Babylon 5 is one of the best science fiction shows ever made. It also kind of sucks, and that’s okay.
“I hope the future will be like Star Trek, but I’m afraid it’s going to be like Babylon 5.”
This is how a friend convinced me to watch Babylon 5 close to a decade ago, and it’s a statement that gets both more and less prescient by the day. Babylon 5 depicts a future rife with stratified poverty, union busting corporations, xenophobic hate crimes, colonial legacies blossoming into new conflicts, and the tide of fascism rising right in our own backyard. In J. Michael Straczynski’s imagined future, the smug neoliberal western hegemony that arose from the ashes of the Cold War really was “the end of history”, and the results are simultaneously anodyne and horrific. Psychic powers are real, but those born with them are enslaved by the state. There are ancient terrors lurking on the edges of the map—civilizations who long ago ascended but refuse to let the children of the galaxy play unattended in the sandbox. People who live on the titular station still have to pay for their freaking healthcare in the year 2258.
And, of course, let us not forget what happened to San Diego.
I enjoy B5 so much. It, like Farscape after it, was something different and interesting on TV. I don’t think the revamped Battlestar Galactica, or a lot of follow ons, would have happened without Babylon 5.
It had a huge on-line presence before most shows did. Check out the Lurker’s Guide to see. X-Files and ST:TNG were the only ones with a similar presence at the time AFAIR.
Read the article when you get a chance, even if you’re not a fan.
I hope B5 doesn’t get the reboot treatment, but I’m sure it will. There is a ton of opportunity, material, and areas for improvement on the show.
Spoiler Alert! San Diego got nuked in the show because JMS used to live there. I got mugged there once.