What's new

Discussion/Review of "Babylon 5" TV series (1993-1998) & Tele-films (1 Viewer)

The Drifter

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
910
Real Name
Jim
Hey everyone. I'm a huge fan of the sci-fi TV series Babylon 5, and couldn't find a dedicated thread discussing the show & TV movies. I'm fairly certain there are other fans of the series on here, so just wanted to post my review of the series & some of the TV films, and possibly start a discussion on the series. I never saw the show when it was on TV back in the 1990's (in fact, I didn't have a TV when the show was originally on), but watched the series on DVD from 2017-2018.

This first post will be dedicated to the Season 1:

I am extremely impressed by this series! Amazing!! Very intelligent, well-written, & well-acted sci-fi show set in a fully realized futuristic universe with detailed histories & interesting back-stories for many of the characters, etc. The prosthetics/make-up for the aliens are excellent, and the exterior space CGI effects, though far from great, are not horrible.

I find this show far superior to any other sci-fi TV shows, including all incarnations of Star Trek I've seen & which the show is unfairly compared to. And, I can honestly say that there were 0 weak or sub-par episodes. All of them were strong & well-done. It's rare that this happens, especially with sci-fi series.

-All of the actors have great chemistry together; you can really believe that they're friends & have a lot of respect for each other - especially Ivanova/Captain Sinclar/Garbaldi.

-The show boldly addresses a lot of social issues that continue to be important today, all in a sci-fi setting, i.e.: Parents who don't want to medically treat their dying/sick children because of their religious beliefs; the rights of workers to earn a living wage & operate under safe conditions; appropriate punishment(s) for dangerous criminals; alcoholism; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); etc.

-B5 features two of the most gorgeous, stunning actresses I've ever seen in film or TV, i.e. Claudia Christian as Ivanova & Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters. CC was especially impressive in her portrayal as Ivanova; tough/no-nonsense & also very feminine. And, AT as Winters was incredible - sultry, with an amazing voice. Also, I liked how neither woman ever took any crap from anyone

-The episode involving Ivanova mourning the death of her father was extremely touching/moving. It was also interesting to see the character being emotionally vulnerable here, given that we didn't see her express much emotion (other than anger - LOL) in other episodes.

-Londo Mollari is great comic relief on the show, but is definitely not a clown or fool. I like how he is always pretending to be friends with the other characters, but it's soon obvious that - in most cases - he only want their "friendship" in order to get something from them - which typically involves having them inadvertently buying his drinks/paying for his food, trying to get Captain Sinclair to do special favors for him, etc. What an obvious scam-artist

-The sub-plot involving Captain Sinclair having been tortured/brain-washed by the Minbari years before is creepy & disturbing. This plot-line is obviously revisited in later seasons.

-Interesting that some of the guest stars on the show include Walter Koenig (Chekov on ST: TOS) and Bill Mumy (from the original Lost in Space series) as Lenier; their inclusion was a nice homage to these older, well-known sci-fi franchises.

-Going along with the above, being a big fan of TV/movies, it's cool to see this show has so many recognizable guest stars, i.e. David Warner, Mary Woronov (who I wasn't aware played an alien character until after seeing the episode she was in; I'm a huge fan of the '80's cult films Eating Raoul & Night of the Comet, and haven't seen Woronov in much else), and many others. Also, in many cases, I recognize an actor/actress on the show, but can't quite place their name or where I've seen them before...

-It's sad that S01 was the only season featuring Michael O'Hare (Sinclair) as the Captain, who had to leave the show due to health issues.
 

The Drifter

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
910
Real Name
Jim
To follow-up my last post, here are my comments on S02 & S03 of Babylon 5; I actually found S02-on more impressive than S01, and I thought S01 was great! As I said in my first post, I can unequivocally say that - IMHO - Babylon 5 is by far & hands-down the best sci-fi TV series of all time, and I don't say that lightly:

- Bruce B.'s Captain Sheridan is a completely different character than O'Hare's Captain Sinclair, but BB's approach works well here - and really fits the much more intense & dangerous situations that he comes across in Seasons 2-on. No offense to O'Hare, but I don't see Sinclair pulling off the physicality of the role that's required in these later seasons as well as Bruce B. has done.

