Review: Babylon 5 is My Favourite Scifi Futuristic TV Series

Babylon 5 is my favourite science fiction TV series for many reasons including the continuous 5 season story arc, feeling that it’s like a future UN Security Council in space “our last best hope for peace”, first real use of good visual effects in TV scifi, great theme music and character development of human and alien nature which shows that no one is all “good” or “bad”, just different shades of grey and there is always hope for redemption if you change your ways.

I’m a big fan of Star Trek but it was largely episodic and designed for syndication to TV networks worldwide so they could play episodes each week on random repeat. In comparison watching Babylon 5 like that would make no sense because conversations and plot points early on are crucial to future events and consequences of even small actions can have huge ripple effects later on.

Also the Star Trek back story was that humankind had evolved into a semi-utopian society whereas the Babylon 5 universe has the gritty realism of a future where Earth is low on resources, the Babylon 5 station has lower decks where crime and poverty are rife, Xenophobic groups hate aliens, Earth mining colonies choke under it’s control and there is inter-human as well as inter-species conflict due to religion, business, territorial conquest and age old grudges.

Babylon 5-last best hope for peace

“It was the dawn of the third age of mankind – ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream, given form. Its goal: to prevent another war, by creating a place where humans and aliens can work out their differences peacefully. It’s a port of call – home away from home – for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers.

Humans and aliens, wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal . . . all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it’s our last best hope for peace.

This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.”

Other Reviews of Babylon 5

Each season of Babylon 5 featured a title, or theme. Year one was “Signs and Portents” as it set up the events that would play out over the next five years. It introduced the universe where this epic will play out, foreshadowed the rise and fall of characters, and gave viewers just a taste of things to come.

There are moments in this season that won’t entirely make sense. Some of these will come into focus shortly, while others won’t be fully explained until the fifth season rolls around. It’s like the hairs on the back of your neck tingling, but you don’t know why just yet. There are conversations, confrontations, and events in this first year that seem to not have too much meaning yet, but as the series goes on, all will be made clear.

The basic story of Babylon 5 takes place on the last of the Babylon space stations, which were meant to be a sort of “UN in space”. The first three stations were destroyed, while the fourth vanished without a trace. However, Babylon 4 is the source for one of the best episodes of the season, along with one of the best endings of any show in year one. Throughout the course of the series, this rotating cylinder in space will be the focal point for a coming war against an ancient foe that has re-emerged after centuries of hiding.
IGN Entertainment Review

The characters grew and changed and made choices and dealt with the consequences of those choices for good or bad. G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) put it best: no one on Babylon 5 is exactly what they appear. Keep a score card handy: this week’s ally may be next month’s enemy. There is no clear deliniation of good guys and bad guys – mostly it’s all shades of grey. Acting (with the exception of one season five regular) is superb.

Action, yes. Yet one of the most moving episodes is a one-on-one battle of wits and nerve between two characters in a single room. Wars – some with aliens, some between alien races, and some with just us humans – start & end. There are four ambassadors from alien races on board, with a League of Non-Aligned Worlds to complete the roster. Telepaths of all races (except the Narns) add more colour. Intrigue, smuggling, dealing, double-dealing, romance, all leavened with humourous touches throughout – what more could you ask!
– JustKes on Amazon.com (no link as his review contains spoilers)

Season 1 of Babylon 5 (B5) isn’t the strongest of the 5 seasons, but even so it ends up being a fantastic journey into a sci-fi future. Babylon 5, in my opinion, takes a more realistic approach to what living in space would be like. Don’t get me wrong, Star Trek is great! but tends to be a bit ‘idealistic’. This realistic approach leads to very suspenseful moments as the galaxy takes twists and turns to show that living in space is not a joyride.

Compared to the meat of Babylon 5, season 1 actually feels like it comes up short. While Babylon 5 is a fantastic show, with one of the most epic story-lines of any sci-fi show I’ve watched, season 1 tends to come off very weak (Probably due to budget restrictions early on and character development) Despite being a bit on the weak side it sets incredible ground work for the remaining seasons; as season 1 starts to come to a close it gets much stronger since the main plot is now starting to blossom.
Jason on Amazon.com

This is the TV show that changed all tv show’s in the Same genre. Before B5, Science fiction just moved from episode to episode, telling a new story every week. Well now every scifi/fantasy show builds its story on seasonal of series long story arc. And so it begins. Babylon 5 started out being very subversive. The creator, Joe Michael Straczynski was being watched very closely by the network so he could not do everything that he wanted to do.

