I have been watching Babylon 5 as I print shirts. I like where I work sometimes. I am well into season 4. I cannot help but feel really bad. Heretical, even.
To paraphrase Twain: "Trek ain't shucks to B5".
Babylon 5 is the story of an Earth Alliance space station used as a meeting-place for humans and aliens to engage in commerce, peace talks, and everyday life
The characters are finely drawn.
The story arcs are coherent and well-considered. J. Michael Straczynski wrote the entire thing, unlike the various Trek series, which are episodically piecemeal, even the ones that have overarching stories. Deep Space Nine is the story of a Federation space station used as a meeting-place for humans and aliens to engage in commerce, peace talks, and everyday life. It is the most coherent of the Trek franchises, yet it is more of a hodge-podge by different writers. B5 shows one man's vision, rather than humanitarian retconning.
The largely CG effects in B5 (1993 and on) hold up well. The alien makeup is superb. The characterisations are exceptional, cinematic. "Strac" is as good as Bellisario at creating characters that you care about, even when they are being loathsome. Londo Mollari (played by Peter Jurasic), the alien with the crest of hair, can be ...ethically challenged, yet he is ultimately not a bad sort. He wants the Centauri Republic to achieve it's former glories yet again, and chooses bad company to help. Thomas Wolfe comes to mind.
G'kar (Andreas Katsulas), the Narn ambassador is played to the hilt. He is a leader of his people, who were subjugated by the Centauri a century before. The other aliens are wonderfully cast and drawn. The enigmatic Vorlon ambassador Kosh (voiced by Ardwight Chamberlain) lives ever in his encounter suit, as it would be unsettling to other races to see him as he is.
I shan't go on about characters. That is what the internet is for. The thing which interests me is the point of view. Trek (especially DS9) is now-ward in outlook. It draws upon what's happening currently, or in the very recent past. The Bajoran religious/political tensions (particularly involving Louise Fletcher's "Kai Winn" character) reflect ham-handed attempts to demonise the Christian Right, a favorite target for Hollywood. All of the Trek series deal with current issues in the Twilight Zone "let's sneak a parable past 'em using science fiction" mode, but with far less panache. Kai Winn is a caricature from Hollywood's paranoia of Christian theocracy-building (a truly amusing myth), wrought from Christian political involvement (How dare they, the cheeky monkeys!).
Babylon 5 takes a more prophetic view. This SF series from the mid-'90s plays like current events in the Obama nation, especially the rise of "Earth First" and the "Night Watch" wing of the Ministry of Peace (MiniPax), and the spying of PsiCorp. The tension between B5 head of security Garibaldi and PsiCop Bester (Walter Koenig in perhaps his best role) takes an interesting turn here:
Watching B5 is, for me, like reading current newsfeeds. Straczynski knows writing, he apparently knows history, and Santayana. He does his homework. When he wrote for the "Real Ghostbusters" cartoon, he researched the occult, myth, and Things Ghostly. He did not make up scary stuff. Same with B5. He has a finger on the pulse of How It Works. Current events offer few surprises, if you follow the Babylon 5 roadmap.
I bet Alex Jones knows who the Shadows REALLY are!