Oct 8 2012 2:00pm

All Alone in the Night: When Babylon 5 Invented 21st Century Fandom

Babylon 5 and the beginning of 21st century fandom

Fan chatter about TV shows like Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, and Mad Men often revolves around the various spoiler-filled turns in long-game plot arcs. But the word “spoiler”—at least in the way we use it in relation to television—is relatively new. Though it’s possible fans of a bygone era of soap operas were afraid of other fans ruining the outcome of the previous day’s episode, the vehemence of these protests were probably not as serious as they are now. Notably, fans of 20th century soap operas didn’t have the internet.

But way back at the end of the last century, one of the first sci-fi fandoms did have the internet, complete with online spoilers! That fandom was centered around Babylon 5, and though we don’t talk much about Babylon 5 now, the narrative structure of the show, in tandem with internet discussion, essentially created the model for TV fandom today.

It would be flat-out wrong to claim Babylon 5 was the first TV sci-fi show to implement season-long story arcs, since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was doing the same thing at the same time. Though, in terms of science fiction show having such detailed and consistent mythology, B5 was groundbreaking. Uncommonly, show creator and producer creator J. Michael Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 teleplays for Babylon 5’s five year-run. To put this in perspective: Joss Whedon wrote 23 teleplays of 144 episodes of Buffy. Showrunner of Battlestar Galatica Ron Moore is only credited with 13 teleplays of 73 episodes. Now, this isn’t to say B5 is better than Buffy or BSG or that JMS inherently works harder than Whedon or Moore or anything like that. Obviously, Whedon and Moore were heavily involved in all aspects of their respective shows, just as JMS was with B5. The relevant thing here is that there was no “writer’s room” on B5, which we can’t imagine when we think of TV now. I mean, what if Steven Moffat wrote all 13 episodes of every season of Doctor Who? The chances of plot arcs making more sense and being more consistent would probably be much higher, right?

Babylon 5 was conceived as a “novel for television,” meaning the basic outline of the story—its beginning, middle, and end—were generally already figured out when the show began. Famously, JMS created “trapdoors” for all characters should the studio demand changes, or an actor was no longer available. And considering how many times this did happen to B5, the integrity of the overall larger story remains pretty impressive. You can sense there’s an importance to Londo’s omniscient dreams in the 1st season, and when it actually happens in the 3rd season, the pay-off is awesome. And these weren’t short 13-episode Doctor Who seasons! These suckers were 22 episodes long, each year. In terms of long-game plots and big changes for the characters and the universe, Babylon 5 wasn’t fucking around. Though this assertion is probably a little anecdotal and biased, but the promise of tantalizing story detail being actually resolved in a satisfying way during the course of B5 is higher than on a lot of contemporary shows in the same genre with a similar structure.

JMS worked with producer Douglas Netter and consultant Harlan Ellison, but other than the handful of other writers who wrote those 18 other scripts, that’s pretty much it. So when he started interacting with fans online, JMS was 100% sure what he was telling them (or not telling them) about the plot of the show. Babylon 5 was also one of the first TV shows to market itself through grassroots internet outreach, assuming (correctly) that science fiction fans were hanging out online. This was back in the days of Genie and Usenet, but a lot early internet jargon found its footing here. For example, those who didn’t post on the forums were called “lurkers” and at one point JMS left the forums for a time because of too much “flaming.” He triumphantly returned, of course, after a basic moderation system was sussed out. At the time, all of this stuff was brand new.

Beyond the internet medium being new, JMS had an advantage over the showrunners of today because he was totally confident in where his story was going. Babylon 5 didn’t have Doctor Who style-problems of making up stuff about River Song as they went along or Battlestar Galactica’s stumbles about “explainingStarbuck’s death. By and large, the B5 stories were already written. When things don’t make sense on TV shows today, fans and critics get upset with the showrunner, even though on most of these shows there are several cooks in the kitchen. For better or worse, B5 didn’t have this problem with inconsistency since there was basically one cook and he was online talking directly to the fans.

Fans often demand a lot (maybe too much) from the creators of their favorite shows. Recently, Steven Moffat closed his Twitter account, seemingly for good, leading many to speculate that he was sick of fans bugging him. Whether this is true or not, the fact there is fan speculation is sort of proof that the internet puts fans in on the action of their favorite TV universe in a way that was only possible through zines and clubs in the previous century.

In the 1990's, outer-space-based science fiction television was unquestionably dominated by Star Trek. And though Deep Space Nine began adopting long-term story arcs, they truly look thrown together in contrast with B5's plotting. The production value of B5 might be lower than Star Trek, and time might not have been kind to the look of the show (Either you're going to accept Londo's outrageous hair, our you're not.) but the entire phenomenon of Babylon 5 is something of a touchstone. Would our online fandoms and internet commentary be what they are today if JMS hadn't so boldly promoted his novel for television through a previous interation of the internet?
Surely some kind of alternate universe of fan discussion would exist, but in this universe, Babylon 5 was the first.

Here's hoping JMS returns to TV science fiction and shows the new kids how things are done. And then, hopefully, he'll jump online and talk to us about it.

Ryan Britt is a staff writer for

A.J. Bobo
1. Daedylus
I watched an episode or two of B5 when it first aired on TV, then didn't think much of it for years. A little over 5 years ago, though, I was reintroduced to it. After plowing through all five seasons, regular TV has been pretty much ruined for me. I now expect long, thought-out, multi-season arcs with interesting character and world development. I want a start, and middle and a really good end. You just don't find many shows that give you that.

Thanks, JMS. You made something really good and special.
Rancho Unicorno
2. Rancho Unicorno
Thanks for writing this up - I've been struggling to explain what my challenge has been with the Who arcs, and I think you've opened my eyes to the issue.

More importantly, I watched one episode of B5 a long time ago and was a bit put off by the production values. Understanding that it had a singular story to tell makes it much more compelling. Once I finish my DS9 rewatch you've given me something else to avoid dealing with Voyager and Enterprise - and for that, I can't thank you enough.
Deana Whitney
3. Braid_Tug
I never really thought about WHY I liked B5. Thanks for giving my thoughts a direction.
Since I wasn't part of the fandom or internet world of that time, I didn't know this about the show.
But re-watching the whole series with my best friend in Grad school was great!
Ryan Britt
4. ryancbritt
Thanks! Some of the production values are a little rough, but if you listen to the director's commentary, even JMS makes fun of it a bit. I seem to recall him complaining about Sheridan's hair staying firmly in place despite the fact he's plummeting to his doom in "The Fall of Night." The joke he makes is something to the effect of "what, we couldn't get a wind machine that day? Guess not."(I'm paraphrasing here.)

AND, I don't care what anyone says, it was a pioneering show in going all CG for the spaceship stuff, which was considered a joke back then. Those Starfurys still look awesome!
A.J. Bobo
5. Daedylus
Ryan@4 - Not only did Starfuries look really cool, they (mostly) obeyed known laws of physics. Watching one turn sideways and then "slide" along the side of a ship while firing its weapons was just plain cool. Someone put some thought into that fight scene.
Sean Arthur
6. wsean
Probably my favorite TV series ever. And I think you put your finger on why--it was a single, complete story being told, even if it sometimes went in unexpected directions (Ivanova :/)

It can be teeth-grating to see some of the CG, costumes, etc these days, but the underlying story is still amazing.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
I guess what blows my mind the MOST was that JMS got those 92 scripts in on time...

...OH! Snap. I tease!
Rancho Unicorno
8. Fenric25
I love Babylon 5 and have been watching it even longer than Doctor Who, which I usually consider my strongest fandom affiliation (I was introduced to B5 when it first came out, when I was about 8 or 9, and didn't properly start following Doctor Who until I was 11, just after the 8th Doctor TV Movie came out in 1996. My mother, a big member of the John and Delenn forums back in the day, introduced me to the first, my father introduced me to the second back when it ran late nights on PBS). I'm glad to see that someone else here appreciates Bablyon 5 as much as I do and can showcase just how important it was to how modern sf-f fandoms operate in conjunction with the Internet. Aside from a few effects, hairdos and tech stuff that has been outdated by now, I have no problem with the production values of B5, which were still pretty damn good for the 90s. And it had great characters and story arcs and writing and everything-rarely have I watched a show that fulfills all these needs, so Babylon 5 still remains one of my favorites to this day.

Also-Babylon 5 has been doing arc based stories longer than Buffy. Babylon 5 first showed as a TV Movie in 1992 and aired from 1993 to 1998, IIRC. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was only that dreadful movie in 1992-it didn't start airing until 1997, near the end of B5's run. So JMS did kind of have them beat there...
Rancho Unicorno
9. Craig L
There was one other, totally non-creative, factor about Babylon 5 that helped to make it discussion fodder on the internet (as well as bring about the birth of the 'Spoiler'): its distribution. Like Star Trek TNG and DS9, it was syndicated, not network, and showing on different days and times in different markets, it was possible for fans in one city where the latest episode aired to be chatting online with fans in cities where it hadn't. In addition, it was part of a (ultimately unsuccessful) Warner Bros. experiment to try to start a new network with one evening's prime-time shows (remember Time Trax?) so the studio streamed the show(s) by satellite to the local stations rather than physically delivering videotapes, based on the hopes to expand to a full-time network feed. But it also did so first thing Monday morning, before any station's air time, and the show was taped at the stations. There were a few station employees whose job was to babysit the stream who were also fans who spilled 'Spoliers' in forums before it aired ANYWHERE. As well as very geeky fans who figured out how to capture and decode the supposedly-private satellite feed. There were even websites set up specifically for B5 Spoilers. (The market for spoilers mostly died off when the final season was aired on the TNT cable channel) And the 'long arc' nature of the story encouraged such activity more than the episodic Star Treks at the time, so Babylon 5 pretty much (unintentionally) invented the online market for Spoilers.
Lee Whiteside
10. LeeWhiteside
Nice summary of the influence and impact of Babylon 5. As someone who was there at the Dawn of Babylon 5 fandom ( posted the Babylon 5 Frequently Asked Questions List to various online newsgroups), it's good to see some acknowledgement of that. With the 20th Anniversary coming up next year, I'm hoping to see more stuff like this. For an archive of Straczynski's posts from those days, check out
Alice Arneson
11. Wetlandernw
Babylon 5 was arguably the best TV scifi series ever created, IMO, and sometimes it still makes me sad to wonder how much better it would have been if JMS had been guaranteed the full 5 years instead of working under the constant threat of being discontinued. For that matter, how much better would the production values have been had he had adequate funding? Still, I can easily overlook those issues when there's a compelling story arc that covers the whole show.

