Babylon 5-Season 3 (1996)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Introduction-J. Michael Straczynski And Various Cast And Crew
Audio Commentary-J.Michael Straczynski - "Severed Dreams"
Audio Commentary-Actors - "Interludes And Examinations"
Audio Commentary-J. Michael Straczynski - " Z'Ha 'Dum"
Featurette-Behind The Mask: Creating The Aliens Of Babylon 5
Featurette-Building A Better Narn
Featurette-Designing Tomorrow: The Look Of Babylon 5
Featurette-The Universe Of Babylon 5 - Personnel Files, Data Files
Featurette-The Universe Of Babylon 5 - Shadow Dossier
|Year Of Production||1996|
|Running Time||383:07 (Case: 924)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||
Kevin G. Cremin
Warner Home Video
Julie Caitlin Brown
Mary Kay Adams
J. Michael Straczynski
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Smoking||Yes, addiction to "stims" is one of the storylines|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed.
But, in the Year of the Shadow War, it became something greater: our last, best hope... for victory. The year is 2260. The place: Babylon 5.
(as voiced by Commander Ivanova during the opening credits)
I'm not going to gush, but Season 3 of the cult TV science fiction series Babylon 5 is easily my favourite season. I remember watching the TV movie (The Gathering), which also served as a pilot episode for the entire series, and thinking it was pretty inane. I ignored the first few episodes until by chance I stumbled onto Episode #4: Infection. I thought that was an interesting story, combining various themes including ancient civilizations with organic technology and a terminator/possession type of plot. By Episode 6 (Mind War) I was totally hooked. Here was a science fiction series that brought back the kind of short stories I used to devour as a child, with reasonably fleshed out main characters, decent acting (although a bit wooden), impressive visual effects (generated using a bank of Amiga computers), and a great soundtrack from ex-Tangerine Dream keyboardist Christopher Franke.
And that was before I even realised the series was planned from day one as a single interconnected story - broken over five seasons and hundreds of episodes. Although most of the episodes are enjoyable on their own, they make more sense when you watch them in sequence and witness an epic unfold before your eyes. I ended up watching nearly every episode as they aired on TV.
If the whole series is one long story, why do I consider Season Three my favourite season? Well, as we all know, every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning often contains introductory and expository material, and the end often seems like everything is being wrapped up. It's the middle that often is the most exciting - the basic storyline is clear, all the main characters are familiar, you don't quite know how things will turn out, and there are lots of interesting revelations and twists.
Season Three is also unique in that it is the first time that every single one of the 22 episodes was written by series creator and producer J. Michael Straczynski, and hence the stories are more interconnected, and many of the episodes are crucial in imparting key information.
The "regulars" in Season Three are almost unchanged from Season Two (with the exception of the addition of Marcus Cole):
The following are brief overviews of each episode (for more information, refer to The Lurker's Guide To Babylon 5):
The transfer is in widescreen 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Although the episodes were originally broadcast in 1.33:1 apparently they were shot with an intended aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (based on masking the full frame of the 35mm film source) so in a sense we are finally seeing these episodes in their "intended" aspect ratio.
The video quality of the Babylon 5 boxsets seems to be improving with each season, and I'm pleased to report that Season Three is the best looking so far. Although some scenes look a bit grainy, and the special effects shots still look a bit soft, in general most of the episodes come across quite well.
Detail levels are quite good, particularly on facial textures and background sets. The video transfer reproduces the episodes so well it reveals "flaws" in the special effects. For example, it's quite clear whenever a character is being composited onto a fake background as they look more blurred than usual. A particularly noticeable example is in Disc 3 Episode #56 Chapter 5 around 30:45-30:49. Also, the computer generated special effects scenes (although amazing when they were first produced) now look rather blurry and artificial.
Colour saturation is acceptable. Sometimes characters look a little green or blue, but that's due to the lighting used in the scene. Black level and shadow detail is excellent.
Interestingly, in the two part episode War Without End, they reused some footage from Babylon Squared. The footage looks rather blurry with incorrect colours - also the framing seems fairly tight. I wonder if they have taken the footage from the original 1.33:1 transfer used for the TV broadcast and then reframed it for widescreen.
The main issue I have with the transfer is probably occasional minor pixelization, such as the table in Disc 1 Episode #46 Chapter 3 around 11:18-11:23. On the R1 version of the boxset, the table looks blurry but not pixelated. I guess this is inevitable, given that each disc contains nearly 3 hours of episodes, with the usual complement of audio tracks and subtitle tracks.
There are several subtitle tracks available: English, French, Dutch, Arabic, and English for the Hearing Impaired. I turned on both English subtitle tracks, and they appear identical except the English for the Hearing Impaired track includes dialogue attribution. The accuracy of the dialogue transcription is quite good - in most instances the subtitles matched the on-screen dialogue perfectly and I could only detect a few instances of dialogue simplification.
