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Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old January 24 2010, 06:23 PM   #1
TheGodBen
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A Niner Watches Babylon 5 (NO spoilers, please)

Being a poster on this board while not having watched Babylon 5 is like being a beer drinker at a pot party; you feel perfectly fine with your refreshing beverage, but everyone else thinks you're lame for not joining in and they all seem to be having a good time. So...

I've spent the last year rewatching and reviewing Voyager and Enterprise, and the next show I was asked to review was DS9, a show which I'm a huge fan of. But it occured to me several weeks ago that before I attempt to review DS9 it would be interesting to watch Babylon 5 first, and after some discussion with others I have decided to do a similar review thread for B5, the main difference being that I've only seen 5 episodes of B5, so I'm going into this show "blind".


Background on me

I'm 23 now, will I ever live to see 24? The way things are going, probably yes (because it's only a few weeks away). I've been a Trekkie for as long as I can remember; I grew up with TNG, I later moved on to become a Niner, I was a Voyager hater (now semi-hater) and I felt that Enterprise was an okay show overall. I went back and watched TOS over a year ago and enjoyed the show because of the characters. My other television drama interests include The West Wing, The Sopranos, The Wire, Lost and the reimagined BSG.

I first learned of B5 from my sister who was a big fan of the show as I was growing up, but she didn't allow me to watch it because she felt I was too young to understand it. The bitch. She only showed me one episode to pique my interest, it was an episode in the guise of a news report, and it was so long ago that I don't remember anything else about it. Years later my brother became a fan and he used to constantly belittle DS9 for being a lame copy of B5. The prick. His attitude instilled in me a sort of resentment towards B5 and I resisted watching it for many, many years. Eventually I decided to give the show a chance and I watched the first four episodes of season 1 (I didn't know about The Gathering) and I found it to be so dull that I tried watching Firefly and Rome instead.

But as I said above, being on this board without having watched Babylon 5 doesn't feel right, people are constantly calling it the greatest sci-fi show of all time, and in a desperate attempt to fit in with my fellow nerds I am finally going to take the plunge and watch it. Avoiding spoilers about the show has gotten harder as the months have gone by, so if I don't take the plunge now I might find that the whole show has been ruined for me. I already know some plot threads, I know that there's some sort of war involving a race called the Shadows and a few days ago a thread which was supposed to be about The West Wing spoiled me to that fact that B5 has a storyline where they form their own state. Beyond that I know very little, so if you are reading this thread please don't post spoilers! Thank you.


The review format

The most important thing to note is that I'm not an insightful reviewer, if I have to choose between making a point or making a joke I will choose the joke, although I would prefer to merge the two if I can. I'm also quite tough to please in many regards and I will mark an episode down for arbitrary reasons. I feel that many people in the Enterprise forum were upset by this because they thought I was going to try and bring a higher calibre of review and were disappointed by what some might consider mean-spirited humour. I'm laying this on the table right now to lower everybody's expectations.

The format works as follows; I watch an episode (usually one a day, but that can fluctuate, especially at exam time) then I rate it between 0 and 5 stars, including half-stars. At the end of each season I post a season review where I create some graphs, determine the average score for the season and discuss what I liked and what I felt was lacking. (Here's an example.) I used to judge the writers and throw up some graphs for that as well, but since JMS apparently wrote 90% of the show I probably wont be doing that here.

This is a scale I once wrote up to explain my scoring mechanism:

0: Not worthy of my ridicule
½: Awful
*: Bad
*½: Poor
**: Meh
**½: Average
***: Enjoyable
***½: Good
****: Very good
****½: Great
*****: Exceptional

To my former readers: Unlike Voyager and Enterprise (and, one day, DS9), the TNG-lite rule is not in play here since the show is its own universe and doesn't need to justify itself as different. Also, I probably wont have counters for B5 because a) I don't know what I should be counting, and b) I don't want to distract myself with counting things on my first run through the show.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, such as Mike Sussman hunting me down and torturing me, I will watch The Gathering tonight and post a review of it some time tomorrow, then I'll move on to the series during the week. I hope to have fun doing this, and if only one other person is entertained by it then... well, that would be rubbish. I'm hoping for at least a dozen drooling sycophants to follow this thread and remind me daily how empty their lives would be without my reviews.

Thanks for reading.
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Old January 24 2010, 06:29 PM   #2
Deranged Nasat
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Let the smugness begin!

This is my favourite TV show, TheGodBen. Be kind (by your standards, of course).
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Old January 24 2010, 06:30 PM   #3
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Try not to be too hard on season 1. It has its moments, but on the whole it's more about setting the scene than telling a story. That starts later.
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Old January 24 2010, 06:47 PM   #4
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

And so it begins.
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Old January 24 2010, 06:58 PM   #5
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Season one actually has a great deal more variety and creativity to it than the later years of the series - but then, a lot more writers contributed to it than would be true later.

