Good Morning Babylon Review

by Mark R. Leeper (leeper AT mtgzy DOT att DOT com)
March 4th, 1993

[Followups directed to rec.arts.sf.tv since most discussion of this made-for-TV movie seems to be in that group. It's probably worth noting that the Moderator believes that made-for-TV movies are movies, and their review is suitable for a movie review group, which is why this is included here. -Moderator]

    BABYLON 5
    A film review by Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 1993 Mark R. Leeper

    So far this year we have seen the premieres of SPACE RANGERS, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9, and TIME TRAX. For each I have written a somewhat tongue-in-cheek review of some of the sillier aspects of it. Unfortunately, there is a distinct shortage of silliness in BABYLON 5. In spite of the fact that the pacing is a little lethargic, this is the most intelligent of the new series. I am afraid that without the STAR TREK organization behind BABYLON 5, it probably will not succeed. Yet this is certainly the more engaging series. Where DEEP SPACE 9's idea of an intriguing mystery is where the shape-changer Odo came from, BABYLON 5 is built around a far more interesting mystery. It seems that humans in BABYLON 5 are just coming back on the rebound. Ten years earlier an unstoppable alien race, the Nivari, had totally massacred the humans. All that remained was the final coup de grace and the universe would have been less one species of ape descendents. Then suddenly the Nivari unaccountably declared they had lost the war and surrendered to the humans. A decade later still nobody understands the sudden reversal.

    So here is BABYLON 5, the meeting place of hundreds of species. Like James White's hospital ship, it has provisions for a wide variety of alien species requiring different atmospheres at different pressures. The ship functions as a sort of United Nations and interplanetary hotel in space. There are five major powers as well as many minor cultures interacting.
    The look of the future is perhaps the best thing about the series. There are no silly or gimmicky wipes between scenes. The space effects, created with computer ("Video Toaster") graphics, ar genuinely exciting. They take their inspiration from the characteristic art on British science fiction paperback covers. The effects in the "Star Trek" series seem three-dimensional and have a sort of realism not present here. The space effects here are closer to artists' conceptions and are much more intriguing. Ships open and spread wondrous wings like huge moths would or grip other ships like beetles do. The effects have a real sense of wonder, all this reportedly at one-quarter the cost of "Star Trek"'s effects.
    The first story told in BABYLON 5 is a rather prosaic whodunit which is even a little less suspenseful since we are told the villain at the very beginning. The characters are not really interesting yet, but clearly will become more three-dimensional with future episodes.

    BABYLON 5 deserves a chance to prove itself. This is adult science fiction with a hard edge. I will continue to watch STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9, but I will actually look forward to the next episode of BABYLON 5. For that matter, I will trade you two episodes of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9 for every episode of BABYLON 5 I can get.

Mark R. Leeper
att!mtgzfs3!leeper
leeper@mtgzfs3.att.com
Copyright 1993 Mark R. Leeper

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