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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Babylon 5-The Gathering/In the Beginning (1993)

Babylon 5-The Gathering/In the Beginning (1993) (NTSC)

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Released 20-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Listing-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 94:13 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Mike Vejar
Warner Home Video
Starring Michael O'Hare
Tamlyn Tomita
Bruce Boxleitner
Mira Furlan
Jerry Doyle
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $31.95 Music Christopher Franke

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Babylon 5 initially didn't exactly knock my socks off. My first encounter was a video rental and I must admit it was just so-so. I doubt I'd have even bothered to watch the series if it wasn't for a friend who taped them all and forcibly sat me down (with the threat of a beer), on a rainy Sunday afternoon and coaxed me into becoming a believer. I guess the original 11pm timeslot would have defeated most people, but also against it was the fact that it was on after the Footy Show, which often meant it didn't air before midnight and on a couple of occasions not until nearly 12.30am. With scheduling like that, is it any wonder fans of Sci Fi in this country are often in despair?

    Anyhow, before I start on the synopsis, a little background might be in order. The initial pilot and subsequent series was shown on Warner's cable channel, PTEN (Prime Time Entertainment Network), but with a very limited budget (compared to Star Trek: Deep Space 9, for instance). Without the expansive budgets of other shows, the series relied more on quality than special effects although it has its share here and there. In addition, the scripts that were penned by its creator and one of the main scriptwriters J. Michael Straczynski are quite possibly some of finest Sci Fi scripts I've seen put to air. The whole series is based around a five year arc of stories. The trials and tribulations that the series as a whole went through to complete this arc is a novel in itself, but that's for another time.

    The Gathering is the original movie-length pilot of the series. Like most pilots, some of those in the original cast made way for others in the series and many of the costumes and prosthetics used in the pilot changed radically to make the 'aliens' appear less severe once the series got underway proper.

    In the Beginning was originally created for the TNT network (Turner Network Television) at the end of the fourth series, as a primer for the fifth series, when the show was transferred from Warners. As an aid to understanding the previous four seasons, In the Beginning is a much more compactly written and visually pleasing effort, having the benefit of 4 years experience behind it, plus a cast and crew that had been together for most of that time. There are a lot of spoilers in In The Beginning, but I doubt that will deter too many and actually it does help a little if you become a fan. In The Beginning was the first of a series of telemovies done for the series (Thirdspace, River of Souls, and A Call to Arms are the others).

In the Beginning: Ah, arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you.

    The year is 2278 and it's 17 years after the end of the Shadow War. Emperor Londo Molari (Peter Jurasik), formerly ambassador to Babylon 5 sits alone in his palace. All the windows have been boarded up while outside his world is in flames. Inside the palace are two children playing innocently, ignorant of the events transpiring beyond the outer walls. Accidentally they infringe upon Londo, who is slowly getting drunk. In an impulse of generosity he offers the children one wish, and they wish for a story, and so he tells them one. A story about life, death, great battles and terrible consequences, the worst of which is that the story is true.

    Cut back to approximately 35 years before and Molari is a delegate of the Centauri Republic on a diplomatic mission to Earth. The human race has just come out of a war with the Dilgar and has begun to spread its sphere of influence out into the galaxy. Seeking information on a race hitherto unknown, the Mimbari, they seek the advice of Molari who warns them not to wake the sleeping dragon, seeing as the Mimbari are one of the older space-faring races and have little time for others. Naturally, he isn't listened to and so a party of scout ships is despatched, lead by Captain Jankowski (Tim Colceri) a man with a chequered past in first contact situations.

    The scout ships sent out eventually detect a small Mimbari force and attempt to covertly gain information only to find themselves subject to the more powerful scanners of the Mimbari which affect their electrical systems. In addition, the Mimbari approach with gun ports open, a sign of strength for their warrior caste, but misinterpreted as a prelude to being fired upon by the humans. Panicking, Captain Jankowski order his ships to open fire with tragic results and once the scanners have been disabled they 'jump' to hyperspace to escape the superior firepower of the Mimbari.

    Unfortunately, the firefight has hit the cruiser carrying the leaders of the Mimbari, the Grey Council. The leader of the Council, Dukhat (Reiner Schone) is killed. In pure rage, Delenn (Mira Furlan), the chosen of Dukhat casts the deciding vote that begins an holy war that rages on for nearly three years and almost ends the human race. It is only at the Battle of the Line, the last defense of mankind that the Mimbari mysteriously surrender (this is never fully explained in the series until War Without End Part 2 in the third season) and the war is stopped. After this, it is decided to build a space station in which misunderstandings can be sorted out before another tragedy occurs. The station is built and called Babylon 5.

