A Niner Watches Babylon 5 (NO spoilers, please)

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

  1. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    My biggest disappointment with Babylon 5--and I love the show--is that it didn't deliver on JMS's early promise that this would be the show where all those science-fiction writers could come to write those stories they couldn't do on Trek.

    As the seasons progressed, B5 got too bogged down in the metastory. (Yes, yes, I know all the production reasons.)

    I had hoped that there would be a stable of revolving writers each season who would take advantage of the locale and universe to tell challenging SF stories. Alas, as JMS took the reins completely, there wasn't much room for that.

    I still think that if there is a B5 revival that it should drop the arc and become a more anthology-like series, telling stories of the different kinds of people going through the station. Thus allowing all sorts of writers to write the scripts.

    JMS compared B5 to the "naked city" -- that there are thousands of stories to be told there. However, we only got the main story as told through the handful of characters we watched week in and week out.

    I felt that was JMS writing too much for Boxleitner's own speech patterns.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2010
  2. Neroon

    Neroon Mod of Balance Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    As with everything, to each their own. Opinions always will vary as to what works and what doesn't. What is quality and what isn't.
     
  3. Jan

    Jan Commodore Commodore

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Maybe, but
    It's usually people who think that B5 was just about the Shadow War who concentrate on that.
    It's not, of course.

    Jan
     
  4. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm a Fiver (or whatever the term is) through and through, and JMS remains one of my favorite writers. And I loved the metastory--derivative as it was--as it unfolded, but wished that more writers were allowed to play in that universe.
     
  5. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    No, I watched those four episodes two years ago and stopped. Now I'm starting from the beginning again.

    Don't worry, things will die down once I post a review or two, then people will realise how crap I am at this and abandon the thread. Although I must admit that I'm a bit intimidated by the fact that there has been 1,000 views before I even reached the first episode, I almost feel as if I should try and make this thing good so as not to upset people.


    The Gathering (**½)

    The epic series Babylon 5, from the epic genre writer J. Michael Straczynski, begins with an epic tale where the fate of ... a puppet is at stake. :wtf:

    The plot isn't that interesting, it's a typical whodunnit story involving shape-shifting and telepaths, the sort of safe, generic storytelling you'd see on Murder She Wrote. Okay, so maybe you're not going to see this sort of plot in Walker Texas Ranger, but for a science fiction show this episode feels very run of the mill. What sets the story apart is the political element involving the council deciding what to do with Sinclair, but even that is a bit simplistic for what is supposed to be a United Nations in space; it's just four people sitting at a desk voting in their own personal interests, they didn't even vote to create a committee to investigate whether they should hold a vote.

    Despite some atrocious exposition during the show, I'm still very confused about the Earth Alliance. It seems like Earth might be a military dictatorship, which I have no problem with from a story-telling point of view, I'm just unsure if that's the intention. The Earth ambassador to the council is a military officer rather than a diplomat, and when he is temporarily removed from command his XO on the station is appointed to the council in his place. This makes little sense to me because it would be like the the chief security guard at the UN also being the United States ambassador. I've been told that Sinclair is on the council for a reason, and I'm guessing that reason has something to do with the 24 hours missing from his memories, but that doesn't explain why the XO in charge of shipping is put on the council in his place, and I'm assuming that once Sheridan comes along he'll hold that duel role as well.

    I mentioned the exposition earlier and it comes in two forms: reasonable and terrible. Londo lamenting the fall of the once great Centauri empire is reasonable because he's emotional about it and in the context of that scene it made a modicum of sense. Lyta asking Sinclair why the station was called Babylon 5 is one of the most awful pieces of exposition I've ever heard. Am I supposed to believe that three UN's were sabotaged and a fourth disappeared and she never heard about it? And even if she uses the excuse that she was in college when it happened and she was too busy studying/partying to pay attention to the news, I'm supposed to believe that she didn't read up on the history of the Babylon project after being assigned there? Another example of awful dialogue is this:

    What?! :wtf: Screw you, buddy! I hate writers, they either want to make you pay for their work, or they show up after 4 months of you taking the piss out of them to make you feel ashamed of yourself.

    This is one of the things that I do, whenever I heard a particularly bad line in Voyager or Enterprise I'd check online for the script to make sure I have it right, then I'd take the piss out of it. But I can't find scripts for B5 online so I'm forced to get the DVD, find that scene, listen carefully and transcribe it myself. Well I'm too lazy to do that, so unless somebody knows of a shadowy site out of JMS's reach I'll be forced to work off my own memory, and after years of neglect my poor brain is struggling. :(

    I'm sorry, do you think I'm 8 years old? :confused: Because this sounds like something from a fairytale rather than something that people would actually say. There's another scene later where Dr Kyle explains that he is a changed man after seeing what Vorlons look like, and that only serves to make the earlier scene seem worse.

