Why are you here?

It’s warm up time, for you as well as for us.

One discussion we want to get going and keep going is “Why B5? What was it about B5 that drew you in, and what was it that kept you coming back for more?”

Discuss amongst yourselves. We’ve already started talking about it, and you’ll hear that conversation next week.

Comments

  1. Mark in NY says:

    For me, I think it was one of the first truly character-driven sci-fi dramas out there. I mean, in Trek everybody was kind of a cookie-cutter, nothing changed, nobody really got promoted far, someone pushed the reset button between episodes. In B5 people grew, changed, came and went (even died off), and there were actual character arcs that made me care what was going to happen next. It was new, daring and compelling.

  2. Rob from Knoxville says:

    I watched the pilot episode way back when (with the Stewart Copeland soundtrack) and was hooked. I thought the effects were awsome and the story of the Universe was great. Even periphary characters like Londo and G’Kar had depth.
    What really got me though was the fact that there was a place that JMS was taking the story. I don’t remember there really being anything like that before.

    I also really like how much the characters changed. Londo went from the baffoon to this really dark character. And G’Kar went from what you would think of as a bad guy into this incrediblly good guy.

    Overall the show challanged the viewer. It assumed that the audience actually had a brain. And knew how to use them.

  3. When I start watching, way back when I was thirteen or fourteen, I think they were near the end of the second season here in the Netherlands.

    The first episode I’m absolutely sure I saw back then is The Fall Of Night, the final episode season 2. I may have seen a few before that, but that episode just has it all. There are space battles (boys love to see exploding space ships after all) but there was more than that. The delicious irony of the speech Sheridan was rehearsing, the interweaving of reality and mythology with Kosh, and the menace of the Shadow vessel at the end.

    Another episode that definitely hooked me back then is Severed Dreams, there it was definitely the strength of the characters that did it for me. And of course that famous message:
    “This is ambassador Delenn of the Minbari. Babylon 5 is under our protection. Withdraw, or be destroyed!”
    “Negative, we have authority here, do not force us to engage your ship.”
    “Why not? Only one human captain has ever survived battle with the Minbari fleet. He is behind me, you are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else!”
    (Yes I know the whole thing by heart.)
    That speech stayed in my memory, almost verbatim, for several years without my ever seeing it during that time. If that’s not quality writing I don’t know what is.

    Stepping away from the specific examples I guess I realised, even back then, that there was something different about Babylon 5. The mix of myth and reality, but also the way characters changed throughout the series and the risks they were taking. Finally I think it was the fact that Babylon 5 immediately gives the feeling of something on an epic scale rather than just a collection of shorter stories.

  4. WHY B5?

    Firstly it was because of the shear depth of characters. Many scifi shows of its time (of which I am a huge fan) had very woden characters, or that they never got the chance to develop due to the lack of a continual story line. I will always remember the scene where the Cantauri had just started invading the Narn home world. G’kar asks Delen and Sheridan for military support. When he is turned down, he thanks them for their kind words and walks out of the room, maintaining his dignity and pride. Then outside, he breaks down and cries due to the utter hoplessness he feels for his people. Or the Jack the ripper episode where Sebastian finally admits his true identity “…Known only as…Jack”. Magnificient! From excitement, fear, sadness and humor, JMS et al really knew how to pull the viewers emotional strings!

    The second reason is the continuous storyline. This was what brought it well above star trek (even though I love that show too!). It was a continual frustration for me when the startrek crew found some amazing piece of technology in one episode and then forgot about it in the next. I think Voyager was the only show that brought up technological discoveries found in previous episodes (but it was still very rare). Also, I know that back then, it was a general feeling that having a continual story line in a tv show will make people stop watching if they miss a single episode – so most shows avoided it like the plague. Note, this is not the case any more (see: Lost, 24, Surface, etc…). However, B5 did an expert job of this by creating a mix of the two. Unlike those shows I mentioned above, every B5 episode was a seperate story in its own right but also contained a part of the main story arc in the background. So if you missed an episode or two, you could catch up fairly well. The continual storyline allowed the characters to develop and grow into their roles and also allowed the actual story and writing to mature into the great show it was and still is.

    Thirdly, the effects for its time were spectatular. Using real shots of nebulas and other space phenomina from the hubble telescope made the space scenes far more colorful and realistic.

  5. Kris from Phoenix says:

    I impatiently waited for B5 to arrive after some friends in my university’s science fiction club returned from a convention (DragonCon?) where a preview/screening of ‘The Gathering’ was shown. They brought enthusiastic and glowing reports of what is was and could be, and we waited and hoped… so when it finally arrived I was immediately hooked and followed it through Crusade.

