Where No Shadows Fall

Vir Cotto Babylon 5 Header

Any visitor to this site knows that I’m a massive Babylon 5 fan.

I love the show.

Love it.

As sacrilegious as it is to some science fiction fans, Babylon 5 shares equal place for me with Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Star Wars, three shows that defined my childhood.  Each hold equal first place for different reasons, and each is special in its own wonderfully unique way.

But… one way in which Babylon 5 is head and shoulders above most, if not all other science fiction shows (even Star Trek and Space: 1999), is in its story and the way that story was executed.

Yes, Sheridan really pissed me off toward the end of the series and I’ll never forgive the character for the way he treated Lyta, yes the conclusion to the Shadow War was a little rushed but that was the studio’s fault and no one elses, and yes Season 5 had a really average first half, but over all that show kicked ass.

The incredible story J. Michael Straczynski wrote would not have transferred to the screen though, without the excellent performances of its main cast.  The characters he created were brought to life, beautifully, by a collection of exceptional actors.

One of those actors was Stephen Furst, who, sadly, passed away on Saturday.

Stephen played Vir Cotto, the efficient, long-suffering aid to Ambassador Londo Mollari.  He was Londo’s conscience, his foil at times, and his friend when that character most needed one.

Stephen played the role with humour, sensitivity and passion, making a character that could have been one-dimensional an integral part of that series.

Stephen first came to the notice of audiences in 1978, in the movie Animal House.  From there, he appeared in multiple roles in television and film, and eventually moved into directing and producing.

To some, he was Flounder from Animal House or Doctor Elliot Axelrod from St. Elsewhere, to many he was Vir from Babylon 5, but to others he was an activist and spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association.

It was that disease that took Stephen’s life, as it took his father’s life in 1972.  Stephen died from complications related to diabetes at his home in California at the age of 63.

He will missed.

Vir Cotto 3

J. Michael Straczynski, when he heard the news, made the following posts to his Twitter account:

First, in response to a notification from another Twitter user, Jeremiah Holt:

“Goddamnit… a really decent, great, kind guy.”

Then:

“On behalf of everyone who worked on Babylon 5, Stephen Furst will be missed profoundly and everlastingly.”

In another post:

“Lost Babylon 5 Main cast: Michael O’Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conway, Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs, now Stephen Furst, all too soon.”

JMS Post RE Stephen Furst

Space: 2049 extends its deepest condolences to Stephen’s family and, alongside them, his colleagues and his fans, we grieve his loss.  Deeply.

It is our sincere hope he is sleeping in starlight, in a place where no shadows fall.

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SciFi Standard Bearers

SciFi Standard Bearers

Televised science fiction has been enjoying something of a resurgence these last few years, with some people wondering if we’re entering into a kind of ‘Golden Age’ of scifi.

Maybe!

People my age, who were born in the 1970s and 1980s, once thought that the latter half of the 1980s and the entirety of the 1990s was that Golden Age, because of the number of science fiction shows on free-to-air TV at the time.  Shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-offs, Quantum LeapThe X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond, Farscape, Babylon 5 and it’s spin-off Crusade, Stargate SG-1Earth: Final Conflict, SlidersSeaQuest DSV, and more.

Honestly, it was pretty amazing.  Even in Australia, where we still don’t get a lot of scifi content on free-to-air and have to wait for those shows to arrive on DVD (or at that time, video cassette), we could still catch two or three shows a week – The X-FilesFarscapeSeaQuest DSVBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Space: Above and Beyond.  All while waiting for the latest Star Trek or Babylon 5 episode to arrive on video.

With that amount of content, you’d expect some duds, but most of the science fiction and, what eventually came to be known as ‘genre shows’ (thanks to Buffy) were pretty good.

Then it all stopped.  We had the odd ‘sputter’ with the amazing Battlestar Galactica reboot, and we had CharmedAngelV, and the Stargate spin-offs for a while, but suddenly genre series seemed to all but disappear from our screens.  Until recently.

Now, over the last few years, all sorts of incredible, not easily definable television shows have captivated science fiction and fantasy fans, as well as mainstream audiences alike – The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Vikings, the revamped Doctor Who, Westworld, Ash vs The Evil Dead, Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, The Strain, Legion, Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Agents of SHIELD, The Exorcist, The Expanse, Dark Matter, Killjoys and soon, the brand new Star Trek: Discovery.

There are so many ‘genre’ shows airing right now that it’s actually difficult to keep track of them!  But, how many are traditional science fiction?  Scifi set in space, on a starship, zooming about all over the place?

