There are some great shows and movies beginning with B, but as my all time favorite SciFy show was Babylon 5, that’s my topic for today. I have never seen it aired after the original showing, but it is available on DVD and is also now on Amazon Prime Video.
Being avid science fiction fans, we watched the entire show as it aired. The first episodes were… a bit rough, but most sci-fi shows are at first. We stuck with it and were richly rewarded with excellent entertainment. One of the things that makes it stand out above other shows is that it was planned from the very beginning to be a five-year story arc, and so the seeds for later plot developments are scattered throughout the show from the very first episode.
The show begins by introducing us to the space station Babylon 5, which was constructed by Earth to serve as a place where humans and aliens could talk out their differences, and thereby hopefully avoid any more wars caused by accident or misunderstanding. The Universe, however, is capricious, and in that respect, the station ultimately fails. It becomes instead a base from which several races work together to fight an ancient enemy that is encouraging wars and chaos throughout the known universe.
There were many ways in which this series differed from previous shows. For one thing, most science fiction has good races and bad races, but in Babylon 5, some of the best people were from races that, it is later discovered, are fighting for the other side. There is an awful lot of grey in Babylon 5, much like in real life.
Character development was another area where the show excelled. Never before have I seen characters develop so much, while always remaining entirely believable. Andreus Katsulas, who played G’Kar, was clearly outstanding in this series. Yes, he had a very good career otherwise, but in my mind, this was his opus. Being an alien in extensive makeup allows an actor to do things outside the normal range of behavior, and Andreus capitalized on that. What would otherwise seem overacting can become transformative, and he beautifully used his voice to portray a vast range of emotions.
The music, created by Christopher Frankie, was also outstanding. There were instances in which, while the action and special effects were in and of themselves excellent, the soundtrack would evoke tears. The episode Severed Dreams was particularly well done.
Sadly, the show seemed always in danger of being cancelled, particularly towards then end of the fourth season, and so the plot was altered to ensure adequate closure with the season finale. The fifth season, therefore, had a different feel than the previous seasons. Some people skip rewatching the fifth season, but there was still some pretty good story development in it.
Another unfortunate issue is that the cast of Babylon 5 seems somehow cursed. Many of the main and supporting actors have died since filming ended. In later additions to the story, some of those characters are referred to as having ‘passed beyond the rim’, leaving normal, known space for whatever lies beyond.
Writing this, I’m feeling the urge yet again, to re-watch the series. I miss the characters.
You can watch Babylon 5 on Prime (US only at the moment!) by starting here.
If you’ve not got Prime, why not sign up for Prime now?
Tomorrow, we’re covering C for Caprica