As a fan, it was also nice to know that the whole 5 years was planned, and when it was over, that would be it. No worries about how many years they would drag it out before they jumped the shark, no worries about getting only a couple of good episodes per season. Was this where the term "plot-advancement episode" came into being? There weren't too many episodes that didn't fit that description, of course; maybe two or three "character" episodes per season, IIRC. Even the distinctly-less-compelling part of the story that was left for Season 5 was relevant if prolonged.

It becomes obvious when my husband and I go back and re-watch the shows we've enjoyed over the years. Some shows, we find ourselves skipping every second or third episode because they don't advance the plot and they're annoying intervals about a single character. (Not that I mind character-development episodes, but some of them are truly annoying.) But when we watch B5, we don't skip much.
Rancho Unicorno
12. StrongDreams
Ohmigosh, I used to post to and all the time. Man, I am old...
john mullen
13. johntheirishmongol
I was a teen when ST:TOS came out and it was still my favorite series until I saw B5. The idea that it really had a single story arc that went 4 years (I know there were 5 but the last year they didn't expect to be back so they wrapped up the main storyline) was amazing and most of the character work was remarkable. But it really did push the story arc idea, not only in scifi stories, but in a lot of other genres as well. Maybe the best example of this today is Revenge, which does have to be moving the single story arc over multiple years, since once the revenge is completed, there isn't any story left to go.
Rancho Unicorno
14. Robert "Anaerin" Johnston
Just so you know, JMS also wrote the story to the movie Thor, along with the TV series "Jeremiah".
Matthew B
15. MatthewB
B5 will always have my respect just for the way they depicted maneuvers in space. Their fighters actually adhered to the law of conservation of momentum (most of the time) instead of just being airplane dogfights with a starry background.

The issues and plots of the show itself were pretty good too.
Rancho Unicorno
16. StrongDreams
instead of just being airplane dogfights with a starry background.

And those starry backgrounds were Hubble Space Telescope images!
Soon Lee
17. SoonLee
Craig L @9:

It was also very hard for someone watching B5 in New Zealand; a year or longer might pass between first airing in the US before it made it to NZ TV. On the one hand, B5 fandom online(!), but on the other if you chose to get involved, you might as well resign yourself to having the series spoiled.
Rancho Unicorno
18. ShaunGibson
You don't know how much this post means to me. Babylon 5 is laughed at, poked at, made fun of, put upon, especially be DS9 fans (and a lot of ST fans in general). But... without it sci-fi on TV today wouldn't be what it was. It had its flaws, but they were flaws in a beautiful piece.

I've appreciated jms's interaction with the fans, I've mailed him twice and twice he's mailed me back. (I only tried to bother him when I had something to say).

If ST is the grand-daddy of modern tv sci-fi, Babylon 5 is the father.

And the forgotten father that the kids are vaguely embarassed by.

Rancho Unicorno
19. Lsana
B5 was absolutely the best sci-fi show ever, and I'm willing to fight a duel to defend its honor. That's not to say that every episode was a classic; there were some real stinkers, especially in the first season. Yeah, the SFX were sometimes questionable, but the characters were great, the dialog was memorable, and above all, it had a multi-season story with a beginning, middle, and END. That's something that even today, it's rare to see. There are shows with single-season arcs that have a satisfying conclusion (i.e. Buffy), and some with multi-season arcs that start great, then start wandering at random. It's rare to non-existant to see a show that has the gun over the mantle in Season 1 and knows exactly how it's going to be fired in Season 3, then knows how the resolution of the shooting will be pulled off in Season 5.

I know I'm in a minority with this (possibly a minority of 1), but I also appriciated the show for Season 5. Too many "long running" stories, whether they're book series or TV shows, end everything by building up to a climax in the final episode, then just ending after the defeat of the Big Bad. I was glad that B5 took the time to unwind, show some of the consequences of their actions, and give me a chance to say good-bye to Sheridan, Delenn, Zack, Vir, and the gang before the finale. That period of the show may not have needed a full season, but it did need to be there.


I wish I shared your faith in Revenge, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly the sort of show I'm thinking of when I think of a show with a long arc but no end. I loved the first few episodes, and even many of the later ones, but I'm pretty sure the creators have no idea what will happen with these characters 3 or 4 years down the road.
Alan Brown
20. AlanBrown
B5 was a personal favorite of mine. Because of the issues with channels and air times and stuff, I only saw a couple of episodes during the first four seasons, but once TNT started airing it daily, I was able to see the whole show. And seeing a new episode five days a week, all telling a grand story, was a great way to watch. It was a wonderful story, epic in scope, lots of attention to scientific detail (well, not perfect, but they did try), and lots of compelling characters. And when you consider that CGI was new back then, what they were doing was pretty amazing. One of the first shows that didn't use scale models for their spaceship shots, if I am not mistaken. The show was also filmed with the more modern aspect ratio for the screen. And when you read about the low budgets they had, what they did with those sets and stuff was actually pretty remarkable. I don't know about the internet part of it, as I wasn't on line back then, but I know when I did get on the internet (about the time that they were attempting to continue the story with Crusade and Legends of the Rangers and stuff), it was amazing to find all the fan stuff available. In addition to the on line stuff, there were B5 books, magazines, military miniature games, plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the world of the show.
Now I am getting the bug again. Since baseball season is over, perhaps it is time to pull out those DVD boxed sets, and catch up on Sheridan, Ivanova, Garibaldi and the old gang again!
Ryan Britt
21. ryancbritt
I'm so glad everyone loves this show as much as I do! I always feel a little alone on this one. It's nice to know the fans are still out there.
Rancho Unicorno
22. ShaunGibson
We're here and we're miffed B5 gets overlooked so often

Rancho Unicorno
23. Nicholas Winter
Only Farscape really did series long story lines the way B5 did and also succeeded in doing so.

Let's stop ragging on Dr. Who for not fitting a long form story format please. It was never intended to work the way American written sf television is as it was ( and is) largely intended to have stories that span several episodes, not entires series. Contrast it with Warehouse 13 which has story lines across all its run, or Eureka which did the same thing. But even they tried to make episodes that could stand alone.
Rancho Unicorno
24. Lektu
I'm a fan of B5 since its original run. We "smuggled" videotapes from the UK to Spain, and did watching parties to see three or four eps at once. I was part of the Compuserve B5 fandom. I've never in my life, before or after, enjoyed a TV series so much. Yes, production values were low, but ISTR jms stating that the first season of B5 had a budget on the same range of money that DS9 *pilot*.
Coincidentally I'm rewatching the series right now because my wife had not seen it. She wasn't really moved or interested by the 1st season, perhaps because Michael O'Hare was too wooden and lacking charisma, and many of the 1st season eps are so-so. But once you hit 2nd season and Bruce Boxleiner's far more interesting Sheridan makes his entry, things start to really take off, and by the time we finished watching "The Coming of Shadows" you can bet we both had tears in our eyes. I'm fearing reaching "The Long, Twilight Struggle".
The series is so good, and the acting so incredible (most actors, but very specially Andreas Katsulas, Peter Jurasik, Mira Furlan, and Stephen Furst), that it is really painful to see how it could've been even better if jms hadn't been forced to change course a couple times. Much as I prefer Sheridan to Sinclair, the careful building of the latter's relationship with Catherine Sakai would've made her disappearing and comeback infinitely more satisfactory, in a really painful way, that the decaffeinated surprise we got with Anna Sheridan. Not to mention the developing relationship between Talia and Ivanova, which is beautifully played over one and a half seasons just to be undone by Andrea Thomson's departure (wasting also the recording of her mind by Kosh that would've allowed to get back her nice personality).
And I have this pet theory of mine that, would Sinclair have been the commander past 1st season, instead of the emotionally unsatisfactory finale we got, we would've enjoyed what is now "War Without End", ie., 20 years in the future Babylon 4 would appear and Sinclair would go back to the past as Valenn (the appearance of an aged Sinclair in "Babylon Squared" seems to imply so). Just imagine how powerful, how surprising would've been to watch that as the closing credits cross the screen for the last time.
Liz J
25. Ellisande
aw, those were the days. Michael O'Hare's recent passing put me back in mind of the show and the fandom, and how much I miss it. It was my first online fandom and so much fun.
Lonnie Rivenbark
26. fuddster
I remember lurking on the GEnie B5 forums and I even had an "EEP!" T-shirt that eventually journeyed beyond the rim... A group of us used to get together for weekly viewings, and still remember the panic I felt when I discovered that my VCR didn't record part one of the two-parter "A Voice in the Wilderness" when I took the family on a week long vacation to California. I even ran a Citadel BBS named Grid Epsilon back in '95. So I guess you could say that I was, and still am, a big fan of B5. Or you could just look at my avatar...
Rancho Unicorno
27. Your Mom
I miss Babylon 5. I agree that it was really the only sci-fi series that was not going where no one had gone before but knew exactly where it was going. I think B5 is forgotten as one of the greats because of the lack of big screen media. Good job:)
Walker White
28. Walker
To only talk about the usenet component of B5 is missing half the picture. The other major feature at the time was the Lurker's Guide to B5:

No other show had such a detailed website, cross-referencing foreshadowing with later plot points. This website set the standard on which all TV/Book/Game wikis were later based.
Alan Brown
29. AlanBrown
Although Sheridan was a lot of fun to watch, Sinclair was actually more believable as a military CO of a far-off outpost. O'Hare got a lot of flak for playing the character that the producers and script wanted him to be. But a thoughtful and battle scarred commander isn't always a fan favorite, so out he went.
One of the things B5 did was presenting characters with flaws, who felt very human. Grittier than the Star Trek shows at the time were presenting, but more realistic because of that.
Jeanette Donato
30. Djinn
I recently introduced a friend to B5. He's a mad ST fan and was at first questioning of the show, it's production value, it's early acting (RIP Michael O'Hare, but honestly you're acting was...well) and so on. But the great thing about B5 is it's story and it's characters. He ended up really enjoying it.

