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Owen Richardson
Owen Richardson

[S4E21] Reunion Part 3

Babylon 5 is an American space opera television series created by writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski, under the Babylonian Productions label, in association with Straczynski's Synthetic Worlds Ltd. and Warner Bros. Domestic Television. After the successful airing of a test pilot movie on February 22, 1993, Babylon 5: The Gathering, Warner Bros. commissioned the series for production in May 1993 as part of its Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN).[1] The show premiered in the US on January 26, 1994, and ran for five 22-episode seasons.

[S4E21] Reunion Part 3

The series follows the human military staff and alien diplomats stationed on a space station, Babylon 5, built in the aftermath of several major inter-species wars as a neutral ground for galactic diplomacy and trade. Major plotlines included Babylon 5's embroilment in a millennial cyclic conflict between ancient races, inter-race wars and their aftermaths, and intra-race intrigue and upheaval. The human characters, in particular, become pivotal to the resistance against Earth's descent into totalitarianism.

Unusual at the time of its airing, Babylon 5 was conceived as a "novel for television" with a pre-planned five-year story arc, each episode envisioned as a "chapter".[2] Whereas contemporary television shows tended to maintain the overall status quo, confining conflicts to individual episodes, Babylon 5 featured story arcs which spanned multiple episodes and even seasons, effecting permanent changes to the series universe.[3][4] Tie-in novels, comic books, and short stories were also developed to play a significant canonical part in the overall story.[5]

A group of rogue human telepaths take sanctuary on the station, seeking Sheridan's aid to escape the control of Psi Corps, the autocratic Earth agency that oversees telepaths. However the telepath colony begins causing many problems for the Interstellar Alliance and are eventually expelled. At the same time, remnant aliens loyal to the Shadows' known as the Drakh, seek revenge against the Centauri who betrayed the Shadows, and against Sheridan's Alliance whom defeated them. They infiltrate the Centauri government and orchestrate attacks against other Alliance members. Mollari attempts to purge the alien manipulation of his government but is too late. After a devastating attack by Alliance forces on Centauri Prime, Mollari is installed as emperor, but under Drakh control. He then permanently withdraws the Centauri from the Interstellar Alliance. Twenty years later, Sheridan has a last reunion with his friends before leaving to join Lorien and the older races "beyond the rim".

With not all cast members being hired for every episode of a season, the five-year plot length caused some planning difficulties. If a critical scene involving an actor not hired for every episode had to be moved, that actor had to be paid for work on an extra episode.[21] It was sometimes necessary to adjust the plotline to accommodate external influences, an example being the "trap door" that was written for every character: in the event of that actor's unexpected departure from the series, the character could be written out with minimal impact on the storyline.[26] Straczynski stated, "As a writer, doing a long-term story, it'd be dangerous and short-sighted for me to construct the story without trap doors for every single character. ... That was one of the big risks going into a long-term storyline which I considered long in advance;..."[27] This device was eventually used to facilitate the departures of Claudia Christian and Andrea Thompson from the series.

Straczynski purposely went light on elements of the five-year narrative during the first season as he felt the audience would not be ready for the full narrative at that time, but he still managed to drop in some scenes that would be critical to the future narrative. This also made it challenging for the actors to understand their motivations without knowing where their characters were going; Straczynski said "I didn't want to tell them too much, because that risks having them play the result, rather than the process."[21] He recalled that Peter Jurasik had asked him about the context of Londo's premonition, shown partially in "Midnight on the Firing Line", of himself and G'Kar choking each other to death, but Straczynski had to be coy about it.[21] The full death scene was shown in context in "War Without End - Part 2" near the end of the third season.

