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    Post Yora reviews Babylon 5

    You knew this was coming.

    Back in the days when I was religiously watching Star Trek in the 90s, Babylon 5 was the other sci-fi show that was on TV at that time. I don't actually remember when and how we started watching it, but I believe during the original run in Germany, we only started watching in season 2. I am pretty sure I saw the first season only some time later. Not even sure if I saw reruns of the first season before the final season aired, it's really pretty hazy. I also have no clue what I was thinking about it back then, or if I ever watched it a second time on TV. But at some point we got it on DVD and as far as I can recall, I watched through the entire series start to end two more times. And it might quite possibly have been well over 10 years since I've seen it last.

    However, I do remember it being really really good, and in my memory it stands as a much better show than Star Trek ever did. At least as narrative goes. I also remember the show often visually looking pretty cheap. And I am quite uncertain about the acting. Rewatching the show again will probably be very interesting.

    When I returned the Deep Space 9 boxes to my parents at Christmas, I borrowed all five seasons of Babylon 5 from my brother. My plan is to watch and review every episode from at least the first four seasons. Since the series was planned as one full story arc from the start, it was compressed into four seasons when the show did not get green light for the fifth season. When they later did get a fifth season approved, the main story was already wrapped up and season 5 was kind of tacked on. If I will cover season 5 really will depend on how engaged I will still be after the end of season 4. I might cover some, all, or none of season 5, but no commitment to that yet. But with the main story arc of Seasons 1 to 4, I will watch and review every single episode. Even those that I remember as being horribly cringy. Though from the top of my head there's only a single episode that I don't look forward to watching. But I am determined to give it a shot and sit through it, and see if my memory was serving me right.

    --

    Episode 0: The Gathering

    This one is a 90 minutes pilot movie, that actually is not included in many DVD boxes of season 1. The version I am watching is a later re-release that got a bit of editing and new music to better match with the rest of the show.

    It starts with an opening narration by who we will later know being Londo Molari. It gives us a quick view of the station and tells us it's a hub for interstellar commerce and diplomacy, and that it is (will be) the last of the Babylon stations and the best hope for humanity. Though he doesn't tell us to what end.

    Commander Sinclair and security chief Garibaldi welcome the new VIP arrival Lyta Alexander who just arrived with the last transport. Next to them the computer picks out a wanted drug dealer among the passengers and when security approaches him he takes a hostage. Sinclair talks him down by offering him that if he releases the hostage, he can go back to his ship and leave, but never return to the station again. He agrees and the situation is solved.

    In the command center, the Narn ambassador G'Kar goes to complain to Commander Takashima that a shipment for him is not allowed on the station without a search for weapons. He thinks it's discriminatory against the Narn since allies of the humans don't have to go through such checks, but she doesn't buy that the shipment is harmless.

    Sinclair and his staff are preparing for the arrival for the Vorlon ambassador. The Vorlons are very powerful but nobody really know anything about their biology and culture. Meanwhile a tiny spacecraft attaches itself to the side of the station. Sinclair meets the Minbari ambassador Delen who says cryptic things and gives him data crystal with the information they have on the Vorlon. The Vorlon ship arrives two days early which greatly annoys traffic control in the command center. A mysterious looking human who was seen before meets with another guy alone and apparently shots him.

    Garibaldi goes to fetch the Centauri ambassador Londo Molari in a casino to tell him the Vorlon has arrived early and he needs to show up for the reception. The mysterious human is also sitting nearby and listening. After Garibaldi leaves, he starts chatting with Londo.

    Lyta is sitting with two businessmen negotiating a contract and uses her telepathic powers to make sure neither is trying to cheat the other. After the men leave, G'Kar approaches her with an offer. The Narn have no telepaths and since Lyta's ancestors have been telepaths for at least six generations, he would like to purchase her genetic material. Creating a clone would be an option, but the preferred method is for her to have a hybrid child with him. She is not amused.

    The freaky Vorlon squid ship comes in for landing and while he's on the way, Sinclair gets delayed in a glitching elevator for a few minutes. When he arrives at the airlock, they find the Vorlon ambassador Kosh lying unresponsive on the floor. They take him to the medical station, but the Vorlon homeworld told them they can not open his suit for security reasons. Doctor Kyle does it anyway and seems to see something really astonishing. He keeps working all night and finds some kind of poison. Sinclair calls security to put the station on lockdown.

    G'Kar is talking with Delen and accuses Londo of being behind the assassination. He tries to win the Minbari as allies, but Delen doesn't want to hear any of it. He accuses the Minbari of being cowards and having surrendered to the humans even though they were winning, and Delen says they had their reasons. He says something about the Grey Council that heads the Minbari, which makes Delen pull out a ring that she uses to telepathically hurt G'Kar, telling him never to talk about the Grey Council again.

    Garibaldi finds Londo in some street bar to ask him some questions about the assassinations. Londo thinks there's probably going to be some war in the near future, as it usually is. He says he was late to the reception because he was still in the casino after the Mystery Man paid his outstanding debts and he was allowed to play again. Londo also uses the opportunity to rant to Garibaldi about the lost greatness of the Centauri Republic.

    Doctor Kyle tells Takashima about an idea to have a telepath scan Kosh to find out who poisoned him and how, so he can try to work on a treatment. They go to Lyta who tells them they are crazy and it would break countless laws and regulations. Takashima reminds her that the Vorlons probably will attack the station once Kosh is dead and nobody will survive that. Lyta wants to open the suit to touch him, but Kyle really recommends against it. She can't reach into his mind so she takes off her glove to reach inside the suit. She sees Kosh meeting Commander Sinclair in the airlock who shakes his hand and then sticks something to it.

    The maintenance crew notices a small leak caused by the mystery craft attached to the hull and sends a drone to investigate and repair. When it gets close, the craft shots it down.

    Mystery Man runs into someone who recognizes him and he appears to shot him and assume his appearance.

    With Sinclair being accused of the assassination, authority over the situation is given to Takashima and the other three ambassadors on the station. Doctor Kyle tells them that he identified the poison as a very rare substance that comes primarily from the system where Sinclair's girlfriend was last before she came to the station right before the Vorlon ship.

