Science Fiction / B5
Mark's post for today at You Duped Me Lord about science fiction made me think of my favorite and sadly defunct science fiction TV series, Babylon 5. I've mentioned it before, I think, but if you've never seen it and couldn't care less, I hope you'll read on a bit, for B5 was unique in a number of ways, and you can still have the pleasure of experiencing it on DVD or tape.
One unusual thing about B5 was the quality ... the show won a number of awatds, including two Hugo awards for best dramatic presentation. Another atypical thing about the show was the technical advisor chosen ... Harlan Ellison, Nebula and Hugo award winning science fiction writer of such classics as A Boy and his Dog and "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman. The most interesting thing about B5 may be that is was written as a single story, by J. Michael Straczynski, with a five year arc from beginning to end ... as Wikipedia writes ...
The hub of the story is set in the 23rd century (2258-2262 AD) on a large space station named Babylon 5; the five mile (8 km) long, 2.5 million ton rotating colony is built to be a gathering place for fostering peace through diplomacy, trade, and cooperation. Babylon 5 is a center of political intrigue and conflict, and eventually becomes a pawn in a massive interstellar conflict from which it emerges with a victory over forces of darkness and chaos, albeit at great cost .... main characters grow, develop, live, and die. An unabashedly political show, it was always ready to deal with politics, sex, religion, and philosophy.
And something I especially appreciated ...
It was also the first sci-fi series to respect Newtonian physics in its space battle sequences, since utilised in other series such as Joss Whedon's Firefly and the Sci-Fi Channel version of Battlestar Galactica.
... for as we all know, if, in spece, no one can hear you scream, they definitely can't hear your exploding spce ship go "ka-boom" :-). The construction of the space station (B5) was based on the O'Neill cylinder, a space habitat design proposed by Gerard K. O'Neill, a physicist at Princeton, in his book The High Frontier.
There are some major themes that run through the stroyline of B5 (Wikipedia does a nice job of examining them) but here are two that especially touched me ...
Authoritarianism vs. Chaos - (light vs. dark vs. gray) -
The central theme in Babylon 5 is the conflict between order and chaos, and the people caught in between. The Vorlons and the Earth Alliance Government (as it had been under President Clark) both represent oppressive, authoritarian philosophies: you will do what we tell you to, because we tell you to do it .... The Shadows represent chaos. Their belief is that by creating conflict, a stronger generation is born — pure "survival of the fittest". To accomplish this, the Shadows encourage conflict between other groups, who choose to serve their own glory or profit. ....The Rangers ... represent a third way; their unwavering commitment to compassion and self-sacrifice, epitomised by the character of Marcus Cole, opposes both the emotionless war of the Vorlons and the chaotic brutality of the Shadows .... Ultimately, the main characters try to strike a balance: sometimes selfish, sometimes self-sacrificing, and making many mistakes along the way. Sometimes they impress us, and sometimes they horrify us.
Unrequited love may be the source of all pain in Babylon 5. Ivanova loses everyone she loves. Lennier is the ultimate victim of unrequited love, but also of his own immaturity. Sheridan and Delenn know true love; Sheridan comes back from the dead for love .... Marcus says, "Sometimes love is funny, sometimes very sad." Garibaldi takes a long time to figure it out. Ivanova says she doesn't speak with her heart any more. Vir knows what true love is from the beginning; his problem is getting to "number six". In the first season, Sinclair is cautioned by Garibaldi to find something to live for, rather than something for which to die. Later in the series, Marcus, the chaste warrior, sacrifices his life for the woman he loves. It was only at the last moment that he could tell her this.
It's hard to encompass all that'ss worthy in Babylon 5, but I hope from the little I've posted here, I've aroused some curiosity about the series.