The fifth season of Babylon 5 would prove to be the show’s last. Fans had clamored at the end of the third season for a fourth, and they succeeded. At the end of the fourth, the clamoring began again, and they earned the show yet another reprieve. The fifth try finally sounded the death knell on this show, however. It’s really all for the best, though, since the series had unquestionably been driving toward this conclusion for some time. To go on any longer would have been unfair to the integrity of the show i…self.
The final season was a bit of a rocky one by comparison, filled with new and departing cast members, guest spots and the always-unpopular series finale. Luckily, this show avoided the last-show curse, and created a series finale that was well received by critics and fans alike. Even going back now, after all the hype, it is easy to see why this episode was liked so well. It is a surprisingly moving piece on what it means for life to move on, no matter your species.
If you are new to this show, season five is obviously not the place to start. There is way too much going on here to pick it up in the middle. Go back to the beginning! For true fans of the show, however, I don’t need to tell you that this box set is an essential part of the show’s five-year run.
This is a fantastic audio presentation. Often times, when a show is re-mastered to 5.1 for the DVD release, real changes aren’t made from the original broadcast audio. Oh, the dialog level might be dropped a little, but no special care is given to the track. This, however, is one of the first instances that I have come across where the DVD audio actually sounds dramatically better than the broadcast audio. This is a really nice audio package!
I was initially struck by the powerful rumblings coming from my subwoofer. Now, it’s not quite up to summer blockbuster levels, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless. Also impressive is how full the soundscape is. There is a wide Hz range available, which allows for multiple sound sources to compete for the same space in time with minimal sonic overlap. Put simply, the viewer can clearly hear a bunch of different stuff at once.
The additions of clear dialog and a wide sound stage makes this one of the better soundtracks that I have witnessed for any 5.1 television program.
Big respect goes to this show for being presented in widescreen. A series such as this one needs the added respect that a widescreen transfer provides. There are, however, some slight blemishes here and there. They are so minor, however, that they are almost not worth mentioning. Colors look great, but flesh tones seem to be a bit on the gray side. With this many aliens, however, who knows for sure? Black levels are also nice and deep.
There are, however, some problems with shimmering edges, especially when it comes to bright colors next to dark ones. I also have the same complaint with this season that I have with all of the other seasons… bad CGI exterior shots. I understand the need to save money, but poor computer animation is not the way to go about doing so.
There are plenty of extras included in this set to keep viewers interested for some time. One of my favorite features is the brief season introduction at the beginning of this set. Matt Groening did one of these before the fourth season of The Simpson’s, and I just think it is a really nice added touch. Also included are brief previews for every episode, which is extremely helpful if you know what episode you want to watch, but you can’t remember the name of it.
The token commentary tracks are here as well, if only for three episodes. There is also a brief gag reel (which doesn’t really have too many laughs in it) and a couple deleted and extended scenes from one episode. There are also a pair of documentary featurettes that are mildly interesting. One takes a look at the fan base of the show and its ancillary products, and the other, amazingly enough, brags about the effectiveness of the aforementioned crappy CGI that is used on the show.
The whole thing is wrapped up with ”The Universe of Babylon 5”, an interactive feature that works like something of a “video glossary” of the terms, locations and characters on the show. All together, this is a pretty nice set of extras for a television series.
Babylon 5 was a television show that had very definable good and bad points. Obvious comparisons to the Star Trek franchise aside, this is one of those rare shows that people either loved or hated. For this reason, the series seems to have been tailor made for a DVD audience. Fans may rejoice in the fact that they can now own the series in its entirety, for viewing at their leisure. No more hunting for different stations, days and times. It’s all right here for you to enjoy.
Special Features List
- Season Introduction
- Commentary on 3 episodes by series creator J. Michael Straczynski
- Gag Reel
- 2 Making-of Documentaries
- “The Universe of Babylon 5” interactive feature
- 3 Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Previews for each episode