In the mid 23rd Century, the Earth Alliance space station Babylon 5, located in neutral territory, is a major focal point for political intrigue, racial tensions and various wars over the course of five years.
In the year 2258, it is ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. Commander Sinclair takes command of a giant five-mile-long cylindrical space station, orbiting a planet in neutral space. At a crossroads of interstellar commerce and diplomacy, Cmdr Sinclair (2d season Captain Sheridan) must try to establish peace and prosperity between various interstellar empires, all the while fighting forces from within the Earth Alliance. It is a precarious command, particularly given that sabotage led to the destruction of Babylon stations 1, 2, and 3 and 4 vanished without trace.Written by
Tony Lammens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Babylon 5 is the greatest science fiction show in the history of television.
A bold statement I know, especially when one considers the original series of Star Trek which is certainly the genre's most celebrated. It's true to say that Star Trek has had a much greater cultural impact and has lasted longer than any other SF show, but when watching it again, it has dated. I'm not questioning the brilliance of some early episodes - they're still well written and thought provoking - season 1 of the old series is still fantastic. However, Babylon 5 is the Star Trek for today in that it deals with issues in a modern context. Whereas ST was a bunch of cleverly disguised morality plays about 1960's issues like communism, nuclear war and racial prejudice, B5 deals with social control, economics, war, governmental corruption, social psychology and spirituality. Although the issues discussed in Star Trek haven't gone away, they're not foremost in the psyche of mr average anymore.
Alongside the fact that B5 discusses issues at the forefront, it has many other virtues. The main one is that the story continues from episode to episode - even now when I re-watch season one (just released on DVD) I can see events taking shape that will lead to major plotlines in future years. I'm not just talking about Data gradually becoming more human or Worf tussling with the dying Kilingon Empire every 7 or 8 episodes ... I'm talking about characters and plots that can be seen to be evolving each week without an obvious good guys vs bad guys scenario.
I can't remember how many times I've watched a B5 episode and had a flashback to an earlier one - the sudden realisation of the importance of an event that seemed insignificant is very satisfying. Even in the 5th series, you'll be thinking back to an episode in series 1 and feeling smug that you got it.
'Ahhhh! That's what it meant!' You'll be saying that a lot.
The characters are wonderfully fleshed out by some great actors. They're complex beings who have to deal with temptations and failings as well as triumphs and successes. Sometimes things go deeply wrong and (get this Trek Fans) IT'S NOT SORTED OUT BY THE END OF THE EPISODE!! That's right - people change realistically - everything's not reset each week! Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge Trek fan myself, but it's always irked me that everything is just so hunky dory (don't people have arguments on the enterprise?)
It's very satisfying to see a character that you've come to know and love wrestle with their morals and sometimes make the wrong choices (just like we all do.) In the end, we all knew the various crewmembers of the Enterprise would do the right thing. You can't say the same for the characters on B5 - they're fallible and thus much more interesting.
There's many other great things about the show, but for me, the story and the characters are the most important. Sure, I know it doesn't look as expensive as Star Trek and yes I know it's hard to get into because it's not a whole load of 'one shot' episodes! If you like Star Trek and consider yourself intelligent - step up to the next level and watch B5!
I guarantee that if you stick with it for a while, you'll be glad you did because the payoffs are enormous. If My girlfriend can like it - anyone can....
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