Babylon 5

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Babylon 5
Season 4 poster
Season 4 poster
Genre
Created by J. Michael Straczynski
Starring
Composer(s)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 110 (+ 6 TV films) (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Cinematography
  • John C. Flinn III
    (102 episodes, 1994–1998)
  • Fred V. Murphy
    (8 episodes, 1995–1998)
Running time 43 minutes
Production company(s) Babylonian Productions, Inc.
Synthetic Worlds, Ltd.
(pilot)
Distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution
Release
Original network
Picture format
Audio format Dolby Surround 2.0
Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD)
Original release February 22, 1993 (1993-02-22) – November 25, 1998 (1998-11-25)
Chronology
Preceded by Babylon 5: The Gathering
Followed by Crusade (TV series)
Related shows The Legend of the Rangers
The Lost Tales
External links
Website

Babylon 5 is an American space opera television series created by writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski, under the Babylonian Productions label, in association with Straczynski's Synthetic Worlds Ltd. and Warner Bros. Domestic Television. After the successful airing of a test pilot movie on February 22, 1993, Babylon 5: The Gathering, in May 1993 Warner Bros. commissioned the series for production as part of its Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN).[1]

The first season premiered in the US on January 26, 1994, and the series ultimately ran for the intended five seasons. 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, along with Douglas Netter.[2]

The story concerns the adventures of the human military staff and alien diplomats stationed on a space station, Babylon 5, built as a center for inter-species collaboration. Major plotlines include Babylon 5's involvement in a millennia-old war between powerful, ancient alien races, and its resistance against the rise of a totalitarian government on Earth.

Setting

Babylon 5, set between the years 2257 and 2262, depicts a future where Earth has a unifying Earth government and has gained the technology for faster-than-light travel. Colonies within the solar system, and beyond, make up the Earth Alliance, and contact has been made with other spacefaring species. Ten years earlier, Earth itself was nearly defeated in a war with the intellectual Minbari, only to escape destruction when the Minbari unexpectedly surrendered at the brink of victory; since then, Earth has established peaceful relationships with them. Among the other species are the imperialist Centauri; the Narn, who only recently gained independence from the Centauri empire; and the mysterious Vorlons. Several dozen less powerful species from the League of Non-Aligned Worlds also have diplomatic contact with the major races, including the Drazi, Brakiri, Vree, Markab, and pak'ma'ra. An ancient and secretive race, the Shadows, unknown to humans but documented in many other races' religious texts, malevolently influence events to bring chaos and war among the known species.

The Babylon 5 space station is located in the Epsilon Eridani system, at the fifth Lagrangian point between the fictional planet Epsilon III and its moon.[3] The station is an O'Neill cylinder 5 miles (8.0 km) long and 0.5–1.0 mile (0.80–1.61 km) in diameter. Living areas accommodate the various alien species, providing differing atmospheres and gravities. Human visitors to the alien sectors are shown using breathing equipment and other measures to tolerate the conditions.[4] Babylon 5 is the last of the Babylon project started by Earth to form hubs for peaceful inter-species trade and diplomacy, but the original three stations were all destroyed before completion, while Babylon 4 mysteriously vanished shortly after being made operational.[5].

Cast

Regular cast

Babylon 5 featured an ensemble cast which changed over the course of the show's run:

  • Michael O'Hare as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair (season 1; guest seasons 2-3): The first commander of Babylon 5, and later assigned to be Earth's ambassador to Minbar.
  • Bruce Boxleitner as Captain John Sheridan (seasons 2-5): Sinclair's replacement on Babylon 5 after his reassignment, and a central figure of several prophecies within the Shadow war.
  • Claudia Christian as Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova (seasons 1-4, guest season 5): Second in command to Babylon 5, leaving the Earth Force following the Shadow War.
  • Jerry Doyle as Michael Garibaldi (seasons 1-5): Babylon 5's Chief of Station Security.
  • Mira Furlan as Delenn (seasons 1-5): The Minbari ambassador to Babylon 5. Originally born Minbari, she uses a special artifact at the start of the 2nd season to become a Minbari-human hybrid as to play out her role in Minbar's prophecies.
  • Richard Biggs as Doctor Stephen Franklin (seasons 1-5): Babylon 5's chief medical officer with a strong interest in xenobiology.
  • Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters (season 1-2): A commercial Psi-Corps telepath that works aboard the station.
  • Stephen Furst as Vir Cotto (seasons 1-5): Diplomatic aide to Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari
  • Bill Mumy as Lennier (seasons 1-5): Diplomatic aide to Minbari Ambassador Delenn
  • Tracy Scoggins as Captain Elizabeth Lochley (season 5): Babylon 5's station commander following Ivanova's departure.
  • Jason Carter as Marcus Cole (seasons 3-4): The leader of the Rangers, a group of agents gathered by Sheridan to fight against the Shadows.
  • Caitlin Brown (season 1, guest season 5) and Mary Kay Adams (season 2) as Na'Toth: Diplomatic aide to Narn Ambassador G'Kar.
  • Robert Rusler as Warren Keffer (season 2): Commander of the Zeta Wing, one of Babylon 5's small fighter fleets.
  • Jeff Conaway as Zack Allan (guest season 2, main seasons 3-5): A sergeant within the Babylon 5 security force.
  • Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander (guest seasons 2-3, main seasons 4-5): A commercial Psi-Corps telepath that takes over for Talia when she leaves the station.
  • Andreas Katsulas as G'Kar (seasons 1-5): The Narn ambassador to Babylon 5
  • Peter Jurasik as Londo Mollari (seasons 1-5): The Centauri ambassador to Babylon 5

Recurring guests

In addition, several other actors have filled more than one minor role on the series. Kim Strauss played the Drazi Ambassador in four episodes, as well as nine other characters in ten more episodes.[7] Some actors had difficulty dealing with the application of prosthetics required to play some of the alien characters. The producers therefore used the same group of people (as many as 12) in various mid-level speaking roles, taking full head and body casts from each. The group came to be unofficially known by the production as the "Babylon 5 Alien Rep Group."[8]

Synopsis

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired Network
Pilot 1 February 22, 1993 (1993-02-22) Syndicated
1 22 January 26, 1994 (1994-01-26) October 26, 1994 (1994-10-26)
2 22 November 2, 1994 (1994-11-02) November 1, 1995 (1995-11-01)
3 22 November 6, 1995 (1995-11-06) October 28, 1996 (1996-10-28)
4 22 November 4, 1996 (1996-11-04) October 27, 1997 (1997-10-27)
5 22 + 4 films January 4, 1998 (1998-01-04) January 3, 1999 (1999-01-03) TNT
Spin-off 1 January 19, 2002 (2002-01-19) Sci Fi

The five seasons of the series each correspond to one fictional sequential year in the period 2258–2262. Each season shares its name with an episode that is central to that season's plot. As the series starts, the Babylon 5 station is welcoming ambassadors from various races in the galaxy. Earth has just barely survived an accidental war with the much more powerful Minbari, who, despite their superior technology, mysteriously surrendered at the brink of the destruction of the human race during the Battle of the Line.

