Monday, July 18, 2011

SciFiNow: The Best Of Babylon 5

Michael O'Hare, who played Jeffrey Sinclair in Season One of Babylon 5, was essentially a lightning rod for fan opinions far and wide. He lands three entries in a Best list compiled by SciFiNow.

Below you'll note a few insights from those involved creatively with Babylon 5 as noted in SciFiNow #25. The issue offers a slight variation on the ten best posted at their website that was noted in this earlier Babylon 5 Ten Of The Best entry, penned by James Rundle. This list also differs from this earlier entry extracted from another issue of SciFiNow. James Rundle returns with a slight variation on a theme with this list. The Best episodes according to the magazine in chronological order are:

1. Signs And Portents. [Season One]
2. Babylon Squared. [Season One]
3. Chrysalis. [Season One]
4. The Coming Of Shadows. [Season Two]
5. In The Shadow Of Z'ha'dum. [Season Two]
6. Severed Dreams. [Season Three]
7. Z'ha'dum. [Season Three]
8. Into The Fire. [Season Four]
9. Endgame. [Season Four]
10. Sleeping In Light. [Season Five]

These are solid selections and anyone who has seen Babylon 5 in its entirety will have a hard time taking issue with these choices despite our own preferences personally for other Babylon 5 entries. Feel free to check The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10 here. Of course it's all subject to change on any given day.

J. Michael Straczynski explained, "It took five years to sell that show, because no one wanted to compete with Star Trek - no one thought it could be done.... I was obsessed with this particular story."

Regarding Straczynski's selection of Michael O'Hare for his commanding lead role, Jerry Doyle, who played Michael Garibaldi, put it candidly. "Michael O'Hare- he was kind of a New Yorky, stage actor. I've never been around those kind of guys. They really are intense about the work, and I was... I did a lot of work at home and I played on the set. He didn't like that."

Peter Jurasik, who played Londo Mollari, felt "[O'Hare was] horribly miscast and [it was] probably more painful for him than anybody else."

J. Michael Straczynski explained that Michael O'Hare's departure at the end of Season One from Babylon 5 was "a mutual, amicable, and friendly separation." One thing is certain, the involvement of O'Hare and his replacement by Bruce Boxleitner in Season Two will forever remain one of those endless topics of Babylon 5 conversation.


John Kenneth Muir said...


I always enjoy reading these Sci-Fi Now lists, even if I don't always agree with them.

I don't know Babylon 5 as well as I should (I've discussed that here before...) but it seems that "In The Shadow Of Z'ha'dum" makes every best-of list.

I found the commentary on O'Hare extremely interesting. I find the guy insufferable on Babylon 5. He's one of the reasons I have such a hard time getting into the show. That first season, under his leadership, is something of a chore. It certainly does pick up after he departs.

Very interesting!


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Nice to hear from you John.

I'll tell you In The Shadow Of Z'ha'dum is one of the best. It's definitely in my top 10. It's an amazing episode.

I found I had a similar reaction to O'Hare. He never won me over. Like you, I found the comments interesting and thought they were worth sharing here.

There are some wonderful folks that visit here from time to time who were big fans of O'Hare and articulated why they iked him so much back when I was watching the series. But I was never a huge fan either.

Thanks John

PDXWiz said...

Hi, SFF...
I enjoyed this series a lot although I never got into it where I was a regular viewer. So I saw episodes from across the run of the series, but didn't follow it as strongly as I did Next Generation.

I also haven't paid a lot of attention to B5 fandom. So it comes as a surprise to me that so many fans, including John and yourself, didn't like Sinclair/O'Hare. I found him very interesting. I liked him, and couldn't understand why he didn't stay with the show. I thought the mystery of what happened to him when the Mimbari captured him and discovered he had a Mimbari soul, freaking them out and encouraging them to stop the Earth-Mimbari War, fascinating.

The wrap up of his personal story arc, including his transformation and his adventure with the B4 station, were very cool.

