Babylon 5: season one

It might seem unfair to compress an entire season’s worth of a TV show into one post, when I gave The Prisoner 5 posts for 22 or 23 episodes, and gave a single non-Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s book several posts. But Geek Night is already half way through season 2, so I don’t want to put a lot of effort into a highly detailed review.

Season 1, which in my mind includes the pilot, but which in the minds of the marketers doesn’t, since I bought it on a separate disk, is a strange beast. It sets up the story, and moves us into it nicely, but much of the season is about exploring the world of the show rather than moving any of the major plots forward in a way that couldn’t have been done within season 2.

Jeffery Sinclair’s delivery throughout the season was marred, or at least hammed up, by an amused tone of voice. He almost always sounded like he was telling a joke, and knew he was telling a joke, and wanted you to know it was funny. And as the season progressed his eyebrows became increasingly animated until Geek Night wasn’t Geek Night until someone in attendance made some MST3K riff on them, usually in the form of talking in a squeeky voice as if the eyebrows were themselves characters.

All that said, I’m surprised at how quickly Babylon 5 actually moves. I remember this being the case, that things which we didn’t really need to see were often not shown: something would be set up, and then would happen while other things where going on, and we’d hear a passing reference to them as the story kept going. This is great. And even in the first season major changes take place. Looking at it like a ratio, by the time the first season is over, 20% of the entire pre-plotted show is done. So the fact that things move quickly makes some sense.

The dialog in season one is spotty, though it tends to be best in the episodes written by Straczynski. But even so, there’s a JMS-iness which comes through kind of a lot. I like my dialog best when I can’t hear the writer in the background giggling over his typewriter (like this sentence does, for an example of what I don’t like too much of). That said, the dialog mainly shows characters reacting to plot developments in ways which both illuminate the character speaking, and in ways that affect the way the plot developments continue to play out. There’s a good balance between “social history” and “great man” views of the way history operates.

There’s a steady core of Geek Night attendees, two other couples and my wife and I (also our five-year-old who likes the show and is always ticked off that he has to go to bed after the first episode). There’s been a rotating cast of other attendees in the weeks since we started in March, too. We have a pot luck dinner, and set the theme for the next week’s menu at the end of the evening. Pizza, grilling, and tropical have been among the themes so far. Next week is “food inspired by Babylon 5.” We’ll see how that goes. We’ve got Swedish Meatballs, since, as G’Kar observes, every race in the galaxy has Swedish Meatballs though with different names. (This is, of course, a riff reversing Douglas Adams’s notion in the Hitchhiker’s books about gin and tonics.) I wonder if anyone will bring spoo.

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