Season 1 – Year 2258

During 2258, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair is in charge of the station, assisted by executive officer Susan Ivanova and security chief Michael Garibaldi. Much of the story revolves around his gradual discovery that it was his capture by the Minbari at the Battle of the Line which ended the war against Earth. Upon capturing Sinclair, the Minbari came to believe that he was the reincarnation of Valen, a great Minbari leader and hero of the last Minbari-Shadow war. Inferring that others of their species had been and were continuing to be reborn as humans, and in obedience to the edict that Minbari do not kill one another lest they harm the soul, they stopped the war just as Earth's final defenses were on the verge of collapse.

Meanwhile, tensions between the Centauri Republic, an empire in decline, and the Narn Regime, a former dominion which rebelled and gained freedom from the Centauri, are increasing. Ambassador G'Kar of the Narn wishes for his people to strike back at the Centauri for what they did to his people, and Ambassador Londo Mollari of the Centauri wishes for his people to become again the great empire they once were. As part of these struggles, Mollari makes a deal with a mysterious ally, Mr. Morden, to strike back at the Narn, further heightening tensions. Further, a significant number of humans on Earth resent humanity's interactions with aliens, seeking to eliminate aliens on any Earth-owned property by any means possible, including those on Babylon 5.

It is gradually revealed that Ambassador Delenn is a member of the mysterious and powerful Grey Council, the ruling body of the Minbari. Towards the end of 2258, she begins a transformation into a Minbari/human hybrid, ostensibly to build a bridge between the humans and Minbari. The year ends with the death of Earth Alliance president Luis Santiago. The death is officially ruled an accident, but some members of the military, including the staff of Babylon 5, believe it to be an assassination.

Season 2 – Year 2259

At the beginning of 2259, Captain John Sheridan replaces Sinclair as the military governor of the station after Sinclair is reassigned as ambassador to Minbar. He and the command staff gradually learn that the assassination of President Santiago was arranged by his then–Vice President, Morgan Clark, who has now become president. Conflict develops between the Babylon 5 command staff and the Psi Corps, an increasingly autocratic organization which oversees and controls the lives of human telepaths.

The Centauri homeworld prepares for the pending death of their current emperor, whose health has been failing. To assure their ascent into power, Ambassador Mollari works with Lord Refa to assassinate any challengers to the throne, while continuing to request services of the mysteries "Shadows" through their agent Mr. Morden to instigate conflict with the Narn. When the emperor dies, Mollari and Refa place the emperor's unstable nephew on the throne, through whom they conspire to start a full-scale war with the Narn, including the use of weapons of mass destruction against the Narn homeworld to conquer it. Earth's government, prompted by the new war, becomes more totalitarian. Kosh and other Vorlons approach Sheridan and reveal themselves to be the enemies of the Shadows, and fearing that the Shadows have been behind many of these events, ask Sheridan for his help to fight them.

Season 3 – Year 2260

Earth's government continues to become more xenophobic, while on Babylon 5, Sheridan and Delenn, who have become romantically involved, create a "conspiracy of light" to try to reveal the truth behind the Shadows' influence. When the Mars colony is bombed, Earth's government declares martial law, but Sheridan refuses to go along, and declares Babylon 5's independence from Earth. When Earth forces attempt to retake the station, Minbari forces help to fight them off.

The fate of Babylon 4 is discovered when Sinclair returns to the station to request Sheridan's help: Sinclair had been destined to use time travel to take Babylon 4 back in time to the previous Minbari-Shadow war, where he is transformed into the revered Minbari leader, Valen. During this, Sheridan briefly sees a vision of the downfall of the Centauri homeworld at the hands of the Shadows, and vows to prevent this future.

Ambassador Mollari comes to realize his deal with the Shadows has become dangerous and attempts to sever ties with Mr. Morden; but this only serves to ingrain the Shadows within the Centauri homeworld further. Kosh informs Sheridan that the Shadows can be fought against with telepaths, but the Shadows later kill Kosh for revealing this information. Sheridan leads forces to attack Shadow vessels with Kosh's information. Sheridan's wife, thought dead on an archaeological dig on the planet Z'ha'dum years earlier, arrives at the station and tells Sheridan to come to Z'ha'dum. Knowing it is likely a Shadow trap, Sheridan travels there alone. Guided by Kosh's words, Sheridan flies a vessel loaded with explosives into the planet while jumping into a pit into the depths of the planet. Meanwhile, Babylon 5 is facing attack by Shadow vessels, but the Shadows abandon their assault when Sheridan bombs Z'ha'dum. Delenn senses the explosions and fears Sheridan is dead. Garibaldi, who was fighting in the battle, does not return to the station when the Shadows retreat.

Season 4 – Year 2261

Sheridan returns from Z'ha'dum with the help of a strange being known as Lorien, who has given Sheridan exactly 20 more years to live as to complete his role in the galaxy. The Vorlons join in the war against the Shadows, but the other races become concerned when they find the Vorlons willing to destroy any planet that has been even tainted by Shadow influence. Sheridan learns that the Vorlons and Shadows had been tasked by the First Ones to care for the younger races in the galaxy, but due to differences of opinion, have been at war for eons, using the younger races to serve in a proxy war. With the help of the First Ones, Sheridan convinces the Vorlons and Shadows to move on from this galaxy, allowing the younger races to find their own way.

Garibaldi returns to Babylon 5 but without any explanation for his disappearance. The station staff recognize he is not the same as before he disappeared, and has been working with Mars tycoon William Edgars for unknown reasons, including kidnapping Sheridan. Later, it is discovered that Garibaldi was brainwashed by Bester of the Psi-Corps to seek out information about Edgars and reveal it back to Bester at the right time, this being about a virus developed by Edgars to destroy telepaths. Edgars is killed, and Bester releases Garibaldi of his brainwashing.

With the Vorlons and Shadows gone, Earth's totalitarian government attempts to use the captured Sheridan to use as a propaganda tool, but Garibaldi rescues him. A brief war breaks out on Earth, culminating in President Clark's suicide and allowing Earth's government to return to a more democratic state. However, Ivanova is critically injured in the war, and decides to leave Earthforce. Alongside this, the League of Non-Aligned Worlds are reorganized into a Interstellar Alliance with Earth, Minbar, Narn, and Centauri, acting as a United Nations across the galaxy, with the Rangers as their enforcers. Sheridan is made president of the Alliance, and he and Delenn get married.

Season 5 – Year 2262 and beyond

In 2262, Earthforce Captain Elizabeth Lochley is appointed to command Babylon 5, which is now also the headquarters of the Interstellar Alliance. The station grows in its role as a sanctuary for rogue telepaths running from the Psi Corps. Sheridan and Delenn move to Minbar and raise a family, and Garibaldi also marries and settles down on Mars. G'kar becomes a religious icon for the Narn and goes on his own exploration of space.

