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Babylon 5

Posted on 2009.12.29 at 14:36
Current Location: 75409
Current Music: Franke: Alone in the Dark - The Babylon Project

Across the bridge which spans U.S. Highway 75 Central Expressway connecting the Southeast corner of Anna, Texas with the Southern City Limits my wife and I have met our mirror selves. As one would expect therefore, they have a DVD collection as extensive as ours with one distinct difference: Its *all* sci-fi. Identifying a hole in their collection, we loaned them Stargate: Atlantis and they loaned us the expansive Babylon 5 anthonlogy in which we immersed ourselves in their rich universe over the past three weeks. This is my report.

Anytime you surround yourself so completely within a cosmos you do not emerge unchanged. Given the 110 episodes, seven movies, and half season of a spin-off series in such a short period of time, my subconscious was inundated with images and machinations of various races at the political level, and it permeated every aspect of my sedate month-long hermitage.

At first, I was put off by its uncanny similarity to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the jarring computer graphics which made my molars ache. I'm not kidding - the graphics were so tangibly painful, it distracted me from the story - which was just as well, as the first several episodes were as goofy as the first season of Torchwood and we all know how *that* turned out. Soon enough though, the plot took root and the characters began coming to life in a very real way.

Despite the errant future-gadgetry which forked an altogether different direction in real life (they're still passing around the equivalent to floppy discs in the 23rd century for data retrieval) the political storylines are just as relevant to the current administration despite its age, and the socioeconomic challenges the various races encountered are also just as present today. Part of what made this series so watchable was its timelessness. Only the special effects were dated, not the story.

Had I to do it all over, this is how I would've watched the collection to maintain consistency within the timeline while bypassing spoilers:

  • "The Gathering"

  • Season 1-3

  • Season 4, Episodes 1-6

    • "Thidspace"

  • Season 4, Episodes 7-22

    • "In the Beginning"

  • Season 5, Episodes 1-21

    • "River of Souls"

    • "A Call to Arms"

      • Crusade (Spin-off series)

    • "The Lost Tales"

  • Season 5, Episode 22

A comprehensive detailing of the score can be found here, "And so it begins..." (Liner notes contain spoilers). From the entry: "Babylon 5 may be the television series best represented on CD, with no less than thirty-one discs devoted to it."

If you like the rinse-wash-repeat everyplot of say...House, MD this series might not be for you. Each episode was unique, each distinct story arc seamlessly presented, and nothing rushed - its like curling up with a novel, every episode just another chapter in a larger book.


Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2009-12-29 22:18 (UTC) (Link)
You may pooh pooh House all you want, but it's amazing how often that show and its cast have come up for award after award and is alive and well in the middle of the sixth season.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-12-30 02:31 (UTC) (Link)
Obama just got the Nobel prize for doing absolutely NOTHING. Your logic is flawed.

Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2009-12-30 18:34 (UTC) (Link)
You make a damned good point.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-12-30 20:05 (UTC) (Link)
I usually do!!!
ehowton at 2009-12-30 04:16 (UTC) (Link)
You're right! One might even go so far as to suggest its popular. Remember when you were stupid and hated anything that was popular because "people are stupid" and if "people" liked something it must be stupid too, so you shunned it? Re: http://ehowton.livejournal.com/141152.html

Good times.
dawaioser at 2009-12-30 01:58 (UTC) (Link)
Great stuff! I was addicted to "Babylon 5" and "Farscape".
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-12-30 02:25 (UTC) (Link)
Farscape is far better than Babylon 5!!!
ehowton at 2009-12-30 04:19 (UTC) (Link)
We picked up the first season at Half-Price Books. Looking forward to watching it mostly because the last four seasons of SG-1 were my favorite.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-12-30 04:25 (UTC) (Link)
I love Claudia Black!!!
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-12-30 20:08 (UTC) (Link)
Than you should recognize the woman in your avatar from Stargate SG-1.
ehowton at 2009-12-30 04:17 (UTC) (Link)
We bought the first season of Farscape at Half-Price Books but had to stop watching Supernatural to watch Babylon 5 so...we're going to finish that first ;)
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-12-30 15:09 (UTC) (Link)
I would mention that chronologically "In the Beginning" (the framing story with Londo and the children that ties into the sequence from "War Without End") would actually fall after Crusade and before The Lost Tales.

While I did notice the similarities to Deep Space Nine on the outset, I did see the program veering into territory that Star Trek generally wouldn't have gone into at the time, such as the episodes "Believers" and "Confessions and Lamentations" (Deep Space Nine would soon push the limits of what Star Trek would address with such episodes such as "Rocks and Shoals").

