Series Review: Babylon 5

Babylon 5 Cast Photo
Image Source: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/an-oral-history-of-babylon-5-the-beloved-tv-novel-that-showed-a-different-way-to-tell-sci

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.”

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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Weekly Round-Up for February, 18, 2019

Cat dressed up about to blow out birthday candles with the text "Ohh Hello there Birthday Weekend!"
Image Source: https://memegenerator.net/instance/57502522/birthday-cat-ohh-hello-there-birthday-weekend-

So, I’m going to be honest–last weekend was my birthday, so I did not do as much as I normally (probably) should have done, but what can you do? Here’s a round-up of my week last week and the weekend.

Writing

  • So, this is where I fell down the most, as I wasn’t able to get a lot of actual writing done. I’m actually off from my 2nd job tonight, so my goal (in addition to reading for school), is to catch up the writing that I didn’t get done over the weekend.
  • Worked on the character sketch for the protagonist of “Project Dog,” (about half way through).
  • I had a dream last night that might turn into a story at some point (probably a villain/antagonist as that was really what the dream focused on). Of course I didn’t write it down–though, so I’m saying this and by tomorrow, I will have probably forgotten what was so cool about it.

Gaming

  • This is where I actually spent most of my time this weekend (Big surprise, right?) I did way too much in terms of gaming this weekend.
  • Valkyria Chronicles 4: I bought a copy of this game as I’ve wanted it every since it was released in last year. It is a sequel (of sorts) to one of my favorite games on the Playstation 3, Valkyrie Chronicles. It is a tactical rpg in a re-imagined world of World War II. The game is almost an “Alternate History” that uses many points of history of the war to inform the narrative of the story, but many things are changed and given a bit of a “sci-fi” bent (although not too much that it becomes a pure sci-fi narrative).
  • Apex Legends: After earning two second places (or 2nd place twice), I decided my best move was to delete the game from my hard-drive! :0 I know this might seem like a drastic choice, but after starting it at 7:00 pm and looking up and seeing it was 9:17 pm on Sunday night when I’d just intended to play a couple matches to improve my ranking–(if you want to know what happened to my writing this weekend–blame Apex Legends). This game, while a blast, is no good for my PhD aspirations (or my writing goals either.)

Media

  • Finished Babylon 5 this weekend. There’s a write-up coming soon (I’ve actually got a partial draft written) for the blog, but I finally finished the last episode over the weekend and will share my impressions of it soon.
  • Watched a YouTube video that I’d like to turn into a blog post. I’ll have to find it again (I forgot to “Like” it), but still I thought that it would be awesome to use as blog post. Hopefully, I can find it easily and add it to easily to the blog.

Well, that’s all I have at this moment. Will be back with regular blog posts tomorrow.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Babylon 5 on Amazon Prime–Woot!

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

I’m So Excited, I Just Can’t Hide It

A few readers will know that late last year I started Season 1 of Babylon 5 even though I knew the ending series.  Like I said in that post, I only got to see the first season and the latter part of the last season.  I didn’t really get a chance to see how the characters and story got where they were at the end of the show.  As a poor student, I didn’t have a chance to get the second season (although I was planning on doing so in the fairly near future).  However, after logging into Amazon Prime last night, I discovered that ALL five seasons of Babylon 5 are on the streaming service!  Yes!  I watched Season 2, Episode 1 last night, and would watch Episode 2 tonight if not for E3 coverage of Bethesda’s Press Conference tonight.  Unfortunately, school is back in session next week, so no binging the show for me, but I will try to check out 1-2 episodes every weekend and post a Season Review at the end of each season that I see.

What Amazon Gives, It also Takes Away

So, just like any streaming service, as new titles come on the service, old titles go away.  I have quite a few shows that I had on my Watchlist that are no longer free (including another “starship show” Firefly.  I’m going to have to purchase that series it looks like, but as it is only one season and the episodes appear to be .99 at iTunes, it should be okay.  I just wish that when series are scheduled to go away (on all services), that a little countdown timer would start in the bottom right hand corner with the months/days/minutes until the series were going away.  I would prioritize my viewing to those series that I really wanted to watch before they “disappeared.”  I often experience “Media Overload” where I can’t decide what I want to watch because there are so many choices, so I end up watching nothing (or only pieces of a show because it isn’t what I really want to watch).  A timer on shows that are ending at the end of the month (or maybe as far out as up to 3 months would help me in those cases.

But I’ll Take It

Still, I’m grateful as it saves me approximately $80 (19.99 for 4 seasons).  Having already paid approximately $110 for Amazon Prime when it renewed in March (for me), I wondered if it was a sound investment considering my status as a “poor” college student these days, I find that it has almost earned back the value that I spent on it with this one series alone.  If they get another good sci-fi series to go along with this one later in the year, I will feel comfortable about the value of the service and will endeavor to “re-up” next year.

