Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

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Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-05 08:00pm

Well, perhaps 'old' is the wrong term... but it's definitely pretty near to 'vintage' isn't it? Since it started allllll the way back in 1994, or 1993...

Ahem. So recently, Babylon 5 was released on Amazon Prime. I've been marathoning it since. I'm currently up to roughly the middle of Season 4. Fair warning, if you haven't watched this show, this thread WILL have open spoilers up to more or less that point... so please hide spoilers after mid-S4, if y'all please, tyvm!

This is one of the TV shows that I always heard a lot about in the early-mid 2000's, but never actually got to watch (lack of cable TV is a bitch). I watched Thirdspace once (random choice), but that was the extent of my watching it. Oh, and randomly somehow I caught part of Legends of the Rangers. Yeeeeeah.

Anyway, I knew the general sketch of the show. Basically DS9 before DS9 (though it did co-exist with DS9 for awhile there), it's about humans interacting with aliens, there's a big cosmic space war, and I got some of it actually from right here like Wong's page on planet-destroyers. A few things I got spoiled on like Sinclair becoming Valen, the Vorlons actually being cosmic energy beings of some sort, Lorien being the First First One, Mr. Morden's head on a spike and Vir Cotto getting to wave at it.

But those details aren't that important. What's important is that this is actually a pretty darn good show. The writing is pretty decent, the acting is likewise good-- a tad hammy, but then, it was the 90s. The big downside is the effects-- WB did a pretty shit job converting B5 to DVD back in the day, and while Prime may have gotten a better-quality version, the early-90s computing technology really shows badly in the first season or two. It gets better as it goes on, but it never really compares to say TNG or DS9. Of course, Trek had a lot more money for effects and a lot of their stuff was actual practical effects with models and such (at least earlier on in the 90s) while B5 was pretty much entirely CGI. It can be pretty jarring.

But you aren't watching it for the CGI. You're watching it for the story and the characters. Being written by one guy (mostly), J Michael Stracyzniski (I can never spell that right and autocorrect thinks it's Kakistocracy, funnily enough) for the whole five seasons of its existence, it's remarkably consistent and plotted throughout. Some stuff does clash every now and then-- Sinclair's abrupt departure from the show to be replaced by Sheridan is probably the most glaring one so far, and I understand Claudia Christian departed the show around S5.

It tackles some really big ideas (with a bit of help from Tolkien on occasion, I'm pretty sure Lorien is a JMS version of an Elf)-- an over-arching concept of First Ones inhabiting the galaxy and making room for the Younger Races, prophecies, ambition, even a little religion here and there.

Anyway. I might have more commentary later, but feel free to contribute.

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-07-05 10:00pm

A lot of the clashes you mention are due to improvisation required due to real-life circumstances. Michael O'Hare (Sinclair) started suffering from severe mental health issues (we're talking delusions and hallucinations) during the filming of the first season, and asked to get written out of the show because he could no longer handle the strain, and turned down JMS's offer to put the filming on hold while he got treated because he felt it would jeopardize the show's future. Which turned out to be a good call since he never recovered enough that he would have been able to take on a main role again.

Similarly, Talia's sudden departure was due to Andrea Thompson being dissatisfied with her role in the story, and wanting to pursue other options. Her divorce from Jerry Doyle around that time probably also didn't give her much motivation to return.

The revolving door of actresses playing Ko'Dath/Na'Toth was due to Mary Woronov (Ko'Dath) and Julie Caitlin Brown (first Na'Toth) having issues with the Narn prosthetics, while Mary Kay Adams (second Na'Toth) decided to play Na'Toth as much more quiet and soft-spoken, which made the character harder to write for, which resulted in the character being slowly written out of the show.

And then there's poor Warren Keffer. His total irrelevance had nothing to do with Robert Rusler himself, but because the character only existed due to the studio pressuring JMS to add a hotshot fighter pilot to try to bring in more viewers. JMS disliked the very idea of the character, so he barely put him in any episodes, then killed him off unceremoniously as soon as the network wasn't looking.

