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Rewind: Babylon 5

Over the Christmas break, I picked up season 2 of Babylon 5 on DVD. Back in the mid- to late-1990s, this was one of my favorite TV shows. I opted for B5 over Star Trek: Deep Space 9. The persistent evolving storyline kept pulling me back, season after season, especially once the presidential assassination conspiracy and Shadow War were added to the mix.

I’ve watched the first several episodes of the season this week. It’s the first time I’ve watched in at least four or five years. As I do so, I can’t help but think of shows that have come since – Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape among them. What I’m finding, no matter how much I enjoyed B5 back in its original run, is that it simply doesn’t hold up very well over time.

The computer-designed visuals, such a leap forward when B5 first came out, look amateurish today. Some episodes are slower paced and “talkier” than we see nowadays, with little in the way of creative editing or visual storytelling.

Dated visuals aside, the show gets hindered by well-intentioned B-plots (like the doctor putting the command staff on diets) when it could be doing more with the insidious Shadows, the Narn vs. Centauri, and the assassination. As a fan, I know those threads get plenty of play as the season goes on and that these “deeper breath” episodes are meant for exploring character relationship dynamics.

But after all my exposure to more recent shows with better budgets and more ambitious visual storytelling, I think my patience for B5‘s sometimes plodding pace is greatly diminished. I want to get on with the adventure!

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