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Babylon 5 - First Watch (No Spoilers)


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I just started Babylon 5 and I thought I'd reach out and see who else here likes it. I'm not far in but I really like what I have seen so far.

 

I finished The Gathering. The Special Edition version, the original is hard to find online. Although I would like to see it sometime. I'm not mad about it though; it seems like the creator much prefers the re-edit. I'm interested in seeing the walk through the alien zone from the original that supposedly looked too much like a zoo. He had some interesting comments about how you can't win with fans because if it's too alien they'll complain it isn't human enough.

 

Anyway, I also watched Episode 1 which clearly had a lot of foreshadowing for the Transylvanian Quark-type character from the race that seems Cardassian-like in narrative. That's the thing, I'm a big fan of Deep Space Nine and it's pretty obvious there was a lot of borrowing. I'm betting that as the series goes on, their own mythologies reveal their shapes to be more separate from each other in both concept and execution but then again who knows. For the most part, I don't care about borrowing in tales unless it gets really egregious.

 

Honestly though, I love it so far. Especially the character named Delenn. Even though the music hasn't made much of an impression, I know it's beloved so I'll keep paying attention. Anyone else here who has seen it, can you tell me more about the music and why you like?

 

Oh and no spoilers please. I've done a pretty good job of avoiding them so far. Like for example, I have no idea what happened to Babylon 4 and that's exciting.

 

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Whoa!

@blondheim, I envy you.

Earth Alliance; The Vorlons; The Shadows; Susan Ivanova; Talia Winters; Alfred Bester; Z'Ha'Dum; Mr Morden; you've got it all ahead of you, plus episodes such as "Babylon Squared", "Grail", "Falling Into Apotheosis", and my personal favourite, "And The Rock Cried Out 'No Hiding Place'".

 

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4 hours ago, blondheim said:

I just started Babylon 5 and I thought I'd reach out and see who else here likes it. I'm not far in but I really like what I have seen so far

 

Glad to hear it's already made a good impression, since I know many people find it fairly rough going at first. (Personally I think it had a much stronger first season than, say, Star Trek: The Next Generation... and Babylon 5 season 1 only improves on a rewatch once you can notice all the ground being laid for the later story.)

 

Anyhow, I'm a fan. In fact, I think it's still my favorite TV show of all time, despite all its flaws (most of the first half of the final season in particular). There are multiple other shows I regard as less flawed/more perfect, but this has been my favorite ever since I first saw it, and I think it always will be. I assume you're watching the new remasters on HBOMax?

 

4 hours ago, blondheim said:

I finished The Gathering. The Special Edition version, the original is hard to find online. Although I would like to see it sometime. I'm not mad about it though; it seems like the creator much prefers the re-edit. I'm interested in seeing the walk through the alien zone from the original that supposedly looked too much like a zoo. He had some interesting comments about how you can't win with fans because if it's too alien they'll complain it isn't human enough.

 

The Special Edition is an improvement in almost every way, though the original cut is still an interesting curiosity with the non-Christopher Franke score and all... also, the Special Edition does add a spoiler because it was essentially released for fans after the first four seasons of the show (so it wasn't a spoiler at that point). It's blink-and-you'll-miss-it though, so luckily it sounds like you probably missed it.

 

4 hours ago, blondheim said:

Anyway, I also watched Episode 1 which clearly had a lot of foreshadowing for the Transylvanian Quark-type character from the race that seems Cardassian-like in narrative. That's the thing, I'm a big fan of Deep Space Nine and it's pretty obvious there was a lot of borrowing. I'm betting that as the series goes on, their own mythologies reveal their shapes to be more separate from each other in both concept and execution but then again who knows. For the most part, I don't care about borrowing in tales unless it gets really egregious.

 

Yeah, this situation is kinda infamous and led to a lot of strife between Babylon 5 and Trek fandom in the 90s (despite there being a lot of cross-pollination of talent both onscreen and off!) The short version is that a few years before DS9 and B5 began (he had been working on it since the late 80s), J. Michael Straczynski pitched his concept for Babylon 5 to Paramount executives... aaaand they essentially stole his basic idea for the show, and slapped "Star Trek" on it since that was their already successful franchise.

 

Now the DS9 showrunners themselves probably knew little or nothing about this, and they freely did their own thing with the basic premise. But there continue to be some shocking apparent lifts that unfortunately continue throughout, like them introducing the Kasidy Yates character several seasons in...even though Babylon 5 had a similar character introduced early in its first season. Then you rightly observe a similarity between the Cardassian/Bajoran and Centauri/Narn situations. There are some other weird coincidences too throughout, but ultimately the shows are fairly different in both style and content, and I'm personally quite happy they both exist. I think fairly soon you'll be able to start seeing Londo as his own character, and the Centauri as their own race, rather than Quark/Ferengi-like.

