Friday, July 9, 2010

SciFiNow: Babylon 5: Ten Of The Best

I ran across a Babylon 5 Ten Of The Best article over at SciFiNow by James Rundle. You know my love for top ten lists knows no bounds. I thought I would bring this to visitors here who are fans of the Babylon 5 series. It doesn't match up to my own Big 10 preferences [and maybe not yours], but it's a reasonably sound list. SciFiNow indicates this is not THE best 10 episodes, but ten of the best. I've included the summary-based information from the piece for your discerning eyes. The article appears to have a predisposition for the more action-oriented installments.

signsandportentsSigns And Portents. Season One. "There may not have been a huge amount of action in this episode, but it was crucial to the overall development of the further plot. It introduced, obliquely, the Shadows, Mr Morden, and foreshadowed (no pun intended) the Narn-Centauri War."

babylonsquaredBabylon Squared. Season One. "A mind-bending, reality-warping episode that mastered the art of raising questions for long-running arcs well before Oceanic 815 crash-landed on a time-shifting island."

chrysalisChrysalis. Season One. "The finale of the first season also saw the departure of Sinclair as the station’s commander, the transformation of Delenn into a Minbari-Human hybrid, the assassination of Earth President Santiago and more. A moving, and deeply important installment."
intheshadowIn The Shadow Of Z’ha’dum. Season Two. "Morden has been a shadowy, elusive presence on the station up until this point, but finally, we start to get some answers. Babylon 5 always excelled at presenting infodumps gracefully, and this is a fine example of that, where we learn the framework of the verse."

severeddreamsSevered Dreams. Season Three. "Dramatic, action-packed and well-written, Severed Dreams is possibly the best episode of Babylon 5, and always a fan favourite. The Earth Alliance civil war is kicked off in style here, complete with the kind of space battle you’d never see in Star Trek."

zhadumZ’ha’dum. Season Three. "A climactic moment features some brilliant (for the time) CG work, good acting from the ever-reliable Bruce Boxleitner, plot development and one of the most beautiful scores in the entire series. A truly vintage episode of the later Babylon 5 era."

intothefireInto The Fire. Season Four. "After all of the feints, heavy losses, pitched battles and more of the last few years, the Vorlons and the Shadows finally get a fat lip from the younger races and told to bugger off. It’s a little cheesy, but man, what an incredible space battle."

endgameEndgame. Season Four. "Along with Severed Dreams this was one of the best episodes of the series as a whole. Its complex, multi-layered story added to some great action as Sheridan and his alien allies launch their final attack to topple the neo-fascist regime of President Clark."

deconstructionThe Deconstruction Of Falling Stars. Season Four. "Many fans consider this to be the actual ending of Babylon 5, and I’m inclined to agree. Unlike most shows, B5 actually gave us a full conclusion not only for the crew, but also for the entire human race as a whole. Far reaching, and very satisfying."

movementsMovements Of Fire And Shadow. Season Five. "The true reason behind the Centauri attacks (as if we didn’t already know) is revealed, and one of the darkest plotlines of the entire series comes full circle, eventually leading to the destruction of Centauri Prime and the proof that you just shouldn’t bargain with the Devil."


John Kenneth Muir said...

Sci-Fi Fanatic:

I have tried several times to get through Babylon 5. I had difficulty with the acting and writing (especially in the first season), and just could never get into it. And yet, so many of the writers and colleagues I most respect LOVE the series and see so much in it. I now count you in that select group, and realize I must re-focus myself and watch this series with better eyes.

Thank you for posting this. I will use it as a guide!

John Kenneth Muir

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...


Thanks for stopping by, but I must put Babylon 5 in a bit of context for you. I give it a recommendation, but several factors must be considered as well.

It is a very literate science fiction production. It is much more serious in tone and it moves at a more deliberate pace in some places than, say, Farscape or even Star Trek.

Some episodes are filled with terrific tension and the set up and build in the Shadows story arc is the true highlight for the series. Season Two and Three are personal favorites.

As friends here know, I was not a huge fan of Season One. It was difficult for me to enjoy. It took some time for B5 to hit a stride but really starts to take off in Season Two. Some of the characters, in particular for me, G'Kar and Londo, really blossom and their performances are undeniably brilliant.

I would agree I found some of Season One a bit wooden and awkward, although a number of fine individuals here would disagree and rank it much higher.

I also think the CGI, albeit quite dated, is a bit distracting at times. As you know, I'm a miniature and model guy like yourself and the CGI is quite early era for my taste.

I enjoy the special effect work in Star Trek: The Original Series much more and it's nearly 25 years its senior.

Having said all of this, there are some episode in particular that are truly wonderful in character portrayals and story developments and are the true highlights of the series.

I suppose I give a slightly cautious recommendation in the same vein someone might give a cautious recommendation to a bloody horror film that's magnificent but not for everyone.

