SJ Review #422

Episode: 422 - The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
Director:
Stephen Furst
Guests:
Roy Brocksmith (Brother Alwyn Macomber)
Alastaire Duncan (Latimere)
Eric Pierpoint (Daniel)
Neil Roberts (Brother Michael)
Rob Elle (Henry Ellis)
Bennet Guillory (Leif Tanner)
Doug Hale (Derek Mitchell)
Kathleen Lloyd (Elizabeth Metarie)
David Anthony Smith (Man)
Joanne Takahashi (Dr Tashaki)
Ken Taylor (Jim Bitterbane)
Nick Toth (Exeter)

Synopsis:
A ranger in the far distant future gathers together records of the past one million years, whilst the sun moves inexorably towards its death...

Review:
This episode is somewhat hard to place. It was filmed at the start of the fifth season, once it was given the go-ahead, yet it is broadcast as the season four finale; to complicate matters even more confusing, it does not carry on the events of 2261 but instead covers a time period of one million years - in 45 minutes of television.

This is an extremely difficult thing to successfully achieve and the Babylon 5 team make a courageous effort. In doing so, however, they completely rewrite what one expects from the series. In the past, this is what has enabled the series to remain innovative and interesting; the departure from the usual 'pattern' is so drastic here, though, it inevitably splits public opinion neatly in half, between those who think the episode is wonderful and those who think it is awful and should never have been made.

"The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" has a very obvious anthology feel to it, with its separate historical records. Consequently, it is better to judge each of these segments individually before examining the episode as a whole.

When the historical records begin and the normal episode structure ends, just before the title sequence, it is somewhat unclear as to what is happening. This adds to the general mystery, however, and makes the viewer want to continue watching, which is no bad thing. One thing Babylon 5 has never been is patronising; it definitely did not want to overstate what was happening and insult the viewers' intelligence.

The ISN report from 2262 is well-constructed. Doug Hale is extremely convincing as the anchorman, Derek Mitchell. The actors playing the panel of experts (Kathleen Lloyd, Bennet Guillory and Rob Elk) also handled their parts well, and the entire sequence came across as being realistically scripted and acted. The fast-paced dialogue was perfect and the general atmosphere of a news debating programme was captured effectively.

Unfortunately, the next record was not so well handled. The actors in the educational programme of 2362 were unconvincing and did not make their character particularly three-dimensional, unlike the actors of the 2262 report. There were some tantalising hints dropped about events we may see in the fifth season, yet it just did not have the air of realism about it that the previous record had. Particularly unrealistic was Delenn's sudden appearance, neatly timed to occur just after they academics had been discussing her existence and remarkably soon after the intruder alarm had gone off (why did she have to break in? Surely they would have welcomed a chance to talk to her?) - the whole scene did not seem very well-thought out. The make-up on Mira Furlan was superb, however, and her acting was exemplary; it is a pity that the rest of the scene was not up to scratch.

The holographic simulation of 2762 was better than the educational record. Eric Pierpoint was good as Daniel, although unremarkable, and the regulars handled themselves well. The backstory was extremely interesting and is what made the segment compulsive viewing. The resolution to this record was somewhat unconvincing, though - would a hologram really be able to manipulate the hologram software? Surely the designers of the system would have made that impossible? As with Delenn's sudden entrance in 2362, this did not seem to have been carefully plotted. However, this future technology can only be defined by Straczynski and he wrote the episode, so who are we to suggest that holograms can't do this and that?

The really interesting stuff began in the next record, from 3262. This scene displayed the careful plotting that is expected in Babylon 5 and which had been missing from the previous two records. The acting of Roy Brocksmith (Brother Alwyn) and Neil Roberts (Brother Michael) was superb, fitting the characters just perfectly. What made this scene stand out, however, was the vision displayed in it. Babylon 5 has always had a certain grandeur to it, due to its overall plot arc and the ideas of Straczynski, which cover such a large period of time and appear to be so realistic. The events touched upon in this scene - the civil war, the Great Burn, the infiltration of the Rangers amongst the remnants of Earth culture - were astounding, showing the Babylon Project and the Babylon 5 television series in a whole new light. Babylon 5 has always been a very dark show, yet it has also remained a very hopefuly show, in that it always shows us pulling through despite the setbacks.

The scene that creates the most discussion is the one with the highly evolved human. The dialogue and acting of David Anthony Smith was superb in this scene. Since the departure of the ancients in "Into the Fire", the more mythical aspects of the series have been missing; this one scene reinstated them as well as the show's 'sense of wonder'. The special effects involved in the crystalline/energy being and the sun's death were also well handled. This glimpse of the far future managed to tell us so much, yet so little at the same time.

This episode does not really fit into season four. It does not really fit anywhere in the Babylon 5 series. It is more of a stand-alone piece, defining the ultimate purpose and destiny of the Babylon Project. It also serves to show that, should the producers wish, Babylon 5 could go on forever without running out of plot and becoming stale...

Rating: 7.5/10 - Some parts of this episode were superb; other parts left certain things to be desired. Overall, a well-handled episode - but one with too many missed opportunities.

Points For Discussion: Did Garibaldi really die at the hands of the terrorists?
What happened concerning Sheridan and Delenn's son?
What are the events surrounding the telepath colony and the Telepath War?
What is the mystery surrounding Sheridan's death?
Did Garibaldi (the hologram) inadvertantly start the Great Burn?
What happened to the other Earth colonies (Mars, Proxima III etc...) in the Great Burn?
What were the other worlds doing during the civil war and Great Burn?
Who is Delenn the Third? What about the Second? Was the Delenn we know the First?
What is the creature in the far future? A human? A Vorlon? A multi-species mix?
Is the creature made up of energy or a crystalline structure?
Why did the creature need an encounter suit when it could assume a human form?
Why did the sun die?
How was the creature created? Natural evolution, or evolution through technology?
Where and what is New Earth?

Simon Jones,
alt.babylon5.uk reviewer.


1997 Simon Jones.