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

At this point it's good to see Eleonor appears to be enjoying the Babylon 5 universe. I hope this continues as the episodes are all about to become that much more interesting and important...

13 June 2012

Trek Review: The Terratin Incident & The Time Trap

The Terratin Incident
Terratin City
Investigating the remains of a burnt out supernova, the Enterprise encounters a signal that hasn't been in use for centuries. Tracking its source, the crew are stunned and soon realise they are shrinking.

Before they become unable to use the controls, Kirk beams to the planet's surface and discovers it is undergoing a Volcanic apocalypse. He soon comes across a small city and is returned to the Enterprise.

While Kirk was gone, the Enterprise crew had been beamed to the miniature city. The inhabitants, Terratin's ask for Kirk's help to relocate before they are destroyed by the cataclysm around them.

An episode with links to Gulliver's Travels, there isn't much to comment on apart from seeing the crew shrink and how they operate the controls on the ship with ladders and 'ropes'. The fix in the end is perhaps a bit too simple but a simple solution was probably required for the limited length of the episode.

Overall Rating: 5/10


The Time Trap
Terratin City
Amidst a firefight against a Klingon Battlecruiser in a region known as the Delta Triangle, the Enterprise and her crew find themselves in some sort of alternate universe along with their foe.


Many other ships that had also been reported missing in the Triangle are found in this new place known as Elysia where the crews have banded together and formed their own federation of sorts based on peace and cooperation.

The Klingon's, lead by Kor unsuccessfully attempt to escape which urges Kirk and his crew to work with their enemy to poole their resources and escape together. While this plan appears to look like it will work, the Klingon's attempt to sabotage the Enterprise in the process.

A good episode for ship geeks, including an odd reference (for fans of later Trek series and movies) to Earth's first warp-ship, the Bonaventure, what appears to be a plumper version of the Constitution class and obviously written way before the series Enterprise was even thought of.

We get to see the Klingon's in all their cunning once again, determined to destroy the Enterprise even when appearing to cooperate in their escape. Thankfully, a telepathic member of Elysia warns the crew before they can be destroyed.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

11 June 2012

B5 Review: Deathwalker & Believers

Deathwalker
Jha'Dur
A renowned war criminal, Jha'Dur (otherwise known as 'Deathwalker') from the Dilgar war comes aboard Babylon 5 to the outrage of Na'Toth and many of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. It is revealed that she is headed to Earth to work with Earth Alliance in distributing her serum across the galaxy. The serum stops the aging process, allowing virtual immortaliy.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Kosh enlists Talia Winters to assist him in some negotiations with a strange man named Abbut.

This episode presents us with a bit more history about the Babylon 5 universe including how Earth Alliance came to the assistance of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds during the Dilgar invasion about 30 years prior to the events in this episode. Jha'Dur was the most ruthless of the Dilgar and some of her exploits are mentioned as well. The realisation of the price the galaxy would have to pay for Jha'Dur's serum is genious and even though I have seen this episode before, I had forgotten what 'the catch' was right up until the words came out again. Ultimately, although seemingly uninterested in alien affairs so far, the Vorlon's decide what is right for the galaxy.

The second story arc is part of Talia Winters' development and something that probably won't immediately make much sense. Why was Kosh testing her? What is the significance of 'Reflection, Surprise, Terror' that was shown to Talia?

As a ship geek, this episode presents our first look at some ships from the League worlds including a Drazi Sunhawk, Vree Saucers and a ship from the Iksha.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Believers
Mola, Tharg & Kosh
A young alien boy is ill in Medlab, his parents asking for help. Dr Franklin can save him but it involves surgery which is strictly against the beliefs of their race. What follows is a huge struggle between their belief system and a doctors wish to save a young boy. A struggle that will come to the attention of Commander Sinclair and each of the major governments before the episode concludes.

In the meantime, Raiders threaten an inbound passenger liner and a stir-crazy Ivanova is sent out on her first mission in a StarFury to assist the ship back to Babylon 5.

This episode remains on its own when it comes to the major story arcs of the series but it still remains very powerful as we look at the conflicts that happen throughout as both sides (Dr Franklin vs the boy's parents) fight it out and present their cases. This episode makes you think and ask those questions - what would you do? 

Ultimately it builds up some more of Dr Franklin's character. We get to see what he is made of as he has to battle a fellow doctor, 'difficult' parents and even the Commander!

Overall Rating: 7/10

08 June 2012

B5 Review: The War Prayer & And The Sky Full of Stars

The War Prayer
Shaal Mayan with Delenn and G'Kar
A Minbari poet, Shaal Mayan is visiting Delenn on her way to Earth. After her meeting she is attacked and branded by a dangerous group who tell her to stay away from Earth.


Investigation into the attack reveals that a pro-Earth group named 'Homeguard' is emerging and similar attacks are being carried out across the Earth Alliance. 