    In The Beginning introduces characters that are pivotal to the series including John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner), future military commander of Babylon 5, Jeff Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) who is Babylon 5's first commanding officer (Series 1 only, but who returns in Series 3 to complete the arc for his character), Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian), second in command of Babylon 5 under both Sinclair and Sheridan (Series 1-4 and two of the movies), Delenn (Mira Furlan), who becomes the Mimbari ambassador to Babylon 5, Londo Molari (Peter Jurasik), eventual Emperor of the Centauri and G'Kar (Andreas Kasulas), the Narn ambassador and sworn enemy of Molari.

The Gathering: My God man...we've become a tourist attraction..

    It is 10 years after the end of the Earth-Mimbari war and the fifth Babylon station has just been commissioned. Of the other four, three were sabotaged during construction and the fourth mysteriously disappeared before it went online. Now though, the station acts as a trading port with ambassadors from all the major space-faring races (bar one). After being open for a short time, the first commercial telepath, Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) is welcomed aboard by Commander Sinclair, the military governor of Babylon 5. After a run-in with a 'dust' smuggler (drug smuggler) Sinclair takes Lyta (and the viewer at home) for a tour of the station. Thereafter, things return to normal and they await the arrival of the last of the ambassadors due to take up residence aboard the station, ambassador Kosh of the Vorlon Empire. Little is known about the Vorlons except they are the oldest of the known races and the most enigmatic, never appearing outside of their encounter suits.

    As the day approaches for Kosh's arrival, the other ambassadors are going about their usual chores. Londo Mollari is in the casino losing as usual, G'kar, the Narn Ambassador is complaining about one of their ships being refused docking rights (it refuses to be scanned) and outside the ship an unknown pod attaches itself to the hull of the station and cuts through for unknown purposes - life as usual aboard the giant space station.

    Up in CNC (Command and Control) the jumpgate (basically 4 sticks that produce a whirling vortex that is some sort of hyperway between star systems - you never really get much information about it, even during the series) activates and ambassador Kosh's spaceship appears, two days early. Rushing around to ensure everyone is there to greet him, Sinclair is trapped in a faulty lift for several minutes and upon arriving at the docking port, finds Kosh unconscious on the ground, a victim of an attack that leaves him paralysed, poisoned and slowly dying. Sinclair sets up an investigation headed by Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) whose first suspect is Molari, absent from the group there to greet Kosh.

    In the meantime, as the investigation peters out through lack of suspects, Lyta Alexander is convinced by the Chief of Medbay, Dr Kyle (Johnny Sekka) to 'scan' Kosh and try and discover the poison used. While scanning the unconscious Vorlon she comes across a memory of who attacked Kosh - Sinclair - and suddenly all hell begins to break loose. Apart from the suspicion cast upon him by this revelation, the Vorlon homeworld are taking a dim view of things, stirred up by ambassador G'Kar, who seems to have some hidden agenda, and are threatening to take action of their own unless the command staff can clear Sinclair and find the true culprit.

    The Gathering is a little different from the series and In The Beginning. The cast changes substantially when the series starts and many of the subplots started here are quickly discarded. In addition, the look of the cast in The Gathering changes quite dramatically for characters like Deleen, whose appearance softens dramatically. All in all, this is a good primer for the series, which if you've gotten this far you'll be pleased to note is being released in Region 1 as a boxed set.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     All episodes were shot on Super 35mm film stock. In the Beginning was made some four years after The Gathering so you'd expect some better visuals as a result, but since The Gathering is actually a director's cut with lots of new stuff added in and re-edited sequences throughout (to make it more understandable for a new audience) plus an all-new musical score, this isn't quite so. The original animation/CGI for The Gathering was done by Foundation Imaging using Lightwave (and Amiga 2000's), the later episodes used Dec Alphas and PCs. Each entire episode was filmed, then digitised, rendered and put onto master tapes for uplinking to the network, sometimes with little more than an hour spare. Both movie and pilot are designed for TV and have fade-outs where ad-breaks were inserted.

    The Gathering was originally shot in 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. This is the only episode of the entire series and all subsequent movies shot in this aspect ratio. A decision was made early on to cater for HDTV and all episodes from then on, including the movies, were then shot in 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced (a decision of great foresight). In the Beginning is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The disc is presented in NTSC format, so your equipment will need to be NTSC compatible to view it.