Personally, I love Babylon 5, moreso than ST. It was really the first show I became a 'fan' of, young as I was when it first aired. I've rewatched it throughout the years and yes, it has it's problems. But overall, this is a brilliant show and an example of what great and well thought out story-telling can do with a t.v show. Thanks so much for this article and reminding people just why B5 was a special show.
Ryan Britt
31. ryancbritt
I loved O'Hare's Sinclair. I remember reading the DC comics that depicted what he was going through on Earth at the start of season 2. What a treat. I felt like I was always in on some kind of secret with Babylon 5. Valen lives!
Bob Blough
32. Bob
Well, this overview couldn't be more spot on. This show was conceived as a novel and thus had more cohesion and more sheer pull as you watched it over time than almost anything else I've seen on the small screen. Unfortunately if you didn't start somewhere near the beginning each individual episode (while beautifully dovetailing in the whole) was not much by itself. You had to be committed to this show. I became so and have loved it ever since. It's like a great SF novel.
Ryan Britt
33. ryancbritt
Oh, you're totally right! Doctor Who is a bit more fun when it's all stand alone episodes. :-)
Rancho Unicorno
34. TomT
It was a fantastic series and one of the big secrets that JMS kept through the series run was what story he was telling. I still remember watching an early season 3 episode where things were moved around and seeing a JMS comment about now he had moved things where they needed to be to tell the story. It was at that moment it clicked and I realized he was telling the founding of an Empire. Telling the myths and legends at the root that a future Empire believes and depends on. That was the story he was telling. Not the fall of an Empire, or a tale from the middle of an Empire, or even the rise of an Empire. No he was telling the story of the very root foundation that establishes an Empire.

It was breathtaking to realize his ambition. And then he did just that with the rest of the series.
Rancho Unicorno
35. ChrisG
I'm glad to see B5 getting some well-deserved love -- and credit. Thanks, Ryan!

I recently finished a rewatch of the entire series with my son (his first viewing). He loved it, and despite the obvious bumpy patches, it really held up quite well, I thought.

I'd also like to second @28's shout-out to The Lurker's Guide.
Rancho Unicorno
36. Sundog
"It would be flat-out wrong to claim Babylon 5 was the first TV sci-fi show to implement season-long story arcs, since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was doing the same thing at the same time."

But that doesn't count, since Buffy was not science fiction. Vampires are FANTASY.
Rancho Unicorno
37. ividia
Ah, B5...I love this show. I follow CC on FB, and fondly remember cajoling a friend into watching it on CServe. We both lived in the SciFi forums and stumbled acorss each other in the ST section. I'm a Trekki from the TOS days, but B5 captured me like nothing else. And when dear RB started watching it, it got him too.

There was a B5 forum there as well, and JMS interacted with all of us. I had the great pleasure of meeting him at a fan run con one year in Anaheim. One of our group had been studying to be a makeup artist and recreated Delenn, Londo and G'kar with such exacting details that JMS gave high praise.

I miss the show but at least it didn't leave me feeling unfullfilled and unresolved.
Rancho Unicorno
38. Cheryl Martin is still limping along. I still log in almost every day to see if there are any messages to moderate. JMS seems to have moved to FB and there's a fun behind the scenes page there as well.
Rancho Unicorno
39. WalterJ
God, I loved that show! It's incredible enough for a great story to arc across one TV season. It's a whole different ballgame, though, to have a story arc across five years. I am reminded everyday how much that show meant to me because I use the space station's door chime as my 'new email' sound -- on my phone and each computer I work at. Kudos to the B5 orchestral score and superb sound effects.
Rancho Unicorno
40. Al222
I watched B5 when it was in its first run. I was in my 20s. I was captivated by the hints and vision in earlier episode that fore told the future later on. Last year I bought the whole 5 year series for my thre kids 10, 9, and 8. They loved it! Introducing my kids to the characters that I loved to watch 15 years before has been priceless. My daughter even sent Jerry Doyle an email and he responded to her. To this day her password is Peekaboo.
Thanks JMS
Rancho Unicorno
41. GinaL
Thanks JMS for B5! I LOVED that everything wasn't wrapped up in a nice neat pacakge at the end of 50 minutes. I loved that the good guys weren't always good and while the usualy made the necessary decisions they weren't always "good decisions". And the bad guys weren't always bad, not even Bester. I hope you come up with something as compelling for me to watch in the future. I'll be there.
Rancho Unicorno
42. skylordric
The story I heard was JMS took B5 toParamount who took one look, and said 'thanks, no thanks, we have a sci-fi franchise and we're not willing to create an in-house competitor." So JMS walked and took it to syndication (Thank the Early Ones!) and then all-of-a-sudden Paramount was introducing DS9. And the similarities couldn't be ignored.
Now, that may be true, it may not but I judged DS9 according to B5 and while production value, etc. were higher, I always landed on the side of B5. It had more heart. It had better story lines, more interesting characters and a better Space Station. Also, Star Furies. (I still to this day have no idea why ST doesn't have star fighters.)
20 years later--what the...20 YEARS??!!--I still judge TV sci-fi shows by the B5 standard. And it has a high bar, believe me. Few get close. Some do but can't sustain the achievement for 3, sometimes 2, years much less 5. I need to see characters I can believe in (Garibaldi! Marcus Cole!) and those awesome little moments that still bring smiles to my face (Vir smiling and waving at the head-on-a-stick is laser-imprinted on my mind's eye) and just jaw-dropping action scenes (the first time I saw a Star Fury turn 180 degrees and destroy a ship behind it while sliding backwards, well, I have yet to see a fighter that can match it).
B5 revolutionized TV serials, period. Not just sci-fi TV serials, either. The problem is, a lot of people haven't gotten the memo and these days I find my self very stingy with my time and don't just jump into the "New Season's New Sci-Fi Hit Series!" I'll watch but I'll pull the ejection seat with ease. THE EVENT? 3 episodes. HEROES? 1 season + 2 episodes. TERRA NOVA? 4 episodes. REVOLUTION? 4 episodes but I got my hand on the lever!
The good news? FRINGE.
But Babylon 5 is my baseline now. JMS created something amazing and the quality of the work and the passion of his fans (20 years later!) is a testament to that show.
I wish The Rangers: Crusade had taken off...
Rancho Unicorno
43. Connie Colvin
B5 was and is to me, the best show I ever got into. I love it passionately and always will. It changed the way I thought about shows that I had love previously, such as Star Trek, never felt the same about it after B5 came into my life. I got very involved in the fandom, had a B5 meeting in a SF and Mysteries store for 2 years, tried to write a fanzine for a few issues. I love and respect JMS, and always will, he gave me my title, as he once called me the True Keeper of the Flame of B5, my proudest title. I think it is the best bar none, and I don't care about Dr. Who, or Buffy or a lot of shows, save for Farscape, but, there is so much there, and I adored G'Kar, Andreas was incredible, and all of the cast were. I got into it when Sheridan was the Captain, and loved him and then backtracked and developed an appreciation for Michael O'Hares work, and mourn his passing. I could write volumes here, but all I can say is it changed and enriched my life and is the best of all time and should be recognized as such. My shows, are B5, then Star Trek TOS and then Enterprise ( cannot stand the boring Next Gen and others) and of course Crusade, and Alien Nation, Forever Knight, Farscape and Beauty and the Beast. They are my favorites. But, B5 beats them all and I will always love it.
Rancho Unicorno
44. Rick Sharon
B5 ruined Star Trek for me. I had been a Trek fan for years until B5 aired. I quickly got hooked on B5, interacted directly with JMS about B5 episodes via Compuserve. Once we knew that JMS was leaving clues to future direction, I like so many others got caught up in speculation of future plot, usually wrong. JMS never failed to "Wham" me esp. through episodes like "Severed Dreams". The detailed plot, the long arc, the depth and consistency of writing, the subtlety of acting, the depth of mythology JMS created was something I'd never experienced on TV before and haven't experienced since. JMS made us care about his characters and detest the hell he put them through. And, yet, their hells, their trials, defined the depth of character each character was. After that, Star Trek seemed so mundanely episodic, like hot dogs compared to the wonderful steak of B5. Thank you JMS for the wonderful legacy you gave us. I can still enjoy a good Trek episode, but they seem so lite, like a "snack". When I want a real feast, I turn to B5. I miss it and re-watch it periodically. I too hope JMS someday returns to televised science fiction!
Rancho Unicorno
45. Nick Lowe
Loved B5 from the first moment I heard the words "encounter suit". Yes that was season 3,but I stopped and started from the pilot.

I was there at the time,posting on the internet, going on lurkers guide and this was despite having a dial up connection for which I paid phone call rates (£400 per month phone bills). I went to wolf 359 the 4 day convention in Blacktop (all of the cast except for Tania turned up. I had a game of pool against Richard Biggs, a disco dance with Bruce Box and Mr. Morden and also a "who can do the best Londo voice,me or London?), such was their availability to the fans.

I also am guilty of writing to EVEN demanding a 5th season, of writing a letter of complaint to a newspaper whose reviewer did a piece on episode 1 season 4 and he basically ripped it apart as he couldnt understand what was going on (I wrote to say that if you opened a 600 page book at page 400 and read 10 pages,would you feel any different?).

We shouldn't forget,though, the online battle between B5 and ST fans. It got to such a level that gene Rodenberries wife was brought in to do a B5 episode to calm the waters.

B5 entertained,educated and excelled and I am proud to call myself a fan. Just wish I wasn't so I could watch it again with fresh eyes.
Rancho Unicorno
46. Nick Lowe
*my post above, when it says EVEN, this is meant to be WB, and I had the Londo voice competition with Londo not London..
Rancho Unicorno
47. Thomas Galloway
Sorry, but much as I enjoyed B5, about the only new ground it broke in terms of online fandom (and it was far, far, far, from "one of the first sci-fi fandoms"; sf fandom dates back to the 1930s, and even with respect to television shows, Star Trek wins by over 20 years with devoted conventions and fanzines and the like) was that Joe was promoting it while it was still being developed, a fair time before the pilot was filmed or aired, and how very active he was in doing so.

As far as I know (and I was there : -)), the first tv show where producers significantly interacted with fans was the surreal Parker Lewis Can't Lose (and you can make a case for it as fantasy, given the number of surreal elements in it and things such as Jerry's by way of Harpo Marx jacket). There is a caveat in that, as far as I knew and recall, it was that they received printouts of the Flamingo Digest mailing list and weren't actually on line at that point. On the other hand, names of list members were used for background characters, a couple of folk were background extras, and a number of us, including myself, got to visit the, not filmed in front of an audience, set (for me, they were even kind enough to invite me to sit in on a writer's room meeting).

But spoilers, flaming, lurkers, etc. had all been around online in various fora for years before B5. As had professional creators in many media (oddly enough, one of the first pro comic book writers to get on Usenet was Peter David, who wrote two B5 eps). I'll grant that the Lurker's Guide was an amassment of knowledge on a tv show not previously seen, but that probably had almost as much to do with the Web coming into existance and making the concept of sites devoted to topic-specific knowledge practical (and it did lead to the Scott (Dilbert) Adams quote that it was the only tv series that you needed to read the website to get up to speed and understand it (Adams also made a cameo appearance on the show).
Rancho Unicorno
48. BibaNova
Excellent article which summed up why I love B5 and why Doctor Who's arcs don't really work for me. The beauty of B5 was the lack of spoilers. Watching the second series opener to find that your leading man has been replaced for instance! The production values don't bother me, I grew up with Doctor Who from the 70s. Loved the Shadows. Best show ever.
Rancho Unicorno
49. helbel
"It would be flat-out wrong to claim Babylon 5 was the first TV sci-fi show to implement season-long story arcs,"

Really? I was watching Babylon 5 at university - we went to meets with other local fans to discuss our theories. We were appalled when some US git decided to post spoilers on the UK usenet groups. Buffy didn't show in UK tv till after I left uni.