    Garibaldi tells Sinclair that he found out who the mystery man is. He's a wanted criminal in the Earth Alliance who's been smuggling high-tech devices. He's also completely broke and so he wouldn't have been able to pay Londo's casino debts. Garibaldi goes to take him in for questioning, but discovers him dead in his quarters.

    G'Kar suggests that the situation requires a proper criminal trial which should be held on the Vorlon homeworld. The Vorlon government supports the plan and Londo also agrees with it.

    Sinclair's girlfriend goes to Delen to plead with her to do something to help him. Lyta has a secret meeting with G'Kar in the toxic atmopshere section of the station. Londo goes to Garibaldi to tell him G'Kar bought his vote by selling him documents that prove Londo's family was involved in crimes on the Narn homeworld. He didn't expect G'Kar would call the Vorlons to have them cast a vote as well.

    Sinclair's girlfriend finds a medal he got for the last fight in the war with the Minbari and asks why he never he told her he was there. He tells her the human fleet got completely wiped out defending Earth when he got hit and passed out. When he woke up later, the Minbari had surrendered and the war was over. He didn't actually do anything to stop them, and neither did everyone else who died. He doesn't want to fight any more fights in which other people get killed needlessly, but his girlfriend convinces him that he should keep trying to find the truth, even if it might piss of the Vorlons if he's not delivered to them.

    Lyta goes to the medical station to see how Kosh is doing. Doctor Kyle tells her he's improving and while he's turned away, Lyta starts pressing buttons to kill Kosh. Kyle tells her the mystery man had been dead for two days but was still seen hours ago and when he turns around he attacks him. But then the door opens and the real Lyta walks in, Sinclair arrives, there's a fight, and the killer manages to escape.

    The maintainace people reported the small mystery craft to Garibaldi. He thinks it was used to secretly transfer a single passenger from a ship to the station. He also tells Sinclair that they found a dead technician who still had been seen at work after the time of death. Takashima calls them because she discovered the assassin is using some sort of holographic disguise. The energy output from the device should be pretty easy to track on the scanners. Sinclair and Garibaldi put on security gear and geat heavy rifles to go hunt the assassin. To make things more tense, a Vorlon fleet arrives to pick up Sinclair. Garibaldi gets shot but his armor saves him, and Sinclair has to continue alone. Someone drags Garibaldi through a door to a toxic atmopshere section and when Sinclair goes to get him, someone pulls his mask of his face. Fortunately Delen arrives to save them. Sinclair finds the assassin and manages to throw him into an electric fence. This disables the disguise and reveals that it's a Minbari. He activates an implanted bomb and Sinclair barely escapes through a pressure door. The explosion causes the station to tumble but the command center crew manages to stabilize the rotation.

    Takashima has a talk with Kyle to see how Kosh is doing, and Kyle thinks he should be fine soon. She wants to know what's inside the suit, but Kyle tells her crypticaly that once you see a Vorlon, nothing will be the same.

    Later Delen goes to Sinclair to tell him that she was able to identify the Minbari assassin on the video records and has a file on him. Sinclair meets with G'Kar to tell him about the Minbari. He also got information that the tech smuggler had recently been dealing with a holo disguise and had crossed paths with the Narn ship carrying G'Kar's mystery shipment that he didn't want scanned. He gives G'Kar a warning that he just made him drink a nano-tech tracker and if he tries something like this again to endanger the station, someone will come after him. G'Kar leaves and Garibaldi comes in, and Sinclair tells him that a real tracker would be quite easily found and removed, but an imagined tracker will have G'Kar's doctors searching through his insides for a long time.

    Kosh is back on his feet (?) and formally welcomed to the station. Sinclair goes to the station's gardens to think and Delen comes to talk with him. He mentiones that the assassin said there's a hole in Sinclair's mind before he killed himself. Delen looks very surprised while he isn't looking at her and claims its just an obscure Minbari saying. It reminded him of how he was passed out during the final battle of the war with the Minbari and asks if she's keeping something secret from him, to which she replies that she wouldn't tell him anything that wouldn't be in his best interest to know.

    --

    To my surprise, this was a lot better than I expected. I thought I had seen this one before once, but I did not actually recall even a single scene. I expected this to be really janky, but for a first episode it's really quite good.

    I don't really know any other sci-fi shows from the 90s other than Star Trek. But compared to that, this seems really quite low budget. Lots of harsh lighting, deep shadows, and frequently some fog all seem to serve to disguise the actual quality of the sets, but given what they had, it's actually a pretty interesting look. The uniforms and alien outfits look pretty good, but those seem to have swallowed up the entire costume budget. The human extras don't even seem to have costumes and just shown up in their street clothes. 90s fashion could get weird like that.
    Another thing that I noticed are the weird guns they have. They don't look like anything that appears in the rest of the show and more like rejected prototypes from Star Trek from the late 80s. And I think they were laser weapons. They made the right choice to replace them.

    Sinclair, G'Kar, and Londo already look pretty good and come across like the characters you're familiar with from the rest of the show. I am particularly impressed by G'Kar. He has a very complex and detailed costume and they seem to have it finalized even at this early stage.
    The same can't be said for Delen, who gets a massive overhaul for the first season. Not quite sure what I think of her performance, but she really doesn't seem like the same character from later.
    I am afraid that I can totally see why they recast Takashima and Kyle and replaced them with the basically identical Ivanova and Franklin. The actors just aren't selling their performances. It looks pretty bad to be frank.
    Another character who works really well is Lyta. She's completely there right from the start. A bit said that she got replaced by Talia, but fortunately we do get her back in later parts of the story. Like I'm a Garak fanboy on Deep Space Nine, I'm a Lyta fanboy on Babylon 5.