- The series continues to present social issues that were/are relevant, all in a sci-fi setting - i.e.: rights for workers (the dock workers strike episode), physicians becoming addicted to drugs/stimulants due to stress & overwork etc. (re: the disturbing storyline involving Dr. Franklin), etc.

- One of my favorite episodes focused on Dr. Franklin's reconciliation with his father. Very poignant & relatable.

- Very realistic depiction of war & how it causes the opposing sides to dehumanize & demonize the enemy.

- Another great episode was the one focused on Jack The Ripper titled "Comes the Inquisitor". The JTR crimes in 1880's London have always disturbed me, especially since they never caught the perpetrator & never found out who it was.
So, this episode depicting JTR as someone who was kidnapped by the Vorlons (which explained why he stopped killing in 1888) was an interesting sci-fi explanation (though I prefer to believe the reality was much more mundane - LOL).

- The special effects improve with each season; very impressive space battles, spaceships, set pieces, aliens, etc. Though the exterior CGI spaceship/space battle effects are never great on this series, I do notice an improvement in S02-on (from S01).

- I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ivanova & Talia (the blonde telepath)
were obviously lovers for a brief period. It was somewhat bold to depict a relationship like this in a '90's sci-fi TV series, and may have been ground-breaking to some extent.

Babylon 5 suffers from several issues. It was shot on film in 16:9 with an eye towards WS and was cropped to 4:3 for broadcast. That's good... The effects were done at 4:3 with the intention that they'd be cropped to 16:9 when it was released in WS. Not necessarily bad... BUT... When effects were delivered for DVD mastering they blew it up with standard post-production DVE to fit a 16:9 frame rather than do the originally planned cropping. To add insult to injury they used the PAL tapes, rather than the master film, converted to NTSC, also blown up via DVE for 16:9 for the fully live action scenes. It is a mess. In spite of the early CGI it should actually look pretty good - if it were transferred as originally intended. But it's unlikely to happen.

Shifting this comment over from another thread, since it's more appropriate here. Yes, I was disappointed with the sub-par effects on the B5 DVD's, but did not know that if they had been formatted better on the DVD's that they would have looked better - interesting. As I said on another thread, I seriously doubt we will see the effects re-done & the show re-released on HD. And, based on the above - even if the effects aren't re-done, it sounds like the show would benefit from just a re-formatting & re-release to DVD. But, I doubt this will ever happen, either.
 
Last edited:

The Drifter

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
910
Real Name
Jim
S04 was equally great, and S05 was a fantastic season - and a nice way to finish up the series, with a very organic ending. I also felt that the story resolutions for all the characters worked as well. It was interesting to see everyone start to leave the station in the last several episodes to start the next cycle of their lives (Dr. Franklin, Garibaldi, etc.), so you could tell it was coming to an end.

I felt that S05 was one of the best seasons, and one of the strongest stand-alone episodes was Day of the Dead - in which many of the characters temporarily "saw" a person from their past who had died; very moving episode, and touched on how it's hard to let go of a loved one after they pass - even years later.

I will definitely have to re-watch the entire series in a couple of years. It was so well-done & nuanced, that I'm sure I missed some things the first time around. Excellent.

I doubt we'll see a reunion movie - if for no other reason than that many of the actors (both major & minor) who starred on the show have unfortunately passed on:

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls023048945/

I have also seen some (but not all) of the TV movies. I felt that River of Souls was one of the best, but that's just me.
My favorite line(s) of dialogue here occurs after Garibaldi, Zak, and Mayhew (the "owner of the "holographic palace") see a hologram of Captain Lochley:

Garibaldi: [upon seeing Captain Lochley's hologram] Okay, I'm as offended as you are. But I can see why a lot of guys would rent this particular image.
Mayhew: Actually, it was mainly women.