 

4 hours ago, blondheim said:

Honestly though, I love it so far. Especially the character named Delenn. Even though the music hasn't made much of an impression, I know it's beloved so I'll keep paying attention. Anyone else here who has seen it, can you tell me more about the music and why you like?

 

I'm so glad to hear you already love it; each season only gets better (until the final season, for reasons I can go into if you're interested) so just you wait! The music comes off as very dated at first IMO, but each season's scoring gets better and better from Christopher Franke IMO (*including* the final season, which has some of his best work). There are some absolutely incredible scoring moments from seasons 3-5 (and particularly the wonderful first TV movie, In the Beginning). I'll be curious whether any scoring stands out to you as particularly strong from the first season or two. There are a few moments I have in mind which might qualify.

 

4 hours ago, blondheim said:

Oh and no spoilers please. I've done a pretty good job of avoiding them so far. Like for example, I have no idea what happened to Babylon 4 and that's exciting.

 

Oh you're in for a treat; that's one of the coolest reveals in the show!

 

Yavar

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16 minutes ago, Naïve Old Fart said:

Although I like DS9, BABYLON 5 shits all over it, from a very great height.

 

No need to trash one good show to prop up the other.

 

Yavar

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I've been watching it again on Amazon, it's one of the shows they inexplicably put adverts in... nothing like 15 seconds of lurid Lucky Charms advertising in the middle of a crucial plot defining firefight or monologue... although mostly I've been lucky and get no adverts, it's quite random. Anyway, as I mentioned on another thread somewhere, I definitely watched quite a bit of it when it was originally on and the first season did seem very familiar. Now I'm a few episodes into the second season, I wonder if maybe I didn't see as much of it as I thought as quite a lot of major plot reveals occur around the end of the first/start of the second season which I thought were a couple of seasons later. I'll repeat some of the observations I posted on the other thread (since anyone reading this might be more interested in the show specifically!):

  • Shocking how infrequently some of the supposedly main characters. I'm pretty sure that Vir, Na-Toth and Lennier appear in about 3 or 4 episodes each in the first season, despite being credited in the main cast. Even Londo, G'Kar and Delenn only appear about half the time. They certainly weren't afraid to leave characters out for weeks on end rather than the Star Trek approach where all the main cast appear, to varying degrees, in every episode.
  • The FX are pretty great in a "they look fake but are quite pretty raytracing" kind of way. I remember in my early internet days scouting round forums downloading impressively good reproductions of B5 and the various alien ships (some of the organic ones are especially beautiful). I still think I marginally prefer the model FX of TNG/DS9/Voyager etc. (and the CGI for the latter two is considerably more realistic).
  • B5 itself always feels a bit pokey; all those drab corridors and grungy, poorly lit areas full of random cargo doesn't give much scale. It certainly pales in comparison to ops and the promenade in DS9 which were exceptional sets. The painted backdrops suggesting the bigger interior (is it meant to be farmland?!) aren't bad but are clearly painted drapes.
  • Christophe Franke's music is perhaps more distinctive than that for some 90s Star Trek, although it does tend to be a bit melodramatic at time. Those stingers in the first season every time you get an exterior shot of the station are particularly cheesy. Fortunately, from what I've seen and heard so far, this habit seems to have fallen away during the second season and the music seems generally better. Always loved the main theme, especially with those prototypical 80s/90s titles with 2 second clips of each actor against their credit (useful if you've forgotten who Vir is because he hasn't been in it for 9 episodes...).

Anyway, look forward to reading about your B5 discovery. I shall bore everyone with my thoughts as I progress through season 2. So there's that...

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I haven't been able to watch anymore but thanks for the thoughts. I'm incredibly excited to get back to it. Hopefully soon.

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I watched episode 1x02 The Soul Hunter:

 

What a fantastic episode. The actor who played the disturbing Soul Hunter had an absolutely enormous small-screen presence. He could have been the villain in a major-motion picture and sustained interest on a very big screen for two hours. What a ride.

 

I love the slow trickle of information the show is providing. I love a good mystery. Ivanova is really growing on me as a character: "You're a pessimist." "I'm Russian." Classic.

 

Honestly some of the dialogue is truly next-level. I was worried that the Japanese rock garden comments in the pilot were trying to sound deep without having any truly real meaning and that it might set the trend for similar faux-philosophical nuggets coming in  the future but the second episode was full of wonderful dialogue that actually grounded some pretty silly pseudo-science (practically magic, really --Neveredending Story II-style)

 

I can't wait to see what's next! 

 

I love the corny opening dialogue. 90's show intros are so nostalgic. Also what's with the clearly midi-palette and then a credit for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra? If there's orchestra so far, I'm having a hard time hearing it.

