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Quality, Sci-Fi and Babylon 5 as an example

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  • Quality, Sci-Fi and Babylon 5 as an example

    I believe that above all it was the quality of the writing, in addition to the ability of the actors to pull off these very unconventional parts that finally won me over. Like most viewers finding Babylon 5 initially was almost impossible, as it would pop up between football games or at odd times on local stations. This made watching 3 episodes in a row almost impossible.

    Finally a local station started carrying it every Saturday night as part of a Sci-fi block of shows at the same time and by season 2; I was hooked. I began to realize how complex this show's writing was. Plots, within plots, within plots within plots...with sometimes the two or three small stories in each episode linking into larger multiplex dramas, linking into still larger season long and series long plots. I was also amazed at the very hard thought that had gone into the special effects with the ships actually acting like spaceships instead of airplanes in space.

    JSM's aliens were also amazing in how different they were from earlier alien 'stereotypes'. From the Vorlon to the Shadows, we began to realize that perhaps aliens would not just look different but think differently also. ôWho are youö and ôWhat do you want?ö became more than simple phrases as they defined the races who asked those questions and their view of the universe. Overall, Babylon 5 was, I believe THE BEST Sci-fi series ever produced for television. Though some early æTwilight ZoneÆ and æOuter LimitÆ episodes can give it a run for itÆs money in writing quality, overall Babylon 5 is a shining star and example of what sci-fi shows æshould beÆ but hardly ever are.

    It asked deeper questions than many realized, not just about the series but about our world as well. And unlike certain other sci-fi shows Babylon 5 didnÆt try to depend on T&A for audience appeal. Babylon 5 did have some very adult themes but unlike seeing how little the women could wear or how tight it could make the costume it based itÆs sexual discussions on a more æadultÆ level. Like IvanovaÆs ænaked on the bridgeÆ dream, her comment to Sheridan about ægoing where every man has been beforeÆ or Londo MollariÆs card game several æadultÆ themes and jokes were going on, but like everything else were so well written they didnÆt tend to come across as vulgar, obscene or just plain dumb.

    Even the æinÆ sci-fi jokes tended to be subtle, like the fact the æCentauriÆ race had come from an idea from an old æOuter LimitsÆ episode where the soldiers used cats as scouts. (Okàvery obscure). Overall Babylon 5 is what more sci-fi should be about, excellent writing, good actors, and truly æalienÆ aliens. One hopes that JSM can produce more of this type of world class entertainment in a world where studio executives seem intent on only providing shows that appeal to 13 y/oÆs. Not every sci-fi fan is a drooling adolescent; women, professions, and many other adult demographic groups also enjoy this medium of entertainment. Till studio executives stop stereotyping sci-fi fans into this category, they will continue to let really good shows, shows that could potentially make them LOTS of money, slip away in favor of the other æstuffÆ that will make marginal profits, at best. Any other opinions on this folks ?

  • #2
    Don't need to add anything here - nicely said.
    One up for the angry Teep

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    • #3
      No doubt,best sci-fi show on TV ever produced.

      Don't forget that up until B5 there was no sci-fi on TV (beside Star-Trek),and people grew tired of Star-Trek..when B5 came it blew me away (and im still hi)

      When this forum started,my first post was "Babylon 5 can't die" (or something like that)...im so happy to see my favorite show in the world still alive and kicking.
      Sleeping in Light-----Darnit! Shut the Window.

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      • #4
        I agree that B5 is the best sci-fi out there. The only *bad* thing (and it really isn't that bad) is that it's spoiled other shows for me. Everything else seems to be just, well, kinda crappy
        Flying around the room under my own power.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Spoo Junky
          I agree that B5 is the best sci-fi out there. The only *bad* thing (and it really isn't that bad) is that it's spoiled other shows for me. Everything else seems to be just, well, kinda crappy
          I already thought everything else was kinda crappy. Actually, I lumped B5 into the 'crappy' category for a while too, and that stopped me getting into it until the end of season 1. I think I tuned in and caught a couple of the weaker eps and thought "more trek, no thanks". And Londo's hair really didn't help. Wasn't until I tuned in later on outta boredom and saw a couple of arc-ish episodes that I became hooked.

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          • #6
            Re: Quality, Sci-Fi and Babylon 5 as an example

            Originally posted by Omega_46
            Any other opinions on this folks ?
            I would agree that B5 is the best SF series I've seen on TV. Other series have some great eps that or on the same level or even better than B5, but taken as a whole, B5 is it IMO.

