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Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



When B5 was newly airing I only saw bits and pieces of it. I missed the first season or two (not having access to a TV at college), and then afterwards I only saw the odd episode here and there, and Thirdspace at its cast premiere because I knew a guy who worked on it. Beyond that it was all pretty vague and mysterious to me, floating on the edge of my awareness.

I've got it all in front of me now, though. Time to see what was what.

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Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Watched the first episode, and hahaha holy gently caress this is terrible

I don't mean the story, the story's pretty good. And the characters. And I don't even mind the super-low-budgetude of the sets and music or the primitive CGI. I mean the acting, I mean jesus christ. And the writing too! I had been under the impression that JMS was some kind of screenwriting royalty, but this is some of the clumsiest hi-I-am-the-first-episode exposition dialogue I have ever heard. "Hello Londo, let me recap the shared history of our two races in a completely organic manner." "Why yes Meester Bruce Willis Stunt Double, that is fine plan."

(I suppose it'll be explained why Londo has this ludicrous scenery-chewing accent but Vir sounds like some white-bread guy talking through prank vampire fangs.)

But yeah, I know it gets way better, and I can see there's the seed of some great storytelling here. It's just, I know I was supposed to expect something dated and flawed, I guess I just wasn't expecting those particular parts to be so glaring.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



I mean one of the most obvious "product of its time" things is right in the cold open, the line that gets cut off. It's like:

"Tell them we're under attack! Tell them it's the—"

—and you can hear that big floppy em dash sitting there in the script because there's nothing written after it. There's a split second of pause before the scene cuts away, long enough to make the cutoff sound completely artificial, long enough that the actor might as well have sucked in a big old breath.

Modern shows are very careful to avoid that sort of thing, either by having really intricate naturalistic dialogue or by placing your scene cuts so that awkward pauses like that are masked. Or both.

This isn't a criticism, it's just kind of a trip reminding myself what TV was like in 1993. Nowadays even a mediocre TV show is shot like a feature film in the 90s would have been, and we look at BSG and call that dated. We've become so spoiled.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



That Soul Hunter episode was pretty tits.

Lots of cheesiness still, but the acting (especially from the title character) was a 1000x improvement over anything in episode 1, just for the guy's creepiness and menace and general weirdness.

Plus I love how your POV keeps getting jerked back and forth between "Wow these people are crazy and evil" and "Wait, they're actually doing something cool and good and metaphysics is real" and "No wait this one guy is an actual lunatic even by their standards".

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



"Born to the Purple"—nice, feels like a Trek TOS story. I'm a little confused, though: I'd gotten the impression that B5 was a highly serialized show, with a long-running story divided into little chunks in the vein of latter DS9. But it feels a lot more episodic here, I guess more like, well, early DS9. Is that an emergent thing that comes about later?

Also how much did B5 and DS9 borrow from each other? I sure do see a lot of Quark/Odo in the Londo/G'Kar relationship.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



WarLocke posted:

Hey, guy(s) watching the show for the first time: Don't count out Vir. He gets one of the most excellent scenes in the show later on.

(Specifically, his answer when Morden asks him The Question, and the fallow-up later on)

Also the show gets about 200% better when Sheridan shows up. I always felt that Sinclair was a block of wood.

... drat, now I want to watch this show again.

Haha wow, I completely spaced on Sheridan and Sinclair being different names.

I had all but convinced myself that I was misremembering anything about Bruce Boxleitner being on the show, or what I thought he looked like. Then when I realized I wasn't seeing his name in the credits I looked up Michael O'Hare and saw that they wrote him out after Season 1, and I assumed that that meant they just recast the main character of the show and nobody ever made a big enough deal about it for me to hear about it

Anyway, "Infection": hahaha oh my god this is some ridiculous poo poo. Sinclair talks down an organic Terminator robot by explaining the evils of Naziism in the middle of a firefight, and then the bad guy sees the light and drops to his knees and gives us fuckin' one of these

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s

I mean god drat that's some tasty cheese

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



The "colorful language" sure could stand to be a little more saturated.

"I feel like I've had my tonsils taken out through my ears"

"As bad ideas go it's up there with having my gums extracted"

These are some of the most :iamafag: lines ever.



E: that said, the "all of Earth's religions all lined up for your perusal" at the end of The Parliament of Dreams was unexpectedly moving.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



It lampshaded it at least, by kind of pointing out that it's silly to design alien cultures that way. Of course, it might not have been too late for themselves at that point to redesign some of the alien worlds to be heterogeneous...

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Heh, so in the cold open of "The War Prayer", are Delenn and the poet lady hitting on each other? "Can I walk you to your quarters?" "Nah, I think we both have to be up early tomorrow"

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



The monologue is about 2/3 of the way through, in his quarters. This had me confused for a bit.

Speaking of being confused, though, the bit at the end where he's talking to Delenn—she's mystified by the concept of poetry and he has to explain it to her, but then in S1E7 her people have that poet laureate who is the subject of the Earth nativists' intimidation

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



They sure do like their scenery-chewing British-accented one-off antagonists on this show, I gotta say I loved the ersatz Malcolm McDowell guy's line about "they fixed you some milk and cookies"

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



"Believers": drat, someone's reeeeeally got a mad-on for Christian Scientists :iamafag:

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Also I'm getting the impression that Netter is a world-class douchebag. He wrote himself into the show as an offscreen General?

