The long-running, Emmy-winning TV series launches onto DVD with two feature-length adventures about an outer-space weigh station. In the series pilot "The Gathering" (1993, 89 min.), an interstellar summit strives to negot... more »iate a lasting truce, if an assassin's agenda doesn't have the opposite effect. Set primarily in the decade before the orbital station existed, the prequel "In the Beginning" (1998, 100 min.) depicts the tumultuous events of the Earth-Minbari War, which shaped interstellar events and paved the way for the construction of the universal safeport.« less
Russell | West Valley, UT United States | 01/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Babylon 5 represented some of the best television science fiction ever available. At it's worst, it was merely mediocre. At it's best, it was absolutely amazing. On the average, it was excellent.I think this DVD represents some of the best of Babylon 5, and some of the... well, not the best. The pilot episode, while much improved with it's "special edition" release, is still less than a perfect example of what the series was able to do. But it's still better than any Star Trek series pilot ever did :) It wraps the feel and background of the series in a murder mystery that sets the pace for the action and political intrigue that was to continue for the run of the series."In the Beginning" is something of a spoiler for first-time B5 viewers, so beware. Many of the surprises of the series are re-revealed here, along with many new discoveries. However, it also represents Babylon 5 at its best. It's a thrilling re-telling of the backstory of the Babylon 5 universe, as told by a dying emperor, full of regrets, many years later. One of the axioms of the TV series was that "nobody is ever exactly who they seem," and in this made-for-TV movie, this hits home very squarely. It's an action-packed two hours that remains fun after repeated viewings."
Preview / Review While We Wait
zath_ras | Epsilon 3 | 08/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The DVD release of Babylon 5 has been eagerly awaited by fans for several years. Although I cannot yet speak for the quality of the DVD or any special features that WB may deem to add, I can offer a synopsis of the two movies included on this first disk, and comment on what special features Babylon 5 fans would WANT to see included on this and future disks.BABYLON 5: THE GATHERING:When it was originally aired in 1993, "Babylon 5: The Gathering" was simply titled "Babylon 5". It was a movie that served as a pilot for a new science fiction series. It was also the culmination of a dream for writer/producer J. Michael Straczynski to create an epic science fiction "novel for television". The movie had the daunting task of introducing viewers to the large cast of humans and aliens populating the station, exposing their personal motivations and the political machinations of their respective worlds, planting the seeds of some of B5's trademark mysteries, and perhaps above all else, differentiating itself from that other science fiction series - Star Trek. It accomplishes this while in the midst of a fairly standard "whodunit". The movie begins with the fifth and last Babylon station becoming fully operational. It is a port of call, located in neutral space - an orbiting cross between Casablanca and the United Nations. The five major space faring worlds have all sent their Ambassadors here to better understand each other and "create the peace". These races are the Minbari, the Narn, the Centauri, the Humans, and finally, the most mysterious and powerful of all known races, the Vorlons. The Babylon Project was co-sponsored by the Minbari government. Several years earlier, the Minbari were at war with Earth. At the end, their forces advanced all the way to Earth itself, then on the eve of Earth's total annihilation, the Minbari surrendered and the war was over. Babylon 5 is commanded by Jeffrey Sinclair, a decorated war hero who was there at that fateful battle, known as "The Battle of the Line". He is plagued by survivor's guilt and a 24 hour gap in his memory...... The drama begins in earnest with the arrival of Kosh, the Vorlon Ambassador. But when the command staff arrives to greet him, Kosh is found to have been poisoned and near death. Soon after, the primary suspect turns out to be Commander Sinclair himself! This version of the movie is actually the "Producer's Cut", completed in 1998. Several changes were made from the film that first aired. Some effects scenes were redone due to rapid improvements in the CGI effects technology that Babylon 5 pioneered. Some scenes were removed completely, others restored in their place, and overall the film was edited to improve the pacing. Finally, Babylon 5 series composer Christopher Franke was brought in to score the new version so it would have a more consistent feel with the series (Stewart Copeland