Babylon 5-Season 3 (1996)

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Released 19-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Episode Previews
Introduction-J. Michael Straczynski And Various Cast And Crew
Booklet
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
Easter Egg-Outtakes
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 383:07 (Case: 924)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Menachem Binetski
Richard Compton
John Copeland
Kevin G. Cremin
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Michael O'Hare
Bruce Boxleitner
Claudia Christian
Jerry Doyle
Mira Furlan
Richard Biggs
Bill Mumy
Stephen Furst
Andrea Thompson
Jason Carter
Tracy Scoggins
Julie Caitlin Brown
Mary Kay Adams
Case Gatefold
RPI $119.95 Music Christopher Franke
J. Michael Straczynski


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Arabic
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

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

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):

Episode #45 (301) Matters of Honor (41:56)
Marcus Cole (Jason Carter), a Ranger, joins the show. Londo tries to break off his relationship with Morden. A VIP from Earth, David Endawi (Tucker Smallwood), is conducting an investigation into whether any of the races have any knowledge of the mysterious ship that Lt. Keller recorded before his death. Sheridan and co. tries to rescue some trapped Rangers using the brand new White Star.
Episode #46 (302) Convictions (41:57)
Lots of religious pilgrims arrive at the station after hearing stories about Kosh's appearance. This includes Brother Theo (Louis Turrene) who is also going to become a regular guest in Season Three. In the meantime, a terrorist is causing a series of bombs to explode at various locations in the station. Sheridan and co. have to locate him or her before the whole station explodes! One of the bombings traps both G'Kar and Londo in a transport tube.
Episode #47 (303) A Day in the Strife (41:57)
Sheridan and Ivanova are dealing with the disgruntled transport association workers as they complain about the new stringent anti-weapons security measures. An unknown probe arrives through the jump gate and threatens to blow the station unless Babylon 5 can answer 600 questions. Two Narns - Counsellor Na'Far (Stephen Macht) and his bodyguard Ta'Lon (Marshall Teague) - arrive from the Narn homeworld to "escort" G'Kar back home. Franklin appears to be developing an addiction to stims.
Episode #48 (305) Passing Through Gethsemane (41:57)
Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) returns, in a Vorlon ship no less, and becomes Kosh's "assistant." Meanwhile, Brother Edward (Brad Dourif) - a member of Brother Theo's group, is troubled by strange nightmarish visions.
Episode #49 (304) Voices of Authority (41:58)
Delenn suggests contacting some of the First Ones who have remained in the galaxy to enlist their help in the upcoming war with the Shadows. Draal (John Schuck) offers his help in allowing Sheridan to search for the First Ones using the resources of Epsilon 3, but unfortunately Sheridan has to meet with Julie Musante (Shari Shattuck), recently appointed political officer of Babylon 5. Ivanova goes in his place, and accidentally discovers a shocking piece of evidence concerning the death of President Santiago ...
Episode #50 (306) Dust to Dust (41:56)
Bester (Walter Koenig) returns to the station, amidst the disgust of the command crew. Apparently, someone is trying to sell an addictive drug called Dust to an unknown person on the station. Dust has some unique properties - including making the consumer dangerously powerful and telepathic for a short period of time. Now, who would find that useful?
Episode #51 (307) Exogenesis (41:59)
In this twist to some familiar concepts taken from Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, plus some dialogue lifted from Blade Runner, a strange parasite seems to be taking hold of various individuals DownBelow by attaching itself to their spinal cords. Is it trying to take over the station? In the meantime, Susan Ivanova sizes up the newly promoted Lt. Corwin to see if he should be entrusted with the station secrets.
Episode #52 (308) Messages from Earth (41:57)
Marcus rescues Dr. Kirkish (Nancy Stafford) who has very important news about a previous find by Interplanetary Expeditions. As a result, Sheridan and Delenn risk everything to try and stop something terrible happening in Ganymede before it's too late ... In the meantime, the Nightwatch is pressuring Zack to decide what is more important to him.
Episode #53 (309) Point of No Return (41:57)
All hell breaks loose as President Clark declares martial law, and the Nightwatch has been given the responsibility for security on Babylon 5. In the meantime, Londo has manage to arrange for Lady Morella (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry), the late Emperor Turhan's third wife and a former prophetess/seer, to visit Babylon 5.
Episode #54 (310) Severed Dreams (41:57)
This is my favourite episode in Season Three. When the heavy cruiser Alexander docks into Babylon 5 for repairs, Sheridan knows trouble will soon follow, for this is General Hague's ship, who is leading the rebellion against the Earth Alliance. Soon, Sheridan will be forced to make the biggest decision of his military career ...
Episode #55 (311) Ceremonies of Light and Dark (42:00)
Things seem to have calmed down (for now), but members of the Nightwatch are still plotting against the station. They decide the best approach is to kidnap Ambassador Delenn. In the meantime, Londo has a meeting with Lord Refa (William Forward) and presents him with an offer he can't refuse ...
Episode #56 (313) Sic Transit Vir (41:57)
Vir returns to Babylon 5 after presenting his report at the Imperial court, and is introduced to his bride to be, Lyndisty (Carmen Thomas). However, some Narns appear determined to kill her ... What secret is she or Vir hiding?
Episode #57 (312) A Late Delivery from Avalon (41:57)