So how did he build his story? He did so by planting seeds in each episode that would sprout one, two , three even four years later. By watching the story unfold, it makes season one that much better. Season one is probibly the least best of the Five, but it is still better than any sci-fi season of any show ever made. The characters are still undeveloped. And let me explain that, The characters were not fully revealed so you did not know who was good or bad, in fact they did not know if they were good or bad. They had to be thrust into incredible scenarios to find out how they would react in a certain situation to find out what type of person they were.

It is brilliant. And the scenarios that they were put into are incredible. The author really does a great job of leading you down one path only to find out that you are more lost, disturbed and manipulated than you ever imagined. And the writer is an author. He put the outline of a book together in 1987 and instead of trying to write it as a paper novel, he turned it into a tv novel. I believe he wrote about 90 of the 110 episodes made. that is over a thousand pages a year. Most people don’t read that much.

Each episode is a new chapter driving the story and characters deeper into a pit of despair and intrigue that allows us to ask various questions on human nature. It is mythology, psychology, sociology, science fiction, politics, philosophy and allegory all in one. No author has ever built a more intense story and put all of his characters through such hell.

Where do they end up? Well you will have to watch it to find out but if you decide not to, then you are missing the greatest piece of art that the TV has ever displayed. I recommend it for anyone who likes to think about things that matter, religion, life, justice, crime, punishment, chaos, order, how to let go and how to move on.
J Lindsay on Amazon.com

Background to Babylon 5

The Emmy-winning Babylon 5 brought many exciting innovations to science fiction television. Computer-generated effects, five-year story arcs, and elaborate mythology made this series stand apart from what came before and point the next generation of sci-fi/fantasy series in bold new directions.

This show realized creator J. Michael Straczynski’s vision of creating a five-season novel for television. Its stories proved that one person can make a difference, that the choices we make (right or wrong, good or bad) have far-reaching consequences, and that humanity is far greater and nobler than given credit for being.

Babylon 5 is a five-mile long space station located in neutral space. Built by the Earth Alliance in the 2250s, it’s goal is to maintain peace among the various alien races by providing a sanctuary where grievances and negotiations can be worked out among duly appointed ambassadors. A council made up of representatives from the five major space-faring civilizations – the Earth Alliance, Mimbari Federation, Centarui Republic, Narn Regime, and Vorlon Empire – work with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds to keep interstellar relations under control.

Aside from its diplomatic function, Babylon 5 also serves as a military post for Earth and a port of call for travellers, traders, businessmen, criminals, and Rangers. A floating city home to a quarter of a million humans and aliens is bound to experience problems; Babylon 5 has problems in abundance.

Its senior staff of Earth Alliance officers – along with the most prominent members of the diplomatic community – deal with personal problems, cultural differences, threats to station security, and interstellar crises on a regular basis. Old prejudices and unresolved issues leftover from the Earth-Mimbari War and the Centauri occupation of Narn lead to unexpected developments.

Pro-Human groups and a corrupt government make the Earth of the future far from paradise. Telepaths seek refuge from the militant Psi Corps while the Mars colony desires support in its bid for independence.

And then there is the growing presence of Shadows in regions close by and on the Outer Rim of known space. Fate has decreed that Babylon 5 be crucial to deciding the outcome of all of these conflicts.

Babylon 5 DVD at Amazon.com

3 thoughts on “Review: Babylon 5 is My Favourite Scifi Futuristic TV Series”

  1. Well written and well conceived Sci Fi series. Continuing story that still had multiple threads per episode. Political and topical, and somehow very relevant to what is happening in the world today. Dared to actually change through the run rather than reset at the end of each episode. It’s a must watch for everyone.

  2. I appreciate the effort you semem to have gone to here, but like many articles on your blog, it lacks substance, it’s just a bunch of links to other random people’s comments.. Do you ever actually do full reviews or express opinion?

    EDITOR: Look more carefully and you’ll find that there are a mixture of articles. Some like this one which is an introduction to a topic with links to other sources … as well as in-depth articles like this one about The Future of TV and Mobile/Internet Gaming

    These days I tend to write the really long articles for print which is better suited to explaining complex topics eg: this article in the current issue of GEARE magazine
    geare magazine march 2011

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