Very few, actually.

I don’t think anyone really knows why.  At one point it might have been an issue of cost, because science fiction shows have never been cheap, but with Game of Thrones costing a whopping six million dollars per episode, that’s probably not a consideration any more.

It might be because, as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair from Babylon 5 would say, “Nothing is the same anymore.”  We’re not watching television in the same ways as we used to.  We’re streaming shows and we’re watching them on multiple platforms.  Also, we’re getting, on average, half as many episodes per season as we once used to.

People are time poor in the 21st Century, and on top of that the old studio system doesn’t hold as much sway as it once did.  Plus, many of us are paying for our content and because of that we’re expecting something special.  We want ‘event’ television, but event television that tells an intimate tale.

Science fiction is definitely event television, but it hasn’t always done the intimate bit very well.

Thankfully, that is changing and we’re starting to see more traditional scifi again.

Right now, there are three standard bearers for science fiction television.

The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter.

All three take place on a larger canvas, telling bigger stories, but focus episode to episode on the lives of a few characters, taking us deep into their worlds.

With The Expanse, we’re following a crew of four, learning about them and their relationships episode to episode.

With Killjoys, we’re following a crew of three people, unravelling the mystery of their lives.

With Dark Matter we’re following what was a crew of six (but that fluctuated in Season 2) as they try to remember who they are – and on discovering that, try to fight against who they were and become better people.

In just two seasons, for each of these shows, we have learned more about their main characters than we did most of the characters on any of the old Star Trek shows.

These new series are showing the way for modern science fiction, and it’s exciting.

I haven’t seen The Expanse yet, because it hasn’t aired on television or been made available to us on DVD or BluRay, for reasons that are just stupid, but I am a fan of the books and follow all of the news on the show and it looks amazing.

Killjoys and Dark Matter, however, I can comment on, and both are outstanding.

Killjoys took me four episodes to get into, but by episode five of Season One I was hooked and I’ve been in love with the show ever since.  What hooked me?  The characters.  Dutch, Johnny and D’avin.

Dark Matter grabbed me straight away and has kept me wanting more season to season.  What grabbed me?  In particular Two (Portia), Three (Marcus), Five (Emily), Six (Kal) and the Android.

All of the other stuff in both shows is just icing on the cake.

As well as the intimate story lines mentioned above, those shows have something else in common – they have strong female leads, they don’t shy away from issues of sexuality and gender, and they show us a multicultural future where light and dark dance around the edges of what are very ‘grey’ realities.  I love Star Trek‘s utopia like future, but I get that today’s audiences want some sort of discourse on just how screwed up we all are.  They want to it see it reflected and mirrored on television, and they want to see our heroes fighting, and at times submitting, to that.

Rather than break these shows down in any detail, I encourage you to watch them if you haven’t – and to continue to support them if you already enjoy them.

If you want to know more about these three excellent series, you can visit their official websites here: The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter.

As someone who hopes to see an old favourite, Space: 1999, rebooted, there are lessons that can be learned from these new shows about how to structure a series and most especially about what a modern audience wants.  Intimacy.  Inclusion.  An exploration of modern issues.

Space: 1999 was already doing some of that back in the 1970s, with a very multicultural crew on Moonbase Alpha, and any reboot of it would no doubt be able to tackle that and other things that are important to us now, and in very creative and intimate ways.  I can imagine a transgender crew member, and with a character like Maya an episode or two or five focused on inclusion and the occasional bigotry that can come with not understanding something or someone.

More and more, as I dissect both of these more traditional science fiction shows and compare them with other genre offerings, I see a place for Space: 1999 in modern television (obviously with a few changes), and get more and more excited about the possibility.

Moonbase Alpha was a microcosm of Earth, and it’s philosophical ‘bent’ was all about us (in the 1970s) asking “who am I?”  “Why am I here?”  Where am I going?”  Things many of these genre series are debating right now in their own unique and dramatic ways.

I hope that this renaissance of science fiction that we are enjoying right now continues for some time, and I hope that a new Space: 1999 becomes a part of that.

I first wanted the show to get a reboot in the 80s.  Then again in the early 2000s.  But now, looking at the world as it is, and looking at what genre television has become, I feel NOW is the time.  It would have been too soon a couple of decades ago.

As far as I know, ITV still own the rights to the television series.

Hopefully they realise the potential of Space: 1999, and give it the new life it deserves.

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The Unexpected Joy of Podcasts

Science Fiction Classics

Have you ever been SUPER late to “the party?”

