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Zeke 04-02-2014 03:35 AM

Babylon 5: Woo-hoo or Spoo?
Let's talk sci-fi in the sci-fi forum for once! The topic of Babylon 5 recently came up in the quote thread, and this happens to be the show's 20th anniversary year (not counting the pilot movie, which in many ways is B5's "The Cage").

In its day, B5 was the cause of more fights between sci-fi fans than Enterprise vs. Star Destroyer. Practically from the first episode, B5 had a fandom that just lost its mind over the quality of the show, especially how much better than Star Trek it was. (This got interesting when, roughly halfway through Season 2, they started to have a point.) Setting aside the quality debate, B5 was also a challenge to many of the things Trek represented. It favoured a murky future for humanity over an optimistic one; elaborately made-up aliens over mostly-human ones; a meticulously planned-out storyline over one that grew and changed each season; a single creator over a creative team.

By the end of the series, love it or hate it, there was no denying B5's uniqueness. It was something we hadn't seen in multi-year sci-fi projects before and haven't really seen on the same scale since. (In fact, forget genre -- I don't think the experiment of planning a TV show this far ahead has ever been repeated. JMS pulled it off, but in doing so he demonstrated how incredibly hard it was. He had to replace his main character!) So complete-unto-itself is B5 that no attempt to continue the franchise has even come close to working.

Personally, I love B5. When Space started carrying the reruns, I came in in late Season 2, and I was gripped right through the end of S4 (and loosely held for S5). I've since seen a few of the earlier episodes, and someday I'll go back and watch it all, but honestly, I think my accidental approach may be the best one. A lot of people report difficulty getting into Season 1; it's widely considered the weakest, and universally the most unpolished season. The meat of B5 is the third and fourth seasons. Getting dumped in at that point is like sitting down to watch Star Wars or read LotR for the first time, picking up the details as you go.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think it's better than Trek. (That attitude, in fact, was my first encounter with basher mentality. I've seen it a hundred times since then with every non-Trek sci-fi to come down the pike.) I could spend hours talking about the series' weaknesses and decisions I didn't like. But that's the mark of a good show -- I'm invested enough to do that. B5 is an amazing work, a trend-setter in many ways and still one-of-a-kind in others. I'll always consider it a favourite.

Who else has watched B5? What say you?

Sa'ar Chasm 04-02-2014 03:55 PM

I like B5, and I like Trek, both for their own reasons. I don't really care if one was better than the other, I enjoy them both.

B5 was hobbled by an abysmal budget and absolutely no network support. The acting was fantastic, though, which made up for a lot of the other shortcomings. For B5 to succeed under those conditions was nothing short of a miracle.

Every show sucks in its first season. That's what the first season is for, to get the suck out. If I go back and reread my first fivers (or rewatch my first videos), I cringe because they're so unpolished compared to my later efforts.

Nate the Great 04-02-2014 05:11 PM

I wanted to like it, I really did, and I'll admit that some of the characters were good, but I won't be returning to this one anytime soon. I like overarching plots, but not when they require absolute sequential viewing.

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