Babylon 5

J. Michael Straczynski is a writer and producer who is perhaps most famous for creating Babylon 5, a ground-breaking science-fiction TV series that ran from 1993 to 1998. The show was the story of a group of intrepid military officers and politicians in the 23rd Century trying to survive on board a rotating space station designated Babylon 5 by the Earth Alliance. As the show explains, the station is a port of call, a home away from home for diplomats, smugglers and wanderers. It is a place that is meant to be neutral territory, attempting to keep the peace ten years after a devastating war between Earth and the Minbari, a pale-skinned, mysterious and inscrutable race of mystics.

The universe that Straczynski created for his program is truly awesome, full of intergalactic conflict, intrigue and subterfuge with enough aliens, blasters and space battles to keep an uber-geek happy for years. The problem is that the show itself is not very good and has not survived the test of time. Straczynski clearly loved Babylon 5, shepherding it through five seasons of chronically low ratings while writing 92 of the 110 episodes that aired. Unfortunately, the majority of the scripts did not reflect well the huge amount of imagination that went into creating the backdrop that the show played out against. The characterization was poor, giving some excellent actors little to work with.

The show's CGI, which was used to cut down on production costs, made the program quite remarkable in the ‘90s. It was the first television program to do such a thing since most science fiction television at the time was still using models. It has to be said, however, that the CGI is now seriously dated, which only brings Babylon 5's flaws more sharply into focus, and it becomes clear that this franchise, which was so cutting edge during the decade of Nirvana and Bill Clinton, is essentially a right-wing, low-rent version of Star Trek.

There were five notable actors in B5, the most distinguished being the late, great Andreas Katsulas (1946 to 2006) who plays Ambassador G'kar. He is best known for playing Commander Tomalak in Star Trek, The Next Generation. Peter Jurasik does a great job as Ambassador Londo Mollari. His previous film credits include Sliders and M.A.S.H. Mollari's assistant is played by the talented Stephen Furst, who previously played opposite Michael Keaton, Peter Boyle and Christopher Lloyd in The Dream Team. Mira Furlan plays Delenn, the Minbari ambassador. She was a prominent actress in Croatia before travelling to the US to add dramatic weight to a show that really didn't deserve her talent. Her role gradually spiralled downward from that of a distinguished and respected politician at the start of the series into a character that became flat and undeniably boring. The final actor worthy of note is Bill Mumy, recognized for playing Will Robinson in Lost in Space, another science-fiction series in the mid to late ‘60s. He plays Delenns' ambassadorial aide Lennier.

This group of notables does well to elevate an uninspired script and plot, but unfortunately they are not well supported by the rest of the cast who are wooden and untalented.

I cannot recommend this show. If you indulge in it for nostalgia's sake, watch it on Netflix so you aren't wasting your money on something you will never look at again. For a quality space opera experience check out the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica with Edward James Olmos.