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For the past few weeks, I have been watching on Netflix Instant Queue. I have fond memories of this show from childhood. But, they’re the sort of blurry “I like the dude with the sideways mohawk and the lizard face guy” memories that are more akin to remembering the pictures from a book you haven’t actually read than a real impression of the show.
I was 7 or 8 years old when Babylon 5 premiered, so it shouldn’t come as a shock if I didn’t grasp some of it’s main concepts when it originally aired.
My family also watched while I was growing up. But, at some point the show got moved to an inconvenient time slot and we stopped following it. As a result, I didn’t actually see the whole show until two years ago. Personally, I’m glad things happened that way. I don’t think 12 year old me could fully appreciate the brilliance of episodes like “The Visitor” and “In The Pale Moonlight”. Because I got to see the show through adult eyes, I was able to really appreciate how good it is. DS9 has subsequently become one of my all time favorite shows.
I know mentioning DS9 in the same breath as B5 is a dangerous proposition, as there are still many people out there who cling to the old 90s rivalry between the two or who insist on perpetuating the idea that DS9 was a B5 rip off. I’m not trying to start a flame war here, nor am I going to waste energy on further beating that long dead horse. I’m just trying to give everyone a little background on what lead me to rewatch B5. I’m of the mind that if you like Sci-fi, you can easily enjoy both shows.
I’ve heard time and time again that if you’re a fan of DS9’s story arcs and strong character pieces, then you will love B5. In fact, my father insists that B5 was better than DS9. So, being the Sci-fi nerd that I am, I was thrilled to find out the show was available to stream on Netflix Instant Queue. Given how little I remember of the plot, I was prepared to have a similar experience to the one I had watching DS9. I looked forward to seeing familiar faces with the benefits of the maturity and experience I did not yet possess during the show’s original run.
I must admit though, the of B5 is largely horrible. Most fans of the show seem to know this already, but I really can’t stress enough how unbelievable awful some of the first season stand alone episodes are. They make the relative low points of DS9’s first season look like Citizen Kane by comparison. Bear with me though, because I am headed somewhere positive with this.
To give everyone a better understanding of how I feel about the show, I’m going to give you a quick snapshot of some of my thoughts on all the episodes I’ve seen so far.
WARNING! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Gathering – Oh boy, those Amiga effects really have not stood up to the test of time. I feel like I’m watching , or maybe a really weird game. For some reason, I thought was named Rondo in my memory. That should say something about how much of this show I actually remember. The were cool in 1993, and they’re still cool now.
Midnight On The Firing Line – This is a little bit better than The Gathering. Episodes that focus on Londo and are always more entertaining than episodes that feature the excruciatingly dull human cast.
Soul Hunter – Oh man, really? An alien comes to the station in order to steal souls. It’s hard to say who was worse in this episode, or the guest star. Michael O’Hare is so wooden, I actually started referring to him as “Commander Pinnochio” right around this episode. This is a candidate for MST3K if I’ve ever seen one.
Born To Purple – Londo acts the fool when he finds himself being seduced by a beautiful bald woman with sinister motivations. I like Londo, so this was a huge improvement over Soul Hunter.
Infection – To be honest, I blocked this one from my memory. The only thing I can really recall from this episode was the hilariously clunky bit of exposition in the beginning when the reporter asks what happened to Babylon 1 through 4. I guess in the future, terrorist attacks and trillion credit space projects disappearing into thin air just aren’t relevant enough news stories to be remembered for more than a year. Then again, if our current international space station went missing, I’m not sure anyone would notice. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure most people are even aware that there is an international space station to begin with, sad as that fact may be. So, ok episode, carry on.
The Parliment Of Dreams – The station holds a week of religious ceremonies, and apparently Earth is the only world present with multiple faiths. Does anyone else find that odd? Oh well. The sequence at the end where Sinclair shows off all the different religions of Earth was kind of a nice touch, and had a sense of optimism that was done in a uniquely B5 way. I also appreciated G’Kar’s B plot. I’m not sure if G’Kar dealing with an assassination attempt was supposed to be funny, but I laughed all the same.
Mind War – This episode has Star Trek’s own Walter Koenig in it, which makes for a fun casting choice if you’re a fan of . The idea of someone being able to kill you with a thought is pretty cool. But, the cheesy ending hurts the episode a bit.