    The story is pretty good. Not amazing like the high points that come later throughout the series, but as basically a sales pitch this works really well. There are a lot of mysteries that are being set up that make you wonder for the answers. What's the deal with the Vorlons? What made the Minbari break off their attack on Earth while Sinclair was unconcious? Why does Delenn seem to know that answer? Why did she turn violent on G'Kar when he mentioned he heard of a Grey Council? And humans have telepaths now?! Actually, everyone does except the Narn? I know all these answers, but I think these are all great hooks to get first time viewers curious about this setting. And all of this does get really great payoffs in the later seasons, showing how very well everything had been planned before they even started shoting.
    The plot itself is a bit dodgy, though. Most importantly, why exactly did G'Kar try to get Sinclair killed or even the station destroyed? There was one scene in which he tries to win the Minbari as an aly, probably against the Centauri, so maybe the Narn are not fans of the idea of bringing peace to the galaxy. But from what I remember, this did not actually go anywhere.
    Spoiler: Major late seasons spoiler
    Show
    We also later get told explicitly that the assassination attempt on Kosh should have been impossible. We see Kosh stretching a humanoid hand to the assassin, but Kosh would put on his suit before leaving his ship. And even if that actually happened, it doesn't seem possible to actually poison a Vorlon. To my knowledge, none of the conspirators would have known about the true form of Vorlons and come up with a way to actually poison one. Which to me leaves only one possible option: Kosh knew about the assassin and his plan, stretched out the hand to let the assassin think the attack was successfu, and then faked being poisoned the entire time. And if Kosh knew and played along with it, then the other Vorlons knew as well. Which means the whole fleet attempting to destroy the station was also fake. It probably was the Vorlon's who told the conspirators about the poison. How else would they have assumed it is a poison. Also, Kosh was two days early to arrive just 20 minutes after Sinclair's girlfriend who was suspected of having provided the poison. He probably was waiting in hyperspace for her ship to dock before jumping in as well.

    The question is why?! Why did the Vorlons manufacture the entire incident? I think this is never actually explained. If it is explained however, we will get there when we get there and I don't want to know about that yet.


    Great start, really looking forward to the rest of the show. Somehow this also got me really feeling the nostalgia that Deep Space Nine never did. They were made at the same time, but they are really very different in style, be it visuals, character performance, and storytelling.
    Last edited by Yora; 2019-12-27 at 07:01 AM.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Season 5 later episodes, once you are past the Telepath arc, are pretty good even if they don't mount to the top of the series.

    I'd like to suggest you maybe also review In The Beginning once you finished Season 4?

    Lets get this started!!

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Yay, Babylon 5!

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    When I returned the Deep Space 9 boxes to my parents at Christmas, I borrowed all five seasons of Babylon 5 from my brother. My plan is to watch and review every episode from at least the first four seasons. Since the series was planned as one full story arc from the start, it was compressed into four seasons when the show did not get green light for the fifth season. When they later did get a fifth season approved, the main story was already wrapped up and season 5 was kind of tacked on. If I will cover season 5 really will depend on how engaged I will still be after the end of season 4. I might cover some, all, or none of season 5, but no commitment to that yet. But with the main story arc of Seasons 1 to 4, I will watch and review every single episode. Even those that I remember as being horribly cringy. Though from the top of my head there's only a single episode that I don't look forward to watching. But I am determined to give it a shot and sit through it, and see if my memory was serving me right.
    From the thread we had a year or two ago, I think we made it into the first few episodes of season 5. The thread moderator had family stuff going on and general interest waned at that particular portion of the story. Covering the tail end of season 5 is something I'd be quite interested in, since I was watching along on an episode-by-episode basis and thus didn't get to those episodes. The telepath arc is a real slog, and I'm all in favour of skipping past it if need be to cover what we didn't get to last time.

    To my surprise, this was a lot better than I expected. I thought I had seen this one before once, but I did not actually recall even a single scene. I expected this to be really janky, but for a first episode it's really quite good.

    I don't really know any other sci-fi shows from the 90s other than Star Trek. But compared to that, this seems really quite low budget. Lots of harsh lighting, deep shadows, and frequently some fog all seem to serve to disguise the actual quality of the sets, but given what they had, it's actually a pretty interesting look. The uniforms and alien outfits look pretty good, but those seem to have swallowed up the entire costume budget. The human extras don't even seem to have costumes and just shown up in their street clothes. 90s fashion could get weird like that.
    Another thing that I noticed are the weird guns they have. They don't look like anything that appears in the rest of the show and more like rejected prototypes from Star Trek from the late 80s. And I think they were laser weapons. They made the right choice to replace them.
    Apparently, the Voyager pilot had a budget of $23 million dollars. The Gathering by contrast had $3.5 million. B5 was absolutely done on a shoestring budget and would have killed to get Star Trek money. For another example, Deep Space 9 had roughly twice the budget on a per episode basis - around $1.5 million compared to Babylon 5's $800,000.

    This is actually why Babylon 5 used CGI at a time when CGI did not look good. It was far cheaper than the practical effects used in other Sci-Fi shows that had larger budgets. It also explains why some of the shots look terrible today - difference in screen formats, HD, and other technology changes have not been kind to the show. Apparently the best version is still the original DVD release. Best $500 I ever spent.

    Sinclair, G'Kar, and Londo already look pretty good and come across like the characters you're familiar with from the rest of the show. I am particularly impressed by G'Kar. He has a very complex and detailed costume and they seem to have it finalized even at this early stage.
    The same can't be said for Delen, who gets a massive overhaul for the first season. Not quite sure what I think of her performance, but she really doesn't seem like the same character from later.
    This is because Delenn was originally intended to be male. Yes, really. This idea did not go down well in test screenings, both because the computer-altered voice sounded bad and because the original voice is Mira freaking Furlan. So Delenn looks really weird here, and when the show proper starts the ambiguous gender is removed and her character design is improved.

    Another character who works really well is Lyta. She's completely there right from the start. A bit said that she got replaced by Talia, but fortunately we do get her back in later parts of the story. Like I'm a Garak fanboy on Deep Space Nine, I'm a Lyta fanboy on Babylon 5.
    Well of course, she's Patricia Tallman. Who is also awesome.

    I liked what they did with Talia, and was sad to see her go. But Lyta is definitely my favorite of the two.