I also have to mention that the characters of Londo and G'Kar are fantastic to watch as they evolve over the course of the series. G'Kar's evolution from the resident scumbag into a spiritual leader is fascinating to watch because it comes through as so believable in context (the scenes where he is attempting to contact people on the Narn homeworld after the Centauri bombed them back to the stone age were not only heartbreaking because of his helplessness, but brought back uncomfortable memories of a similar experience I had about eight years ago).

I forgot to mention another of the series shining moments: the episode in which Brad Dourif guest starred. Great performance and great use of the science fiction genre to explore really interesting moral questions.

Edited at 2009-12-30 03:17 pm (UTC)
ehowton at 2009-12-30 19:13 (UTC) (Link)
"In the Beginning"
Agreed - but nothing is given away because those arcs are already closed, and we'd already seen a (at the time) possible-future Londo so I thought it would have been nice while I was watching the entire collection to have heard the full story of the Battle of the Line at that point. I was just trying to find the most well-balanced place to put it, as you're correct about its order.

Deep Space Nine
In that respect there were several cues (which escape me now) in which I thought, "...so that's where BSG got that idea," especially given the conflict we saw in many of the characters.

Londo and G'Kar
Their relationship - throughout it all, everything - filled with so much promise, and lessons. Lessons for us, as viewers to digest, lest we be doomed to repeat them. I missed their perspectives in the majority of the follow-up movies.

Brad Dourif
In watching as many television shows as my wife and I do, we love seeing the character actors come out and fill different roles. "Passing Through Gethsemane" (coupled with "The Quality of Mercy") were marvelous episodes - especially Sheridan's reaction to the man who killed Brad Dourif after he'd been altered - that scene immediately reminded me of the Season 4 Voyager episode "Nemesis." Easy to sit and watch. Harder still to practice.

I've been listening to Alone in the Night often and it really is all-encompassing. A must-have companion to the Babylon 5 universe.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2009-12-31 12:27 (UTC) (Link)
I thank you for the complement on Alone on the Night. It was indeed my intention to try to make something that encompassed the musical language Christopher Franke created for the series that made a decent listening experience on its own. After I had assembled it, I realized that the music was sort of a "missing link" between the Berlin synth scene (Franke was in Tangerine Dream) and the sort of soundscape that Hans Zimmer has developed, sort of evolving parallel to the Media Ventures/Remote Control sound which was beginning to be popularized in movie theaters at the time.
ehowton at 2009-12-31 22:29 (UTC) (Link)
I see it as sweeping anthology - a medley of sorts encompassing the mood of the series as a whole, from start to finish. With it alone I can relive all the excitement, horror, pride, and pain in a mere eighty-one minutes.

Every so often you create a mix which plays so effortlessly from start to finish I'm shocked that nearly an hour and a half has passed. This is one of those scores, but I didn't know it until I'd seen the series. Now I will never forget it.
Lelf Treperra
ubet_cha at 2009-12-31 16:06 (UTC) (Link)
Repeating the chorus. I loved this show and FarScape when they were on. Looking forward to watching them again when the boys are old enough.
ehowton at 2009-12-31 22:34 (UTC) (Link)
I can't wait to watch Farscape. I've been told I'll enjoy it, though I can't imagine it being as comprehensive as B5 was. Then again, watching all that in a mere three weeks will mess you up :P
dentin at 2010-01-02 17:33 (UTC) (Link)
I started writing something up as a comment, but it quickly grew unmanageable. I put it up as a post on my journal, at http://dentin.livejournal.com.

My only real regret is that Crusade was such a miserable failure. They changed too much, and fell back to the star trek single-episode formula. The universe held a lot of potential and possible story lines, including the crusade plague quest, the drakh war, and the thirdspace war (see efni.org for discussion on the thirdspace problem.) It's a real shame IMHO that those were never explored in video form.
ehowton at 2010-01-02 18:10 (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed Crusade more than I thought I would and while the episodes did appear slightly more self-contained, it was still under the guise of following a single-story arc.

One of the things which helped make B5 entertaining to me was clear episodic conclusions along the way. Supporting stories within stories. Just in B5 they were more directly related to the arc than in Crusade.
dentin at 2010-01-03 14:39 (UTC) (Link)
I might have just been irritated at the use of the arguably pretty useless superweapon to solve every episode.
ehowton at 2010-01-03 16:45 (UTC) (Link)
Oh I'll give you that one. Coupled with the fact that for our benefit they "reminded" the Captain every time he used it that the entire ship would be without power for sixty-seconds. As if he hadn't been briefed or had forgotten this tactical ridiculous tactical point when he authorized its use. Ugh.
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