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Babylon 5: Back on the Roller Coaster

Long time readers may recall that a couple of years ago, kitanzi and had undertaken the project of watching Babylon 5 for more-or-less the first time. We were moving along at a pretty good pace, and then…we moved. And the DVDs disappeared into a pile of boxes, and didn’t turn up again for quite some time. At which point we were bogged down in other things, and….well, we just didn’t get back to it.

Recently, as we were wrapping up the current TV season, I said “We really should get back to that”, so we popped the appropriate DVD in, figured out where we’d left off, and dove back into things.

I don’t have as many fresh insights on Season 2 as I did on Season 1, because of the rather disjointed way we experienced it, but…

  • I like Sheridan. I like him a lot. And it looks like something more than a professional relationship is developing between him and Delenn, which will be interesting to keep an eye on. (I’m actually spoiled on this, but there’s a difference between “knowing where it goes” and “knowing how it got there”)
  • We get a lot more of Kosh without actually getting to know much more about him. Kosh is fascinating because he’s one of the most successful alien characters I’ve seen at being really alien. The big reveal on him at the end of the season was quite a surprise, and we’re still not entirely sure of all the ramifications. yet.
  • The Londo/G’Kar storyline is masterful. Londo becomes more tragic by the hour, and by the end even he has realised that he’s gone down a road he does not want to be on, yet cannot find his way to turn from the path. I’m wondering if Londo will be fully redeemed in the end, and what sacrifices he will have to make to achieve that.

    G’Kar has his world fall, and is left stranded, stripped of all but his honour and his desire for revenge. The scene between G’Kar and Vir in the elevator, where Vir tries to apologise was a stunning bit of acting on both actors parts.

  • “Comes the Inquisitor” may be my favourite single episode of Season 2. At the end of it, kitanzi and I both let out a breath and went “Whoa.” (I find it interesting, and someone in the comments of the Lurker’s guide also pointed it out, that in the finale, Kosh risks all his efforts to remain hidden, in order to save a single life, which echoed strongly against the themes of this episode.)
  • The whole political situation on Earth seems eerily prescient, looking back on it from 2009 and in light of the previous Administration and their attitudes towards the war effort. We never quite got so bad as to have a Night Watch, but there’s definately some resonance.
  • Really didn’t see the thing with Talia coming. That’s a whole giant can of worms, and I have a feeling that’s not the last we see of her.

We’re already nearly halfway into Season 3, because once we crested the top of the hill about episode 9 or 10 of Season 2, it’s been really hard to stop. But I’ll save my reflections on that for another time.

Some less consequential thoughts about B5 Season 1

These are really just random musings that struck me as noteworthy, but not enough to put them into the previous post.

  • The non-recurring characters on the show represent a veritable “Who’s Who of Who’s That?”. Nearly every episode, we’d lock onto the principle minor character in the action and say “That person looks familiar.”, and then, looking it up on IMDB, found out they’d appeared in dozens of TV and Film roles, always in a supporting role, and never in a big part — and more interesting, rarely in anything we’d really seen. Sure, there’s a few “big name” guest stars, like David McCallum, David Warner, and June Lockhart, to name just a few, but by and large, they were just career bit parters. I think that’s kinda neat.
  • The guy at the end of the credits has the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard. “Babylon 5 is a production of Babylonian Enterprises and is distributed by Warner Brothers.” How utterly perky. I’m glad they found someone to tone down that tagline for season 2.
  • Am I the only person who, every time Sinclair gravely intoned “The year is 2258. The name of the place is…”, finished the sentence “I Like It Like That”?

    Anyone? No?

    Oh well.

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!

Our last best hope to finally see the darn thing…

It’s been a quiet weekend, so far.

Friday, we spent the evening after work with wheezinggirl and her husband M. After meeting up at their house, we went into downtown Roswell for dinner at Sugo, a remarkably good Greek/Italian restaurant. I had the Loose Lasagna (“I prefer my lasagna to be a bit of a hussy, quite honestly.”), and kitanzi had one of the specials, a delightful halibut and scallops dish with a perfect sauce. After dinner, we retired to their house for a game of Munchkin. The final score was 10-9-8-7, won by me on a wonderfully munchkined play (Looking for trouble, played Kali, then played Typographical Error to make her level 1. There was an exchange of cards in an attempt to stop me, but I had enough cards in hand to counter them.) A good close game like that is much more fun than a blowout, so I was glad it was so close. 🙂

The rest of the weekend has been spent largely undertaking the project of finally watching Babylon 5. It may come as a shock to many folks who haven’t heard the story of my long and troubled history with this show, but I’ve not actually seen the large majority of it. That’s not to say I haven’t tried.

See, when B5 first came out, I sat down to watch it, because it was SF on television, and there wasn’t that much SF on television in those days, aside from Star Trek. Generally, anything that had a science fiction theme was going to get watched by us, regardless. And, I have to admit, I didn’t care for it. I hated it. And after four or five episodes, I stopped watching it.

Two years later, all anyone can talk about is Babylon 5! “Oh, you’re not watching it?” people would say in amazed horror. “Nah,” I said. I tried to watch it when it first came on, but I really didn’t care for it.” “But, it got better! Really!” After enough of these conversations, often with people whose taste I trusted, I agreed to give it another try. And they were right, it *had* gotten much better. The new commander was much more interesting, the characters felt much more deep and interesting, and the plot was engaging. Unfortunately, it being the middle of season 3, I had no idea what was going on.

But, I figured that sooner or later, they’d show it again, and when they did, I’d watch it and see what all the fuss was about. in 1998, TNT announced they were going start showing the series from the beginning. And I settled in to watch it. Two weeks later, my apartment building burned to the ground.

Ever since then, I always managed to miss when it would restart. filker0 tried to alert me of one rotation starting up a few years ago, but it was right at the time that my relationship with deidrecorwin was disintegrating, and it wasn’t on at a convenient time for me to see it unless I missed all the traffic on my evening commute, so I didn’t get to see more than a handful of episodes at that time.

So, recently, I have borrowed Season 1 DVD from a friend of mine, and this weekend kitanzi and I have settled into watch it, in order. We’ve gotten through the first two disk (eight episodes), and I’m pleased to say that I’m genuinely enjoying it. I still think Sinclair is made of wood, and the scenes which are supposed to be emotional often seem to ring a little false, but I know that it gets better, and honestly, I’m having much more fun enjoying the good bits than snarking at the bad bits. I do honestly think that I’ve changed a bit as a consumer since I saw these before — I’m much less picky about my entertainment, and am much more willing to overlook absurdities in order to enjoy the shows.

I don’t intend to keep an episode-by-episode reaction to the thing, because I really don’t want to put that much work into it. But I do intend to keep watching it until I’m done with it, and then I’ll finally understand all the in-jokes and the songs, and stop feeling like I’ve missed out on something exceptional that everyone else knows about but me.

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