I also saw The Legend Of The Rangers; it was OK, and was obviously filmed as a "pilot" for a potential TV series that never materialized.

-Lastly, I also saw the 1999 thirteen-episode series Crusade, which is connected to Babylon 5 to some extent. What's interesting is that I never even heard of Crusade before last year. I never was aware of the show when it was on, even though I had heard of B5. I didn't have a TV at the time, and the show only ran for 13 episodes. I suspect it was never that popular. It was slightly amusing to see Gary Cole play the captain in this series - who is probably best known as Bill Lumbergh, the obnoxious & demanding boss in the iconic comedy Office Space (1999). However, my favorite role of his is as the lead in the underrated TV series Midnight Caller - but that's another thread.

In any case, Crusade takes place in the same universe & era as Babylon 5, and does feature Captain Elizabeth Lochley in some episodes; Dr. Franklin is also in at least one episode. Chronologically, the show seems to take place not long after Sheridan/Delenn, Dr. Franklin, Garibaldi, and others leave Babylon 5 towards the end of the series, but long before the "flash forward" that showed Sheridan's ultimate fate - 20?! years later.

Crusade was mildly interesting, and followed a ship that was sent out on a mission to try to find a cure for a deadly virus that was devastating humanity on Earth. The show was OK, but seemed disjointed at times & the episodes I saw appeared to even be out of order (I watched this on DVD). I may have liked this better had it continued & had a more cohesive storyline. However, it's tough to judge something after only 13 episodes.
 

Randy Korstick

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2000
Messages
5,163
To follow-up my last post, here are my comments on S02 & S03 of Babylon 5; I actually found S02-on more impressive than S01, and I thought S01 was great! As I said in my first post, I can unequivocally say that - IMHO - Babylon 5 is by far & hands-down the best sci-fi TV series of all time, and I don't say that lightly:

- Bruce B.'s Captain Sheridan is a completely different character than O'Hare's Captain Sinclair, but BB's approach works well here - and really fits the much more intense & dangerous situations that he comes across in Seasons 2-on. No offense to O'Hare, but I don't see Sinclair pulling off the physicality of the role that's required in these later seasons as well as Bruce B. has done.

- The series continues to present social issues that were/are relevant, all in a sci-fi setting - i.e.: rights for workers (the dock workers strike episode), physicians becoming addicted to drugs/stimulants due to stress & overwork etc. (re: the disturbing storyline involving Dr. Franklin), etc.

- One of my favorite episodes focused on Dr. Franklin's reconciliation with his father. Very poignant & relatable.

- Very realistic depiction of war & how it causes the opposing sides to dehumanize & demonize the enemy.

- Another great episode was the one focused on Jack The Ripper titled "Comes the Inquisitor". The JTR crimes in 1880's London have always disturbed me, especially since they never caught the perpetrator & never found out who it was.
So, this episode depicting JTR as someone who was kidnapped by the Vorlons (which explained why he stopped killing in 1888) was an interesting sci-fi explanation (though I prefer to believe the reality was much more mundane - LOL).

- The special effects improve with each season; very impressive space battles, spaceships, set pieces, aliens, etc. Though the exterior CGI spaceship/space battle effects are never great on this series, I do notice an improvement in S02-on (from S01).

- I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ivanova & Talia (the blonde telepath)
were obviously lovers for a brief period. It was somewhat bold to depict a relationship like this in a '90's sci-fi TV series, and may have been ground-breaking to some extent.



Shifting this comment over from another thread, since it's more appropriate here. Yes, I was disappointed with the sub-par effects on the B5 DVD's, but did not know that if they had been formatted better on the DVD's that they would have looked better - interesting. As I said on another thread, I seriously doubt we will see the effects re-done & the show re-released on HD. And, based on the above - even if the effects aren't re-done, it sounds like the show would benefit from just a re-formatting & re-release to DVD. But, I doubt this will ever happen, either.