A species known as the Drakh, who had been loyal to the Shadows, influence events on Centauri Prime to cause the rest of the Alliance to go to war against the Centauri, leaving much of the planet in ruin. Mollari is forced by the Drakh to become the Centauri Emperor, coerced by the use of a Drakh parasite called a Keeper which can read and control one's thoughts, while Vir Cotto takes over as ambassador to the Alliance. Over the next several years, Mollari is forced to endure the Drakh's control, but when they kidnap Sheridan and Delenn, Mollari attempts to intercede, calling on G'Kar to kill him as to distract his Keeper to allow Sheridan and Delenn to escape. However, the Keeper senses the attack, and forces Mollari to kill G'Kar as well, fulfilling the prophecy that Mollari has seen years prior with the two dying at each other's throats. Cotto becomes Emperor in Mollari's place, expelling the Drakh and promising to restore the Centauri relationships with the Alliance.

Twenty years after his return from Z'ha'dum, Sheridan feels his life fading. He has the Rangers contact all his old friends, who come to Minbar for a farewell party. The next day, Sheridan attempts to leave before Delenn finds out, but she stops him before he can depart. She knows he will soon die, and gives him her final goodbyes, and tells him it is a good day for a "Sunday drive". Alone, Sheridan revisits Babylon 5 which is in the process of decommissioning, as the Alliance has found better locations and routes to serve its purpose; it is demolished some time later. Sheridan continues on to the area of space where the final Vorlon/Shadow encounter took place, and on the verge of his final breaths, is met by the First Ones, who offer Sheridan to come with them and travel beyond the rim of the galaxy with them. Sheridan's ship is found adrift and empty some days later.

Production

Origin

Having worked on a number of television science fiction shows which had regularly gone over budget, creator J. Michael Straczynski concluded that a lack of long-term planning was to blame, and set about looking at ways in which a series could be done responsibly. Taking note of the lessons of mainstream television, which brought stories to a centralized location such as a hospital, police station, or law office, he decided that instead of "[going] in search of new worlds, building them anew each week", a fixed space station setting would keep costs at a reasonable level. A fan of sagas such as the Foundation series, Childhood's End, The Lord of the Rings, Dune and the Lensman series, Straczynski wondered why no one had done a television series with the same epic sweep, and concurrently with the first idea started developing the concept for a vastly ambitious epic covering massive battles and other universe-changing events. Realizing that both the fixed-locale series and the epic could be done in a single series, he began to sketch the initial outline of what would become Babylon 5.[9][10]

Once I had the locale, I began to populate it with characters, and sketch out directions that might be interesting. I dragged out my notes on religion, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, science (the ones that didn't make my head explode), and started stitching together a crazy quilt pattern that eventually formed a picture. Once I had that picture in my head, once I knew what the major theme was, the rest fell into place. All at once, I saw the full five-year story in a flash, and I frantically began scribbling down notes.

—J. Michael Straczynski, 1995[10]

Straczynski set five goals for Babylon 5.[11] He said that the show "would have to be good science fiction" as well as good television – "rarely are shows both good [science fiction] and good TV; there're [sic] generally one or the other [emphasis in original]." It would have to do for science fiction television what Hill Street Blues had done for police dramas, by taking an adult approach to the subject. It would have to be reasonably budgeted, and "it would have to look unlike anything ever seen before on TV, presenting individual stories against a much broader canvas." He further stressed that his approach was "to take [science fiction] seriously, to build characters for grown-ups, to incorporate real science but keep the characters at the center of the story."[12][13] Some of the staples of television science fiction were also out of the question (the show would have "no kids or cute robots").[14] The idea was not to present a perfect utopian future, but one with greed and homelessness; one where characters grow, develop, live, and die; one where not everything was the same at the end of the day's events. Citing Mark Twain as an influence, Straczynski said he wanted the show to be a mirror to the real world and to covertly teach.[9]

Following production on Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, Straczynski approached John Copeland and Doug Netter, who had also been involved with Captain Power and showed him the bible and pilot script for his show, and both were impressed with his ideas.[15] They were able to secure an order for the pilot from Warner Bros. who were looking at the time to get programming for a planned broadcast network.

Format

Described as a "window on the future" by series production designer John Iacovelli,[16] the story is set in the 23rd century on a large space station named "Babylon 5"—a five-mile-long, 2.5 million-ton rotating colony designed as a gathering place for the sentient species of the galaxy, in order to foster peace through diplomacy, trade, and cooperation. Instead, acting as a center of political intrigue and conflict, the station becomes the linchpin of a massive interstellar war. This is reflected in the opening monologue of each episode, which describes it as the "last, best hope for peace" in season one, then the "last, best hope for victory" in season three.

The series consists of a coherent five-year story arc taking place over five seasons of 22 episodes each. Unlike most television shows at the time, Babylon 5 was conceived as a "novel for television", with a defined beginning, middle, and end; in essence, each episode would be a single "chapter" of this "novel".[17] Many of the tie-in novels, comic books, and short stories were also developed to play a significant canonical part in the overall story.[18]

The cost of the series totalled an estimated $90 million for 110 episodes.[19]

Writing

Creator and showrunner J. Michael Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 episodes of Babylon 5, including all 44 episodes in the third and fourth seasons;[20] according to Straczynski, a feat never before accomplished in American television.[21] Other writers to have contributed scripts to the show include Peter David, Neil Gaiman, Kathryn M. Drennan, Lawrence G. DiTillio, D. C. Fontana, and David Gerrold. Harlan Ellison, a creative consultant on the show, received story credits for two episodes.[22] Each writer was informed of the overarching storyline, enabling the show to be produced consistently under-budget. The rules of production were strict; scripts were written six episodes in advance, and changes could not be made once production had started.[23]

Though conceived as a whole, it was necessary to adjust the plotline to accommodate external influences. Each of the characters in the series was written with a "trap door" into their background so that, in the event of an actor's unexpected departure from the series, the character could be written out with minimal impact on the storyline.[24] In the words of Straczynski, "As a writer, doing a long-term story, it'd be dangerous and short-sighted for me to construct the story without trap doors for every single character. ... That was one of the big risks going into a long-term storyline which I considered long in advance;..."[25] The character of Talia Winters was to have undergone a transformation into a Psi Corps secret agent, having been revealed as a "sleeper", whose true personality was buried subconsciously, and who acted as a spy, observing the events on the station and the actions of her command staff.[26] When Andrea Thompson, the actor who played Winters, left the series, this revelation was used to drop the character from the story.[citation needed]

First thing I did was to flip out the stand-alones, which traditionally have taken up the first 6 or so episodes of each season; between two years, that's 12 episodes, over half a season right there. Then you would usually get a fair number of additional stand-alones scattered across the course of the season. So figure another 3–4 per season, say 8, that's 20 out of 44. So now you're left with basically 24 episodes to fill out the main arc of the story.

