Babylon 5 is an American TV show that aired from 1994 to 1998. The show, created by J. Michael Straczynski, was a masterpiece. He wanted the series to be a gritty alternative to contemporary sci-fi dramas such as the Star Trek spin-offs and Stargate SG-1. It first aired in syndication before remaining picked up for a surprise fifth season by TNT. The series launched a one-brief spinoff, Crusade, and several TV movies. Babylon 5 never had much standing in the ratings.
Today, it mainly soldiers on through a tight fanbase; it deserves better than staying forgotten. Babylon 5 was one of the greatest TV series of all time. Let’s explore why.
1. The First Five-Year Arc (Albeit Squished Into Four Years) In TV
Babylon 5 is considered by some to be one of the first solely-serialized shows in the history of TV. Contemporary shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The X-Files had story arc elements in their later seasons. Babylon 5 remained story-oriented from its pilot, “The Gathering.”
The first season appears incredibly episodic. However, upon rewatching, many fans realized just how story-driven those initial episodes were. The character development from episode 1 all the way thru episode 110 tracks well, with characters going from villains to reluctant heroes (even saviors), and heroic figures transforming into monsters.
The series-long arc on Babylon 5 is ultimately about the eternal battle between good and evil. The “younger races” of the universe, including humans, are thrown into a proxy war between two mysterious races: the Vorlons and the Shadows. While there won’t be any spoilers here, needless to say, the core battle is not all it appears to be. No one is either straight up good or bad — the show exists in a morally grey space. The TV landscape usually pits good and evil against each other. The series changes this pace so the audience can reflect on a morally grey reality.
2. The Character Arcs In Babylon 5 Are A Thing Of Beauty
No character on Babylon 5 leaves the series without undergoing a fundamental change. These arcs remain supported by some of the best acting on TV. Sadly, nearly half of the cast has died since the series ended. The rest remained forced into typecasting (the majority of them). Mira Furlan, who plays the enigmatic Delenn, is the most notable post-Babylon 5, appearing in Lost as Danielle Rosseau.
Commander Sinclair, played by Michael O’Hare, is the stoic, kind of boring military commander of the series. At the end of his series arc, he accepts his destiny as one of the most exciting and influential characters in the universe of the series. There is also Captain John Sheridan, played by Bruce Boxleitner, who seems to hold a standard run-of-the-mill military jock, who transforms into a powerful force for good.
One fan favorite is Delenn, played by Mira Furlan. Delenn starts as a standard, mysterious bumpy-forehead alien. She ends the series as a broken but determined leader as she is fleshed out on every level. Delenn went from a meek follower to a defiant firebrand over the course of the series. She even breaks Minbari’s Grey Council, which she dutifully served for many years.
3. Did I Mention The Series Has Queer Representation (In The 90s)?
“I think I loved Talia.”
With those words in season 3, Susan Ivanova, played by Claudia Christian, confirmed what many fans had been assuming for two seasons. It revealed that Ivanova had stayed in a relationship with the recently deceased resident telepath Talia Winters, played by Andrea Thompson. Ivanova had been in relationships with men in the past. The realization that both a WLW (women loving women) relationship had unfolded in the background of some epic sci-fi and that one of the leading characters was likely a bisexual excited many.
Queer allegories were present throughout the series as well. Delenn undergoes a transformation from androgynous to highly feminine over the interlude between season one and season two, implying a trans allegory at work. There’s tension between same-gender characters and casual references to queer relationships as the show goes on. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine merely hinted at the queer in its initial season. Babylon 5 charged far ahead of its competitors into a brave new world. The WLW storyline paved the way for similar, even more, progressive storylines on future productions.
Babylon 5 Does Have One Downside, However
Despite what the higher-resolution images would have you believe, the show kind of looks terrible. The series, largely shot on film, has not been remastered. According to creator Straczynski, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, either.
Warner Bros. is against doing so since Babylon 5 was not well-liked on the lot by studio producers. This is one of the reasons the show needs to prevail. It’s too good to live on in such a shape, especially when the technology is there to make it Blu-Ray quality. With all that said…
Watch This Show On Amazon Prime!
Babylon 5 trailblazed a brave new world TV when it came to story, character, and queer representation. It affected more than science fiction TV. Babylon 5 paved the way for shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men to be accepted by audiences. Babylon 5 is not likely to be remade or rebooted, but what we’ve got is what we’ve got. Never recognized in its time, the series found love with the small, dedicated band of fans who rallied around it.
Unlike today, now genre series like Game of Thrones can win multiple Emmys. However, back then, genre shows didn’t get selected for awards. There is the exception of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It earned a nomination for best drama in its final season. Nonetheless, the complete series is on Amazon Prime, making it fairly accessible. If you have never seen the show, try it! But if you have, and love it, give the show a rewatch. Babylon 5 always has something new to discover.