B5 was the first show I got to share with likeminded people (Buffy, Farscape and Angel followed it).
Rancho Unicorno
50. Lektu

I can accept that Sinclair was a more believable CO, but O'Hare simply didn't do a good job portraying him (seems he was a fine actor, but that just doesn't show on B5). Hell, in his scenes with Catherine Sakai, Julia Nickson-Soul so overmatched him that it was painful to watch.

At the end of the day, B5 was a television show, and characters need to have some appeal, more so the leading one. Sinclair left me indifferent even in situations with heavy emotional charge (when he's remembering the Line, for example), while Sheridan never failed to involve me in the action.
Rancho Unicorno
51. ShaunGibson
I do love this outpouring of love for our favorite tv-show. We're nost as all alone in the night as we thought...
Rancho Unicorno
52. lldjgyhhdeb
"It would be flat-out wrong to claim Babylon 5 was the first TV sci-fi show to implement season-long story arcs, since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was doing the same thing at the same time"

What are you talking about, man?

B5 was halfway through season four before Buffy even started to air.

Nice to see B5 getting some appreciation, though, but it's time for a proper retrospective, I think.
Mordicai Knode
53. mordicai

I didn't know everyone didn't like B5-- my impression is that Babylon Five is like Farscape, a show that all the "true believers" like. It may not have got traction in pop culture, but it is a big deal in geek culture. Right?
Heather Jones
54. JourneywomanJones
In South Africa, we were several years behind, and then had a huge gap between the screening of seasons when they did finally did arrive. I used to love spending my lunch hours going onto JMS's blog and reading all his commentary and explanations...
Jason Parker
55. tarbis
B5 was a wonderful story with fine acting by just about everybody. I enjoyed it a lot. There are scenes and character arcs that flow like water and droves of good comedy.
I'm just not sure how good a television series it really was. The arc was so tight that after the first couple episodes of season three there was no good point for new viewers to latch on and a show needs to keep adding eyeballs to make up for the ones it loses. Arguably new viewers could join in at the start of season five, but so much of it was set up for events we never see that I'm not sure why anyone would want to.
Rancho Unicorno
56. Patric Nilsson
B5 is the best sci-fi series (TV or Movie) ever imo. I love the world JMS created. I love a well thought out political space opera filled with mythology, wonder, great ships and races. And to my mind no other has even come close to the brilliance of B5. Long story arcs that makes sense (unlike BSG, Lost and SGU), and questions you get answers to (unlike, BSG and Lost and SGU). I think if the idiots who cancelled Crusade had given it a chance we would have had TWO great series like B5. JMS I want and hope we will see something more from the B5 Universe, yes I was sorely disappointed by "Lost Tales..." but I still would love another 5 year series or a big budget movie. I would love to see the story of Valen.
Mordicai Knode
57. mordicai
Also, remember the DVDs? This was back before anyone really "figured out" DVDs, so they were like, weirdly shaped discs with one or two episodes on them.
Rancho Unicorno
58. XenaCatolica
Glad to see it here--I LOVED this show. I remember the first episode I saw (not the beginning of the series), I turned to my husband & said, "the form of a Greek Tragedy! My God, someone's writing this who understands how stories actually work." And that opinion didn't change. And it helped a lot that they had real actors to do it. Andreas Katsulas' voice was so fabulous....
Ryan Britt
59. ryancbritt
@49 and 52
Well, I guess I was over-compensating unnecessarily for my pro-B5 bias. Thanks for the correction!

@56 Patric
There was a pretty dope comic called IN VALEN'S NAME which, if I remember correctly, tells a story that is parallel to "War Without End."

@57 mordicai
Are you thinking of the Christopher Franke soundtrack CDs? Like there were music CDs released for one or two episodes and those were shaped all crazy. I loved them and had most of them. ("Walkabout" was the best.) STUPIDLY, I sold a bunch back when you could get money for secondhand CDs. Now, those things are really hard to find.
alastair chadwin
60. a-j
Count me in with those pleased that there is so much appreciation of B5 out there. I am just coming to the end of a re-watch (the first since watching the series on its original transmission) and have been taken aback by how good it was.
If only others had learned its lesson, if you're going to do an arc story know how it's going to end and don't try to wing it! Alias is the only series I can think of that gets away with that and Dr Who is currently tying itself into terrible knots because of this.
And do check out the Lurkers Guide if only for JMS's increasingly tetchy responses to ST fans complaining that B5 is different. One complains vociferously about the fact that B5 communicators are worn on the back of the hand instead of on the chest where ST:TNG shows firmly they should be. Great fun.
Oh, and does anyone know if there was any truth in the rumours that death threats were being put about which was why Majel Barrett agreed to appear on the show in an attempt to calm everyone down?
And finally, re-watch s'il vous plait?
Sumana Harihareswara
61. brainwane
A few years ago my partner and I watched B5 and made copious use of the Lurker's Guide. Such a great resource. I'm grateful to the people who contributed to it for helping other viewers across time and space. :)
Joe Vondracek
62. joev one point JMS left the forums for a time because of too much “flaming.”

As a lurker at that time, IIRC, JMS left because a couple of particularly nasty trolls kept accusing him of making things up as the show progressed and said he was lying about Babylon 5 having a story arc and how he had planned from the start that Sinclair would leave and Smiling Jack would take over as commander. They would cite examples from just-aired episodes as "evidence" of him lying. Eventually, he just got tired of the harassment and left, which was a damn shame as it was unheard of at that time for a show's creator to interact with fans to the extent that JMS did.

B5 will always be a favorite of mine. They really made the most out of what they had to work with, money-wise, and I think that's because the cast and crew knew that they were working on something special.
Rancho Unicorno
63. Hey You
I said it then and I stand by it today. Best written Science Fiction series ever!
Rancho Unicorno
64. Joe Nazzaro
I don't think anybody can minimize the significance of a writer who not only knew how his show would turn out, but also wrote virtually three entire seasons of of it on his own. I remember at one point Joe Straczyski pointed out to me that the last time he remembered another writer tackling an entire season was when Terry Nation wrote the entire 13-episode season of Blake's 7 on his own. I was more than happy to explain to Joe that while Terry's name was indeed on those scripts, many of them had been fleshed out without credit by story editor Chris Boucher. In fact, the choice that Nation always offered was, 'Do you want a rewrite, or do you want the next episode?' I've also said on more than one occasion that Babylon 5 was, without exception the most professional and friendly production I've covered in nearly 25 years as a journalist. I can't think of another series that would invite somebody in to cover their entire final episode from start to finish, accepting a handshake promise to keep details of that episode a secret for an entire year. Any other production would probably hold your first-born to ransom as an insurance policy. Not B5, a class outfit from day one.
Rancho Unicorno
65. Jill Peters
Watching B5 actually made me feel as if I had grown up and was watching a real adult show. It was full of twists, turns, arcs and human (and alien) foibles. Episodes did not end..."and they all lived happily ever after." Some had sad endings where a character had to live with or die because of a bad decision. Real life, in the future, with people who acted as real people act. And when I have the need for a good cry, I pop in "Sleeping in Light" Whata wonderful ending to a wonderful show...*sniff*...
Constance Sublette
66. Zorra
How often do you see a SF program, film or even a novel, with labor, real labor, and a union, and union organizers and busters?

How often do you a SF program, film or even a novel, with a realistic treatment of politics, coups and propaganda, and all the tools employed by politicians and governments, and the impact they have on entire parts of a system that should be independent of political - power meddling?

I've never seen anything elsewhere as was accomplished in these areas with B-5. I was in awe.

Love, C.
Rancho Unicorno
67. ShaunGibson
@53 I think the problem with this traction idea is that B5 changed the shape of sci-fi as we had known it until then. Until B5 successful scifi was basically star trek, it really opened the doors, showed genre shows how to work on a budget and really invented the idea of the arc for our genre shows. And it's sadly overlooked and rarely mentioned as an influence by anyone. Buffy, DS9 and BSG get a lot more support than B5 did. And that's what makes us 'true believers' sad, our show which really battered down so many walls of TV really doesn't get the recognition it deserves, more than once in an article like this one about another genre show I shake my head and mutter that B5 doesn't get this kinda love. Hence my sincere appreciation for Ryan's article.
Emmet O'Brien
68. EmmetAOBrien
Include me in as a B5 fan, though I am raising my eyebrows at anyone who thought Michael O'Hare's acting was less cop than Bruce Boxleitner's.

I mean, what if Steven Moffat wrote all 13 episodes of every season of Doctor Who? The chances of plot arcs making more sense and being more consistent would probably be much higher, right?

Also, thanks for a good laugh there.
Rancho Unicorno
69. Eric Saveau
This. Yes, this. So much this. All of this and more.

When the pilot aired in '92 I was riveted. It was utterly unlike any other TV sci-fi I'd ever seen, and though some parts of it didn't seem to fit as well as others I deeply appreciated the fact that the creator was obviously trying to shape a consistent universe and history in which to tell stories that weren't just echoing Star Trek.

When the series finally premiered and we got to see realistically problematic politics coupled with space combat that acknowledged Newtonian physics I was punching the air and whooping with delight. As the story continued to broaden and deepen and raise nervous questions I was telling everyone whose ear I could grab that they were missing the greatest thing on television but they needed to watch it from the beginning and here this stack of VHS tapes will get you caught up.

A couple of years ago I convinced my wife to watch it. She balked at the commitment involved with a five-year show but soon she was into it (it helped that she found G'Kar sexy) and I was surprised at how well it still holds up. Even though the CG effects are dated they are still servicable, and the writing and acting range mostly from good to excellent. I was also surprised to find that on rewatching it seemed to me that the show was mostly about Londo and G'Kar - which was fine since they were marvelously written characters played by terrific actors (the scene were they are trapped in an elevator is still one of my favorite moments in the series; when it originally aired I kept rewinding that scene to watch it over and over, laughing and applauding every time).

Like some others mentioned above, B5 spoiled Star Trek for me. After a few episodes of B5 I was never able to ignore the Magic Reset Button ever again. Even today, it's the standard by which I judge any other serious sci-fi in TV or film. For my money, the work of sci-fi which comes closest to the thoughtfulness, consistency and cohesion of B5 is Mass Effect (until, of course, the terrible end for which Casey Hudson and Mac Walters should be forever trapped in a dark hopeless pocket universe made entirely of teeth and wire).
Rancho Unicorno
70. politeruin
"What do you want?"

