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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 23 September 2018 at 4:21am | IP Logged | 1 post reply


Babylon 5 was added to Amazon Prime a few months ago and so I've been rewatching it for the first time since it aired.  It has been a very interesting experience. 

First: Amazon Prime has the TV version of the pilot, which I have since learned is not the same as the one on DVD.  (It has the original Stewart Copeland score, which is a bit jarring compared to the rest of the series).

People have been crapping on Season 1 for years, and I think my memories of it were tainted somewhat, because on my re-watch I enjoyed it immensely.  Michael O'Hare is always written about as being stiff, but he really seemed to me to be a shell shocked veteran who happened to have a Mimbari soul.  The revelation only recently that O'Hare was suffering from severe mental illness and barely made it through Season 1 has put a lot of things into perspective.  I remember back in the USENET days on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 (and later the moderated version of the group) that there were hardliners who insisted that Sinclair leaving was all part of the big plan.  JMS was evasive about it (he posted to those newsgroups, amazingly enough) and years after O'Hare passed away he finally revealed what had happened. 

So there were a couple episodes that felt like filler (TKO I'm looking at you) but it's truly amazing how tiny things set up in season one paid off in season three, and how the early character building infodumps paid off constantly until the end.

Season 3 is simple one of the most amazing achievements in the history of Television...

The inspiration for me seeking the show out and finding it on Prime was that JMS did an interview at emmytvlegends.org that had a long segment on B5 that explained almost every behind-the-scenes mystery that had nagged me in the years since it aired.  I encourage people to seek it out.

The versions on Prime are the 16x9 versions (The show was famously shot in 4:3, but with 16x9 framing for future widescreen release, but the FX were all rendered in 4:3 so they appear cropped in this version.  There is also noticeable bad framing in scenes where there are subtitles or lower thirds).

Finally, it's mind-boggling to me how Andreas Katsulas received no major acting awards for this series.  He was simply amazing. 

It's been fun watching the series again and I've been having a much better time than that I thought I would.  It's neat spotting actors who later became famous for other things.  (Bryan Cranston just showed up as a Ranger ship captain, for example).

People have a billion things to watch these days, but I've been pleased to see that B5 holds up and was still able to capture my imagination.  JMS recently tweeted about what a Blu Ray of B5 would have to entail.  Because the FX can't simply be re-rendered in 16x9 (it would be prohibitively expensive) the best possibility would be re-scanning the film elements into HD, which would mean they would be in 4:3 (aka pillar boxed) on modern TVs. 
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 23 September 2018 at 11:24am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I loved B5 back in the day, i bought the dvd`s ages ago
very cheap, i must re-watch them some time soon.
I was at the infamous Blackpool Convention at which JMS
and Claudia Christian were at loggerheads with each
other and the TV network over her contract, to give JMS
and Christian their due, you couldn`t tell the stress
and animosity involved!
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 23 September 2018 at 12:47pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

My favourite TV show. I really wish Warner’s would sort themselves out over this
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 4:48am | IP Logged | 4 post reply


Bill, JMS talks about the conflict with Claudia in that emmytvlegends.org interview. 

It's a bit depressing to think that as good as the show was, it could have been better if a handful of flukey things hadn't happened.
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 7:01am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Very true, Jozef. Thank`s for the link!
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 6:24pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

 JMS recently tweeted about what a Blu Ray of B5 would have to entail.  Because the FX can't simply be re-rendered in 16x9 (it would be prohibitively expensive) the best possibility would be re-scanning the film elements into HD, which would mean they would be in 4:3 (aka pillar boxed) on modern TVs.  

They keep dragging this old chestnut out but I think it really boils down to WB just putting up the money and getting it done.   The DVD sets have sold in fantastic numbers, far exceeding the expectations of both WB and JMS so it's not like they wouldn't recoup their investment.   They have all the original widescreen film elements, even for the scenes composited with CGI.   It would mean a complete effects re-render and composite/framing from scratch but nothing that couldn't be done today budget and time willing.   There was a reason they balanced 'elevator' episodes and effects heavy episodes in B5's heyday and those cost saving measures still apply 20 years after the fact for your remastering budgeting.

