Top 20 Babylon 5 Episodes

b5 cast 1Babylon 5, the classic sci-fi TV show from the ’90s, celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. It all started with an obscure TV movie pilot called Babylon 5: The Gathering, which was about an orbital space station that served as a common meeting ground for several alien races including humans. Created by J. Michael Straczynski, Babylon 5 steadily built up a core fan base thanks to its epic plotlines and complex characters. These are the best episodes from its five-year run. * WARNING: Some major spoilers lie below.

20. “Day Of The Dead” An alien festival held in the station during the show’s fifth season (written by Neil Gaiman) brings about visions of deceased people to many main characters.

inquisitor19. “Comes The Inquisitor” Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Mimbari Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) are held captive and tortured by a mysterious human (Wayne Alexander) sent by the enigmatic alien Vorlons to see if they are worthy for a coming struggle–namely the Shadow War.

18. “Z’ha’dum” This third-season ender featured Sheridan’s supposedly dead wife (Melissa Gilbert) coming to Babylon 5 as an envoy for the evil, spider-like Shadows and tries to recruit him to their side in the Shadow War.

17. “And Now For A Word” A news crew visits the station during the Narn-Centauri War in the second season. The episode is shot mostly in a documentary format, as viewers see various characters being interviewed, learn their viewpoints and witness a battle in the war.

16. “Shadow Dancing” As Sheridan stages his forces for a battle against the Shadows, the station’s doctor Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) is seriously wounded while on a self-imposed sabbatical.

15. “Babylon Squared” This intriguing first-season b4 episodeepisode hints at the show’s epic scale when Babylon 4, the station’s predecessor, mysteriously reappears after it went missing years ago. Investigations reveal that Babylon 4 is unstuck in time and tantalizing clues for what lies ahead for the show are unveiled. Some of the revelations are truly jaw dropping.

14. ” Point Of No Return” The station is placed under martial law the paramilitary organization the Nightwatch and station personnel must grapple with their loyalty to Earth or defying their government by confronting the Gestapo-like Nightwatch officers.

13. “No Surrender, No Retreat” In this fourth season episode, Sheridan decides to free the Earth colony Proxima 3 from the tyrannical Earth Alliance rule and provokes a showdown between his fleet and that of the Earth Alliance forces.

12. “In The Shadow of Z’ha’dum” More information about the Shadows and the mysterious Vorlons are unveiled as Sheridan faces difficult choices after learning that his wife was killed by the Shadows years earlier and that the mysterious Mr. Morden (Ed Wasser) is an associate of the Shadows.

imagesIP9HIUBQ11. “Chrysalis” This stunning first-season finale marked the last time Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) was the show’s main lead as the Earth Alliance president is assassinated and Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) is critically shot while uncovering the conspiracy to kill the president. Meanwhile, the Minbari ambassador Delenn decides to undergo a metamorphosis.

10. “Believers” Dr. Franklin must contend with alien parents whose religious beliefs won’t allow believershim to operate on their fatally ill son. The ethical dilemma faced by the doctor was well presented as were the aliens’ beliefs that clashed with his Hippocratic oath. The ending was a horrific  shocker that illustrated how extreme both sides were about following their values.

9. “Endgame” At last! What fans have been waiting for since the start of the series. Sheridan’s forces finally arrive on Earth to free it from the tyranny of the Earth Alliance. This conclusion of the Earth Civil War had been building up for years in Babylon 5 and was emotionally satisfying to watch as both sides orchestrated final, fateful maneuvers.

8. “The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars” This unusual fourth-season ender examines the impact that Babylon 5 and its crew has on humanity way into the far future. Originally the episode “Sleeping In Light” was to be the finale when the show was prematurely cancelled. But a last-minute reprieve meant that the series finale had to be delayed and this episode was hastily produced and aired instead. The captivating story culminates in humanity’s fate a million years from now.

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7. “The Fall Of Night” Babylon 5 had many memorable season finales but this was the best one. Nagging questions were answered while new ones arose to keep fans talking in between seasons. The biggest reveal was that Kosh, the mysterious ambassador of the enigmatic Vorlon race finally shows what he looks like and it’s a stunner. Meanwhile, Sheridan and the station crew find themselves on their way to confronting the Shadows and the despotic Earth Alliance.

long twilight struggle6. “The Long, Twilight Struggle” The Narn-Centauri War comes to a bitter end as the losing Narn fight a valiant struggle against the Centauri, who were secretly helped by the Shadows. Meanwhile, Sheridan gains important allies for the coming Shadow War. The performances by the two rival ambassadors of each race G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) and Londo Molari (Peter Jurassik) were gripping and arresting, as were many haunting images of the war itself.