—Straczynski, J. Michael, 1996[27]

Ratings for Babylon 5 continued to rise during the show's third season, but going into the fourth season, the impending demise of network PTEN left a fifth year in doubt. Unable to get word one way or the other from parent company Warner Bros., and unwilling to short-change the story and the fans, Straczynski began preparing modifications to the fourth season in order to allow for both eventualities. Straczynski identified three primary narrative threads which would require resolution: the Shadow war, Earth's slide into a dictatorship, and a series of sub-threads which branched off from those. Estimating they would still take around 27 episodes to resolve without having the season feel rushed, the solution came when the TNT network commissioned two Babylon 5 television films. Several hours of material was thus able to be moved into the films, including a three-episode arc which would deal with the background to the Earth–Minbari War, and a sub-thread which would have set up the sequel series, Crusade. Further standalone episodes and plot-threads were dropped from season four, which could be inserted into Crusade, or the fifth season, were it to be given the greenlight.[27] The intended series finale, "Sleeping in Light", was filmed during season four as a precaution against cancellation. When word came that TNT had picked up Babylon 5, this was moved to the end of season five and replaced with a newly filmed season four finale, "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars".[28]

Costume

Ann Bruice Aling was costume designer for the show, after production designer John Iacovelli suggested her for the position having previously worked with Bruice on a number of film and theatrical productions.[29]

With the variety of costumes required she compared Babylon 5 to "eclectic theatre", with fewer rules about period, line, shape and textures having to be adhered to.[30] Preferring natural materials whenever possible, such as ostrich leather in the Narn body armor, Bruice combined and layered fabrics as diverse as rayon and silk with brocades from the 1930s and '40s to give the clothing the appearance of having evolved within different cultures.[31][32]

Often we try to coordinate the sensibilities of the aliens. I try to work with Optic Nerve to ensure that the head meets the body in some sensible way. We talk about similar qualities, textures and colors and the flow of the total being. Truthfully, often the look of the prosthetic comes somewhat earlier and from that I have an understanding of what direction to go.

— Ann Bruice Aling, 1995[30]

With an interest in costume history, she initially worked closely with J. Michael Straczynski to get a sense of the historical perspective of the major alien races, "so I knew if they were a peaceful people or a warring people, cold climate etc. and then I would interpret what kind of sensibility that called for."[31] Collaborating with other departments to establish co-ordinated visual themes for each race, a broad palette of colors was developed with Iacovelli, which he referred to as "spicy brights".[16] These warm shades of grey and secondary colors, such as certain blues for the Minbari, would often be included when designing both the costumes and relevant sets. As the main characters evolved, Bruice referred back to Straczynski and producer John Copeland who she viewed as "surprisingly more accessible to me as advisors than other producers and directors", so the costumes could reflect these changes. Ambassador Londo Mollari's purple coat became dark blue and more tailored while his waistcoats became less patterned and brightly colored as Bruice felt "Londo has evolved in my mind from a buffoonish character to one who has become more serious and darker."[30]

Normally there were three changes of costume for the primary actors; one for on set, one for the stunt double and one on standby in case of "coffee spills". For human civilians, garments were generally purchased off-the-rack and altered in various ways, such as removing lapels from jackets and shirts while rearranging closures, to suggest future fashions. For some of the main female characters a more couture approach was taken, as in the suits worn by Talia Winters which Bruice described as being designed and fitted to within "an inch of their life". Costumes for the destitute residents of downbelow would be distressed through a combination of bleaching, sanding, dipping in dye baths and having stage blood added.[31]

Like many of the crew on the show, members of the costume department made onscreen cameos. During the season 4 episode "Atonement", the tailors and costume supervisor appeared as the Minbari women fitting Zack Allan for his new uniform as the recently promoted head of security. His complaints, and the subsequent stabbing of him with a needle by costume supervisor Kim Holly, was a light-hearted reference to the previous security uniforms, a design carried over from the pilot movie which were difficult to work with and wear due to the combination of leather and wool.[32]

Prosthetic makeup and animatronics

While the original pilot film featured some aliens which were puppets and animatronics, the decision was made early on in the show's production to portray most alien species as humanoid in appearance. Barring isolated appearances, fully computer-generated aliens were discounted as an idea due to the "massive rendering power"[33] required. Long-term use of puppets and animatronics was also discounted due to the technological limitations in providing convincing interaction with the human actors ("...if you want any real emotion from the character, you're going to have to have an actor inside").[33]

Visuals

In anticipation of future HDTV broadcasts and Laserdisc releases, rather than the usual 4:3 format, the series was shot in 16:9, with the image cropped to 4:3 for initial television transmissions.[34] Babylon 5 also distinguished itself at a time when models and miniature were still standard by becoming one of the first television shows to use computer technology in creating visual effects. This was achieved using Amiga-based Video Toasters at first, and later Pentium, Macs, and Alpha-based systems.[35] It also attempted to respect Newtonian physics in its effects sequences, with particular emphasis on the effects of inertia.[36]

Foundation Imaging provided the special effects for the pilot film (for which it won an Emmy) and the first three seasons of the show, led by Ron Thornton. After the show's co-executive producer (Douglas Netter) and producer (John Copeland) approached Straczynski with the idea of producing the effects in-house, Straczynski agreed to replace Foundation, for season 4 and 5, once a new team had been established by Netter Digital, and an equal level of quality was assured,[37] by using similar technology and a number of former Foundation employees.[38] The Emmy-winning alien make-up was provided by Optic Nerve Studios.[39]

Music and scoring

Sleeping in Light
B5SleepLightCover.gif
Soundtrack album by Christopher Franke
Released March 23, 1999 (1999-03-23)
Genre Classical, Electroacoustic
Length 25:01
Label Sonic Images
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[40]

Christopher Franke composed and scored the musical soundtrack for all 5 years of the show when Stewart Copeland, who worked on the original telefilm, was unable to return for the first season due to recording and touring commitments.[41] Given creative freedom by the producers, Franke also orchestrated and mixed all the music which one reviewer described as having "added another dimension of mystery, suspense, and excitement to the show, with an easily distinguishable character that separates "Babylon 5" from other sci-fi television entries of the era."[42][43]

With his recording studio in the same building as his home located in the Hollywood Hills, Franke would attend creative meetings before scoring the on average 25 minutes of music for each episode.[42] Utilising Cubase software through an electronic keyboard, or for more complex pieces a light pen and graphics tablet, he would begin by developing the melodic content round which the ambient components and transitions were added. Using playbacks with digital samples of the appropriate instruments, such as a group of violins, he would decide which tracks to produce electronically or record acoustically.[42][44]

Utilizing the "acoustic dirt produced by live instruments and the ability to play so well between two semitones" and the "frequency range, dynamics and control" provided by synthesizers, he described his approach "as experimental friendly as possible without leaving the happy marriage between the orchestral and electronic sounds".[44] While highlighting Babylon 5 was produced on a "veritable shoestring", and as such would have been unable to afford a full orchestral score every week, at least one reviewer felt that the soundtrack would have benefitted from a greater use of the Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra, which Franke established in 1991.[citation needed]