Now, before I go farther, I embrace the differences between the Trek captains, and even like Janeway, who isn't that popular (but is more so than Archer). Similar, I liked all of the leaders of the B5 project. They all had different strengths and weaknesses which made them of interest to me.

Now, with Bruce Boxleitner's Captain Sheridan, he's a lot more of a man of action, versus Sinclair's apparent wisdom. He was my favorite of the three captains, and the one I thought would fit best into the Next Generation era of captains if he'd been born in the Trekverse. Conversely, I think Sinclair would have made a good captain in Kirk's era.

I rarely saw Tracy Scoggins' character, but I did have a crush on her. Never sure of who I liked better, her or Ivanova. I really wanted to like the psychic ladies but couldn't figure them out from a drooling standpoint.

I did not like Delenn the Vulcan (but I didn't like T'Pol much, either), but I did enjoy Delenn the human. I thought her relationship with Sheridan rocked.

I think Kosh was the character I had the most trouble with. I just couldn't stand him.

The Shadows were wonderfully creepy and scared me like nobody in scifi has since Alien Resurrection.

I would love to see this all again. I thought there was some outstanding casting, both among the regulars and guests. Everything about this show was incredible--writing, directing, music, makeup, effects. I do wish they had more humor, but I recognize full well how dark the series was supposed to be. After all, it wasn't Deep Space Nine. Despite their remarkable similarities---the fates of Sinclair, Sheridan, and Sisko (the three esses!) were amazingly similar, there were strong female regulars, the doctors had hidden sides, the security chiefs had their own trials---I think B5 was the superior series (although I prefer the Trek franchise overall, likely because it isn't so dark).

Zathras was more interesting than Odo, and he was only in a few episodes... and I liked Odo a LOT! Tells you something about the shows... The aliens were more interesting, too.

Thanks for this post, I would really like to find a copy of this magazine for my own sf collection---it seems like it would be the ideal successor to the late, lamented Starlog...

Gordon Long

Havremunken said...

Hey man!

Coming to you live from vacation - a Babylon 5 post is always the way to lure me out of the woodwork. :)

As we've discussed before, it is very hard to compress 110 episodes down to just the 10 best. There are simply too many good ones. I love all the ones on this list, then again, I could probably replace 7-8 of them with others and still defend that opinion.

In general, I find that the original "P5" summary generally reflects how I feel about episodes (so I'm much like JMS that way, weeee). It's not a top list, it is a ranking of ALL the episodes.

I could always argue about moving episodes up or down on the list, but moods change and it depends - some days I love action heavy stuff, other days drama is key.

About Sinclair, yeah, there are clearly some issues with him. However, this is my favourite show ever, and Sinclair will always be part of it. The way I see it - what we see on screen is a tense and flawed character. He was like that. The actor is not a factor (I should rap). I like Sheridan better, sure, but he also had a lot more screen time and character development.

I do think that Sinclair as played was the perfect "The One Who Was". As the star and main hero of a semi-action sci-fi-show...maybe not so much.

Oh well, back to the sunlight!

Enjoy Summer. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

hi Gordon

Well, it's definitely a serialized series. You definitely get more out of it in succession as it builds along.

The whole SInclair thing is interesting because it seems pretty split. I'm not sure what the percentages would be but I as Havremunken remarks above, he was part of the history of the show and served an important component in the story. I liked his reappearance later in the series for the two parter.

Your point about his importance in the story is what makes him work for me particularly in the arc stories.

But overall, I prefer the move to Boxleitner.

I thoughts Scoggins was crushworthy, but she wasn't as good as Ivanova. Seeing Ivanova go was a sad moment for me in the series. It felt like one reason the show never quite recovered for me.

But the Ivanova character was better developed.

I liked Delenn too especially after her transformation. I agree.

I definitely liked Kosh in certain doses. He intrigued me.

Yeah, the Shadows were an incredibly well-conceived and crafted villain. I think it was one of the best things about the series story arc. They were truly scary. I completely agree.

To add to your wonderful dissection and fascinating points on the series, it wouldn't have been complete without the Londo G'Kar dynamic. They were phenomenal and integral to the series' power.