5. “Sleeping In Light” Babylon 5’s series finale was one of the best ones ever done for any series. Taking place twenty years after the pivotal events in the show (the Shadow War, Earth’s liberation), surviving characters reunite on the eve of both Sheridan’s pending death and the decommissioning of Babylon 5 before its scuttled.  Aside from the poignancy of seeing the station one last time, the episode intrigues viewers with its revelations of what the now-old characters have been up to since Babylon 5 ended.

4. “And The Sky Full Of Stars” War veteran Sinclair sky full of starsis kidnapped and forced to relive through a simulation his time during the final battle in the Earth-Minibari War when he was captured by the Minbari. His kidnappers are convinced he is a traitor and push him via the simulations to admit his crimes. The episode effectively tantalized viewers about its mysteries, especially those about Sinclair’s memory gap during his capture and as to why the clearly superior Minbari forces surrendered to Earth on the eve of conquering humanity.

3. “War Without End, Parts One and Two” Many war without endmysteries regarding Babylon 4, the MInbari and Sinclair are finally revealed in this two-part third-season episode. Sinclair, now leading the warrior Rangers against the Shadows, returns to Babylon 5 with an important mission for many characters. It leads to Sheridan time traveling into the future as other characters wind up a few years in the past to right before Babylon 4 disappeared, which was shown in the episode “Babylon Squared”. Aside from showing what happened to Babylon 4, Sinclair’s ultimate…and stunning fate is revealed.

2. “The Coming Of Shadows” This pivotal episode won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation as the evil, spider-like Shadows  secretly sinclair returnsinstigate the disastrous Narn-Centauri War. Meanwhile, Garibaldi gets a message from an old friend, former Babylon 5 commander Sinclair, who is now working against the coming “terrible darkness” and enlists his allegiance. Sinclair’s appearance was a genuine surprise and, along with the Shadows’ machinations, pushed the show and its characters into a bold, new direction.

1. “Severed Dreams” This third-season episode b5 speechof Babylon 5 served as a cathartic release of sorts. Sheridan and his crew had been dealing with the increasingly totalitarian rule of Earth Alliance President Clark, who had the previous president killed in the first season finale. Sheridan reaches a point where the only way to save their democratic way of life is to rebel against his government. Following his declaration that Babylon 5 is seceding from the Earth Alliance a vicious battle ensues between the station and Earth warships, along with a vicious firefight inside Babylon 5 when its boarded. By the episode’s end Sheridan is now committed to a new path and must follow it to its conclusion.

Honorable Mentions: ” Between The Darkness And The Light”, “Divided Loyalties”, “The Fall Of Centauri Prime”, “The Hour Of The Wolf”, “Interludes And Examinations”, “Intersections In Real Time”, “Objects At Rest”, “Signs And Portents”, and ” Walkabout”.

José Soto

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The New So-Called Fantastic Four

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Ruining the good vibe from the recently released Guardians Of The Galaxy trailer, 2oth Century Fox had to go ahead and throw this turd sandwich at genre fans. The cast for their reboot of the Fantastic Four will include Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic (gee Josh Trank, thanks a lot for lying to us since this past summer by denying Teller was in the running for the role), Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch (the PC casting of the year), Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman (the character should go back to being called Invisible Girl given how young this actress looks) and Jamie Bell as the Thing (ooh, this guy sure looks tough!). Forget about Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor. These are the worst casting choices for a superhero film since Halle Berry played Catwoman and Jennifer Garner paraded as Elektra.

Just seeing these people together makes me physically ill. This does not look like the Fantastic Four to me, but like a bunch of kids playing superheroes in a school play. Honestly, we were better off with the Tim Story version of the Fantastic Four, hell, even the cast from Roger Corman stillborn version looked better than this bunch.

It’s pretty clear that Fox and Trank fail to grasp the essence of the Fantastic Four. They are a dysfunctional real FFfamily unit, Mr. Fantastic is the father figure, the Thing is the grumpy uncle, Invisible Woman has the big sister/mother hen role, and the Human Torch was the brash young kid of the group. This cast looks like they’re just now able to legally buy alcohol. At least with the Tim Story Fantastic Four films, the cast filled out those roles to different degrees of success. Yeah, I’ll admit Julian McMahon and Jessica Alba were the most miscast actors in the bunch, but the rest captured the essence of their roles well. Say what you want about Ioan Gruffudd, but he did a fine job as Mr. Fantastic. OK, so he wasn’t the most dynamic character, but Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be a stoic, intellectual type and Gruffudd showed that. Miles Teller doesn’t look like the brainy type, but as the kind of kid who plays pranks on others. And Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be approaching middle age, that’s why he’s the father figure. You’re not going to get that from this whippersnapper!

