News hit recently of a possible Babylon 5 movie reboot. Despite it sometimes feeling like a poor man’s Star Trek, at least as far as fandom goes, My wife and I have been fans of the show since it originally aired in the UK and “It can be a dangerous place” is still part of our shared vocabulary. It’s safe to say we’re up for a reboot, particularly if J. Michael Straczynski is running things.
Babylon 5 was the first TV show that I watched that had a true ongoing story. Most shows I paid attention to back then followed the standard sitcom approach where the world at the end of an episode was essentially the same as when that episode started.
My science fiction viewing prior to Babylon 5 was generally limited to Star Trek (Original and Next Generation), Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, and you could watch the episodes in pretty much any order. You might wonder why Tasha Yar wasn’t on the Enterprise that week but other than that, you’d be able to follow what was going on. Even a series with an ongoing plot like The Invaders could really be watched out of order with very little problem and the early episodes of The X-Files were fairly self-contained, it wasn’t until later that the ‘mythos’ episodes really came to the fore.
Babylon 5 was different, particularly from the second season onwards. Each episode was a self-contained story but it was also part of a larger, more complicated, more interesting plot. It quickly reached the point where you needed to have been watching the story from the beginning to really understand what was going on. I remember having that exact conversation with friends who’d tried to join in mid-series.
Of course, nowadays that kind of ongoing complexity is very common, expected even. Obviously, there’s Game of Thrones but even shows like Supernatural have far reaching mythologies that can be quite daunting for anyone trying to dive in late. Thankfully, we have Netflix these days. Catching up with Babylon 5 meant buying dozens of VHS videos. I know because I used to own them all until we moved to Canada.
It wasn’t just the ongoing story that got me hooked – there were the cryptic Vorlons, the ominous Shadows, the interplay between Londo, G’Kar and
Bruce Willis Michael Garibaldi, and (at the time) ground breaking computer graphics (and cool space battles) but the idea that a TV show could tell a story bigger than a single hour could hold was a revelation. I’m sure the Internet could point me to the first series to tell an ongoing story like that but in my world, it was Babylon 5.
Even now, Babylon 5 holds a special place in my memories so I’ll be watching for signs of life in the reboot with great interest and adding it to the list of must-see movies. Just below the new Mad Max.[All Alone in the Night by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 12th August 2014]