    Between then and now I moved and none of my new friends or acquaintances knew of B5 and it was no longer being broadcast (although I had tapes,) so it fell to the background for a time. Once the DVD’s became available I saved up, purchased them and watched everything once again, okay- at least twice over. And while B5 had been a favorite for years, in viewing it after a prolonged hiatus I found my appreciation and respect for it has only increased.

    All the factors that made it a great show 10 years ago allow it to endure- excellent writing, complex stories, engaging characters and a conceptually complete universe. While the some aspects of the production are ‘showing their age,’ the storylines and their messages are still relevant.

    What I find particularly interesting is how my perceptions in respect to the series have changed. The characters were all ‘elders’ or at least more adult than I when the show premiered, now I see them as contemporaries (in age of course, not time.) The individual stories and arcs still speak to me, but the emphasis of the messages they carry have altered or shifted for me with the passage of time.

    I finally introduced some of my friends and they are now thoroughly addicted. To keep up with their questions I’ve had to refresh my knowledge of the series. So my interest in the show has returned, perhaps stronger than before, and I was thrilled to find that the interest in B5 is still thriving.

    As for here and now… I finally began listening to podcasts a few weeks ago and ran some searches on B5 just last week- and low and behold there you were. Thanks for your time and efforts to make this a reality.

  6. Well why B5 is a tough one.

    I wasn’t lucky enough to catch it all when it first aired, being in the UK the thing was messed around more than a bit in the schedule (morning first showings (I mean around 9am) of season 5 were truly a joke, but I digress.

    B5 for me was and still is the most thought provoking, conversation spawning and down right effecting piece of Sci-Fi and perhaps TV that I have ever been lucky enough to see. Even to this day I am still introducing its wonders to others. I’m currently sitting through every DVD again with my fiancé for the first time and she truly loves it, just like I did and still do. For something made way back in the nineties to still holds sway and will never be forgotten. That is a true testament to the quality, love and care that went into the production.

    Its strange that even the best non genre TV dates, but with sci-fi that it is always far more obvious. With B5 that just doesn’t apply. While costumes, effects and make up can look cheap (hell, the budget was small) the writing, acting and effort never lacks. That is just another reason why B5.

    This show will last and last, and is still unique as far as i know to continue one story through five seasons. Others have followed but never to B5’s brilliance. From little hints (in season 1) that link through to huge revelations. From the characters and there development. It was amazing and gripping.

    Nothing moves me like this show, I still get choked up and its rare for an episode to go by where my arms aren’t tingling from the sheer emotion on screen. From the enigmatic looks, scintillating dialogue and painful deaths to the love between characters both sexual and not. It is a master class in drama, suspense, terror and joy. That’s why B5.

    I am a fan boy and while this has turned into a rant, the simple answer is why B5? Because it was and still is the best.

  7. I do remember thinking the pilot was pretty horrible, like there was a hole in my mind for watching the show the whole way through. And I was supremely surprised that it was picked up as a series a little bit down the road. The show did have a philosophical mesh that made it different. And for the most part, that is what kept me coming back for more.

  8. I think I liked Babylon 5 simply because it had space ships and aliens. Deep Space Nine actually was the gateway show to B5 for me. I eventually stopped watching DS9 and kept with B5. Then B5 went to cable and I returned to DS9.
    Also, B5 had a special appeal to me because I was studying Lightwave 3D in school. I was told that the show used the program to do the modeling and animation. It was so obvious once I knew what to look for. My classmates and I would sit around and try to figure out how they did certain things. After keeping that up for awhile, I was hooked.

  9. Yes, the use of Lightwave 3D for the animation scenes was a good point for me as well. I was using that program at the time as well. Playing with 3d models of the Vorlon ships was a lot of fun…

  10. Mark in NY says:

    To throw in another off-topic bit: good to hear from other ‘Wavers! 🙂

    To slew back onto topic, I actually didn’t get into B5 because of LW, that came later for me. I was very into scrutinizing their cgi, though. For its day it rocked! I believe another huge selling point for me, in general, was the Starfury design: at last, someone designed space fighters and got it right! I was willing to forgive a whole lot of potential un-goodness just because of that single thing.

  11. As far as TV goes, I was strictly Star Trek only until I saw Babylon 5. I figured that was all I really had time to keep up with, and there was so much Trek out there – satisfying enough.