And while Franke's handling of the electronic textures is adept, I think he could have made a little better use of the German orchestra that's credited in every episode. In particularly, the driving, fanfare-like title themes would gain a lot of distinction from the kind of guts that an acoustic sound would bring to them.[45]

Scores for the acoustic tracks were emailed to his Berlin scoring stage, and would require from four musicians to the full orchestra, with a maximum of 24 present at any one time. One of three conductors would also be required for any score that involved more than 6 musicians. Franke would direct recording sessions via six fibre optic digital telephone lines to transmit and receive video, music and the SMPTE timecode. The final edit and mixing of the tracks would take place in his Los Angeles studio. Initially concerned composing for an episodic television show could become "annoying because of the repetition", Franke found the evolving characters and story of Babylon 5 afforded him the opportunity to continually "push the envelope".[42][44]

Assembling music written for the series' final episode, Sleeping in Light succinctly encapsulates just how far Franke's sensibilities evolved over the course of Babylon 5's five-year production run – the synthesizer textures and martial percussion so long a fixture of the series' musical palette are now enhanced by strings and guitars that emphasize the deeply human emotional dimensions of the interstellar drama. Indeed, for all the series' obvious emphasis on fantasy and otherworldly sounds, Franke never lost track of its earthbound soul. Epic in scope and scale, Sleeping in Light boasts a power few TV soundtracks achieve.[40]

A total of 24 episode and three television film soundtracks were released under Franke's record label, Sonic Images Records, between 1995 and 2001. These contain the musical scores in the same chronological order as they played in the corresponding episodes, or television films. Three compilation albums were also produced, containing extensively re-orchestrated and remixed musical passages taken from throughout the series to create more elaborate suites. In 2007 his soundtrack for The Lost Tales was released under the Varèse Sarabande record label.[citation needed]

Themes

Throughout its run, Babylon 5 found ways to portray themes relevant to modern and historical social issues. It marked several firsts in television science fiction, such as the exploration of the political and social landscapes of the first human colonies, their interactions with Earth, and the underlying tensions.[46] Babylon 5 was also one of the first television science fiction shows to denotatively refer to a same-sex relationship.[47][48] In the show, sexual orientation is as much of an issue as "being left-handed or right-handed".[49] Unrequited love is explored as a source of pain for the characters, though not all the relationships end unhappily.[50]

Order vs. chaos; authoritarianism vs. free will

Neither the Vorlons nor the Shadows saw themselves as conquerors or adversaries. Both believed they were doing what was right for us. And like any possessive parent, they'll keep on believing that until the kid is strong enough to stand up and say, 'No, this is what I want.'

J. Michael Straczynski, 1997[51]

The clash between order and chaos, and the people caught in between, plays an important role in Babylon 5. The conflict between two unimaginably powerful older races, the Vorlons and the Shadows, is represented as a battle between two competing ideologies, each seeking to turn the humans and the other younger races to their beliefs. The Vorlons represent an authoritarian philosophy: you will do what we tell you to, because we tell you to do it. The Vorlon question, "Who are you?" focuses on identity as a catalyst for shaping personal goals;[52][53] the intention is not to solicit a correct answer, but to "tear down the artifices we construct around ourselves until we're left facing ourselves, not our roles."[54] The Shadows represent another authoritarian philosophy cloaked in a disguise of evolution through fire (as shown in the episode in which Sheridan goes to Z'ha'dum and when he refuses to cooperate, Justin tells him: "But we do what we're told... and so will you!"), of sowing the seeds of conflict in order to engender progress.[55] The question the Shadows ask is "What do you want?" In contrast to the Vorlons, they place personal desire and ambition first, using it to shape identity,[53] encouraging conflict between groups who choose to serve their own glory or profit.[56] The representation of order and chaos was informed by the Babylonian myth that the universe was born in the conflict between both. The climax of this conflict comes with the younger races' exposing of the Vorlons' and the Shadows' "true faces"[51] and the rejection of both philosophies,[53] heralding the dawn of a new age without their interference.

The notion that the war was about "killing your parents"[51] is echoed in the portrayal of the civil war between the human colonies and Earth. Deliberately dealing in historical and political metaphor, with particular emphasis upon McCarthyism and the HUAC,[57] the Earth Alliance becomes increasingly authoritarian, eventually sliding into a dictatorship. The show examines the impositions on civil liberties under the pretext of greater defense against outside threats which aid its rise, and the self-delusion of a populace which believes its moral superiority will never allow a dictatorship to come to power, until it is too late.[58] The successful rebellion led by the Babylon 5 station results in the restoration of a democratic government, and true autonomy for Mars and the colonies.[59]

War and peace

What interests me, what I wanted to do with making this show, was in large measure to examine the issues and emotions and events that precede a war, precipitate a war, the effects of the war itself, the end of the war and the aftermath of the war. The war is hardware; the people are at the center of the story.

—J. Michael Straczynski, 1997[60]

The Babylon 5 universe deals with numerous armed conflicts which range on an interstellar scale. The story begins in the aftermath of a war which brought the human race to the brink of extinction, caused by a misunderstanding during a first contact.[61] Babylon 5 is built to foster peace through diplomacy, described as the "last, best hope for peace" in the opening credits monologue during its first three seasons. Wars between separate alien civilizations are featured. The conflict between the Narn and the Centauri is followed from its beginnings as a minor territorial dispute amplified by historical animosity, through to its end, in which weapons of mass destruction are employed to subjugate and enslave a planet. The war is an attempt to portray a more sobering kind of conflict than usually seen on science fiction television. Informed by the events of the first Gulf War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Soviet invasion of Prague, the intent was to recreate these moments when "the world held its breath" and the emotional core of the conflict was the disbelief that the situation could have occurred at all, and the desperation to find a way to bring it to an end.[62] By the start of the third season, the opening monologue had changed to say that the hope for peace had "failed" and the Babylon 5 station had become the "last, best hope for victory", indicating that while peace is a laudable accomplishment, it can also mean a capitulation to an enemy intent on committing horrendous acts and that "peace is a byproduct of victory against those who do not want peace."[63]

The Shadow War also features prominently in the show, during which an advanced alien species attempts to sow the seeds of conflict to promote technological and cultural advancement. The gradual discovery of the scheme and the rebellion against it, serve as the backdrop to the first three seasons,[64] but also as a metaphor for the war within ourselves. The concurrent limiting of civil liberties and Earth's descent into a dictatorship are "shadow wars" of their own.[65] In ending the Shadow War before the conclusion of the series, the show was able to more fully explore its aftermath, and it is this "war at home" which forms the bulk of the remaining two seasons. The struggle for independence between Mars and Earth culminates with a civil war between the human colonies (led by the Babylon 5 station) and the home planet. Choosing Mars as both the spark for the civil war, and the staging ground for its dramatic conclusion, enabled the viewer to understand the conflict more fully than had it involved an anonymous colony orbiting a distant star.[46] The conflict, and the reasons behind it, were informed by Nazism, McCarthyism and the breakup of Yugoslavia,[57] and the destruction of the state also served as partial inspiration for another civil war, which involved the alien Minbari.[66][67]

The post-war landscape has its roots in the Reconstruction. The attempt to resolve the issues of the American Civil War after the conflict had ended, and this struggle for survival in a changed world was also informed by works such as Alas, Babylon, a novel dealing with the after-effects of a nuclear war on a small American town.[68] The show expresses that the end of these wars is not an end to war itself. Events shown hundreds of years into the show's future tell of wars which will once again bring the human race to the edge of annihilation, demonstrating that mankind will not change, and the best that can be hoped for after it falls is that it climbs a little higher each time, until it can one day "take [its] place among the stars, teaching those who follow."[69]

Religion

If you look at the long history of human society, religion – whether you describe that as organized, disorganized, or the various degrees of accepted superstition – has always been present. And it will be present 200 years from now... To totally ignore that part of the human equation would be as false and wrong-headed as ignoring the fact that people get mad, or passionate, or strive for better lives.

