kangeiko: (londo/g'kar)
[personal profile] kangeiko
I introduced a couple of friends to Babylon 5 recently, and I have been watching the show alongside them. I didn't realise that this was fairly wide-spread; evidently, the 20th anniversary has brought about a resurgence of interest!

We've covered Season 2, and are in the middle of S3 thus far. Some thoughts, with the benefit of hindsight:

1) I used to draw hearts around Delenn and Sheridan, then went through a phase of having absolutely no interest in them. I've come back around to being very interested in them again, primarily because of the utter respect on both their parts for the other. They are very different, and yet they respect those differences and try to accommodate them. I don't know whether it is a case of television moving towards bombastic, dramatic relationships and away from quiet build-ups, or whether this was always somewhat rare to see, but it strikes me as something I no longer see on screen. Even on shows where there is ostensibly a slow-build, it feels more like a will-they/won't-they dynamic, rather than a gradual growing together. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I do like it.

2) I'm more and more convinced that there was an intention to do something with Talia's arc rather than just leave it hanging. Did we ever see this resolved in a novel? I know that Bester references her later on in Dust to Dust but I feel that his comment is more designed to provoke.

3) I really, really appreciate the creation of the different races. Yes, we have the main players, but we also get to see the other races fleshed out until you can spot them. OK, maybe I never learned the name of the fishpeople, but I remember Ambassador FishPerson being concerned with Homeguard terrorism. I can spot the unfortunate Markab, the garrulous Drazi, the curiously identical-looking Brakiri. (I think it's established that the Drazi don't have any females - or that they reproduce in a non-binary way, anyway - but is it ever explained about the Brakiri? Or have I selectively not noticed any female Brakiri?) And the Hyach (Hyatt? No, that's a hotel chain) and the Pak'Ma'Ra and so forth. Even if they are not one of the main races, from very early on they have a coherent look which helps the station to feel real.

4) I've discovered the Babylon 5 audio guide podcasts and they are excellent! Great discussion for each episode, and suitable for both new viewers and those doing a re-watch. (They have a loud noise to indicate the start of spoilers.)

5) You can now find a whole bunch of convention videos online! The 20th anniversary con panels are mostly on YouTube (here, here, here and here... and here, here) but here are also some 1990s clips. I haven't watched them so I can't swear as to the quality, but it's nice to see them!

6) I feel like more than a couple of governments have watched this show and thought, "yes, the Earth Alliance approach to things is actually pretty great, we should totally implement that at home." Some of it is even worse. I'm fairly certain that Donald Trump's speeches map word for word against Londo's most bombastic, aggressive declarations. He is, after all, going to make the Centauri Republic great again.

7) Julie Musante would have been hired by David Cameron's team in seconds.

8) I really like how we see representatives of the Earth Alliance and they're not all American? There are people from all across the Alliance.

9) ... I miss Andreas.

Date: 2016-05-31 05:05 pm (UTC)
selenak: (Shadows - Saava)
From: [personal profile] selenak
Re: Talia, no, as far as I recall, the Telepath novels don't mention her. I think the problem is that Lyta and Talia essentially were the same character in the grand narrative; not literally, of course, but when JMS did the pilot, he certainly intended Lyta to be the ongoing telepath, when the network didn't like Pat Tallman, he brought in Talia, and only when Andrea Thompson decided to leave did Pat and Lyta become an option again. If Andrea Thompson hadn't left, Talia would not have been Control, and instead of getting modified by going to Vorlon space, as Lyta was, Talia would have revealed to be modified by Jason Ironheart's gift, and by the time Kosh had made a copy of her mind. And so on. I do wonder whether Marcus would have existed if Andrea Thompson hadn't left, or if he had existed but been in unrequited love with someone else.

