SJ Review #501

Episode: 501 - No Compromises
Director: Janet Greek
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Cast: Joshua Cox (Lt. Corwin)
Anthony Crivello (John)
Robin Atkin Downes (Byron)
Timothy Eyster (Simon)

As Sheridan prepares for his inauguration ceremony, the new commander of Babylon 5, Captain Lochley, has to cope with a security breach...

Following the high-octane ending to season four (despite the somewhat calmer atmosphere in the final two episodes), there were high expectations for the season five debut. We had feared that Babylon 5 would not even *get* a fifth season. Then we heard rumours upon rumours about cast members, the budget and the show's future.

However, due to the show's new home on the American station TNT, "No Compromises" was also likely to be the first episode many people, who had previously not seen the series, would see. This gave it the unenviable problem of having to cater for the long-term fans, as well as newcomers.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite get the balance right.
The episode lacks the sophistication in the plotting, writing and acting that we have come to expect from B5. Too many plot points were left up to the viewer to decide, resulting in several ugly plot holes, which can only be filled by an over-active imagination on the part of the viewer. The story was also too final - possibly the best thing about B5 has been its ability to create a realistic universe, by ensuring that episodes were never completely stand-alone; even the filler episodes often left certain things open-ended. However, "No Compromises" had a sense of finality to it that was out of place; at the end of the episode there was something of a "so what?" feeling in the air. Other than the questions surrounding the new characters, the main plot of the episode was tidied up far too nicely.

It's not a bad episode, though, by any stretch of the imagination. There were some redeeming factors - in particular, the special effects, which were absolutely stunning. The shot of the pod carrying the murdered Ranger was superb, not just in execution, but also in conception - the way the maintenance bot flew around it, then shone its light through the frosted glass; brilliant. The incident with the starfuries was also excellently visualised. Perhaps the best thing about this scene was the editing and the integration of the the live-action film with the CGI. Whereas in previous seasons, the CGI shots would be separate from the live-action (montage shots excluded, of course), in that you would have a minute-or-so of live-action, followed by some more CGI of a battle scene, then more live-action and so on, the cuts between the pilots and those in the observation dome were incredible - this made the CGI so much more believable.

It was also good to see some more of Jeff Conaway (Zack) and Joshua Cox (Corwin), both of whom started out as bit-parts and have gone on to become semi-regular, and popular, characters. Both actors handle their parts very well, considering the limited material they have to work with. Their scenes are sensibly kept to a fairly short length, as well, resulting in almost all of their scenes being entertaining at the very least.

A welcome return was director Janet Greek to the B5 crew. Having directed some of the best episodes of the first two seasons, she was sorely missed from the last two seasons. In "No Compromises", she managed to retrace some steps to capture some of the atmosphere from the first two seasons; for the first time in a long time we had a sense that the station really was a hive of activity, and that their was something of a 'culture' onboard, thanks to her panning shots of the bar and Zocolo areas.

Of the new characters, Byron (Robin Atkin Downes) was somewhat disappointing. At the moment, he seems far too similar too Marcus (same accent, same general appearance, same waffling); hopefully his character will be fleshed out somewhat in future episodes.

Tracy Scoggins did a good job as Lochley. She had just the right air about her that convinced you that, yes, this woman *could* command the station and stand up to Garibaldi, Sheridan and the others without being intimidated. It'll be interesting to see how her character develops, not to mention her interaction with other characters. If only they didn't insist on encasing her in so much make-up - she seems to wear more than Andreas Katsulas.

Rating: 6.5/10 - An entertaining start to the season, but it didn't quite have the quality that we've come to expect of B5. Certainly not a *bad* episode, though.

Best Quote:
Sheridan- Well, Mr Garibaldi says it's very well written.
G'Kar- Well, I'm sory...there's just the one copy for now and, well, when I loaned it to Mr came back with coffee stains.

Points For Discussion:
o Why was Sheridan so uneasy about Lochley's arrival?
o How do the telepaths keep disappearing before people's very eyes...?
o Which side was Lochley on during the war?
o Are these the same telepaths that are to hold Garibaldi to ransom?
o Are the Gaim related to the Tak'Cha?
o How did the assassin manage to override so much of the station sensors and security?
o What happened to Simon on Mars?
o How is Lochley going to fit in with the others?

Please comment on this review - discuss it! The whole point of this review is to generate some meaty discussion. Of course, those of you who *know* the answers to the Points For Discussion - don't spoil us!


Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.