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Why has B5 aged so well?

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  • Why has B5 aged so well?

    I'm assuming that most people on here agree that its aged well but why is that?

    Short first post I know but I don't want to lead the discussion one way or another.
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  • #2
    For the same reason the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone shows aged so well: They're very well written, compelling stories.

    The special effects will always look "dated" after awhile. There's no way around that. It's the story that brings people back, and JMS knows how to spin a yarn.
    "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

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    • #3
      Well written, indeed, and dealing with themes that don't change that quickly. Right and wrong, war, politics, relationships, human weaknesses, human strengths. It's written such that people can elements of their own lives and concerns in the story. As long as the same themes sound in our lives, there's something we can take from the stories.
      "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

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      • #4
        Originally posted by OmahaStar View Post
        The special effects will always look "dated" after awhile. There's no way around that. It's the story that brings people back, and JMS knows how to spin a yarn.
        Actually I think that the the production is one aspect of B5 that has dated very well compaired to alot of sci fi, I spose because beyond being very good it was also quite stylised and imaginative. If I look at The original trek I can instately tell the era it came from, the same with the Next generation but beyond the technical level of the FX I don't get a "mid 90's" feel from B5.
        Who are you?
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        What is the average inflight speed of an unladened swallow?

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        • #5
          I feel that some parts of Series 1 - mainly hairstyles - have aged slightly. Corwin's mullet is very 80's/90's

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          • #6
            Originally posted by moreorless
            Why has B5 aged so well?
            Just to add my 2cent, because it was well thought out, equally balanced with a sense of mystery and wonderfully executed. Leaving very little things to Nitpick at.

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            • #7
              I'm going to suggest three things.

              Firstly, internal consistency. B5 was filmed entirely in an enclosed studio, the writing was astonishingly consistent, as were the production design and music. That means that once you make the leap to accepting the universe and its internal logic, it's very easy get drawn into the story without being distracted, say because the crew were visiting Nevada or late 20th century Earth. The effects and physical sets were basic-looking even by the standards of the time, but their relative simplicity meant that they could use them to broaden the story in some unbelievably ambitious ways, which would have broken the budget of any other production. Wherever you went in the B5 universe, you always knew that was where you were.

              The second is alchemy. There was a period, somewhere during B5's run where every aspect of the show began firing on all cylinders together - the acting, story, costumes, effects, music and everything else - and somehow managed to capture some kind of unquantifiable screen magic that is extremely rare in television.

              The third is story. Whatever you may think about its execution or pacing at any given point, the backbone of B5 is an enormous, ambitious and satisfying story, told from beginning to end. Television is really an ideal medium for this kind of storytelling (much better than film, IMO), but there still aren't all that many shows that can claim to have done anything comparable.

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              • #8
                I would add "risk taking" to the list. Because the studio mostly left JMS and crew alone, they were able to take risks with the stories. They were willing to ask big questions about humanity and not always give a pat positive answer to the questions they raised. I think that by being ahead of the curve ten or so years ago, B5 still feels fresh today.

                As far as special effects etc. go, I'm not sure that there has been an SF series that has had better effects than the Shadow and Vorlon vessels of B5. The first couple of times I see a Shadow vessel in B5 still raises the hairs on my neck. Just great stuff.

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                • #9
                  I tend to agree with the points so far ... viewers are prepared to wear the aging of the SFX and the look of a show if the story, settings and characters are compelling. B5 scores well in all those departments.

                  However, I think the early CGI is certainly starting to show its age, particularly season 1 ... and most particularly the explosions. For the time, I think Foundation did an incredible job with what was then a new, risky and embryonic technology, especially on a TV budget (and a relatively small one compared to the likes of Trek).

                  The later seasons benefited from improvements in technology allowing the look and feel of the CGI to be improved and evolved throughout the show ... the SFX in S5 are certainly much better looking than S1 in my opinion.

                  The pity, for me, was that whilst the show benefited from the improved technology available to Netter Digital in seasons 4 and 5, it lost the imagination and cinematic eye of Ron Thornton. Nothing to do with how well the show has aged, just an observation on the SFX overall.

                  I imagine a straight comparison between TLT (when it arrives) and season 1 will show just how far CGI has come in the last 13-14 years.
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                  • #10
                    The effects have aged fairly well due to the jump ahead that they took with them. Star Wars is another good example. The original film holds up quite well today because they took such a big step forward. Truly innovative stuff.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair View Post
                      I tend to agree with the points so far ... viewers are prepared to wear the aging of the SFX and the look of a show if the story, settings and characters are compelling. B5 scores well in all those departments.

                      However, I think the early CGI is certainly starting to show its age, particularly season 1 ... and most particularly the explosions. For the time, I think Foundation did an incredible job with what was then a new, risky and embryonic technology, especially on a TV budget (and a relatively small one compared to the likes of Trek).

                      The later seasons benefited from improvements in technology allowing the look and feel of the CGI to be improved and evolved throughout the show ... the SFX in S5 are certainly much better looking than S1 in my opinion.

