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Old April 2nd, 2017, 05:54 PM
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Default Babylon 5

I'm re-watching a show that I loved a quarter century ago.


Yeah, the sets are cheap and the CGI is dated. Plus, the first season requires an effort to get through (though it is no worse than the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation--and both have their high points and are better than I remember upon watching them again).

But, man! When the show gets going, it really gets going!

I'm addicted.

I did some research into MJS's creation of the show. He developed it over seven years. He would travel to comic-cons and Sci-Fi conventions, asking genre fans what they would like to see in a science fiction epic.

It took him five years to get a network interested. Remember, back then, there were few places to sell ideas like this. There were the three big networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), and there were two or three smaller networks. Cable televison stations were not turning out excellent product like they are today.

Warner Bros. finally picked up B5, and it aired on a now defunct network called PTEN, syndicated to other stations where PTEN didn't have a presence. Toward the end of the series, the show faced cancellation before the epic story arc concluded, and cable station TNT picked it up to finish out the story.

Several two-hour TV movies were made, and two spin-off series failed, one after the first season and one after the pilot movie.

I remember most of the movies and the two spin-offs to fall far from the mark of excellence that the main show had displayed.

The main series consists of a pilot movie, called The Gathering, and five seasons of amazing space opera that gets better with each season. Most of the two-hour movies tie-in with the original series (and are, basically, just long, two-hour episodes), though one--In The Beginning--is required viewing, displaying part of the main epic plot.

In this show, characters grow, change (sometimes physically), and die. Alliances change and shift. Technology is updated as vehicles, weapons, and spacecraft are upgraded. There are uniform changes.

Each season is one year. Specific episodes are crested with dates. Time passes.

There is political intrigue, terrorist organizations, Psi-Corps and Psi-Cops, a multitude of secret organizations, warring alien races, different religions...

You might see a character with an insignificant or very small role in one episode, then, a season or two later, you might return to that very same character to see that his role is actually very big and amazing.

There is mystery.

And, plots within plots.

Some aliens races are on a higher Tech scale than that of Earth. Earth hasn't discovered artificial gravity. Some of its vessels are in total zero-G. EarthForce simulates a-grav by centrifugal force, using spinning sections to simulate gravity. Babylon 5, itself, spins.

When MJS got the greenlight to make the show, he gathered a team of the best in television science fiction to make the show. Harlan Ellison (writer of Star Trek's City on the Edge of Forever) became an executive producer. Writers like DC Fontana (wrote multiple Star Trek episodes) and David Gerrold (wrote Star Trek's The Trouble With Tribbles) signed on to create the show.

The alien make up is quite good, even by today's standards, and B5 won an emmy for make-up effects.

The designers of the show put a lot of thought into not just the look of the show, but how things worked in the show's universe.

For example, the standard side arm is a PPG. Phased Plasma Gun. This weapon fires heated plasma encased in a magnetic bubble. When you see the weapon fired, there is an interesting effect--which is the magnetic bubble.

For the main fighter, called a Starfury, the pilot does not sit, but rather stands up against an acceleration couch. Remember, the Earth Alliance does not have artificial gravity. If the pilot stands, blood flow is more conducive to high-G maneuvers. Standing, the pilot is less likely to pass out than if in a seated position.

Struts that look like wings hold the thrusters away from the main body of the fighter. This is not an aerodynamic choice. Ships on Babylon 5 do not fly around as if they were in atmosphere, as with Star Wars. Real physics are observed. Ships float around at strange angles. The thrusters on a Starfury are held away from the fighter's center of mass in order to make the ship extremely maneuverable. Often, you will see a Starfury flip around, facing where it has been, while not changing its velocity. If you study the thrusters, you see that they are omni-directional and not just facing thrust aft.

Back, in the early-to-mid 90's, when this show came out, television shows did not show a lot of scenes with starship battles. Remember the few scenes in Star Trek The Next Generation.

CGI changed all this, and Babylon 5 is the first show to implement that technology.

Sure, the CGI is a bit dated by today's standards, but it's still cool.

Check out this clip of the show from YouTube. Clicky, clicky.

And, clicky, clicky on this YouTube link to see a pretty cool montage of battle scenes from the show.

This second clip has a more crips visual.
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