Friday, December 22, 2023


The 1993-1998 science fiction drama Babylon 5 franchise hit a milestone earlier this year, marking the 30th Anniversary of the pilot movie "The Gathering" that aired on February 22, 1993. The series itself will turn the big 30 on January 26, 1994. In celebration, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. released Babylon 5: The Complete Series ($99.99 SRP USA / $119.99 SRP Canada) for the first time on a *21-disc Blu-ray set, featuring all 110 fully remastered episodes and the feature-length pilot The Gathering. (* Paid Link)

Let's fast forward to February 1993: I was an eleven-year-old who grew up watching reruns of the original Star Trek, the films, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The second spinoff, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, just premiered the month before to mixed reviews, though I still liked it. I heard from the grapevine—the TV Guide—about a pilot movie for a potential new science fiction series called Babylon 5. Being the nerd I was, I was excited to watch it on KSMO-TV, and if I remember correctly, the pilot aired on a Saturday afternoon. I didn't love or hate what I saw; it was different. Many things happened in 1993, including the great flood that impacted the county I grew up in. The X-Files and the short-loved science fiction western The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. premiered that fall; by the time the first season of Babylon 5 premiered in January 1994, I had forgotten about The Gathering.

Babylon 5 aired at weird times in my neck of the woods; typically, on Saturday afternoons, late at night, or early Sunday mornings. I was more of a casual viewer who caught a full episode here and there but saw a lot of endings waiting for another program or movie to start. I vividly remember the episode TV spots, where I got the gist of the series. I didn't become a fan of the series until it moved to TNT for its final season, not to mention the four movies, In the Beginning, Thirdspace, The River of Souls, and A Call to Arms, and the short-lived spinoff, Crusade—which aren't on the Blu-ray set.

There are no special features or bonus extras on the Blu-ray set except for the last disc, which contains the trailer for the 2023 animated movie Babylon 5: The Road Home and the pilot movie, The Gathering, or more specifically, the TNT "special edition." The movie is the "stretched" widescreen version, not digitally remastered, and similar in picture quality to the old DVD release.

The five-season series underwent a digital remastering in 2020, which included returning to the original 4:3 aspect ratio, repairing the damage to the CGI scenes, and restoring the original picture quality. The negatives were scanned in ultra-HD resolution and down-converted to HD, and the CGI was simultaneously enhanced to HD using upscaling techniques.

The Blu-ray video quality is likely to be the best we'll ever see from Babylon 5. The effects don't appear overly dated or primitive despite the use of older CGI; ultimately, the series' overarching storylines matter more than the effects themselves. There's nothing new about the slipcover and jacket artwork—it's the same as the artwork from the last "complete series" DVD release. The Blu-ray plastic case is mediocre; it's on the cheap side, but none of the discs were dislodged.

The only real complaints I have about the set are the missing four made-for-TV movies—In the Beginning, Thirdspace, The River of Souls, and A Call to Arms—and The Lost Tales. I have no idea why they weren't included in the set unless there were rights issues or problems with the archive copies. Let's not forget about the failed pilot spinoff movie The Legend of the Rangers and the short-lived spinoff Crusade; keep your fingers crossed that all these will get Blu-ray releases in the future.

There are two types of Babylon 5 fans: those who love the show and those who have never heard of it. While Babylon 5's first season is a little problematic, most science fiction shows from the 1990s get better by the second season. Longtime fans should undoubtedly return to Babylon 5, and new viewers should give it a chance. ╌★★★★✰

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite TV show of all time. I had to get this set despite having all the DVDs. And I really should make sure that the two discs that were dislodged in my set (both from season 5) will play fine here pretty soon, shouldn't I?


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