Well, I dare say that simply watching the episodes should pretty much addict you quickly enough.
I’ve recently gotten the flu, and with so much time to spend doing nothing, the entire available series on DVD. Almost enough to make the flu worth catching!
In fact, I was just searching the board about a question I’ve formed, having been up all morning watching. I’ll save that for another thread, however.
Answering without spoilers will be difficult at best, considering the style of the storytelling. The entire series is ONE big story, and to tell part of it without telling the rest takes more skill than I believe I have. But I will try…
- Who’s Who? Everybody with a name is important; Narn #3, for example, is a bit player. G’Kar is a major character. They BOTH affect the plot, however, so pay attention! q;}
Season 1, Episode 11: Survivors, is a Garibaldi-related episode. Garibaldi is possibly the most important single character, in that he’s possibly the only character to make the entire 5-year run. In many ways he can be thought of as the protagonist of the show.
Garibaldi is the station’s security chief, sort of the detective character. He’s described as a bulldog by JMS in the commentaries, because he will lock-on to a problem and not let go until he’s solved it.
Jeff Sinclair is the station’s commander, Garibaldi’s boss. There is a lot of plot in this man as well…
Hmm, how to describe? Well, ok, a bit of question 2 needs to be answered first, so:
- What’s happened?
Earth, in the near future (2260 or so) has made it into space (obviously) and met a variety of alien races, many of whom are represented on Babylon 5, a neutral base for diplomacy.
The first race the met was the Centauri (the guys with the stupid hairdo) who, being imperialists and basically big fat jerks, claimed to ‘rule the universe’. This was quickly discovered to be a lie, of course, and they’re rather out of power these days. They’ve been at war with another race, the Narn (the lizard-looking folks with the spotty heads), which has recently reached something of a stalemate. This is one of the reasons the station (B5) exists… to facilitate relations between these races, and others.
Somewhat later, after purchasing wormhole technology from the Centauri, humans meet another race, the Minbari (the bald guys with the weird bone-ridge on their heads) and, for reasons best left unexplained here, get into a big-ass war with them.
During the Earth-Minbari war, Captain Sinclair (remember him?) does some amazing things, and is captured by the Minbari as they close in on Earth in the final stages of humanity’s defeat.
24 hours later, Sinclair is released with no memory of what happened during his capture, to learn that the Minbari have surrendered to Earth.
Keep in mind that the Minbari WERE going to win, they’re quite a bit more advanced than we are.
Ok… so… now we gotta figure out how to make peace with the Minbari, and the other races, and really become part of the galactic community… let’s build a space station in neutral territory that we can all visit and talk in. We’ll call it “Babylon” and we’ll all live there together… And so, humans and minbari and everybody builds a big-ass space station.
Which promptly blows up.
So we build another. It blows up too.
So we build ANOTHER one. Yep, guess what, THAT one blows up too. Now we’re getting rather suspicious… maybe, just maybe, someone doesn’t want us doing this?
So, of course, being humans, we convince all these alien races that this really IS a good idea, and if we can just try again, really, it will help a lot, come on…
And Babylon 4 is built.
And it DISAPPEARS into THIN AIR. Well, ok, thin space. Whatever. Blip! it’s gone.
Uhhh… ok, that was weird, we say. Hmm.
Alright, look, really this IS a good idea. We’ve got just enough support to try ONE LAST TIME… and Babylon 5 is built.
It doesn’t blow up. Yet. Heeheehee.
For some reason, the Minbari absolutely insist on putting Sinclair in charge of this one, vetoing any number of other more appropriate choices in order to get him the comission.
This is where the show really starts… four basic ‘major’ races, and a lot of others running around doing stuff on a big-ass spaceship thingy, with the humans nominally in charge.
In the first episodes, the Centauri-Narn conflict begins to escalate again, the ominous Psi-corps from Earth show up, tensions between Humans and Minbari increase, and any number of plot points are foreshadowed. Things which seem to be tiny, unimportant, throw-away lines and plot points re-appear later in the series, tying into the overall arc.
Fortunately, many of these are repeated later, and you won’t REALLY miss all that much by not seeing every single episode in order. Really. Ok, I’m lying, SEE THEM!
::;ahem::: anyway… where was I?
Ahh yes, the episodes. Survivors is a pretty good one, and the next one “By Any Means Necessary” is good as well, both providing lots of info about the characters and the universe around them which you’ll need for the NEXT episode, “Signs and Portents”, which is possibly the most important episode of this season. No I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll want to be familiar with the characters and such by then.
By this point, the overall arc will be more or less visible, but not necessarily obvious. You will see a glimpse or two, at least.
Ok, so back to question 1 for a moment… characters.
Each race has its ambassador. Each ambassador has his or her assistant. They are the main characters, of course.
For the humans, I suppose Sinclair and Garibaldi, probably, but Ivanova is mighty important as well. She’s cool. We like Ivanova.
The Minbari ambassador is Delenn, the woman with the bone on her head. Her assistant is Lenier, who I believe was the super-psychic kid in the classic Twilight Zone episode or something.
The Eastern-European sounding guy with the big stupid-looking hairstyle is Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, and he’s a very important person, almost as important as he thinks he is. His aide is called “Vir” and he’s unimportant, apparently.
The lizard-guys are Narn, a once-peaceful race who pretty much got their butts kicked by the Centauri until they became warriors, and fought back. G’kar is their ambassador, and he’s possibly the most interesting character. His assistant is the female Narn Na’Toth, and I have no idea why I find her so attractive in that makeup. q;}
Ok, I think I’m officially rambling now… And I haven’t even mentioned the Vorlons yet! Ah, that’s probably for the best, I suppose… even this is too much of a spoiler about them, isn’t it?
So a half-hearted stab at #3, and I’ll sign off.
Why is this such a great show? Because it was unique, it dared to defy traditional ideas of what a television sci-fi show must be, and became what it was meant to become. Because it told a BIG story, not only in time and space but in mind, soul, and and well everything. The second episode of season one asks the question “What IS a soul, anyway?” and leaves the answer up to the viewer. That, I think, is the way a good story should be told, and this style is maintained through the entire arc.
Because they at least attempted to respect the viewer’s intelligence. Space battles, weapons, the aliens themselves, and the characters were all as realistic as they could reasonably make them. They didn’t just slap some deely on someone’s forehead and say “They’re an alien, see?”, they tried to explain things rationally. Well, ok, they DID just slap something on people’s heads and call them aliens, mostly, but geez… look at Kosh, at least HE’s something different. And space battles do not go ‘boom’… B5 at least toned down the sound effects, if not completely eliminating them.
Even the much-maligned Fifth Season is pretty damn good, really.
Go watch it, and enjoy, but be warned…
You’ll never watch Star Trek the same way again.
Now I must leave… season 3, disk 2, is calling…