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Peter T Chattaway

Babylon 5

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One of the very first things I learned about Deanna, when we were discussing home entertainment options and the like, was that she, as a librarian, was content to borrow videos from the library instead of owning them, but she DID want to own a few TV shows on DVD so that she could watch them at her leisure. The particular title she mentioned was Babylon 5.

And then, when my science-fiction-fan-who-is-an-atheist-but-likes-to-talk-religion-with-me friend in New Mexico told me she could not make it to the wedding, she offered to send us a gift anyway ... and so she sent us Season One of Babylon 5. And thus, Deanna and I have spent a fair chunk of the honeymoon going through the episodes -- and we have only two more episodes to go!

Anyway, we don't seem to have a thread on this series, so I'm going to start one, by re-posting an e-mail that I sent to the friend who gave us these DVDs. And I will hopefully add more comments as I watch more, think about this more, discuss it with my friend more, etc.

Any other fans here?

- - -

Hi B----, just a quick note from Honeymoon Headquarters here to say thank you, thank you, thank you for your gift -- it has proved to be quite the aphrodisiac. wink.gif Seriously, I find I like the show a lot, and I am definitely intrigued to know where some of the plot threads are going.

One thing that strikes me in particular is how this show gets into so many things that Star Trek just plain avoids. Scenes of people going to the bathroom? Workers' strikes? The continued existence of terrestrial religions (e.g. the episode where Ivanova, a Russian Jew, sits Shiva)? *All* of these things make perfect, perfect sense -- there is no good reason to believe they would all vanish in the next 260 years -- and yet it seems oddly unusual to encounter them in a 23rd-century setting.

I *really* like Ivanova, too -- at first she seemed like one of those glib make-my-day types, but the character has *really* been fleshed out, even in just the first 16 episodes (Deanna and I still have 6 to go), and Claudia Christian plays her wonderfully. Garibaldi is fun, too. And as cartoonish as the ambassadors can be, I find *them* genuinely interesting, too, at times, and I actually miss their presence when an episode goes by without them. I've had some difficulty getting into Commander Sinclair, though -- he comes across like Leslie Nielsen playing Captain Kirk, all straight man and no sense of self-mockery, if you know what I mean. But even *he* has been humanized a bit more in recent episodes.

And as for the series' treatment of religion ... as is often the case in our post-Christian culture, it is "the other" who gets to have a basically positive faith, whether we are dealing with extraterrestrial aliens or with Jews or whatever; I am waiting to see if there will be any explicit treatment of Christianity, beyond putting a token Catholic priest and a token Orthodox priest in the line-up of Earth's religions at the end of that one episode. The episode with the aliens-who-were-basically-Jehovah's-Witnesses, who refuse to let their son undergo surgery, *kind* of seemed to play into the idea that religion of a quasi-Christian sort is ignorant and harmful, but I *did* like the way the doctor was made to confront the fact that *his own* beliefs were potentially intrusive and harmful; and of course, the episode ended with an image of a boy being reunited with his parents, and they were all wearing headgear that suggests some sort of religious affiliation -- so the episode does end on a note that says, Yes, religious families *can* be more harmonious.

[ honeymoon description snipped ]

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I loved this series... a lot. And in season 2 or 3 you'll see a great episode that really illustrates the genuine difficulty of mortals struggling with the Christian ideal of forgiveness... JMS is an admitted athiest, but I've never seen it portrayed better.

Great cast, great storylines, great dialog, and for all its struggles (every season looked like it would be the last one) it was really great television.

In particular, the character arcs of Londo Mollari and G'kar (through the entire five seasons) are truly brilliant examples of character development.

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I loved this series... a lot. And in season 2 or 3 you'll see a great episode that really illustrates the genuine difficulty of mortals struggling with the Christian ideal of forgiveness... JMS is an admitted athiest, but I've never seen it portrayed better.

Are you thinking of "Passing Through Gethsemane"? If so, I agree. It's a phenomenal episode about forgiveness, and whatnot. It's interesting... I've found both JMS and Joss Whedon (at least where Firefly is concerned), both of whom are diehard atheists, to be very sympathetic, knowledgable, and fair in their portrayal of devout, religious characters. There are several "religious" episodes in Babylon 5 and I remember all of them being quite poignant and well-made.

