The Babylon 5 Universe

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that the writing is not very high-class—on par with the average Star Wars/Trek book. But after watching the entire series and movies last year and reading two trilogies (The Psi Corps Trilogy and The Centauri Trilogy), I am in awe of how the creator J. Michael Straczynski managed to get it to fit into one time-line, while still jumping back and forth with his creations (e.g. he shot the pilot-film with the whole background-story after shooting the 5 season-series).

For those that don’t know, Babylon 5 is a space-station that get’s involved in a huge multiplanetary war that is essentially a reiteration of a war that happened 1000 years ago. There’s time-travel, 100s of alien races, telekinesis, (a lot of) political intrigue, space battles, etc. A space opera by definition.

While, again, the writing is nothing to write home about, for creating universes a lot can be learned from watching/reading this series.

Mucho recommend, but a word of warning: it’s highly addictive!

I LOVE this series. And it is now on iTunes so I can download only my most favorite episodes. But that is only after having seen the entire series when it was first-run, and then seeing it all again on DVD (from the library!).


Hi Alex! Same here… I also love that one…

There are very few television shows that I really get in to; mostly because of the atrocious dialogue heavy writing. B5 is no different on that score; it’s got some pretty cheesy dialogue, especially in the first season. But the story and the universe is well done. Entertaining to watch and also a bit philosophically interesting here and there. I actually learned quite a bit about how to let go of something you love when the time is right. It was a lesson I needed at the time, and wow did I get it; the conclusion brought me to tears.

I read that his intention was to show a novel sized story with motion picture technology. Television is the only way this can really be done. If B5 were shown back to back it would be something near 90 hours of actual story. That’s the important thing separating it from other shows. None of those 90 hours are just in there to bulk up a season (though some purist might dismiss the entire season 5, I actually got the most out of that extension of story).

Anyway, fantastic that it is on iTunes. I’ve always wanted to own it, but have balked at the thought of putting up nearly $400 for all of the season sets.

Actually, I find the price reasonable… when compared to cable TV.

When my husband and I moved, our new place didn’t get any TV reception on the rabbit ears, so we signed up for cable to give it a try. After bingeing on Discovery channel for the first month, we realized after 6 months that we hadn’t turned the decoder box on at all in the previous 3 months, so we cancelled.

One month of cable TV was about the same price as one season of a TV show on DVD, in Vancouver.

It just makes economic sense for us to buy those few TV shows we follow on DVD.

Well, given that I only have an interest in four series, three of which are long dead (Cosmos, B5 and Twin Peaks), the notion of owning a television and subscribing to cable has always struck me as a bit of a waste. So I’m definitely with you on the DVD side. It just has always seemed to me that the B5 seasons were priced at quite a bit higher than the other seasons sitting right next to them.

Go on. What’s the fourth?

Agreed. The only reason to pay for cable here is that the internet comes via TV cable, incredible speed, like the computer in the neighbouring room via LAN. And it adds the comfort of watching baseball or Sumo when work is even more boring (Japanese series are worst).


Well, Season 3 was kind of hit and miss, but I liked the first two seasons of BSG. The political commentary and the mythology were well done, but I think the writers lost their focus in the middle of last year’s batch. The first few episodes were great, and so were the last few. If next year’s falls flat, I’ll probably stop watching it.

Ditto on the cable. We have the most basic, mostly just for local news, and our internet via cable (fast speeds, etc.). Other than that, it’s DVDs or iTunes for us. Mostly we rent from Netflix or get things from the library we want to watch. Makes sense–that way you watch only what you want and never have to watch the garbage that makes up most of what is offered as TV fare.

I agree about the cheesy dialogue on B5 on occasion. I almost stopped watching the program entirely the first year–I found it rather boring. But I’m glad I hung in there. It got much better, almost mythic in storyline, and they had cast some really top-notch character actors who brought many of the characters to life in very subtle and textured ways. Ditto on the tears at the end as well.


For the ultimate experience in cheesy dialog, watch Eragon.

Sounds like I ought to give Babylon 5 a try. I’ve never seen any of it, but it’s starting to sound interesting.

