SJ Review #504

Episode: 5/04 - A View from the Gallery
Director: Janet Greek
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski (story by JMS and Harlan Ellison)
Guests: Robin Atkin Downes (Byron)
Joshua Cox (Lt. Corwin)
Raymond O'Connor (Mack)
Lawrence LeJohn (Bo)

An unknown alien fleet attacks the station, and all the crew do their part to ensure victory...

Although it has a standard formula for most episodes, B5 can, and does, occasionally throw in more unusual episodes, such as "And Now for a Word", "The Illusion of Truth" and, of course, the superlative "Intersections in Real Time". "A View from the Gallery" can now be added to this list.

Of course, some of these 'experimental' episodes work better than others; "And Now for a Word" and "Intersections in Real Time" are both excellent, whereas "The Illusion of Truth" is a something of a mess. 5/04 lies somewhere in-between these two opposites.

The main concept - viewing the machine from the cogs' point of view rather than the operators' - is an interesting one, though hardly original; this should not be a problem if it is done well.

As the two maintenance men, Raymond O'Connor (Mack) and Lawrence LeJohn (Bo) delivered solid, convincing performances, despite a few lines of dodgy dialogue in places (this script was apparently written in a single day; in places it shows but, on the whole, it is a remarkable effort). This is probably due to near-perfect casting as much as good acting.

Tracy Scoggins continued to improve as the new Captain, although she is still coming across as being to similar to Ivanova. Hopefully this will change as her character develops in future episodes.

The special effects in this episode were stunning - particularly the shots from inside the sanctuary and though the viewport. As she did in "No Compromises", Janet Greek mixed the live action with the CGI almost seamlessly, removing the "here's an effect, here's some real people" syndrome which tainted the first few seasons of B5. Greek, one of B5's best directors, handled the action sequences particularly well, the fight outside the lift being particularly exciting, especially contrasted with the sudden silence in the telepaths' quarters.

As mentioned before, the script was adequate, but missed a few good opportunities. In previous seasons, when B5 seemed to be a more pessimistic show, the episode would have finished with Franklin standing underneath the 'Welcome to Babylon 5' sign, beside the bodies of the dead. Also, the script was let down by the fact that the aliens appeared out of seemingly nowhere, never having been mentioned before. Whilst they did not require a large build-up, a brief mention in a previous episode would have made the show seem less out of place.

Rating: /10 - A good concept that is well-handled, but lacks a certain drive. Also ends with somethign of a 'so what?' feeling, due to it being so loose in the arc of things.

Best Quote:
The various chicken conversations...

Points For Discussion:
o Where did the aliens come from?
o What do the aliens look like?
o Do White Stars look like chickens?
o Why did it take so long for the White Stars to return from the Enphili

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.