I have a co-worker who is a huge fan, and so a couple of us are getting together once a week to watch it over lunch. We're skipping through season 1, just to get a feel for the series, and then we'll be launching into it full-bore for the seasons after that.

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Amazing--no Babylon-5 forum? And also--amazing! Something PTC and I agree on completely! Congratulations, Deanna! wink.gif

In addition to what's already been said about the show, another thing that makes it unusual, and impressive, I think, is that J.M. Straczynski planned it with a five-season storyline, and the essential elements of that 5-season arc were carried out, despite a network change and a couple of key casting changes.

Probably the best unofficial Babylon-5 website, the Lurker's Guide. Chock full of spoilers, of course.

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I loved B5, although I'm not nearly the huge fan that my bud Jimmy Akin is. Definitely one of the all-time best things ever done on television, great story-arc. I think it gets a lot better in the second season when John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) joins the station, so, if you've enjoyed season 1, the best is still very much to come!

Although I'm both a B5 and a Trek fan, it's interesting to consider B5 in contrast to and even as a critique of Trek. Where Trek was dogmatically utopian, not only regarding social and technological progress but even regarding human nature, B5 was much more grounded in human reality. The humans in the B5 world are culturally and behaviorally similar to ourselves in a way that the ones in Trek aren't.

And, of course, where the humans in Trek evolved beyond religion in keeping with Roddenberrian humanistic principles, JMS was very generous in making room for religion in his own sci-fi future, even stationing an order of monks on B5, dealing respectfully with religious themes, even depicting the administering of sacraments. (Though there was that one throwaway gag about the future pope being a woman. Sorry, ain't gonna happen...)

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SDG wrote:

: Although I'm both a B5 and a Trek fan, it's interesting to consider B5 in contrast to and

: even as a critique of Trek.

Oh, heck yes. The fact that you have the likes of D.C. Fontana writing for the show, and guest stars like Walter Koenig and that guy who played Khan's right-hand-man in ST2:TWOK (okay, that last one is reaching a bit), certainly INVITES comparisons to Trek.

And this show started up right around the same time that ST:DS9 did, right? I remember hearing quite a few rumblings at the time that the Trek producers had ripped off this show, since it was in development for something like five years before it finally went on the air.

One thing I just discovered is that there was a pilot episode PRIOR to Season One that is not in the Season One DVD set. I remember watching just one or two episodes of B5 when it was brand new, and not getting into it at that time, but I remembered a few images and was wondering why I had not yet seen them while watching Season One this past week -- I guess they were in that pilot episode. Should I watch that again, too?

Can someone explain just what the various TV series and TV movies are, and how they connect, chronologically? Spoiler-free, of course.

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Hmmm... I have to think about this.

The first movie is the pilot episode.

The rest of the movies take place during or after season 5, I think. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's true.

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In chronological order:

Movie 1 "In the Beginning" (actually aired after season 4)

Movie 2 "The Gathering" (the original pilot)

All the movies (there are more) are available as a set from amazon.com

(I am such a geek) geeky.gif

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BethR wrote:

: Movie 1 "In the Beginning" (actually aired after season 4)

I have heard of this, but I believe I have to avoid it for now, because it takes place 10 years before Season One and will get into a lot of things that have not yet been revealed, yes?

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BethR wrote:

: Movie 1 "In the Beginning" (actually aired after season 4)

I have heard of this, but I believe I have to avoid it for now, because it takes place 10 years before Season One and will get into a lot of things that have not yet been revealed, yes?

Yes, it's crammed with spoilers, since it's really sort of a flashback that clarifies or fills in a lot of blanks from seasons 1-4. So don't go there.

"The Gathering" is perfectly safe, though you'll hardly recognize one or two people.