What is more troubling are the rumors that Dr. Doom will probably be played by a woman (Lady Doom?!), and worse the leaked premise which goes against the traditional version of the team. Supposedly, Mr. Fantastic and the Thing got their powers as kids and were used by the government as living weapons! Then later on they meet the brother and sister team of the Human Torch and Invisible Woman. I’m just groaning right now thinking about this. I can understand wanting to update origins by making changes. But the core of the character and his or her situation must remain the same.

Look at Iron Man, Spider-Man and Superman. Their films had major changes done with the characters, but they were basically the same people that fans loved. Iron Man wasn’t born in the jungles of Vietnam as in the comic books but rather in Afghanistan. He was still a pompous a-hole who had to learn some humility because of his heart problem. The two film versions of Spider-Man were different with their origin stories; his Uncle Ben’s death was more tied in with Spider-Man’s callous behavior. The people he went to school with have changed from the comic books. Liz Allen is absent while Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in both film versions have filled in that high school sweetheart role. But the core of Spider-Man is the same: a geeky loner kid who gets super powers and doesn’t become a hero right away. With last year’s Man Of Steel there were changes done to Superman’s origin: his father dies in a tornado, Zod killed his biological father, but the main gist of Superman was intact. He was still an alien infant sent to Earth from a dying world and he grows up to become a superhero. Does it look like we’ll get a version of the Fantastic Four that is true to their nature with this reboot. Not likely!

I don’t like the idea of rooting for a superhero film to fail. But this just feels all wrong and at this point I refuse to reward Fox by spending my hard-to-get money on this upcoming movie. Why couldn’t the ffSuperman/Batman film come out next summer as originally planned? At least the hoopla for that would’ve drowned out this reboot. So after The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the next superhero film on my radar will be Ant-Man, because I’m bypassing this stinkfest altogether. The worst thing about this pending fiasco is that Marvel Studios won’t be getting back the rights for the Fantastic Four. Let’s all pray this reboot bombs at the box office so that Marvel can regain the rights quicker and eventually produce a more genuine version of the team that sticks to its roots.

So thanks a lot Fox for spoiling my morning. “Sigh,” I just hope Stan Lee doesn’t do a cameo in this DOA production.

T. Rod Jones

New Trailer For Guardians Of The Galaxy

gog

After what seemed like forever, Marvel Studios finally unveiled the first official trailer for the upcoming film Guardians Of The Galaxy. Based on the comic book of the same name it’s about Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and a band of alien misfits and outlaws who get into a grand outer space misadventure.  Guardians Of The Galaxy is one of the most anticipated films for this summer and for non-fans, this excitement is surprising given that the film is based on one of the lesser known properties of Marvel Comics. Some may even claim that this thing is a gamble for a Marvel movie because unlike other properties that weren’t well known like Elektra and Ghost Rider, this film looks like a lavish big budget affair with a big name cast (Zoe Saldana, John C. Reilly, Benecio Del Toro, etc.).

It’s not really surprising when you think about it. The premise is waaay out there and it doesn’t fall into the formula for a Marvel film. One look at the trailer shows that it seems more like Farscape or Star Wars than the latest Iron Man film. We see lots of weird aliens, dazzling special effects, big fight scenes and the center of it all is the self-important and goofy Peter Quill. Pratt’s introductory scenes in the trailer suggest that his character will be cut from the same cloth as his other loony character, Andy Dwyer from Parks & Recreation, only more serious and with a touch of John Crichton thrown in.

groot

But hands down, the big highlights were Rocket Raccoon and Groot. They look outlandish and you have to give Marvel and director James Gunn credit for not holding back on these two aliens. Rocket Raccoon and Groot look like they just stepped out of the comic books and they could be the breakout characters. Just imagine the toy shelves this summer cluttered with plush Rocket Raccoons! It’s a no brainer.

Many of the fast paced shots were identical to those seen in that brief, grainy bootleg trailer that has been on the Internet since last summer, complete with Blue Swede’s “Hooked On A Feeling” playing in the soundtrack. Seeing it in high-definition was just gravy.

All this hoopla over a trailer in the end won’t matter much if the film fails to deliver. But Guardians Of The Galaxy looks like another sure-fire winner for Marvel.

Lewis T. Grove

This Time It’s For Real, Marty McFly’s Sneakers With Power Laces Are Coming!

mcfly and power lacesA couple of years back, it was reported on this blog that Nike released  special limited edition replicas of the Nike sneakers worn by Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in the movie Back To The Future, Part II. While they looked amazingly accurate to the futuristic footwear worn byMarty and lit up, they lacked that shoe’s distinctive feature: the power laces. In other words, they didn’t self lace themselves like in the movie.  That was the one thing that made the sneakers so freaking cool! But fear not fans, it turns out we will be getting those special kicks after all.

