SJ Review #421

Episode:  421 - Rising Star
Tony Dow
Denise Gentile (Lise Hampton Edgars)
Walter Koenig (Alfred Bester)
President Susanna Luchenko (Beata Pozniak)
Joey Dente (Luko)
Rance Howard (David Sheridan)
Michael Potter (General Foote)

Whilst EarthGov debates Sheridan's future, after having turned himself in, Londo gets rather excited at Delenn's latest idea....

This episode, when contrasted with the previous "Endgame", demonstrates clearly Straczynski's scriptwriting prowess, as well as the overall diverse nature of Babylon 5 as a television series. "Endgame" is a special-effects extravaganza of an episode, packed with action and tension; "Rising Star", on the other hand, is about as different as it could possibly be - it is a primarily dialogue oriented episode, with a hefty amount of politics thrown in for good measure - the only action is in the brief rescue of Lise by Garibaldi. In such an episode, it is of vital importance that the script is well-written, as there are no impressive special-effects to cover up any embarassing snippets of dialogue or plotting.

Thankfully, "Rising Star" does not disappoint when it comes to dialogue and plot.

Indeed, from the very first scenes it is clear that the immediate events after the defeat of Clark's military forces have been well thought through. Instead of a triumphant Sheridan immediately claiming leadership of Earth, with everybody cheering him in the most stereotypical Hollywood fashion possible, he surrenders to the Earth government. This certainly was a departure from the usual cliche of the rebels being immediately accepted into society and it added an extra element of realism to the series as a whole.

The scripting and careful plotting remained true throughout. The script tugged at every emotion - invoking sadness, laughter and even awe in certain select places. The scenes between Londo and G'Kar, which have been somewhat lacking in the last few episodes, were wonderfully handled and contained some of the funniest lines in the entire series. The contrast between the light-heartedness of these scenes and the incredibly powerful and upsetting scenes in medlab served to increase the overall impact of both scenes greatly. Another good point to note about the dialogue was that it never became overly sentimental, even during the speeches in the presidential suite.

The acting was also superb, perhaps because the dialogue was so closely observed for each individual character. Peter Jurasik (Londo) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) were, as ever, exemplary - this is Jurasik and Katsulas we are talking about here; does anything more need to be said? Walter Koenig also delivered a very subtle portrayal as Bester, shifting between his normal chilling persona and the rarely glimpsed romantic side to him. Koenig somehow manages to make us feel sympathy for Bester, whilst at the same time wishing for Garibaldi to come charging in with a PPG rifle firing.

The rest of the regulars acted well: Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi) proved that he is just as good at raw action as Bruce Willis; Bruce Boxleitner (Sheridan) exuded a wonderful sent of arrogant self-confidence; Jason Carter proved he could lie perfectly still in a very convincing manner (whilst many have found Marcus annoying, particularly on the eastern side of the pond, he will nevertheless be missed by many, particularly after Carter's excellent final acting moments). The honours, however, must surely go to Claudia Christian who, in her potentially final episode (although she probably didn't know that at the time) delivered her best performance *ever* in the entire series - she outshone every other cast member in "Rising Star". Many have doubted her ability to handle scenes of high emotion; her acting in this episode must have raised their opinions of her no end. If only she could have been given more opportunities to really show her talents.
Although there were few effects, those that were used were stunning. As with Mars in "Endgame", Earth looked infinitely better than in previous episodes. This was most evident during the White Star flyby, which looked about as realistic as would seem possible - the trees and water were particularly convincing. The final shot of Babylon 5, whilst being technically unremarkable, was artistically very well designed and was a superb ending shot.

Christopher Franke continued his recent trend of creating subtle, undistracting music which manages somehow to raise the emotions of the scenes by several levels.

The inclusion of that final, tantalising voice-over just leaves us wishing for Crusade to be given the green light...

Rating: 9.5/10 - A carefully thought out episode which pulls at every emotion and leaves us feeling that staying with the series for the past four years has been worth it. One of the most rewarding episodes for long-term viewers ever.

Points For Discussion:
o What is Bester and the Psi-Corp planning?
o Will Garibaldi return to Babylon 5?
o What are the Warlock ships like?
o How is G'Kar going to get his eye back?
o Does G'Kar leave his eye in S&D's bedroom for the next 20 years, explaining why he does not have his missing eye in "War Without End"? Dirty pervert.....:)
o What is the full political situation on Earth?
o What other Shadow technology does EarthForce have?

Epilogue:  Please comment on this review - discuss it! The whole point of this review is to generate some meaty discussion. Discuss the review itself, the points raised, say whether you agree with me or think I'm talking a load of horse-radish (to coin a phrase), add you own opinions - anything! If you reply to this review directly by email to me, please post a copy of your reply to the newsgroup as well, if you can, to help promote more discussion. I look forward to hearing your replies!

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.