Remember, they used to say "Never gonna happen, some original film elements lost and effects would have to be redone.   Not cost effective." about TNG...

... and yes, I'll repeat this...  B5 on DVD sold phenomenally well.   Perhaps too well, because it's easier for the rights holder to crap out a poor quality product and let the money roll in than put some effort into making the show look good for decades to come.

Endgadget did a good summary of the current situation (including the recent JMS tweet in it's context):

We've been down this road before.  How often has one of your favorite shows been released on DVD or BluRay and the results were less than satisfying with poor conversions, little-to-no remastering, edited episodes or syndicated versions that are cut for time, wrong episode order, wrong framing, non-original music, and just plain sloppy presentation?   

More often than not the people in charge of restoring and releasing your favorite shows weren't even born when the series aired and have no vested stake in it, and don't know the difference between the correct and incorrect presentation (or worse, they don't care).  Even more amazing then when one of the principal players involved in a show like B5 stands up and offers to help shepherd the re-presentation of the show to a whole new audience (for free to boot!) and the rights holders aren't interested.

No wonder JMS just defers and deflects any questions or complaints about B5 to the rights holder or the streaming service!
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Thomas Woods
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 11:10pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I was watching a lot of Star Trek TNG when Babylon 5
came out. I was really struck by the difference
between a bunch of perfect people in a perfect ship,
vs less perfect people and a work in progress space
station. It was kinda like DC vs Marvel.

Michael O'Hare was awesome and his intro voice is what
got me hooked, when I heard "this is the story of the
last of the Babylon stations" it really gave me a
sense of foreboding and something big is in store. I
was really into his character and never really
adjusted to Bruce Boxleitner.

Babylon Squared is the episode that got my mind
jumping all over the place with speculation and I
couldn't wait for more.

If they ever do a remake, I hope it is just Jeffrey
Sinclair's story.

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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 11:45pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

The third season of Babylon 5 is one of my favorite seasons of any science fiction show ever. I was happy to see it added to Prime as I've been thinking about watching the show again.
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 17 October 2018 at 2:21pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply


I'm a little over halfway through Season 5 now, which honestly is a little better than I remember.

One thing that's been fun is going through the Lurker's guide to B5 along with each episode.  There are sections dealing with the questions we were asking at the time it aired (mostly on the USENET group) and speculation from the time as well.  Even more invaluable to me is the JMS speaks section, where they list the answers/statements from his USENET/GEnie posts.
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Kevin Brown
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Posted: 18 October 2018 at 8:42pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I actually just watch ed the entire run of B5, including some of the movies, about 2 months ago.  I loved this show a lot!  Though I am still unhappy in how they treated Marcus.
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 23 October 2018 at 4:48pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply


Yeah, I think somewhere JMS talks about the decision to have Marcus sacrifice himself.  I think JMS also said that Ivanova would have been Lyta's place during the Byron storyline because Byron reminded her of Marcus. 

If you haven't read any of the books, I would at least recommend the book To Dream In The City of Sorrows.  It was written by JMS' wife, with heavy input from him on the spine of the story.  It tells about all of the off-screen stuff that happens with Sinclair, the rangers, and Marcus.  JMS said it was the only one of the books up to that point that was entirely canon. 

I am also going to read the Peter David Centauri trilogy after I finish the book I'm currently reading.
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Jim Muir
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Posted: 24 October 2018 at 1:57am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Has there ever been any talk of rebooting Babylon 5?

(They reboot everything else!)
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Joseph Greathouse
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Posted: 24 October 2018 at 7:28am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Here is what JMS said about a reboot back in April...

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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 26 October 2018 at 2:42am | IP Logged | 14 post reply


I think JMS said that he retains movie rights, but WB retains TV rights, for whatever that's worth.
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Ted Downum
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Posted: 26 October 2018 at 8:58am | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Babylon 5 is an interesting case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. 

