In the past several months we have all been cooped up (thank you COVID) and finding new and creative ways to, somewhat entertain ourselves. But there is one activity that has been constant since streaming services have become more widely available to all of us. A lot of the people I work with have given light to several series’ that have been the highlight to pop-culture in the last decade, GoT for example. But, when I look back at some of the series that I used to watch, and haven’t for a very long time, I turned my attention to a series that I have not seen in a very in well over 15 years. In this piece I wish to talk about Babylon 5. Why? Some may say it went from good to trash, others may say that its too dated, and while I would agree with the latter because it is after all from the 1990’s, I have to say that some of the narrative applies today even more so than it did at its time.
Babylon 5 started as a low budget show with low expectations that created a fan base overnight, much like Firefly. But what B5 offered at the time was much more captivating then its competitor from Paramount Star Trek: The Next Generation. While Paramount was busy offering random stories of the Enterprise D, they weren’t really doing anything new aside from continuing on 75 years after Star Trek The Original Series, and after the movie Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. That is where J. Michael Staczynski came on the scene with Warner Brother’s. What does it offer that other Sci-Fi of the time didn’t? One simple word, continuity. It starts off with random stories but only in a way to build character development, one thing that takes a lot of time that even movies can’t really touch, and I mean in an intimate manner (no you perverts, not in a pornographic sense!). In season 2, we are introduced to a new Captain of the station, and something happens to the old Commander, Commander Sinclair that later puts more depth into the story line that builds into a nasty, and epic war, even for the 90’s.
I just recently watched a small vlog about giving the case for the show to be rebooted, much like a few others, and it laid out a good point. For all of you Mass Effect fans out there, it highlighted its roots from the game and related it with B5. An ancient enemy coming out from hiding, a great war with all the different races coming together to band against a common enemy, unity, much of what you need with a good story. In B5 we see that, with a
soft-core version of Game of Thrones with one of the races called the Centauri Republic, one of the main races in the series. Well, that’s what happens in the first portion of the series, a build up of the coming Shadow War, how the ancient enemy was defeated by a couple of the main races in the series, and how they seem mysterious and a little horrifying for what the 1990’s produced back then. For example, the scream of a Shadow ship that rocks the characters, and maybe you as the viewer depending on your tolerance to Sci-Fi horror.
Coming back on continuity, the show offers a week by week episode instead of what we saw out of Star Trek: TNG, and the episodes leave you hanging for what might be in the next episode, and even the next season. Unfortunately, the last season is where B5 kind of goes downside in much of the B5 fandom’s view. In my view, it was most likely a combination of the writers running out of ideas, and Warner Bro’s putting no real time and effort into the series after TNT took on the broadcasting responsibility. I do have to say though, it really gave a new flavor to Sci-Fi that wasn’t really offered at the time. It won several awards, of which I am not sure at this time but, it created a new fan base that categorize the show as a TV “space opera”. In conclusion, I would give it a chance and remember that much like every other show, the first season is a little slow but that is because as I stated before, the writers take their time with character development that leaves you wondering about all the different ambassadors of all the races.