Archive for the ‘Babylon 5’ Category


Babylon 5

April 9, 2009

Babylon 5
"The Babylon Project was man’s last, best hope for peace.

It failed."


"But, in the year of the [spoiler] War it became something greater. Man’s last, best hope for victory"

That was the intro to season three of Babylon 5, with ominous sound effects emulated by me.

Babylon 5 is a sci-fi series from the nineties, and aired about the same time as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was the brainchild of J. Michael Straczynski (aka JMS to those not wishing to risk their sanity pronouncing his surname. Weaklings), and over 90% of the entire series was written by him. It was because of this that the series’ biggest asset was able to work.

Compare Babylon 5 to a series like Star Trek and almost immediately you’ll notice the difference. While Star Trek operates on stories enclosed within an episode, Babylon 5 is an example of a myth arc, with continuity from episode to episode and a larger story encompassing the entire series. In a sense, this makes it comparable to modern shows like Lost in that it was able to set up mysteries to be solved weeks or even years later (one of my favourite examples of this is the double-episode dealing with Babylon 4 – 60 episodes after Babylon 4 was mentioned), except of course that JMS planned out the entire five years before starting the show.

The premise of the series is that in the 2250’s mankind is making its way in space, and has come into contact with a number of alien races. Then they learn about the Minbari, and in an attempt to make contact bad things happen and a Minbari dignitary is killed. The Minbari freak out and send their entire war fleet to Earth. Earth is no match (in fact a total of 1 Minbari ship larger than a fighter is destroyed in the entire battle) and the Minbari are within minutes of completely conquering Earth. Then, inexplicably, they leave. All of them.

So Earth decides to start the Babylon Project – space stations in neutral regions where diplomats from the five major races, as well as all the smaller races, can get together and work things out. The first three Babylon stations have problems and are destroyed or whatever, and the fourth just disappears. So by the time the fifth gets up and running, its a little bit of a joke.

The series pilot details the arrival of the fifth ambassador, the others already being on the station. Representing Earth is Babylon 5’s captain, Jeffrey Sinclair (Initials identical to the creator’s), and in later years its John ‘Starkiller’Nuke em’ Sheridan (again, initials). From the Minbari comes Delenn, a timid little woman from the religious caste of her race. The Centauri Republic sends Londo Mollari (one of my favourite characters), who has had dealings with Earth in the past. The Narn have G’kar, who despises Londo because of their races’ troubled past. And finally, the mysterious Vorlon Kosh, whose race has never been seen outside their ‘encounter suits’.

Other important characters include; Susan Ivanova, the Captain’s second-in-command, Michael Garibaldi, the paranoid Chief of Security who loves the Looney Tunes (the guy has a Daffy Duck poster above his bed!), Stephen Franklin, the chief doctor, Vir, Londo’s assistant, Lyta Alexander, the station’s telepath and Mr. Morden, another favourite and a sinister fellow indeed.

Oh, and the Psi Cop Alfred Bester. Played by Walter Koenig (Star Trek’s Chekov), Bester is one of the best villains on TV. Such an insidious grin has not been seen in years.

The first year of the series is probably the least story intensive, as it is building up the background and is composed mostly of those sort of ‘this week’ type episodes. This doesn’t mean its bad, just that by the time we get Captain Sheridan we’re about ready to start working out some of those mysteries, and the main plot doesn’t really start advancing until this time either. Trying not to give too much away, but by the time you get to season three and four, there are space battles near every episode and it is quite awesome.

Also, one more thing about this series is the incredible side plot, involving Londo and G’kar and their races’ actions throughout later seasons. For the most part, this plot is kept seperate from the main story as the Babylon 5 crew are busy with some rather large problems of their own. JMS does some clever stuff with this plot, including a nice use of prophecy.

Finally, there is one point in the series where if you don’t cry, you are a heartless monster. I didn’t, but I was close.

So yeah, watch it. It’s good. A true science fiction epic.