—J. Michael Straczynski, 1993[70]

Many of Earth's contemporary religions are shown to still exist, with the main human characters often having religious convictions. Among those specifically identified are the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity (including the Jesuits), Judaism, and the fictional Foundationism (which developed after first contact with alien races).[71] Alien beliefs in the show range from the Centauri's Bacchanalian-influenced religions,[70] of which there are up to seventy different denominations,[72] to the more pantheistic as with the Narn and Minbari religions.[73] In the show's third season, a community of Cistercian monks takes up residence on the Babylon 5 station, in order to learn what other races call God,[74] and to come to a better understanding of the different religions through study at close quarters.[75]

References to both human and alien religion is often subtle and brief, but can also form the main theme of an episode.[76] The first season episode "The Parliament of Dreams" is a conventional "showcase" for religion, in which each species on the Babylon 5 station has an opportunity to demonstrate its beliefs (humanity's are presented as being numerous and varied),[70] while "Passing Through Gethsemane" focuses on a specific position of Roman Catholic beliefs,[77] as well as concepts of justice, vengeance, and biblical forgiveness.[78] Other treatments have been more contentious, such as the David Gerrold-scripted "Believers", in which alien parents would rather see their son die than undergo a life-saving operation because their religious beliefs forbid it.[70] When religion is an integral part of an episode, various characters express differing view points. Such as in "Soul Hunter", where the concept of an immortal soul is touched upon, and whether after death it is destroyed, reincarnated, or simply does not exist. The character arguing the latter, Doctor Stephen Franklin, often appears in the more spiritual storylines as his scientific rationality is used to create dramatic conflict. Undercurrents of religions such as Buddhism have been viewed by some in various episode scripts,[79] and while identifying himself as an atheist,[70] Straczynski believes that passages of dialog can take on distinct meanings to viewers of differing faiths, and that the show ultimately expresses ideas which cross religious boundaries.[80]

Addiction

Substance abuse and its impact on human personalities also plays a significant role in the Babylon 5 storyline. The station's security chief, Michael Garibaldi, is a textbook relapsing-remitting alcoholic of the binge drinking type; he practices complete abstinence from alcohol throughout most of the series (with one notable exception) until the middle of season five. He only recovers physically and socially and breaks the cycle at the end of the season. His eventual replacement as Chief of Security, Zack Allan, was given a second chance by Garibaldi after overcoming his own addiction to an unspecified drug. Dr. Stephen Franklin develops an (initially unrecognized) addiction to injectable stimulant drugs while trying to cope with the chronic stress and work overload in Medlab, and wanders off to the homeless and deprived in Brown Sector, where he suffers through a severe withdrawal syndrome. Executive Officer Susan Ivanova mentions that her father became an alcoholic after her mother had committed suicide after having been drugged by the authorities over a number of years. Captain Elizabeth Lochley tells Garibaldi that her father was an alcoholic and that she is a recovering alcoholic herself.[81]

Use of the Internet

Original Babylon 5 promo logo

The show employed Internet marketing to create a buzz among online readers far in advance of the airing of the pilot episode,[82] with Straczynski participating in online communities on USENET (in the rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated newsgroup), and the GEnie and CompuServe systems before the Web came together as it exists today. The station's location, in "grid epsilon" at coordinates of 470/18/22, was a reference to GEnie ("grid epsilon" = "GE") and the original forum's address on the system's bulletin boards (page 470, category 18, topic 22). Also during this time, Warner Bros. executive Jim Moloshok created and distributed electronic trading cards to help advertise the series.[83] In 1995, Warner Bros. started the Official Babylon 5 Website on the now defunct Pathfinder portal. In September 1995, they hired a fan to take over the site and move it to its own domain name, and to oversee the Keyword B5 area on America Online.[citation needed]

Broadcast history

The pilot film, The Gathering, premiered on February 22, 1993, and the regular series initially aired from January 26, 1994 through November 25, 1998,[84] first on the short-lived Prime Time Entertainment Network, then in first-run syndication. The fifth season aired on cable network TNT. The show aired every week in the United Kingdom on Channel 4 without a break; as a result the last four or five episodes of the early seasons were shown in the UK before the US.[85] The pilot film debuted in the United States with strong viewing figures, achieving a 9.7 in the Nielsen national syndication rankings.[86] The series proper debuted with a 6.8 rating/10 share. Figures dipped in its second week, and while it posted a solid 5.0 rating/8 share, with an increase in several major markets,[87] ratings for the first season continued to fall, to a low of 3.4 during reruns,[88] and then increasing again when new episodes were broadcast in July.[citation needed]

Ratings continued to remain low-to-middling throughout the first four seasons,[89] but Babylon 5 scored well with the demographics required to attract the leading national sponsors and saved up to $300,000 per episode by shooting off the studio lot,[86] therefore remaining profitable for the network.[90] The fifth season, shown on cable network TNT, had ratings about 1.0% lower than seasons two through four.

In the United Kingdom, Babylon 5 was one of the better-rated US television shows on Channel 4,[91] and achieved high audience Appreciation Indexes, with season 4's "Endgame" achieving the rare feat of beating the prime-time soap operas for first position.[92]

On November 25, 1998, after five seasons and 109 aired episodes, Babylon 5 successfully completed its five-year story arc when TNT aired the 110th (epilogue) episode "Sleeping in Light". That finale had been filmed at the end of Season 4 when Babylon 5 was under threat of not being picked up for its fifth season. After the fifth season was assured, a new Season 4 finale was used so that the already filmed “Sleeping in Light” could be used to cap off the final fifth season of the story arc.