    But Babylon 5 reached a depth that I hadn’t experienced before in television or film. My first (and still only) time through them was on DVD. I flipped through those discs, watching show after show after show. The arc of the entire series was like a good novel. The characters reacted and were changed by what happened to them. I liked the actors, and the episodes were engaging and smart. It was what I like about science fiction. As a reader, I was pleased to see some good stuff on TV.

    Since then, I’ve discovered Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, and though I still like Star Trek, it’s fallen to #4 on my favorite series list.

    I would love to see the Star Trek franchise do something like B5 – I was excited by reports that JMS was going to try to revive Trek. I think those reports were false, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

    As an aside, another result of my watching B5 on DVD was the disconnecting of my TV from DirecTV. I use the money I was spending on that to buy DVD sets. I don’t own the B5 DVD’s yet, because I borrowed them when I watched them, but all this talk has me wanting to see them again.

  12. To my mind, one of the main qualities of B5 is that it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and I mean, it has been conceived like that before being aired. That gives B5 an overall coherence, some feeling of “inscription in History”, and even maybe an inherent realism (its end is the most likely end such a station would meet if ever built).

    On a general basis JMS crew worked on the realism of the story, even among a whole bunch of alien races. I think about the first look of Delenn in the pilote (and simpler in season 1), or the insectoid alien in down below that we see in season 1 (and not after), this kind of details were not helping realism, so they corrected them. Movements of B5 ships, building conception of the station, etc… everything participates to that feeling.

    Characters of course! And couples too. A couple of actors/characters as G’Kar-Lando which works as it works, is in itself largely sufficient to make a movie, in Hollywood’s point of view… 🙂 Sheridan/Ivanova, Ivanova/Marcus, Sheridan/Garibaldi, Sinclair/Garibaldi, Sheridan/Kosh, Sheridan/Delenn, Lennier/Delenn, Lennier/Vir, Byron/Lita, all different, but all relevant, coherent, inspiring.

    And the richness of the background, which is of high level (not very far from the one of Tolkien’s work). Subtle details in Minbaris, Centauris, Narns, The Psi Corps, and Earth/Mars societies have been diffused artfully through almost all episods.

    Finally, for the brilliant mix between anticipation (on Earth side I mean), space-opera, and initiatic journey.

    Still the best!

    Scalino

  13. I am not sure if I can add anything to the comprehensive comments already received.

    I have always enjoyed televised SciFi, however until B5 most SciFi out there suffered from the proverbial reset button at the end of each eposode. Characters rarely changed.

    This was not the case with B5. Characters evolved, their actions had consequences to themselves and those around them. The characters also had depth, few of the characters were inherently good or evil, all had reasons for acting the way they did, even the Shadows and the Vorlons.

    As far as I am aware B5 remains the only show to have been written with the intention from the outset to tell a story over 5 years. Although other series have since since had story arcs spanning many episodes and even seasons, eg the later seasons of DS9, The X Files, SG1 and many of the current shows on air I doubt that these shows had a clear idea where the story was going more than a season ahead.

    Whilst it was possible to enjoy episodes of B5 on an individual basis, so much more can be got from the episodes if you have followed the story. It is also enjoyable going back to earlier episodes, seeing events taking on a new meaning and significance in hindsight.

    For such a well crafted and diverse universe it is a pity that there has not been any successful new series based in the B5 universe, Crusade was unfortunately short lived and Legend of the Rangers did not make it beyond the pilot.

    B5 was groundbreaking TV and I suspect many series today owe it a debt of thanks.

  14. To be honest, I think what originally attracted me to B5 was the setting of the story. Then of course it was the character development, and the pace of the show.

    Most Sci-Fi of the time was the Trek-based programming gaining rampant viewers, and then B5 comes along with not only a new look at Sci-Fi itself, but a whole new way of presentation. And that to me was, to quote a certain pointy-eared vulcan ‘facinating’.

    B5 to this day is still one of the top rated Sci-Fi shows in my book, and will always have a place in my collection!

  15. Jonathan from California says:

    Agree with the above… couple other thoughts on why I got hooked…

    1) The plot driven story – the season as a novel, the episodes as a chapter – really took the notion of an “arc” farther than it had been taken previously (I also was a fan way before this of Wiseguy, which I think was one of the first shows to demonstrate that episodic prime time tv could actually support continuity… but I digress)

    2) The mystery – and the fan community that grew up around it… the Lurker’s Guide, the Compuserve forum (I wasn’t on usenet, but I show up on google today still thanks to JMSNews archives from back then)… the quality of the core story arc and the community that was trying to solve the mysteries while the show was airing was really engaging – something again I think relatively new given the infancy of the electronic media being used (usenet, Compuserve, later AOL, and I think Genie originally)…

    3) The accessibility of JMS – before the Battlestar Podcast, there were the tantalizing notes from jms – behind the scenes on an in-production television show. Combine that with the accessibility of the whole cast at a variety of conventions – again while the show was on the air, not after the fact – and the cast’s genuine pleasure in playing along with the fans regarding the plot twists and the writing – it was really an entertaining experience.