A new arrival (Michael York) surprises everyone by claiming he is none other than Arthur, King of the Britons. Is he really King Arthur returning to help in these troubled times, and if not who is he really? He is troubled by strange dreams, and is determined to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake ...
Episode #58 (314) Ship of Tears (41:57)
ISN resumes broadcasts, but it is clear it has mutated into a propaganda mouthpiece for President Clark. In the meantime, Sheridan is checking out one of the new winged Thunderbolts when he encounters none other than Bester, who has a very interesting proposition for the Babylon 5 war council ...
Episode #59 (315) Interludes and Examinations (41:58)
The Shadows have now begun attacking openly. Sheridan tries to rally the other races to form an alliance, but encounters fear and apathy. What is needed is a victory against the Shadows to show the other races that there is hope. Sheridan persuades Kosh to assist, but doesn't realise the price he will pay for the Vorlons' assistance. In the meantime, Londo is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his only true love Adira, but Morden is up to no good ... Franklin's addiction to stims finally comes to a head ...
Episode #60 (316) War Without End, Part One (41:58)
This is the first of a two part episode continuing the story of what happened to Babylon 4, which started in Season 1 Episode #20 (Babylon Squared). Both Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) and Delenn get a message from 900 years ago. As a result, the gang has to travel back in time to rescue Babylon 4. Whilst doing so, Sheridan gets "unstuck in time" and experiences a taste of things to come ...
Episode #61 (317) War Without End, Part Two (41:59)
This is the second part of a two part episode. We finally get explanations of the strange events in Babylon Squared, but also get some new questions and things to ponder about ... By the way, there are some minor inconsistencies between the events in War Without End and Babylon Squared but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader ...
Episode #62 (318) Walkabout (41:56)
Franklin goes on a "walkabout" to find himself and instead finds someone else ... The new Vorlon Ambassador arrives. Sheridan decides to test his theory that telepaths can be used to disable Shadow ships.
Episode #63 (319) Grey 17 Is Missing (41:56)
A maintenance worker disappears, and when Garibaldi investigates, he discovers a secret level in the station inhabited by a very strange set of people led by an evangelist named Jeremiah (Robert Englund). Who else will Garilbaldi encounter, and how will he get out of the level? In the meantime, Delenn accepts the position of Ranger One vacated by Sinclair, but an enraged member of the warrior caster Neroon (John Vickery) is determined to stop her by all means necessary. Will Marcus be able to prevent him from killing her?
Episode #64 (320) And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (41:56)
Londo uses Vir to set a trap to capture, imprison and potentially kill G'Kar, much to Vir's chagrin. Londo hopes this will allow him to win favours at the royal court against his arch rival Lord Refa. In the meantime, a group of religious leaders arrive at the station, bearing news from Earth. One of them, Reverend Dexter (Mel Winkler) notices how tired and cranky Sheridan is and gives him some advice.
Episode #65 (321) Shadow Dancing (42:01)
Sheridan and Delenn analyse the pattern of previous Shadow attacks and believe that they have uncovered the Shadows' strategy. If they are correct, then the Shadows are poised for a massive strike. Furiously, they try to gather support from the non-aligned worlds. Ivanova and Marcus are sent in the White Star as scouts to warn the war council when the Shadows hit.
Episode #66 (322) Z'ha'dum (41:59)
This is it - the season finale everyone has been waiting for. Sheridan's wife, Anna (Melissa Gilbert), long believed to be dead, visits the station and invites Sheridan to visit Z'ha'dum with her. Will Sheridan go or won't he? And is Anna really who she appears to be? And if Sheridan goes, will he survive the trip?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    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.

Menu

    The main menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated and includes background audio

Trailer- Episode Previews

    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).

Introduction- J. Michael Straczynski And Various Cast And Crew (6:07)

    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.

    Interviews include:

    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.

Booklet

    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.

Audio Commentary- J. Michael Straczynski - "Severed Dreams"

    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.

Audio Commentary- Actors - "Interludes And Examinations"

    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.

Audio Commentary- J. Michael Straczynski - " Z'Ha 'Dum"

    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?

Featurette- Behind The Mask: Creating The Aliens Of Babylon 5 (8:12)

    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.

    Interviews include:

Featurette- Building A Better Narn (7:22)

    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!

    Interviews include:

Featurette- Designing Tomorrow: The Look Of Babylon 5 (9:59)

    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.

    Interviews include:

Featurette- The Universe Of Babylon 5 - Personnel Files

    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:

Featurette- The Universe Of Babylon 5 - Data Files

    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:

Featurette- The Universe Of Babylon 5 - Shadow Dossier (3:19)

    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.

Easter Egg - Bloopers (3:13)

    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).

R4 vs R1

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).

Summary

    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.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony 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 DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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