Monday, May 17, 2010

Come Monday...Babylon 5

“Come Monday…” is a weekly series that will involve a review of, or commentary about, websites, movies, documentaries, television shows, sports, music, and whatever else may tickle my fancy at the time. Be assured that these reviews will be generally positive, as in accordance to the Jimmy Buffett song “Come Monday.” This is subject to change, however. In fact, I would be most derelict in my duties to neglect going on a rant every once in a while. For rants promote change, and change can be good—right? Therefore, since good is generally considered as being a positive force in 99.3% of the parallel universes that I am aware of, even a rant could be considered as being something positive, and a genuine hissy-fit would be even better (so I’m told).

[Last week], I addressed some of the problems I am having with [Stargate Universe], and part of that involved comparisons with the earlier shows in the Stargate lineage that came before. Needless to say (if you were paying any attention last week), they are all shows that I considerate to be immensely better in a number of ways.

This week, I would like to present a review of sorts about what I consider to be one of the finest science-fiction television series ever made. In fact, I consider it to be good enough to watch over and over again, and that is really saying something. For I generally despise seeing something that I am already very familiar with, and yet, I have seen every episode of [Babylon Five] at least five times over the past ten years or so.

No, I cannot remember just exactly when I first saw an episode of the show. Neither can I remember on what channel it was broadcast, but it was on the Sci-Fi (now [Syfy]) Channel where I was able to see every episode in the proper order, which got me hooked.

Alas, does it bother you as much as it does me for re-runs of old shows being broadcast out of order? For it just ruins it for me to have a [Law & Order] marathon on [TNT] with shows from 1991 to 2008 scrambled together, but I suppose it really doesn’t matter to those with lives that allows for actually being able to leave the house on a regular basis.

Anyway, Babylon 5 is the sort of show that really does need to be watched in order. For the main characters change from time to time, and they all go through major changes—with some bouncing back and forth between good and evil intentions.

A couple of great examples of that are [Ambassador G’Kar] of the [Narn] and [Ambassador Londo Mollari] of the [Centauri]. For in the beginning, G’Kar is quite devious and the first to be suspected when something bad happens while Mollari is as gregarious and helpful as he can be, but at around the 20th episode, they do an almost complete switch in character, with G’Kar becoming more and more beloved while Mollari becomes more and more mired in the tragic consequences of his own desires to see the glory of the Centauri Empire/Republic restored.

Okay, I suppose now would be a good time to fill you in on some fairly important details about the premise of the show. For without that, none of this is going to make any sense.

Anyway, the show is about a space-station named, Babylon 5, and it is set in the years 2258-2262. Each season is meant to depict the major (and some minor) happenings in each of those years—with the exception to that being the final episode, which is set in 2282.

The first season is particularly interesting because it almost appears to be two different shows. Granted, the main theme about Babylon 5 being built to serve as neutral ground for interaction between different species is consistent, but the first two episodes look quite different in comparison to the rest to follow. For it is like they were filmed with cameras from the earliest days of Hollywood, and then much newer and better cameras were deployed.

Furthermore, [Ambassador Delenn] of the [Minbari] went through a dramatic change in appearance between the 2nd and 3rd episodes. For in the first two, she was rather hard on the eyes (to say the least), but starting with the 3rd one, she was quite attractive. Of course, after she went through her “official” transformation later on, which involved becoming much more human in appearance, she became a genuine hottie. Well, maybe not quite up there with [Commander Ivanova], but certainly enough to make many a geek drool profusely.

Anyway (again), Babylon 5 went online (as in operational) ten years after the war between the Minbari and Earth, which started when the captain of an Earth destroyer mistook the Minbari custom of opening the gun ports of their spaceships to show that they had nothing to hide when first meeting someone as an act of aggression. Subsequently, this led to the Earth destroyer firing upon the Minbari ship, which resulted in the death of their greatest leader at the time, and the Minbari went mad. The war ended suddenly with the Minbari surrendering just before annihilating the human race, and it was finally revealed that the reason why they did this was because of discovering Minbari DNA in some humans. For it was against all that they held sacred for a Minbari to kill another Minbari—including even those who were only partially Minbari.

