Thursday, October 10, 2013

All alone in the night, and the toy shelves.

Although it seems like the sort of thing I'd watch from the get-go, I didn't catch Babylon 5 until, I think, well into the third season or so. Which was fine: I'm pretty sure the earlier episodes were being rerun at the time, so I could catch up. I know I liked the Shadow War storyline quite a bit, but then I moved midway through the fifth and final season, and wouldn't see the rest of the series for some years. I haven't seen the six (made for TV) films either, although I may still have a CD soundtrack for Thirdspace. (From a store I worked at that went under, and I'm a terrible packrat, OK?) I liked the spin-off Crusade although I think it was dead before I even got to see it; and I think I've read perhaps four Babylon 5 comics.

So of course I should get some Babylon 5 figures. From 1997 and WB Toys, just picked up Commander Susan Ivanova and Marcus Cole.

For whatever reason, I recall B5 as being a very plot-driven show; with more intrigue and alliances and backstabbing than its Star Trek counterpoint, Deep Space 9. (And I love DS9!) I haven't seen it in ages, so I'm not sure if it has aged well at all; and I seem to recall series creator J. Michael Straczynski--who wrote most of the episodes, including the entire third season--didn't get the best of treatment from Warner Brothers, which owns the rights. Which then seemed somewhat problematic, when Straczynski went to work again for WB on Before Watchmen and said Alan Moore shouldn't complain.

Commander Susan Ivanova (played by Claudia Christian) was the second-in-command of the Babylon 5 station, for the four years she was on the show. She was snarky, fatalistic, Russian, and had terrible luck dating. Marcus Cole (played by Jason Carter) was a Ranger, which was originally a Minbari warrior group that expanded to other races during their war with the alien Shadows. Cole sacrificed himself, using an alien execution machine to transfer his life-force to the dying Ivanova: somewhat problematically, Christian said she wasn't notified in time or asked to come back and didn't appear in the fifth and final season; so the show lost two regulars for the price of one. (Christian did appear in the final episode, but only because "Sleeping in Light" was filmed earlier, then pushed back.)

We are talking more about the source material and whatnot, than the figures themselves, aren't we? Partly because the figures haven't aged well, yeah. Minimal articulation. Soft-if-passable sculpts and paint. No accessories--for the figures to use, at any rate. Ivanova has a sculpted holster and pistol that is both unremovable and doesn't seem situated right for her to draw it. So they aren't great figures, but to be fair how many figures from the 90's really still hold up? OK, don't make a list or anything.

Still, even though I knew the figures themselves weren't going to be great, I still wanted them for their pack-ins. The first couple of series of Babylon 5 figures each came with a ship: Captain Sheridan came with the titular space station, for example. The last wave came with patches instead, and I'm not sure if they were as popular; but some figures came with rather nondescript and unmemorable ships, while cooler ones were missed. Ivanova came with the Starfury, the X-Wing fighter looking ships. They are pretty cool, although in early episodes they went to great lengths to have them fly in zero gravity somewhat realistically; I believe TV Tropes points out eventually the Furies zip around like an X-Wing or Viper or similar space fighter. I'm pretty sure this Starfury is bigger than the Micro Machines one as well, since it's bigger than the MM X-Wing there.

Marcus came with the White Star--or a White Star, since it was a class of ships rather than a singular model. I misremembered them as being built with human and Minbari technology; they were Minbari and Vorlon, the most advanced of the aliens in the series. Maybe the humans put in a tape deck or something. The White Star first appeared in the episode "Matters of Honor," the first of the third season, aired November 6, 1995. Somewhat coincidentally, on Deep Space 9's third season premiere, "The Search," the Defiant is introduced: both B5 and DS9 had been about space stations, and both were adding ships to open up locations.

For little reason other than superficial similarities, the White Star reminds me of the Andromeda Ascendant from Andromeda--a show I remember more fondly than Babylon 5, even though I'm positive it wasn't as good. (I think Andromeda may have squandered more potential, really.) But I would've loved to get six-inch (or so) figures from that show, if they had come with ships. Or if the Farscape figures had come with ships! Or the Battlestar: Galactica ones. I can't think of any other lines that came with a figure and a miniature ship like this one, but it's an idea I wouldn't mind seeing come back.

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