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July 22, 2014 - 4:00 pm

Babylon Five?

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

The Next Generation?

Deep Space Nine?

Voyager?

PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates Features a new prompt each weekday to weigh the good, the bad, the overrated, the unbelievable, and the amazing throughout the worlds of books, film, and TV. We can't figure out how to build a greater pop culture until we dissect the mess we already have. Want to contribute your perspective to the debate? Email PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle with your take: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Image via shutterstock/ DarkGeometryStudios
Top Rated Comments   
Babylon 5

By a very large margin.

Even with all its flaws from people leaving and the last season getting cancelled then brought back, it is still far above the flawed socialist utopia of the Federation with its irregular bouts of functional story in DS9 (the only series that comes close to B5 - gotta be the space station) and random flashes of such in the other series.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Earth culture portrayed in Babylon 5 was far more complex and sophisticated than Star Trek's. The Earth of Babylon 5 is a more recognizable descendant of our contemporary world. Consider the mere existence of Interstellar Network News (ISN) and their show "36 Hours".

They also didn't attempt to give the humans a fantastical level of technological advancement. Human ships didn't have artificially generated gravity fields, nor did anybody have matter transmission. We were NOT God's gift to the universe and most every other star-faring culture was more technically capable than we were.

In comparison, I started to get the feeling that the Enterprise bridge crew worked in an office building with a great picture window.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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Can you guess which I prefer from my picture?
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own."

One element that DS9 and B5 had is mystery. In DS9 there were the prophets. In B5, there were the Vorlons. Who are they, really? Why are their biosuits so oddly shaped? What do they really look like? What are their aims and motivations?

The same is even true in LOTR. We never see the face of Sauron. He never speaks to the reader directly. What is the Wizards' backstory? What kind of being is Tom Bombadil? And so forth.

Other than that, the trouble with using these series as a future guide is that there's really no guarantee. ST had the real dud "Voyager". B5's "sequel", "Crusader", also went nowhere. Things/people that are huge successes are that way partly because of just plain luck, that the best factors just happen to coincide at that time. Because of that, the next attempt will almost always fall short. That isn't a reason not to try, however.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've watched and enjoyed ST for decades. But DS9 is the best.

However, the best of all is definitely Babylon 5. More complex plots and people. Yes, B5 has flaws, some impossible to ignore. But the writing puts it FAR beyond Star Trek! There is NOTHING in Star Trek to compare to this:

"It was the end of the Earth year 2260, and the war had paused, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath . . . waiting.

"All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.

"G'Quon wrote, 'There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities – it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.'

"The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iCPsR_KTL4

Also, there is also nothing in ST that even comes close to the B5 (non-arc) episode, "Passing Through Gethsemane".
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Triumphant" in what sense? I can see the point of the Babylon 5 boosters here in claiming more consistency in the writing and continuity of B5, but I have to ask: how many pop culture references to B5 can you find? How many parodies, mockeries, catch phrases, and references to it in other works? Is there a Turkish Babylon 5? (Turkey has "Turist Ömer Uzay Yolu'nda" which was pretty obviously a rip-off of "The Man Trap" with elements of other episodes from the original series and the titular tourist Ömer thrown in as a Marty Stu character for comedy's sake.)

Compare how many Star Trek references you can find: "Beam me up, Scotty. There's no intelligent life here" (They never actually said anything quite like that in the original series, by the way.) "I come in peace; shoot to kill!" "To boldly [sic] go where no man has gone before." Slightly less well known, but very popular even with fanatical Trekkies: "Shut up, Wesley!"

As to memorable scenes, one of my all-time favorites is the "just like the Federation" scene from Deep Space Nine, which neatly establishes what made it such a brilliant series and the dark horse of the whole franchise:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hdiuRMK3UQ

Again, if you took this question to Europe, you'd probably hear people say that Doctor Who is the most "triumphant" science fiction, though about all I know of pop culture references to it here in America is people joking about "renting space in the TARDIS" whenever something in a movie or a show proves to be bigger on the inside than on the outside.

In terms of writing? MAYBE Babylon 5 is better. (That "elevator" scene from Babylon 5 isn't doing anything for me. Gul Dukat going psychotic on Captain Sisko in "Waltz" looks like a far better two-enemies-trapped-with-each-other scenario by my standards.) In terms of influence, though, Star Trek is far more "triumphant" hands down, and particularly the first series that managed for all of its schlockiness to inspire all the others that followed. (Where are the Babylon 5 sequels?)
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
No question. B5 is the best:

Delenn on B5: "Only one human captain has ever survived battle with the Minbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else."

Deanna Troi on ST:TNG: "I feel great happiness!"
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
By a large margin, Babylon 5. While the Star Trek in the 60's was revolutionary, by the time they started on The Next Generation, they'd lost most of the magic of the original show.

Babylon 5 was one man's dream given form and he maintained control of that dream over all 5 years and it showed. It started the movement away from stand-alone episodic TV towards telling a complex story over multiple years. With most of the Star Trek until the later seasons of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise seasons 3 & 4, your characters and environment was the same at the beginning of the episode and the end of the show.

Babylon 5 showed us that good TV can be made where decisions affect characters. Think G'Kar - at the beginning he was a militant alien cardboard cut out; by the end, he had more layers and character than the entire Enterprise bridge crew. It's a connection to characters that Star Trek has hit only occasionally because of the limitations of it's formulaic approach.

9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Babylon 5. Hands down. This scene seals the deal (at least for me)...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NsdQzoIXIE
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've heard that lots of the cast and crew hung around the set to watch the masters film that scene.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
B5, Straczynski maintained his vision throughout the series even with the scurrying in season 5, Star Trek didn't even attempt a persistent story arc until well into TNG. Then DS9 seemed positioned to go head to head with B5 but B5 did a better job of it's episodes relating to and portending each other, Voyager wound up being a 75 year tour cut short with no little buddy if you don't count Neelix, and who does?

Keep your writers in harness.

Sure would've liked to have seen Chekhov, err, Bester get his in the Telepath War, hopefully at Garibaldi's hands.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Star Trek. If Babylon 5 had caught on like Star Trek did, it would've been run into the ground, too.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
A Thousand "Likes." Exactly. It would've turned into "Love Boat in Space," or something equally noxious.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Babylon 5. Much more interesting characters, more complex plots.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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