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Broomstick » 2018-07-06 04:15am

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-07-05 10:00pm
A lot of the clashes you mention are due to improvisation required due to real-life circumstances. Michael O'Hare (Sinclair) started suffering from severe mental health issues (we're talking delusions and hallucinations) during the filming of the first season, and asked to get written out of the show because he could no longer handle the strain, and turned down JMS's offer to put the filming on hold while he got treated because he felt it would jeopardize the show's future. Which turned out to be a good call since he never recovered enough that he would have been able to take on a main role again.
Yep, turned out to be full-blown schizophrenia. JMS kept that secret during O'Hare's lifetime so as to not jeopardize O'Hare's career and ability to get work when he was better, but O'Hare actually told JMS to tell people the truth when he died because he felt the fans deserved to know the truth in the end.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by NeoGoomba » 2018-07-06 09:21am

I love this show. I happily purchased the entire series digitally (and In The Beginning) on Amazon before they released it on Prime.

I watch it for G'Kar and Londo, and everyone and everything else is just gravy.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by LadyTevar » 2018-07-06 11:19am

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-07-05 10:00pm
Similarly, Talia's sudden departure was due to Andrea Thompson being dissatisfied with her role in the story, and wanting to pursue other options. Her divorce from Jerry Doyle around that time probably also didn't give her much motivation to return.
Doyle was also making her life a living hell on set, from what I remember hearing. Damn near Stalking her.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by NeoGoomba » 2018-07-06 01:11pm

And gods damn, five of the original eight principal cast members have died. Biggs, Doyle, O'Hare, Katsulas, Furst, and Conway are all gone now.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-07-06 01:13pm

Expected Conway. The others were a complete surprise to me.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Bedlam » 2018-07-06 01:49pm

NeoGoomba wrote:
2018-07-06 01:11pm
And gods damn, five of the original eight principal cast members have died. Biggs, Doyle, O'Hare, Katsulas, Furst, and Conway are all gone now.
It is surprising how quickly most of them have died off when say most of the cast of The next Generation, DS9 and Voyager are still around despite being from around the same time period (and in TNG's case earlier).

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-07-06 02:50pm

B5 has had a lot of cast deaths, but there were several cast members who had health problems or unhealthy habits. Conaway struggled with drug problems, Katsulas was a really heavy smoker, Furst had a lot of problems with diabetes, to the point where he almost lost his foot between seasons 3 and 4 (hence Vir's weight loss). I'd say Biggs, Doyle, and O'Hare (since his health problems weren't widely known at the time) were the real surprises.

Also, while he may not have been a cast member outside a few cameos, you can also add Harlan Ellison to the list of Babylon 5 alumni who have died, since he did also write a couple episodes and was a creative consultant for the show's entire run.

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-09 05:43pm

Doyle and Thompson were actually married more or less when the show started, IIRC, but it only lasted a couple of years. Apparently he was couch-surfing with a few of the other cast members and JMS for a while there. I did think the gag about Garibaldi *always* being in the elevator when Talia got on it got a little old pretty fast, even if they lampshaded it later on... (been reading a lot of the B5 TVTropes pages lately)

Out of universe cast personal dramas aside, I'm reaching the end of S4. It's been a pretty good ride, although I thought the Delenn/Minbar sideplot was kind of pointless. The fight against the Earth Alliance is pretty decent though. That whole interrogation bottle-episode with Sheridan was rough. Londo and G'kar haven't featured much in this season at all, which is a bit of a shame because they're two of the better characters in the show; the bit where Londo comes to G'kar's quarters and basically engages in an extended apology and an attempt to make amends is actually kind of sweet.

Honestly though I think the thing that makes the show stick is how much it actually talks about basic humanity. It's not about the future, it's not about the past-- it's about what makes us tick, how our relationships work, good government, and human rights.

Anyway. So, is it worth it to watch Season 5? Select episodes? Don't bother? As I am given to understand that 5 is basically fluff JMS came up with on the fly after he unexpectedly received funding to make S5 and had tried to give the show a decent ending in S4...
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-07-09 05:55pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-07-09 05:43pm
Anyway. So, is it worth it to watch Season 5? Select episodes? Don't bother? As I am given to understand that 5 is basically fluff JMS came up with on the fly after he unexpectedly received funding to make S5 and had tried to give the show a decent ending in S4...
Finish season 5. It actually works better via marathoning, as Byron is less insufferable due to how quickly he'll pass by, as opposed to seeing him on a daily or weekly basis.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-07-09 07:11pm

FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-07-09 05:55pm
[
Finish season 5. It actually works better via marathoning, as Byron is less insufferable due to how quickly he'll pass by, as opposed to seeing him on a daily or weekly basis.
Or become a flaming teep.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-09 07:29pm

I am fairly interested in the 'telepath war' plotline (mostly because I want to see more of that magnificent dick Mr. Bester), but the rest of it doesn't particularly appeal as the Centauri-Drakh plotline seems obvious (Drakh try to subvert Centauri, Londo tries to intervene, stuff happens, and we know he becomes Emperor). Not having Ivanova around in the last season isn't particularly promising either.