scored the movie originally). All of these changes worked to great effect, making the special edition of "The Gathering" a vast improvement over the original. The movie is still a little clunky from time to time, the acting a tad rough in spots (some actors were replaced before the start of the series), but the potential was undeniably there. The story had begun.BABYLON 5: IN THE BEGINNING: This a glorious film filled with all the drama, joy, pain, and sorrow that fans of Babylon 5 have come to know and love. If you could take the entire series and distill it, put it into a bottle, this movie would be it. Like The Gathering, this movie first aired in 1998, when Babylon 5 had been purchased by cable channel TNT. In addition to buying the rights to run the series, they commissioned two new 2 hour tele-movies. The first to run was "Babylon 5: In the Beginning". It is a prequel of sorts, although portions of the movie take place 17 years *after* the principle events of Babylon 5. It was designed in such a way as to bring new viewers into the show quickly, as well as giving long-time fans what they wanted to see; the events at The Battle of the Line. It begins with the aged Centauri Londo Mollari telling the story of the Earth/Minbari War. Clearly things are not well on his world, but I won't spoil the story by telling why. He goes on to tell the story of how the war began, the attempts to stop it, some of the major battles, and the reason for the Minbari surrender. Then in a strange twist, an element is introduced at the end of the film to let you know that the story is not yet over.This film is damn near perfect. The music, the special effects, and story are all spectacular. Peter Jurasik gives another great performance as Londo Mollari. Almost all the characters from the show make some sort of appearance in the film. Of course, it's not without a few flaws. First and foremost, this movie *blatantly* provides spoilers to mysteries that were not resolved in the series until Season 3. Also, the movie focuses heavily on the character of John Sheridan, played by Bruce Boxleitner, who took over the lead role after the departure of Michael O'Hare (Jeffrey Sinclair) in 1995. O'Hare was not brought back to film any additional scenes due to budgetary concerns and as a result, his pivotal appearance at The Battle of the Line, using previously filmed scenes from the series, has a rather "tacked on" feeling. New viewers would be likely to say, "Who's HE?" So all in all, two good fun movies that will hopefully inspire folks out there to buy those Babylon 5: The Series DVD BOX SETS (hint hint). It should be noted too that some of the best story elements of Babylon 5 the series are not even hinted at in these two movies. So there's plenty more out there to see. As for special features: What would B5 fans like?1. Audio commentaries from cast and crew. 2. Behind the scenes documentaries, effects vignettes. 3. Bloopers, outtakes, deleted scenes. 4. Anamorphic widescreen, surround sound, and captions.Thanks to Warner Bros Home Video and DVD for finally bringing this product to the fans."
And So It Begins ...
Stephen C. Smith | Irvine, CA USA | 10/31/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Reportedly the version of the two-hour pilot movie "The Gathering" on this DVD will be "Version 2.0", if you will.The version that aired in 1993 was considered by many to be dull and muddled. B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski later placed the blame on director Richard Compton, who he felt chose the wrong takes in an attempt to emphasize the station itself rather than the actors' performances."Version 2.0", released in 1999, was heavily revised by JMS and producer John Copeland. They tightened up the storyline, upgraded the effects and, most importantly, dug up from the archives alternate takes that showed stronger performances by the actors. Some scenes that slowed down the pacing have been dropped, while other scenes that emphasized the characters and the plot have been restored.If you can get hold of the original version, compare it to "Version 2.0" and enjoy a clinic in the right (and wrong) way to edit a movie.Like any pilot, though, the actors have yet to find their characters and the writer/creator is still finding their voices. That's the point of any pilot, so don't unnecessarily bash it just because the look of some aliens changed later in the series. A pilot is supposed to sell the show as a series, and that it did. But "The Gathering" is also important because of B5's unique structure -- a five-season "novel for television", and "The Gathering" is the opening chapter. Plot lines established in this episode resonate throughout the next five years, sometimes not even paying off until late in the series.If "The Gathering" is Chapter 1, "In The Beginning" is the prologue. Told in flashback by one of the primary characters years after the events