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Babylon 5

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9 hours ago, Corvinus said:

 But the biggest one is that JMS and the rest of the producers essentially transposed the 90s in the mid 23rd century.

Just wait until Dr. Franklin falls in love with a pop singer whose hip new sound is suspiciously similar to '90s era slow jams. B)

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OK, it's good to know how good this show becomes later, and thanks to some vague memories of the latter seasons, I have complete faith in that.

But I guess JMS didn't really have much faith in humanity for human society to advance, like Rodenberry had.

Now for a nerd question that has been on my mind from the start: does the station have gravity because of the spin factor, or does it have a more advanced artificial gravity system, like most other SF shows do and seldom touch upon? Episode 6 shows a tram system that goes right thru the station's central axis, and people were sitting comfortably in them, so I would think there is some more advanced AG system in place.

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10 minutes ago, Corvinus said:

But I guess JMS didn't really have much faith in humanity for human society to advance, like Rodenberry had.

Roddenberry's view is beautiful but also naive and unrealistic if he cannot really show how humanity changed the way it did in Stark Trek. And he actually never does that. How did technology overcome petty human ambitions like being better than others and showing them how special you by controlling, belittling, and suppressing others? We are advanced enough already to feed the entire world but as a global society we don't. And that won't change just because we can produce more food or have robots.

JMS just depicts a realistic view of the future and the human condition in general. Technology advances but this does not have to go along with philosophical and cultural enlightenment. Later on there is an anthology episode depicting the future of humanity 100, 500, 1,000, and a million years down the line.

10 minutes ago, Corvinus said:

Now for a nerd question that has been on my mind from the start: does the station have gravity because of the spin factor, or does it have a more advanced artificial gravity system, like most other SF shows do and seldom touch upon? Episode 6 shows a tram system that goes right thru the station's central axis, and people were sitting comfortably in them, so I would think there is some more advanced AG system in place.

Babylon 5 doesn't have artificial gravity but there are civilizations which do have that kind of technology - the Vorlons, Minbari, and Centauri - and we'll see many of these ships later on.

There is supposed to be very low gravity around the tram, and there are scenes where they are trying to show this (I only recognized it because JMS talks in one of the audio commentaries about this) but this whole tram gravity situation thing is going to become an important plot point in the last episode of season 2.

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The view of humanity in B5 that JMS wrote about was necessary to the story he wanted to tell.  That doesn't imply anything about what faith he has in humanity or not.  In fact, by the time you get to the end of the series, you can argue that obviously JMS has a lot of faith in humanity.  That's how story arcs work.

Edited by SpaceChampion

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At this point I am intrigued, and trusting that it does get better, but not wholly impressed. The episodic plots are good, and so are the characters, though right now their development and participation in the story is uneven. A lot of focus on Cmd. Sinclair, which is understandable, but little or pretty much nothing on Garibaldi, some about Ivanova, and this last episode did have something about Talia. On the alien side, Londo got his due plenty, particularly in the first episode, and G'Kar in the last couple of episodes. Again, very little for Delenn, but she is supposed to be the mysterious one of the bunch.

 

There are 14 regular and recurring castmembers on the show in Season 1 (Sinclair, Garibaldi, Ivanova, Londo, Delenn, G'Kar, Vir, Lennier, Na'Toth, Dr. Franklin, Talia Winters, Kosh, n'Grath, the Ombudsman, Mr. Morden, Jack the Security Guard, a few of the Dome Techs), so it's understandable they can't quite cover everyone in the first 6 episodes. In fact, it takes them until Episode 5 to get all the regular cast on the station. All the characters do get their time in the sun, and Garibaldi is much more prominent in the second half of the season.

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My biggest gripe with the show right now is that in some aspects, the show lacks imagination, and its production is certainly under par considering its contemporary "rival" Stark Trek DS9. Right now, just thinking of DS9's first seaon, I consider it a superior show in all aspects. Granted, DS9 already had a universe it could build upon, while showcasing a universe was part of B5's season 1, no doubt.

 

DS9 had far higher production values (the DS9 pilot cost $12 million, the B5 one $3.5 million; each regular episode of DS9 cost $2.5 million in the first season, each episode of B5 cost $850,000!), so it's aged far better, but I think both shows had uneven opening seasons. I think DS9's is the best first season of Trek, easily, but B5's is probably stronger. DS9 had one outstanding classic in its first season (Duet) and the rest was watchable-to-very good. B5 had a few episodes worse than anything in DS9's first season (Infection, TKO, a couple of others) but it also has Signs and Portents, Babylon Squared and especially Chrysalis (and, if you're feeling generous, And the Sky Full of Stars as well) which are all stone-cold classics. The back half of both seasons I think are much stronger than the opening halves.