I have been.  On two occasions.

I still can’t believe I was so moronic.

The first was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  All of my friends were constantly talking up this apparently amazing TV show about a beautiful blonde cheerleader who kicked vampire ass on a regular basis.  I thought they were mad.  How could a show about a vampire killing cheerleader be quality TV?!  And when I learned she was in love with a vampire on top of all of that, all I could think was “no, no, no, no, NO!”

Holy crap was I wrong.  I came to Buffy half way through it’s second season and never looked back.

The second time I was late to the party was with Podcasts.

I didn’t want to listen to people rabbit on about the things I loved, in case it somehow ruined that thing for me.

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and I’ll watch a bad sci-fi movie or TV episode over pretty much everything else, but the thought of listening to other fans dissect the movies and shows I loved gave me a headache.  I felt that way thanks to the comments sections on various sci-fi news sites.  There was a time, years ago, when you could read some really insightful stuff in those sections.  Comments that validated how you felt, and comments that challenged you to rethink your opinion… and then they became a haven for negative people spouting negative crap that would often cause a ‘flame’ war.

I feared Podcasting would give those negative voices even more of a platform.

Again, I was wrong.  Sometimes you come across the odd negative naysayer and the odd obnoxious panel member, but they seem to be an exception to the norm.

In the last few weeks I’ve become addicted to a whole bunch of Podcasts and I’m really enjoying the experience.

I have a long drive to and from work everyday and I can spend up to three hours in my car depending on traffic.  While I’m happy to listen to music, and sometimes just get lost in my own thoughts, I recently decided to try out Podcasts and have not looked back.  For me, it’s like having a car full of good friends chatting to me about my favourite things.

There are courses you can do via Podcast, there are meditations, there are discussion panels about your favourite movies, and in particular discussion panels on your favourite shows.

I thought I’d share one particular Podcast I recently listened to and loved, and list two ongoing ones that are excellent.  If you’re a sci-fi fan who has never given Podcasts a shot, these ones are some you may want to check out.

Eagle on Platform

First up, the single episode I listened to recently.

Autopilot by Scott Johnson and Tom Merritt.  This dynamic duo watch and comment on the pilot episodes of multiple television shows across the decades and its chock full of awesome.

These guys are HILARIOUS, and many of their insights are both thought provoking and entertaining.

In season three, episode nine of their series, they take a look at “Breakaway”, the pilot episode of Space: 1999.

Check it out here.

Babylon 5 Season 1 Cast Photo

The Audio Guide to Babylon 5 has fast become one of my favourite Podcasts.  Sitting down with Chip, Erika and Shannon is like being wrapped up in a warm B5 and sci-fi geek hug that always makes me smile.  That hour and a bit of my trip into work everyday flies by when these guys are on my list.

I crammed three years’ worth of their Podcasts into four weeks and never once felt bored.  They’re excellent.

If you’re a fan of Babylon 5, this series is a must.

Check the guys out here.

There are multiple ways to interact with Chip, Shannon and Erika, and they’ve created a very active fan community.

Star Trek Through The Years

The last Podcast I’ll mention is Shuttle Pod.

There are, obviously, thousands more, but these three really stood out to me.  Excellent production values, insightful commentary, interesting personalities, humour, and warm ‘feels’ everywhere.

Shuttle Pod is a production of one of my favourite Star Trek news sites, TrekMovie.com.  They discuss everything from the movies, to the shows, and the characters.  Their recent look at the Trek films has been both entertaining and informative.

Check them out here.

If you’ve never given Podcasts a go, now is the time.  Most of us will have a few days off over Easter, and there are worse ways to spend a holiday.

If you’re an old hand at Podcasts and love science fiction, but have never given these Podcasts a try, look them up and have a listen.

I’m thinking of doing a tour through the Space: 1999 episodes as a Podcast, but I’m literally the only Space: 1999 fan that I know!

If I can ever conscript someone to join me, or find a really interesting way to do it solo, they’ll feature here.

That’s it for now.

If you’re an Easter celebrating person, Happy Easter, and eat chocolate and prosper.

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Believing in a Better Future

hope-for-the-future

Space: 1999 took a somewhat jaded look at the future on Earth, while at the same time focusing on our ability to survive and build something better as the survivors of an horrific accident clung to hope against a backdrop of mystery, struggle and the implied terror of being lost in deep space.

The Alphans were at the mercy of nature, unable to control the trajectory of their accidental gigantic spaceship (the moon) – but able to control the way they lived and maintained a focus on the possibility of something better.