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Does anyone know if this is being shown on cable anywhere? It used to run on Scifi, but I haven't been able to find a schedule. I caught one or two episodes a couple of years ago and was interested, but I didn't have cable at the time. Mostly all I remember was the dynamic between Delenn (?) and the Bruce Boxleitner character, but it was enough to make me wish I could watch more.

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FWIW, my matushka recently pointed me to a very interesting essay on Christianity and Babylon 5 here, but I had to stop reading after several paragraphs because it reveals much more of the back story to this series than I have seen so far in the first season.

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Ann D., I notice you say you just got Season 2 on DVD! Deanna and I are about halfway through this season, and it's definitely a step up from Season 1. We're enjoying it!

In the meantime, I have just discovered that not only did Peter Jurasik (AKA Londo Mollari) co-star with Bruce Boxleitner prior to all this in Tron (1982), but he also played Henry Kissinger in the 1978 film version of Chuck Colson's Born Again. Now that's just weird. I'll have to borrow my parents' copy of that film soon.

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Peter Jurasik and (Andreas Katsulas) really shine in this series. Londo's arc is probably my favorite storyline in B5.

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I have Tron on an old fuzzy tape. I'll have to watch that again and see if I can spot Jurasik without the crazy hairdo.

I was hoping to start the second season today while at work, but of course there's been issue after issue, none of which I can take care of while wearing a headset. sad.gif

I enjoyed the first season. The lead character, Sinclair--can't remember the actor's name offhand--was a bit stiff in the first few episodes, but was better later in the series. I enjoyed the dynamic between him and the Minbari and am curious as to how they work out the prophecy, since Boxleitner became the lead in season two. I also like the tension between Londo and the mafia-like guy who gives Londo what he wants the most. Heck, I just like Londo.

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Ann D. wrote:

: I have Tron on an old fuzzy tape. I'll have to watch that again and see if I can spot

: Jurasik without the crazy hairdo.

FWIW, I have the 20th-anniversary 2-DVD set that came out three years ago.

As for Jurasik, I believe he plays

the gladiator that Flynn refuses to kill, thus prompting Sark to kill him instead

.

: I enjoyed the first season. The lead character, Sinclair--can't remember the actor's

: name offhand--was a bit stiff in the first few episodes, but was better later in the

: series. I enjoyed the dynamic between him and the Minbari and am curious as to how

: they work out the prophecy, since Boxleitner became the lead in season two.

Yeah, that's an interesting scenario. I, too, was just getting used to Sinclair when the first season ended. But they've introduced some interesting new conflicts via Boxleitner's character.

: I also like the tension between Londo and the mafia-like guy who gives Londo what he

: wants the most. Heck, I just like Londo.

I also. And don't forget G'Kar! Actually, ALL the ambassadors are quite interesting, in their own way. And I love, love, love Claudia Christian.

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I also.  And don't forget G'Kar!  Actually, ALL the ambassadors are quite interesting, in their own way.  And I love, love, love Claudia Christian.

Agreed! "Garibaldi, should I ask why you are at my console or should I just start removing digits?" I love her. I like Garibaldi too.

G'Kar is growing on me. I didn't care for him at the first of the season; he felt like a stock villain. Sort of the Babylon 5 version of Cardassians. He became more nuanced as the season ended.

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Ann D. wrote:

: G'Kar is growing on me. I didn't care for him at the first of the season; he felt like a

: stock villain. Sort of the Babylon 5 version of Cardassians. He became more nuanced

: as the season ended.

Hmmm, I can't remember precisely when he began to grow on me, but I have never really thought of him as a "villain", stock or otherwise -- he's more like a Klingon than a Cardassian, in the sense that the actor wears lots of ugly prosthetics and the character comes from a culture that encourages certain kinds of violence that we find anathema, and yet there is a genuine humanity (if I may use that term) that comes through in the writing and the performance of the character. G'Kar wants revenge against the Centauris, sure, but it seems they have given him a lot to be vengeful ABOUT. And G'Kar's thirst for vengeance is often portrayed as rather, well, pathetic and desperate, rather than the sort of pompous and imposing manner that we might expect of a "stock villain".