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But going back to the imagination thing. First, this does look like a lower budget show than DS9, but while I'm not bothered by the space CGI at all, and that's where I think the show's imagination is strong (the Earth starfighters, for example, are awesome), half the sets that represent the interior of the station seem to be just decrepit warehouses. That's a bit disappointing. But the biggest one is that JMS and the rest of the producers essentially transposed the 90s in the mid 23rd century. I am not talking about the plotlines, where ideologies, social and politcal issues are explored, that is understandable, every SF show does it. I'm talking about the details, the crafting of the world; space faring technology advanced, military technology, obviously, but other than that everything seems to be the same. The way people talk, their fashion, the little hobbies etc. When people make analogies, they reference only stuff from real history - did nothing else happen between the 90s and 2258 worth bringing up? That's how you build up a universe. The one eye roll moment I had was when Garibaldi was reading a newspaper at his work desk. With the WWW and the Internet commercially in use by 1994. it's too bad JMS did not have the foresight to see that reading news from a piece of flimsy paper would be a thing of the past.

 

The worldbuilding in B5 is somewhat subtle and it's also not very "up-in-your-face". There isn't tons of exposition on it. But in quite a few scenes they mention fictional history and real stuff: Vance Hendricks names several famous real scientists and a couple of fictional ones in Infection, whilst Sinclair lists Pearl Harbour as an example of a sneak attack but also the nuking of San Diego and the bombing of the first Mars Colony in Midnight on the Firing Line. I think the show does quite a good job of mixing the real past and our fictional future together.

The newspaper thing I think is part of a new desire in the Earth Alliance for tangible things; you see later on a vending computer create a copy of the paper from the latest-breaking electronic news stories on the fly. Born to the Purple mentions how real-time information can't get to B5 because the tachyon FTL channels are very expensive to use, so are reserved for military and diplomatic channels only. Everyone else has to wait for information and news to be slow-beamed to them via the jump network.

The show missed the iPad revolution, sure, but that was predicted by Star Trek's PADDs, and B5 wanted to avoid replicating that.

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But I guess JMS didn't really have much faith in humanity for human society to advance, like Rodenberry had.

JMS is actually something of an optimist, but he believes humanity's better side sometimes only comes out in the face of its darker side, whilst Roddenberry believed it was possible to kill all our demons forever, In both B5 and Sense8, JMS shows the good side of humanity but doesn't shy away from the darker either.

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Now for a nerd question that has been on my mind from the start: does the station have gravity because of the spin factor, or does it have a more advanced artificial gravity system, like most other SF shows do and seldom touch upon? Episode 6 shows a tram system that goes right thru the station's central axis, and people were sitting comfortably in them, so I would think there is some more advanced AG system in place.

The station simulates gravity through centrifugal force: the station is spinning at 60mph, generating a gravity field of about 0.9G at the floor of the Garden. The Earth Alliance and the Narn Regime do not have artificial gravitational technology, but the Minbari (you see a Minbari gravitational weapon in the pilot), Centauri and Vorlons do. The League is a mixture of some without (like the Drazi) and some with (such as the Markabs).

The Core Shuttle is close to the spin axis (but not right on it) and is classified a "low gravity area". There are danger signs telling people to hold on. You see that in greater detail in later episodes.

It's something they do fudge a bit though. C&C is quite close to the spin axis as well, but everyone walks around there as if it's still the same gravity as closer to the hull. That was for time and practical reasons.

Edited by Werthead

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I'll just say it (again). I'm a fan of season 1. I like seasons 2-4 better, but I still really like S1. I watched the series from the beginning and at first I thought it was just a Star Trek wannabe, a good Star Trek wannabe, but that was it. For most of S1 I thought that, then there was the episode "Signs and Portents" and after that "Voice in the Wilderness" and "Babylon Squared" and I realized this was entirely its own creature and extremely exciting. 

 

8 hours ago, Corvinus said:

OK, it's good to know how good this show becomes later, and thanks to some vague memories of the latter seasons, I have complete faith in that.

But I guess JMS didn't really have much faith in humanity for human society to advance, like Rodenberry had.

 

8 hours ago, Corvinus said:

But I guess JMS didn't really have much faith in humanity for human society to advance, like Rodenberry had.

 

4 hours ago, SpaceChampion said:

The view of humanity in B5 that JMS wrote about was necessary to the story he wanted to tell.  That doesn't imply anything about what faith he has in humanity or not.  In fact, by the time you get to the end of the series, you can argue that obviously JMS has a lot of faith in humanity.  That's how story arcs work.

 

Yep. The entire series is set on the cusp of a big step in human evolution. The opening narrations are quite meaningful.