The story on the effects that I have read on Babylon 5 sites for years is that the original effects files were deleted. When the show was done in the 90's cgi was new, HD TV was not yet a reality and hard drive space was very expensive so they thought the effects captured on film prints would be fine for the future and erased the effects files to use the space for something else. So when they did the DVD's they had to blow up the effects from the 4:3 film copy. Cropping it from the film copy would have made a small difference but is still not good enough for HD so this is why the DVD's effects look bad and why they are not attempting an HD release. The only way to make the effects look good for an HD release would be creating new ones from scratch and fans wouldn't like that.
 

The Drifter

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
910
Real Name
Jim
The story on the effects that I have read on Babylon 5 sites for years is that the original effects files were deleted. When the show was done in the 90's cgi was new, HD TV was not yet a reality and hard drive space was very expensive so they thought the effects captured on film prints would be fine for the future and erased the effects files to use the space for something else. So when they did the DVD's they had to blow up the effects from the 4:3 film copy. Cropping it from the film copy would have made a small difference but is still not good enough for HD so this is why the DVD's effects look bad and why they are not attempting an HD release. The only way to make the effects look good for an HD release would be creating new ones from scratch and fans wouldn't like that.

Good point. However, what I find more relevant is that re-creating/re-doing the effects would obviously be an incredibly expensive & time consuming process.
 
Last edited:

ScottRE

Screenwriter
Joined
Feb 6, 2005
Messages
1,280
Location
New York, Planet Earth
Real Name
Scott
I am not sure fans would object all that strongly to updated effects. Unlike Star Trek, B5's effects aren't iconic live action model work that have been run and rerun for decades. Going from CGI FX to BETTER CGI FX would probably go over more warmly. And since so many live action shots have effects involved, it would bring the series up to a higher standard instead of switching quality from great to crummy throughout the episodes. As long as JMS supervised them and kept them close to the original intent, I can't imagine there would be much of an uproar. As it is, it looks like it goes from cheesy video game to live action and back again. Which is a shame, because the series is (mostly) so well done, the changing picture quality take away from it.
 

The Drifter

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
910
Real Name
Jim
I am not sure fans would object all that strongly to updated effects. Unlike Star Trek, B5's effects aren't iconic live action model work that have been run and rerun for decades. Going from CGI FX to BETTER CGI FX would probably go over more warmly. And since so many live action shots have effects involved, it would bring the series up to a higher standard instead of switching quality from great to crummy throughout the episodes. As long as JMS supervised them and kept them close to the original intent, I can't imagine there would be much of an uproar. As it is, it looks like it goes from cheesy video game to live action and back again. Which is a shame, because the series is (mostly) so well done, the changing picture quality take away from it.

I for one would be all for something like this, and would definitely purchase Blu's/DVD's of B5 with updated effects - and, I 100% agree the PQ on the current/existing DVD's leave a lot to be desired.

However, the likely hood of a company bothering to re-do the elaborate effects here would be slim. I'm not that technically familiar with what would be involved here, but it seems obvious that going back & re-doing the special effects on an older sci-fi show - and making sure everything syncs up - seems like it would be incredibly difficult, time-consuming - and would cost a hell of a lot of $; I'm guessing it would probably be more difficult than creating special effects for a brand new show.

Back in the late '90's, I remember reading about how difficult it was for Lucasfilm to go back & re-do the special effects on the three original Star Wars films. That was obviously a long time ago & technology has improved a lot since then. However, this B5 project would be a lot more difficult - given that there are 5 full seasons & several tele-films that would need to be modified. A company would need to have a lot of $, time, and technical expertise to do this correctly - also, they would need to be assured that the Blu's/DVD's would sell well enough to justify the cost re: doing this. And, with streaming having become so popular in the last 5-7 years & people eschewing physical media anyway - the more time passes, the less likely this seems.
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
347,081
Messages
4,801,764
Members
141,989
Latest member
hack
Top