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3 hours ago, blondheim said:

I watched episode 1x02 The Soul Hunter:

 

What a fantastic episode. The actor who played the disturbing Soul Hunter had an absolutely enormous small-screen presence. He could have been the villain in a major-motion picture and sustained interest on a very big screen for two hours. What a ride.

 

He's quite good! Sometimes B5 ends up with terrible guest actors, but other times they really score. This guy should be familiar to sci-fi fans... he was in Doctor Who... he was the Vulcan Science Minister, a small role in Star Trek (2009). He was memorable in an episode each of Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation... and most significantly, I suppose, he was the Klingon commander of the Rura Penthe prison camp in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

 

I occasionally see him on an episode of TV and he always commands the screen even in a small guest role. He passed away in 2019 though.

 

3 hours ago, blondheim said:

I love the slow trickle of information the show is providing. I love a good mystery. Ivanova is really growing on me as a character: "You're a pessimist." "I'm Russian." Classic.

 

Oh she's gonna grow on you a LOT more, believe me. I think she may be my favorite character on the series... human character, at least.

 

3 hours ago, blondheim said:

Honestly some of the dialogue is truly next-level. I was worried that the Japanese rock garden comments in the pilot were trying to sound deep without having any truly real meaning and that it might set the trend for similar faux-philosophical nuggets coming in  the future but the second episode was full of wonderful dialogue that actually grounded some pretty silly pseudo-science (practically magic, really --Neveredending Story II-style) I can't wait to see what's next! 

 

Dunno if I'd go THAT far... there's some much better J. Michael Straczynski writing as the series goes on. So if you're thinking it's "next-level" already, buckle your seatbelt. This is truly a writer's show.

 

3 hours ago, blondheim said:

I love the corny opening dialogue. 90's show intros are so nostalgic. Also what's with the clearly midi-palette and then a credit for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra? If there's orchestra so far, I'm having a hard time hearing it.

 

Yeah, there's an orchestra but I think it only numbered in the 20s or so, and was substantially augmented with synths to say the least. You'll notice more of an acoustic sound emerging from time to time as the series goes on. I'll be surprised if you don't detect an orchestra by the end of season 3.

 

I love all of the Babylon 5 openings... particularly Ivanova's opening monologue for season 3. (But don't go and watch that in advance! It contains spoilers!) I'd probably rank them: 3, 5, 4, 1, 2. Really cool how each season gets a different opening sequence and monologue.

 

Yavar

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On 04/08/2022 at 1:04 PM, Yavar Moradi said:

 

He's quite good! Sometimes B5 ends up with terrible guest actors, but other times they really score. This guy should be familiar to sci-fi fans... he was in Doctor Who... he was the Vulcan Science Minister, a small role in Star Trek (2009). He was memorable in an episode each of Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation... and most significantly, I suppose, he was the Klingon commander of the Rura Penthe prison camp in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

 

I occasionally see him on an episode of TV and he always commands the screen even in a small guest role. He passed away in 2019 though.

 

 

Oh she's gonna grow on you a LOT more, believe me. I think she may be my favorite character on the series... human character, at least.

 

 

Dunno if I'd go THAT far... there's some much better J. Michael Straczynski writing as the series goes on. So if you're thinking it's "next-level" already, buckle your seatbelt. This is truly a writer's show.

 

 

Yeah, there's an orchestra but I think it only numbered in the 20s or so, and was substantially augmented with synths to say the least. You'll notice more of an acoustic sound emerging from time to time as the series goes on. I'll be surprised if you don't detect an orchestra by the end of season 3.

 

I love all of the Babylon 5 openings... particularly Ivanova's opening monologue for season 3. (But don't go and watch that in advance! It contains spoilers!) I'd probably rank them: 3, 5, 4, 1, 2. Really cool how each season gets a different opening sequence and monologue.

 

Yavar

I guess I have seen much more of him than I’d thought. I’ve seen every piece of Star Trek so far produced (no shame)

 

Upon reflection, it was a little premature of me to say next-level so quickly. Maybe it’s just that everything else produced has been so dullsville recently that these first six episodes have been marvelous. Corny sometimes, not perfect, but marvelous. I fucking love this show.

 

And yeah, I’m up to Episode 6. Sometimes the plot contrivances are a little simple (I’m sorry, it fell out of Nelson’s bag?) but the worldbuilding is so grand and sincere I am willing to forgive it. Plus they had budgetary restrictions. This isn’t like Marvel having poor Jimmy Wu pick a cellphone up off a table while he’s handcuffed but don’t even get me started. A company with billions of dollars plotting that badly receives no quarter from me. Gawd WandaVision was over-rated. Sorry. Anyway, Babylon 5 is awesome and I’m already so invested. Ivanova is a great character, and Na-Toth is a new favorite after one episode. I’m excited there’s still so much left!