Also, I think JMS was big on the idea of history repeating or at least rhyming with itself for the series.

You will get some future Earth history in a few episodes ("Deathwalker")

I'll put this in spoilers but I don't think it really spoils much, just a tiny bit of future Earth history backstory in B5 and what it mirrors, and much of it is pretty obvious:

Spoiler

A lot of WWII era analogies though the series, and when you hear about the Dilgar war and Earth's involvement, it is analogous to the U.S. and how they participated in WWII and how it defined America's standing in the world and the American peoples' mindset as we came out of it. 

However, the entire series is set on the cusp of a big step in human evolution. The opening narrations are quite meaningful.

 

17 hours ago, Corvinus said:

But the biggest one is that JMS and the rest of the producers essentially transposed the 90s in the mid 23rd century. 

My theory is that as recording history became more in depth in the 20th century, photography, audio recordings, movies, television, etc. Each decade from early to mid 20th on gets to come back in fashion more than once, like a nostalgia Ferris wheel. B5 is a port of call, a home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs...and hipsters...

The 90's: Zima, Ninja, and Jean Claude Van Damme movies. :D It was a flawed, yet good, decade. :P 

 

8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

If you double-check you will realize that they mention political developments and historical figures of the 21st and 22th centuries on occasion, just as they do mention important historical events. And not just in the field of politics but also science, medicine, and art, if I recall correctly.

Zoot Zooty! Zoot! Zoot!

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Rereading JMS's online posts from when the season was on the air is pretty astonishing. Remember that this was in 1994 when the Internet barely even existed, and there was a bit where JMS said they'd have a gay or bi character on the show (which kind of got undersold in the end), and he promptly gets attacked by the kind of invective you'd see from modern trolls and idiots (including one guy declaring that he will personally set to it that the show is attacked in "the hetero press").

Nothing changes, indeed.

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Babylon 5 was my very search on the internet, at university.  The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 being the top result, and the Usenet groups a daily visitation.  JMS named the sector of space the B5 station was in after the web domain of the Lurker's Guide, which was hyperion.com back then.  And of course the Lurkers on the station was named after the people who read Usenet by don't typically participate in the conversations.  But the guide and usenet discussion began as JMS was in pre-production, so that two-way feedback was a nice touch.  That JMS is good people.

JMS wanted an older feeling of formality in everyday speech, rationalizing that as one of the things that came back into fashion once Earth became a Great Power.

 

I'm trying to remember if the Centauri had some small fighter ships (their equivalent of the Starfuries) that didn't have gravity?  I vaguely remember a comment about how they (or whichever race that was) were taking incredible G-forces in a battle, which gave the impression that this advantage was why they became a military empire in the first place.

 

Edited by SpaceChampion

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@Werthead Why are you so bad at quoting on this website?  I mean, when you highlight the text you want to quote it pops up "Quote this" which would include the tagging info, yet you still copy and paste it in a quote box which is more work and less informative.  I rarely read a post of yours that has quotes in it because I don't want to spend the time to go back and find who wrote what.

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2 hours ago, RedEyedGhost said:

@Werthead Why are you so bad at quoting on this website?  I mean, when you highlight the text you want to quote it pops up "Quote this" which would include the tagging info, yet you still copy and paste it in a quote box which is more work and less informative.  I rarely read a post of yours that has quotes in it because I don't want to spend the time to go back and find who wrote what.

Because it doesn't work. When I try doing it like that it justifies the text to the right, then it does it again for the next quote and then again for the next, so it goes off the screen. I know it doesn't do that for everyone but it does it for me (on Windows 10, on Chrome) so it's utterly unusable. I can do it once (as here) but then it fucks up. Manually quoting is the only way to go.

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Babylon 5 was my very search on the internet, at university.  The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 being the top result, and the Usenet groups a daily visitation.  JMS named the sector of space the B5 station was in after the web domain of the Lurker's Guide, which was hyperion.com back then.  And of course the Lurkers on the station was named after the people who read Usenet by don't typically participate in the conversations.  But the guide and usenet discussion began as JMS was in pre-production, so that two-way feedback was a nice touch.  That JMS is good people.

 

It was the Earthforce destroyer Hyperion that was named for the Usenet group. The B5 sector (Euphrates) was named after the Babylonian/Iraqi river.

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I'm trying to remember if the Centauri had some small fighter ships (their equivalent of the Starfuries) that didn't have gravity?  I vaguely remember a comment about how they (or whichever race that was) were taking incredible G-forces in a battle, which gave the impression that this advantage was why they became a military empire in the first place.