    Spoiler: Major late seasons spoiler
    Show
    We also later get told explicitly that the assassination attempt on Kosh should have been impossible. We see Kosh stretching a humanoid hand to the assassin, but Kosh would put on his suit before leaving his ship. And even if that actually happened, it doesn't seem possible to actually poison a Vorlon. To my knowledge, none of the conspirators would have known about the true form of Vorlons and come up with a way to actually poison one. Which to me leaves only one possible option: Kosh knew about the assassin and his plan, stretched out the hand to let the assassin think the attack was successfu, and then faked being poisoned the entire time. And if Kosh knew and played along with it, then the other Vorlons knew as well. Which means the whole fleet attempting to destroy the station was also fake. It probably was the Vorlon's who told the conspirators about the poison. How else would they have assumed it is a poison. Also, Kosh was two days early to arrive just 20 minutes after Sinclair's girlfriend who was suspected of having provided the poison. He probably was waiting in hyperspace for her ship to dock before jumping in as well.

    The question is why?! Why did the Vorlons manufacture the entire incident? I think this is never actually explained. If it is explained however, we will get there when we get there and I don't want to know about that yet.
    Spoiler
    Show
    I think this is mostly just early installment weirdness. In the original edition, Kosh's hand is just a hand - it's not even glowing. My conjecture here is that Vorlons weren't originally intended to be full energy beings like they are later in the series. As such, they are quite poisonable.

    It's just one of those things you have to handwave like Klingon brow ridges. Sure, you can come up with a convoluted explanation, but it's best not to think about it too much.

    From a canon perspective, as far as I'm aware there was no Vorlon plot. Kosh really thought the assassin was Sinclair, Kosh really was poisoned, and the Vorlons threatening to destroy the station was deadly serious.


    Great start, really looking forward to the rest of the show. Somehow this also got me really feeling the nostalgia that Deep Space Nine never did. They were made at the same time, but they are really very different in style, be it visuals, character performance, and storytelling.
    Looking forward to this! In case it wasn't obvious from the DS9 thread, Babylon 5 is my favorite TV show of all time. Which is especially amazing when you look back at the production troubles it had and the amount of executive meddling they had to deal with.

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodin View Post
    Yay, Babylon 5!



    From the thread we had a year or two ago, I think we made it into the first few episodes of season 5. The thread moderator had family stuff going on and general interest waned at that particular portion of the story. Covering the tail end of season 5 is something I'd be quite interested in, since I was watching along on an episode-by-episode basis and thus didn't get to those episodes. The telepath arc is a real slog, and I'm all in favour of skipping past it if need be to cover what we didn't get to last time.



    Apparently, the Voyager pilot had a budget of $23 million dollars. The Gathering by contrast had $3.5 million. B5 was absolutely done on a shoestring budget and would have killed to get Star Trek money. For another example, Deep Space 9 had roughly twice the budget on a per episode basis - around $1.5 million compared to Babylon 5's $800,000.

    This is actually why Babylon 5 used CGI at a time when CGI did not look good. It was far cheaper than the practical effects used in other Sci-Fi shows that had larger budgets. It also explains why some of the shots look terrible today - difference in screen formats, HD, and other technology changes have not been kind to the show. Apparently the best version is still the original DVD release. Best $500 I ever spent.



    This is because Delenn was originally intended to be male. Yes, really. This idea did not go down well in test screenings, both because the computer-altered voice sounded bad and because the original voice is Mira freaking Furlan. So Delenn looks really weird here, and when the show proper starts the ambiguous gender is removed and her character design is improved.



    Well of course, she's Patricia Tallman. Who is also awesome.

    I liked what they did with Talia, and was sad to see her go. But Lyta is definitely my favorite of the two.



    Spoiler
    Show
    I think this is mostly just early installment weirdness. In the original edition, Kosh's hand is just a hand - it's not even glowing. My conjecture here is that Vorlons weren't originally intended to be full energy beings like they are later in the series. As such, they are quite poisonable.

    It's just one of those things you have to handwave like Klingon brow ridges. Sure, you can come up with a convoluted explanation, but it's best not to think about it too much.

    From a canon perspective, as far as I'm aware there was no Vorlon plot. Kosh really thought the assassin was Sinclair, Kosh really was poisoned, and the Vorlons threatening to destroy the station was deadly serious.




    Looking forward to this! In case it wasn't obvious from the DS9 thread, Babylon 5 is my favorite TV show of all time. Which is especially amazing when you look back at the production troubles it had and the amount of executive meddling they had to deal with.
    Spoiler: Season 3 Spoilers
    Show

    That's because Sinclair is a bro to Kosh and the Vorlons a thousand years in the past.

    He told them every that was gonna happen, from the start. This is why Kosh didn't mingled with Sinclair much: he was meeting a thousand year old friend that never met him yet.

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Tagging this to read later. I actually just started watching this series about 3 weeks ago and am 9 episodes deep. I may try to synch my viewing schedule with this
    If my text is blue, I'm being sarcastic.But you already knew that, right?


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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Yay, Babylon 5!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodin View Post
    This is because Delenn was originally intended to be male.
    And more so Minbari were once going to be some sort of sexless pod people aliens, but they dropped that idea quick to make them more human.

    Spoiler
    Show
    You can look at a LOT of B5 and see a Vorlon Conspiracy. Even if you just go with the idea that they are super smart advanced aliens, you can get the idea that they do manipulate things. The fact that they are telepaths, even more....not to mention ancient telepaths.

    And, of course, that is on top of the fact that they know the future from Sinclair/Valen.

    It never gets picked up.....but I always thought the Assassin was a Shadow Assassin. So it was a Shadow bio energy dark matter poison or something. The Shadows are fairly active during this time, we just don't see them directly.

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Frankly I'd suggest that you review the whole series EXCEPT for Season 5, but include the last episode of Season 5 as that is the proper series finale. Most of Season 5 is bad. Like mind-blendingly bad.