Ahh the story of londo mollari... because that's what it's all about, right? Though you could probably make a case for it being about g'kar or both of them.

Is this a subtle hint at an epic babylon 5 rewatch? I really hope so because it feels like it does not get nearly as much appreciation as i think it should do when plenty of other initially cult shows are getting plenty of love. Supreme story telling and a rewatch would be fascinating with the many incidental moments foreshadowing future events and character arcs that develop over the long-term. You need to invest in this series from the beginning and there tends to be two types of people, those who love babylon 5 and those who haven't tried it yet but it is incredibly rewarding despite the occasional bit of dodgy acting and sets. I'm glad someone mentioned the lurker's guide though, that was an absolutely essential resource back in those ancient dial-up days.
Rancho Unicorno
71. Kathleen2
While many people tout production values, as in special effects, etc, those special effects are meaningless without a solid story and good acting.

B5 was a very well conceived story that was expertly told with good acting. This is a show that will stand the test of time in it's thoughtful and thought provoking episodes. Character development and story arcs were never as fully developed or explored in any series, IMHO, as they were in B5. Flawed characters that were likeable even when they behaved badly. Each character being more than what was seen on the surface with a history gave the show true depth. Whether I liked a particular actor in a particular role didn't matter, as each actor made each role come alive with a unique quality that added to the overall ensemble.

While I have always been a Star Trek:TOS fan, the other versions never seemd to take the original and expand on it, fleshing out the environment in which the characters lived. B5, on the other hand, gave us a real sense of what each character was experiencing on an personal, work, political and galaxy-wide level. They were not one dimensional and we could see how a pivotal event could change an individual's reaction.

B5 surpasses every science fiction show I have seen before or since. Nothing has come close to it so far but I will remain hopeful that someone in the future takes a cue from B5 to give us something as rich and full.
Rancho Unicorno
72. Ben E
Finest sci-fi ever? Yes, but B5 was undoubtedly the most influential television drama series of the last 30 years. It fundamentally altered the economics of television. It was made for a third of the budget of Star Trek (approx $300,000 vs $1m per episode), yet had a much higher proportion of exterior and action shots.

Before B5 writers did what producers told them (see LeBlanc, Greig, and Mangan in "Episodes" for an accurate portrayal of what this was like). After B5 they were given pretty free rein to innovate and experiment...over several seasons.

Without B5 there would have been no 24, no Sopranos, no Mad Men, no Battlestar Galactica (which let's be honest is DS9 as Ronald Moore would have liked it to be). But there would also not be the mass of CGI cartoons on kids' TV, or the satellite/cable explosion of channels with diverse content because it simply would have been too damn expensive. First VHS box set I ever saw too.

On a dramatic level, there may have been a few duds or cheesy moments - but there are too many scenes in B5 that any other writer wouldn't sell their own grandmother for. My personal favourite remains Lennier and Delenn at the end of S4 - the "all love is unrequited" conversation - that exemplifies why we should be thankful that JMS became a writer.

Seriously, nothing else comes close.
Rancho Unicorno
73. ShaunGibson
To everyone who's posted in this thread...

Thank you.

Rancho Unicorno
74. Eric Saveau
One exchange of dialogue that really stands out for me was in the second season, just before the war started, when Londo and Vir are arguing and Londo declares "But I have no choice!" and Vir shoots back "Yes, you do!"

It seemed to me that much of the series pivoted around whether characters acknowledged or denied their ability to choose; it may have been the actual theme of the show. It's also been in my mind as I've played through modern videogame series that tell excellent stories like the aforementioned Mass Effect, and also Bioshock and especially Dragon Age, and all the ways that the choices characters - and not just the player character - make will play out through the story.
Rancho Unicorno
75. Lektu
Perusing the TV tropes inspired by B5 I found this comment, which I think hits the nail in the head: "Almost every episode leaves the world different than it started. That's part of what made the show so awesome."
Rancho Unicorno
76. Tom From Maine
The best TV show every for the reasons you cited and so many more! Thanks for posting this: - )
Alice Arneson
77. Wetlandernw
"He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be. somewhere. else."
Alan Brown
78. AlanBrown
Babylon 5 rewatch!!! Now, there is an idea whose time has come!
Ian Tregillis
79. ITregillis
Here's another (grateful) shout-out to the Lurker's Guide to B5. That site greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the show! I spent a lot of time there, dutifully reading after every new episode. What a great resource. And what a great show (warts and all).
Becca Hollingsworth
80. bibliobeque
I believe the first episode I saw was "Signs and Portents," and I was of course hooked instantly. I practically memorized the Lurker's Guide. For a while there my Windows startup noise was a clip of Marcus Cole telling me, in Minbari, that I was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.

I haven't gone back to the show in years...definitely time for a rewatch!
Rancho Unicorno
81. Bob DeSando
It isn't often that I read an entire blog and every single comment that follows. But this time, it was my pleasure. I loved Babylon 5 from Day One. I was overwhelmed by the story arc, writing, acting, music and -- yes -- the effects. I would never even consider missing an episode. In fact, I remember recouperating from major surgery during Season 2 and, despite a lot of pain, watching the latest episode from my hospital bed. The show made me feel "good" about life and the future. I am a long-time sci-fi fan. I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and countless other shows. But as far as I am concerned B5 set a standard that has never been matched. When it ended, I felt a hole inside myself. I hoped for the success of Crusade and the Rangers and was actually angry when the networks refused to give them a fair chance. Only one of the posters above mentioned the B5 VHS tapes. I was exhilarated when they arrived on the market and furious when Warner Brothers decided to suddenly end them, leaving collections incomplete. Of course, I later acquired the full DVD collection and have watched them often through the years and will enjoy them again in the future. This post transcends "nostalgia" for me. B5 became a second family. I mourned with the passing of each player, including the wonderful Michael O'Hare. I only hope that now that JMS has his own production company that he will honor the love and affection B5 fans have for him and his creation ... and bring some incarnation of it to the tube or screen someday soon.
Rancho Unicorno
82. Andy Smout
Simply the best sci-fi show for all the right reasons. One thing that is often looked over is the uk tv channel, Channel 4. Without their support in the uk, the series would likely had not been seen for many years. They stuck with their early evening slot on a Sunday until the 5th season; and at the end of season 3, was airing the episodes days before the US.

One thing JMS wasn't scared to do was flesh out a character. Star Trek focused on a group of individuals, usually 3, and the way the interacted with the universe and threat around them. B5 on the other hand made the smaller characters just as integral as the main leads. The 'threat' that unfolded really did feel like anyone could die and the end of days was near for all.

With the recent passing of Michael O Hare; I've taken the time to revisit a few eps on my larger than the 90's screen. It's a shame the CG was rendered in standard def, you can almost hear the screams of a thousand shadow ships begging for a HD makeover; alas I doubt we'll see this.

All in all, B5 turned me into a serious scifi fan. Someone who needed something like that at that point in my life.

An amazing series sorely missed
Rancho Unicorno
83. hah
I LOVED B5. I watched it from Pilot to Finale + Crusade + all the movies. I read the books & lurked on the forum reading JMS's posts. I still tell friends & co-workers how groundbreaking it was w/ it's 5-yr pre-written story arc & how a show like Lost could never have existed if B5 hadn't blazed that trail.
Rancho Unicorno
84. Troy Rutter
Hi Ryan - thanks for the great article. I helped with some of the grassroots PR you mentioned before and during the 1st season, and then was hired to run in 1995. Going from a fan to working on the show was an awesome experience - and one I think helped "keep it real" - even if I worked for WB and not JMS. My loyalties were to the show and not corporate policies, and luckilly execs let me run with it. What we laid down in the early years is now the minimal shows today have to do to keep up. It was great being a part of it, and this article really made me smile.
John Nemesh
85. jnemesh
The fact that a post about a show that hasn't been broadcast in YEARS generates this many posts is testament to the lasting appeal of Babylon 5! I fondly remember using "TIN" from a unix command line to access the early internet (pre-web!) and talking to other fans and even JMS himself! It still amazes me that he spent so much of his precious time communicating directly to the fans of the show...I DID feel a bit guilty when I read that he stayed up till 1 or 2 am responding to message board posts and email...but WOW...getting a personal response from him was really an incredible moment for a fan!

My only sadness comes from the fact that JMS wanted B5 to pave the way for others to go and tell THEIR stories...and yet, no one has come to fill his shoes. Where is the next "B5"? Where is the next "JMS"? One reader posted that after watching Babylon 5 "ruined" TV for him...I agree! Other TV shows, of ANY genre, are extremely weak compared to B5. Networks simply can't generate shows of this quality...they get greedy, they fire the show creators, or the entire writing staff (see NBC's "Heros")...or they simply start writing with no idea whatsoever how everything ties together (see Lost, Battlestar Galactica). Most TV is written by committee, and it shows. Here is hoping that SOMEONE steps up to the plate and has the drive and determination to buck the system and create something truly great!
Rancho Unicorno
86. Muccamukk
Oh, man, the memories. Thanks for the write up!

I missed the first run, but caught it once it hit Space Channel syndication in Canada. I think it pretty much ruined all other tv forever, at least in terms of what I expect out of an arc. (I think if creators would admit they were making up as they go, I'd be fine with it, but BSG and Lost both claimed to be following some grand plan and they... really, really weren't).

I rewatched it with my girlfriend last year because she loved DS9, but hadn't seen this, and now she's a huge fan too (possibly more than me, as she's really into the fandom, which I never was). We even watched Crusade, which was not really as good. I will say about the rewatch that it wasn't as cheesey as I remembered it. I think it was the first show to use digital effects instead of filming modles, and it really does show, but shiney effects have always been secondary to characters for me, and B5 always delivered on characters.

I was recently very saddened to hear of O'Hare's death. Sinclair was always my favourite station commander (followed by Lockley). I don't know why people say he was wooden. I always thought he had termendous gravitas, and a very lovely voice.

The B5 cast really does seem to be cursed :(
Rancho Unicorno
87. Zathras
Now, this isn’t to say B5 is better than Buffy or BSG or that JMS inherently works harder than Whedon or Moore or anything like that.
Yes, yes, doesn't need to - Zeus wishes he was good as JMS. Amazing stories. Complete stories. Bursting forth from his mind fully formed.