Does Sheridan become a civilian or something? I've seen a picture from S5 that shows him in a civilian suit... (but I suppose I'll find out)

Also, are most of the B5 movies in S4-S5? Amazon doesn't have them other than 'Gathering', as far as I know.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-07-09 07:47pm

Spoiler
He becomes, first, President of the Interstellar Alliance, then En'til'zha, before passing beyond the Rim
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Lost Soal » 2018-07-11 04:39am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-07-09 07:29pm
I am fairly interested in the 'telepath war' plotline (mostly because I want to see more of that magnificent dick Mr. Bester), but the rest of it doesn't particularly appeal as the Centauri-Drakh plotline seems obvious (Drakh try to subvert Centauri, Londo tries to intervene, stuff happens, and we know he becomes Emperor). Not having Ivanova around in the last season isn't particularly promising either.

Does Sheridan become a civilian or something? I've seen a picture from S5 that shows him in a civilian suit... (but I suppose I'll find out)

Also, are most of the B5 movies in S4-S5? Amazon doesn't have them other than 'Gathering', as far as I know.
In The Beginning - Earth Minbari War
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-07-11 07:43am

Personally I found Season 5 to be "OK" the main problem seemed to be "we've told the story we wanted but there's still 1 more season to do so what will we do now?", most the new cast is decent enough and I can't remember any offensively bad episodes though there's a quite a few "meh" ones.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by J Ryan » 2018-07-11 08:13am

Claudia Christian also makes a surprise reappearance for the season 5 finale, but this is due to the fact that it was filmed as a season 4 finale when they didn't know they were being renewed. When they found out they were being renewed they filmed a ..... weird finale in it's place and kept hold of Sleeping in Light until they did wrap.

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-07-11 08:54am

Lost Soal wrote:
2018-07-11 04:39am
In The Beginning - Earth Minbari War
Thirdspace - Late season 2 I believe during a lull in the Shadow War
River of Souls - Post Season 5
If I remember correctly, based on Lyta's situation, Thirdspace actually takes place after the Shadow War ends, which would put it somewhere mid-season 4.

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Lost Soal » 2018-07-11 08:58am

Also the tiny fact that a Vorlon artifact wasn't immediately confiscated by them.
Yes, its between the Shadow and Earth Civil war.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-07-11 11:33am

Broomstick wrote:
2018-07-06 04:15am
Yep, turned out to be full-blown schizophrenia. JMS kept that secret during O'Hare's lifetime so as to not jeopardize O'Hare's career and ability to get work when he was better, but O'Hare actually told JMS to tell people the truth when he died because he felt the fans deserved to know the truth in the end.
I remember that. I think the official line at the time was that he injured multiple discs in his back and so wasn't able to do long shoots.

We couldn't find anywhere to watch Babylon 5, so we just bought the entire series on DVD. I think my wife found it for less than $100. Worth the money. It has more than a few underperforming episodes, but they never feel like they were bad because they were supposed to be or the studio blew the budget so "bottle episode times." It was more they tried something and it didn't play out well.

But when B5 was good, it was some of the best TV I watched. It's like if every episode of DS9 was more like "In the Pale Moonlight."

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Crazedwraith » 2018-07-11 01:04pm

Got the DVD set based on Chuck/SFDebris' reviews and then borrowing S1 from a friend.

Watched S2-4 and the petered out at s5.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-11 01:28pm

Yeah, I just finished S4. While I still maintain the Minbari Civil War arc was kind of lame, it all wound up on a pretty good note. Feels a lot like Stargate's 'Moebius' actually (second to last episode of S...8, as I recall, actually better than the *actual* season finale IMO).

I think I'll take a break from B5 actually before I dive into S5, mostly because I kinda feel it'll be a bit of a let-down after all that. When I do get back in the procedure will be to watch the first episode, then selected episodes based upon online recommendations (mostly so I can save time), and the finale.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by streetad » 2018-07-11 01:32pm

Loved Babylon 5, for all its flaws.

I occasionally think that it would be ripe for a big prestige remake, BSG style. But then I also think that the ropey effects and 'unusual' acting choices were often part of the charm...

