Gwnewch y pethau bychain

One down, Four to go…

Last Friday, we finished the first season of Babylon 5. While I said I wasn’t going to do Ohiesque episode-by-episode reactions, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on the full season experience:

  • The attention to detail is utterly amazing. Once you start getting sucked into the universe, you start to notice all these little touches. Background shots of newspaper headlines, bits of dialogue that seems innocuous in its original context that comes to be important several episodes later.
  • While I admit that I was very down on Sinclair in the beginning, by the end of the season he’d really grown on me.
  • So far, my favourite characters are, in no particular order, Ivanova, Garibaldi, and Londo. This is interesting, because as near as I can tel, these are the three characters who are most obviously broken.
    • Susan is utterly delightful. She has just the sort of acerbic wit and weary, i-don’t-have-time-for-this attitude that just makes fall a little bit in love with her every time she does something. (That she’s incredibly easy on the eyes does nothing to hinder this, really). We were terribly amused to find two of her signature lines (which everyone’s heard, even if they haven’t watched the show) came in first season. I admit, I found her following to the “No boom today.” line almost funnier than the line itself: “What?! Look, somebody’s got to have some damn perspective around here. Boom. Sooner or later … boom!” She seems to like saying “boom.”
    • Garibaldi very much seems like the guy who has been through the grinder and come out the other side. He has a wonderfully direct manner that suits his job well, but it’s very clear to see that he’s haunted by his past. I do find it interesting that, for all that he is in uniform, he’s never addressed by rank. He is always “Mister Garibaldi” to everyone. Is he actually still considered a part of the EarthForce military structure, or does his post as Security Chief exist outside of that?
    • Londo is an interesting dichotomy, a comic tragic figure. He’s first shown to us as a bit of a buffoon, but as we get to know him, it becomes clear that what he really is is a used-up old man, whose career is waning as swiftly as his people’s importance. Even before he starts to get involved with dark forces he doesn’t quite comprehend, he surprises you sometimes by dropping his jovial facade and giving you a glimpse at the beaten down spirit underneath. “My shoes are too tight,” he says, “but it doesn’t matter, for I have forgotten how to dance.” I’m sure this will play into his decisions with regards to what Mr. Morden is offering.
  • Morden is a fascinating character too, for all that we’ve seen him so far. What’s interesting to him is that he’s obviously a bad guy and not to be trusted. And yet, there’s really nothing about him that’s objectionable. He’s well dressed, pleasant, genial, gregarious, polite and respectful to everyone he speaks to. He’s always friendly, and he smiles. And yet, you can’t help think “I should not trust this man.” kitanzi commented that he reminded her of a used car salesman.
  • One of the interesting parts about coming into the series as late as we have is that we know some of what’s in store. Not really specifics, but enough of the overall plot arc has seeped into fannish popular culture that it would be hard to miss. This puts us in the fascinating position of recognizing something is important without really knowing why. “That’s a piece of the puzzle,” I commented at one point. “I don’t know where it fits. But I know it’s a puzzle piece.” I’m looking forward to watching the various pieces drop in.
  • The Lurkers Guide is a fabulous resource, if only for JMS’s commentary for each episode. After watching the season, I went back and read through the commentary there, since it was purposefully structured NOT to spoil you on stuff later on, I figured it was safe. I don’t think there’s ever been a project which had so much personal feedback from the creator the fan base as it was happening It kinda makes me sad now that I missed out on it when it was happening.

In the end, I’m sure you’re all wondering “So….what’d you think? Are you hooked yet?” And the answer is….oh yes, we’re in deep. While I know that my friend would have happily loaned me the subsequent seasons, getting up with her to collect them would have taken…..days. Hours, at least. So I went out on Saturday and bought Season 2. I had to visit five stores to find it. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. (Actually, at current exchange rates, its more like “In for a penny, in for 32 pounds”, but still well worth it.)

