A Niner Watches Babylon 5 (NO spoilers, please)

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

  1. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    You were wrong. Attentive reading is your friend.

    When and if I respond to one of the OP's comments or observations you'll have a point...not before.

    No it doesn't. That reduces fiction to a kind of fossil record. Author's intent, "context of the times" and so on are fodder for undergraduate essays - the audience brings their current "context" to the reading or watching of a work of fiction, and if the work can't sustain continuing interest outside of an understanding of its "original context" then it's doomed to fade and disappear within a generation or two.

    No it wasn't, not by comparison to any of a number of network dramas even at the time (its "original context" as you'd say). Kegg is right that it was only remarkable if Star Trek was your single point of reference.
     
  2. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Well, since fiction IS a kind of fossil record (in many different ways, and to truly understand the impact of something, you DO have to understand the times in which it originated), and the long term worth of fiction can be judged by it's continued interest (so far, B5 has not faded away), I would consider the above invalid.

    No it wasn't, not by comparison to any of a number of network dramas even at the time (its "original context" as you'd say). Kegg is right that it was only remarkable if Star Trek was your single point of reference.[/QUOTE]

    Oh really? What other network dramas as contemporaries of Babylon 5 would you name as examples of being "just as" "dark, gritty and daring"?

    There are a few, but only a few. Babylon 5 is unique in that it not only had that, but several other elements that made it stand out.

    It stopped airing awhile back, yet it still has MUCH attention, people still discover it and find out what the magic is, way out of the context of it's times, etc etc.

    Dennis, just because you soured on the show, doesn't mean the show soured.
     
  3. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    stonester1, just because you liked the show doesn't mean it was very good - or original, or innovative as drama.

    B5 had a small and dedicated audience when it ran and has a small and dedicated audience now rather than a growing one. Genre TV is like that sometimes; there are still Lost In Space fans.
     
  4. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Gritty? That's one you'd have to sell me on. B5 is a very stagey, very theatrical production, and generally rather clean. I'm not sure what sort of grit the show had.

    Precisely. It's also a catch-22: You can't simultaneously claim that B5 is the best sci-fi series ever but also one that has to be made major excuses for.

    We're talking about entertainment here. The issue remains: Does it still entertain? That's all that matters, unless you're doing some sort of scholarly analysis of the show's impact on its viewers or whatever.

    Was Twin Peaks on network? I don't know much about that sort of American thing. I think that show was darker overall. It also came before Babylon 5.
     
  5. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    It was, as was fare like NYPD Blue.
     
  6. JustKate

    JustKate Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    ^ And Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), which preceded both NYPD Blue and Twin Peaks - and Babylon 5 - by quite a while.
     
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Absolutely.
     
  8. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    And in early press, JMS pitched Babylon 5 as "Hill Street Blues of science fiction" as well as "Casablanca in space." In the first Starlog article on the show, written during the pre-production of "The Gathering", JMS said that B5 would be grittier than Trek, preferring a used-future look similar to Aliens and Blade Runner, etc. I believe he said much the same thing in the first Cinefantastique article. (Wish that I could look these up for exact quotes, but the magazines are back in San Diego.)

    But when the series proper began, the show took on a more, as has been pointed out, theatrical look from the production design to the manner in which shots were staged (pun intended).

    Moreover, the drama wasn't as edgy as those other contemporary shows, not in the way promised early on by JMS. Was it better than the placid drama of TNG and DS9? You bet. Was it better than NYPD Blue? Not really.

    Does it destroy my enjoyment of the show? No. Do I wish it had been a little better in that department? Sure, same as I wish that the production design was a bit more... substantial.
     
  9. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    One thing I thought was an interesting production choice was that they often eschewed direct lighting of the actors, in favor of allowing them to be lit by the surrounding environment.
     
  10. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    The Gathering looked pretty gritty, especially in comparison to the rest of the series (except, perhaps, some episodes focused on down below, like Convictions in the third season). But, yeah. And Homicide: Life on the Street was also on television at the same time, pushing the envelope much further than Babylon 5 ever did.
     
  11. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Which was much more prominent in the...

    I've always preferred the look of "The Gathering" over that of the series, including the uniforms and cinematography.

    Moreover, episodes directed by Mike Vejar always had a more interesting cinematography and shot set-up. He was very fond of shooting through light to create abstract patterns on the actors' faces.
     
  12. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Aha! Kegg is one of my duals (or I'm one of his duals, I can't remember the exact accusation) so you did respond to me! I'll expect your apology in the mail, because PMs are so impersonal.


    Infection (0)

    I've just come back from the doctor after a day of tests. I watched Infection last night and I was sure that it gave me cancer, so I admitted myself to the hospital first thing this morning. Luckily the doctor could find nothing wrong with me other than my overjoyed reaction to the prostate exam, so he gave me some painkillers for the headache and told me to stop watching Futurama.

    As for the episode itself, there was some stuff about an alien monster and Sinclair talked it into killing itself. Look, I don't have time to talk about this episode, every second I spend on this rubbish is a second I could be using to play Mass Effect 2. All I'll say is that I now remember why I stopped watching B5 the first time I tried.

    Commander Greyshirt: 5
     
  13. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    As in tone, not look, not nearly as squeaky clean, especially for science fiction. Dealing with morality, grey areas, consequence, especially long term.


    Well, I personally don't feel that any excuses need be made for it, major or minor. It's not perfect, but it's imperfections no more have to be excused than those of any other show.


    Absolutely.