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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-07-11 02:02pm

streetad wrote:
2018-07-11 01:32pm
Loved Babylon 5, for all its flaws.

I occasionally think that it would be ripe for a big prestige remake, BSG style. But then I also think that the ropey effects and 'unusual' acting choices were often part of the charm...
Re casting: what surprised me was that while some of the choices were, as you say, kinda unusual, they worked. Efrem Zimbalist as an tele-racist industrial tycoon type? Brad Dourif as an out-of-sorts monk? For someone who you almost never saw out of a full-body alien costume, Wayne Alexander pulled it off. Mr. Morden, one of the major villains of the show... played by a complete nobody (at the time). Who actually made it work pretty well. Shades of BOB from Twin Peaks there.

Katsulas and Jurasik also have a really great dynamic bouncing off each other. I haven't really seen either of them in anything else (not that I might recognize them without their makeup), but you can tell they really got into their characters.

There's also a lot of experienced TV/Broadway actor types who aren't big names, but who managed to make an impact. For one, John Schuck as Draal? He's the Klingon Ambassador from the ST:TOS movies. Then Captain Mackie, I know I've seen him in a few things before, but he's good.

Speaking of the effects, the Vorlon suits were pretty well done, and whoever was animating Kosh and Ulkesh inside the suits, as well as their voice actors, did a great job of making them come alive.

I do have to say I wouldn't complain if someone did a Trek-style full remaster of the show. It'd look really good that way. That said, I understand it's basically impossible because there's no original stock left to work with, only the digital recordings of the original broadcasts, which aren't very high quality to start with-- like I said, WB screwed that pooch because they didn't care about the show once it was done. They just rushed off a VHS edition, tossed everything else, and called it a day. I think the DVDs are basically rips from the VHS, but I could be wrong about that. A remaster of the show would be absurdly difficult from what I understand.

Checked today and Amazon doesn't actually have any of the movies other than the pilot, which by the way for anybody wanting to watch the series, is actually at the *end* of Season 1 on the watch-list as Episode 0. I might go back and watch that.
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Re: Old TV Show: Babylon 5 Now on Prime

Post by Lost Soal » 2018-07-11 02:45pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-07-11 02:02pm
streetad wrote:
2018-07-11 01:32pm
Loved Babylon 5, for all its flaws.

I occasionally think that it would be ripe for a big prestige remake, BSG style. But then I also think that the ropey effects and 'unusual' acting choices were often part of the charm...
Re casting: what surprised me was that while some of the choices were, as you say, kinda unusual, they worked. Efrem Zimbalist as an tele-racist industrial tycoon type? Brad Dourif as an out-of-sorts monk? For someone who you almost never saw out of a full-body alien costume, Wayne Alexander pulled it off. Mr. Morden, one of the major villains of the show... played by a complete nobody (at the time). Who actually made it work pretty well. Shades of BOB from Twin Peaks there.

Katsulas and Jurasik also have a really great dynamic bouncing off each other. I haven't really seen either of them in anything else (not that I might recognize them without their makeup), but you can tell they really got into their characters.

There's also a lot of experienced TV/Broadway actor types who aren't big names, but who managed to make an impact. For one, John Schuck as Draal? He's the Klingon Ambassador from the ST:TOS movies. Then Captain Mackie, I know I've seen him in a few things before, but he's good.

Speaking of the effects, the Vorlon suits were pretty well done, and whoever was animating Kosh and Ulkesh inside the suits, as well as their voice actors, did a great job of making them come alive.

I do have to say I wouldn't complain if someone did a Trek-style full remaster of the show. It'd look really good that way. That said, I understand it's basically impossible because there's no original stock left to work with, only the digital recordings of the original broadcasts, which aren't very high quality to start with-- like I said, WB screwed that pooch because they didn't care about the show once it was done. They just rushed off a VHS edition, tossed everything else, and called it a day. I think the DVDs are basically rips from the VHS, but I could be wrong about that. A remaster of the show would be absurdly difficult from what I understand.

Checked today and Amazon doesn't actually have any of the movies other than the pilot, which by the way for anybody wanting to watch the series, is actually at the *end* of Season 1 on the watch-list as Episode 0. I might go back and watch that.
The orginal stock does exist, its just locked in a vault a Warners & the guys in charge want it to die because they had no say in its original run due to it airing through PTEN. Every show that was on PTEN has apparently been given the same treatment
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