IGN recently released their list of the top 50 greatest Sci-fi shows which can be found here.
My all time favorite TV show is of course one in the sci-fi genre, and it is not surprisingly on this list. I would have liked to have seen it placed slightly higher (it came in 13th) because as TV series go this show had a set goal in mind from the very start, it only ever grew in quality of story and design, and it broke away from the genre stereotypes of the day, that is to say it wasn’t simply a Star Trek rip-off. I am of course talking about Babylon 5, the brainchild of one of my favorite television and comic book writers J. Michael Straczynski. I should first explain that I hate Star Trek, though I suppose hate is a bit much. As an enormous Star Wars fan I am diametrically opposed to Star Trek in all its forms. I can watch the original series for the great cast, and I enjoy catching an odd episode of the Next Generation here and there, but Star Trek has just never gotten it’s hooks in me and I do not at all seek to further investigate the mythos of the Trek.
Babylon 5 however did hook me. When it comes to large projects on either the big or small screens I don’t insist on huge budgets and witty, clever writing. I look for something with some ideals and some heart, which is exactly what Babylon 5 brought to the table, the addition of excellent writing just happened to be a bonus for me. I was introduced to the show when my father told me there was going to be some new made for TV space sci-fi movie on. He couldn’t remember the name of it at the time, but said it looked interesting. Being the angsty teen I was, I thought to myself it would most likely be a terrible, campy, bad effects, TV movie. If my dad thought it looked cool, then it probably wasnt’ cool. Then the title came up and it was Babylon 5: In the Beginning. Then I was really pissed, because of what little I knew about Babylon 5 before this introduction, I assumed it was another Star Trek spin-off series and had simply written it off as nothing more. However I didn’t immediately switch the channel and within the first five minutes I realized Babylon 5 was something all its own, something original set in a unique universe. The movie we watched, In the Beginning, was actually a perfect jumping on point. It was a prequel movie that encapsulated some of the history that would often be alluded to later in the show and introduced me to all of the main characters, if only in brief snippets. The movie was shown on TBS or TNT or something and was of course a cross promotion timed along with the start of Babylon 5 being shown on the channel in reruns from season one.
I of course tuned into the show, I started the journey through the series from episode one faithfully following through the shows ups and downs to the end of season five, and beyond to the brief and mostly forgotten spin-off show. I could go on and on about why I love this series. The characters. The politics. The mysteries within mysteries. The idea behind the Babylon project. The galactic United Nations concept. The characterization of the cultures. The full deep history of that universe which was presented in a way that didn’t drown you in details but rather delicately hinted at its fully fleshed out complexities. This show without a doubt had some of the best characters on television, who not only made for great stories but who each had their own story, every character evolved, grew, changed and adapted as the show went on which was one of the major selling points of the series. I have so much love for this show it is difficult not to get carried away in praise of it, I will continue to press this show upon the uninitiated until the day I die. The only problem I can pin on this series is that it relied on the viewer to follow the story, to get to know these characters, and thusly became very dependant on its own continuity. The idea of a TV show doing that today is nothing new, what with DVR, Hulu, and seasons of shows coming out on DVD like clockwork it’s much easier now to catch up on a show. For a long time however that was a major downside to Babylon 5, it was hard to go back and rewatch episodes past. In fact I made it a mission of mine to spread the love for this sci-fi realm to the point that I religiously recorded each episode, edited out the commercials on my rig of two VCRs, and struggled to put them in proper chronological order (remember, such information was not yet as fleshed out on the internet in those days, I had to hope the reruns were aired in the right order and if not I had to try to figure it out from episode to episode.) I showed those tapes to as many friends as possible, and eventually formed a small band of my friends into die-hard B5 fanatics. We had many a long evening where we played the Babylon 5 card game, while eating oven baked appetizers, followed by watching as many episodes as we could before passing out.
From the start of the Babylon 5 saga creator J. Michael Straczynski had a story arc in mind which would take place over 5 seasons. Mysteries were brought up, histories revealed, characters developed, intrigues lingered, and epic wars were fought. The last season ushered in a new era for the characters and wrapped up the overall story excellently. There were no loose ends, and closure was achieved. There were of course things that crept into the spinoff and with such a huge and well laid out universe there were of course more stories to tell, but Babylon 5 the show, and the station itself, finished it’s tale in a grand style. For the longest time I expected Babylon 5 to be dethroned as my favorite show by the highly awesome LOST (which heavily features Mira Furlan, a Babylon 5 heavy hitter.) I wisely decided to hold back crowning LOST as my favorite until the series ended and wrapped up it’s winding enigmas. Personally I believe LOST failed in its conclusion. That is not to say LOST is not an awesomely terrific show, but the build up, climax, and ending of Babylon 5 will, for me, remain the measure of a well thought-out, smart, and unique television experience. Hopefully one day there is a show that can top Babylon 5, but as for the direct future I do not see any such show on the horizon.
Anyway, believe it or not I was hoping to keep this blog entry brief, so that is all!