Myriad elements and characters meet in a space station, as the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance when two ancient races representing the forces of both good and evil struggle for supremacy across star systems as conflict and destiny determine the future.
Babylon 5 is a remarkable achievement. The brainchild of writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski, it tells an epic story spanning multiple star systems. It’s a show that came out of nowhere that challenged and gave the already well established, and unofficial ruler of science fiction tv shows, the Star Trek franchise, some competition for five years. Describing it as having “always been conceived as, fundamentally, a five-year story, a novel for television,” Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 episodes and served as executive producer.
The series was also visually remarkable with memorably eye-catching unique art direction that included some of the best special effects and CGI on TV for the time along with still today are some of the best spaceship designs ever in science fiction television.
Babylon 5 is an ensemble series with an impressive cast, which is, for the most part, memorable in its portrayal of the many characters that populate this complex story. The regular cast included Michael O’Hare, as station commander Jeffrey Sinclair, Bruce Boxleitner as Captain John Sheridan who takes over as station commander after season one. It also included Claudia Christian as Susan Ivanova who later also becomes commanding officer of the station. Jerry Doyle as Michael Garibaldi, Mira Furlan as Delenn, the Minbari ambassador, Bill Mumy as Lennier, another member of the Minbari diplomatic corps and faithful friend to Delenn. Rounding out the core cast was Andreas Katsulas as the eloquent and passionate G’Kar the Narn ambassador, and Peter Jurasik as Londo Molari, the ambassador for the Centauri Empire. The list goes on but to write about this series in detail would require a book, or maybe two.
Set between the years 2257 and 2262, it depicts a future where Earth has sovereign states and a unifying Earth government. Colonies within the solar system, and beyond, make up the Earth Alliance. Contact began with other spacefaring species. It tells the story of a human-built, five-mile-long space station meant to serve as a neutral meeting place for the various species capable of space flight to meet and talk, and hopefully work out diplomatic, peaceful solutions to disagreements between them. The station resulted from the events of the human-Minbari war; a war humanity was on the verge of losing due to the technological supremacy of the Minbari until the Minbari suddenly surrendered for unknown reasons. The mystery of what happened to cause this is central to the story the series tells.
At the beginning of the series, five dominant civilizations have representatives. The dominant species are the Humans, Minbari, Narn, Centauri, and the Vorlons. “The Shadows” and their various allies are a malevolent species who appear later in the series. Several dozen less dominant species from the League of Non-Aligned Worlds arrive, including the Drazi, Brakiri, Vree, Markab, and Pak’ma’ra. The station’s first three predecessors (the original Babylon station, Babylon 2 and Babylon 3) were sabotaged or accidentally destroyed before their completion. The fourth station, Babylon 4, vanished without a trace twenty-four hours after it became fully operational.
Within this context, and providing a backdrop which also fuels the narrative to all this, is the struggle that is covertly going on between the Vorlons and the race known only as the Shadows. Two species that represent right and wrong, order and chaos and all of the things in existence we perceive as opposite, polarizing elements in our universe. Ultimately these two turn out to be two sides of the same coin, each as undesirable as the other in different ways. They decide to leave for parts unknown after wearing out their welcome.
There is a lot more left to say about this show, it offered fans a refreshing, new, and different approach to the vision of outer space adventure, that Star Trek had previously appeared to monopolize. While it does share some the same themes depicted and discussed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, (which Straczynski has more than once implied Paramount Studios “borrowed” his ideas for Babylon 5 to base the show on). The series remains a unique and valuable addition to the catalog of science fiction as portrayed on television. The show was nominated for and won various awards in multiple categories including Emmys, Hugos, and Saturns for its efforts.