Babylon 5: The Grand Vision

I find myself today remembering one of my formative influences as a young writer, and that is Babylon 5, which I think will always be one of my great favorite television series.

Babylon 5 was groundbreaking in so many ways, and I could write all day about them, but I don’t have that kind of time, so I’m just going to mention a few of them.

Babylon 5 was the first science-fiction series that attempted the grand story arc, getting through not one, but two huge, if related, plotlines: The Shadow War and the Earth Alliance Civil War. The only show I can think of that even attempted this previously was Battlestar Galactica, but there never seemed to be any real progress in the Galactica’s quest for Earth.

Babylon 5 took chances with its characters, portraying people who began as little people in their assigned positions growing plausibly into great men and women. We saw John Sheridan become head of state. We saw G’Kar and Delenn become prophets. We saw Londo become a monstrous dictator and war criminal, and then take the long, backsliding road to redemption. In this I feel that it was superior to its contemporary, Star Trek, because the hallmark of Star Trek was that the characters never changed. Change, such as Kirk’s promotion to Admiral, or Riker’s captaincy, was seen as a bad thing.

Babylon 5 portrayed a universe larger than could be imagined, like Star Trek before it, but in my opinion, did a better job than Star Trek, because while Star Trek kept us centered on the Enterprise, so that the uncommon became commonplace, Babylon 5 brought the impact of that larger universe home to all those involved. There was no safe place to hide from the Shadows and the Vorlons, and everything was riding on the line for the characters.

I would dearly love to see Babylon 5 re-imagined, or perhaps rebooted, but I am not sure that such a cast or such a vision could ever be reassembled. It saddens me, though, that somehow Babylon 5 has not received the accolades that I feel it earned.

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