It’s a message as relevant to today as it was to the often times tumultuous 1970s.

Space: 1999 taught me that while we can’t always control the bigger things in life, we can control the ways in which we react to them and, through our choices, make a gradual impact on what might initially appear to be something we cannot effect.

It’s a message we might want to consider as we make the transition from one year to the next, particularly as we look back on 2016 – a year that has brought us great challenges, and as close to a guarantee of an uncertain global future as we’ve had, at least since the days of the Cold War.

What a year.

In my day job, I’m a Counsellor and a Community Development specialist.  I’ve built an accidental career around working with the survivors of trauma with a primary focus on young people and professionals in the industry, and in turning what are purportedly community spaces into more inclusive places for people who are often (accidentally?) excluded or feel excluded or not catered to – young people, refugees, and unexpectedly these last two years, people from what we in Australia call the QUILTBAG community (Queer/Unisex/Intersex/Lesbian/Trans/Bisexual/Asexual and Gay) – particularly Trans and Non-Binary individuals.

I’ve been doing this work for two decades, starting it in my early twenties.  Back then, it felt like we had a real chance at solving the world’s problems (which was, I now know, naive).  Now, in my fourth decade, life has “reality checked” me and more often than not I’m seeing more inequality than ever before, and more turmoil and uncertainty.

I don’t know a way to fix that, but I’m still dedicated to doing my own small part.

Because of my day job, I’m a big fan of reflection.

At the end of every year, particularly since hitting my 40s, I lock myself away from the world and deep dive into the experiences I’ve had over the previous 360ish days.  This process is my way of staying grounded, of planning my way forward into a new year, and it’s my way of avoiding vicarious trauma and eventual “burn out” (in my industry, the average ‘life expectancy’ of a professional is 2.5 to five years).

Part of that process is remembering what’s inspired me.

Over the years, I’ve made no secret of the fact that the reason I do the work I do is because I was inspired to do it by my love of science fiction.

Recently, in a supervision session (which is where professional allied-health workers review their performance at regular intervals with someone older, more experienced, and better qualified than them), I was asked by my supervisor how I got into the industry and why I thought I was still surviving it.  I was at a career impasse.  I’d reached the top and had no idea what to do with the rest of my life, and my supervisor felt looking back would help me see my way through and forward into the future.

I reflected to her that from a young age I’d been inspired to try and reach an ideal – one that had been shaped by Star Trek, and influenced by the actions, bravery and compassion of characters in shows like Space: 1999, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (the original) and Star Wars.

She gave me a look that clearly indicated she thought I might be losing my grip.

Maybe I’ve been losing it for years, but I can’t deny how much my inexplicable love for science fiction has influenced my life – both personally and professionally.

Deanna Troi inspired my trek into Counselling, as did Doctor Helena Russell, Doctor Leonard McCoy, and Ambassador Delenn.  Only one of those characters was a counsellor, but the rest dabbled in it or offered carefully thought out counsel to those around them.

Spock, Princess Leia Organa, Captain Apollo, G’Kar, Commander John Koenig, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Benjamin Sisko and Captain Kathryn Janeway encouraged me to act with integrity and courage.  Doctor Beverly Crusher, Doctor Stephen Franklin, Maya, Kes, Commander Adama, and Vir Cotto inspired me to keep compassion and consequence at the centre of my decision making, and the futures of hope displayed in each of these series – hope they’d find a home in Space: 1999, hope they’d find Earth in Battlestar Galactica, hope they’d maintain peace in Babylon 5 and then eventually the hope they’d overcome a corrupt government, the promise of a selfless future in Star Trek, the hope that good would always triumph over evil in Star Wars, shaped everything about me.

These things still shape me today.

Remembering those inspirations, despite the surprise another professional expressed regarding the source material, I was reminded that we still have a long way to go and we’re only going to get there if some of us keep dreaming of a better future, and if most of us allow ourselves to continue to be inspired by visionaries who focus on that future or on our better qualities as human beings.

The future – at least a future that’s worth living in – is created by people who dare to dream and then act on those dreams.  It’s created by people who allow themselves to be inspired, rather than mired down by fear and those who peddle in it.

As we enter a period in our history that is being defined by events and often frightening challenges like Brexit, ISIL, astonishing political change in the United States, disappointing political fracturing in Australia, threats to Democracy and effective, non-totalitarian Socialism throughout Europe, the ever present issues of homophobia, transphobia and racism around the world, and the effects of Global Warming, it’s more incumbent than ever on those of us who prefer hope over fear to keep doing what we’re doing and pushing back by choosing to focus on the positive.