 

The Centauri Sentri-class fighters could pull much tighter overall turns (a change of direction), with the computer taking over for a few seconds if the pilot blacked out, but they couldn't spin as fast as a Starfury and they were more fragile (as like the Raiders they were also meant for use in an atmosphere). They never really put them up against each other, but if the Narn Frazis could take out Sentris, the Starfuries certainly could (the Starfuries could also beat Minbari Nials, with a bit of luck).

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On 7/8/2017 at 3:15 PM, Werthead said:

Because it doesn't work. When I try doing it like that it justifies the text to the right, then it does it again for the next quote and then again for the next, so it goes off the screen. I know it doesn't do that for everyone but it does it for me (on Windows 10, on Chrome) so it's utterly unusable. I can do it once (as here) but then it fucks up. Manually quoting is the only way to go.

Weird.  I made that post on Windows 10 with Chrome, and have never had any problems with that combination here.  Have you tried another browser on here?

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7 hours ago, RedEyedGhost said:

Weird.  I made that post on Windows 10 with Chrome, and have never had any problems with that combination here.  Have you tried another browser on here?

The same thing was happening on Firefox.

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Babylon 5: Season 1, Episodes 5-6

The Parliament of Dreams, the first "really good" episode of B5, and Mind War, which is possibly the most overrated episode of the series (like, the guy playing Jason Ironheart is weak and some of the dialogue is awful), although it can also be seen as a very early blueprint for Sense8, which makes it retrospectively more interesting.

Fun fact: assassin Tu'Pari ("You will know fear, you will know pain and then you will die,") is also the Catheter Cowboy from John Oliver's recent Last Week Tonight videos.

Edited by Werthead

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On 10.7.2017 at 7:51 PM, Werthead said:

Babylon 5: Season 1, Episodes 5-6

The Parliament of Dreams, the first "really good" episode of B5, and Mind War, which is possibly the most overrated episode of the series (like, the guy playing Jason Ironheart is weak and some of the dialogue is awful), although it can also be seen as a very early blueprint for Sense8, which makes it retrospectively more interesting.

Fun fact: assassin Tu'Pari ("You will know fear, you will know pain and then you will die,") is also the Catheter Cowboy from John Oliver's recent Last Week Tonight videos.

Interesting how tastes differ. I have begun a re-watch of the show, too, and I must say that while I really enjoy the way Sinclair-Sakai relationship is supposed to work the way 'The Parliament of Dreams' is written makes it perhaps the worst example of 'show, don't tell' in the entire series. They talk about their passion for each other when the writer and director should have shown it. And you can do that without making a couple of dialogue scenes that are pretty much reminiscent of Dawson's Creek in space.

Don't take me wrong, reflection on the relationship is good but them talking about who left whom the last time as if they really did not know is more than just unintentionally funny. And this is really strange since the Londo-Adira romance works pretty well.

On the other hand, I sort of like Infection. Not all that much but I don't find it that bad.

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Babylon 5: Season 1, Episodes 7-8

The War Prayer is awful, but what stood out watching this on an actual big widescreen TV is the atrociousness of Malcolm Biggs's epic jumper. Which he tries to chat up Ivanova whilst wearing! Brave man. Weirdly, last year a UKIP councillor called Malcolm Biggs was kicked out of the organisation for being a former member of a racist political party. Life imitating art...

Also, And the Sky Full of Stars, which is still a great episode.

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16 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Don't take me wrong, reflection on the relationship is good but them talking about who left whom the last time as if they really did not know is more than just unintentionally funny. And this is really strange since the Londo-Adira romance works pretty well.

There were some relationship conversations that JMS cribbed from his own life experience, and I think that was one of them.

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15 minutes ago, SpaceChampion said:

There were some relationship conversations that JMS cribbed from his own life experience, and I think that was one of them.

Oh, I don't doubt that. And I've nothing against that kind of dialogue or this kind of on/off passionate relationship in general. I just feel that it makes little to no sense to have such dialogue introduce Catherine or the relationship itself. Show us the passion and the longing first, perhaps even give Sinclair some dream about Catherine or have her come up in a conversation with Garibaldi in an earlier, then have them meet and get into bed very quickly and passionately, and then have them reflect (in a more sober, dispassionate mood) on their actions and feelings.

But introducing both Catherine and the relationship in this way doesn't work for me, especially not during a re-watch.

Every time I re-watch this series I realize I really prefer Michael O'Hare to John Sheridan, and wonder how great and tragic things would have worked when Catherine had gone to Z'ha'dum. That would have been priceless.

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You get a sense of that in To Dream in the City of Sorrows. I think the benefit (?) of the change is that Catherine Sakai isn't zombified by the Shadows and later killed, whilst Anna Sheridan starts off that way. Doing it to Catherine, a character we actually get to know over a season or a season and a half, would have hurt more, but this way she gets a happy (ish) ending.

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