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Babylon 5

Warner Bros. // Unrated // December 4, 2001
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 22, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:



Warner Home Video has come under fire for releasing their TV shows on DVD in a way that has not pleased fans of the shows. Instead of offering multi-disc sets that show an entire season of shows like "South Park" or "Friends", they have split them up into either "theme" or "best of" sets that require the viewer to purchase several single discs instead of the less-expensive route of a multi-disc package. The fact that HBO ("Sopranos", "Sex and the City"), Fox ("Simpsons", "X-Files") and Artisan ("Twin Peaks") have done a fine job with their television DVD releases would make one think that more pressure would be on Warner Brothers to straighten out their efforts in regards to their television product, but that doesn't seem to be the case.



Unfortunately, things continue as they start to release "Babylon 5". Although I was never a fan of the series or really watched it very much, I found the sci-fi show's efforts enjoyable with this two-episode sampler. The strange part - these aren't two episodes from one season or really close together. One ("The Gathering") is the pilot from 1993. The other, "In the Begining", is from four years later. While die-hard fans of the series will likely understand some connection between the two episodes, as someone who really never watched this show very much, I was a bit lost.



While neither of the shows really converted me into a fan of the series ("In The Begining" was more entertaining), I can certainly appreciate why fans valued this show so much. The stories are complex and interesting, the CG work, while not theatrical level, is certainly high-quality and the acting is uniformly solid.



Unfortunately, the DVD is dissapointing. Aside from the irritating fact of no additional extras or other supplements to explain the show's history to a viewer like me who wasn't entirely familar, the audio/video quality is dissapointing and probably isn't a great deal better than the laserdiscs of the show that were released years ago. Yet, this release will be judged by its sales figures and, if it doesn't sell well, it's doubtful that any other releases (whether improved or similar to this one) will be put out.




The DVD



VIDEO: "In The Begining" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; "The Gathering" is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. Dissapointingly, neither look particularly stellar. Sharpness and detail are generally okay, but there are scenes throughout both presentations that look noticably a bit soft and occasionally even blurry. Some of the darker/low-lit moments of "In The Begining" look almost completely undefined.



Slight softness isn't the only problem that I ran into while viewing - there are some instances of noticable pixelation in the backgrounds, as well as some light-to-moderate grain and even a few minor specks at times. Thankfully, at least the picture remained free of edge enhancement or any other problems, but the flaws that were present did definitely cause some concerns and irritation.



Colors looked crisp and cool, although they seemed to vary at times, as did fleshtones, which looked accurate and natural at times and off at others. This is a very average presentation that will likely dissapoint fans of the show.



SOUND: The audio is nothing to get worked up about, either. "Babylon 5" is a perfect choice for remixing into Dolby Digital 5.1, but it seems as if the studio didn't care to take the time to do so, while Paramount even has remixed the old episodes of "Star Trek" for 5.1 audio. The audio really remains rather lackluster on both episodes, with little power or force to the action scenes and dialogue that sounds a bit muffled at times.



MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.



EXTRAS: Apparently, there have been specials about the series and other additional programs devoted to "B5". None of those turn up on this edition - the only thing that viewers are offered are cast and crew bios.



Final Thoughts: It's a bit obvious that this was a rushed release to see how well this series would sell on DVD before the studio would release more (whether or not that will happen is still unknown). It should have been obvious from the kind of demand that has been written about on the internet in many places that fans would want to see a nicely packaged edition of this series on DVD. The sales results (which are reportedly quite solid) for this release makes the demand obvious, but dissatisfaction from consumers will likely be heard. I'd recommend this to fans who can find this at a low price, but they should definitely go in with low expectations.


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