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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Every time a bell rings, a Vorlon gets his wings!


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!


-Warren Zoell said...

For a second there I thought you meant Vogon, as in Vogon Constructor Fleet :D

The Aardvark said...

"...that hung in the air exactly the same way that bricks don't."


Howzitgoin', Warren?

-Warren Zoell said...

Alright I suppose. Just taking better pics of me models.

The Aardvark said...

You do a faboo job on your photos!

-Warren Zoell said...

Thanks!! Much appreciated!!

Michael W said...

I always gave the tragically underrated Andreas Katsulas props for his efforts in raising the Narn far above the stereotypical "warlike alien species" which the initial premise seemed to be. Not only that, but he managed to project so much through all that alien makeup.

Doom said...


Yep. B5 is teh boss, for me. And there are movies, made for television albeit, to bolster the series.

Oh, so... no glitches in the episodes? I had asked if there were skips, or bad segments, or such... before I place an order.


Yes, I do like his abilities. I think he improved a bit through the thing, the first year was sort of rough (not horrible, just not his best). Actually, I don't even dislike the badguys(tm), mostly. There are one or two corndogs. The worst was the one that went to the dark side, seemed a snide chap. But later on that particular one made sense. Still annoying, but with a payoff.

The Aardvark said...

@Doom- Seasons 2,3, & 4 seem fine. Season one was an earlier release and had 3 or 4 episodes that were unwatchable due to pixilation and freezing. The later release (smaller package size) seems to be OK.

The snide one was Londo Mollari. Wonderful character!

Doom said...

Mollari was snide, but that was offset by duty and occasionally a good side. And it was more a reaction to those coupled with reality, a sort of cynicism I think. The main guy that worked with the bad guys seemed to have too much snide, and too much bad, for what he had to offer... until I realized just how far down the rabbit hole he had gone and what was always with him.

The Aardvark said...

Ahhh...Mister Morden!

GREAT villain. Looks like Rod Serling with a pompadour. And a 'tude.

I Swanee, I run around half the day talking like Londo.

Doom said...

What I have found, is if others around me were also fans of B5? Playing London received great kudos... and fresh "wine" at the snap of fingers... just to play along. A charming master, that one, one people liked to serve (or feared not serving). Commanding role. :)