The War Prayer – I had to fight hard not to fall asleep during this one. Londo helps a young couple out of an arranged marriage, *yawn* and a bunch of pro-earth terrorists cause trouble on B5. The terrorist plot had potential, but was quickly stomped on by an obvious ending and horrible acting on the part of the guest stars.
And The Sky Full Of Stars – This is the first episode most people seem to cite as being actually good. I don’t know about all that, but it’s a little better than the preceding episodes. This one deals with Sinclair’s missing 24 hours during the battle of the line. Some strange stuff happens, and he gets beat up a lot. We also find out is somehow involved in all this and *ZOMG* will have to kill Sinclair if he ever finds out the truth of what happened. The problem with this episode is that it’s all set up with relatively little pay off. Also, I’m far more interested in what happened to B4 than Sinclair’s missing time. But, having been told many times that all my questions will eventually be answered, I’m ok with this episode being more of a building block than an actual story. This one is miles ahead of “infection”, at any rate.
Deathwalker – And we’re back to MST3K fare. Some super evil woman named Deathwalker comes aboard the station with a powerful drug that can make anyone immortal. The catch, in all it’s mad scientist B movie glory, is that you have to kill people to make the drug. For some reason. Since this woman has committed terrible crimes, some people want her dead. Some people just want the drug, at any cost. Obviously, disagreements ensue, and in the end the Vorlons sneak off like the silent bad asses they are and blow her ship up. Good for them, I say! Most of B5’s guest stars should have met the same fate, as far as I’m concerned.
Believers – Now, THIS is what I would call the first really good episode of B5! struggles with his sense of medical ethics versus an alien family’s religious views and the results make for some compelling drama, even though I did see the ending coming long before I was supposed to. It didn’t matter though, the episode was well played and I enjoyed it.
Survivors – I fell asleep during this one. But, I think the basic gist here is that is a former alcoholic with a troubled past. Also, the president has enemies.
By Any Means Necessary – A labor dispute gets ugly and an obnoxious prick from the Earth senate labor committee is sent in to be the one note villain of the week. Around this point, I found myself wondering why I was still watching the show. Between the terrible guest stars, the dated CG, the random changes in the show’s aspect ratio, the dull as dishwater humans… Well, you get the idea.
Signs And Portents – FINALLY! The show picks up a little bit here in what I’m told is the first real foray into the larger story arc in the series. Plus, as a bonus, a lot of stuff blew up in this episode. I’m not always a fan of action sequences. I tend to like more “talky” sci-fi. But, since the rest of the season was so sleepy in comparison, this was a nice change of pace.
TKO – I’m aware that this is a particularly hated episode of B5, and that a lot of people claim this is the worst episode of the entire series. To be honest, I didn’t think it was THAT bad. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely wasn’t good either. But, it wasn’t as painful as the first couple episodes in the season. Or, perhaps by this point I had seen enough horrible material from season one that I had lowered my standards to the point where this episode came off as at least passable entertainment. Neither the A or the B plot are anything to write home about. Garibaldi has some random friend who wants to compete in an alien boxing match, and Ivanova finally deals with the death of her father.
Grail – This is another episode a lot of people seem to hate, and that I didn’t mind. It has the guy who played the evil Gul in “chain of command” in it, which is awesome because, unlike most of B5’s guest stars, this guy can actually act. The main plot is about this guy looking for the holy grail, and there’s a fairly amusing peripheral plot about Londo locking himself in his quarters after he hears that there’s a Na’Ka’Leen Feeder on board the station. Ok, it’s not great. But, I didn’t fall asleep. So, it’s clearly better than “survivors”.
Eyes- This episode starts off with what seems like a hilariously obvious bit of awkward product placement for the 1993 Kawasaki Ninja Motorcycle. Garibaldi practically launches into a commercial for the bike after asks him what he’s building. I mean, he literally sounds like he’s going to end the scene by saying “if I lived in 1993, I’d run down to the nearest Kawasaki dealership and buy one with all the amazing special add-ons that could be purchased back then, in the past, because I’ve been told *by history books* that this thing came with a great warranty and that Kawasaki always delivered the best costumer service possible for their riders. I’ve also heard they had company wide discount sales during the month of July with low APR fees on loans and no sales tax until December! In the past, of course.”. However, I see on the Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5 that J. Michael Straczynski has said they were not paid by Kawasaki to write that unintentionally hysterical scene. So, I’m actually somewhat mystified as to how all that blatant brown nosing made it into the final script.