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G'Kar is growing on me.  I didn't care for him at the first of the season; he felt like a stock villain.  Sort of the Babylon 5 version of Cardassians.  He became more nuanced as the season ended.

Hee! I can't say more without spoiling, but the nuances will continue to develop, in both G'Kar and Londo. Still more reasons to appreciate B-5.

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Ann D. wrote:

Hmmm, I can't remember precisely when he began to grow on me, but I have never really thought of him as a "villain", stock or otherwise -- he's more like a Klingon than a Cardassian, in the sense that the actor wears lots of ugly prosthetics and the character comes from a culture that encourages certain kinds of violence that we find anathema, and yet there is a genuine humanity (if I may use that term) that comes through in the writing and the performance of the character.  G'Kar wants revenge against the Centauris, sure, but it seems they have given him a lot to be vengeful ABOUT.  And G'Kar's thirst for vengeance is often portrayed as rather, well, pathetic and desperate, rather than the sort of pompous and imposing manner that we might expect of a "stock villain".

spoilers1.gif most likely.

I lent my brother my season one DVD's, so I can't reference any episodes, but in the beginning all G'Kar did was be accusing and pushy and demanding and defensive. I first began to see layers to the character when he wanted to observe his religion, and Londo wouldn't give up the flower. At least, I think that was the first time; there may have been an earlier instance.

I especially liked the revelation that G'Kar's people were originally a peaceful and agricultural culture. I expected them to be war-like, based mainly on G'Kar's actions in the first few episodes, and in the rather aggressive way he and his aide approach people.

I'm going to try and watch some of these tonight. I meant to last night and was distracted by Empire Falls on HBO.

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The producers of Lost could take a page or two from Babylon 5. I just watched the first episode, and they nicely wrapped up the outstanding questions that involved Sinclair. I would have liked to have seen Sinclair discover on his own why he was taken, but due to the circumstances they did a good job finishing up that piece of the series. I did not like that they told us the prophecy at the end of the episode. It really had very little to do with Sinclair, if anything, and I would have enjoyed the mystery. Plus, the delivery felt off.

I've liked Bruce Boxleitner ever since Scarecrow and Mrs. King. He used to come to Enid during the annual Quail Hunt, and I distinctly remember one of my teachers referring to him as "a heartthrob". I think he fits in well with the series.

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G'Kar rocks.

That is all.

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What a great series! If there was more stuff like this on TV I'd actually watch once in awhile. No more B5, X-Files, Lone Gunmen, MST3k or Firefly. Poo.

I really like the Londo/G'kar arc, too. There was so much "real-ness" in that show. I am also a big Trek fan, but it's a totally different world (yes, very utopian). It will always have a special place in my heart, but shows like B5 and Firefly hit a lot closer to home for me.

Neb

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*** SEASON 2, DISC 5 SPOILERS ***

Last night D and I watched "the AIDS episode" and the "Talia changes personality" episode (season 2, disc 5, episodes 2 and 3). Interesting, interesting.

The AIDS episode had me rolling my eyes at first, because I anticipated the usual preachiness about evil religious prejudices and whatnot, but I was impressed by the way the story resolved itself -- no happy ending (actually, the ending was SO bleak, I had a bit of trouble taking it seriously; "This just in, an entire planet of two billion people has died"), and, most importantly, the role of faith in compassion.

When Delenn (sp?) tells her assistant to go find the child's parents, she tells him "faith" will help him, and she's really only referring to that sort of generic "faith" in acheiving one's goals that we hear about from time to time; but ah, then Delenn tells that story about finding refuge in a temple on her home world; and of course, Delenn's actions are completely motivated by her belief in the afterlife, etc.

While the Minbari (sp?) subscribe to a belief in reincarnation that is not exactly Christian, the episode reminded me of how Christian compassion played a HUGE role in spreading the faith during the plagues of the ancient Roman empire -- and Christian compassion was, itself, motivated by a belief in the afterlife that was remarkably more humanistic, if I may say that, than the pagan Roman beliefs of that time. Hmmm.

As for the Talia bit -- I may have to rewatch all of Seasons 1 and 2 again, now. Or at least the episodes that featured that character.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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