The major impetus for its creation was the Earth / Minbari war which lead the human civilisation to the point of extinction. Babylon 5 is so called because Babylon's 1 - 4 were either destroyed or mysteriously vanished.
Commander Jeffery David Sinclair was not on the top of the list for commanding Babylon 5, quite the opposite, he was near the bottom! But other external forces picked him for the job for unknown reasons. Sinclair is very level headed but is haunted by his experience on the battle of the line, the last great battle to defend Earth at the end of the Minbari war where he lost 24 hours of his memory. Apart from solving the stations problems he is trying to find out what happened, unfortunately some very dangerous men also want to know, at any cost.
Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova is a Russian whose mother took her own life after it was found her mother had telepathic powers, she was but on drugs to suppress the powers, but it mentally destroyed her. This has made Susan a very hard woman with a deep distrust of licensed telepaths. Her problems are compounded by the loss of her brother during the Minbari war and her terminally ill father.
Security Chief Michael Garibaldi is a recovering alcoholic, but is a very good detective. Unfortunately a bit too good for his own safety as he uncovers sinister plots beyond his control which puts him in mortal danger. Chief Medical Officer Stephen Franklin is passionate about saving lives and even though we don't see enough of him is a strong character who will be focused on in later seasons. He also has a few friends of a dubious nature who put the whole station at risk.
Minbari Ambassador Delenn holds many secrets. Being of one of the older races she is wise and calm but knows far more than she lets on. She is aided by the Minbari Attaché Lennier who is slightly naive after being raised in a temple, and not having much experience of real life, a fact Londo plays upon. Narn Ambassador G'Kar is also a member of the ruling council of the Narn, who were kept under a 100 years of occupation by the Centauri. He longs for revenge with a passion, unfortunately he has made a few enemies at home who are out to settle a few old scores, permanently. He is aided by Narn Attaché Na'Toth, a duty driven individual but when she shows up is she really in G' Kar's side?
Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari gambols, drinks and eats too much and lives life to excess. But he looks in the mirror and fears he sees all he will ever be, but will his longing to restore his empires greatness and his own passion for political advancement prove to be the galaxies undoing by making sinister pacts? He is aided by Centauri Attaché Vir Cotto. Vir is more nervous and moral but often treated badly. The Vorlon Ambassador is Kosh, is best described by the quote, "They say god moves in mysterious ways, but he ain't got a patch on the Vorlon." He never comes out of his environmentally sealed encounter suit and well, is a mystery to everyone.
Commercial Telepath Talia Winters is a member of psi-corp, the government sanctioned group who controls telepaths, if you refuse to join you're either put in prison or put on drugs. She is trying to gain acceptance of the ever distrustful Ivanova, but faces horror when she is forced to scan the mind of a criminal.
Season One Episode Guide
- Midnight On The Firing Line
- Soul Hunter
- Born To The Purple
- Parliament Of Dreams
- Mind War
- The War Prayer
- And The Sky Full Of Stars
- Signs And Portents
- By Any Means Necessary
- The Quality Of Mercy
- A Voice In The Wilderness Part One
- A Voice In The Wilderness Part Two
- Babylon Squared
The sound and picture are reasonable, certainly better than what video or television can offer, but not blockbuster movie quality. The audio was clear but the shows sound effects were never the shows strong point so there was nothing special to show off. The picture quality was clean, especially since most of the shows scenery was created digitally, so it transferred well, with no picture problems. It should be noted the special effects were ground breaking at the time due to there shear magnitude of use in a television show, something only done before in films on that scale.
The extras are reasonable, but "could do better" would be my opinion. Surely a few more interviews wouldn't have gone amiss. Also the commentaries are a no-no for first time watchers, they give too much of the arc away and should not be watched until you have seen season 4 (why not till after season 5?, you'll see after you've watched season 4 :-) ).
Set slightly differently to other science fiction shows, or most other TV shows for a matter of fact, Babylon 5 has a five year story arc. Whereas each episode is mostly self-contained they all add up to a much bigger picture, which makes for intriguing viewing. Season one eases you in slowly, introducing the characters and the civilisations/governments.
As the seasons progress the episodes move from more discrete stories to telling more of the total arc. This also means the show has a high re-watchability factor, because all the clues pointing to the conclusion are there, some obvious, some subtle, and a bit easier to pick up the second (3rd,4th.) time round.
The characters are deep and rich in detail, and aren't perfect human beings (or Centauris or Narns.) they have very real character flaws which make them more relatable to. Unlike other shows they are not just people in a tin can in space, a lot of how Earth has developed is played out adding more depth to the show. Also happy endings aren't guaranteed!
In my book Babylon 5 is a much welcomed refreshing change from other shows, better depth, better stories, better characters and better realism. If you're a science fiction fan then its well worth a look in.
- Series Introduction by J. Michael Straczynski
- Episode commentary on 2 key episodes by J. Michael Straczynski
- The Making of Babylon 5
- Back to Babylon 5
- Babylon 5 Encyclopaedia