Babylon 5-Season 1 (1994)

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Released 27-Nov-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Booklet
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Introduction-J. Michael Straczynski
Audio Commentary-Signs & Portents, Chrysalis (J. Michael Straczynski)
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Back to Babylon 5
Featurette-The Universe Of Babylon 5-Station Tour (6)
Featurette-The Universe Of Babylon 5-Data Files (10)
Featurette-The Universe Of Babylon 5-Personnel Files (9)
Featurette-The Universe Of Babylon 5-Tech Files (5)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 923:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (84:10)
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Compton
Jim Johnston
Bruce, Seth Green
Janet Greek
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Michael O'Hare
Claudia Christian
Jerry Doyle
Richard Biggs
Andrea Thompson
Peter Jurasik
Mira Furlan
Andreas Katsulas
Case Gatefold
RPI $124.95 Music Christopher Franke


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (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
German
Dutch
Swedish
Arabic
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Babylon 5 is a science fiction television series set on a five mile long space station that is inhabited by around 250,000 aliens from across the galaxy.

    Babylon 5 (B5) is the fifth in a series of space stations that have been built as a diplomatic meeting place for alien races to work out their differences. The first three Babylon stations were destroyed by sabotage part-way through their construction and the fourth station mysteriously disappeared just as it was completed. On B5, diplomats represent the different races from across the galaxy and they are able to attempt to work out their differences via the Babylon 5 Advisory Council. This council is made up of representatives from each of the five major races: the Earth Alliance, Minbari Federation, Centauri Republic, Narn Regime and the Vorlon Empire. A collection of smaller races forms the League of Non-Aligned Worlds who also hold a position on the council. These races each come to the council with issues from their recent past. The Earth Alliance was recently at war with the Minbari Federation and the Centauri Republic previously enslaved the Narn Regime. Very little is known about the Vorlon Empire but they are the oldest of the races and they generally do not interfere with the actions of others. In addition to its diplomatic function B5 is also a point of trade, a general meeting location and a home away from home for wanderers, smugglers and travellers.

    Babylon 5 first came to the screen in the movie-length pilot episode The Gathering that was released at the start of 1993 with season one released nearly a year later in 1994. Babylon 5 has an unusual story structure that was designed from the beginning and spans the full five years of the show. As the show's story arc was planned from the beginning, it was possible to interconnect episodes where an apparently offhand comment becomes relevant in later episodes or even later series. Unfortunately, this expansive storyline made the series quite difficult to sell to a studio and it took five years to find a buyer.

    The show made ground-breaking use of computer generated effects with complete CGI sequences and extensive use of virtual sets and compositing. Despite being nearly ten years old, these effects still look quite good today. The show quickly gathered a loyal fan base and it also received a number of significant awards including two Hugo awards, an Emmy Award for Special Visual Effects for the Pilot movie in 1993 and an Emmy Award for makeup in The Parliament of Dreams in 1994.

    The DVD release of Babylon 5 has been eagerly awaited by fans and has been rumoured since 1996 when co-producer George Johnson from the series production company Babylonian Productions began negotiation with Warner Home Video. Unfortunately, this project was given a low priority and was eventually indefinitely shelved. Thankfully, Warners have decided to finally release this first season and due to impressive sales in the US, the release of future seasons has been given a higher priority.

    The first five discs in the six-disc collection each contain four episodes while the final disc contains the final two episodes and the documentaries. The following episodes are included in this collection and I have included a very short description for each but as these may contain some minor spoilers you may wish to skip ahead to the Transfer Quality section of the review.

Episode List

Midnight on the Firing Line
    A remote Centauri agricultural colony is lost in an unprovoked attack by Narn forces and tension between both races is at breaking point.

Soul Hunter
    A mysterious alien travels to the space station and causes panic, as their race is known to collect souls.

Born to the Purple
    A Centauri dancer begins a relationship with Ambassador Mollari that could endanger the stability of the whole Republic.