Yeah, I know that I am doing a very poor job of presenting this, but in all fairness, it would take a large book to encompass all of the stuff going on in the series. For the reason why Ambassador Delenn went through her “official” transformation was in order to fulfill a prophecy from Valen, who was a Minbari who was not a Minbari, who led the victory over the [Shadows] a thousand years earlier, and it was revealed towards the end of the series that Valen was actually [Commander Jeffery Sinclair], who was the one in charge of Babylon 5 in the beginning of the series, who had went back in time with Babylon 4 and along the way, transformed from a full human into a partial Minbari through use of the same device that Ambassador Delenn used to go from a full Minbari to a partial human, which marked the introduction of human DNA into certain Minbari lineages. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I did run out of breath while writing that previous sentence, but in all fairness, commas were provided to mark where a breath could be taken without interrupting the flow of information.)

Somewhere around the 1/3 point of the series, [Captain John Sheridan] took over as commander of Babylon 5, and this is when things started getting really interesting. For it was also around this time that the Shadows were starting to move again, and it was for this reason that the Minbari Grey Council specifically asked for him to replace Commander Sinclair, who had been asked to take over the [Rangers], who were an elite fighting force. For Captain Sheridan was the only Earth commander who saw any success against the Minbari during the war, and the [Vorlons] considered him to be the key to any success against the Shadows this time around.

Towards the end, it was revealed that the Shadows and the Vorlons were two of the First Ones, who were the races of beings who first gained sentience, and they represented the battle between good and evil, which is to over-simplify it. For the Shadows believed in progress being gained through conflict, in that those who survived would be stronger than those who perished. Whereas, the Vorlons believed in maintaining a peaceful order amongst the younger races, with them serving as very subtle (practically non-existent and non-interfering) guides along the way.

Speaking of the First Ones, it was the introduction of Lorien towards the end of the series that I found the most fascinating of all. For he was supposed to be the very first First One, and he was able to bring Captain Sheridan back to life after he died while trying to destroy the Shadows homeworld of Z’ha’dum.

No, Lorien was not presented as being god, nor even a god. For it was made quite clear that he was only the very first being to gain sentience. On the other hand, his race was supposedly immortal, and at least he possessed abilities to do things that were beyond natural comprehension.

As with many science fiction shows, a subtle [Buddhist] foundation lies just below the surface of clear evolutionism. Therefore, it could be argued the Lorien was like Buddha, but this did not get in the way of my fascination with the revelation of ancient secrets, which is what kept my interest in the show.

In the end, the Shadows are kept from destroying almost everything, and the Vorlons are convinced that the time had come for them to let the younger races grow up on their own. So, they leave with the Shadows, and go to be with the rest of the First Ones beyond the rim, which is hinted at as being a Heavenly region. Twenty years afterward, Captain (now former president of the Interstellar Alliance) Sheridan’s time has come to an end. For Lorien was only able to extent his life for that amount of time when he brought him back, and when the time came, Lorien escorted him beyond the rim, which was a magnificent way to end such a magnificent series.

No, I haven’t come even close to doing Babylon 5 justice, and I would highly recommend you watching it for yourself. Many episodes can be seen online at [Hulu], and I hope the powers that be at the Syfy Channel (or maybe somewhere else) will bring the series back for another sequential run very soon.

Please Also Visit: [FishHawk Droppings]


  1. I love G'Kar and Mollari, they are great characters!

    As you say, this show has to be watched in sequence or you miss out on the bigger picture. At the time it was totally unique to have a scifi show on tv that presented continuity and character development over the course of the series. It was grounbreaking and has influenced everything that has come since, from Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica.

    I was able to see the show in blocks. My best friend in California taped episodes off tv as they aired and would send them to me in Seattle. He gave me a few days before calling and discussing the show, and I remember how much fun it was to speculate what would happen next in the incredible universe of B5.