    Babylon 5 is it's combination of elements. You have the intimate character portraits. You have the big, epic scope. You have flaws in the characters AND the societies. Those flaws have long term consequences. There is no status quo or reset button. There is serious attempts to make the aliens ALIEN. Science is taken seriously ALONGSIDE spirituality, etc etc etc.

    Yes, there are other shows, both before and during, that had pieces of what Babylon 5 had. But none until Babylon 5 combined them into such a whole.

    In fact, the only series I consider comparable in such disparate elements combining such elements in a tapestry like that close to it would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Yes, there are shows that have done since B5, but B5 was a groundbreaker, which is why it had such an impact.
     
  14. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Yes, but all you have to do is survey what is popular and put to bed the myth that "popular"=quality and "niche"=not very good.

    Some things that are popular are also high quality. Some things that are bad have a deservingly small audience.

    But the reverse is also very true.

    But one does not follow the other as if it was an axiom.
     
  15. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    There are very few redeeming aspects of "Infection". All I can really think of are:

    -First mention of IPX
    -First exploration of organic technology
    -Garibaldi calling Sinclair out for risking himself so often.
     
  16. Canadave

    Canadave Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Honestly, it's astounding B5 managed to keep an audience with some of the early episodes. It'd be like if DS9 had followed up "Emissary" with "If Wishes Were Horses" and "Move Along Home."

    All I can say is that you need to repeat the B5 season 1 mantra: "Stick with it, it gets a hell of a lot better"
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I remember liking the alien makeup on "Infection" when I first saw it. In retrospect, this is probably because Babylon 5 had left me with a pretty low standard for alien makeup so it was nice to see a fully-done body.

    The episode, though, is just godawful.

    The latter. :p

    I probably should have elaborated. It's stagey and theatrical not just in look, but also tone: The mannerisms, inflections, acting styles, it's a very artificial seeming show at all times. Hence stagey and theatrical and so on. There's no grit to it at all.

    That's the dark part. Grit is not a synonym for dark, even if it's used often in conjunction with it.

    Yes, like the decadent old world European French/Italian empire. The alien bit is that they call it a Republic but they're ruled by an Emperor. Kooky!

    Or how about the post-colonial nation with a strongly religious population and a seething hatred for its former oppressor? I've certainly never heard of that before.

    Which leaves the space elves;
    and the 'angels and demons' who operate on the principles of order and chaos.

    You can make an argument for the alienness of any of these, but compared to the logical race of stoics who have sex every seven years, the financially profligrant race, the honour-bound warrior race, the totalitarian statist race (or races) on Star Trek - not to mention the hive-mind identity bent on collective perfection - I fail to see how this is a marked improvement.
    I do wonder if that's true. I mean, it may be (I have no idea) but what impact did it have on, say, Farscape, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, if any?
     
  18. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Aside from the CGI work B5 pioneered (for instance, the lens flare effect was added to Lightwave specifically for the B5 title sequence), they also were one of the earliest American SF shows to have a substantial meta-arc. At the time, TNG-style standalone episodes were the norm.

    Might television storytelling have moved to the more serialized format anyway? Perhaps. But it's something you can point to.
     
  19. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Yes, it is stagey and theatrical, at times, quite purposefully so. And it works for it.

    But at the same time, there IS grit, lots of it.

    "gritty-uncompromising, tough, true to life, unidealized, graphic, sordid."

    At times, Babylon 5 was VERY much this. Not continuously, like BSG, or even as much as Farscape, but it absolutely had this at times, when it was appropriate for what mood it was trying to establish.


    Yes, and their native language was "English", so obviously that was REALLY what they called their top guy.

    :rolleyes:

    Not in the exact same way it was used, no.

    I didn't say it was "better" than Star Trek, although in some ways it was, as, like most elements, there was no reset switch, and everyone came out on the other side fundamentally changed somehow.

    Unlike all those guys you mention above, who, as much as I love them (and I'm the biggest Trek fan you'll find), they were all but frozen in amber.

    It's main advantage, B5's aliens, were that they COULD change, could be altered, and they did attempt to deeply explore these people.


    I do wonder if that's true. I mean, it may be (I have no idea) but what impact did it have on, say, Farscape, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, if any?[/QUOTE]


    There was an article recently which dealt with the most influential TV shows in recent history. Buffy was the top pick for being widely influential, as in it's influence seen on other shows.

    Babylon 5 was listed, mainly because it WAS such an innovative show, AND YET it's innovations weren't reflected that much in the surrounding TV culture (it was called a wonderful "dead end" in that respect). Babylon 5's main thing was that showing that TV science fiction fantasy COULD be something other than Star Trek.

    For that, the BSGs, the Farscapes, the Fireflys, they have Babylon 5, at least in part, to thank.
     
  20. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    That's really pushing it. The show is never graphic, and the staginess (and often hamfisted approach to many moral dilemmas and politics) aren't quite true to life either. Idealization is far more common than the alternative and whatever sordidness there is is fairly tame.

    Nonsense, their native language is Italian.

    But it's not a word joke: Republics tend not to have emperors. We can call them Res Publica and Imperator but the general meaning is the same. So, yes, that's an 'alien' aspect of Centauri culture.

    What does that have to do with them being alien? You claimed Babylon 5 made aliens more ALIEN (or tried to). As I've rather pointedly elaborated it didn't, fundamentally speaking, do this any more than Star Trek had already done by that point.

    I'd like to read that, actually. Sounds interesting.
     

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