OTOH, anything that actually spent twenty-two episodes "setting the scene" instead of putting the absolute best work they could right up front would be an automatic and pretty thorough FAIL. Even if your best at the time is halting or inconsistent - ie, TNG - you have to go for it. No "plan" justifies any less.
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Old January 24 2010, 07:31 PM   #6
Ryan Thomas Riddle
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Dennis wrote: View Post
Season one actually has a great deal more variety and creativity to it than the later years of the series - but then, a lot more writers contributed to it than would be true later.
As much as I love the entirety of season three when all that "triggers get pulled," I prefer the first two seasons because of the variety and creativity, and because it showed daily life on the station not just the few who moved the arc along.
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Old January 24 2010, 07:33 PM   #7
SJSharksfan39
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

There are many things to like about season one, especially seeing the life of people on the station. Looking forward to your reviews TheGodBen. Gives a fresher perspective since I did the very same thing last year (And still kinda doing it since this is my second runthrough of the series).
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Old January 24 2010, 07:33 PM   #8
Lindley
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Dennis wrote: View Post
OTOH, anything that actually spent twenty-two episodes "setting the scene" instead of putting the absolute best work they could right up front would be an automatic and pretty thorough FAIL. Even if your best at the time is halting or inconsistent - ie, TNG - you have to go for it. No "plan" justifies any less.
The idea was that if they spent the time to show what "normal" was, then it would be more effective when they turned everything on its head.

Jeremiah takes much the same approach.

I'll agree they could have done it better.
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Old January 24 2010, 08:13 PM   #9
Kegg
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

TheGodBen wrote: View Post
I first learned of B5 from my sister who was a big fan of the show as I was growing up, but she didn't allow me to watch it because she felt I was too young to understand it. The bitch. She only showed me one episode to pique my interest, it was an episode in the guise of a news report, and it was so long ago that I don't remember anything else about it. Years later my brother became a fan and he used to constantly belittle DS9 for being a lame copy of B5.
You mean there are Irish fans of the show? You lie, surely, but that explains why I've actually seen the DVDs available at HMV (while any search for, oh I don't know, FARSCAPE DVDs is a futile endeavour. This stupid, non-Farscape loving country.) I was heckled into watching the show way back in the early years of the last decade by American blowhard Trekkies who kept insisting to me over the internet that it was the best thing ever. Naturally, I'd never heard of the damn thing before coming to the TrekBBS, so it's nice to know in that peculiar respect the place hasn't changed.

To their credit, they suggested I start with In the Beginning, a prequel movie that admittedly spoils the mysteries of the first season and hints at others still later but has the additional bonus of actually being awesome. This was also because, at the time, In the Beginning and "The Gathering", the show's pilot were about the only B5 stuff on DVD.

The other reason, obviously, is this series takes a way too long time in the first season finding its space legs. One's got to be patient in the grueling haul of mediocrity it has early on (though Dennis is right, there are some very good single episodes here, the likes of which the show doesn't do later on.)

That includes "The Gathering," also. It's not all that good, really.
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Old January 24 2010, 08:32 PM   #10
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

There are two versions of "The Gathering". The original version (1993) had the Stewart Copeland score. the "zoo tour", and the gorilla bartender. JMS' later re-edit (1998) had a new score by Christopher Franke and included the prophetic foreshadowing by Kosh. The original version is available on iTunes but not on DVD.

Which one are you reviewing?
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Old January 24 2010, 08:33 PM   #11
sojourner
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

You can skip season 5, it's the definition of "tacked on".
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Old January 24 2010, 08:38 PM   #12
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

sojourner wrote: View Post
You can skip season 5, it's the definition of "tacked on".
Except for "Sleeping in Light" which was originally produced for season 4. Can't leave out that one.
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Old January 24 2010, 08:50 PM   #13
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Mmh, I watched Babylon 5 back in the day when it first aired here in Germany. While it was ok I didn't follow it religiously and I didn't like it nearly as much as DS9. Years later, people kept insisting it was the best thing since sliced bread (even here, not just on TrekBBS) so I feel as if I missed something.
I guess I never really got over the change in command. I much preferred Sinclair to Sheridan. The Shadow War thing was interesting, to be sure, but there were a lot of small things that bugged me about the show. I hope you'll have more fun.
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Old January 24 2010, 08:52 PM   #14
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

Great Mambo Chicken wrote: View Post
There are two versions of "The Gathering". The original version (1993) had the Stewart Copeland score. the "zoo tour", and the gorilla bartender. JMS' later re-edit (1998) had a new score by Christopher Franke and included the prophetic foreshadowing by Kosh. The original version is available on iTunes but not on DVD.

Which one are you reviewing?
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Old January 24 2010, 08:56 PM   #15
Lindley
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Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

It's something you'd never recognize as foreshadowing the first time through, unless everyone pointed out to you how clever it was. (Hint: Don't.)

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