Infection
    A collection of ancient biological artefacts are smuggled onboard the station by a long time friend of Dr. Franklin.

The Parliament of Dreams
    Ambassador G'Kar is warned of an assassination attempt upon his life during a religious festival on the station.

Mind War
    A rouge telepath arrives on the station and is pursued by two members of the Psi corps who want to capture him.

The War Prayer
    A growing group of racist members of the Earth Home Guard commit a number of attacks on various alien species on the station.

And the Sky Full of Stars
    Commander Sinclair is visited by two agents who are trying to find out what happened to him during a twenty-four hour period during the Earth-Minbari war.

Deathwalker
    A notorious war criminal known as Deathwalker arrives on the station and many different races want her brought to trial, but she possesses knowledge that others will fight over.

Believers
    Commander Sinclair is faced with a difficult decision when a couple's religious beliefs prevents Dr. Franklin from saving their child's life.

Survivors
    Station security officer Garibaldi is framed for sabotage after an explosion and he must rely on his trusted old friend Sinclair.

By Any Means Necessary
    A dockworkers' strike causes problems for the station and G'Kar and Londo continue their feud over a religiously significant plant.

Signs and Portents
    A group of raiders attack the station as they attempt to capture a valuable Centauri artefact and a new group make their presence felt for the first time.

TKO
    A disgraced Earth boxer travels to the station to compete in a brutal fighting challenge known as the Mutai.

Grail
    A traveller comes in search of the legendary Holy Grail and a deadly life form is discovered onboard the station.

Eyes
    Commander Sinclair is relieved of his position during an unusual investigation by an Earth Force colonel.

Legacies
    The body of a recently deceased Minbari war hero is brought to the station on a memorial tour but it disappears under suspicious circumstances.

A Voice in the Wilderness I
    The planet below B5 begins to experience signs of instability and a survey team is sent to investigate.

A Voice in the Wilderness II
    The revolutionary alien technology that was found on the planet is a cause of dispute between the races, as they each want it under their control.

Babylon Squared
    Babylon 4 mysteriously disappeared just after its construction was completed. It has now reappeared and the B5 team investigates.

The Quality of Mercy
    A convicted killer is sentenced and Dr. Franklin investigates a new medical clinic in Downbelow.

Chrysalis
    Garibaldi uncovers a high profile assassination plot and Delenn begins a significant change.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    Babylon 5 was shot on Super 35 film with the widescreen format always in mind for eventual digital television release. Unfortunately, due to technical limitations and budgetary constraints, all of the CGI and effects shots were created for an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 until part way through season five. Working with these source elements, all non-effects shots (the vast majority of the show), are presented as true widescreen images while the 1.33:1 effects shots are matted to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The matting for the effects shots luckily does not lose any significant information as the shots were composed with widescreen in mind.

    During the episode And the Sky Full of Stars, a significant problem may be seen with all CGI and effects shots. Instead of the matted version of these shots being used, the 1.33:1 version has been used, resulting in the image appearing stretched horizontally, leaving characters appearing fat and wide. An identical problem was seen during a shot of a gaming table in the initial airing of the episode Survivors on the US Sci-Fi Channel. Update: this problem is present on the R1 DVD release and lasts for approximately four seconds (this shot is correctly presented on the R4 release). A similar problem is also present for a single scene during a shooting in The War Prayer on the R1 release.

     The incorrectly displayed scenes on the R4 release are comprised of approximately ninety individual shots totalling around 5:53 including the 1:25 opening credit sequence. Examples of this problem may be seen below:

 
Incorrect
Correct

    We contacted Warner Home Video regarding this problem and received the following explanation, along with confirmation that there are no plans to re-issue the afflicted disc.

