[Episode Written By: JMS] (8/12/99)
While visiting a dead, haunted city, with the
extreme disapproval of Galen, crew members start dropping faster than red-shirted
cadets. Galen discovers a mage secret and almost looses one of his
Take a good look at that half star. All the way through this episode I was hell-bent on four stars. I said to myself, "Is this a four star episode...hell yes." But then something happened. When I thought the drama was over and the story had played out a certain little box said five little words. And in a millisecond all the feelings of mystery and unpredictableness that made the B5 universe such a great place to explore came rushing back.
"Do not trust him" Who? "Galen."
The only thing that could have made that moment better would have been if those words were said by Kosh. In earlier commentary I stated that I believed Galen was this series replacement for a Vorlon, but it appears we have two now. Something very weird is going on inside that little box and its freaking me out. I can't say how terrific it is to say that. The magic is back. And thus this episode instantly turned into a 4.5, with honors. No, it wasn't perfect, but it was pure B5.
It is clear to me, looking at the past two episodes, that after TNT messed around with the show, the drive totally went out of everyone in production. We are seeing a clarity now, in the early filmed episodes, that amazes me. Every CGI routine is crisp, every scene is full, every moment a keeper. I cannot understand how anyone looking at these two episodes could go and say "We need to create a new pilot episode." or "We need to cancel this series." I'm sorry, but whoever in TNT is responsible for this opinion does not know the first thing about television. And if he was standing in front of me right now I would have to contain myself, because he/she took a perfect start and crashed it into the ground. This is good science fiction. This is good television, radiating from a genius producer, writer, short-order cook that is totally under appreciated in his time. So here's to the all the genius' out there who have to deal with the blind, the ignorant and more specifically, the stupid. This superb series deserves much better. I'm going to miss it dearly and I know there are many out there that are in literal pain over the situation.
Trivia Time: Max mentions that the planet is like a "Flying Dutchman." This has been used once before in famous B5 JMS writing to describe this elusive structure and Shadow nemesis: (Answer: RUOF NOLYBAB)
MUSIC: (4 STARS)
When episodes are very dark, Chen is in is element.
ACTING / CHARACTERS: (3.5 STARS)
A few uncomfortable moments when lines were tripped over, but overall a great job for any sci-fi show. I must say the supporting IPX staff were severe over actors, but I've seen much worse in this series.
Doctor Chambers actually shined in this episode, even though she had
very short scenes. We are finally getting to know her: calm but prone
to speaking up, young and extremely beautiful.
Is Galen more of a father or a child? The swing in emotion is amazing. He is so powerful but yet so vulnerable. His staff is like a security blanket and may be one of the few things holding him together.
On a side note, can someone please find something for Matheson to do. He's little more than a footstool for Gideon thus far, through the entire season.
PLOT: (4 STARS)
A well crafted horror story. And I wish we'd see a few more episodes
like this in the B5 universe, because the genre is most effective when
the viewer is afraid of what's going to happen next.
The scene in which Dureena found the data crystal bothered me a lot. The odds of her being in that place by accident are staggering. There really should have been more of a support scene to establish why she was in that spot. Some hint of evidence that led her there. Her chase across the beam instantly reminded me of a game of Tomb Raider :)...cool. But it turned out, plot wise, that the data crystal held virtually no significance. It gave something for Max to do and gave the crew a warning, but the horrors would have happened the same either way. It was the dissection of the dead bodies that was significant, not the crystal. So seeing the crystal scenes could be completely discarded, the random nature of finding them can be forgiven. Consider it very good filler.
It bothered me instantly, two minutes in, that here was another dead world. I said to myself "how many dead world episodes can they do." But then, thirty seconds later, right when I was about to say "boo", Galen comes out with an explanation of why so many dead worlds exist. It is because people do stupid things. Perfect. Thank you and bring on as many dead worlds as you darn well can think of. I won't ever get tired of them again.
Notice the Rangers are mentioned once again in this episode. So far, in TNT influenced episodes they were mentioned zero out of 8 times. In non influenced episodes they are 2 for 2. Think about it...hmmmm
CGI: (4.5 STARS)
The shots of the Excalibur and the shuttles were bar none the best I've
ever scene. The ride down, with fire bouncing off of the cockpits
was terrific. In contrast, look at other episodes where shuttle rides
look like they were done in the back on an SUV. What a difference.
Dureena's energy beam walk screamed blue screen, but there was no other way to do this with today's television technology. A lot of care was obviously taken in its creation. That could have looked really, really bad if done in the hands of anything but an expert. If you can suspend disbelief and enjoy the scene, then the crude nature of the approach is acceptable.
The mage machine and its destruction was a thing to behold. Look at the detail and look at the time they spent on it. It would have been very easy to spend a second on the machine, see a few sparks and then return to Galen's face. But they didn't do that. They showed every stage of its destruction and every detail. It was beautiful.