We’ve started Season 2 already, and I’ll report back when we finish it!

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26 Comments

  1. I got hooked on B5 when it was still in its first on-the-air go-round, by a former sweetie who forced me (well, nicely) to sit down and watch. I joined it midway through season 4; the first episode confused me, the second made me go “hey, look, it’s an ongoing story arc!” and the third hooked me. I subsequently started the whole thing from scratch, and have watched it three times -- once on the air, twice on home-recorded videotapes.

    Your post makes me want to buy the entire DVD collection, damn the cost, so I can introduce my current sweetie to it, episode by episode.

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. (-: Without spoilers, I can promise you that everything -- everything just gets more interesting and complex, and that there’s almost no such thing as an idle comment or meaningless plot device. I envy you the experience of seeing it for the first time.

    • Yeah, it’s been fun. I wrote earlier about my previous experiences with trying to watch B5, but I’ve known for quite some time that it’s an astounding story.

      I noticed that Amazon has the entire series for about $200 or so. Which is still terribly expensive, but is cheaper than the five sets individually, at least at current retail prices.

      We’re looking forward to the rest of the story unfolding.

  2. Garibaldi’s rank is Chief Warrant Officer. WO’s are “limited” officers who rank between the top sergeants and junior lieutenants. So “Chief” and “Mister” are both correct ways to address him.

    • That’s what I had wondered. I knew there was a Naval rank for which “Mister” was the appropirate address, but I coudln’t remember what it was.

      Thanks!

      • “Mister” is appropriate for any naval officer (warrant or not) whose rank is less than yours is. You’ll notice that the few people we see who are beneath Garibaldi in the chain of command call him “Chief.” Which is appropriate.

        (I remember “Mister Sulu” many a time from the lips of Kirk in TOS… and “Mister Data” from Picards’ in TNG.)

  3. Yay, I’m glad you’re enjoying it as much as I did at the beginning of the year. We’re both the lucky sort who loved it right from season 1- lucky, because it just keeps getting better and it’s a great viewing experience! 🙂

    I’ll look forward to your future seasonal reports.

    • It helps this time around knowing that it’s going to get better. The very first time I saw the first few episodes, I admit I didn’t much care for it, and there was no compelling reason to think it wasn’t going to stay that way.

      • Oh, yeah. It gets a LOT better. heh, heh heh, heh, heh…

        You’ve got all that ahead of you. Oh, wow.

      • Heh, and I didn’t realize at the time you sent me “Regrets” back in January that you hadn’t seen the series yourself yet :). I sing that song at every housefilk now- love it.

        Londo is my favorite character. G’Kar comes a very close second.

        And speaking of Londo and G’Kar, if you’re on episode 5 of season 2 now, you’re coming close to one of my very favorite episodes. I -think- it’s episode nine of the second season, “The Coming of Shadows”.

        • Heh, and I didn’t realize at the time you sent me “Regrets” back in January that you hadn’t seen the series yourself yet :). I sing that song at every housefilk now- love it.

          I first heard when someone shared with me a copy of Andy’s “Attic Tapes” recording, and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s an utterly kick-ass song, and honestly, it doesn’t require you to know anything that isn’t explained inside the songs on context (which is, to my mind, the mark of a great filksong — or, indeed, song period — the more i need to know outside the lyric in front of me, the less likely it is to connect.)

  4. While I admit that I was very down on Sinclair in the beginning, by the end of the season he’d really grown on me.

    Heh. Don’t get too used to him….

    Garibaldi very much seems like the guy who has been through the grinder and come out the other side.

    Remember that comment; it’s worth reviewing somewhat later.

    Londo is an interesting dichotomy, a comic tragic figure.

    And that comment, too.

    • Heh. Don’t get too used to him…

      *grin* I knew going into it that he was only there for the first season, though I believe he shows up once or twice later on? Anyway, we’re now about 5 episodes into S2 and are getting used to the new guy.