re: 6, well, Bush Jr. was a fan of the show (one of his sidekicks told Boxleitner who told JMS who was horrified), but clearly he saw himself as Sheridan, and so, you can bet, do most of the current bunch of wannabe dictators. Fighting the good fight against corrupt governments who are secretly in league with evil shadowy FOREIGNERS who have designs to enslave you all. Oh, it can be twisted. And everyone loves themselves as the victim fighting back, even if in reality they're the most privileged of the lot. (I'll never get over reading a review of The Two Towers in which TIME critic Richard Corliss compared the US to the hobbits. Viggo Mortensen didn't get over that one, either. He wore a "no blood for oil" t-shirt on every promo event the cast did, and wrote an incensed letter to TIME. This being the year of the second Iraq War.)

Date: 2016-06-01 10:08 am (UTC)
aris_tgd: I feel like a Vorlon on its back--I can't get up and it's my fault! (amused at own stupidity)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
Oh God, I can actually answer some of those questions because I know far too much about the "original plans" before characters had to drop out, but if you want an example of all of the worst of JMS' writing tics with none of his best habits, try to dig up a copy of the original five-year plan. It was released with the script books and it's... it's not good.

Originally, Takashima was going to have Garibaldi's second-in-command's role, to shoot him in the back and work on the President's assassination, and then when she left, Ivanova would be promoted from within C&C. I don't know if she was also going to be Control, I think that was going to be later? They were definitely going to bring in Rangers at some point, but I don't know if they'd made the decision around Season 1 when they were still hashing stuff out. I do know that if Ivanova hadn't left in Season 5, she would have gotten the Byron romance plot, as a rebound after losing Marcus. Oh dear.

And yes ugh to the Bush Jr. thing. It was Karl Rove who said "I think Babylon 5 is the greatest show on television, and the President thinks so, too." Welp.

Date: 2016-06-02 05:33 am (UTC)
aris_tgd: "Tune your ear to the frequency of despair and cross-reference by the latitude and longitude of a heart in agony." (Lyttle Lytton Spider-Man Agony)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
JMS' comment on the Byron/Ivanova thing was that she was going to basically charge in because of his surface similarities to Marcus, and then I believe they were going to break up because those surface similarities weren't what she wanted. So it's not quite as bad as it sounds? Lyta was going to have a similar arc to the one she had in the actual show, but more as a member of the cult, so more emotionally distant.

But yes, AUGH, I do wish they'd gotten more about Talia!

(The original 5-year plan... ... siiigh... had Sinclair not being Valen, hooking up with Delenn after Catherine gets her memory wiped out, and them having some kind of super-quick-aging baby who is an "innocent" adult and thus the new perfect spiritual leader... I don't even know. They steal B4 in the future and rename it Babylon Prime and there's more Shadow War stuff I think? Like, he was planning a sequel series? It felt very "I am going to BLOW YOUR MIND, MAN." My mind remained unblown.)

Date: 2016-06-03 07:45 am (UTC)
aris_tgd: Sinclair and Sakai, "Time for a moment." (Time for a moment)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
So very first draft. I do know that his writing of Byron and the teep cult was definitely inspired by his own time in a cult when he was in his teens and twenties, though; he talks about that occasionally in interviews and forwards but I don't know if he's ever written a lot about it.

Aha, I just found the quote about Ivanova and Byron:

"My thought at the time was that, having spurned Marcus and seen the results, Ivanova might hesitate when it seemed to come around again. He would also give her the guidance and ability needed to better understand her latent telepathy, a threat that would have been even further developed by season's end. The premise being that she didn't take affection from the right person, and screwed herself in the process, then on the rebound did accept affection from the wrong person, and got burned as a result.

"What can I say, Ivanova's love life was not a happy road.

"The relationship would have flared hot, complicated her life immensely, and been over in just a few episodes."

I also wish we'd had more telepath stuff. There's a reason The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father is one of my favorite Season 5 episodes, for all its flaws!

