by Steve Lancaster 3/5/19
Season 3 and part of 4 • If you’re a science fiction fan you probably have some strong feelings about Babylon 5. Frankly, some criticism is deserved. Most of season 1 and 2 are rarely interesting and seldom much more than a future based reality show (Jersey Girls in space). However, Season 3 and the first part of season 4 offer some real drama and interesting science fiction with very human concepts. Life, death, religion, drugs and their abuse, growth and the need for parents to let go, and the susceptibility of power to corrupt.
Babylon 5 is a mid-90s series developed by Joe Michael Strazynski, who also wrote the episodes — all 110 and 90+ hours of televised shows not including a 2-hour movie. The series stars Mira Furlan as Delenn, Richard Biggs as Dr. Franklin, Stephen Furst as Vir Cotto, Andreeas Katsulas as G’Kar, Peter Jurasik as Londo Mollari, Jerry Doyle as Michael Garibaldi, Bill Mumy as Lennier and Bruce Boxleitner as Captian John Sheridan. Over the course of its 5-year run almost every character actor in Hollywood made an appearance.
Walter Koenig, June Lockhart, Malissa Gilbert, Michael York, Brad Dourif, Robert England, Bryan Cranston, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr are among the most notable. The series won various awards during its run, including Hugo and Bradbury awards. The series lists Harlan Ellison as a consultant. That the mercurial Ellison did not take his name off is more important than his consulting and friendship with Strazynski.
Babylon 5 is set in the 23rd century. Space travel is as common as airplane travel today. The problem of long distances is solved with hyper-space travel. The Galaxy is filled with sentient races with all too human vices and virtues. Babylon 5 is a station in a critical section of space, established as a trading location and diplomatic locus. It is five-miles-long and holds 250,000 humans and aliens.
Politically, the humans and aliens on Babylon 5 are representative of human virtues and vices. The Centari are a combination of Rome at the time of Caligula and the USSR. Londo coolly negotiates, to his own benefit, between the humans and other alien races. G’Kar, the Narn ambassador, is the enemy of the Centari who have invaded Narn and enslaved the population. If you close your eyes, the Narn can remind you of Soviet-occupied Poland.
Delenn is the ambassador from Minbar, an advanced race with contradicting values. It is easiest to think of the Minbari as Shaolin Monks, technologically advanced and on the surface peaceful but fully prepared for war. Earth and Minbar fight a first-contact war that earth was about to lose when, for unexplained reasons, Minbar surrendered. The explanation develops throughout season 3 in the two-part episodes 16 and 17, “War without End,” some of the best televised science fiction on television ever. The special effects are top of the line for the mid-90s TV. But do not expect high quality CG common today.
In season 3, there are some very interesting episodesL Number 4, “Passing through Gethsemane,” stars the well-known Brad Dourif as a reformed serial murderer who now lives as a monk. It explores the quality of forgiveness and the hope of redemption. On a similar note, number 13, “A Late Delivery from Avalon,” features Michael York as a man with the delusion he is King Arthur returned to save humanity. Also, in season 3, Walter Koeing (Chekov from Star Trek) as an intermittent regular. Season 3 ends with the disappearance of Captain Sheridan on the home planet of the enemy, Z’ha’dum, and the possible breakup of the coalition he formed to fight the coming interstellar war.
Season 4 covers the “shadow war” which the coalition wins and the beginning of the eventual earth/colonies war with Babylon 5 leading humans to overthrow a corrupt government. One world government: Who would think it would be fascist? The balance of the series has some interesting episodes and eventually ties-up lose ends. It’s not horrible but unless you are sold on the plot lines it can get tiresome. Currently, the entire series is on Amazon Prime.