Yes, it's a worthy series in the annals of science fiction without question.

SciFiNow has really won my heart after a skeptical start for me. I love the fact they pay considerable homage to the classics. It's a great magazine.

You can find it at Borders or Barnes And Noble and I pretty much pick and choose which ones I want based on the coverage. For example I didn't buy the last issue with The Walking Dead cover because there wasn't much of real interest to me.

The latest issue with the Captain America cover caught my eye because of some Bionic Woman coverage. I actually excerpted one really cool quote from that issue for an upcoming Six Million Dollar Man entry.

It may not be Starlog, but it's my favorite tangible publication in its absence. Look for an upcoming BEST OF Lost In Space.

Cheers Gordon


Bottoms up! Hope you are enjoying your family vacation. I always love hearing from you and if I have to review A Call To Arms in the near future to hear from you again I just may have to do it! : )

As always, love your analysis on this series and your points are so solid I really can't disagree.

You are far too logical! thanks for the link my friend.


PDXWiz said...

I actually had a chance to go into Barnes & Noble yesterday after you posted about SciFi Now, and saw the issue you mentioned. The magazine looked pretty interesting, and I found the 'wrinkled pages' look interesting.

I didn't pick it up although I wanted to (especially since it had Bionic Woman stuff in it!). I saw a few other interesting mags, including the Star Trek magazine. I did pick up the trade paperback from IDW of Star Trek: Khan--Ruling in Hell (covering the Trek era from "Space Seed" to "Wrath of Khan"), and boy was it good! My wife picked up a book and a magazine that she was interested, and the other item we found was a very cool double-sided oversize mag, 1/2 The Greatest Sci-Fi Films of All Time (with Harrison Ford as Han Solo on the cover) and the back 1/2 The Greatest Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time (with Shatner as Kirk on the cover). Lots of cool articles, photos, lists (the 5 Worst Trek episodes, LOL), some timelines...definitely much like those Starlog special issues from back in the day!

At least I know where to find the mag now, and thanks for the tip, pal!

Gordon Long

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...


Yes, the new Captain America issue is good, but for retro science fiction it's a rather weak issue. I've seen much better. There really isn't much covered on the Bionic Woman.

I bought it for research purposes here at the site, but I sometimes pass on issues if there is nothing of a retrospective nature.

Now that Greatest Sci Fi Films And TV Special is terrific. I neglected to mention that is on shelves at the moment, but that is an outstanding compendium.

That is put out by the same people. Imagine Publishing and Sci Fi Now. It collects just about everything of a retrospective nature from Sci Fi Now up until the most recent issues.

Since I have the earlier Time Warp Special and most of the magazines it has little value to me, but for newcomers I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the purchase of that mini-book.

Cheers Gordon. Always good to hear from you.

My best,

Will said...

Well, as I've mentioned here, I have a love-hate relationship with Babylon 5. Sometimes I love the grand storyline and sometimes I hate it. I love some characters and hate others.

But I've always been a defender of Michael O'Hare. I thought he was fantastic as Sinclair. I really do. Sure, he had some limitations but so did a LOT of actors on that show.

Jerry Doyle, who is amazing, BECAME a great actor by staying on the show but he was pretty raw at first. O'Hare would have been incredible if he stuck around. . .he had the theatricality needed for science fiction.

I love me some Bruce Boxlietner but I remember having a really tough time getting used to him when Sinclair left. It took half of Season 2 for me to get behind Sheridan.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hi Will.

Once again you highlight this massive schism between those who love O'Hare and those who, well, not so much.

I agree with you. Most of the actors had limitations. I would have to admit that Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik were the exception. They were simply astounding talents that Straczynski was fortunate to land. Amazing sci fi thespians.

Yeah, Jerry Doyle worked on Wall Street and flew planes before he became an actor. I love his radio show, but I love conservative straight talk Doyle style. But yes, he was raw for sure.

Hey mice to hear from you and I hope you rejoin the Fanatics Followers again soon. You disappeared. Nice to have you around.