            I'll take it a step further, too. Taken as a body of work, I'd rate B5 as the best drama I've watched on TV. Too often, SF isn't judged on it's merits against anything other than SF. That's really a shame. I am a fan of any number of non-SF shows, so my rating of B5 is not blinded by a devotion to SF. Character development, plot, internal continuity, dramatic tension, humorous interludes, talented people at all levels... all these things make a great show, and B5 had them. Again, I can think of shows that have had jaw dropping eps, but looking at the overall sereies, I think B5 is the top of the heap.
            "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

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            • #7
              Re: Re: Quality, Sci-Fi and Babylon 5 as an example

              Originally posted by WorkerCaste
              I'll take it a step further, too. Taken as a body of work, I'd rate B5 as the best drama I've watched on TV. Too often, SF isn't judged on it's merits against anything other than SF.
              That's an excellent point. I've often thought along similar lines. I think the same is also true of literature. Too often, sci-fi and fantasy are confined to a fiction-ghetto from where they're not even allowed the aspiration of competing with their mainstream siblings.

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              • #8
                I've seen a lot of SF and I've certainly read a lot of SF and in my not so humble opinion B5 is absolutely the best TV-SF produced so far.

                And I think it has something to do with the fact that it was a writer who wrote it instead of a team of script-writers.

                To me it feels like a book that they made into a tv-series, not the other way around.

                And although people always say that TV-SF was sometimes brilliant(Rod Sterling and others) I must say that even the "good" SF authors always blew the best TV-SF-writers away. And for the great writers they are/were never any match.

                After babylon-5 I consider JMS to be a great author of space-opera revolving around people.

                And you can take that as a compliment because I just love the work of space-opera-authors like for instance James Blish and A.E. Van Vogt. I bet JMS read Cities in Flight and The Voyage of the Space Beagle when he was young...
                "En wat als tijd de helft van echtheid was, was alles dan dubbelsnel verbaal?"

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                • #9
                  Babylon 5 had it all. Action, drama, comedy, romance and sifi.
                  What more could one ask for in one package. Especially with the writing and acting. It is and was the best. It always amazes me even after watching it umpteen zillion times, I see different things in each ep that I hadn't seen before.

                  Long live B5 and it will.
                  Joan

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                  • #10
                    Re: Quality, Sci-Fi and Babylon 5 as an example

                    Yep, B5 is a great example of quality drama and quality science fiction.
                    As an obsessive reader of science fiction with a preference for "hard" SF I also appreciated the quality of the science aspects in the fiction of B5. My only minor peeve was that most of the aliens were still antropomorphic bipeds, but I can forgive that as B5 also tried to include non-antropomorphic aliens with great success (Shadows, Vorlons, other first ones, the Exogenesis aliens) or mixed success (N'Grath).

                    B5 is indeed a shining exemplar of what science fiction can and should be, not only on TV but in general. The story and character development of B5 achieved what no other show has done IMO: to be comparable to that of the best epic written science fiction series.
                    Originally posted by Omega_46
                    [...]
                    Even the æinÆ sci-fi jokes tended to be subtle, like the fact the æCentauriÆ race had come from an idea from an old æOuter LimitsÆ episode where the soldiers used cats as scouts. (Okàvery obscure).
                    I had never heard this "fact" you mention, has JMS ever said that? I couldn't think of any search term combination that could bring such a quote out of the archive.
                    Overall Babylon 5 is what more sci-fi should be about, excellent writing, good actors, and truly æalienÆ aliens. One hopes that JSM can produce more of this type of world class entertainment in a world where studio executives seem intent on only providing shows that appeal to 13 y/oÆs. Not every sci-fi fan is a drooling adolescent; women, professions, and many other adult demographic groups also enjoy this medium of entertainment. Till studio executives stop stereotyping sci-fi fans into this category, they will continue to let really good shows, shows that could potentially make them LOTS of money, slip away in favor of the other æstuffÆ that will make marginal profits, at best. Any other opinions on this folks ?
                    The Golden Age of science fiction is... thirteen.
                    Old joke, but unfortunately many people still hold the opinion that SF is kids stuff, and even worse that includes many former SF readers that stop reading SF and Fantasy when they grow old.

