A Niner Watches Babylon 5 (NO spoilers, please)

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by TheGodBen, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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. :D
     
  2. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Let the smugness begin! :)

    This is my favourite TV show, TheGodBen. Be kind (by your standards, of course). ;)
     
  3. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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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.
     
  4. Ensign_Redshirt

    Ensign_Redshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    And so it begins.
     
  5. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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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.
     
  6. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    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.
     
  7. tomalak301

    tomalak301 Admiral Premium Member

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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).
     
  8. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    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.
     
  9. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    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.
     
  10. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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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?
     
  11. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    You can skip season 5, it's the definition of "tacked on".
     
  12. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Except for "Sleeping in Light" which was originally produced for season 4. Can't leave out that one.
     
  13. Count Zero

    Count Zero Says who? Moderator

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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.
     
  14. StarshipDefiant

    StarshipDefiant Captain Captain

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Having seen all of it (The series and the movies), I forget...what was the forshadowing?
     
  15. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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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.)

    Listen closely to Kosh's one and only line in The Gathering.
     
  16. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    The first half, maybe. But the second half is some of my favorite stuff from the whole show!

    That said, Season 1 is pretty standard Season 1 stuff. Lots of random aliens-of-the-week, standalone stories, but it does help to set up a lot of stuff for future years. Just don't let its mediocrity discourage you from continuing.
     
  17. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Apparently there's a small number of them in hiding. My sister was one of the original fans from when it aired on Channel 4, and if anybody even walked into the room while she was watching a new episode she got pissed off, much like I do if anybody walks in on me while I watch those videos I have on my hard drive. She was one of the people that went out and spread the gospel of Babylon 5 back before it was considered nerdy to do so.

    I've lived in the shadow of this show for over 15 years, I've been told for almost two thirds of my life that it is the greatest thing ever to air. So there's no pressure on it. :)

    I'm watching the DVD version, but now I'm upset that there's not going to be a gorilla bartender. :(
     
  18. Neroon

    Neroon Mod of Balance Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Definitely, although I think "Day of the Dead" is another one I like. It has its problems, however, it's written by Neil Gaiman, which imho makes it worth checking out.

    "The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari" and "A View From the Gallery" are two other episodes which merit watching. Some good character moments, though nothing all that arc-related.
     
  19. Sykonee

    Sykonee Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    If it's the same one as from the Movie DVD Package, then the gorilla bartender is present. At least on my version it is.

    This should prove to be an entertaining thread...:techman:
     
  20. Pemmer Harge

    Pemmer Harge Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Although I've rarely found B5 dull even at its worst, those first four episodes contain what I consider two of the worst episodes the show ever did (Soul Hunter and Infection) and though I personally enjoyed the other two, I know that many fans aren't crazy about them. So, I think there's a pretty good chance you'll come to like the show once you've seen the better stuff that comes along later. Season 1 as a whole is patchy, but it contains some good background on some of the characters and plants some important seeds for later storylines and by the later stages the show begins to approach the form it'll show in Seasons 2, 3 and 4.

    Babylon 5 has its fair share of flaws, but there's a real energy and excitement to it and its use of long-running plotlines is very satisfying. It took me a while to get into the show, but the last third or so of Season 1 pretty much won me over and after seeing the season finale, Chrysalis, I was definitively sold on the show. Anyway, I'm sure this thread will be interesting :techman: