Under appreciation is never fun, you’ve felt it, I’ve felt it, everyone on earth at one point has felt what it’s like to be unappreciated or not appreciated at all. A husband not noticing your new haircut, your teacher not caring you went the extra mile on a project, your children just assuming that you’re made of money and every cent you have is supposed to be spent on them without so much as a thank you sent your way, it’s a miserable feeling, which is exactly why I want to bring attention to some of the more under appreciated and unrecognized content in nerd culture starting with Babylon 5.
Babylon 5, thought of and dismissed by a number of sci fi fans at first glance as a Deep Space 9 ripoff is so much more than your typical science fiction fare, and so much more than a clone of Star Trek. When you watch B5, there are similarities to other sci fi, interstellar travel, wonderous new planets to explore fascinating new species to encounter, characters with deep, rich histories, backstories and motivations, but that’s about where the similarities end.
B5 is a much different beast than other sci fi, especially compared to something like Star Trek. Trek, wonderful as it is tends to lean heavily on the old trope of something goes horribly wrong, things get worse, then magically a solution to the problem is found, the day is saved, everyone gets home and the cycle repeats. This formulaic approach, while time tested can lead to episodes feeling outdated, out of place and downright unnecessary, something that never happens in Babylon 5. There are dozens of episodes of the various Star Trek series that can be skipped entirely because they don’t contribute anything to the main plot or storyline, in Babylon 5, every single episode is key because of the level of foreshadowing and the amount of detail that’s packed into every single episode. Whether it be environmental storytelling, dialogue between characters, text that appears on computer screens, audio diaries that play when it’s least expected and more, every single part of B5 goes into building up its characters and the world they inhabit, bit by bit until things finally reach a fever pitch. This is done so well because of the deliberate and quality nature of the writing, Babylon 5’s universe feels lived in and populated by its diverse cast of characters compared to other sci fi series that feel like they only have characters and species pop up purely for the sake of continuing the show.
As you watch you get a feeling for the tension between the Narn and the Centauri, you learn about the conflict between the humans and the Minbari, and you watch each species essentially tap dance on a razor’s edge around the other. Learning how to avoid conflict, strife and unrest of both the political and civil kinds. You learn the pride the Minbari people have in their history and heritages, you learn about how the Narn are a deeply spiritual people that value enlightenment above all else, you learn about the technological superiority of the Vorlons and see clearly how deeply flawed the Centauri Republic is. That deep kind of character development of all the different species is what makes Babylon so special, in sci fi you get used to forgetting the names of different species and races because they’re a dime a dozen, the next group you see will look exactly like the last, save for small, minute differences and they don’t contribute much, if anything to the overall plot. In Babylon 5, every species has a distinct role to play.
Babylon 5 is a show that’s deeply unappreciated and passed off by a number of people as nothing more than a clone of Deep Space 9 because they came out in the same era, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Babylon 5 created its own universe, its own cast of characters, its own history, its own lore and carved out its own niche in an increasingly crowded science fiction television landscape that’s constantly getting populated by more and more shows vying for your attention. The writing is consistently excellent, the cast of characters is memorable, the story is one of the best ever told in sci fi and its consistent, deliberate nature ensures that once you’re invested, you’ll stay invested, the time you spend with Babylon 5 will be rewarded with a deep, engrossing experience that you just won’t be able to find anywhere else.