A He Said/She Said Debate
SHE SAID: No Compromise?
It was most illuminating watching a good Voyager episode and a merely OK B5 episode on the same evening. There's no escaping the fact that B5 is a better-constructed show; it has purpose, it has consistent ideology, it has a well-plotted story arc. But the dialogue borders on execrable.
I have finally realized why I don't like Sheridan and have never completely trusted him, despite Boxleitner's affable personality: it's because his dialogue is so pompous, he always sounds insincere. He sounds artificial telling stories to Delenn, he sounds like a cheap politician pontificating to his old associates. Ditto the new captain, whose opening scene was so bad I almost didn't notice that I really like her. She had all that awful cliched "we've gotta get this place running efficiently" dialogue, without one clever, witty, or original line. I don't really think Straczynski meant for us to think of her as a stupid automaton, so I am really hoping she starts getting better things to say. Seven of Nine on Voyager sounds less like a stereotypical broad with an attitude, and she's half-Borg. Since she's already got the bun, I am really hoping that she turns into Captain Janeway a la Voyager's first season instead. And I hope they give Delenn something to do besides being Sheridan's girlfriend.
That the terrorist talked like a pompous windbag was only to be expected: ideological political nuts are supposed to talk like that, right? But he didn't sound particularly more full of himself than Sheridan's speech insisting on mingling with the common folk, the end result being that the President sounded a little loony. The writers have got to tone down the pontificating, and Boxleitner could take a lesson from Bob Picardo, who gets to pontificate all the time yet comes across as hysterically funny, dryly aware of his own ironies.
HE SAID: Never Negotiate
I don't think it's a good idea to have Boxleitner imitate anything from Voyager, period, but especially the Holographic Doctor's tone. It's perfect for the Doctor, who is a dryly funny character and the best thing about that train wreck of a Star Trek series, but you don't make fun of serious matters like war, revolution, betrayal and death without cheapening those things to the point of absurdity. See recent outings of both Trek series for examples.
Having said that, I'll concede that Straczynski's dialogue is not often very original, and that there are many clever ways to say, "We're going to kill you now," that he does not make full use of. Babylon 5 is primarily plot-driven, in that the fact that we're going to kill you now, for example, is much more important than how it's phrased, or even filmed. For all the phantasmagoria of the space battles, CGI forces them to be much too quick and kaleidoscopic to have the visceral impact, of, say, the dogfights in Star Wars. Those X-Wings and TiE fighters mixing it up are just as much fun to watch the tenth time, when you KNOW the good guys are going to win. In B5 you're waiting to see who's going to win, and who's going to die, so the actual process of the battles is almost incidental.
Will this detract from B5's re-watchability? Probably, to some degree. But then again, who (stipulating that they're not required to by their employers) will ever voluntarily watch a Voyager episode twice?
This column was originally written for AnotherUniverse.com.
Babylon 5 Reviews