                      The pity, for me, was that whilst the show benefited from the improved technology available to Netter Digital in seasons 4 and 5, it lost the imagination and cinematic eye of Ron Thornton. Nothing to do with how well the show has aged, just an observation on the SFX overall.
                      I didnt notice it as much in season 4 but I agree the SFX sequences did lack a bit of imagination in season 5. The imagination/direction behind them was a massive positive as I think the tendancey with alot of films/tv shows in the 90's was purely to go crazy with CGI were as sequences like the Narn fleet being destoryed by the shadows in season 2 are some of the most dramatic space battles ever filmed IMHO,

                      As I said I'v also always felt that the entire production was deliberatly stylised, yes theres an effort to make everything realistic but there was also an almost comic book/animation inspired feel to the show for me. I'd say that had the effect of detaching it from its time more than most sci fi that trys to play it straight. To use the typical Startrek comparason TNG has yout typical clean freindly image and a "caring sharing" captain that fit very well into the era were as Sinclair and Sheridan are very much out of whack with that.
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                      • #12
                        Granted the CGI was ahead of it's time but this alone isn't the reason why B5 still feels like a modern series.

                        Important with the CGI isn't necessary that it is still used to do SFX but that with CGI - which looks not nearly as good as models like in DS9 for example - is that the MOVEMENT is more realistic and dynamic and you could show damage and animation.
                        The TNG + first year DS9 effects are more dated cause they are dull and they could not give a feel for dynamic or damage.
                        I always think of the Klingons attacking in "The Way of the Warrior" of the FOURTH season of DS9 where the station gets hit over and over again but there are only optical flames but no real damage - I don't buy that there is a real problematic situation.

                        That's for storytelling with FX.
                        The next thing is the camera work. The image that is created with the camera adapts to every situation - the show get's always the right frame and of the same reason it doesn't get boring (like again in "Star Trek").

                        The writing is another point. I don't think that the writing of B5 is mostly excellent - I found many occasions where there are cheap 80s action-flics and scenes and also shameful soap lines for the characters.
                        Then again there are the assassin of the week and many episodes which are meant to fill gapes in a Season.
                        But in the end the overall story is breathtaking and greatly executed.
                        There ares shows with overall better writing like "Twin Peaks" or "The Sopranos" but B5 works and is highly addictive.

                        Last but not least there are some terrific performances for example from Andreas Katsulas, Peter Jurasic, Jerry Doyle, Tim Choate, Ed Wasser and Walter Koenig. Although on the other hand there are weaker performances these guys carry the wagon easily.
                        Same here for characters - Londo, G'Kar and Garibald are some of the beste characters ever! That Sheridan and co. are a bit to much nice guy and hero weakens the show but still the story of Londo + G'Kar IS Babylon 5.

                        With that said it is understandable that TNG goes the toilet in these days and Babylon STAYS.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lope de Aguirre View Post
                          The writing is another point. I don't think that the writing of B5 is mostly excellent - I found many occasions where there are cheap 80s action-flics and scenes and also shameful soap lines for the characters.
                          Then again there are the assassin of the week and many episodes which are meant to fill gapes in a Season.
                          But in the end the overall story is breathtaking and greatly executed.
                          There ares shows with overall better writing like "Twin Peaks" or "The Sopranos" but B5 works and is highly addictive.
                          I think its partly because B5 accepted that it was to some degree pulp sci fi in a similar way to the original starwars films. If you embrace that style rather than just use it as cheap thrills it can last just aswell if not better than more "serious" work IMHO.
                          Who are you?
                          What do you want?
                          What is the average inflight speed of an unladened swallow?

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                          • #14
                            I am gonna say that it is the timelessness of the music as well as the story that keeps the series fresh. It is an unabashed "space opera" with all of the emotional buy-in that great opera inspires.

                            It doesn't just appeal to our (perhaps) changing notions of intellectual gratification, it appeals as well to our unchanging emotional core.
                            I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

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                            • #15
                              Thoughts

                              I think the reason B5 has aged so well is because it was not a product of its time. It didn't indulge in the self-indulgent psycho-analysis that was fashionable in the 90's. When you think about, the B5 story could have been told at any time. Indeed, it is heavily built on things like EE Smith's 1950's space operas and 1960's Twilight Zone episodes and Shakespeare and even ancient Roman and Greek histroy. No aspect of the story really screams "90's". It's a timeless story that could have been told just as affectively in 1954 as in 1994 as in 2044. There are messages in it and points beings made; but they are more general and more important than "drugs are bad" or "we need to clean up the environment" or "damn those commies!"

                              There's also the optimism. Doom and gloom is the designer mood of our age but it doesn't last. This is one reason I predict Battlestar Galactica may not age well, even though I like the show. It's so downbeat. B5 was dark but it was also uplifting and hopeful. The drama was leavened with humor and wit.

                              As for the F/X, the great sci-fi movies/TV shows know their limitations and how to use special effects. Star Wars is one example, but check out 2001 some time. This movie was made in 1968 and still looks like it could have been made last year. This was Kubrick and Clark ironing out every detail and understanding how to tell the story within their limitations. JMS was every bit the genius they were - he knew what he could do and didn't push the story beyond those boundaries.
                              Last edited by Hal_10000; 03-02-2007, 11:58 PM.

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