I’ve been rewatching Bablyon 5 for the first time since it showed on Channel 4 a good 15 years ago – and enjoying it immensely, for the most part.
It really is quite excellent in parts, but it’s horribly uneven and marred by some poor central performances, cliched scripts, dubious direction and bizarre narrative twists.
Famously creator J. Michael Straczynski had pretty much the whole series sketched out from scratch and had to shorten his opus when it looked like B5 was going to get canned. As a result the pacing over the series is pretty disjointed, and the diminishing returns of TV movies and spin-offs rather marred the original vision to my mind.
Among B5’s many weirdnesses are a predilection for stilted British character actors, bad fake accents, detours into fantasy episodes featuring mythical ancient characters, what’s ostensibly deliberate sabotage of pretty much any line Bruce Boxleitner is required to speak and increasingly bombastic incidental and title music.
Still, any scenes featuring the wonderful Peter Jurasik, Stephen Furst and – particularly Andreas Katsulas as Londo, Vir and G’Kar knock the socks off most genre TV of the time, and I’d include DS9, a much more polished and satisfying series, in that.
Uniquely, its possible to date every single B5 series by its titles, which vary enormously in quality. I’ve arranged them all below, in what might be a nice little trip down memory lane, or a terrible assault on the senses – depending on your point of view.
One and three are clearly the best by miles.
Babylon 5 Series 1 opening titles
Babylon 5 series 2 titles
Babylon 5 series 3 titles
Babylon 5 Series 4 opening titles
Babylon 5 Series 5 opening titles