Zathras said so, but nobody listened to Zathras.
Peter Ahlstrom
88. PeterAhlstrom
B5 was certainly my first brush with online fandom. After my freshman semester of college in 95 I went home to go on a religious mission, and I had a wait until April. I got out a VHS tape a guy in my old writing group had lent me that had 3 and a half episodes from the first season. One of them was Babylon Squared, and oh man.

So, having discovered the internet at college, I got on Usenet and said "Hey, does anyone in my metropolitan area have the first three seasons recorded who can lend them to me?" Three people responded that they would be happy to do so. Thus began an orgy of B5 watching. I soon caught up to the current season 3 episode. I watched my last episode...I think it was Severed the library at the church across the street from my house because its satellite dish was pointed at Galaxy 4 which carried Babylon 5 on Mondays for airing on Friday. I went into the missionary training center on Wednesday and didn't get to watch another episode for two years.

I still carry my original B5 fan club membership card in my wallet, because why not? Member number B5-2780.
Rancho Unicorno
89. threnodynx
My husband brought home all 5 seasons of B5 about 5 years ago. I am a scifi fan, but for some reason, was never interested in B5 when it aired. He liked it though, so I sat down and watched it with him. I am so glad I did.

Babylon 5 is my favorite show ever - all other shows pale in comparison. I can no longer watch shows with stand-alone episodes . I have to have long running story archs or I am bored. The complexity of situations and characters on B5 are amazing. While there are good vs bad sides to some stories, most of them give you pieces from all angles, so you can see how grey the world really is. Things don't always end all happy happy, just like real life. The characters are fully fleshed out and I love each and every one of them. Every time we finish the series, I have this overwhelming feeling to dedicate my life to something bigger than myself . No other show has affected me like this. JMS made something that still moves me, even though I'm watching it nearly 15 years after its end. I can completely look past any flaws in the look of the show because the story really has no flaws.

We have watched B5 so often, several of the discs are worn out and we need to replace a couple seasons. My husband refuses to let me loan them out because he's so afraid of more discs becoming damaged. I am so sad that so many people have missed out on such an amazing show. It changed the face of television, of scifi fandom, and even me.
Daniel Taylor
90. Tynam
Important and easily missed... Babylon 5 also invented 21st century production. JMS went out of his way to advertise to TV execs the cost and production benefits of planning one big arc story, and prove it could be done. (There were set visits from people being shown the 'Babylon 5 model'.)

It's not unreasonable to claim that B5 (and arguably Murder One) were the reason that TV started to accept so many long series arcs and deep-laid stories. (And there's still nobody who's really matched it since.)
Rancho Unicorno
91. Strider
My favorite television show.

lol @ Zathras

I remember watching the climax space battle in 4th season on a VHS recorded copy from an antenna and thinking there were alot of ships, that it was amazing.

Imagine my shock when I saw it on DVD. :)
Rancho Unicorno
92. Cara K
Ryan Britt, it's clear that you enjoy Babylon 5 (for which I applaud you), but your article is strangely full of apologies for liking this beautiful and ground-breaking show. Here are a few reasons why you should embrace the love and stop defending your right to have good taste:

1) "It would be flat-out wrong to claim Babylon 5 was the first TV sci-fi show to implement season-long story arcs, since Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was doing the same thing at the same time." -- As many others have already pointed out, you're just dead wrong here. (Someone writing about SF TV for Tor should really learn the difference between Buffy-the-movie and Buffy-the-TV-show!) I, for example, started watching Babylon 5 while living in London; by the time Buffy-the-TV-show debuted, I'd moved from there to Santa Barbara to Pittsburgh to New Jersey.

2) "though we don’t talk much about Babylon 5 now" -- Well, my friends all do, even the ones who were too young to watch it when it was new. (And no, they didn't all get it from me -- it's a major piece of SFTV history, and neither obscure nor forgotten.)

3) "Though this assertion is probably a little anecdotal and biased...the promise of tantalizing story detail being actually resolved in a satisfying way during the course of B5 is higher than on a lot of contemporary shows in the same genre with a similar structure." Come on, have the courage of your convictions. You've already qualified your assertion with "a lot of" -- but you're still not sure? So you have to add not only the "anecdotal," but the "biased"? Are you so certain your opinions are unworthy?

4) "time might not have been kind to the look of the show (Either you're going to accept Londo's outrageous hair, our you're not.)" The hair is meant to be outrageous, just as the current Doctor's bow ties are supposed to look slightly humorous.

5) "the entire phenomenon of Babylon 5 is something of a touchstone." Come one, have courage! It IS a touchstone. There, was that so hard?

So please, Ryan Britt, repeat after me: my opinions are worthy! I don't have to apologize for them! And Babylon 5 ROCKS!
Rancho Unicorno
93. Susan Gainen
I was introduced to B5 by a pal who said "It's the UN in space." So true, but so much more.

In addition to the tv shows, there are also books (pre-quels that really explain Anna Sheridan, books between each year, and post-quels I've read them all and loved each and every one. They make the series bigger and (yes, it's possible) better.

Thanks for the post and thanks, all, for this thread.
john mullen
94. johntheirishmongol
Anytime you get a thread about B5, you almost always get a discussion about which captain was best. I don't know if it's true but I heard that the production company wanted Sinclair replaced and it was a good decision to do so. There is no way that O'Hare could have done the speeches that Boxleitner did in seasons 3 and 4. Just a huge difference in charisma between the two of them. O'Hare probably had a bit more gravitas, but that wasnt what the show needed.

Crusade failed before it started, because it set up the story in such a way as to pretty much make everything in B5 useless. In B5, they save the light from the dark and the first thing Crusade does is have the Earth destroyed, or the next thing to it.
Rancho Unicorno
95. Arwel
Thanks for this wonderful thread, you've brought back lots of wonderful memories.

B5 was significant in so many ways, not least that it was, I think, the first US TV show to be shown in Britain very soon after its US transmission - indeed for the first three seasons because of the US habit of rerunning episodes, the last three or four episodes got their first transmission on Channel 4 in the UK. This was a huge improvement on previous practice where we typically had to wait three years - I'm thinking of you, Original Star Trek! Back in those pre-BitTorrent days there was quite a good Transatlantic trade in videotapes - I live 160 miles from London but used to go down regularly to view tapes at the now sadly-demolished Pages Bar in Pimlico where I first made contact with media fandom (it was just as well I worked for the railways and could travel for free!) ; I remember we once all chipped in a £10 contribution so we could fly Michael O'Hare over to London just for a day so he could meet us (or maybe the other way round).

I'd just discovered the net before B5 started, and was on the Compuserve B5 forum and enjoyed JMS' contributions there. Later I moved over to u.m.t.s.b5, though even in the UK we had spoilers to bear in mind, because B5 aired on a different day on S4C in Wales from when it was on Channel 4 in the rest of the country.

Nick Lowe @ 45: £400 a month phone bills? Sheesh - and I thought I was doing well (badly) with a £360-a-quarter bill before Demon and Compuserve opened local nodes to me in 1994! I remember attending one programme item at the Winnipeg Worldcon in '94 where we were discussing how much this new-fangled Internet thing was costing us, and I was the last person with their arm in the air as the monthly price estimate went up!
Rancho Unicorno
96. Muccamukk
@ johntheirishmongol
Maybe? I guess I just never found Sheridan that interesting as a character. BBL was charming, for sure, but I never felt notably engaged in whether Sheridan lived or died past Delenn being sad if he did. Sinclair, for me, had a lot more interesting character things going on, more internal conflict and growth, whereas Sheridan felt like Standard Action Hero Modrl 5. As you say, maybe we needed a Standard Action Hero Modrl 5 to move things along, but he was always the bottom of the list of characters on that show that I found interesting.

I'm not bitter that O'Hare left. It sounded like he wanted to go, too, but I really do love season one for Sinclair.

That is probably true of Crusade. One of the things I loved about B5 is that even if everyone didn't get a happy ending, the show was about hope (something current "grimdark = reality" writers could learn from). I understand that the Crusade plot would have cured Earth by season two, but it was still pretty bleak. Mostly I think that the network's massive fight with JMS over production values and plot were what did it in. Still, worth a watch. If nothing else, it stars a very young and very pretty Daniel Dae Kim.
Rancho Unicorno
97. Jennifer R
This is possibly the most well written show that has ever been on television, exactly for the reasons you point out. Also, I suspect there was a lot less executive meddling going on back then than there would be now. I seriously wonder if anyone could replicate the JMS experience in the same way now--would they have that much creative control enough to NOT have to have a writer's room, that one guy could write almost every episode AND have it all plotted out with trapdoors ahead of time, and be allowed to do so? And I loved the Lurker's Guide so hard--that he took the time and effort to provide the fans with that.

Hell, since JMS no longer does television, I guess it isn't possible to replicate his control and experience on shows any more. It's a great loss for us. Hell, I would have liked to have seen more "Crusade" and "Jeremiah."

JMS is also why I tend to think that TV writers at least need to have an idea of where they'd go with something when they make it up. Plan ahead of time. They can change it later if they come up with a better idea, but don't just throw in "polar bears" or "Opera House" or well, half the stuff they did on Lost, and then figure you'll figure out what that's about seasons later when you don't know why they're there now. I really wish more people would plan ahead on these things. The man was a master.
Rancho Unicorno
98. G.Shelley
We paused on a re-watch a few months ago, so perhaps time to get started again. Possibly because neither my wife nor I llike Sheridan, who we view as a grinning buffoon. The man simply smiles too much.
There were some positives to Sinclair's departure - the nonsense about the one who is three not withstanding, the reworking of the ark gave a stronger story, and the loss of Sakai, who was probably the most wooden actress ever to appear on television a great bonus.
Rancho Unicorno
99. Jim Caplan
What I remember about B5 fandom was you were supposed to get special treatment, depending on how many months in advance of the show's advent you had joined the Usenet group. In fact, you got a rank, I was a P7, meaning I joined 7 months before the premier showing. I wish I could remember what the P stood for -- was it psych?
I also remember Joe threatening to leave if we brought up any plot ideas on the forum because his lawyers warned him that if anything he did resembled a fan's idea, there could be a lawsuit.
Rancho Unicorno
100. cmccrzy
Yay! BB5 article/discussion!

I used one of G'Kar's quotations on a class essay a few weeks ago. XD It just fit so well!

I was so disappointed when I tried to get season 1 shown in my college's sci-fi club. People saw a trailer principally of Londo walking around and just couldn't get over the hair, and, well... I still need to find a good trailer to get people hooked into the show. Of all things, they picked Eureka instead. Seriously.

I also brought it up with my advisor who's into sci-fi and he said that he had started watching it but gave up, principally because he'd just finished DS9 and the similarities were discouraging to him. I sighed and explained that it was COMPLETELY worth the time (I love DS9, too, but given the choice, I would and have rewatched BB5 over DS9, full-way-through). He said he'd give it a try again :D.