    4) The actors – almost none overly exposed, familiar faces, many playing characters only thanks to the “far out” concept and make up that they might otherwise never play in conventional television show. Too many to name, but all the leads, many of the supporting players… they took the performances seriously, gave them multiple dimensions, looked for the humor, and stayed with JMS’ concept that people were basically still people in the future…

    Just a few thoughts 🙂

    And Summer – from a long time fan of the Slice and Winging It – way to go getting this off the ground!

    Jonathan

  16. Chris Patterson says:

    I, too, watched all of the various Star Trek incarnations fairly religiously when they first aired, and only casually heard of B5 during its initial run.

    I didn’t get hooked on B5 until it aired daily on the Sci-Fi channel, and for that I will always forgive them for the crap they now air most of the time! 🙂

    I think that was the first time a TV show ever left me absolutely breathless and gasping. Of course, it also left me, at various times, laughing on the floor, screaming with fists pounding the air, and crying like a schoolgirl, as well.

    After watching it all the way through the first time on Sci-Fi, I watched it all the way through the second time, and marveled at its intricacies all over again.

    The main thing that draws me to B5 again and again is JMS’ ability to show how the smallest decisions of an individual can have an impact of such (quite literally, in this case) galactic magnitude — how the shape of the entire universe is molded in the daily interactions of everyday people just struggling to live their lives. It is mind-blowing, humbling, and terrifying all at once.

    I also want to thank you, Summer, for getting this off the ground!

  17. I’m not sure what brought me into B5.

    I guess it was really the spread in TV Guide about the new Sci-Fi shows that were coming up.
    I watched them all, B5 hooked me.

    As others have said, there is the feeling of a complete story. I also love the characters, how lucky we are that Andreas Katsulas, Peter Jurasik, and Wayne Alexander (just to name a few) signed on for B5.

    I have all of the B5 (including Crusade), and I’m currently purchasing the JMS scripts. (Just to let you know, the intros, and memos are worth the price of each book, the script is just a bonus!!)
    I watch and read them over and over.

    The “replay value” for me comes from the arc within an arc writing of JMS. Watching all of the pieces fall into place is a thrill, I catch something every time I watch.

  18. Michael Feir says:

    As a blind science fiction fan, I was thrilled from the word go with B5. My family and I watched the show pretty solidly through its five year run together. It came along at the right time and helpped shape my moral outlook on a lot of things. The writing and dialog were fantastic as well as the actors. They just seemed to have the perfect voices for their parts. I liked all the technical details and explanations of how things in the B5 universe worked. I only wish I could have heard it in its full surround-sound glorry but our TV didn’t have that capability then. Perhaps, one day, I’ll obtain the DVDs and be able to enjoy it all again. I’m very pleased to have found out about this new B5 podcast while listening to Slice of Scifi which I also enjoy. Keep up the excellent work. There are doubtless many nifty things we never got the full scoop on.

    Michael Feir
    Creator and former editor of Audyssey Magazine

  19. David from Memphis says:

    I first got into B5 from a friend at college. I happened to pop into his room when B5 was on. I said “What’s this?” He said “Sit down and watch”. I watched a few episodes and was impressed. I then went back to focus on classes although I was never able to ace them all.

    Fast-forward a few years later and I see B5 on DVD. I said “I remember that show. I wonder what else happened.” I bought both seasons that were available at the time (Seasons 1 and 2), and then tracked down a copy of the Pilot/Prequel flipper DVD. Amazing series.

    As to why I enjoy it- B5 never played it safe. When you thought you knew where it was going, JMS took a different route with it. You then had to pause to pick up your jaw from the floor since it decided to fall off your face during the episode. The story was very solid.

    As mentioned earlier, there was no reset button. Something a character said in the first season plays a part in the last season. I honestly cannot think of ANY other series that came before B5 that did a similar thing. Interesting to note that after B5 told it’s tale and went off, other series started doing the same.

    The only downside to B5, at least for me, is that B5 placed my enjoyment at a very high setting. I’m having the damndest time trying to find another show on TV that comes close to reaching it.