There’s a school of thought that suggests we create our future through the things we focus on – at both the micro (personal) and macro (national or global) level.  There’s not a great deal of evidence to support this, though some scientists have made interesting steps forward in attempting to quantify it.  I’m choosing to believe in that theory and focus on what is extraordinary about humanity, rather than what’s disappointing about us.

I get that people are frightened of terrorism, of Donald Trump, of global warming and of the fact too many of us are literally two pay checks away from poverty or homelessness.  I get these things, and share these thoughts, but hunkering down in fear won’t solve the issues we’re facing.  If anything, they’ll exacerbate them.

2017, at least in my view, is the year we turn the tables and make a commitment to hope again.  These things, historically, are cyclical.  In my life time alone we’ve seen the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the mapping of our DNA, realistic plans to head to Mars, Gay marriage in some countries, and we’ve seen a number of women assume the ultimate positions of power in their respective countries despite the fact most of them only obtained the right to vote last century – and in some countries, shockingly, in the latter half of that century.

In a short space of time we’ve taken great strides forward, and we still can – with a little reorientation.  Some people, born in the first quarter of the last century, saw the austerity and fear of the depression, replaced with the excess of the 30s, the terror of the 40s, the boom of the 50s, the free love movement of the 60s, the Cold War and multiple other wars of the 70s and 80s as well as the crazy “greed is good” excess of the 80s and 90s, the fall of the World Trade Centre towers, the mining boom, and more recently all of those other things I’ve already mentioned that have led our collective psyche to a dark place.  Soon, hopefully, we’ll return to happier times and bounce back from the brink we sometimes feel like we’re at right now.

As we move forward into a new year, hopefully some of us (or most of us) will play our own individual roles in creating a brighter future and heralding in a happier time.

Television often reflects where we’re at as a people, and television fare these last few years has definitely been bleak.

With the upcoming release of Star Trek: Discovery, and their pledge to bring back a focus on hope and humans as positive change makers to television, maybe a change is coming?

As a one-time fan of The Walking Dead who got over it after a time because of how depressing it was, it’s interesting to hear a lot of people are now turning from the show because of how bleak and hopeless it is.  It’s happening to a lesser degree with other big, often depressing television shows, so maybe – as a people – we’re ready for something different and we’re tired of seeing human beings in a bad light, and our future as hopeless.

As we prepare to welcome in a new year, here’s to overcoming and rising above the fears caused by global terrorism, here’s to an end to homophobia, transphobia and all of those other ‘obias’ and ‘isms’, and here’s to embracing a future among the stars where there are moonbases and Mars outposts and a humanity focused on enhancing the species rather than destroying or victimising it.

And, here’s to a TV Network or production company being brave enough to rebirth Space: 1999!  I still believe, as a show, it has a unique ability to show us an incredibly positive and amazing near future.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Let’s do our own small part to build a better, brighter future that’s worth living in.

As you go through your own end of year process, whether it results in resolutions or not, I hope you find wisdom, joy, and the courage we all need to be positive change makers.

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Babylon 5

Babylon 5 Review Banner

When I started this blog, my big hurdle was the simple fact no new episodes of Space: 1999 had been produced in about 40 years, and the planned sequel, Space 2099 was never made.  While I’d be doing my own “fan-take” on a new series, that wouldn’t happen over night, so I decided the blog would feature retrospectives on Space: 1999, interesting developments in science that might lead to a settlement on the moon or Mars, and features on those shows that shared the same spirit as Space: 1999.

One of the things many a Space: 1999 fan loved about the series was it’s focus on the metaphysical and philosophical, as well as the scientific.

1999 postulated, in its first season, that there was an intelligence at work in the galaxy that was influencing the direction of Moonbase Alpha as it plunged from one end of the galaxy to the other.

While that focus was largely lost in the second season, it is something many fans remember.  In fact, many fans blame the cancellation of the series on that loss, and believe Space: 1999 would have continued if season two hadn’t changed the premise of the show so dramatically.

Thankfully, about 18 years after Space: 1999, another brave series decided to add some metaphysics and philosophy into its story-telling, and create a science fiction show that wasn’t just about futuristic science.  Babylon 5.

That metaphysical ‘feel’ changed as the series progressed, but it still posed important questions about humanity and the constructs of faith and power and didn’t often give easy answers to the issues raised.