      It’ll definately be interesting to come back and see how my reactions play out over time. On the one hand, I *know* bits and pieces about what’s coming up, but not enough for any of it to be in any sort of meaninful context. That’s part of why I’m writing stuff down, so that I can revisit it later. 🙂

      • I enjoyed doing that in my LJ, too. Fascinating to see your impressions of season 1 or 2 after seeing season 5.

        • I think I skipped your B5 posts at the time because I had even then been planning on seeing it all “one of these days”. I’ll have to go back and find them once we’re done with the whole series. 🙂

      • Ohhh, yes, Sinclair does indeed show up “once or twice” later on…and in a way more important context than you can possibly imagine now. (Hee, hee!) This was, as I understand it, JMS’ revenge against the syndication suits who’d demanded he jettison the Sinclair character and get someone more exciting in the role of station commander early on, which is how Bruce Boxleitner got the job. (Up to then I’d only seen him as the naive rookie protegé to Kenny Rogers’ lead character in the “Gambler” TV-movies based on his hit song and once or twice in SCARECROW & MRS. KING with Kate “Charlie’s Angels” Jackson. Had I but known…)

        • This was, as I understand it, JMS’ revenge against the syndication suits who’d demanded he jettison the Sinclair character and get someone more exciting in the role of station commander early on, which is how Bruce Boxleitner got the job

          I’ve seen that here and there, but I’ve also seen JMS’s own post where he says:


          Sheridan, or more specifically the need for someone *like* Sheridan began to get through clearly toward the latter part of last season, as I began planning out season two’s progression, and kept looking at elements of the story and trying to find ways to get Sinclair into the heart of them. They felt contrived, for the most part; and the other characters, like Londo and G’Kar and Delenn, were *really* moving forward in a big way. The role of Sinclair was becoming primarily that of a “problem solver,” and when that happens, a sort of glass bell falls down around the character, and you can’t do much with him.

          So what the writer has to do is break that bell in one way or another; do something totally unexpected to him, and bring in someone who has a direct, personal connection with the storyline emerging in season two, so it’s not contrived or forced.

          http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/023.html

          Now, I dont’ know if that was JMS being polite in public, or if it really came from his own needs as a writer. But given the number of threads that *do* tie Sinclair into the various backstory events, I’d have been amazed if he didn’t figure into the future story somewhere, even if it was off camera.

  5. Londo is an interesting dichotomy, a comic tragic figure.

    I’d say you totally nailed that assessment.

    Susan is utterly delightful

    Aside from the accent, which is CC’s own California, she plays the Russian bit well… and CC is extremely easy on the eyes, yes.

    I’ll have more to say as you go. There are a couple of points I’m dying to make, but they’d be spoilers…

    And the Lurker’s Guide for the win, best fansite EVAR. It’s not the flashiest, but it is the most complete, centralized resource on a given genre I have ever seen. Poor Midwinter.com got so slashdotted they had to mirror it not once but twice… once overseas.

    They even gave out the commercial breakpoints ahead of time so that fans who were recording, either off the sattelite or their local broadcast feed, could narf the commercials under program control.

    Tolkein wrote the first big saga of the modern SF era. Lucas did it on the big screen. (And should’ve quit at three.) JMS did what those two august gentlemen did in their media, but he did it on the little screen, on the cheap and without a whole hell of a lot of support from other than the fans. Even Joss didn’t manage that, though what he did was damn good.

    I don’t think we’ll see the like -- a full five-year story arc of this quality -- again anytime soon. Alas.

    • And the Lurker’s Guide for the win, best fansite EVAR. It’s not the flashiest, but it is the most complete, centralized resource on a given genre I have ever seen. Poor Midwinter.com got so slashdotted they had to mirror it not once but twice… once overseas.