Reception

Awards

Awards presented to Babylon 5 include:

Nominated Awards include:

  • Emmy Award: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series, 1995 (episode, "Acts of Sacrifice")[93]
  • Emmy Award: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series, 1995 (episode, "The Geometry of Shadows")
  • Emmy Award: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Cinematography for a Series, 1995 (episode, "The Geometry Of Shadows")
  • Emmy Award: Outstanding Cinematography for a Series, 1996
  • Emmy Award: Outstanding Makeup for a Series, 1997 (episode, "The Summoning")
  • Emmy Award: Outstanding Makeup for a Series, 1998 (television movie, In The Beginning)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Paramount plagiarism controversy

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski indicated that Paramount Television was aware of his concept as early as 1989,[98] when he attempted to sell the show to the studio, and provided them with the series bible, pilot script, artwork, lengthy character background histories, and plot synopses for 22 "or so planned episodes taken from the overall course of the planned series".[99][100]

Paramount declined to produce Babylon 5, but later announced Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was in development, two months after Warner Bros. announced its plans for Babylon 5. Unlike previous Star Trek shows, Deep Space Nine was based on a space station, and included similar themes related to alien species formerly at war coming to resolve their differences, which drew many to compare it with Babylon 5. Straczynski stated that, even though he was confident that Deep Space Nine producer/creators Rick Berman and Michael Piller had not seen this material, he suspected that Paramount executives used his bible and scripts to steer development of Deep Space Nine.[101][102][103] He and Warner did not file suit against Paramount, largely because Straczynski didn't see it as a productive option, with negative repercussions for both TV series. In 1993 he responded to a Deep Space Nine fan who saw the lack of legal action as proof that Straczynski's allegation was unfounded, "If there is any (to use your term) winking and nudging going on, it's on the level of 'Okay, YOU (Paramount) know what happened, and *I* know what happened, but let's try to be grownup about it for now,' though I must say that the shapechanging thing nearly tipped me back over the edge again. If there are no more major similarities that crop up in the next few weeks or months, with luck we can continue that way."[103]

Influence and legacy

Generally viewed as having "launched the new era of television CGI visual effects",[104] it received multiple awards during its initial run, including two consecutive Hugo Awards for best dramatic presentation,[94][95] and continues to regularly feature prominently in various polls and listings highlighting top-rated science fiction series.[105][106][107]

Initially written by Straczynski, DC began publishing Babylon 5 comics in 1994, with stories that closely tied in with events depicted in the show, with events in the comics eventually being referenced onscreen in the actual television series.[108] The franchise continued to expand into short stories, RPG's, and novels, with the Technomage trilogy of books being the last to be published in 2001, shortly after the spin-off television series, Crusade, was cancelled. Excepting movie rights, which are retained by Straczynski, all production rights for the franchise are owned by Warner Bros.[citation needed]

Babylon 5 media franchise

In November 1994, DC began publishing monthly Babylon 5 comics. A number of short stories and novels were also produced between 1995 and 2001. Additional books were published by the gaming companies Chameleon Eclectic and Mongoose Publishing, to support their desk-top strategy and role-playing games.

Three telefilms were released by Turner Network Television (TNT) in 1998, after funding a fifth season of Babylon 5, following the demise of the Prime Time Entertainment Network the previous year. In addition to In the Beginning, Thirdspace, and The River of Souls, they released a re-edited special edition of the original 1993 telefilm, The Gathering. In 1999, a fifth telefilm was also produced, A Call to Arms, which acted as a pilot movie for the spin-off series Crusade, which TNT cancelled after 13 episodes had been filmed.

Dell Publishing started publication of a series of Babylon 5 novels in 1995, which were ostensibly considered canon within the TV series' continuity, nominally supervised by creator J. Michael Straczynski, with later novels in the line being more directly based upon Straczynski's own notes and story outlines. In 1997, Del Rey obtained the publication license from Warner Bros., and proceeded to release a number of original trilogies directly scenarized by Straczynski, as well as novelizations of three of the TNT telefilms (In the Beginning, Thirdspace, and A Call to Arms). All of the Del Rey novels are considered completely canonical within the filmic Babylon 5 universe.

In 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel purchased the rights to rerun the Babylon 5 series, and premiered a new telefilm, The Legend of the Rangers in 2002, which failed to be picked up as a series. In 2007, the first in a planned anthology of straight-to-DVD short stories entitled, The Lost Tales, was released by Warner Home Video, but no others were produced, due to funding issues.[109]

At the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, Straczynski announced that a Babylon 5 film was planned to go into production in 2016. It is to be a reboot of the story, but potentially one using old cast members in different roles. Studio JMS would produce it on a budget of $80–100 million if Warner Bros. did not take up the offer.[110] At the 2016 San Diego Comic Con, Straczynski said the film has been delayed until he makes one or two more television series or films, to build up his reputation and ensure the desired $100 million plus, budget.[111]

By 2018, Straczynski stated that he believed that neither a film nor television series revival would happen while Warner Bros. retained the intellectual property for the show. He stated that he believed that Warner Bros. felt snubbed by having the show's initial run on a rival network, and would insist that all production on it must be handled within the Warner Bros. studios. While he holds the movie rights to Babylon 5, Straczynski stated it was difficult to convince another studio to work with it, as they would want both television and movie rights within the same house.[112]

Home video releases

In July 1995, Warner Home Video began distributing Babylon 5 VHS video tapes under its Beyond Vision label in the UK. Beginning with the original telefilm, The Gathering, these were PAL tapes, showing video in the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the initial television broadcasts. By the release of Season 2, tapes included closed captioning of dialogue and Dolby Surround sound. Columbia House began distributing NTSC tapes, via mail order in 1997, followed by repackaged collector's editions and three-tape boxed sets in 1999, by which time the original pilot telefilm had been replaced by the re-edited TNT special edition. Additional movie and complete season boxed-sets were also released by Warner Bros. until 2000.

Image Entertainment released Babylon 5 laserdiscs between December 1998 and September 1999. Produced on double-sided 12-inch Pioneer discs, each contained two episodes displayed in the 4:3 broadcast aspect-ratio, with Dolby Surround audio and closed captioning for the dialogue. Starting with two TNT telefilms, In the Beginning and the re-edited special edition of The Gathering, Seasons 1 and 5 were released simultaneously over a six-month period. Seasons 2 and 4 followed, but with the decision to halt production due to a drop in sales, precipitated by rumors of a pending DVD release, only the first twelve episodes of Season 2 and the first six episodes of Season 4 were ultimately released.[113]

In November 2001, Warner Home Video began distributing Babylon 5 DVDs with a two-movie set containing the re-edited TNT special edition of The Gathering and In The Beginning. The telefilms were later individually released in region 2 in April 2002, though some markets received the original version of The Gathering in identical packaging.

DVD boxed sets of the individual seasons, each containing six discs, began being released in October 2002. Each included a printed booklet containing episode summaries, with each disc containing audio options for German, French, and English, plus subtitles in a wider range of languages, including Arabic and Dutch. Video was digitally remastered from original broadcast masters and displayed in anamorphic widescreen for superior presentation with remastered and remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Disc 1 of each set contained an introduction to the season by J. Michael Straczynski, while disc 6 included featurettes containing interviews with various production staff, as well as information on the fictional universe, and a gag reel. Three episodes in each season also contained commentary from either Straczynski, members of the main cast, and/or the episode director.

