Monday, June 26, 2006

B5: Four And One Half

Babylon 5 is almost over. Yes. Sad to say, I have watched four and one half seasons of the show through my Netflix queue and now, I find myself at a loss for words. It is such a large and complex show that spans so many different themes and storylines that I could never hope to summarize it in a short blog post.

I originally started watching Season One with great trepidation. I knew nothing about the show except that it was a science fiction show with a continuing 5-year story arc. (5-years? Where have I heard that before?) I had overheard things from friends, once in a while, but never enough to make me indulge.

A weekly commitment was valuable time when the show originally aired and I am embarrassed to say that I preferred the lacquered planks of my favorite bar and a pint or two of and ale or lager to the television set. Well, OK, I’m not embarrassed to say that but you get the point, I didn’t have the time. Suddenly, I’m home with infants and toddlers and I have nowhere to go but to the tube for some late night temptation.

After the first season, I was slightly impressed, but not overwhelmed. After the second season, I was hooked, big time. Not just hooked a little. I was hooked like never before. This is probably one of the greatest space shows ever to come to television. Better than anything I have ever seen on the small screen in terms of science fiction. One thing that had always bothered me (and just about everyone else) was the reset factor in most sci-fi, much less all other non-soap opera drama. Star Trek: TNG had a certain quality of the evolving story line but it was limited to sporadic appearances and mini arcs. Though the Borg showed up in the first season with Q and made a reappearance in one of the greatest story arcs of the Star Trek universe, that still didn’t scratch the surface.

B5 was brave, groundbreaking, complicated and emotional. I found that the issues J. Michael Straczynski tackled mirror some of the same ones we are dealing with today, in the real world. He had a telescope placed firmly on the new millennium. That is what was great about this show. Even ten years later it does not seem at all dated. Sure there were some special effects that looked fake and the design was, like, reminiscent of, like, what a person in the, like, Eighties thought the future would be, like, like but it totally, like, evolved over the years. In the beginning of the first season the sets were decorated with neon and the outfits were installed with shoulder pads. By the fifth season they had Neil Gaiman writing episodes about death and the sets were neon-less and grungy, befitting the Nineties style.

One thing that impressed me as a writer was the way Straczynski held the tension and drama, season after season. Even when plotlines were resolved they resonated in the next year’s story.

I have to admit that this show could not have been produced except through the vision of one man. Hollywood too often makes decisions by committee and that has proved disastrous and unfortunate for us. J. Michael Straczynski made one of the greatest epic space operas of all time.

One that I hope will be continued for generations to come.


The Phoenix said...

Sounds like it was a very good series. What do you think of 4400?

ObilonKenobi said...

I haven't seen it yet but it is on my queue for Netflix. I must get through another few movies first and of course the last half of B5 season and the accompanying movies.