Season 4 Overview

Season: Four - No Surrender, No Retreat
Writer: Joe Michael Straczynksi
401 - The Hour of the Wolf
402 - Whatever Happened to Mr Garibaldi?
403 - The Summoning
404 - Falling Towards Apotheosis
405 - The Long Night
406 - Into The Fire
407 - Epiphanies
408 - The Illusion Of Truth
409 - Atonement
410 - Racing Mars
411 - Lines of Communication
412 - Conflicts of Interest
413 - Rumours, Bargains and Lies
414 - Moments of Transition
415 - No Surrender, No Retreat
416 - The Exercise of Vital Powers
417 - The Face of the Enemy
418 - Intersections in Real Time
419 - Between the Darkness and the Light
420 - Endgame
421 - Rising Star
422 - The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
Directors: David J. Eagle (401, 404, 412, 419)
Kevin James Dobson (402, 406)
John McPherson (403)
John Lafia (405, 416, 418)
John C. Flinn III (407, 411)
Stephen Furst (408, 422)
Tony Dow (409, 414, 421)
Jesus Trevino (410)
Mike Vejar (413, 415, 417)
John Copeland (420)
Bruce Boxleitner (Captain John Sheridan)
Claudia Christian (Commander Susan Ivanova)
Jerry Doyle (Security Chief Michael Garibaldi)
Richard Biggs (Doctor Stephen Franklin)
Jason Carter (Marcus Cole)
Jeff Conaway (Zack Allen)
Patricia Tallman (Lyta Alexander)
Mira Furlan (Ambassador Delenn)
Bill Mumy (Lennier)
Peter Jurasik (Londo Mollari)
Stephen Furst (Vir Cotto)
Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar)

It was the year in which the Shadow War came to an end. It was the year in which the Narns and Centauri made peace at last. It was the year in which the Minbari abandoned centuries-old traditions and embraced a new culture. It was the year in which the civil war for Earth came to a close. It was the year of victory.

Season four has been a turbulent one for Babylon 5, both in fact and fiction. Throughout production of the season, it was unsure whether or not it would be the series' last, forcing Straczynski to curtail the overall plot arc somewhat to ensure that viewers were not left with an uncompleted story, should the series be cancelled. Of course, as we all know by now, TNT stepped in to provide support for the show and its future has never before looked brighter than now. This behind-the-scenes drama can be sensed in some of the episodes - particularly the first six episodes - due to the rushed atmosphere. So, was this shortening of the arc to the benefit or detriment of the series?

Well, although the sudden ending to the Shadow War surprised some people and left them wondering what plot there was left in the series, the pace was consequently frenetic. Events followed one after another, barely giving viewers time to draw breath. The episodes following the final battle, unfortunately seemed extremely tame and somewhat inconsequentsial in comparison. Had these episodes been in any other season, they would quite probably have been accepted without question - in contrast to the previous fast-paced season four storylines they seemed heavy and dull.

Things began to pick up as wars began to break out on the various homeworlds and, from episode 415 onwards, the series contained some of its most entertaining and innovative episodes to date.

Taking a closer look at the episodes themselves, there is a clear pattern. Episodes 401 ("The Hour of the Wolf") to 406 ("Into the Fire" - rating 10) were all carefully plotted, tightly scripted and well-executed episodes, pushing the arc along at a fast pace. Episodes 407 ("Epiphanies" - rating 6.5) to 411 ("Lines of Communication" - rating 8) marked something of a resting point, where the arc slowed down. This is when many people thought that the series was dropping in quality - indeed, the scripts, acting and special effects were simply not as good as in the first six episodes of the season.

Things soon picked up again after 414 ("Moments of Transition" - rating 9), peaking at the important points of the Earth civil war in episodes 418 ("Intersections in Real Time" - rating 10) and 420 ("Endgame" - rating 10). These final few episodes, as with the first six, displayed innovative scripts and directing and took chances, which is what made them the excellent episodes that they are. The middle part of the season consisted of enjoyable but unremarkable episodes that could have come from any science fiction television series. The start and end to season four contained episodes that were clearly stamped with the Babylon 5 stamp of style.

Episodes 417 ("The Face of the Enemy" - 9.5), 418 and 422 ("The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" - rating 7.5) were some of the most remarkable episodes the series has ever produced, as well as being excellent pieces of science fiction in their own right. 417 was a solid piece of SF, consisting of excellent acting, scripting and special effects, as well as some superb directing quirks - most notably the bar room fight scene. 418 was equally effective, by turning the undetstood format of episodes inside-out and taking an entirely new approach. 422 was slightly less successful, perhaps because it was too ambitious. Nevetheless, it still confirmed that Babylon 5 is capable of producing innovative, imaginative and original (well, as original as SF can ever be these days!) story-telling.

Amongst the directors, the most interesting were Kevin James Dobson, responsible for two of the best episodes at the start of the season, and Mike Vejar, responsible for the excellent 417, which displayed a new risk-taking style to episodes. John Copeland also proved extremely talented in directing action sequences and handling heavy special effects scenes in the final battle for Earth episode, 420.

Overall, this was an extremely rewarding season for the long-time viewer, finishing up many plot strands as well as opening up several new ones. It also took the series in a new direction, showing that it still hasn't become stale in the slightest.

Rating: 9/10 - Season four contains many Babylon 5's best episodes. Unfortunately, it also contains a fair amount of inferior episodes, which prevent the season from getting full marks.

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.