The rest of the episode is kind of a missed opportunity due to the use of another hammy, over the top cartoon villain. However, I loved seeing as a telepath. Jeffrey Combs is one of my favorite Trek actors, so bonus points to this episode for having him on board. Oh, I also can’t forget to mention the ending scene where Lennier and Garibaldi ride their newly built crotch rocket around the station like teenagers in love, because riding a fast motor vehicle around in an indoor, crowded pedestrian area is exactly the sort of sensible example the chief of security should be setting for others on the station. Also, because the Kawasaki Ninja is an amazing bike, from the past!
Computer: The motorcycle was often considered a sign of freedom, sexual prowess and rebellion.
Lennier: Sexual Prowess?
Garibaldi: That’s right! Imma get your heart racing in my skin tight jeans, be your teenage dream tonight. Let you put your hands on me, in my skin tight jeans, be your teenage dream tonight!
(in case anyone really needed the soundtrack for this scene)
Legacies – This is the second episode of B5 I can really recommend as being good. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that this episode was written by none other than Trek veteran, DC Fontana! Being a woman who loves Sci-Fi, DC is something of a hero to me. She wrote for Trek when the Sci-Fi world was still very much a boys club. She suffered through a lot of sexism and even wrote under a male pen name for many years. In fact, I confess, I wasn’t even aware of DC’s gender before the advent of Wikipedia. As someone who aspires to write a Sci-Fi novel or two myself one day, I feel that I owe a lot to pioneering women like her. But, enough fangirl gushing, this episode keeps up a good pace throughout, has a fun mystery and even gives us an unexpected twist at the end. This is the episode that finally got me to buy into watching the rest of the series.
As of July 1st, Babylon 5 has been pulled from Netflix Instant Queue. WHAT THE FRAK!?! I was just starting to get into it! I suffered through almost all of season one, only to be rewarded with this?
Adding insult to injury for B5 fans, the new Sci-Fi show that will be replacing it in the instant queue line up is none other than… STAR TREK! Was Instant Queue not big enough for the both of them? Let the conspiracy theories begin!
No, no I kid. Everyone put your flame throwers down. I have to admit though, it would have been kind of ironically amusing if it had been replaced with DS9. But, no, it has been replaced with everything but DS9. Netflix now offers (YAY!), (Which I love, but have already recently rewatched and don’t really need to see again), (OK, sure. Why not?) and (eh… Yay?).
So, now I am left with a serious dilemma. Should I keep watching this show? After all the complaining and mocking I did for the first fifteen episodes or so, one would think it would be easy for me to walk away and dismiss B5 as a show better left remembered than seen. However, I have somehow managed to become invested in the story. So, where do I watch it now?
Let me make it clear for all of you that I am a deeply impatient person. I don’t want to wait for DVDs to come in the mail, especially since I know my boyfriend has many things in line on our Netflix queue that he would want to see before I could throw B5 in there.
I am also very cheap, so I’d really have to be convinced to pay to see the rest of the show. I’m willing to shell out money for something I know I like and will want to see many times again. I’m just not sure yet if B5 will turn out to be that kind of show for me. I certainly don’t ever need to see the majority of season one again, that’s for sure.
So, where does that leave me? As it turns out, it leaves me with The WB online! They have the show available to stream (with commercials, not that I mind that terribly) on their website. However, the online episodes seem to end part way through season two. Does anyone out there know if the WB rotates the seasons?
Well, if all else fails, I see Amazon does have all the seasons available used for reasonable prices. But, still, I would rather have continued on with Netflix. Oh well.
I suppose I will figure out a way to keep going with B5 because, as Ambassador Kosh would say; the avalanche has already started. It’s too late for the pebbles to vote.
Vorlons: what DON’T they know?
Here’s a sampling of some of the various B5 stuff I may eventually break down and buy on Amazon and eBay, for everyone’s withdrawal needs!