With an interest in costume history, she initially worked closely with Straczynski to get a sense of the historical perspective of the major alien races, "so I knew if they were a peaceful people or a warring people, cold climate etc. and then I would interpret what kind of sensibility that called for."[33] Collaborating with other departments to establish co-ordinated visual themes for each race, a broad palette of colors was developed with Iacovelli, which he referred to as "spicy brights".[35] These warm shades of gray and secondary colors, such as certain blues for the Minbari, would often be included when designing both the costumes and relevant sets. As the main characters evolved, Bruice referred back to Straczynski and producer John Copeland who she viewed as "surprisingly more accessible to me as advisors than other producers and directors", so the costumes could reflect these changes. Ambassador Londo Mollari's purple coat became dark blue and more tailored while his waistcoats became less patterned and brightly colored as Bruice felt "Londo has evolved in my mind from a buffoonish character to one who has become more serious and darker."[32]

Like many of the crew on the show, members of the costume department made onscreen cameos. During the season 4 episode "Atonement", the tailors and costume supervisor appeared as the Minbari women fitting Zack Allan for his new uniform as the recently promoted head of security. His complaints, and the subsequent stabbing of him with a needle by costume supervisor Kim Holly, was a light-hearted reference to the previous security uniforms, a design carried over from the pilot movie which were difficult to work with and wear due to the combination of leather and wool.[34]

In anticipation of the emerging HDTV standard, rather than the usual 4:3 format, the series was shot in 16:9, with the image cropped to 4:3 for initial television transmissions.[37] It was one of the first television shows to use computer technology in creating visual effects, rather than models and miniatures, primarily out of budgetary concerns; Straczynski estimated that each of their episodes cost US$650,000 to make, compared to the US$1.5 million cost of each episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[21] The visual effects were achieved using Amiga-based Video Toasters at first, and later Pentium, Macintosh, and Alpha-based systems using LightWave 3D.[38][39] The effects sequences were designed to simulate Newtonian physics, with particular emphasis on the effects of inertia on the motion of spacecraft.[40]

The notion that the war was about "killing your parents"[67] is echoed in the portrayal of the civil war between the human colonies and Earth. Deliberately dealing in historical and political metaphor, with particular emphasis upon McCarthyism and the HUAC,[73] the Earth Alliance becomes increasingly authoritarian, eventually sliding into a dictatorship. The show examines the impositions on civil liberties under the pretext of greater defense against outside threats which aid its rise, and the self-delusion of a populace which believes its moral superiority will never allow a dictatorship to come to power, until it is too late.[74] The successful rebellion led by the Babylon 5 station results in the restoration of a democratic government and true autonomy for Mars and the colonies.[75]

The Shadow War also features prominently in the show, wherein the Shadows work to instigate conflict between other races to promote technological and cultural advancement, opposed by the Vorlons who are attempting to impose their own authoritarian philosophy of obedience. The gradual discovery of the scheme and the rebellion against it underpin the first three seasons,[81] but also as a wider metaphor for competing forces of order and chaos. In that respect, Straczynski stated he presented Earth's descent into a dictatorship as its own "shadow war".[82] In ending the Shadow War before the conclusion of the series, the show was able to more fully explore its aftermath, and it is this "war at home" which forms the bulk of the remaining two seasons. The struggle for independence between Mars and Earth culminates with a civil war between the human colonies (led by the Babylon 5 station) and the home planet. Choosing Mars as both the spark for the civil war, and the staging ground for its dramatic conclusion, enabled the viewer to understand the conflict more fully than had it involved an anonymous colony orbiting a distant star.[62] The conflict, and the reasons behind it, were informed by Nazism, McCarthyism and the breakup of Yugoslavia,[73] and the destruction of the state also served as partial inspiration for the Minbari civil war.[83][84]

When religion is an integral part of an episode, various characters express differing view points. In the episode "Soul Hunter", where the concept of an immortal soul is touched upon, and whether after death it is destroyed, reincarnated, or simply does not exist. The character arguing the latter, Doctor Stephen Franklin, often appears in the more spiritual storylines as his scientific rationality is used to create dramatic conflict. Undercurrents of religions such as Buddhism have been viewed by some in various episode scripts,[96] and while identifying himself as an atheist,[87] Straczynski believes that passages of dialog can take on distinct meanings to viewers of differing faiths, and that the show ultimately expresses ideas which cross religious boundaries.[97] 041b061a72


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