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Babylon 5: Season 4 DVD

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The fourth series of Babylon 5 begins on a high point with Centauri Prime in the grip of the insane Emperor Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer) and a run of six shows leading to the climax of the war against the Shadows in "Into the Fire". If this colossal narrative is resolved a little too easily and the ultimate aim of the Shadows turns out to be a tad disappointing, it's still one of the most powerful slices of space opera ever to grace the small screen. In the aftermath the sheer scale drops back a little but the pace never slows as the rest of the year plays out in one relentless cycle of conspiracy, betrayal and conflict, Babylon 5 siding with the rebel Mars colony against the totalitarian Earth regime. Meanwhile, Delenn finds herself increasingly in conflict with her own people and, paralleling her relationship with Sheridan, Garibaldi becomes involved with his ex-fiancée Lise Hampton (Denise Gentile); in addition, an intense platonic love grows between Ivanova and Marcus Cole. On an unstoppable wave fuelled by roller-coaster plot twists and spectacular action shows from "No Surrender, No Retreat"--when Sheridan avows to overthrow EarthGov--to "Rising Star"--when the aim is realised--this series of Babylon 5 achieved a consistent excellence rare in television. Yet within that run "Intersections in Real Time" stands out as a bold experiment; essentially a two-hand drama taking place entirely within one dimly lit room. Then in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", a descendant of humanity one million years hence reviews excerpts from the history of Babylon 5. In one sequence set in 2762 a Brother is devoted to the preservation of history some time after the "Big Burn". In a homage to Walter M Miller's SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, Sheridan and Delenn have themselves become the stuff of legend. --Gary S DalkinOn the DVD: All 22 episodes of Season 4 of Babylon 5 are presented on six DVDs. Anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TV, the picture is significantly stronger than on the original TV broadcasts, if not up to blockbuster movie standards. The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is punchy and richly impressive, if again not quite state-of-the-art. As with previous seasons the main extras are three commentaries. The first, by actors Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik and Patricia Tallman, finds these leading cast members having a great time joshing around on Falling Towards Apotheosis and failing to say anything very interesting. Series creator and writer J Michael Straczynski and director Michael Vejar discuss The Face of the Enemy, the conversation tending towards a technical scene-by-scene analysis, while by far the most interesting commentary is J Michael Straczynski alone on The Deconstruction of Falling Stars. JMS covers many aspects of the show, going into depth explaining both his ideas behind the series and the practicalities of realising his vision. Celestial Sounds is an interesting but too-short five-minute look at the scoring process with composer Christopher Franke, complemented by a powerful six-minute musical suite. The package also includes a six-minute introduction, a three-minute gag reel and video data files of characters, organisations and places. An Easter egg offers a comparison between untextured and completed CGI models of Babylon 5 itself. There is an optional French soundtrack, plus English, English for Hearing Impaired, French and Netherlands subtitles. --Gary S Dalkin

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