    The problem is that they had originally planned 5 seasons, but towards the end of season 3, the network told them they were only going to get 4 seasons, mainly because the network was going bankrupt (PTEN). Rather than have the show end with its main arcs unfinished, they rushed through the plot in Season 4 (with more success in certain arcs than others), but then towards the end suddenly got picked up by TNT for a Season 5. Except they were already mostly through the planned story, and a good number of the actors/staff had already signed onto other projects.

    So they finished the planned story for the whole series and then had to off-the-cuff a whole new season without some of the principal players on the show as true main characters, which caused stuff like Sheridan basically disappearing, Ivanova taking control, and Corwin suddenly becoming a main character.

    There's a decent filler episode here and there, like the Neil Gaiman episode, but the main arcs are just trash.



    That being said, Seasons 1-4 is one of my all-time favorite shows.
    Last edited by Olinser; 2019-12-27 at 12:14 AM.

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    I haven't rewatched in awhile, but I did find Season 5 has ... improved slightly on the binge watch. First, a lot of the arcs that people found frustratingly long, actually aren't. I wouldn't call it the best, but B5 is such a solid show that S5 is still pretty solid. Honestly, I have more trouble with the first season, as cool as it is seeing the world building and the board getting set up, there's still some clunkers like TKO. It's hard to get new people through S1, I push B5 a lot, and it's hard to get friends into the show.

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    So if you have not read J. Michael Straczynski's autobiography yet I would recommend checking it out. He talks a lot in the middle part about creating Babylon 5 and he actually sort of hated the pilot. He was still new to show running and felt like he got a totally wrong director to make it.


    :EDIT: Just a warning though, his life was really awful and be prepared going in to hear about some really heinous ****.
    Last edited by Dragonus45; 2019-12-27 at 03:14 AM.
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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    We will see about season 5 when we get there. I had totally forgotten about the telepath story.
    But sure, if I won't be covering every episode, we can put outpr heads together to see which ones are worth examining.

    I expect to go through season 1 fairly quickly, maybe even doing an episode every day. I should be catching up soon.
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    Woo, B5! We did a weekly review thread on it on these forums somewhere, will enjoy seeing your take on the episodes. Oh, and it's perfectly OK to say TKO is rubbish when you get to it, because it totally is--it's worse than Grey 17 is Missing, which at least has some entertaining B-plot stuff.

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    B5 is my favourite sci-fi show - just ahead of Farscape - so I'm looking forward to this one. Never really got into Star Trek or Star Wars.

    I started with the pilot when it was first shown on TV and was hooked. Mostly by the mystery of what the Vorlons looked like. I wanted to know. Watched every ep but one over the 5 seasons when they were shown - I think it was By Any Means Necessary, a season 1 ep that I missed and had to catch when it came out on VHS. Luckily it wasn't a crucial ep.

    I've still Babylon 5 Wars miniature war game and B5 TCG cards stored away.

    And even from the early days I was a Narn fan.

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    Narn are great. We don't get much, but G'Kar and Natoth do a lot of heavy lifting. While I think the Minbari are also cool as an idea, their presentation is too idealized to feel real. Narn feel much more believable. (Centauri are just too human to be interesting aliens.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImperiousLeader View Post
    I haven't rewatched in awhile, but I did find Season 5 has ... improved slightly on the binge watch. First, a lot of the arcs that people found frustratingly long, actually aren't. I wouldn't call it the best, but B5 is such a solid show that S5 is still pretty solid. Honestly, I have more trouble with the first season, as cool as it is seeing the world building and the board getting set up, there's still some clunkers like TKO. It's hard to get new people through S1, I push B5 a lot, and it's hard to get friends into the show.
    To be frank, most of the problem with season 5 is Byron. There's too much of him and he's framed far too much as the protagonist of events, making a single character take over for far too long in a series where that didn't previously happen.

    And he's an annoying git.

    So the audience's sympathies are presumed to be with him as he does everything "right" as a protagonist, but they aren't because he's a git.

    The Telepath war is the weakest arc in B5, and there's way too much of it in season 5, the season picks up when it shuffles off unloved to an unmarked grave.

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    S1E1: Midnight on the Firing Line

    An unknown fleet jumps to a Centauri colony and starts shooting the orbital stations.

    Garibaldi is having a conversation with Londo that consists about pretty heavy handed worldbuilding exposition until Londo's assistant Vir comes running to inform him about the attack.

    Londo goes running to the council chamber to demand that Sinclair gives him all information the Earth Alliance has on the attack, because somehow he isn't getting anything from his own superiors.

    Ivanova has to deal with an emergency call from a freighter that is getting attacked by raiders and Garibaldi goes to take a fighter and go help. Talia comes into the command center to introduce herself as the new telepath assigned to the station because Ivanova has kept ignoring calls for an appointment to officially check in for her position. Ivanova is like "yeah thanks, now leave."

    Eventually Londo finally gets a message from his superiors, which is a recording of the attack that clearly shows Narn fighters. He goes running to G'Kar who claims he's completely surprised by the events as well, but they soon get in an argument about the last war in which the Centauri invaded the Narn. Which is clearly exposition but handled better. Security comes running to break up the fight and G'Kar gloats that now is the time for payback.

    Garibaldi's squad finds the freighter heavily damaged with no signs of survivors. It looks like heavy weapons though, and not like an attack by raiders.

    Sinclair goes to have a talk with Londo. Londo tells him that Centauri can see the moment of their death in their dreams, and he knows that in 20 years, he and G'Kar will be strangling each other to death. Sinclair proposes that the other powers might unite and force the Narn to break off their attacks, but Londo doesn't believe in diplomatic resolutions and thinks everyone is already comited to a full scale war.

    Garibaldi and Ivanova talk about the attacks on transports and Garibaldi has noticed that the raiders have been seriously upgrading their weapons for a while. Also the transport routes are supposed to be secret to prevent attacks like that, but somehow the raiders seem to know about them. Garibaldi wants to do some investigation on who is tipping them off. Talia tries to catch Ivanova, but she marches off to an elevator before she reaches her.

    Sinclair goes to Kosh's quarters to personally ask him to come to the council meeting. Kosh says he will come, but doesn't expect it to do very much because they are already a dying people. Sinclair wants to know if he means the Narn or the Centauri, and Kosh's answer is yes.