    I guess I should talk about the characters. Sinclair is interesting enough, his back-story is compelling and his personality isn't repugnant, so he's already a step-up on Archer. G'Kar looks like he could be interesting, so does Londo, Delenn not so much, not even when she wears her one ring to rule them all. Garibaldi? Meh, I couldn't possibly say. Takashima and Kyle seem quite dull, I'm glad they'll be fired for planting the coffee bean tree against regulations. (Does anybody else find it amusing that Takashima goes on a long rant about how it has been a long time since she has broken the rules only a minute after explaining that she broke the rules with the coffee bean tree?) But the stand-out character in this episode was Kosh! Wow, what an amazing performance, and he did it all without saying a word! :D

    There wasn't as much gorilla bartender as I would have liked, but there was more than there ever was on DS9, so that's a big plus in favour of this show.

    The episode ends when a Vorlon fleet shows up and threatens to blow up the station if they don't hand over Sinclair, which reminds me of the time that China threatened to nuke Mathatten when the Dalai Lama gave a speech at the UN. Then there's some shootouts, a fist-fight, a man running down a corridor to escape an explosion... all things we've seen before on Jake and the Fat Man. Then Sinclair pretends that he slipped a location beacon into G'Kar's drink and it makes G'Kar's stomach grumble with worry, but then Sinclair lets Garibaldi in on the hilarious secret that there was no beacon! :lol: Why, this scene was so funny that it made my eyes roll round and round and round and...

    Pilot episodes can be tricky, so I'm willing to cut this episode a little slack. It sets up the universe and introduces us to the characters, but it's a pity that it did all this with a boring story and some instances of what I consider to be bad writing. If this had been an episode from season three I would have been much harsher in scoring it.


    I'm reneging on my decision not to have counters for this show. Does Sinclair often lead the charge in dangerous missions, as he did in this episode when he and Garibaldi went after the shape-shifting guy? Because I remember him doing something similar in Infection and it makes me want to bring the Captain Redshirt counter back. Does Sheridan do that sort of thing in the later seasons?

    I used to believe the claims that DS9 stole elements from B5 were baloney spread by disgruntled B5 fans, but then I read on Wikipedia that JMS was pissed off by DS9 having a shape-shifter, a concept that he claims DS9 stole from B5. So I've decided to have a counter for all the things I find that DS9 stole from B5, starting with that one.

    Deep Swindle Nine: 1

    Here's another: The first officer is a woman. This coincidence is too amazing to have happened by accident, females only make up 49.76% of the world's population, the odds are clearly against it.

    Deep Swindle Nine: 2

    In a similar vein, the doctor character on DS9 is a man. After TNG had two female doctors, what are the chances that they'd suddenly make their next doctor a man? It's too unlikely to be anything other than a deliberate steal.

    Deep Swindle Nine: 3

    This one will blow your mind: Sinclair. Sisko. Both begin with an S. But wait, there's more! Sinclair was a company which famously made the ZX-Spectrum computer, while Cisco is a company which makes networking equipment. What uses networking equipment? Computers!

    Deep Swindle Nine: 4

    Both station names end with a number. I was wary of this one at first because I used to believe that station names often have numbers at the end of them in Star Trek, such as Starbase 74 or Deep Space K-7. But then I saw this:

    [​IMG]

    9 is just 5 with an extra line! Coincidence? I think not.

    Deep Swindle Nine: 5


    Finally, when the Vorlons arrived we saw B5 deploy its weapons. DS9 did a similar thing in The Way of the Warrior and Call to Arms. Check and mate.

    Deep Swindle Nine: 6

    (Though I say these things in jest, a part of me fears that these "arguments" might have seriously been used at some point during the flame wars.)

    Okay, I reckon I've scared about 50-65% of people away, so for those that stuck around I'll say thank you, and don't expect such a long review next time. :)
     
  6. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Yep.

    Yep, again. The series had great promise, and ended as a mediocre disappointment.
     
  7. Hyperspace05

    Hyperspace05 Commodore Commodore

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Thanks for the review of The Gathering.. :) An interesting read, for sure!

    I can only tell you that it gets better... ;)
     
  8. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    JMS worked on Jake And The Fat Man. ;)
     
  9. Jan

    Jan Commodore Commodore

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Yeah, JMS protects his copyrights. What would you expect, he and Harlan are good buddies.

    Jan
     
  10. Brian

    Brian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I'm glad for the opportunity to revisit this series with a fresh eye. I hope you wind up enjoying it as much as I do, TheGodBen!

    Ugh. That is my primary issue with the show's writing. The writing is very good on this show, for the most part, and is oftentimes inspired. But exposition is its achilles heel. Claudia Christian (Ivanova) is the worst at it. Well, I don't know if it's her fault in the delivery, or if she was just the unlucky "stuckee" who got assigned most of it. There's a counter you should add. The number of times mind-numbing, heavy-handed exposition takes you right out of the story.