Well, that’s it for today!  Have a great one!

Sidney




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Building the “Bible”

So this is the post that I’d intended to write yesterday about the progress on my novel based on my time in the Writing Center.  This will be a shorter post, but hopefully informative.  Basically, we dived a little more into the character of Skye and I discovered that I don’t really write “deep” character sketches.  I write them on a surface level, so over the weekend, I plan to revise the character sketch and add in more details if possible about Skye and her personality.  I also hadn’t settled on physical characteristics for Skye yet, but I think that I have now, so I’ll add those in as well.

My consultant wanted to know more about the world and how the “rules” of the world operated.  I told her about some things, but she suggested that I, like Tolkien, commit them to paper instead of trying to hold them all in my mind’s eye.  I told her that I’d tried to do that earlier in my career.  There’s a term that series TV uses for it: “The Bible” for that series.  Most Television shows (& some movies and graphic novels–probably even some novels) have “Bible.”  I know that Babylon 5 had one as I heard about it through a history site of the show.  Apparently, the B5 used to sell copies of the show’s “Bible” during its run, but now that the show (& I’d assume the fan site) is no longer active, it is unavailable.  I even went to eBay to see if someone might be selling a copy that I could purchase just to see how it was put together (no luck though–at least as of a year or two ago when I last looked).

My consultant decided that I should go ahead and try to create at least a nascent “Bible” of the world, the politics, the history, etc., just to get all of my ideas out of my head and on to paper.  Even if I never use them in the story, at least I would have them down and “codified” on paper in a tangible way so that I could refer back to them as necessary and so the consultant might be able to read them and understand both the backstory and the motivations behind the various people, institutions, and world that I had created.  So that’s my homework for this week: to create a nascent “Bible” that begins to explain/explore some of the concepts that I’ve created for my world.

Finally, we talked a little bit about how the story (plot) is developing.  It is Science Fiction, but as the protagonist is young, we talked about how it could be a Young Adult story (or perhaps marketed as Young Adult).  We talked about some of the possible advantages and pitfalls of the YA market at the moment, and discussed some of its conventions.  We decided to wait and see how the story evolved organically before deciding where and how the story could be marketed, but even at this early stage we are looking at the audience for this story and trying to decide which audience is most appropriate for it.

Anyway, that’s it for this week.  So sorry for yesterday’s diversion, but when life throws a curveball, I fell compelled to play the umpire and call it as I see it.  Not sorry for the baseball reference, however, as the World Series has just wrapped up–wish I could have seen more it, but maybe next year.

Did You Miss Me?

moriarty

I have been “gone” for a while and I’ve let my blog (in addition to many of my writing projects) languish over the course of these last few months.  This has been partially my fault as I have felt too tired, discouraged, or overworked at various times and in varying degrees during these past two semesters to give the blog (or my creative writing) anything close to the time required to keep pushing through as I did when I was a teacher.

However, one of my professors was instrumental in reigniting the fire of my desire to write creatively at a high level.  On the first day of class, she showed a short YouTube video about Neil Gaiman’s writing process that really inspired me and made me start to want to try to write again.  I’m including the link below (although according to WordPress’s analytics, no one ever clicks on the links to the videos that I include, but I’ll include it in the off-chance it will inspire someone as it inspired me.)

YouTube video: Neil Gaiman

I have started watching Babylon 5 (the first season–yes, I know it’s old, but it was on sale on iTunes and I never did get to see more than a handful of episodes during its first run–though strangely enough, I did see the conclusion, so I know how B5 ends–I just don’t know how it got there) and Stranger Things (I started with The Expanse, but didn’t like it, so I switched to ST and I’m about half-way through and really enjoying it).  I’ve also seen Logan and Kong: Skull Island. Expect Mini-Reviews for all those in the coming weeks/months.  I would also like to redo/revise my Marvel Movie listing as it is the most popular post on this blog and several movies, including Dr. Strange have come out in the interim and I would like to keep it as up-to-date as possible.

babylon 5stranger things

While I don’t have a ton of time, I really don’t like not writing creatively.  If it means that I’m not a “true scholar,” then so be it.  I only have one life to live (to my knowledge as much as people rave about The Walking Dead, last I heard it was still only fiction) and I have to be true to myself.

I may never have the advantages that many celebrities have (like a Radio DJ playing a certain recording artist’s neophyte songs over and over for an entire summer until he got “discovered” by a major record label and now he’s an international star–true story).  And maybe I’ll never make the millions that the particular superstar is making, but if he gets to make the “art” that he wants because he had people to help him, then by golly-gosh, I’m going to make the art I want, even if I never have anyone to help me.  And if I die in obscurity and poverty, which is looking ever more likely as the years go by, then at least I’ll die knowing that I tried–and that’s all any human can do.

Sidney