I only watched it occasionally during its original run--and of course, it's a show you can't just watch occasionally--so I didn't really learn to appreciate it until I watched it on DVD. I did that again last year, and it continues to amaze me in ways both positive and negative--mostly positive, but the negative is always there. There's so much that doesn't work: bad acting, cheap-looking production design, the early-CGI effects (which never looked all that good to me, and haven't aged well at all), and JMS's often overblown or cliche-ridden writing. But the show as a whole, the sum of the parts that don't work and the parts that do (Jurasik, Katsulas, Christian; the sheer ambition of the story; plenty of other things)--the whole show really does work. I don't think anyone could argue--love it or hate it--that B5 was far ahead of its time, if only in doing massive, slow-burn story arcs. That's routine in prestige TV today, but it sure wasn't in the mid-nineties.

Glad to see so much appreciation for the late Michael O'Hare. I much preferred him to Boxleitner, who I still find thoroughly wooden and unlikable as Sheridan. And O'Hare and Mira Furlan actually had some chemistry. Had he been able to stay on, we'd have had a much more convincing love story.

**** 

Jozef Brandt: I'm a little over halfway through Season 5 now, which honestly is a little better than I remember. 

*****

Jozef, when I revisited B5 last year, I'll admit I skipped right to the last three episodes of Season 5. I remember being badly put off by both Lochley and the whole Byron plot. But you would recommend taking another look? What are your thoughts, sir?



Edited by Ted Downum on 26 October 2018 at 8:59am
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 27 October 2018 at 2:41am | IP Logged | 16 post reply


The thing with binge watching is that it doesn't take six months to get through the Byron plotline.  Honestly, it didn't seem that bad when it lasts one or two sittings.  (Back in the day, TNT would not show new episodes for long stretches because of sports playoffs or whatever and stuff took forever). 

I got through the whole season and it didn't seem that bad.  I often did find myself thinking "I wish..." about certain things...I wish Claudia Christian hadn't bailed.  I wish they hadn't killed off Marcus...etc etc. 
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 03 November 2018 at 5:24pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

The biggest problems with B5 stem from the movies not meshing with the main show vey welll.   THIRDSPACE and RIVER OF SOULS just aren't very good.  They don't tell us anything new about the characters and they have little bearing on the main stoyline in addition to not fitting in well with the show narrative.   The only way these movies work is if certain movie scenes take place between scenes within proper episodes and that's just messy, complicated and fanwanky.

IN THE BEGINNING is the exception but it has other problems.   Anyone who starts with ITB gets spoiled, both for main story plot points and for the production values/acting/makeup/effects.   THE GATHERING and Season 1 (and some bits of 2) are real slogs after that, kind of like eating an amazing dessert followed by shoe leather that has bits of chocolate in it.   Yeah, I know there's lots of great hidden stuff in S1 and I've rewatched the series front to back multiple times but man... that pilot and first season just suck rocks.

A CALL TO ARMS is the worst of the lot but I think my view of that is coloured by it's connections to CRUSADE and how badly that show went down.   By and far the worst non-talentshow music I've ever heard on television too.

The less said about LEGEND OF THE RANGERS the better but it was nice to see Andreas in the makeup one lat time.   B5 isn't at it's best when it's trying force a backdoor pilot on you and that sentiment extends to ACTA as well.

Thankfully you can ignore the films for the most part though you still kind of need to plow through THE GATHERING.   If you can get through androgynous Delenn and her goofy Mandarin rings, an 'alien sector' that looks like a veal barn, a horrible acting performance or three, and WTF-were-they-thinking-with-Londo's-hair then you should be fine for anything Season 5 can throw at you, including the Bryon crapfest and cultist sing-a-longs. :-)


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 03 November 2018 at 5:26pm
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 12 November 2018 at 1:16am | IP Logged | 18 post reply


Yeah, I was never fond of the TV movies at all.  The pilot when I saw it in context of its actual premiere was fine.  I was really impressed with aliens who were actually *alien* and sci-fi that was semi-hard (so to speak) in that it at least tried to be somewhat plausible.  The only thing jarring about watching it when I did my grand re-watch, was that the version on Prime had the original Stewart Copeland score. 

In the Beginning is the best of the TV movies, but I never felt it was necessary. 
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