    The first thing that struck me about this transfer is the amount of obvious edge enhancement visible (eg: 10:43 on Lenonn's profile in In The Beginning). This made the sharpness quite variable in parts. There were moments of obvious quality but overall you can tell this was made for TV. Grain was substantial throughout but only highly visible in certain scenes (5:33 and 47:26/In The Beginning). Low level noise was noticeable on occasions but wasn't heavy or obtrusive and grain obscured it much of the time. Shadow detail also varied greatly depending upon lighting and the amount of grain in evidence. For the most part, it was adequate but every now and then there was a definite lack of quality that was evident in the loss of depth in the picture.

    The colour used in the series and throughout the movies is basically the same. Due to the desire to show different worldly conditions on board, there is a lot of lighting variation. G'kar's quarters are dark with red lighting casting a gloom. The palace of Molari in In The Beginning is fairly light and airy but where he is sitting is shrouded in darkness as a metaphor for the pall that has fallen on himself and his world. Babylon 5 itself is set with several colour schemes, each one determining what part of the station you are on, eg: Blue sector is for Ambassadorial and station personnel, Grey Sector is industrial/commercial, Brown Sector is housing/accommodation etc. Overall the colour scheme is well set out but confined mostly to solid colours. There was no chroma noise or colour bleed that I could detect although many scenes did exhibit slightly more red in them than normal.

    Both of these movies suffer dreadfully from the fact that they are native NTSC format and not PAL. The interlacing artefacts are the stuff of legend and would make perfect examples of why we should *NOT* be subjected to inferior NTSC versions of movies. Basically during any CGI enhanced part of the movie, there is a 100% chance of seeing the picture break apart. Two prime examples out of many are at 49:07/56:49 (In the Beginning) and 1:24 (The Gathering). I could present a list of others, but for the sake of brevity I'll refrain. Macroblocking also rears its ugly head constantly during the CGI rendered scenes eg: 41:55 and 49:07/In the Beginning and dozens more in both movies. Film artefacts are a little less annoying with only minor occurrences of the usual white flecks on the print to distract the viewer. Film-to-video artefacts are a lot less prevalent with aliasing (34:40 on the console/In The Beginning) being very minor for the most part and only the odd pixelization noted (41:55 on Molari's outline).

    The subtitles look okay but use a strange font and shimmer noticeably throughout. Fairly accurate to the dialogue, they are reasonably well placed and don't cause any major issues. Your only options though are English and French.

    This is not a dual layered disc. Rather, the two movies are on either side of the disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The only comparison I have of these movies to anything is the old VHS tapes I have in my possession which are strictly monoaural although they do claim to be stereo. When I watched the series on TV, I suffered the usual problem of tinny speakers (at the time) so anything more substantial is a real bonus and the soundtracks for both movies are substantially improved by the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoding they receive. At 192 kilobits per second this has a substantial surround element that makes it worth buying just for that encompassing 'feel' you get.

    There are no problems with the audio sync or the dialogue. Both were clean, crisp and spot on.

    The original music to the pilot was by Stewart Copeland (The Police), but his music was replaced by JMS for the special director's cut with another score from the series composer Christopher Franke (Tangerine Dream). Franke, who composed the music for all of Babylon 5, including the series of movies (Thirdspace, River of Souls, but not for Call To Arms or the Crusade series) offers up a very electronic sound that grows on you as you watch the series. Neither overpowering or underwhelming, there is a constant background that jells nicely with the visual fabric being weaved.

    One of the biggest bonuses on this disc is the use of surround encoding. Although not as satisfying as a true 5.1 mix would have been there is sufficient music and effects that reverberate from the surrounds to add an excellent envelope to the movies.

    The biggest surprise of all was how much activity there was from the subwoofer. There was often a deep harmonic pulse that emanated from the subwoofer for that extra special added bonus. Overall, there is some nice deep rumblings from the LFE that made the whole viewing experience much more enjoyable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Listing-Cast & Crew

    Harumph. One static page on either side of the disc displaying a single picture with a bit of text does not an extra make!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Since this is the NTSC version (simply with the R4 encoding bit enabled) both versions are precisely the same so there is no preferred version.


    For me, this is the best Sci Fi series ever (and anyone who thinks otherwise can keep their comments to themselves thanks!). Not the best presentation I've seen, but for those of us with only the old and slowly disintegrating VHS tapes to look at, this is an improvement, but only just. The fact that this is an NTSC disc is disappointing and annoying since it shows off just why NTSC discs in a PAL region don't work properly.

    The video is barely above VHS quality for the most part, but at least on DVD it won't degrade any further. The CGI breaks up too often to be of the highest quality, not that it was all that brilliant to begin with.

    The audio is a big improvement over the old video tapes and is a welcome bonus. The surround/subwoofer elements added some much needed immersiveness to the overall mix.

    The extras are... well... non-existent.. maybe Kosh ate them?

Ratings (out of 5)


© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Friday, April 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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