the original Star Trek series was that, in addition to having well written episode scripts, the characters were played out with such passion. Ok, I know sometimes it turned into overacting, but I'd rather it go that way than become flat and boring. I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice that the next generation series that followed had an acting style that was a bit more cerebral. I guess you might expect that from a captain with a Shakespearean training background. The next few spinoffs continued this trend and the script writing degraded until DS9 finally began to convince me that the day of good sci-fi serials on television were over. That was until some friends at a gathering told me about Babylon 5.
There were five main ambassadors that formed sort of a council of worlds at that space station, all of them very different. The lizard-like Narn were an oppressed people with issues from the past, the Centauri were high society and its ambassador a conniving politician, the Minbari a peace loving race of philosophers, and the Vorlons were a mysterious ancient race with advanced technology yet difficult to understand and communicate with. The humans ran the station, led by the station commander Jeffrey Sinclair, who I thought was a likable character. But Sinclair only lasted one season and he was replaced by John Sheridan, played by Bruce Boxleiter (yes, the Tron guy), who took some warming up to. Sinclair disappears for unknown reasons and comes back at the end of the series as a key character, but I always wondered if they re-wrote the story to accommodate the original actor's departure. I still can't tell. Then there are several station personnel like Garibaldi, the security chief, who I always liked a lot. He was such a no-nonsense tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. Other regular characters would come for a season or two and then go, but were always interesting. There was an agency called Psi Core which enlisted telepaths and trained them to use their gift for the good of society, or at least their definition of it. A regular Psi-cop on the show was played by Walter Koenig (Chekov).
The entire 5 year series has several story arcs that provide continuity. The main one involves sightings of mysterious shadow vessels that leave destruction in their wake. The explanation at the end of the series I thought was quite disappointing, like you've been led up to believe something horrible will happen and then everybody just shakes hands and goes home, but that does not take away the effectiveness of what led up to it. Another arc involves a past war between the Minbari and Earth that was mysteriously cut short and is tied up with Sinclair's relationship to their race. In addition, there were many one-off episodes that featured an isolated story, and these were often well written, interesting, and the whole series had a darker twist than you might encounter in the Trek world. It was rather addicting.
Babylon 5 which is its creative space ship designs. No models were used, only CGI, and to be frank, most of the computer generated images did not look very convincing. The thing that makes them stand out is the work that went into designing the CGI models. The space station itself is a rotating segmented monster of a structure with elaborately detailed features. All of the different races have unique ship architectures which just look kind of cool, even though they often don't seem like they would hold together in real life. It all looks pristinely clean but you just appreciate the work that went into it.
After the show's run ended, I saw ads for some spinoff mini-series, but they were on cable so I could not access it at the time. However, the entire cast was replaced for the follow-ups so what would be the point anyway? If you haven't seen this series and you like a good long running science fiction serial that actually entertains, you might just give the pilot a watch and see. Just make sure you've got the original series.
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