I loved three things, principally, about the series: the music, the script (principally the humor), and the rememberance value.

The music was phenomenal. Every time I hear "dying station" or "sleeping in light", it just kills me.

The script had its issues (one two many characters were very obviously written by the same person and repeated similar lines), but it was mostly great. It got through a number of "moral lessons" without the cheese that features in shows like Star Trek. And there was just SO much humor! I can pick up the quotations book and just laugh until I cry.

It also has a high rememberance value. I don't mean to keep using it as a punching bag because I really do love it, too, but Star Trek (and Doctor Who) has so much fluff after all its years running and has reused a number of plots that, well... I can recall a handfull of favorite episodes in the entire franchise. I have favorite moments and remember almost every episode of BB5. When I use quotations, I don't use things from Star Trek (which are mostly recycled from somewhere else). I quote G'Kar and Londo and Sheridan and Delenn. I want a t-shirt that says "We are star stuff" and "Zathras does not say. Saying, Zathras knows. Zathras does not know, so Zathras does not say" and a handfull of other quotations that were just funny and beautiful and.... AHHH this script made me squee from an English Major's perspective.

Ahhhh this show...
Rancho Unicorno
101. Andrew Peacock
Come on Tor: B5 Rewatch!
Rancho Unicorno
102. webdood
B5 is probably my favorite tv show of all time. I am still pissed that crusade was cancelled before it really got a chance
Rancho Unicorno
103. B5dragon
Wonderful to read so much about B5 again. This was the very first show I ever followed, had to be home to watch, which was not easy, considering how it changed channels, time, day, really had to search. God, I got cable to watch B5. There was no way I was going to miss it. I usually rewatch the series plus Crusade & movies etc at least once a year, I need my fix. It was nice to get DVD's, but I still have the 5 years on VHS, and its a LOT of Vhs tapes.
Notice everyone, there is not even one bad thing said here, considering I'm comment 101, this is a good thing.
Thanks all, you really made my day.
Rancho Unicorno
104. crotchetyoldfab
Babylon 5 fans can not even remotely be referred to as "one of the first sci fi fandoms"; "Fandom" was already working on fourth (or maybe it was fifth) fandom by the late 30s. Well before television.

And I have to say that I have a bit of a problem with the focus on a single television show when referring to "Fandom", writ large. Fandom is about far more than a single setting, set of characters or particular story arcs. Interest - even to the level of fanatacism - in a television show is just that, an interest within the greater community and continuum of fandom. As Scalzi recently reminded us this past Worldcon, it's all about the diversity and the sharing, not about one single focus.
Jessica Berman
105. Starhunter7979
Great to see all the B5 fans here. It's also my favorite series of all time, and the usenet group and Lurker site were almost daily stops for me. I've got a question for everyone - why hasn't B5 ever been seen as reruns, say on SyFy or BBC America, or G 4?
Rancho Unicorno
106. ShaunGibson
@104 He doesn't say B5 invented fandom, he means 21st century, all-media/spoiler/internet fandom.
Cathy Doyle
107. B5dragon
Well Shaun, my guess for BBC America is they're the Dr.
Who station, SyFy is no longer a SciFi station and hasn't been since they were stupid enough to change their name to something odd. Also, they never wanted to be bothered when it was being shopped to keep it on for the 5 year arc and ignored Crusade. Just my opinion.
Craig Barnett
108. Ommadawn
I watched all the episodes of B5 as they were released, more or less (Australia was so far behind the USA screenings, and the local stations were a bit dodgy with the reliability of their program schedules but I managed).

B5 will always stand out as the grand story of SF, in my opinion. Nothing on this scale was done before, and nothing since has been done so well. Blake's 7 came close with it's story arc, but when I watch it now I just can't get past the bad sets/props.

No, B5, with it's well thought out plot and characters, fantastic characters (in terms of acting and their relationships with each other) and internal consistency set the bar for all other shows that followed. I still re-watch the full series every couple of years (yay for DVD! :) and now my kids are all fans too.
Elizabeth Heckert
109. silhouettepoms
Londo's hair !!!! Honestly, when I was 10 or 11 yrs old on a boring Saturday afternoon I think i was flipping through channels (all 5 or so of them) on the TV and stumbled on this program, with this very loud guy with very CRAZY hair. It was an episode from season 1 of Babylon 5. What the heck WAS this show? I was a big Star Trek fan at the time, but this was not Star Trek... so what WAS it?? I think I was glued after that - and watched it every week, until they moved it to cable for the 5th season. :( We didn't have cable when I was a kid so it wasn't until 2001 when I went to college and it was airing on Sci-Fi that I finally saw the 5th season for the first time. I convinced one of my freshmen hallmates to watch it with me every weekday when it aired - the entire series from start to finish. We finished it up just before the end of the year, including (at one point) a marathon of the entire 4th season the weekend before final exams. Ahhhh memories!! In exchange, I agreed to read the entire Wheel of Time series - interestingly, the topic of a re-read on this very site. Turns out THAT took a bit longer than watching all of B5... LOL
Rancho Unicorno
110. jRev
I am astounded at the sheer amount of love here for the show! I haven't had much luck selling it to my friends thus far.

I knew B5 was going to be special very early on. When I saw the end of that season 1 episode where Sinclair responds to a reporter's question about why Babylon 5 (and staying in space) is important, I felt like someone had just rewired my brain into the proper mindset from a long period of misguided dormancy. You remember -- that line with Marilyn Monroe in it? I loved it.

I also have lots of praise for the more "experimental" episodes of B5 -- the one that just followed a pair of workers as they went about their duties on the station was just so refreshing and human. Then there's the one that was one long in-universe news report, complete with commerical breaks complete with the requisite subliminal messages. And then, of course, there was "Intersections in Real Time".

Babylon 5 is truly an amazing show. I only hope another series could eventually equal its scope and passion.
alastair chadwin
111. a-j
Jim Caplan@99
'I also remember Joe threatening to leave if we brought up any plot ideas on the forum because his lawyers warned him that if anything he did resembled a fan's idea, there could be a lawsuit.'
According to the Lurker's Guide, that did happen in that a fan posted an idea that was the basis of an episode then being written*. The production team had to find and contact the fan in question and get his permission/promise not to sue otherwise the episode could not be made.

*Passing Through Gethesemene, series 3, episode 4
Gregory Watters
112. Zorak
Hearing of O'Hare's passing made me nostalgic for the old days when Babylon 5 was a weekly television appointment to keep. Thanks to WB on-line, I'm revisiting the series from the beginning in marathon chunks.

I had forgotten how special this show was. The characters are so rich and the story is so tragic that you actually feel the triumph and tragedy. The sorrow and conflict of politics over friendship is a constant, and made for great character development. The Londo and G'Kar dynamic is nothing but entertaining.

Yes, the visuals are a little dated but still have a nice look to them, after all, it is 90's TV and should be judged through the lens of it's time. (Gotta love that Video Toaster!)

I'm loving the show all-over again, more than I did the first time.
Elizabeth Heckert
113. silhouettepoms
Loving this thread. I too had a babylon 5 theme for my Windows sounds for several years. I think my startup sound was "And so it begins..." (what else??!!) And one of the errror message sounds was of Zathras... forget what he said tho. yes, REWATCH!!! Would give me an excuse to dust off my DVDs.
Adam Whitehead
114. Werthead
Great article. It is worth noting, however, that whilst JMS did plan the whole thing out ahead of time, the story he had planned in 1987-93 was very different to what we saw on screen. Originally he had planned two five-year stories which would have featured Sinclair as the main character throughout. Between Seasons 1 and 2 JMS had an epiphany that this might be a tad over-ambitious, and scaled everything back into one five-year story (which was probably the much wiser choice), with quite a few changes as well.

I think having that plan, whilst much-changed, was still helpful, but it's not entirely accurate that when he was writing the pilot (or even most of Season 1) he knew exactly what was going to happen in episodes of Seasons 4 or 5, as by the time he got there so many things had changed that the storyline was barely recognisable.
"Now, that may be true, it may not but I judged DS9 according to B5 and while production value, etc. were higher, I always landed on the side of B5"
I don't see it as being necessary to choose sides. Both DS9 and B5 were excellent, excellent shows (DS9 taking a bit longer to get going, it has to be said) and it always seemed a shame that people got partisan over it. They're different in some approaches and in quality (I think B5 had more all-time classic episodes than DS9, but DS9 had a better average level of quality, plus did comedy episodes much better than JMS).
"It would be flat-out wrong to claim Babylon 5 was the first TV sci-fi show to implement season-long story arcs"
Indeed. Blake's 7 did season-long arcs in the late 1970s. Doctor Who had some earlier than that. The Prisoner did (arguably) back in the 1960s. The non-SF The Fugitive had an entire series arc (of sorts) and a proper finale episode in the 1960s as well. I once wrote a whole series of articles on the history of long-form TV storytelling. Babylon 5 an important evolution of the form, but certainly not the first.
"Yes, but B5 was undoubtedly the most influential television drama series of the last 30 years."
Much as I love B5, this is pretty hyperbolic. The show was not successful enough to have that kind of impact. In fact, a lot of the shows you go on to mention seem to have drawn their inspiration more from the likes of Hill Street Blues (which also had long season-spanning story arcs in the early 1980s), whilst to this day Ronald D. Moore says that he has never watched an episode of B5 and BSG drew more on his own experiences on TNG and DS9. Its impact on things like Buffy can't be denied (Whedon slipped a few B5 shout-outs into that show, like Xander having some collectors' plates from B5), but the mainstream move to serialised shows was already underway.
"One thing that is often looked over is the uk tv channel, Channel 4. Without their support in the uk, the series would likely had not been seen for many years. They stuck with their early evening slot on a Sunday until the 5th season; and at the end of season 3, was airing the episodes days before the US."
Channel 4 changed the date of airing several times. Season 1 was shown on Mondays, Season 2 on Tuesdays, Season 3 on Sundays and Season 4 on Thursdays. Season 5 was shown on weekday mornings, for some reason. They also showed no less than ten episodes weeks - or even months - ahead of US transmission: the Season 1 finale, the final four episodes of Season 2 and the final five episodes of Season 3. In fact, we got to see the final episodes of Season 3 about three months before the USA did :) We also got to experience a proper gap between season cliffhangers, as in the USA the final few episodes of each season were held back to the start of the next. The impact of Chrysalis and Z'ha'dum must have been lessened when you only had a week before the next episode rather than months.
Jean Shea
115. JMShea
B5 was my introduction to the Internet. I loved "Babylon 5" from the get-go, but I really didn't much care about the Web. I wanted a dial-up connection for e-mail. Then I discovered the bulletin boards and newsgroups for B5 on AOL, Compuserve and even eWorld. (Remember that lost world?)