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I have not seen Babylon 5, but always wanted to, and look forward to seeing what you think of everything

 

In recent year we went through some old shows with a lot of episodes - X-Files, Twin Peaks, Alias - and I wish I had jotted down more thoughts along the way

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Just now, Jay said:

I have not seen Babylon 5, but always wanted to, and look forward to seeing what you think of everything

 

In recent year we went through some old shows with a lot of episodes - X-Files, Twin Peaks, Alias - and I wish I had jotted down more thoughts along the way

Yeah I always wish I did this too. I haven’t done X-Files or Alias yet but they are on my list. I think I’m still a little salty about the X-Files because every time I tried to binge it they started airing a new season so I thought well what the hell if they’re not done, just wait

 

I’ve done tons of shows recently. I’m starting to run out of them. Honestly. I binged all twenty seasons of Law & Order and I swear to Gawd I finished the day they started airing season 21. I don’t know who’s thumb I’m under but if you’re listening I want out

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On 04/08/2022 at 6:04 PM, Yavar Moradi said:

Oh she's gonna grow on you a LOT more, believe me. I think she may be my favorite character on the series... human character, at least.

Fun* fact, Ivanova's great, great great (etc.) grandmother (on the American side) is Dina from Superstore.

 

*alternate fact ;-)

 

On 04/08/2022 at 6:04 PM, Yavar Moradi said:

Yeah, there's an orchestra but I think it only numbered in the 20s or so, and was substantially augmented with synths to say the least. You'll notice more of an acoustic sound emerging from time to time as the series goes on. I'll be surprised if you don't detect an orchestra by the end of season 3.

 

I love all of the Babylon 5 openings... particularly Ivanova's opening monologue for season 3. (But don't go and watch that in advance! It contains spoilers!) I'd probably rank them: 3, 5, 4, 1, 2. Really cool how each season gets a different opening sequence and monologue.

I actually thought the score was entirely synths throughout but I can definitely hear some more acoustic instruments now I'm a decent chunk of the way through season 2. The quality of the music has improved too, slightly few of the dramatic stingers and more in the way of grand fanfares for the station shots. I remember in the day there being numerous B5 soundtrack albums being released but I never picked them up as I have a fairly low tolerance for synths that are meant to be an orchestra (especially back in the 90s when they were pretty unconvincing most of the time) but I could be tempted to reconsider as there are some decent sequences - and I've spent a small fortune picking up the multiple TNG/DS9/Voyager/Enterprise albums from LLL, much of which isn't actually that interesting. At least the B5 music has some dynamism to it even if it comes across as overwrought at times.

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A few more observations (sorry if you're all bored now but nobody else I know watches it...):

  • I love how so many of the alien ships are so organic looking (notably the Vorlon, Minbari and Shadow ships). Although it does make me ponder why human spacecraft always end up looking clearly constructed out of metal and "real" materials and it's never us that ends up with cool looking organic spacecraft.
  • Recent episodes have a fair number of bluescreen shots with the actors that they clearly weren't able to remaster and it makes you appreciate just how good the picture quality is on the majority of the show.
  • Odd that the opening titles sequence is in widescreen (and doesn't seem to have remastered picture quality) but the show isn't otherwise in widescreen. I guess it just predates 16:9 being standard for TV but there's not a lot of point making the opening titles in widescreen when the show itself isn't. I mean, it's a shame, it would open it out a bit had it been in widescreen, as I've commented before, it all feels pretty claustrophobic for an a show set on an enormous space station.
  • Given that Earth Force is meant to be a military operation, I'm surprised how casual much of the interactions between the lead characters are. It makes the characters more interesting, so dramatically it works, but it still feels a touch unrealistic. This is especially noticeable compared to Starfleet officers in Star Trek whose interactions feel a lot more formal in comparison, which feels a bit strange given that Starfleet is (to a greater extent) an exploratory organisation rather than a more purely military one, which (to my understanding), Earth Force is meant to be. It does make me rather think Star Trek should perhaps have made a clearer split between the exploration and military sides of Starfleet as I'm sure there would be plenty who'd want to explore the galaxy who wouldn't want to be in a quasi-military organisation.
  • Weird observation... several episodes have nameless characters credited as "guest stars" in the opening credits. At least two episodes have had the guest star credit of "Narn 1". I get that kind of credit for the additional cast in the closing credits "man at bar" etc., but it seems a bit strange to have nameless characters for guest stars!
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I’m definitely not bored. I am up to episode 8 now. We’ve now got two new radical conspiracy groups. I love how fraught with tension the world of Babylon 5 is. This world feels like it is is about to erupt into conflict at any moment, which is a great place for the first phase of a show to be. Fraught with tension means fraught with possibility.

 

I had predicted some of Sinclair’s situation but the why still eludes me. As it should. As he said, “I must know.”

 

Ivanova gets more lovable every episode. She is my favorite character at this point although I can’t wait to see Na-Toth again too. She was great.

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