Thursday, January 22, 2015

Third Age Thursday 12

"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night."   - Jeffrey Sinclair

Third Age Thursday is back, baby! 

And it's good to be back - the holidays demanded some time and attention and an unpleasant health issue had be be addressed, so a break was indicated. But now the New Year has been rung in, the decorations have been packed away, and a map for moving forward has been crafted, so let's get to it!

As regular readers know, Third Age Thursday is a weekly posting on this blog written to support the writing of Dreams Given Form, which will be far more than just an episode guide. This book will examine not just the five seasons of Babylon 5, but the auxiliary shows such as Crusade, the canonical novels and comics, and so on. No one has ever attempted to gather all the material concerning the complex universe created by JMS for Babylon 5 in a single printed work and our goal is to create a companion guide that will be useful to the die-hard fan who has seen every episode multiple times as well as the new fan who is just getting into the show ahead of the rumored big-screen movie which is scheduled to being production in 2016

Recently, I finished my critical rewatch of much-maligned Season 1. Yes, that's right - even among dedicated fans (and I think I'm one of them), Season 1 isn't a fave. I have to tell you, though, I have a much, MUCH deeper appreciation for it this time around. Like many fans, I really like Bruce Boxleitner's Captain John Sheridan, who takes over command of the station in Season 2 from Michael O'Hare's Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. Watching this time, however, I think Sinclair gets a bum rap. His style is different from Sheridan's - it's much more methodical and deliberate, which has some advantages in the first days of running a station that is, after all, far more of a diplomatic posting than a military one. I'm into the rewatch of Season 2 now and I still like Sheridan's more wide-open, cowboy take on things, and I'm convinced it makes for really good TV, but yeah - I like Sinclair, too. Gotta love a combat fighter pilot who was taught by Jesuits. That'll give you some depth and perspective!

I've heard people claim proudly that they just skipped Season 1 and dove straight into Season 2. I don't get that, although people are, of course, free to watch as they wish. But Babylon 5 is an intricate show full of transitions, shifting alliances, and character transformations and bounding over Season 1 means you miss so much of where these magnificently-complex characters begin and what prompts the shifts. Skipping the first season means you miss (among many other things):

  • Londo and G'Kar's hands around the other's throat (for the first time)
  • Londo's melancholy speech about "tight shoes"
  • The first mention of unrest of Mars and the threat of groups like the Home Guard
  • G'Kar's first references to G'Quan & his role in the Narn faith
  • Ivanova's exasperated explanation about the B5 "mantra"
  • The first appearance of Bester
  • The first appearance of Mr. Morden and his "associates"
  • The first appearance of Zathras
And so much of what happens in Season 1 will come back - sharply and in highly unexpected ways - much, much later. Rewatching Season 1, I was once again just impressed as all get-out by the vision JMS showed in crafting this universe. Honestly, there's great stuff in Season 1 - don't believe me? Check out this scene from the Season 1 episode "Babylon Squared." It might not make much sense in Season 1, but - boy howdy! - it's a very good scene to keep in mind as things unfold.



Ben Sherman said...

My first time reading your blog, and loving it, thanks. I totally concur, it would be absurd to skip season 1. JMS planted so many seeds, and it is part of the joy of watching the whole story arc to see those seeds grow. You named some great must-see moments. I would also include just about every scene with Kosh, but most especially, "And so it begins. You have forgotten something."

Dale Guffey said...

You're totally right about Kosh! My bullet point list was getting rather long, so I left Kosh out - give the new viewers something to be shocked by!

Ben Sherman said...

Indeed, many astounding events in store for them. What a show. I've been re-reading some classic science fiction books recently and discovering some books that must have been influential on JMS, especially Dune and Canticle For Leibowitz. His writing is up there with the best of them.