Why You Should Drop What You’re Doing and Watch Babylon 5
Ah, Babylon 5. It’s a show I’d heard about so often when I mentioned I was a fan of science fiction, but I never really bothered to sit down and watch it. I’m not sure if it was because it was a few decades old (not a strong argument, considering I was a huge fan of Xena, which came out around the same time) or the fact that it didn’t have a very large following (I love a good, active fandom to play in), but it just didn’t seem worth it to me. A few months ago, however, I made time because I got tired of hearing about how much I’d love it and wow, let me tell you, it was one of the best geeky decisions I’ve ever made.
REASON 1: The characters.
So let me tell you all about Delenn…
I think she’s just about on par with my love for Daenerys (A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones) and just a short jog behind Castiel (Supernatural) on my list of all time favorite characters. For those of you who know me and my love of Castiel, that is a mighty impressive spot to be in. She’s Minbari, which is an alien race that prides itself on ritual and tradition, but they can and will kick your butt in any space battle. If they hadn’t voluntarily surrendered, humans would have been decimated in a war between them many years before the show started.
Delenn is a member of the “Religious Caste,” who tend to be even more steeped in tradition than the average Minbari, but she’s also a warrior. She saved her Captain Sheridan’s ass quite a few times. In fact, one of these moments goes down near the top of my list as my favorite science fiction moment of all time. When it first happened I pumped my fist in the air and shouted “f**k yeah!” only to realize it was 3:00am and my roommates were all asleep. I’m sorry, but this scene is just too awesome not to fist pump and shout at the sky.
But enough about Delenn! What about that Sheridan? It’s very rare for me to root for a character so completely. He’s an all around good guy that you want in your corner in a crisis, but he can be downright intimidating if you end up opposite of him due to his willingness to go to the extreme to do the right thing. Is it possible to be a nice guy and a badass at the same time? If so, that’s Sheridan. Maybe that’s why the romance between him and Delenn is so fascinating to me. They are both a wonderful mix of strength and softness. They are the Charmin toilet paper of science fiction heroes.
And they are only two of a wide ensemble of characters that live and work at Babylon 5. If those types of heroes arent’ your thing, try Lando, the proud Centauri Ambassador, or Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova, the sharp witted second in comand who puts herself in the line of fire on a regular basis to protect the ship. Or maybe Kosh, the alien of few words who hides behind a giant space suit and tends to avoid most social functions. Whatever type of character you like, you’d probably it somewhere on Babylon 5.
REASON 2: Overarching plot DONE RIGHT
A fair warning to those who do choose to watch it, this show takes some time to simmer. Don’t give up during season one. The first season is setting the stage. The plot begins in season two with the introduction of the major players in the ongoing conflict. Then seasons three and four are some of the best science fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and I don’t say that lightly (I’ve watched the first part of the Battlestar Galactica finale well over 20 times, okay? So this means something). I flew through those two seasons faster than any sane person should. At one point my roommate did the math and informed me I’d spent more time watching Babylon 5 than I had at work that week. Yeah, I know that wasn’t good, but I just couldn’t stop watching. Season five is a nice little bonus, but it has a slightly different feel than the rest of the show. It’s a nice little bow on top of a fantastic and fully realized plot.
The story is so engaging I almost don’t want to go into detail for fear of spoiling you. But really, this show has been out for a couple of decades so if you want to avoid spoilers, go track down a copy and watch it quickly because the Internet is filled with spoilers. I lovingly refer to Babylon 5 as “Space UN,” since such a large portion of the show is centered around diplomacy between the many spacefaring races of the 23rd century. But that’s really just the setting for a much larger good vs evil plot that emerges on the fringes. By starting us off so slowly, the show successfully immerses you in the world that these characters inhabit. When the plot starts growing bigger than they’re prepared for, you feel their anxiety and empathize with their determination.
REASON 3: The Alien Races
I’ve already yammered on about the Minbari, but look at the rest of these fellas…
Some may call these character designs 90’s cheesiness. I call it charm.
Just look at those Centauri with those giant crests of hair and European fashion sense. I’ve never seen a concept like that in any other show before.
And look at the Vorlons in those huge suits I mean really. And what’s inside is just,well, go find the show and watch it because I’m not telling you.
REASON 4: The Opening Theme
I have season four and five on my playlist. It changes every year and the latter seasons have spoilers in the opening, but as I said previously, they are out there. This show has been out for a while. It’s catchy. It pumps you up for the show. It sets the mood. It. Is. Great.
The year: 2260. The place: Babylon 5.
Moral of the story: Stop what you are doing and go watch Babylon 5. It’s okay. It’s only 5 seasons long. We’ll be here when you get back. You won’t regret it.
Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and has essays published in Fandom Frontlines.