Date: 2016-05-31 07:16 pm (UTC)
aris_tgd: Sinclair and Sakai, "Time for a moment." (Time for a moment)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
I miss Andreas, too. :(

3) Alien races! The fish-like folks are the Abbai, and their ambassador is named Kalika. And we do meet a female Brakiri in season 4, at the least; the woman who comes up to fawn all over Sheridan when he's trying to make up with Garibaldi (i.e. at the absolute worst time) is Brakiri. There's a bit of an intro to all the Non-Aligned Worlds in one of the things that B5 Books published, but honestly it doesn't hold with a lot of my headcanon and I tend to ignore what wasn't actually on screen.

Date: 2016-06-01 10:00 am (UTC)
aris_tgd: Action is eloquence. (Captain Lochley from Babylon 5.) (Lochley eloquence)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
Heh, yeah, I meant the script books and the other stuff from b5books.com. I bought those when they were coming out, partly because I love commentary.

And after digging through my stuff for half an hour, I found the book: Other Voices Volume 3 has a rundown of the Non-Aligned Worlds and a glossary of Centauri, Narn, and Minbari. I remember just being kind of disappointed that their Brakiri headcanon didn't agree with mine. ;)

But yes totally to the JMS Marcus/Ivanova fanfic. What even was that. Besides incorrect.

Date: 2016-06-02 05:36 am (UTC)
aris_tgd: Franklin, "Teach hope" (Teach hope)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
I hope that video resurfaces, too!

Bill Mumy told me that he and Peter David wrote a script for Season 5 that (obviously) never got produced, but neither of them has a copy any more and Mumy finds even thinking about Season 5 to be really depressing (he hasn't watched any of the episodes.) I'd love to dig that out of the ashes! So much B5 stuff is just lost and it makes me sad.

... Of course, what I want more than anything is a proper Blu-Ray remastering with all-new effects shots in 16:9 aspect ratio, but that's just dreaming.

Date: 2016-05-31 07:46 pm (UTC)
ruuger: Londo from Babylon 5 and the text: "And now for something completely different - a Centauri with seven tentacles" (B5: Something completely different)
From: [personal profile] ruuger
because of the utter respect on both their parts for the other. They are very different, and yet they respect those differences and try to accommodate them.

Oh yes, this. That respect and slow development of their relationship is one of the reasons why J/D is one of the few OTPs I have.

OK, maybe I never learned the name of the fishpeople, but I remember Ambassador FishPerson being concerned with Homeguard terrorism.

Abbai. I remember it because Abba is a brand of pickled herring ;)

"yes, the Earth Alliance approach to things is actually pretty great, we should totally implement that at home."

And the Finnish extreme right wing has clearly taken lessong from the Home Guard and the Clark-approved ISN. It was actually one of the things that really made me think when I was rewatching the show last autumn, how eerily current the show still is.

... I miss Andreas.

Me too. And Michael and Richard, and all the rest. It was really sad often you'd be watching a scene and suddenly realise that most of the people in it are dead :(

In addition to the con videos, I recommend watching this interview that JMS did wtíth the archive of American television. It 's notable mainly because it was the first interview where JMS told the truth about Michael O'hare's departure, but the whole thing is really interesting.

Date: 2016-06-04 11:23 am (UTC)
ruuger: My hand with the nails painted red and black resting on the keyboard of my laptop (Default)
From: [personal profile] ruuger
the rise of the far right is so spot on in the show that when we look around and see it happening it makes you realise how slowly and how gradually everything has been sliding to the right

What I liked best about it is that Zack also went along with it at first, not because he was brainwashed or evil, but simply because the Ministry of Peace paid him some extra and he didn't realise until later what it really meant.

Also, I used to think that "The Illusion of Truth" was unrealistic, but on my last rewatch I realised that it was scarily accurate portrayal of how the pro-Russia propagandists work today. It just seemed so over the top that surely no-one could really believe it, but if you replaced Minbari and aliens with immigrants, it wouldn't be that far removed from stuff that's being shared on social media...

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