TV Series: Babylon 5

September 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Long before the remake of Battlestar Galactica was enjoying wide appeal for being a drama first and science-fiction show second, Babylon 5 (beginning in 1993) managed a similar accomplishment, as well as the ongoing narrative threads now expected in mature television. Essentially the story of a space station that acts as a United Nations of sorts, it manages to make statements about war, prejudice, corruption, religion and addiction.

The special-effects are good, though somewhat dated as they’re all early CGI, and the acting ranges from outstanding to remarkably awkward. But the real star here is the writing. Creator J. Michael Straczynski has a talent for giving characters quirks that make them seem very real, and a talent for dialogue:

A character about to time-travel quips “Can I bring you back anything from the future? Some bagels? Fresh milk?” Another character sighs and comments “Perhaps it was something I said,” and gets the reply, “Perhaps it is everything you say.”

There are a number of reliably good actors in the main cast, but the standout performance is from the late Andreas Katsulas as one of the alien ambassadors, G’kar. He’s in several layers of makeup, but conveys a changing and maturing character, enduring a great deal as gracefully as possible and getting some of the best speeches along the way. In fact, his character literally goes from petulant egomaniac to spiritual leader. Peter Jurasik is also worth special mention. As another alien ambassador, he’s a combination of Bela Lugosi and a peacock.  Stick with Babylon 5 through a somewhat clunky first season (and really, most shows have some establishing groundwork to do in the first season) and the rewards arrive more and more frequently.

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