    Vir goes to fetch Londo for the council meeting and finds him drunk on his couch. He got word from the government that they will do nothing because the colony just isn't worth it. But he comes up with an idea to not tell the council and hope that the humans and Minbari will take actions that forces events into motion that the Centauri can not ignore. Vir is very worried about disobeying their superiors, but promises Londo to not say anything to anyone.

    Talia meets Garibaldi in a lift and asks him if he has any ideas how she can get Ivanova to stop ignoring her. He recommends to try catching her at the casino at the end of her shift and then starts flirting with Talia. But they reach her floor and she's kthanksbye. (Oh, the foreshadowing. such commitment.)

    G'Kar finds Sinclair in the station gardens and uses the opportunity to mention that the Narn are slowly restoring their own forests since the Cetauri were gone and left the planet in ruins. He reminds Sinclair that the Narn supplied the humans in the war against the Minbari, but Sinclair tells him they still had to pay for it and the Narn are always selling to anyone who has the money. He even calls the Narns cowards for attacking the easiest target they could find, even though it has no military value.

    Sinclair leaves and runs into Garibaldi, who has found out that there probably was a data breach at a company that is managing the hyperspace jump gates. All ships that had booked passage before the incident had been attacked and destroyed, and there's another one on the way carrying passengers right now. He immediately has to leave with a squad of fighters.

    Sinclair gets a call from his superior who wants him to not have a council vote on a response to the Narn attack right now, since it's election day on Earth. If there absolutely has to be a vote today, the Earth Alliance's position is to abstain. Ivanova is waiting at the door for the call to end and tell her Garibaldi is ready to launch. Sinclair has the sudden idea that with the raider threat having escalated so much recently, he will lead the fighters instead. Which means Ivanova has to lead the council meeting and she obviously didn't hear what his superior just told him.

    G'Kar tries to convince the council that they have no blame and plays a video of the leader of the colony, who happens to be Londo's nephew reading a ridiculous statement that the colony decided to declare it's independence and requested to be incorporated into the Narn state. Londo calls out the obvious fake, but G'Kar counters that by revealing that he knows the Centauri government instructed Londo not to request any sanctions.

    Sinclair's squad reaches the transport as it is being attacked by raiders. They repel the attackers and Sinclair takes a few fighters into a nearby asteroid field where they find the raider's base.

    Londo goes to his quarters to get a hidden gun. He goes to the lifts where he bumps into Talia who senses his intentions. Trying to save things diplomatically she calls Garibaldi directly, who manages to catch Londo before he reaches G'Kar. He manages to talk Londo down by reminding him that it will endanger the hostages if he murders G'Kar. He also tells him that there will be a weapons search of his quarters in one hour.

    G'Kar is called to the council chamber where Sinclair and Ivanova are waiting for him with a Narn military contractor they arrested on the raider base. The Narn also had recordings of transmissions documenting the real events from the attack on the colony. Either G'Kar gets his government to retreat from the colony and release the prisoners, or Sinclair will share the evidence with the council.

    Talia manages to finally catch Ivanova after her shift where the first election estimates are coming in on the TV. Ivanova thanks her for her help with Londo and apologizes for her past rudeness. She explains that she has a bad past with the Psi Corps because her mother was a telepath and didn't want to join the Corps, so she had to take the telepathy suppressing dugs that destroyed her mental health. It's not Talia's fault, but she still doesn't want to be friends with her.

    The election results indicate a reelection of President Santiago who promises to continue his policy of Make Earth Great Again, which greatly disappoints Sinclair.

    --

    First thing, these DVD menus are atrocious. They are the ugliest I've ever seen. But they don't make you wait through a long unskipable animation when you start playing the DVD, which is nice. The space CGI seems to have a weird framerate. And for some reason the intro credits have a different screen format. with black bars at the top and bottom. There's a short exposition by Sinclair covering just the very bare basics at the start and then just the names of the cast and characters in front of a generic stars background.

    And man, some sets on this episode look super low budget. Like something from the 70s. But the uniforms got a few nice upgrades that make them look a fair deal better. Maybe it was because I started playing videogames in the mid 90s, but I don't think the spaceship CGI looks bad. It looks absolutely super obviously CGI, but I don't think it looks bad. Compared to pre-rendered videogame cutscenes at the time, it looks really impressive. They also use it exclusively for space ships, which are much more forgiving about such things than living creatures. You can obviously see that it's 100% rendered, but it doesn't look wrong.

    Now I really don't know how to judge this episode on objective grounds. I don't think either the writing or the editing is particularly great. The one thing that bothers me particularly is the motivation of the raiders. Are they actually raiding anything? It more looks like they just blow up every ship they can find with no rhyme or reason. And how exactly are the Narn involved with this? The raiders leased some weapons from the Narn and hired a Narn to maintain and operate them. Which is apparently a standard business practice of the Narn. Is he a government employee or a private mercenary? In the later case, his involvement would not implicate the Narn government in any way. But he had recordings of ongoing Narn military operations, so apparently he is part of the Narn military. Why does the Narn government support raids on civilian transports to Babylon 5? Does this in any way have something to do with the invasion of the colony? That part feels really unclear.

    But aside from that, I really did enjoy watching the episode. While there are a few heavy handed moments, mostly the episode does a good job of briefly slipping it small snippets of exposition that hint to a lot of worldbuilding existing in the background. We're reminded again/get introduced that humans and Minbari were recently at war and Sinclair used to be a fighter pilot. We get information about the Centauri having occupied the Narn for a century and the Narn looking for revenge. Also of course giving us his vision that he and G'Kar will kill each other 20 years in the future right in the first episode. And we get some insight into what's going on with the human telepaths. And Kosh is being cryptic.
    We also see already that Garibaldi and Londo have a kind of special relationship and mutual personal understanding that goes beyond their official positions. And Talia wants to be friends with Ivanova. Somehow I never noticed that before. Was everything already planned? Given how much clearly has been planned right from the start, it's probably the best idea to assume that everything that develops over time has been planned.

