SJ Review #101

Episode: 101 - Midnight of the Firing Line
Richard Compton
Paul Hampton (The Senator)
Ardwight Chamberlain (Kosh)
Peter Trencher (Caan Mollari)
Jeff Austin (Centauri #1)
Maggie Egan (Newsperson)

The Narn begin a military campaign to expand their borders, whilst interstellar pirates give the command crew some hastle....

Essential to a series continued success is having a good first episode. Viewers drawn in by the pilot episode will not necessarily continue to watch the series if the first proper episode is disappointing and, this early in a show's history, there are no avid fans who will stick with the series no matter what.

"Midnight on the Firing Line" succeeds in doing its job, which is to lay down the foundations for the series as a whole, without actually building upon those foundations.

This episode improves vastly upon the pilot, in most areas. The make-up is infinitely better - Delenn now has a character, as Mira Furlan is now able to act without having six tons of prosthetics piled upon her face; G'Kar and Londo both look far more believable and natural now - basically, the entire make-up process is a lot more convincing. The special effects have improved, too, although they still only scrape the surface of what they are capable of and are a little stilted here.

Several characters have changed since the pilot - most noticeably the departure of Johnny Sekka as Doctor Kyle, Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander and Tamlyn Tomita as Laurel Takashima. None of those actors handled their parts particularly well in the pilot, so they are no great losses. Whilst Sekka's replacement was not introduced in this episode, Tomita's was - in the form of Claudia Christian. Whilst Christian was a definite improvement upon Tomita's acting, she was still well below the expected standard for a professional drama series - her limited acting skills are particularly evident in the scene when she discusses Santiago's chin.

Another addition to the cast is Stephen Furst at Vir. He makes an adequate debut, but his character is not really explored to any great extent here. The most impressive debut comes from Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters, the telepath replacing Lyta. Thompson asserts herself immediately, making her character very interesting, despite being in so few scenes.

The other regulars handle themselves adequately - Michael O'Hare (Sinclair), Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi) and Mira Furlan (Delenn). Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) and Peter Jurasik (Londo) have some wonderful scenes together which hint at the brilliant character scenes we see later in the series.

The sets have been improved since the pilot, as well - particularly C&C, which is now a lot more believable.

Unfortunately, some parts of the episode show that the B5 team was still trying to find its feet when it was made (despite the fact that this episode was, in fact, 103 in production order). There is some awful dialogue which reveals some of the B5 universe's 'history' which comes across as being terribly forced. Similarly, some things are not as polished as they should be - Londo's examination of the ships in the film is badly handled and timed. It also seems that Straczynski has not quite decided how the station works - why does Talia have to specifically go and find *Garibaldi* - wouldn't any member of security work, and couldn't she just use the comm system?

This is an enjoyable episode but doesn't win any awards for originality or artful creation. If the series had not developed from this episode's style, then Babylon 5 would have been just another unimaginative SF series, indistinguishable from the rest of the rabble spewed out from the major studios every year.

Rating: 6.5/10 - A capable introduction to the series, this nevetheless lacks the polish and professionalism that the pilot hinted at.

Best Quote: Londo - What reasonable explanation is there for the slaughter of unarmed civilians?
G'Kar - Curious. We wondered the same thing when you invaded our world. The wheel turns, does it not?

Points For Discussion:
What is Garibaldi's favourite thing in the universe?
Where did all those asteroids come from that the Raider base was hiding in?
More to the point - how come they weren't all banging into each other and obliterating the base?
Are the Raider ships piloted by humans? The don't look as if a human would fit inside...

Future Arc:
The Narn begin a conquest to gain power in the galaxy, which leads to their eventual downfall. The Raiders are becoming more confident and more powerful. Kosh appears to be a being made of light. Talia and Ivanova get off to a bad start, but Talia wants to improve their friendship... Ivanova's mother was a rogue telepath. Louis Santiago wins his second term in office. Londo knows he will die with G'Kar.

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.