Over the weekend, I finished the entire run (all five seasons) of Babylon 5. I thought I’d take a moment and give my impressions of the series as a whole and how I feel it fits into the Sci-Fi TV landscape. There are some light spoilers–basically, just plot arcs across the series, not individual episodes. I couldn’t avoid them in order to give a thorough review of the series, but I still tried to be as spoiler free as possible. Those wanting to go into the series completely fresh, should probably stop reading now, bookmark this page, go watch the show for yourself (as of this writing, it is streaming on Amazon Prime), and then come back. If you’re not bothered by knowing season arcs, then read on.
Seasons 1 – 4.5 : The Shadow War
I think this is where the show shines–“The Shadow War” storyline shines as an impressive piece of storytelling. While Season 1 isn’t the strongest as I feel much of that season was setting up the characters’ relationships. I liked the character of Sinclair (& initially, during the first run of the show, I was a bit turned off by the introduction of the new B5 commander, Sheridan, upon re-watching the show and understanding the struggle of the actor who played Sinclair, I found it to be fine). What really impresses me about this story arc is the way Season 1 drops little hints that the War is coming (foreshadowing) and Season 2 fully delivers on it. Now, it seems a bit archaic with so many shows having multi-season arcs, but at the time, it was almost revolutionary. I found the whole arc to be quite impressive and filled with drama and tension, with both humor and heart. I honestly liked all the actors and while I didn’t necessarily like each and every episode, I feel this is where the heart of the show is contained. I would rate these as 9 to 9.5.
Season 4.5 – 5: Earth Alliance Civil War
I’m simplifying here–some of these episodes are actually earlier in the season 4 timeline (and hints have been dropped about this upcoming confrontation earlier in the season). This where a bit of the seams come apart in the show. While the actual civil war is handled well and takes the show into a new, interesting territory, the whole Mars/Earth subplot feels forced and a bit strained. I wish that I could say that I enjoyed every episode, but (outside of the space battle scenes between Earth Alliance and the former B5/Mars Colonies), this storyline seemed to drag. There were some great scenes in this part (Delenn facing down the Earth Alliance is a particular highlight), but there are places (especially the Mars sections that drag), but overall, still enjoyable. These I would rate 8.0 to 8.5.
Season 5: Telepath “War”
So, to me, this is where the series grounds to a screeching halt. I didn’t buy the whole Bester/Garabaldi arc wherein (*spoilers*) Bester overrides Garabaldi and makes him act contrary to Garabaldi’s normal persona. Yes, I know that set it up in the show, but it still didn’t ring true for me. However, after the resolution of those episodes, the show seemed to get back on track, only to be hit with the character of Byron. While I have no particular animus towards the actor, I think the character of Byron was probably the worst in the Babylon 5 show and completely undermined what should have been a tense drama. I didn’t believe his “Messiah” complex, nor did I believe his “Malcolm X” switch when he found out about the truth of the true role of Telepaths in the story. That whole arc really took me out of the story. The only reason I didn’t stop watching the show was because of the Lyta Alexander character. While I wanted her arc to go in a different direction, she was still (by far) the most interesting character in the story arc. Once that was done with, the show finished strong by focusing on the “ending” of the show–characters moving on while new characters would ostensibly take their place for the future (which we wouldn’t get to see). The Londo story arc was quite good as was the 2-3 episodes leading to the finale. I also liked the finale as it was a satisfying conclusion to the series (& hearkened back to the themes of the “Shadow War.”
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