    Another thing I completely forgot is that G'Kar is a total **** at the start of the show. I know his entire development throughout the whole show and seen it probably three times before. But I wonder if there is anything likeable about him for first time viewers at this point. Londo is of course a somewhat repulsive character, but he has a certain charm that makes him fun. But G'Kar seems like a pretty straight villain so far.

    Not quite sure why, but even with the less than ideal plot and lots of setup without any real payoff yet, I found this episode to be very entertaining.
    Last edited by Yora; 2019-12-27 at 02:08 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    And he's an annoying git.

    So the audience's sympathies are presumed to be with him as he does everything "right" as a protagonist, but they aren't because he's a git.
    I don't agree that Byron does everything "right" as a protagonist, to be honest. He seems to spend most of his time bitching that people who owe him nothing aren't giving him anything, and when he's given the opportunity to earn some trust, he basically tells them to naff off. Overall, he labours under the belief that he's some sort of special snowflake because he's run away from Psi Corps (and later because of reasons relating to the Vorlons which would be a spoiler to discuss here), and somebody really should have called him out on that much earlier than they did.

    @Yora: I think the raiders had to be established as a credible threat in Midnight on the Firing Line because they become quite important later in the season, which is maybe why they didn't really go into any depth as to what they actually *do*. One assumes they're supposedly extracting valuable cargo from the ships they shoot up; sure, it would be a lot easier for them to just commandeer the transports and take them to a secret location to unload them, but then you'd just have transports disappearing and it wouldn't be obvious the raiders were doing it or how powerful they were.

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    Would someone be able to make a short glossary of who's who/what's what? I've never seen any B5, so (for example) I'm not sure who Ivanova is or the difference between a Minbari and a Centauri.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    And man, some sets on this episode look super low budget.
    This is true about most sets of the station itself. Everything has a bit of a cheep look...but it does work in universe when you think of how ''expensive" the sation is(they mention it on the show all the time) so they saved money by making things cheep. It's an odd reflection on 90's America too, as you could find tons of places...like malls, that had the same ''cheep slapped togther in a hurry" look to them.

    Though what we see of the station always bugged me. The front part is the dock and hangars and command and control. Way, way, way over at the other end is the generator. But everything else....the whole Middle of the station is a vast cylinder full of buildings, plants, trees, rivers and lakes.

    That we just about NEVER see.

    Other then say the Zocolo, the whole station we see almost all the time is very small, tight and closet like. We just about never get to see the inside of the cylinder. We get a peak from the fresh air restaurant, but that is about it. We only even see the core shuttle like twice. Though we do get the horrible....horrible painting of the ''window" in the captains office that, er, shows the stations core cylinder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    I don't agree that Byron does everything "right" as a protagonist, to be honest. He seems to spend most of his time bitching that people who owe him nothing aren't giving him anything, and when he's given the opportunity to earn some trust, he basically tells them to naff off. Overall, he labours under the belief that he's some sort of special snowflake because he's run away from Psi Corps (and later because of reasons relating to the Vorlons which would be a spoiler to discuss here), and somebody really should have called him out on that much earlier than they did.
    It's not what he actually does, it's what he's framed as by reactions to him from others in the series. People who react negatively to him are framed as being wrong, even Sheridan (by mirroring the exact language of something that was said about him when he broke away from Earth), and when he finally pops off it's framed as some kind of uniting tragedy.

    The fact that what he does is be an annoying git is why nobody likes him and he's the worst thing in the show that wasn't TKO.

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    I always feel that the low-budget look of the show comes from the walls not looking like metal but spray-painted plywood. They try to do some magic with using a lot of interesting shadows that create a very memorable look and cool atmosphere, but it never looks real.

    The Cast of Characters

    The Earth Alliance: The official human government, apparently based on 90s America, but representing all of humanity. Also has some trouble with a Mars colony that I believe has great autonomy but not independence.
    • Commander Jeffrey Sinclair: Commander of the space station Babylon 5.
    • Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova: Second in command of the station and in charge of traffic control, maintanance, and so on.
    • Michael Garibaldi: Chief of security on the station.
    • Zack Allen: Garibaldi's second in command in later seasons.
    • Doctor Stephen Franklin: Head of the station's medical staff.
    • Talia Winters: Officially assigned Psi Corps telepath on the station.

    Centauri Republic: An old galactic empire that has been in heavy decline for quite some time, that has relatively good relations with the humans but is completely corrupt.
    • Londo Molari: Ambassador of the Centauri on Babylon 5. Loud and annoying and bitter about his people's lost glory and their inability to bully everyone around anymore. (Also secretly the main character of the show in my opinion.)
    • Vir Cotto: Londo's bumbling assistant.

    Minbari Federation: A very advanced species that frequently regards itself as being intellectually and culturally above anyone else. Also a military juggernaut that started a massive invasion of the Earth Alliance after the first contact and steamrolled a path of destruction towards Earth until they suddenly offered a surrender for no apparent reason. (What you get when you cross a Vulcan with a Klingon.)
    • Delenn: Ambassador of the Minbari on Babylon 5. On friendly terms with humans and distant friend of Sinclair.
    • Lennier: Delenn's meek assistant and confidant.

    Narn Regime: A species of angry and tough warriors who had been conquered by the Centauri for a century until they managed to kick them out. Somewhat recovered to be a major power militarily and seemingly always looking for a fight.
    • G'Kar: Ambassador of the Narn on Babylon 5. Pretty important guy in his government and always looking for underhanded opportunities to make the Narn regain their power faster.
    • Na'Toth: G'Kar's assistant/bodyguard/enforcer/?

    Vorlons: Extremely reclusive hyper-advanced aliens with organic ships and great psychic powers. Always wear suits that don't look humanoid. Have some special relationship with the Minbari, but they don't share what they know about the Vorlons either.
    • Kosh: Ambassador of the Vorlons on Babylon 5. Attends some council meetings, ignores others, almost never says anything anyway. And when he says something it's extremely cryptic.