It is around this time that an old flame of Ivanova's, Malcolm Biggs arrives on the station and he works to reacquaint with Susan. Unfortunately, Garibaldi's investigation reveals that Biggs is implicated with the Homeguard and a meet is setup including Commander Sinclair to take him and his followers down.

In a secondary story, Vir's cousin Kiron and his girlfriend arrive from Centauri Prime in handcuffs as they refuse to follow Centauri tradition and follow through with their arranged marriages as they love each other. Londo is called upon to assist in the matter.

On the surface, this episode doesn't appear that important. But there is a bit of a storm brewing with the coming of the Homeguard and we learn a bit more about Centauri culture, including seeing photos of Londo's three wives, who he nicknames Pestilence, Famine and Death.

I wonder if Sinclair ever apologised to the Abbai Ambassador and the others for his behaviour when he aims to get the attention of Biggs? Overall Rating: 6.5/10.

And The Sky Full of Stars
The hole in Sinclair's mind
There is a hole in Sinclair's mind. He was told this by the Minbari assassin just before he killed himself in 2257. Up until that point, Sinclair had no reason to doubt that he simply blacked out at the Battle of the Line when he attempted to ram a Minbari cruiser.


Two secret operatives arrive on Babylon 5 and kidnap the Commander with the intent of finding out what really happened during that 24 hour period Sinclair was missing. A corrupted security officer assists them and ultimately pays for his misjudgement with his life but we do find out what happened to Sinclair - at least, some of the story. 

Much like Mind War, which started piecing parts of the story together and asking bigger questions, And The Sky... appears to give us a big answer to a question lingering from the pilot movie The Gathering. However, even in doing so, there are a lot more questions that arise. Who were the 'Knight's' working for? What was Delenn's role in the war? Who was Delenn meeting with on Babylon 5? What significance came out of detaining Sinclair that made the Minbari surrender at the end of the Earth-Minbari war? Why should Sinclair die if he should ever know the truth?

And The Sky... may appear to be a slow moving episode but it does feature one of the most impressive effects sequences so far. A squadron of StarFury's blasted out of the sky by a fleet of Minbari ships. This is but a small part of the final battle between the Earth and the Minbari and for its time I could imagine this would have been quite a spectacle on screen. In a school assignment about CGI, I included the Line sequences as part of a video showcase.

A most important episode. One I still enjoy watching. Overall Rating: 8/10

03 June 2012

Trek Review: Once Upon a Planet & Mudd's Passion

Once Upon a Planet

Amusement Park Planet
The Enterprise returns to the Amusement Park planet (from Shore Leave) to enjoy the planet's offerings again. But things go wrong when their illusions turn deadly.

This episode marks another call back to an Original Series episode, Shore Leave. Similar to that episode, things go wrong and the crew are put in danger from the illusions created around them. But there is a different cause this time with the 'Master' now dead and the planet's computer running things - it fails to understand that computer systems (such as those aboard Enterprise) don't enslave anyone but work with the crews they interact with. The planet computer wishes to grow further and intends to use the Enterprise to escape the planet.

The computer is helped realise that people and computers can co-exist when it analyses the records aboard Enterprise and engages in further discussion with Spock while the remaining crew return to enjoy their shore leave.

A good sequel to the Season One episode yet depicting another confused entity, in this case a computer that needs to be reasoned with. This episode didn't feel as slow as some of the more recent viewings.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Mudd's Passion

Harcourt Fenton MuddThe Animated Series continues to relate to the Original Series with this episode, bringing back probably my least favourite character of the series, Harcourt Fenton Mudd. 

He's up to his usual antics on a mining planet trying to sell a love potion to the workers there. Spock reveals his trickery and before being attacked the Enterprise crew 'save' him and have him incarcerated. 

In the brig, Mudd provides Nurse Chapel the potion to use on Spock. After it doesn't appear to work, Chapel confronts Mudd again and in a brief struggle more love potion crystals are broken and feed through the ship's ventilation system. Mudd is able to escape to the shuttlebay taking Christine with him.

The crew become affected by the potion and this detracts from their performance and duties. Spock experiences a delayed reaction and shows noticeably unusual concern for Christine when he realises Mudd has captured her. 

Kirk and co pursue Mudd to a planet surface and encounter strange rock monsters. Mudd's potion comes in handy one last time to allow them to escape. The crew return to normal once the drug has worn off and everything is back to normal.

The final reaction of Nurse Chapel to Spock, once the potion has worn off was a bit surprising and not what I'd have expected but it is probably indicative that this ends the interest that existed between the two. M'ress and Scotty show interest in each other as well while McCoy cracks onto an unknown crew member. The sequence with the rock monsters was a bit silly but I guess they needed some sort of climactic confrontation in here. This episode is the last time we see or hear from Harry Mudd...

Overall Rating: 6/10