Now this is the way to end a series.

Cast

Bruce
Boxleitner
as John Sheridan.

Claudia
Christian
as Susan Ivanova.

Jerry Doyle as
Michael Garibaldi.

Richard Biggs as
Stephen Franklin.

Mira
Furlan
as
Delenn.

Bill
Mumy
as
Lennier.

Peter Jurasik as
Londo Mollari.

Stephen Furst as
Vir.

Andreas
Katsulas
as G’Kar.

Jeff
Conaway
as
Zack Allen.

Patricia
Tallman
as
Lyta Alexander.

Tracy Scoggins
as Elizabeth Lochley.

21 out of 22 episodes were written by series creator
J. Michael
Straczynski
.
(The eighth episode was written by Neil Gaiman, but
it’s a safe bet
that nothing in that episode happened with the
approval of JMS.)

Directed by various individuals, including Janet
Greek, Mike Vejar,
Stephen Furst, and J. Michael Straczynski
himself.

Past TV
reviews, including those of the first four seasons of
this series, can
be found here.

Original Airdate

This season originally aired in 1998.

Synopsis

The human civil war is over, but that doesn’t mean
there aren’t other
wars that need to be dealt with.

High Point

Man, this is a hard choice. “The Ragged Edge” was
the first episode
this season that really grabbed me. “The Corps Is
Mother, The Corps
Is Father” significantly altered my view of Bester,
despite the fact
that it hinged on something that seems inconsistent
with his interest
in Lyta. (If personality can change a P10 into a
P12, then wouldn’t
that contradict his “a P5 is a P5” speech when he cut
a deal with Lyta
in season four?) Hell, any episode in the last half
of the season is
in the running for this. In the end, I’d say it’s
the production of
“Sleeping in Light,” particularly when one looks at
the credit
sequence.

Low Point

The aforementioned inconsistency. It’s the only
point all season that
really irked me. (The first half didn’t grab me as
previous seasons
had, but it didn’t bother me, either.)

Other Comments

I have a few general comments to make about the show.
Here they are,
in no particular order.

The new opening sequence didn’t fit the first few
episodes. At first,
it seemed wrong not to kick it off with a new version
of “It was the
year of…” By the time I hit disk five in the DVD
set, I realized
that it really did work. The show had always been
about characters
running in crisis. That changed by the end of this
season, though;
the crises were dealt with, and all we had left with
the characters.
In the end, it was the perfect sequence, summarizing
the entire series
to date, tying threads together, and reminding the
audience of what
these characters had been through.

The “telepath war” wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t
feel the threat
that it should have been. Part of that was probably
due to the fact
that this war was seen coming several seasons before,
but had always
been regarded as something that could be dealt with
later. Without
some more attention to it then, it was hard to build
the appropriate
tension when it did arrive. Instead, we got a
situation crucial for
the development of Lyta as a character, and not much
else.

Finally, this proves what television can be. Most
sitcoms irritate me
to no end; the return to a weekly status quo gets
boring. How many of
those shows demonstrate little or no change in four
or five years?
Now, how many of us can say the same about our lives?
Hell, four
years ago I was working at CERN, with
plans to finish a Ph.D. in Physics and work in
research. Bureau42.com
was still Technopagan.org, and Dave was doing it all
himself. Now,
I’m Acting Director of the local Sylvan Learning
Centre, with no
Ph.D. and no idea what job (if any) I’ll have in
September. I can’t
think of anyone I know who is exactly where they were
five years ago.
People change, and the lives around them change with
them. That’s
what this series showed us, and that’s why it worked
so very damn
well. It had the space battles and the politics that
other successful
sci-fi shows have had, but they didn’t resonate this
well for me as a
viewer because they didn’t have the same focus on the
characters.
This season wrapped up the characters as well as the
plotlines. The
series finale was the most powerful hour of
television I’ve watched,
and it makes me very, very sorry I missed this show
in its original
run. It plays out very well on DVD, but I wish I
could have had the
experience of interaction with other fans as the show
ran, with the
speculation and discussion that ran between new
episodes and all the
other fun that must have come with it.

The movie collection is due out on DVD on August 17.
I’ve got my copy
on pre-order, of course. If anyone out there can
tell me if the
commentaries I have on these DVDs (which I’ve avoided
so far) have
spoilers for those movies, I’d appreciate it. I’d
like to start
watching those commentaries, but I don’t want to
stumble across any
information that was meant to be revealed properly in
a movie I’ll be
watching later.

The Review

The originality of the show is still
impressive, particularly
in the way it wrapped itself up. This had better
action that most
other space shows, but that’s not the way they ended
it, because the
characters always came first. This tied off
the stories that
the characters had been living through for all of
these years, putting
the crises on the back burner for a change. Most
shows wouldn’t have
the guts to do that, but then, most shows aren’t this
good. This
served the characters in ways that fit who they were,
but don’t
necessarily match up with what the viewers would want
to see from
them. I give it 6 out of 6 for guts alone.

The effects were, once more, on an obvious
budget. There is
no doubt about what they want to show us, but you can
still tell which
shots have effects and which don’t. I give it 4 out
of 6.

The story started out slowly, but was still
well written.
Once it picked up, it didn’t let up. I give it 5 out
of 6.

The acting is well done, again. Peter
Jurasik, Jerry Doyle,
and Andreas Katsulas get credit once more for acting
without looking
like they’re acting. Their interactions with each
other are always
priceless. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response from the first half
of the season was
tame compared to what had come before. Seasons two
through four just
kept building and moving, without a break or a
misstep, so the slower
pace this season started with was unexpected. It let
me relax a bit
too much, so I didn’t get quite as locked in as I had
before. Then
came “The Ragged Edge,” and the old ferver was back
for most of the
season. Things started calming down in the politics
in the last two
episodes, but the work with the characters kept me
locked in there
very well. I think this may have replaced
Quantum Leap as
the best series finale I’ve ever seen, too. I give
it 5 out of 6.

The production felt, as usual, like very
talented people
didn’t get the budgets they wanted. With obvious
errors like Bester’s
dialogue in “The Corps Is Mother, The Corps Is
Father” (at the end of
his briefing, they reuse footage of him delivering
one line while they
dub in a completely different line, so the lip sync
doesn’t even come
close) mixed in with some great looking sequences, I
just kept getting
the impression that things were either rushed, or
they couldn’t afford
to go back and reshoot things that they could have
reshot on other
shows. These people deserved better. I give it 4
out of 6.

Overall, this is great. Yes, it’s not
perfect, and I have
some complaints, but the story this concludes is one
of the best
television has ever seen. The production flaws and
low budget effects
won’t bother anyone who has gotten through the first
four seasons;
don’t even try to watch this if you haven’t seen the
first four. I
recommend it to anyone; watch this season, and those
that came before
it. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Babylon 5: The Wheel of Fire
receives 35 out of 42.