Well, if I can act as an ambassador between the non-fans and rabid fans of the show:
I just got done watching the first season with Miller, who’s one of the Doper fans. I had only seen one or two episodes previously. And while I can’t say that I’m in love with the show yet, I’m starting to see the appeal. I guess “intrigued” would be the word to describe it.
Yes, it’s strictly low-budget. It’s difficult to watch the space scenes without thinking “Amiga Video Toaster.” Ambassador Delenn has been building a Colorforms sculpture for an entire season. Every time the psi cop woman has one of her episodes, it’s straight out of an 80’s New Wave video. All the neon throughout the space station makes me wonder if the same person who designed the Babylon stations also designed Lo Pan’s lair. And it’s hard to take the mysterious representative of a conspiratorial alien seriously when he’s got such 80’s hair.
Yes, the acting ranges from wooden to stilted. Just wait until you get to the end of the season, when Captain Sinclair and his girlfriend start fighting over who’s the worse actor.
Yes, the dialogue can be rough in places. It’s not enough to get drunk on, maybe, but you can still play a mini-drinking game out of all the times someone says, “That’s on a need to know basis… and you don’t need to know!”
But where it succeeds is in continuity and consistency. By the end of the first season, I get a real feeling that there’s a larger story going on instead of a bunch of disconnected episodes. “The X-Files” implied that there was a larger story, but it just fizzled out when it was revealed that no one had thought the whole thing through. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” planned out season-long arcs (and little ideas that would carry on into the next season), but still predominantly felt as if they were making it up as they went along.
“Babylon 5” really does feel as if there’s a history there and that these are real characters, instead of just people moving things along in order to support the plot of the week. Fans of sci-fi shows always complain about the “monster of the week” episodes; “B-5” does have standalone episodes, but the emphasis is always on the overall storyline instead of the events of this particular episode. It’s not “how will the crew of the station defeat this monster?” but “how does this monster fit in with the lives of the crew of the station?”
So I’d say keep it up until the end of the first season, at least. (You can skip the episode where the super-powerful telepath comes to visit Talia Winters; his acting is just painful.) You’d be surprised at how much the story builds on itself and cross-references seemingly minor events from earlier episodes. Personally, I’m interested to see what happens from here, and not just because I think Bruce Boxleitner is dreamy.