I truly enjoyed Space:1999, like you, and sometimes the pacing was slower there. Babylon 5 is a distinctly different science fiction epic. The story and mythology is entirely different than any of the aforementioned series. So it's a bit like comparing apples and oranges. I enjoyed Babylon 5, but I can understand why it is difficult for some to immerse themselves in its world.

I hope this is a fair summation.

Thanks again for the kind words John.

John Kenneth Muir said...

Sci-Fi Fanatic:

Thank you for that excellent summation, my friend.

We are indeed alike in so many ways, not just our appreciation of S1999, Farscape and Star Trek, but in our displeasure with CGI; and perhaps some reservations about the first season of B5.

In terms of B5, I really, really want to "get it." If that makes sense. Like I said, people I respect very much see some value in the series, and I very much would like to get to that point too.

I think your comment here helps me contextualize the series even more, and that's good. I think I just need to plow on through the second season, and get to some of these (intriguing sounding) episodes listed in your guide.

I still believe that somehow, it will "click" for me!

All my best, and my gratitude.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

My pleasure John. Thanks so much.

le0pard13 said...

I've started Babylon 5 a couple of times, but haven't followed through. Based on this post, and the discourse you've had with JKM, I think I need to give this a go once more. Thanks, SFF.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey L13. Thank you as always.

There are some really strong emotional currents in Season Two and Three. Those moments work because you watch the earlier episodes in Season One. But, truthfully, for many, it's a bit of a grin in spots to get rolling, but I think the emoitional payoff is worth it in the end. Season Five never quite resonated with me and that was the season that got picked up in the final hour giving Straczynski's series another lease on life.

COvering that series was alot of fun though and there were great contributions from fans of the series like M and Havremunken.

Havremunken said...

Speak of the devil.. :)

I'm still around, and since you brought up B5 again, I have to pop out of the woodwork.. :)

To the guys struggling to get into it: Stay with it. Yes, it is a little dated by now, and there are issues especially with the first season. But it is SO worth it in the end, I promise. When I have rewatched season 1 after seeing the rest more times than I should admit, it has always been with sort of a bitter nostalgia. Not for the CGI or acting, but for already seeing the future in motion, seeing the characters make mistakes that will haunt them, seeing stuff that will have huge consequences for our story. It is worth paying attention to. I.e. don't just mail it in, do like we did in the days of old when we had a week or more between episodes; Consider what happened. Speculate about what will happen next. Even tho almost 20 years have gone by since the pilot, there are some things that have IMHO neven been seen in TV again since B5.

Oh, and about the top 10 list - there are so many of them, and as we have discussed here before, it is more or less impossible to agree on them, or make a comprehensive one. There is a saying in norwegian that I don't think translates well (unless it does and I am just not aware of it) - "Tastes are like your butt - divided". Sort of. At least I am not able to make an elegant translation of it, but hopefully I got the point across. :)

Still working on getting my fiancee to watch the show. That will be her first run, my nineteenth. I know, I'm sick. :)

Anonymous said...

To those who find it difficult to get into the series or introduce someone new into the series, there's the recipe of just watching the following episodes of season 1 and then skip to season 2 (the rest you may rewatch later):
1 Midnight on the firing line
6 Mind War
8 And the Sky full of Stars
13 Signs and Portents
20 Babylon Squared
22 Chrysalis

Those are the absolute essential episodes, necessary to understand what's going on later on.

It helps watching
5 Parliament of dreams
17 Legacies
18/19 A Voice in the Wilderness

Do NOT start with the movie "In the Beginning". No matter how the title sounds, it's not a pilot but a prequel, and it contains major spoilers.

As for the top 10 list. I wouldn't have included Deconstruction and I think Severed Dreams is overrated. Then again, it's difficult to draw the line with B5. But Intersections in Real Time imo belongs into that list.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Havremunken! Terrific. So good to hear from you. So funny. I loved your reflections in paragraph two. Very well said about, and I'm paraphrasing, watching the future in motion and witnessing mistakes the characters are making that will haunt them forever. This is indeed one of my favorite elements of the series and I do think many of the actors truly deliver esp. in Season two and three.

I loved the Norwegian expression. That is a classic. We should remember that for politics. Hope all is well with the family.

M! Always good to hear from you and your summation is really interesting for first time viewers. That is an interesting way to tackle the series. I would suggest watching start to finish but your dissection is spot on for those who want to trim some of the perceived fat.

Also M, as you know based on my own top ten, I agree, Deconstruction and Severed are not among my top ten favorites either. I like the personal character dramas you mentioned including episodes like Intersections which is in my top ten. I'm right there with you.

Thanks, and yes, Farscape is coming my friend.

Anonymous said...

Hey,been gone for awhile(computer trouble)but I am Back !!! :),I agree with you except my two most favorite are :
2.Sleeping in the Light
But thats me,I am a Babylon 5 fan FOREVER !!! :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I will never doubt a true Babylon 5 fan and believer when one of their all-time favorites is Gropos. :D I can respect that.

Sleepin In The Light was something special and was close to making my top ten. I really think it's the highlight of Season Five.