I’ve been very impressed by the handful of episodes I’ve seen of BSG season two - especially the acting, the direction, and the characterisation. Any show that can convince me that Richard Hatch is a hardcore political animal… I want to get that on DVD.

B5 is interesting because you’d expect that as a timeline becomes more complex and expansive, the characters’ depth will suffer. I think that’s true for both star wars and star trek, where good and evil are fairly one-dimensional. Even Darth Vader’s (painful to watch) transition into the dark side, in the last three movies, couldn’t overcome this.

With B5, you have many more grey areas surrounding events and individuals. For instance, you could characterise Lando as evil and G’Kar as good, but both have done things that are counter-characteristic (if that’s a word).

I think it’s probably a function of much of it taking place in a confined space, the B5 station. When you get to see the same characters day-in-day-out, there is no choice except to give them more depth and having them express themselves in more human and unpredictable ways.

Really, that is why I started this topic; not to talk about dvd- or itunes-prices (in my country, the Netherlands, iTunes doesn’t even sell videos!), but more about understanding some of the principles of story-writing and why something works and something else doesn’t. Incidentally, Amazon sells B5 for $220 vs. $370 for Star Trek: TNG and $700 (!!!) for Voyager.

In any case, I watched the pilot, which was filmed after the series, before episode 1, and one of the reasons I was drawn into it was because of the creator’s utter respect for timeline and keeping it ‘canon’. As well as the grey areas surrounding the big war, how deep Lando could sink, etc (note: those are not spoilers). The reason I started reading the books, especially ‘The Centauri Trilogy’, was because it continued on where series 5 ended, and I recommend those books for anyone who’s seen the whole thing.

Finally, it really is too bad that the actor who played G’Kar, my favourite character on B5, died last year (the doctor also in 2004). I would have loved to have seen him in ‘the Lost Tales’, out this or next year I think.

I like your general idea. I was thinking of starting a thread with a similar purpose the other night after I saw the finale of the first season of Heroes. The thread idea would be to discuss what in Heroes kept viewers hooked. Same with Survivor - I hate to admit it, but there are a couple of reality shows that keep me guessing, and Survivor is the epitome. I’m afraid to say B5 just doesn’t work for me, though. When I make time, I may still put up those other threads. Or maybe we need a general TV writing thread.


I appreciate your opinion on this, but my philosophy towards contemporary shows is somewhat different than yours. For Heroes, it’s too soon to say whether the story really has merit or is just a gimmick. And Survivor, having only seen a few episodes, feels like a very regurgitated version of Robinson Crusoe to me. In my opinion, time would be better spent on reflecting on what made that story work, instead of a spin-off.

But yeah, I sometimes forget that Scrivener is just as much a tool for screenwriters as it is for writers. Not to suggest that screenwriting is dumber, I think there are plenty of examples, incl. B5, of great stories that have been televised.

Oh man, that’s sad. I always really liked Andreas Katsulas. He often played bad, rather evil characters and did so well (he was the bad guy in the remake of the Fugitive, also in Someone to Watch over Me, etc.). And Richard Biggs too. I didn’t know. Sorry I’m off topic again…

That was by far the most impressive aspect of B5, thanks for bringing that up. That such a complex story could be maintained while also evolving rich characters who radically change over the course of the series was fun to watch.

Well, considering that both TNG and Voyager had seven years instead of five, I’d only expect them to cost a bit more. But, $700? Wow. You are right about B5 though. I always forget to check Amazon. :slight_smile: I’ve always just seen the $75 per season price in retail stores.

$700 is insane. What, are the DVDs made of gold???

@ Alex1: no I don’t think it’s off topic at all. Andreas Katsulas was an excellent actor and brought much to the series. He was also a devoted smoker though, so I assume he (subconsciously) knew what he was doing to himself and just tried to enjoy life.

@ AV & Alex2: yeah $700 is crazy! Voyager must have been one hell of a popular series. But the price might also be related to that there are few copies on the Amazon-store.

When I think about it, Babylon 5 was much more of a soap-opera sometimes than a Sci-fi. In that way it is similar to Battlestar Galactica, and I expect that people who don’t like B5 also don’t like BSG, and vice versa.

Maybe, since I definitely love both. I don’t know about soap operas. I detest them. But perhaps you mean in the sense of being ‘serials’?