All discs in the boxset are single sided and dual layered (RSDL). The layer change for all discs occur in between episodes so should not be noticeable.
There are three audio tracks on these discs: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
The quality of the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is acceptable, sounding better than TV broadcast quality but not much better.
The surround channels are only sparingly used for conveying background music ambience and the occasional Foley effect. As is to be expected, the usage of the surround channels varies from episode to episode, with Episode #57 (A Late Delivery From Avalon) particularly memorable for its use of the surround channels to create an enveloping and haunting aural environment matching the legend of King Arthur.
By comparison, the R1 edition sounds slightly deeper, with better bass definition.
The subwoofer channel was very lightly utilized for various explosions.
Dialogue was fairly clear throughout and easy to understand. There were no issues with audio synchronization.
|Surround Channel Use|
As usual, Warner Home Video have graced this box set with a reasonable collection of extras, consisting of a mixture of commentary tracks (on selected episodes), featurettes, episode previews and even an Easter egg.
The main menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated and includes background audio
These are TV spots for each of the episodes, each lasting 0:32 and presented in 1.33:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
This is located on Disc 1, and is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), with excerpts from the episodes presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed. This is an overview of the main themes in Season 3, as described by the cast and crew.
Warning: if you have not yet watched the episodes in this season, you may not want to view this introduction, as it contains a few spoilers, or at least hints of plot elements to come.
This is a sixteen page full colour booklet. It contains a short foreword by J. Michael Straczynski, regular cast credits, a listing of each episode by name, director, original airdate, synopsis and chapter heading. Finally, it contains a listing of bonus materials and an ad for the previous two seasons on DVD.
This is a great commentary track by J. Michael Straczynski. He speaks nearly continuously during the episode, even over the opening credits and only stops during the closing credits. He talks about various aspects of the production, including casting, special effects, acting, plot elements and the background music. I was glad to find out I was not the only person who really liked this episode - apparently it's a personal favourite of his as well as many fans and the episode eventually won a Hugo award.
This features the following actors:
This commentary track wasn't as informative as I thought it would be, but it was certainly enjoyable. The four actors are obviously good friends, and spent a lot of time laughing at each other's jokes and making humorous remarks. The buddies are having such a good time that they don't actually impart a lot of information, apart from a few production anecdotes, plot discussions and comments about themselves and their fellow actors. Given that this is such a crucial episode in the arc, I was hoping for some real insights into the plot or characters but the only comments they made on the storyline were fairly obvious ones.
This commentary track is full of observations on the plot and storyline to date. There are some interesting insights that are new to me: such as the Vorlons and the Shadows being defined by the questions they ask: Who are you? What do you want?
This featurette is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Excerpts from the episodes are presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed. It includes interviews with the crew, alien sketches, excerpts from the episodes and behind the scenes footage. It includes specific discussions on achieving the look of the Narns, the Centauris, the Minbaris and the Vorlons.
This featurette is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Excerpts from the episodes are presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed. It talks about the process, and the transformation of turning Marshall Teague ("Ta'Lon") into a Narn. It includes interviews with the cast and crew, excerpts from the episodes and behind the scenes footage. Watch out for the extra scene at the end of credits!
This featurette is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Excerpts from the episodes are presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed. It covers various aspects about the sets, and costume designs for the series. Aspects covered including building the sets and the soundstages (in an old warehouse), sets serving multiple locations, the crew having theatre backgrounds, and specific sets such as the War Room, the Med Lab, and the White Star.
These are short video profiles on some of the minor characters in Season Three. Each mini featurette is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Excerpts from the episodes are presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed.
The profiles are:
There are short video profiles on some of the subjects of Season Three. Each mini featurette is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Excerpts from the episodes are presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed.
The subjects are:
This is a short montage of excerpts from the episodes, narrated by Jerry Doyle ("Garibaldi"), and presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed (not 16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
Before you can gain "access" to the video, you need to "guess" Garibaldi's secret password. Don't worry, it's a multiple choice menu selection. Hint: his access password is revealed in the episode Ceremonies of Light and Dark.
This is a "hidden" menu selection within The Universe Of Babylon 5 - Data Files. To access it, you have to navigate the cursor to the centre of the screen - in between Battle For Babylon 5 and Universe of Babylon 5. It contains a montage of blooper sequences presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:
Region 1 wins by an extremely narrow margin (slightly better audio and video transfer, plus additional text stills).
Season Three of the cult TV science-fiction series Babylon 5 is probably the most complex and exciting, with nearly every episode advancing the story "arc" and containing many critical plot developments and revelations.
The video transfer quality is acceptable, with filmed segments looking quite decent and special effects shots looking somewhat blurred.
The audio transfer quality is also acceptable, with sparse and and occasional use of surrounds.
Extras include commentary tracks on selected episodes, plus featurettes and episode previews.
|DVD||Custom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)|
|Speakers||Front and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500|