"Episode title "The Sky is Full of Stars" - The live-action part of the show was filmed so that it could later be formatted for 16x9. The FX shots were only done in 4x3 in the production for TV. When it was decided to release "Babylon 5: Season 1" in 16x9 for DVD, these FX shots had to be converted from NTSC to PAL and blown up from 4x3 to 16x9 (as the budget would be too great to re-do them completely). This "stretching" of the shots becomes most apparent on "The Sky is Full of Stars" episode, and the conversion process from NTSC to PAL may explain why this is apparent on the PAL disc but not the NTSC."

    This problem was first identified when the boxset was initially released in R2 in the UK and the version here is identical. The error is reportedly not present on the R1 release.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This transfer is quite sharp throughout but is clearly softer during the effects shots. During single scenes at 85:00 on disc 3 and at 46:58 on disc 5, the transfer is notably softer but these scenes only occur for a short period of time and this is only minimally disturbing. No low-level noise was detected at any time during the transfer. Excellent levels of shadow detail are visible throughout, with high levels of detail always visible in the dark sections of the image.

    The transfer displays a vibrant colour palette that is able to accurately reproduce the original colour design.

    No MPEG artefacts were detected at any time during the transfer.

    A number of aliasing artefacts may be seen throughout the transfer. These artefacts are more frequent during the CGI sequences with examples visible at 0:13, 3:03, 4:24, 5:14 and 9:28. These artefacts are all quite minor but they are slightly distracting due to their frequency.

    A surprising number of film artefacts are present throughout the transfer. Examples of these artefacts may be seen at 1:15, 1:54, 4:41, 5:30 and 7:27 during the first episode on disc 1 and throughout all other episodes. A number of unusual film artefacts may also be seen during the transfer that appear as a horizontal mark on a single frame, for example at 13:12 on disc 6, that during playback look similar to an analogue tape artefact. Upon closer inspection, these horizontal lines are clearly due to film print damage. Due to the frequency of these numerous film artefacts, they are quite disruptive.

    During the film-based effects shots, a notable increase in grain may be seen and at times this is quite heavy and very minimally annoying.

    A number of telecine wobble artefacts may be seen during the shot of the Warner Brothers logo during the closing credits of the episodes. Examples of this problem are visible at 84:10 and 168:18 on disc 1, at 42:03 and 84:01 on disc 2 and at 41:54 on disc 3 but they are not irritating as they only affect the company logo. Another example of telecine wobble may be seen at 100:02 during disc 3 and as this occurs during the main part of an episode it is moderately annoying.

    A small number of minor NTSC to PAL conversion artefacts may be seen during the transfer. Some examples of these artefacts may be seen at 42:28 and 44:56 on disc 1 and at 77:25 on disc 4. These artefacts are all quite minor and are not distracting. A small number of moiré artefacts may be seen during shots of display monitors at 6:36 and 117:42 on disc 1 and at 110:06 and 120:21 on disc 2 but these are not disturbing. A number of analogue tape errors may be seen on a shot of a monitor at 13:12 on disc 6 but this is not disruptive.

    Nine sets of white subtitles are included on the disc; I sampled the two English streams and found them to be consistently accurate.

    The layer change on the first five discs occurs at 84:10, 84:03, 84:02, 83:49, and 83:48 respectively. On each disc, this is placed between episodes at the start of chapter 13 and consequently they are not disruptive. On disc 6, the episodes and extras are placed on separate layers and consequently the layer change is not detectable.

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

Audio

    English and German Dolby Digital 384 kbps 5.1 soundtracks are included in addition to a French Dolby Digital 1.0 192 kbps soundtrack. I listened to the English track in full and briefly sampled the other tracks. The packaging incorrectly claims that a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is provided on the discs.

    The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand.

    A number of small problems with audio sync were detected during the transfer. These problems may be heard at 12:40, 121:25 and 161:48 on disc 1 and at 45:11 and 126:15 on disc 2. Each of these problems appears to be due to ADR work and are not a fault of the transfer. No dropouts were detected at any time during the transfer.

    The original score by Christopher Franke works well with the on-screen action and is able to effectively convey the epic nature of the storyline.

