Man, I really like Babylon 5. I started watching it about a month ago, having missed its initial run on television in the mid-nineties. It’s strange that I didn’t watch it, because I’ve been a space dork for as long as I can remember. Really, I have no idea why I never watched it. I remember seeing Babylon 5 mods for various space games, like Freelancer, but I never ended up getting into the show. I have memories of watching a good bit of Deep Space 9 and Seaquest DSV during that time, so why I never sat down with Babylon, I’ll never know. Maybe I was just too into Star Wars at the time.
Although, I’ve also never seen the Stargate show, despite loving the movie and even having read one of the novels, so maybe I just suck at pursuing the things I’ll end up loving.
But, I don’t think I’ll ever watch Stargate SGanything.
Anyway, Babylon 5. It’s great. One of the things that made me decide to stop screwing around and start watching the bloody thing was reading that it was written with a three act structure in mind, with the full narrative being told over five seasons. That’s what first interested me. Watching the first episode, confident in the knowledge that even then, the writer knew where it would all end was very comforting. It’s nice to trust the storytelling of a show. Plus, J. Michael Straczynski wrote 90% of the episodes, including all of season three. That goes a long way toward instilling trust that the characters will be true and honest to themselves. Sometimes, with no clear thruline and writers’ rooms, characters can get muddled and exaggerated, or even contrary to their original presentation. See Taco in The League and Kevin from The Office as examples.
Yeah, sure, it’s dated in the visual effects and art direction, but I’ve never had a problem watching old movies and television shows. It’s easy for me, for the most part, to appreciate a piece of work through the time during which it was created. Shows like Seinfeld, The X-Files, and Home Improvement are very much rooted in the 90s, but I still love them and can watch them anytime. There’s no way that Blazing Saddles wasn’t made in the 70s and I die laughing every time. I’ve never really bought into the idea that entertainment doesn’t age well. Some things may look corny now, but the overall enjoyment can still remain. The same with books. Just because a book was written hundreds of years ago, doesn’t mean it isn’t still just as good now as it ever was.
Babylon was really one of the first shows to eschew models and miniatures and really embrace the nascent CG technology. It looks very clumsy by today’s standards, especially alongside shows like The Expanse, but there’s a charm to it. The low rez textures remind me personally of the videogames I loved during the era, like Wing Commander and Final Fantasy. There’s a joy and exuberance to it, as if, there’s this wonderful new technology, so let’s use it!
Another aspect that it carries with it is that because it was made during the 90s, there is a real feeling of hope. The future of Babylon 5 is not the dystopian apocalypse of the 80s or the 2010s. The future is bright, with fantastic technology supporting massive space stations and spacecraft, and exotic aliens populating the galaxy. There is war, and tensions exist on the space station, but it is by no means dreary, oppressive, or bleak. It’s not utopia, but neither is it a nightmare of wretchedness. It feels all very pre-9/11. In this universe, the future is something to look forward to.
I like it. Plus, Garibaldi totally looks like a low-rent Bruce Willis, and I love it.