                    I however consider SF the most adult genre as it allows an examination of cosmic questions and of what it means to be human, and it has also been the literature that has allowed the most experimentation in style and content.
                    The experimentations we saw with format, style, and content in B5 might not have been possible in anything but an SF TV show either.
                    Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase
                    James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

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                    • #11
                      I think the ghettoization of SF has left the unfortunate legacy that quality writers don't explore the genre nearly enough. It is, after all, along with fantasy, able to look at humans "from the outside." While I sometimes thought JMS's view of humans was unduly rosy, I cannot deny that even this old cynic was moved to tears by Londo's soliloquy on humans in In the Beginning.

                      If only your average author in SF and without was just aware of the very basics of science most SF would not be so dreadful. JMS approached things in the right way: he had a story (which would have worked as a castle in Hundred Years War Burgandy) and then educated himself on how to present it without setting off any bullsh*t detectors as an SF piece.
                      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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                      • #12
                        he had a story (which would have worked as a castle in Hundred Years War Burgandy
                        Naturaly. JMS has said it several times:
                        If you want to know the inspiration for the politics of Babylon 5, take note of the word Babylon .

                        JMS Never does anything Accidentally when he's playing with Words.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bakana
                          Naturaly. JMS has said it several times:
                          If you want to know the inspiration for the politics of Babylon 5, take note of the word Babylon .

                          JMS Never does anything Accidentally when he's playing with Words.
                          Actually, one of the legends that is least invoked by JMS in the series is that of Babylon! It was an inspiration, perhaps, but Babylonian mythology is les full of mystery and "the impact of the individual" than B5 is.

                          Yeah, he kept the "5" part pretty intact (5 stations, 5 seasons, 5 major races, 5 main charactors, 5 prophecies that came true) but the "Babylon" kinda got lost (as it would/should have). All that was left is order versus chaos and that is not very specific to babylonian mythology.
                          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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just an FYI for the obscure tie in reference: Harlan Ellison, who I think wrote the ôOuter Limitsö episode I watched was also a creative consultant for Babylon 5 if I remember right. The reference in the old b/w Outer Limits series was only a line or two using the name æCentauriÆ and a reference to æThe PurpleÆ or æserving the purpleÆ. Sorry about the vagueness of this but hey, been 20+ years folks. I like to look at sci-fi both books and movies to see if I can find things that might represent a tie in to earlier works. Forgot the title of the episode but think the story is about a soldier brought back from a future of never ending warfare by an accident with a weapon of his time ????

                            ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            "War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery"

                            Orwell 1984

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                            • #15
                              FWIW, the Babylonian Mythology is essentially Chaos Vs Order, (Tiamat vs Marduk) very Much what Babylon 5 is all about.
                              I believe the Zoroastrians inherited it.

                              The Zoroastrians believe that the history of the world lasts for 12000 years, with four distinct periods. In the first period good and evil are separated, in the second the good world is invaded by the evil and the third is when the fight between the two forces intensify. In the final period evil is defeated and goodness prevails.
                              Short synopsis of Zoroastroism

                              Babylonian Mythology - The Short Version

                              A few figures from that Mythology:

                              Tiamat
                              "The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablets I-III"
                              She is primeval Chaos, bearer of the skies (Anshar) and the earth (Kishar) and the mother of Lahmu and Lahamu.
                              Marduk - son of Ea and Dumkina.
                              He supplants the other Babylonian deities to become the central figure of their pantheon. He is a "King of the Igigi" He often works with and asks questions of his father. He has fifty names many of which are those of other deities whose attributes he usurped. He was of proud form and piercing stare, born mature, powerful perfect and superior. He has four eyes, four ears and emits fire from his mouth when he speaks. He is also gifted in magic.
                              "Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets IX - XI"
                              Gilgamesh mourns Enkidu and decides to visit Utnapishtim, the only human who does not die. He goes to the mountains of Mashu and passes by the guardian scorpion-demons into the darkness. It becomes light as he enters the Garden of the Gods and he finds Siduri the Barmaid, to whom he relates his quest. She sends him to cross the waters of death and he confronts the boatman, Urshanabi. They cross and Gilgamesh speaks with Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim recounts the tale of the flood and challenges Gilgamesh to remain awake for six days and seven nights. He fails, but Utnapishtim's wife urges him to reveal to Gilgamesh a rejuvinative plant. Gilgamesh takes it, but loses it to a serpent before returning to Uruk.
                              Last edited by bakana; 12-24-2004, 04:59 PM.

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