    There are also a wide range of other races that don't really play a significant role in galactic politics individually, but do have some diplomatic strength collectively as the Unaligned Worlds. The Drazi have a pretty prominent presence, but not any memorable characters on the show.
    There's a good number of pretty major characters joining later on, but for the time being I think this is all of them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Would someone be able to make a short glossary of who's who/what's what? I've never seen any B5, so (for example) I'm not sure who Ivanova is or the difference between a Minbari and a Centauri.


    Left to right:
    Michael Garibaldi -- Station security chief
    Susan Ivanova -- Second in Command, generally head of all the fiddly bits of running the station while Sinclair was Commandering
    Londo Mollari -- Centauri Ambassador.
    Delenn -- Minbari Ambassador.
    Jeffery Sinclair -- Station Commander.
    Talia Winters -- Psi Corps licensed telepath. There partially as the Corps representative and partially for commercial use when people have need to rent a telepath for reasons.
    G'Kar -- Narn Ambassador
    Dr Stephen Franklin -- station doctor.

    Additional cast (because the ensemble photos I found with any of them had spoilers):

    Vir Cotto -- Londo's assistant. Usually worried about something.

    Na'Toth -- G'Kar's assistant. Natural habitat: skulking in shadows even if the scene is fully lit.

    Lennier -- Delenn's assistant. Wishes he could still send people to the Cornfield.

    Kosh -- Vorlon Ambassador. Mysteeeeeerious.
    Last edited by The New Bruceski; 2019-12-27 at 04:33 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora
    And man, some sets on this episode look super low budget.
    That's because they are. B5's episode budget was roughly half that of equivalent contemporary shows.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    [*]Zack Allen: Garibaldi's second in command in later seasons.
    In the first two seasons, this role is played interchangeably by Jack (the actual second in command) and Lou Welch (senior cop and friend of Garibaldi). Jack is young and very crisply turned out, while Lou is an older balding man of the weathered street cop variety.

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    Thanks, all. That's some impressive rubber forehead prosthetics on the nonhumans.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Thanks, all. That's some impressive rubber forehead prosthetics on the nonhumans.
    It's interesting how Kosh is clearly a puppet, I can see the dryer hose on the side of his shoulderpads for example and the head's on a stick through the middle, but since they tended to shoot him in dim lighting or mist I never noticed during the actual show.
    Now with half the calories!

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    Default Re: Yora reviews Babylon 5

    Its sometimes a bit sad watching the show and realising just how many of the actors in it have died; Sinclair, Garibaldi, Franklin, G'kar, Zack and a number of minor but important characters as well.

    The Narn might be an aggressive race of warriors now, but they are also highly spiritual, second only to the Mimbari in that regards. That dates back to before contact with the Centauri, when they were a peaceful, agrarian but also space faring race. Ragesh 3, the planet attacked in the first episode, had once been a Narn colony before the Centauri.

    The Cenaturi are not nice people, despite how 'cultured' they make themselves out. Back in the day, they invade Narn space, occupied the Narn homeworld, enslaved and murdered its people and stripped mined the planet, turning it from a once lush world into a barren devastated world that barely supported life. It shaped the Narn into what they became, a bitter, often paranoid people who believed that you had to strike first and hard to protect what you had.

    On to Midnight - the raiders weren't destroying the ships totally, just crippling them, killing the crew and then stealing everything aboard. They are basically space pirates. The Narn upgraded their weapons, but, as per Narn rules, they had to have a contractor on hand to oversee the weapons and make sure that they weren't onsold, as well as instructing on how to use them. Given how militaristic Narn society had become, the contractor no doubt had been or still was in the Narn military.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The New Bruceski View Post
    It's interesting how Kosh is clearly a puppet, I can see the dryer hose on the side of his shoulderpads for example and the head's on a stick through the middle, but since they tended to shoot him in dim lighting or mist I never noticed during the actual show.
    Depends what you mean by a puppet. There's actually a bloke inside the suit, and I recall an interview with him where he said he ceremonially destroyed the suit once he didn't have to wear it anymore because it was so horribly uncomfortable!

    Oh, and The_Glyphstone, in case you didn't realise from the features--Lennier is actually played by Bill Mumy, of the original Lost in Space fame.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corvus View Post
    The Narn might be an aggressive race of warriors now, but they are also highly spiritual, second only to the Mimbari in that regards. That dates back to before contact with the Centauri, when they were a peaceful, agrarian but also space faring race. Ragesh 3, the planet attacked in the first episode, had once been a Narn colony before the Centauri.
    To use a Star Trek analogy: take Klingons and give them a Bajoran history and spirituality. And the Centauri are very much the Cardassians in this analogy.

    So, yes, the Narn, having won their independence are currently expanding their sphere of influence, and are quite militaristic, as they are obsessed with extracting justice/revenge for the occupation and making sure it doesn't happen again.

    Meanwhile, the Centauri are an empire in decline. While still powerful, they are consumed by internal politics and decadence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImperiousLeader View Post
    To use a Star Trek analogy: take Klingons and give them a Bajoran history and spirituality. And the Centauri are very much the Cardassians in this analogy.

    So, yes, the Narn, having won their independence are currently expanding their sphere of influence, and are quite militaristic, as they are obsessed with extracting justice/revenge for the occupation and making sure it doesn't happen again.

    Meanwhile, the Centauri are an empire in decline. While still powerful, they are consumed by internal politics and decadence.
    The Centauri was actually explicitly said by JMS to have been a portrayal of the British Empire during its slow fall from peak power.

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    Regarding "the plot plan," going from memory. No details but I'll spoilerblock anyway because it's easy.

    Spoiler: On how much was planned from the start.
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    My understanding is that the major plot points were known at the start, as were many details. However, there was a lot of "fuzz" built in for details to shift and flow as needed, possibilities in case there were actor issues, and also some unexpected improvising when some real life situational things led to stuff getting derailed.

    So the main plot points give the impression that everything was planned out from the start, and provided a structure to hang the details on when stuff needed to shift.

    And yeah, you can really see a few points where those "guideposts" collapsed or for various reasons weren't present.

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