This past Friday, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield confirmed that next year, 2015 the year that the movie takes place in, the shoe company will release sneakers that will have the self-lacing feature! He didn’t say, however, if the power laces will be on new releases of the Nike Air Mag or another shoe. Hopefully, they’ll release the Air Mag (and not just limited editions) with the power laces. That would be sweeeet! Forget Velcro! Just push a button on the shoe and it laces itself, think of the precious seconds you’ll save when getting dressed. The funny thing is that these shoes that looked so futuristic back then when the movie was released in the late ’80s look so contemporary. It’s like modern fashion has caught up to the future.

So, start saving up your dollars people because it’s a guarantee that we’ll have to pay top dollar for the product. power laces 2But you know what? It’ll be worth it just to say that one thing prophesized in Back To The Future, Part II came true. Next year we won’t have flying cars, or Jaws 19, or even Mr. Fusion, but at least the coolest future gadget from Back To The Future, Part II will be a reality.  Now if only Mattel could get working on those hoverboards…

T. Rod Jones

The Robocop Remake Has A Surprising Human Core

roboposter

Relax people, the remake of Robocop is actually a good movie. Now the main question is if it’s as good as the original? No, it isn’t. Still, it’s light years better than those abysmally bad sequels that followed the original Robocop, and it has its own identity.

This Robocop remake follows the basic story of the original. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is an undercover detective for the Detroit police in the near future who is nearly killed in a car bomb explosion that leaves him paralyzed and with major injuries. Enter Omnicorp, the multinational corporate leader in robotic soldiers and cybernetics. The company’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is trying to have Omnicorp’s products sold and used for civilian law enforcement purposes in the U.S. Standing in his way is that it’s illegal to use robots in such a manner in the U.S. He decides to skirt around the law by having his scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) transplant Murphy’s head, right hand and some major organs into a robotic body, thus creating a cyborg policeman.

Joel Kinnaman

This film differs a bit from the original in that it examines more closely Murphy’s struggle with his lost humanity. As he recovers, he’s horrified that he is more machine than man, and later Norton, under orders, suppresses Murphy’s emotions to make him more efficient. At first, the nearly lobotomized Robocop is hailed as a hero in Detroit and the country for his swift and ultra proficient law enforcement methods. But over time, his emotions slowly re-emerge as he regains feelings for his wife and son (Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan) and begins going against protocol by carrying out his own mission. That is seeking justice for anyone who has wronged him, including Sellars, who sees Murphy as just a commodity.

Joel Kinnaman;Abbie CornishRobocop has surprising depth with its look at Murphy’s plight and brings up relevant questions about his humanity and the supposed superiority of machines. The film also covers the impact that the Robocop program has on society and politics. It’s an extrapolation of the predicaments we face today regarding security and corporate responsibility. While the original Robocop went over these issues, it was drowned out at times with its dark humor and satire. Here, these questions are front and center.

These issues are the core of Robocop, which helps it stand apart from the original. The film has great effects and action scenes, although it dragged a bit in some parts. The robotic designs are just exemplary and outdo the original. It helps that the suit is pretty awesome in its own right, even though it’s that solid black color that have the fanboys in an uproar. The suit is intimidating and surprisingly less clumsy looking than the original Robocop suit.

The film, however, sorely lacks the sardonic wit and pace that characterized the original classic. Director José Padilha isn’t Paul Verhoeven, but he does a better job than expected with the material and the actors. Oldman, as always Joel Kinnaman;Gary Oldman;Aimee Garciastands out with his typical stellar performance and serves as a conscience for what is going on, even though his hands aren’t that clean. Samuel L. Jackson was too over-the-top with his portrayal of Pat Novak, a histrionic talk show host/propaganda tool for Sellars. Here was an instance where the original’s witty commercials and news briefs gave a better picture of that futuristic society. Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), this movie’s version of Clarence J. Boddicker isn’t nearly as memorable, but that’s fine since the villainy is front and center Sellars and most of his employees, including Jackie Earle Haley as Mattox, a savage merc.

robocop newThose that prefer the original’s vicious satirical look at our commercialized society may want to avoid this remake. The same goes for gore hounds that reveled in Verhoeven’s macabre humor, this remake is PG-13 mind you. But a film’s rating shouldn’t count for its quality. Just go look at A Good Day To Die Hard, it had its R rating, but stunk compared to its PG-13 predecessor.

Despite its shortcomings regarding humor and gore, Robocop has its merits, including some food for thought.

José Soto