    The newly re-mastered surround mix for the DVD release utilizes the surround and LFE channels to create an enveloping and immersive soundfield.

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

Extras

Menu

    The animated menus are presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 or 1.33:1 depending upon the player setup.

Booklet

    This is a sixteen page booklet containing an introductory comment by producer Douglas Netter, a listing of the major cast members and short episode summaries with writing and directorial credits, original US air dates and chapter listings.

Disc 1

Series Introduction (0:55)

    This is a short introduction for the DVD release by series creator, writer and executive producer J. Michael Straczynski. This introduction is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Disc 4

Commentary: Signs and Portents

    During this episode commentary by J. Michael Straczynski he discusses the origins on the series, casting and general comments about the show. Listeners should note that this commentary does contain numerous significant spoilers from other seasons.

Disc 6

Commentary: Chrysalis

    During this episode commentary by J. Michael Straczynski he discusses the problems selling the show and how the show's five-year arc influenced the writing. Like the previous commentary, listeners should note that this track does contain numerous significant spoilers from other seasons.

Making Of B5 (18:53)

    This featurette, hosted by Walter Koenig, who plays the Psi cop Alfred Bester in the show, was created for the launch of the series. This short documentary contains interviews with cast and crew members and examines the show's use of CGI and extensive make-up effects. This featurette is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Back to Babylon 5 (12:51)

    This is a new featurette with interviews with cast and crewmembers discussing their work on the show and the impact that it has made. This featurette is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Station Tour

    This section is a series of short clips providing information about the different sections of the station and their uses. These clips are presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and they are not 16x9 enhanced. The following short sections are included:

Computer Files

    This section is a series of short clips providing various pieces of information about the different personnel, races and technology found in the Babylon 5 universe. This section does contain some minor spoilers for this season. These files are presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and they are not 16x9 enhanced. The computer files are divided into the following short sections:

Data Files

Babylon 5 Station Personnel Files

Diplomatic Personnel Files

Tech Files

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;

    As the R1 release reportedly does not have the visual problem with the episode And the Sky Full of Stars and also includes biographies and the episode and season trailers, my preference would be for that version.

Summary

    And so it begins - fans can finally rejoice as the first season of Babylon 5 has been released on DVD after a long wait.

    The video transfer is of reasonably high quality but there are a surprisingly high number of film artefacts and a significant problem during the episode And the Sky Full of Stars.

    The newly re-mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is of excellent quality and well designed.

    The relatively small collection of extras is interesting and happily we can expect an increase in further season's releases.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Monday, December 16, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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Comments (Add)
Video Transfer issues - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?) REPLY POSTED
Thanks... - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
R1 version no that good, either? - JeffB REPLY POSTED
Really should have been NTSC - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)
R1/NTSC effects are mastered *badly* - sph (read my bio)
D'oh! Not sure if I'll buy either version. -
re: D'oh! Not sure if I'll buy either version. - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
Has anyone actually *seen* this in the shops? -
In Reply to Roger's Reply, etc -
re: Has anyone actually *seen* this in the shops? - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
RE Has anyone actually *seen* this in the shops? - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
re: In Reply to Roger's Reply - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
B5 Season 1 has JMS and Netter approvals, how could you be unhappy? - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)
"how could you be unhappy?" - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Re: Has anyone actually *seen* this in the shops? & film artefacts -
Re: Has anyone actually *seen* this in the shops? & film artefacts - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Possible pressing error with this release. - REPLY POSTED
Faulty episode DVD being replaced in the UK (region2) -
But what about - REPLY POSTED
Babylon5 - replacement disc 2 in R2 - can we get one in R4? - REPLY POSTED
Ignoring the abysmal transfer for a moment, am i the only one who's annoyed.... -
Re: B5 pilot -
Newere release in new packaging - faulty picture corrected? -
Newer release in new packaging - faulty picture corrected? -
New Slimline Release -
Thanks so much for that! -