    Sometimes it feels almost this bad:

    Captain: "We're under attack. Who is it?"
    Ivanova: "Well, as you know, we're on a station five miles long, with countless alien races aboard. The station has been referred to as our last, best hope for peace. But the green sector alone -- which, as you know, houses our ambassadorial delegations from Minbar (the people with the bones on their heads), Centauri Prime (the hair people), and the Narn (the lizard-men) -- makes us a prime target for attack. And I don't need to tell you, but with the situation back home with the Psi-Corps and the Homeguard movement, we have any number of people gunning for us. As you know."

    In the fifth season, Lt. Corwin picks up the expositional torch where Ivanova left it.

    In a couple of seasons, Dr. Kyle's reaction will make perfect sense to you. That's all I'm sayin'. :shifty:
     
  11. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    On top of that... it's just stupid backstory. I don't think it's spoling a lot that there's no particular need for there to be a grand total of four exploded space stations, it just struck me that JMS had a cool name for his series and then had to furtively come up with a rationale for it.

    You'll miss Takashima when you get Ivanova. Because of her deep characteris... um... look, Ivanova's just as dull and not as hot, alright?

    Franklin though, foxy, foxy man. Ahem.

    Actually I find it far cornier in retrospect. Uh... yeah.
     
  12. Brian

    Brian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I don't want to spoil anything, but I'd say that what he saw would change anyone. That's the whole point of... what he saw. :p
     
  13. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Who are you? What do you want?





    ;)
     
  14. tomalak301

    tomalak301 Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I'm reading this thread, and I'm starting to wonder if I was in a minority on a few things. For one, I like the characters (especially Ivanova, and was sad when Christian left) even though there are a few issues I have here or there. I thought the chemistry between Garibaldi and Sinclair was pretty good, and really liked the chemistry between Christian and Boxlietner.

    Also, while some things didn't work in the show, I thought for the most part, things were really tight and well rounded. A Problem with having many writers is arcs start to lose focus. This is a problem I had with BSG (Among other things, since I think it's one of the most overrated shows in the last decade but that's a different topic). With B5, having one mind almost write the entire story, it kept things simple and straight to the point. However, one thing I am starting to notice from Seasons 1-2 and 3-5 is that even though the station was 5 miles long, it felt very short. At least the first two seasons gave us some scope on daily life on the station, something that was ignored later on.

    Still, after getting into this show last year and getting the DVDs and currently watching Season 4, I really do like it, and consider it one of the best shows ever. It's not as great as Farscape (Which I thought had better stories, actors, characters, and chemistry, and even though they had puppets, those puppets are more human than some other Scifi Characters), but it's still pretty darned good.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2010
  15. stonester1

    stonester1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Agreed on all points. I also believe that Season 1 and 5 are better than even most fans give them credit for.

    I only disagree on Farscape. Yes, it completely rocketh, but B5 is still tops in my book.

    And I like BSG better than you do.
     
  16. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I think I'm in the minority as far as Ivanova goes, at least among B5 fans. As far as the ensemble goes, well, it's a mixed bunch. G'Kar, Londo and Delenn would be the standouts for me, and I'll throw in Franklin as the token human. A lot of the rest I could just as easily live without, honestly (ok ok Lennier and Vir... wait they're still aliens.)

    Correct. B5 has puppets too, they just aren't very good. If GodBen is resentful there's no gorrilla bartender, well, just wait for the giant bug black market guy. *spoilers!*... he runs a black market.

    Has there ever been any Fiver-Scaper wars?

    If not, can we start one now?
     
  17. neozeks

    neozeks Captain Captain

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I had the same problem with BSG (that's one of the main complaints people always level against it), but I also had a problem with B5 because it represents the other extreme. Having one person lead the grand story is perfectly OK, but nothing demands that the same person writes almost every last script down to the details. He can just be the lead writer or producer or something in charge, writing the key episodes and supervising and approving the others. I think DS9's team (Piller/Behr/Wolfe/Moore) did a reasonable job with that.
     
  18. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Targeted jumppoints vs wormhole weapons....
     
  19. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    True. Also, you know what else B5 coulda used? A 'previously on' tag at the start of every episode. Not something important for someone marathoning the show on home video but it could have helped when on TV.

    Well I didn't mean in Star Trek v. Star Wars sort of way (typified by the stardestroyer.net fare where heroes who routinely defeat the Borg for a living are apparnetly helpless against an Empire which can't defeat teddy bears) but I'm game for that too.

    My Peacekeeper Command Carrier is so much better than those Earth ships! Probably. I think. I bet Moya could starburst away in time, anyway. And Luxan warrior would so probably beat a Narn in close combat! Also, Hynerians would wrest any Centauri eating championships rather handily.
     
  20. Jan

    Jan Commodore Commodore

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I've always wondered why they didn't do that. Something as targeted as the Buffy 'previously on' segments would have saved a whole lotta exposition for the poor actors.

    As for minority views, I'm in the camp that could take or leave Ivanova. Didn't like the telepath who wasn't Lyta, either.

    Jan