      Well, there’s my bias from the *earliest* days of the net — I’m not interested in how flashy (or, indeed, how Flash) a site is, I’m interested in how easily it puts interesting information in front of me. How easy is it to navigate, how easy is it to find the data I want? If you look at my own website, it’s fairly plain, but it serves its purpose, IMO, which is to put the interesting stuff in easy to find places, and then gets out of the way.

      I’m superimpressed with the Lurkers Guide website. I havent’ explored it fully, since I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers where possible, but I’ve been carefully reading along with our watching to pick up some of the notations along the way. I can definately see why this would have been the reource of choice at the time the show as on the air.

      Tolkein wrote the first big saga of the modern SF era. Lucas did it on the big screen. (And should’ve quit at three.) JMS did what those two august gentlemen did in their media, but he did it on the little screen, on the cheap and without a whole hell of a lot of support from other than the fans. Even Joss didn’t manage that, though what he did was damn good.

      I don’t think you *can* meaningfully compare Firefly to Babylon Five. B5 justly deserves every acolade that it’s been given, from all I’ve seen, but Firefly was strangled in the crib, and there’s no way to know how good it might have been if it had been given the opportunity to find its audience. (I’ll still stand by my statement that the first dozen Firefly episodes equal if not surpass the first dozen episodes of B5, but beyond that, one can only speculate at what might have been.)

      I don’t think we’ll see the like -- a full five-year story arc of this quality -- again anytime soon. Alas.

      Yeah, that’s really too damn bad. TV *ought* to be this good.

      • I think you’re right, in that if you isolate it to the first 12 of B5 S1 and put those up against Firefly’s run, out of the gate Joss did better… but JMS knew he was building something bigger, where I’m not sure Joss did…

        Both of them said a lot that is socially relevant to these times. JMS lucked up and got his story out there before the airplane hit the building. Joss tried to say it after the fact, and I have to wonder if that wasn’t part of the reason he got stomped.

        But you can’t stop the signal.

        As for TV being this good…. BBC, anyone? Dr. Who has been on for how long? Not this grand, but still, it’s decent or better quality stuff….

        When I got dot-bombed, I began noticing just how much of the TV I could stomach was *not* produced in this country. Mostly Canadian and BBC.

        Hm. Interesting. As the times get worse, the bad shows get worse, but the number of decent to better shows increases… West Wing, Law and Order, Commander in Chief, BSG, Stargate, etc.

        Sounds like people got something to say.

        • OK, I was wondering when someone was going to mention Stargate. The original, not the Atlantis spin-off. SG1 has (Had? Was it cancelled recently?) been around for years with a continuing story arc.

          Ann O.

      • Um…I think TS was actually speaking of Whedon’s entire output so far, including Buffy/Angel and not solely Firefly or Serenity. The latter two each taken alone, I agree, may not be comparable with B5, but the whole Whedon oeuvre to date is something else again.

  6. Bwahahaha. Welcome to the addiction. I look forward to future posts of your impressions of the rest.

    It tempts me to have us start watching it all over again. Except… we said we’d watch Buffy, and we’ve bogged down horribly near the start of season 4. (After Karl bought 4-7, darn it)

  7. I’m enjoying watching you experience this for the first time. You’ve nailed a number of things (she says cryptically).

    G’kar is worth paying attention to during season 2.

  8. If you’re ever interested, ask me sometime and I’ll tell you why -- and I emphasise this -- as much as I do like Babylon 5 and consider it a remarkable and historic piece of science fiction television, all things being equal I still like Deep Space Nine better. B5 is good in a lot of ways that DS9 isn’t, and DS9 scores in other departments where B5 stumbles, but in my final analysis DS9 gets the edge.

    I know that’s heresy in many people’s eyes, so I won’t go into it unless someone actually asks.

    Oh, and once you’re done with Season 2’s big character twist (and you’ll know it when you see it), you should try tracking down (or ask me) the story in the B5 comics that told of Sinclair and Garibaldi’s first meeting on Mars and how that ties in with the arc.

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