Saturday, December 16, 2006

Babylon 5 - 'Infection' (1x04)

I've heard this is the worst episode of the entire series, which is encouraging on one level because it's not that bad, however, it's still far from good. I do think this is a better episode than 'Soul Taker,' so if that's the all time worst episode, it'll be good for the show's future.

My major problem with the show so far is with the pacing and acting. It is over ten years old, so there's going to be a gap between this and something like Battlestar, but still, the intensity just isn't there. Scenes take longer to unfold than they should and I feel like every episode is about a half hour of story stretched out to fill 45 minutes.

The lackluster acting also contributes to the lack of intensity. There's not as much egregiously bad performance as in the pilot, but the actors don't seem engaged in their roles. Watching Buffy, there were some similar jitters in the first season, but the core four were great actors and helped sell some pretty bad storylines. Here, everyone seems to be reading off cue cards, there's no real emotional depth.

More than any other show, this reminds me of the early days of The X-Files, a show that started around the same time and had some similarly ridiculous episodes in its first season. The thing that made the really bad episodes of that show work was the chemistry between Mulder and Scully, and this show doesn't have an anchor like that.

I'm still intrigued by a lot of the stuff floating around the outskirts, the scene between Garibaldi and Sinclair, talking about their time on Earth Force, was really well done and sets up some potentially interesting stories down the road. That was a moment that could have been truly great, but got bogged down a bit in cliche. I wanted the emotional beats to be more raw, but the characters don't feel real enough for that. The show's very static, restrained shooting style doesn't give us access to the characters' emotions in the same way that Battlestar Galactica's hectic verite does. These people act like they're on sets, putting on a show. The BSG characters do their own thing and the camera struggles to catch up and find those moments of weakness when they're alone.

More generally, I'm hoping that there's not too many more of these random alien shows up and kills people episodes. Considering the show's set on a space station, there's bound to be some of them, but this episode didn't do much that wasn't already done in 'Soul Taker.'

So, if this is the worst of it, I'm glad to be through, and hopefully things will pick up soon. The show is definitely stronger when Londo and G'Kar are on, they have a lot more will and emotion, an energy that the human characters just aren't bringing. Hopefully they'll turn up in the next episode, and hopefully it'll be better.

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