Babylon 5 Characters

Babylon 5 was created by J. Michael Straczynski, and aired across five years from 1993 to 1998, starting with the two hour movie “The Gathering” in 1993 before the first season commenced airing in 1994 with the episode “Midnight on the Firing Line.”

J. Michael Straczynski envisioned the show as one long novel, and considered each year of the five year saga a chapter in that book.

Season one (chapter one) was titled “Signs and Portents” and dealt with the Commander of the station, Jeffrey Sinclair, discovering what happened to him during ‘the Battle of the Line’, while introducing a host of fascinating characters and building on the eventual discovery of a dangerous enemy.

Season two (chapter two) was titled “The Coming of Shadows” and introduced us to a new Commander of the station, John Sheridan, after Michael O’Hare (the actor playing Sinclair) was let go for reasons that are sometimes still debated by fans today.  The season introduced us to the mystery of a changed Ambassador Delenn, the rising fortunes of the Centauri Ambassador, Mollari, and introduced us to the Shadows – the ancient enemy of the enigmatic Vorlon.

Season three (chapter three) was titled “The Point of No Return” and focused on Earth as it fell under the sway of a dictator, as Delenn and John Sheridan set about creating a ‘conspiracy of light’ to fight the darkness permeating the galaxy in the form of the Shadows.

Season four (chapter four) was titled “No Surrender, No Retreat” and pushed our heroes to extremes as the conflict between the Vorlon and Shadows threatened to wipe out billions of lives.  As Delenn and the Minbari stepped up to lead the forces of light as the most powerful of the young races, Sheridan decided he had no choice but to attack his homeworld and overthrow a government he no longer believed in to save humanity from the machinations of a madman.

Season five (the final chapter) was titled “The Wheel of Fire”.  It was here that Babylon 5 kind of went off the rails for a little bit.  As season four played out, J. Michael Straczynski didn’t know if his show would be renewed for its fifth and final season.  As a result, he rushed the conclusion of the Shadow War, and when renewal came had to shift the show’s focus to a few other concepts to complete his five year vision.

The season went from weak to strong, and finished with a literal bang.  The weak?  The telepath war which began the season.  Watch it, and you’ll see that the episodes featuring the telepath issue weren’t the series’ strongest.  As the season progressed, it introduced a new threat and focused heavily on the fallout from the end of season four and the series became brilliant again.

Babylon 5 the series ended with the amazing episode “Sleeping in Light” – one of the most beautifully written and impressively performed season finales in history.  “Sleeping in Light” was filmed at the end of season four (just in case), and when the series was renewed the episode was held until the actual close of the show.

As well as five seasons, Babylon 5 also created a series of movies along with two spin offs – one that lasted one season (Babylon 5: Crusade) and one that never made it past the pilot stage despite the fact it was actually an excellent idea (Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers) and was wonderful to watch.

The films were by and large good, with the first two being exceptional: Babylon 5: In The Beginning and Babylon 5: Thirdspace.  The third film, Babylon 5: River of Souls wasn’t as strong as the previous two films and the fourth film, Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, was okay, but served more as a pilot for Crusade.

A fifth film was produced as a concept for an anthology series – Babylon 5: The Lost Tales.  Lost Tales was planned to be the first of many anthology editions, but no more were made due to funding issues.

The Lost Tales

Babylon 5 was an extraordinary series that tackled intense and meaningful themes, and many of them were similar to the themes tackled in Space: 1999 – free will and order versus chaos, religion and spirituality, politics and the abuse of power.

At the time, Babylon 5 was known as “the anti- Star Trek“, much as Space: 1999 had been, and both shows shared very similar fan wars with Trekkers.

Babylon 5 was, and for many of us today, still is a phenomenon.

Despite some really bad sets, everything else about the show was fantastic (I still can’t work out why the doors were such a ridiculous shape).  The special effects were revolutionary for the time with B5 being the first show to embrace computer generated imaging.  The acting was first class, the directing was often inspired, and the writing was unlike anything science fiction television had ever seen.

The creator of B5, the amazing J. Michael Straczynski, also engaged the internet like no one ever had before (way before social media), and it was, arguably, this and the connection he built with his fans, that kept the series alive.  Of note, Straczynski also wrote most of the episodes of the show – which is huge and at the time, unheard of.

If you love science fiction and haven’t watched Babylon 5, you need to.  It is a sci-fi masterpiece.

You can pick the series up on Amazon, or find it in any good DVD and Bluray store.

To learn more about Babylon 5, follow these links:

The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5

The Babylon Project

Babylon 5 on Wikipedia

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