Since its initial release, a number of repackaged DVD boxed sets have been produced for various regional markets. With slightly altered cover art, they included no additional content, but the discs were more securely stored in slimline cases, rather than the early "book" format, with hard plastic pages used during the original release of the first three seasons.

Mastering problems

While the series was in pre-production, studios were looking at ways for their existing shows to make the transition from the then-standard 4:3 aspect ratio to the widescreen formats that would accompany the next generation of televisions. After visiting Warner Bros., who were stretching the horizontal interval for an episode of Lois & Clark, producer John Copeland convinced them to allow Babylon 5 to be shot on Super 35mm film stock. "The idea being that we would telecine to 4:3 for the original broadcast of the series. But what it also gave us was a negative that had been shot for the new 16×9 widescreen-format televisions that we knew were on the horizon."[114]

The widescreen conversion thing was executive short sightedness at its finest!!! We offered to do ALL of Babylon 5 in widescreen mode if Warner Bros would buy us a reference monitor so we could check our output. (only $5000 at the time) Ken Parkes (the "Business affairs" guy) and Netter (penny wise, but pound foolish) said no! So we did everything so it could be CROPPED to be widescreen! Each blamed the other by the way. Doug Netter said, "Ken Parkes said no". Ken Parkes said, "Doug Netter said no". SHEESH!!! So for $75 an episode they could have had AWESOME near Hi-Def.

— Ron Thornton, 2008[115]

Though the CG scenes, and those containing live action combined with digital elements, could have been created in a suitable widescreen format, a cost-saving decision was taken to produce them in the 4:3 aspect ratio. The intention was to then crop the top and bottom of the images, and upscale the resolution for any future widescreen release or broadcast. In 2000, when the show was transferred to widescreen for airing on the Sci-Fi Channel prior to its eventual DVD release, the plan was not followed, as John Copeland recalls: "They did another video hack, and simply used a digital post production device like a DVE (Digital Video Effects) to blow the material up. They essentially stretched it approximately 1/3 to fill the larger aspect ratio."[114]

The scenes containing live action ready to be composited with matte paintings, CG animation, etc., were delivered on tape already telecined to the 4:3 aspect-ratio, and contained a high level of grain, which resulted in further image noise being present when enlarged and stretched for widescreen.[116] For the purely live-action scenes, rather than using the film negatives, "Warners had even forgotten that they had those. They used PAL versions and converted them to NTSC for the US market. They actually didn't go back and retransfer the shows."[117]

With the resulting aliasing, and the progressive scan transfer of the video to DVD, this has created a number of visual flaws throughout the widescreen release. In particular, quality has been noted to drop significantly in composite shots.[118][119]

See also

References

  1. ^ Cynthia Lieberman (May 27, 1993). "Prime Time Entertainment Network announces expansion plans and programming slate for January 1994". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  2. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (January 21, 1993). "Archived reply held on JMSNews.com". GEnie. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  3. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (October 8, 1995). "Babylon 5 Universe: The Station". Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  4. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (January 3, 1992). "There are a number of..." GEnie. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  5. ^ Ian Spelling (November 21, 1996). "`Babylon 5' Plans Explosive 4th Season". Chicago Tribune (reprinted from The New York Times). Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  6. ^ William Forward on IMDb
  7. ^ "Kim Strauss at the IMDB". Retrieved 2007-08-26.
  8. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (November 16, 1994). "JMS: Utility Actor?". Newsgrouprec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  9. ^ a b Straczynski, J. Michael (April 1992). "Babylon 5 (GEnie) posts by JMS for April, 1992". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. Steven Grimm. Archived from the original on March 13, 1994. Retrieved 2009-10-19. ...I *love* sagas, and B5 will present a chance to tell that kind of saga. ... But this is hardly revelation; the world of SF print has been doing this now ever since the Lensman books. The job now is translating that approach to television...
  10. ^ a b Straczynski, J. Michael (January 24, 1995). "Re: ATTN JMS: Why Accelerate t". The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive. orig. from AOL (Jms at B5): Synthetic Worlds. Retrieved 2009-10-20. For a long time, a lot of people told me to drop it. My agent said, 'Kiddo, you know I love the project, but I think you've got to face reality. It's not going to happen...'
  11. ^ Shankel, Jason (February 21, 2013). "The Strange, Secret Evolution of Babylon 5". io9.com. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  12. ^ Shankel, Jason (February 21, 2013). "The Strange, Secret Evolution of Babylon 5". io9. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  13. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (November 1991). "Babylon 5 (GEnie) posts by JMS for November 1991 through Jan, 1992". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. Steven Grimm. Archived from the original on March 13, 1994. Retrieved 2009-10-20. For years, at conventions, I have heard fans lament, and even sat in on panels entitled WHY CAN'T THEY GET IT RIGHT?
  14. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (December 4, 1991). "Well, lemme comment on that. One..." The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive. orig. from GEnie: Synthetic Worlds. Retrieved 2009-10-20. ...using science the way it should be used, not talking down to the audience. That desire has been noted.
  15. ^ Granshaw, Lisa (June 27, 2018). "An Oral History Of Babylon 5: The Beloved Tv Novel That Showed A Different Way To Tell Sci-fi". Syfy Wire. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  16. ^ a b Iacovelli, John (Production Designer) (August 17, 2004). Babylon 5: The Movie Collection, Disc 5 Extras: "Creating the Future" (DVD). Burbank, CA 91522: Warner Home Video. ISBN 0-7907-9132-3. UPC 085393343729. Archived from the original on 2009-12-06. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
  17. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (January 21, 1993). "You say, 'New characters and sets..." The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive. orig. from GEnie: Synthetic Worlds. Retrieved 2009-10-20. One final note: B5 has always been conceived as, fundamentally, a five year story, a novel for television, which makes it very different as well.
  18. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (April 25, 1996). "Re: ATTN: JMS Books and TV Plot". The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive. orig. from AOL (Jms at B5): Synthetic Worlds. Retrieved 2009-10-24. My theory is that *in general* the novels and comics tend to be canon, but the details may not always be, mainly because it's virtually impossible to ride herd on every single line of all this the way I do the show.
  19. ^ Merrick (July 24, 2006). "Babylon 5 Returns". Ain't It Cool News. Austin, Texas 78767-1641: Harry Knowles. Retrieved 2009-10-24. Anyway, they asked if I wanted to do a feature film but I declined mainly because I can't yet picture structuring a B5 movie as long as [Andreas Katsulas] and [Richard Biggs] insist on staying dead.
  20. ^ "Writers/Directors list (JMS entry)". Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
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External links

  • Babylon 5 official site. Archived from the original Official website on June 6, 2007.
  • Babylon 5 official site (Syfy). Archived from the original on February 8, 2002.
  • Babylon 5 on IMDb
  • Babylon 5 at TV.com
  • Babylon 5 at Curlie
  • The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5: Babylon 5 reference and episode guide
  • The Babylon 5 Scrolls: Babylon 5 production diaries hosted at Infinispace.net
  • Early Babylon 5 Designs: Information from the original 1991 promotional flyer, with different character names and Peter Ledger's artwork
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