I'm rewatching TNG right now, and want to try something new after I finish that, before starting my DS9 rewatch.
I've heard a lot about Babylon 5. Is it really similar to DS9 as space station shows? How is the acting and is it as arc heavy as what DS9 became in its later seasons? I keep hearing that B5's first season and last season were really weak, can they be skipped?
All loaded questions.
At the time DS9 and Babylon5 aired, there was a rivalry between many of the fans of each, some have never gotten over that, and love one, while detesting the other.
They were indeed both set on a Space Station and some things happened in both shows, to where one set of fans would accuse the other show of copying.
I personally believe each show was fueled by the other, making both of them better for it.
B5, S1, has an awful lot of Universe building and putting "Checkov's Guns" on the wall. You can't tell until later, so, on a first watch, you may not appreciate some of the early episodes as much as you would watching them again after having seen the entire show, where you can see just how much was foreshadowed early on. I would definitely not suggest skipping S1 (Nor S5).
B5 S5 - At the end of S4, it was believed the show was going to be cancelled, so JMS rushed some plot developments to conclude themselves at the end of S4, therefore S4 ends with an all high adrenaline high. TNT came along and renewed B5 for a S5, but, by this late hour, S4 was already in the can. Some of the things tied up in the final 4 episodes of S4, were meant to continue a few episodes into S5, and some of the stuff in early S5 was meant to start before S4 ended, giving the show a smoother structure. Having ended S4 in such an extravaganza, this caused S5 to have a "start Up" feeling for the first half (Plus some folks just hate that early S5 arc anyways), and there was also some behind the scenes issues, such as an Actress not signing on in time, and having to be replaced by a different character, causing JMS to ahve alter some of the characters taking certain parts of the arc. IMHO, though, the Second half of S5 is every bit as good as the best of Babylon 5 (Generally seen as S3 and S4).
Regarding the acting, I don't think there was any problem with the acting from the principle cast, some of them are phenomenal, and even the couple of actors who aren't the greatest actors, were well cast for their part, IMHO. Alot of the dialogue is formal stage-like, so, some folks take that as being poor acting. There are many exceptional guest stars, and a few not so great guest stars
So, I would say, if you can just let yourself flow with the show, without wanting to "Rush the progression of the Arc", you will be well rewarded. If you watch S1 and half way through S2, and still haven't found any enjoyment in it, then S3, S4 and the second half of S5 probably won't change your mind. If you do get halfway through S2 and are still on board, you are in for some awesomeness, through most of the rest of the Series.
B5 and DS9 are number #1 and #2 of my list of favorite shows.
There is very little dropped before playing out, and almost nothing that comes out of nowhere. It's pretty much all foreshadowed, and what's foreshadowed generally plays out, only a couple of things didn't work out because of behind the scenes issues, and the arc was generally diverted another direction to get it back on course.