Babylon 5 is a Science Fiction Novel made for Television. Like a book, and unlike most material created for TV, Babylon 5 was conceived in its entirety by its creator J. Michael Straczynski before the pilot episode was even filmed.
The Babylon 5 story has a definite beginning, a middle, and an ending. This predetermined ending is particularly uncommon in TV where shows try to run as long as possible. But as with literature, Babylon 5 was planned out from the very beginning.
The epic story unfolds over five years (seasons), telling of a growing conflict between two ancient races, the Shadows and the Vorlons, and the younger races who are influenced by their diametrically opposed philosophies. Among these younger races are Humans, Minbari, Centauri, Narn, and many less prominent races.
Unlike classic stories of clear-cut good and evil, the movers and the pawns are not always so easily classified. Frequently the good can act cruel and selfishly, and the bad show streaks of understanding and compassion. Unlike most of the media these days, Babylon 5 strives to ask questions about morality, not answer them in a way that suits one group or person's idea of right and wrong.
For this reason, Babylon 5 frequently challenges the viewer's prejudices, demands re-evaluation of accepted truths, and demonstrates how feeble our assumptions of the world can be when we unthinkingly make the ideas and values of others our ``own.''
J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5 is a densely packed show where hardly a moment is ever wasted. Scenes in earlier seasons that might almost seem ``filler material'' at the time they are first seen, later (perhaps several years (seasons) later!) reveal a new purpose and foreshadow things to come.
This style of writing has been referred to as ``Holographic Story Telling'': As your perspective changes (with time), so the overall story reveals new shapes out of familiar ground.
For this reason it is best to watch Babylon 5 on a regular basis. Missing an episode is like missing a chapter out of a book. The journey is worth your time!
Babylon 5 first aired in January 1993, began its 22-episode per season runs a year later, and after Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN) disolved, was picked up by TNT for 1998 for a tour-de-force re-run of the first 4 seasons, and the concurrent showing of the new 5th season, along with two full-length movies. This is going on right now (Spring 1998)!! -- You aren't missing it, are you?
How does Babylon 5 compare with Star Trek?
It doesn't! ``B5'' and ``ST'' are very different shows with very different ideas, different messages, and acted out in very different universes. To attempt a comparison is merely to limit yourself and cheat yourself out of the enjoyment that a different vision, a new perspective, can give you.
Don't limit yourself.
The Walrus Connection
J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), the creator of Babylon 5, had expressed a desire to put pictures from the series to music, specifically ``I am the Walrus,'' but then decided against it, because that would give too much away.
The first verse of ``I am the Walrus'':
I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together. See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
About German Translations
Apparently the German translations have been exceedingly bad, especially noticable in critical dialogue such as Kosh's confrontation with Morden in the 1st season episode Signs and Portends where Kosh says: ``Leave. They are not for you.''
In the German translation, Kosh says: ``Gehen Sie weg. Sie haben hier nichts verloren,'' which translates to something close to ``Go away. There is nothing for you here'' which obviously leaves out the critical ``they'' (after all: who are ``they'' that Kosh speaks of?) and eliminates the significance of the confrontation that damaged Kosh's encounter suit.
So, in the spirit of bad translations (once you lose the essence of a translation, what matter the words?) I offer the following translation: ``Schleich dich, du Wichser! Mein Schwebefahrzeug ist voller Aale.'' (Get out of here, you wanker! My hovercraft is full of eels.)
(With a bit of an apology to Monty Python.)
In truth, translations on film/video are done to make lip-movement synchronous and visually similar to the German pronunciation. This often leads to choices of words that result in less than optimal translations. In the case of Babylon 5, where so much is carried through subtlety and mystery, the result is frequently disastrous to the story-line.
Garibaldi's Eery Eyes
Here is an image I digitized with my Amiga from the 1st season episode Babylon Squared, which deals with the fate of the 4th Babylon Station. In this episode, Commander Sinclair experiences an odd ``flash'' in which his friend, Security Chief Garibaldi, is seen firing a huge plasma rifle at unknown adversaries that seem to be cutting their way through a bulkhead.
The odd thing is that the first frame of the scene shows Garibaldi with an eery flash coming from his eyes. This is captured in the image above.
Dispelling all doubts about the significance of this artifact, however, here is the official word from J.M.Straczynski himself:
rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 #87051 (2 + 416 more) (1)+-(1) From: email@example.com -(1)--(1)  Garabaldi's Eyes??! +- Date: Thu May 11 01:09:21 EDT 1995 - (sigh) Our rotoscope EFX guy was waiting for a bunch of PPG EFX to finish rendering in that battle scene, and was bored, and like many such EFX types, filled in the eyes of Garibaldi with weird stuff while waiting around. When the other scene finished rendering, he got out, believing that he had not saved that one frame. Unknowingly, he had. Nobody caught it until after broadcast. We talked. jms
They talked... <shudder>...
And just so you know...
If you don't get it, make sure you watch the 1st season episode Babylon Squared.
For further enlightenment, I suggest the following links...
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