  2. Babylon 5 was an interesting show, although I never found it as interesting to me the various Star
    Trek series or the Star Gate series. Babylon 5 played more on the idea of international politics far more then any other show back then. I also think they dealt with some controversial issues in the show, I think.

    And the original network that aired it was actually
    something like the UPN idea Paramount tried to do, it was called PTEN, then TNT got it and
    started running the shows.

    Also Babylon 5 had a successor the series Crusade, which you forgot
    to mention, which from what I have heard from many, it was Ted Turner who disliked the series and canned it, which he had a habit of doing back then to shows he didn't like or match his politics.

  3. Babylon 5 is another show I have never seen. I am however a big fan of law and order. When I do turn the tv on I surf through the channels until I find one that has law and order on. I would rather see shows in order like you said but I guess it's just take what you can get.

  4. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear James!!! Yes, G'Kar and Mollari were indeed great characters, and I was very happy to see them make peace with each other in the end. It is interesting that you mentioned what influence the show had on others. For while gathering links, I noticed on the Wikipedia page for Babylon 5 that there was some controversy over Paramount possibly stealing the concept for Star Trek: Deep Space 9 from Stracynski, who is the creator of B5, and I was going to mention something about that in an upcoming post about DS9, which is also one of my favorites.

  5. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Solomon!!! My original plan for this post was to list my favorite science fiction television shows, but the more I though about it, the more it became apparent to me that the difference between my #1 show (Babylon 5) and my #8 (Star Trek: Voyager) was really infantesimal. So, rather than risk slighting some, it seemed that posting a review of each as basically equals in my book would be the best way to go. Yes, I also picked up on B5 pushing an international political agenda, and in respect to the circumstances in the storyline, I cannot say that I do not agree with where they went with it. Nonetheless, in real-life, I am very wary of much that has anything to do with the United Nations. As in regards to "Crusade," I saw a few episodes, but I didn't really like it for some reason or another that I cannot remember now.

  6. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Ann!!! My wife really got into Babylon 5 because of the depth of the characters, and I think you would also really enjoy the show if you were able to watch it from start to finish. The original Law & Order is still my favorite, but Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a close second. The same goes for my wife, and we both got turned off by Law & Order: Criminal Intent because of what a jerk Det. Goran is most of the time. Now that he is being phased out of the show (to the best of my knowledge), we might start watching again. For we are both huge fans of Jeff Goldblum, and the ads that we have seen for the show with him in it makes his character appear to be rather interesting--to say the least.

  7. Crusade was more like Star Trek was in general with a crew in a ship travailing around, the plot of Crusade was to find a cure to the nanovirus plague on Earth. As to the show itself it has been over ten years since a saw an episode and I really don't remember it well.

    I think one of the things that made Babylon 5 so successful was the politics on a Galactic scale.

  8. Yes, I remember the premise for the show, which was just fine with me, but there was something about the characters of Crusade that didn't sit well for some reason. I'm thinking that it may have been that they had too much of a dark-side for me to be really comfortable with, but this may have been due to them wanting the characters to grow, which they didn't get to do with it being canceled so soon. If I remember right, there was also a B5 movie by the name of, "The Legend of the Rangers," which had a pilot-for-a-series feel to it, that aired after Babylon 5 ended, but I didn't really like it, neither. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Solomon!!!

  9. Its not uncommon, I hate stuff that is dark and stays dark with no rays of light. Also sometimes a sequel or prequel just doesn't live up to its potential, and sometimes an idea sounds good but doesn't work out. Though as I said before Crusade could have been given more chances, it was canned before the first episode had even aired and that kind of bothers me.

  10. Yeah, if the powers that be at the studio were not willing to let the series play out, it would have been better to not have let it air in the first-place--especially if the first few episodes were meant to start the series off in an apparently bad direction. For this just left a sour taste for all concerned. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Solomon!!!


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