Those were the days. The discussions, the role-playing, the (virtual) food-fights. Then there were the encylopedic resources. Episode summaries, character lists and descriptions, cast bios, timelines, sets and scenes, chats that sometimes involved cast members and, rarely, JMS himself. The only show in my experience to even come close to providing fans what B5 did was "Lost, " and it serves as an example of what a room full of writers can do to storytelling.

It goes without saying that the scope and depth of the B5 story ranks along with LOTR. It was just told over broadcast television rather than print. B5 was the first show I listened to for the epilog. It never failed to blow my mind. For a guy to do that 92 times, it's not only unheard of, it's genius. Thank you, Britt and Tor, for finally recognizing and describing what brilliant television can be and was.
Rancho Unicorno
116. FrodoStark
B5: Not just the best scifi show ever, but the best TV show ever, period.
Rancho Unicorno
117. FrodoStark
Gotta post again, so inspired by this thread!

Best moments:

S1: G'Kar's monologue in either Mind War or War Prayer where he tells Catherine that he is both moved and afraid that there are still mysteries in the universe.

S2: "If you go to Z'ha'dum, you will die."

S3: Londo's face reflected back from the window in The Long, Twilight Struggle.

S4: "I love you."

S5: "Understand that I can never forgive your people for what they have done...but I can forgive you."
Rancho Unicorno
118. CathyG
Such a fantastic show. I'm in the middle of a rewatch now. So good.
Alan Brown
119. AlanBrown
Again,, we want a B5 rewatch! Yeah, that's you I'm looking at!
Rancho Unicorno
120. Brian Sinclair
Woo hoo, Ryan! Thanks for giving a long deserved tribute to Babylon 5. Yes, the new Battlestar Galactica had great acting and characters, but I never cried for, or identified with a character like the ones in Babylon 5. What SF show has truly some powerful speeches or quotes like B5? B5 introduced spiritual themes I have not seen on TV. And B5 presented different perspectives and alien ethnic groups.
Rancho Unicorno
121. DimboSama
Babylon 5 started in 1994 and finished in 1998.
So yes actually, it was using series and season long story arcs years before Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which started in 1997.

That's just poor research.
Rancho Unicorno
122. Jonelllin Stonebreaker
"I was there at the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind".
There had never been a series on television before B5 comparable to the best science fiction novels , and there have been none afterwards. The production values may not be up to best of today's CGI eye candy, but in terms of the acting, the ideas, but most of all the story...
It is very definitely time for a rewatch post on Tor.
Rancho Unicorno
123. RB Lindberg
Nice article, nice to see B5 brought out and into the light again.
And a big thank you @ poster #8 for pointing out the error in the Buffy-claim of the article. B5 was indeed the first!
Rancho Unicorno
124. M. Montgomery
As a mostly lurker during the flame wars: an almost bigger problem was fans making suggestions that x happen to character y. If someone got too close to the plan, they could later accuse JMS of stealing their idea. The mod group's #1 mod rule was 'no story ideas'.
Debbie Solomon
126. dsolo
Stupid thing deleted my comment.

As a long time ST and SF fan, I was thrilled when the B5 movie came out and I watched the series from the beginning. Ironically, one of my fellow ST fans didn't like it for the very reason I loved it. She said she had to think to much to follow it.
Alice Arneson
128. Wetlandernw
dsolo - YES! That's one of the reasons I loved it so much - it was truly thought-provoking, and the humor was actually intelligent humor instead of sitcom-laughtrack stuff.

"What do I want? I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and put it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up into your lifeless eyes, and wave, like this.

Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?"
Jeffery Lay
129. JeFurry
I know this discussion thread has turned into something of a B5 love-in, but dammit, B5 deserves some love-in... it was epic, moving, and utterly unique at the time.

I hope JMS is reading this thread, because at the times when he feels low or underappreciated (and all of us do sometimes, even the most happy and stable) he can be reminded that he wrote something that nineteen years later still gets appreciation, impassioned discussion, and even tears of sadness and of joy as we remember the scenes, music, dialogue and people who really touched our hearts and minds. I also hope JMS & Tor (and perhaps others) do something special for B5's 20-year anniversary.

Finally, for the real dedicated fans among us who have some disposable income, check out, wherein you'll find all sorts of behind-the-scenes resources. It's deeply sad that some of the great actors who inspired us in this show - and in those behind-the-scenes materials - are no longer with us. But we remember them. We always will.
Tess Laird
130. thewindrose
Love B5!
"The Babylon project was our last, best hope for peace. .. It failed. .. But in the year of the Shadow war it became something greater: our last, best hope .. for victory. The year is 2260, the place: Babylon 5."

I hope this is a 'survey' to see if there is interest enough for a rewatch - there is there is!!

Rancho Unicorno
131. LUrker
Here's another vote/wish/hope for a rewatch. Loved that show. I and a friend would discuss the "discussions" on the Lurker's Guide after every episode and would gladly do it again.
Lee Whiteside
132. LeeWhiteside
Nice to see all the good comments and reminiscing following this article. Definitely time for a Babylon 5 rewatch for the 20th Anniversary.

For those of you who have read all this way in the thread, you might want to keep Memorial Day weekend open on your calendars.....
Ian Vassilaros
133. ianvass
One thing has been missing from all the love about B5. It wasn't just a great plot, great acting (mostly), or production values that still hold up in time. No, the series was *profound*. I wept the first (and second and third and so on) time I watched Comes The Inqusitor. And Confessions and Lamentations. Not because it was simply sad or jerking on heart strings, but because I could feel movement in my own heart. I was a better person for having watched those two (and many other) episodes. I strove more in my real life to be heroic, willing to make sacrifices, in the dark, alone, where no one could see me. Not for glory. A true sacrifice in the pits of my soul.

And I watched every character forced into that same spot - what did they want? Who were they? They had to answer those questions, and *so did I*, every time I watched them. I am brought to tears when I consider the impact this series had on my life, on me as a storyteller.

JMS made people better for having watched B5. This was not simply a great plot, brilliantly executed. No, there are many stories that do that. He touched on the meaning of life, showed the power of faith, without making that faith always look trite and stupid and misguided.

He showed people change, really really change. Londo's path was excruciating, but he turned into a hero. G'Kar, also. "If they can change, so can you," was the message we got. B5 wasn't just about hope against an overwhelming alien force, it was hope against our daily struggles as people.

Hope. Light. These things are powerful, and that is why B5 is amazing. That is why I come back to it over and over again, moved each time. I need these elements in my life, and the story told helps me find light and hope in the middle of my own darkness.

I know this Thank You will likely be lost in cyberspace as a comment really far down on an article that is read and forgotten in a month, but I want to express my gratitude to JMS and all the actors who made this story a reality. My life is better, *I* am better because of you. If I can succeed with my stories one tenth of how well you did, I will consider myself a success.

Thank you.
Rancho Unicorno
135. Bill A
My favorite TV series, not just SF series. I was in from the beginning and loved the fan connection JMS gave us. The best part of this was the depth of the writing - the levels of the story, the intricate subplots, and the personal stories that added value without being self-indulgent. The best written SF were the stories of culture and human impact - Asimov, Ellison, Clarke. Babylon 5 did that on TV like it had never been done and hasn't since.
Rancho Unicorno
137. emmel
20th anniversary rewatch. Nuff said.
Rancho Unicorno
138. Ardeliah
Who says no one is talking about Babylon 5 anymore? It may not be featured in a magazine like TV Guide, but I think about that show every day. I had my own little geek moment just this week that I posted about in my facebook status.

"I had a wonderfully geeky moment. My husband is on the road and texts me that there is no load today, so I respond, "No load today, Load tomorrow, there is always a load tomorrow." Paraphrasing the great Ivanova. :D He didn't get it. It is lonely sometimes being me. Good job I amuse myself."

It is the best and most well written show of all time when it comes to sci fi and JMS is a very, very talented person. The actors were incredible, the stories sucked you in and kept a tight hold on your imagination, and the characters were rich and vibrant, even when at their darkest.

It's 'breakthroughs' were not so much with technology like Star Trek was, but with ideas, thoughts and moments of reflection on how your life could be lived rather than what gadget you needed to live.

It is one show that I hope never gets 'rebooted' in the way so many of my favorites have in recent years, that manage to mangle the original feel and make them less than they were. I still crave fresh material from them, but would rather read it and let my imagination put the faces in, than see new actors take over roles that are theirs from now until my world dies.
Rancho Unicorno
139. Enlightenment
1) I love B5, but B5 sure the heck didn't create Fan Boys or Spoilers!

2) You forgot the Star Trek nerds, which was around a lot longer!

3) You forgot to discuss Star Trek : Deep Space 9, which came out 1 month before B5, and also had long story arcs.

4) You forgot that SciFi fandom was very alive and well before the internet, like numerous BBSs and Compuserve and other online sites.
Rancho Unicorno
140. iamseb
I do so love B5. From the moment the pilot aired I was hooked, and spent far too much time active on RASTB5 and the Lurker's Guide. A more dedicated fandom you will not find.

I learned an awful lot about storytelling from JMS over that 5 year arc. There are moments from B5 that still give me chills just remembering them.

Who are you?
What do you want?
Why are you here?

Where... are you going?
Michael Johnston
141. JohnstonMR
I'd love to see a rewatch thread. Hell, I'd love to write one; maybe I'll do that at my blog.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I sat my niece, then 21, down, put "Midnight on the Firing Line" in the DVD player, and pushed play. We then watched two to four episodes every night until we reached "Sleeping in Light." She was amazed that she'd never seen the show (her parents are of the anti-B5 faction of ST fans) and it's now one of her favorites as well.

We Babylonians are often ignored, but we've been carrying the torch for B5 for a long time. My daughter is only six, but when she's old enough, I'll be sitting her down to watch, too.
Rancho Unicorno
142. Zocalo
A profound show.

Never think you are too old for this. Never think it is too old for you. The older I get, the more I realise how important it was.
Rancho Unicorno
143. Jonathan McDowell
Best show ever. Have been watching Dr Who since 1963, and still a big fan of that, but B5 ... better than anything before or since. With all its flaws.. (sorry, I'm in the camp that can't stand O'Hare's acting in the show) those flaws are eclipsed by the stunning moments, many mentioned above.

And by Zathras. Indeed, nobody listen to poor Zathras...
Alice Arneson
144. Wetlandernw
@141 - A rewatch blog here on would be awesome!

Nobody listen to poor Zathras.

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