seen in the series, the story takes place ten years before the events seen in "The Gathering". Throughout the B5 saga, we hear about the Earth-Minbari War and even see snippets of flashback. But this film finally lets us take the ride in total.Another interesting advantage of comparing these two films is to observe how JMS's storytelling skills improved with experience. Early in the series, episodes tended to bog down with expository narrative as he struggled to find an effective means of planting with the viewer certain information that would be needed down the line. (In fact, if you go back and watch the first season episodes, virtually every one contains some plot point that pays off down the line in future seasons.) With four years under his belt -- and freed of the need to story arc plot points -- he's free to tell a whopper of a story."In The Beginning" does have some inconsistencies with what was established in the series -- in particular, a rather improbable adventure involving several of the series' regulars who don't seem to have any memory of it when they reunite years later on the station -- but in typical Straczynski fashion we're entertained while at the same time reminded of the conseqences of our own human foibles and arrogance.Finally, I'll chip in with a message for WB. As others have posted, I've held off on buying the VHS series because I was waiting for DVD. Please, release the series season-by-season in box sets. With commentary by JMS. His people are waiting."
Is the Studio Business Section Listening???
Electric Eccentric | Socorro, NM United States | 09/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My wife and I were really impressed by the Babylon 5 series. We caught it as a Turner rerun on satellite. We followed each and every section in proper sequence, which is the ONLY way that this wonderful screenplay can be seen. We want our son to see it the same way, only with the benefit of DVD.Thus, are you listening? We and, apparently many others, will pay for the complete boxed set of the entire story. What do you want $130, $150, $200? Do you understand that we, in the most expansive plural, want every piece of the puzzle, not some edited best of compilation...It truly is amazing what your company is wasting VHS tapes and DVDs on, when Babylon 5 is a "sure thing". I will only buy the DVDs. And I would buy all, including sections edited out of the original, in the case of Babylon 5. I can think of no other movie or series where I would do this!"
And so it began....
Mark Baker | Santa Clarita, CA United States | 01/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Warner Brothers has decided to test the market for Babylon 5 on DVD with this initial offering. It includes three hours of story on a two-sided disc.Side A is the re-edit of the pilot as shown on TNT in 1998. Presented in its original full frame aspect ration, "The Gathering" is an introduction to the space station Babylon 5. When the last of the major races sends an ambassador to this port, someone tries to assassinate him. Things really heat up after station commander Jeffery Sinclair is accused of the crime, and our last best hope for peace just might become the starting point for another war.It's interesting to watch this movie as a fan of the series. It seems slow, many characters didn't make it back when the series started, and the special effects aren't up to par. But I've used it to hook several friends on the show recently, and each time I'm amazed at the groundwork that was laid down and the story arcs that were introduced at this early date.Side B contains the movie "In the Beginning." Filmed after season 4, it tells the story of the Earth-Minbari War. Presented here in its original wide screen, it combines all the stories of the war that we've learned over the first four seasons, from the misunderstanding that started it to the climatic Battle of the Line. But it's not all familiar; we get to see the entire story, not just the parts that were important to later happenings on the show. Along the way, we see Delenn, Sheridan, Franklin, G'Kar, and Londo in the time before the series started.I hadn't seen this movie since its initial airing until I got the DVD. I was amazed at how much history and suspense JMS was able to put into the movie even though we knew the outcome. It is interesting to note that it was included here, since it contains major spoilers for the first few seasons of the show.Unfortunately, Warner decided to test the DVD market for Babylon 5 with a product that features no extras. This is one series where I would love to see more behinds the scenes information. Commentaries and bloopers would make my day. Still, I found the picture and sound quality to be good.Hopefully, Warner will get the hint and release more Babylon 5 in boxed sets with added features. Until then, we fans have this disc to remind us why we love the series so much."