Saturday, April 4, 1970

Babylon 5, Season 1: Signs & Portents

The Babylon 5 series was conceived and structured from the beginning as a novel for television that would take place over five seasons of broadcast episodes. There would be a beginning, a middle, and an end, with a few large ongoing stories woven through from the start to the finish. Season one, designated Signs & Portents, is the opening section of the novel, which means that it is mostly dedicated to establishing characters, filling out the elements of the fictional future it is set in, and laying the foundation for the overarching plot lines to come later. As such, it is the season of the show that has the most "stand alone" episodes, and the season that is most like a standard television show in which the characters, for the most part, return to the status quo ante by the end of each episode. This is also the season for which Straczynski wrote the least number of episodes.

This is not to say that things do not change over the course of the season. Characters develop, interact, establish relationships with one another, governments take action, and the consequences of those decisions made by characters and governments actually have an impact that affects the setting (very much so in the final episode of the season). This is also the only season in which Michael O'Hare, as Jeffrey Sinclair, is a series regular. Although O'Hare has been criticized for being stiff in the role, I always found him to carry the role fairly well - a character who is the commander of a sizable space station and also charged with ambassadorial responsibilities is someone who I would hope would be reserved and thoughtful.

The first episode of the third season aired in January 1994 almost a full year after The Gathering (read review) was originally shown. In the interim, several changes were made. Most notably, Tamlyn Tomita (as Laurel Takashima), Johnny Sekka (as Dr. Bejhamin Kyle), and Patricia Tallman (as Lyta Alexander) left the cast and were replaced by Claudia Christian (as Susan Ivanova), Richard Biggs (as Dr. Stephen Franklin), and Andrea Thompson (as Talia Winters). The design for the Minbari race was radically changed, and the design of both the Narn and the Centauri was changed to a lesser degree. The station sets were altered as well, generally making the station brighter and more open. Save for the replacement of Patricia Tallman, all of the changes generally improved the show.

The first season has several important plot elements that run through it. The most obvious one is the one that was referenced directly in The Gathering: what happened during Commander Sinclair's missing twenty-four hours, and why did the Minbari surrender after the Battle of the Line. But during the season we also see the ongoing conflict between the Narn and the Centauri, increasing unrest on Earth, the deepening mystery of the Vorlons, and the first hints of larger forces at work in the galaxy.

Episode 1: Midnight on the Firing Line
Episode 2: Soul Hunter
Episode 3: Born to the Purple
Episode 4: Infection
Episode 5: The Parliament of Dreams
Episode 6: Mind War
Episode 7: The War Prayer
Episode 8: And the Sky Full of Stars
Episode 9: Deathwalker
Episode 10: Believers
Episode 11: Survivors
Episode 12: By Any Means Necessary
Episode 13: Signs and Portents
Episode 14: Grail
Episode 15: Eyes
Episode 16: A Voice in the Wilderness (Part 1 of 2)
Episode 17: A Voice in the Wilderness (Part 2 of 2)
Episode 18: Babylon Squared
Episode 19: The Quality of Mercy
Episode 20: TKO
Episode 21: Legacies
Episode 22: Chrysalis

Season Two: The Coming of Shadows

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