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Raygereio posted:

I think it's worth watching it once. if only to experience this scene in all its amazing and baffling glory.

Holy gently caress. That's amazing.

That's the kind of thing that must have sounded fantastic on the written page, but...

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



In episode 12, "By Any Means Necessary", holy poo poo has the writing come on by leaps and bounds since the first episode. Remember how I was grousing about clumsy partial/interrupted lines? This time that whole scene between the union boss lady and Sinclair/Garibaldi is just full of lines where they talk over each other and yell to cut each other off while the one who was interrupted keeps on going for a good five or six words that sputter out like a dying dirtbike. It's way more engrossing.

Of course I don't for a minute buy that any strikebreaking in history has actually gone down remotely the way it does in this play-acted googly-eyed rendition, but it was plenty entertaining anyway. And the B story of G'Kar and Londo fighting over a flower was dreadfully fun; they've both just disappeared into their roles.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009




Something tells me I have erred in watching this prematurely.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



I mean I feel like that's the whole point. B5 wears its "We Are Not Star Trek" badge on its sleeve more openly than, like, BSG or just about anything else I can think of. This ain't no "wagon train to the stars"; right down to the title sequence monologue it's painting a diametrically opposite worldview, where Space ain't no Final Frontier, humans have no Manifest Destiny, no White Man's Burden to civilize the universe, we're just another struggling race trying to make it in a violent neighborhood. Not only is there money, there's not much of it—there are crippling budget shortfalls. Medicine isn't advanced to the point of waving magic wands around; doctors still have to do invasive surgery. Humans speak different languages. You can't beam yourself places, you have to ride on cramped shuttles. Elbow room is at a premium. No holodecks. No replicators. Basically it's saying "Hey, there's nothing wrong with making your sci-fi future relatable to the audience's lovely lives; hell, it makes storytelling more interesting. And so what if it means none of that wide-eyed utopian hope? This is the 90s, we all know that's bullshit, and we'll all be long dead anyway by the time any of this happens"

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Hahaha holy poo poo are you kidding me



Now that's grounding it in reality

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



I mean that whole sequence is basically a gag anyway. The music practically breaks into a Sports Training Montage when Garibaldi turns to him all "You're the best I've ever seen "

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



"Eyes": lol I had that exact same motorcycle

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Btw Bill Mumy being a weeb was pretty funny

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Something that occurred to me while watching Delenn's monologue about humans in "Babylon Squared": god, can you imagine how that scene would have sounded if we weren't the race being talked about? If it were a council of humans talking about some other alien race, talking about how their uniqueness is that they "do not surrender" and "hurt them, and they only come back stronger", and that "their only weakness is that they do not recognize their own greatness". They wouldn't be delivering those lines in reverent tones, more like "holy gently caress these guys are bad news and must be stopped at any cost". I mean, do some role-reversal thought experiments with those lines; it sounds really weirdly fascistic and self-denigrating, like "Nazi Supermen Are Our Superiors"

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



"The Quality of Mercy": daaamn, nice set of double-twists in this one. I was about 2/3 of the way through and thinking "Wow, it seems like the doctor lady and Franklin have come to a nice pat agreement; seems this one's wrapped up early". But then the murderer story tied back into it all of a sudden, and then just as I was kicking myself for not seeing that coming, there's another when she suddenly goes all badass. That's quite a piece of writing.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



First season's done. Nice!

Morden's a nice creepy introduction to DARK MYSTERIOUS THINGS TO COME. I wonder though—having just come through a Wheel of Time spiteread, was there some disease in the 90s that gripped everyone with the need to name mysterious and foreboding but handsome and oddly compelling but clearly evil and offering faustian bargains characters some variation on "Morden"?

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Jesus, Bruce Boxleitner is going to be the first one they tap to do the biopic of Bill Clinton, huh?

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



S2 seems way geekier than S1.

"There's an old saying: never try the patience of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger" :iamafag:

"Just my luck, I get stuck with a race that speaks only in macros."

And the "holovirus" or whatever it was that was eating Londo's computer, pfffhaha. It's like suddenly everyone on staff got an AOL account.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



I've only picked up some of the meta-drama via innuendo over the years. Do I have it right: they thought they were getting cancelled after S4, so they rushed to wrap up what would have been two more seasons in a single season, and then at the last minute it got renewed for an S5 after all, so S5 is mostly filler?

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



So does someone wanna explain how the gently caress Delenn's hair works now?




Also, lol Carl Sagan references. The geekiness level remains high.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Data Graham posted:

So does someone wanna explain how the gently caress Delenn's hair works now?

Okay so kudos to them for lampshading this, I guess:



I mean, well, kinda. Funny that they're doing a whole "what's it like to be a human woman" subplot. But what I was getting at was, how does her hair work with her headpiece/skull thing? Does the hair go under it? Isn't that thing supposed to be a part of her head? Or is it something she puts on over the top of the hair, like a headband or a helmet? I mean obviously that's what it is in terms of costume/makeup, but in-universe it's really taking me out of the moment by making me ask whether that ridge thing is a part of her head or what.

Oh, and here's me during the last few moments of this episode:

quote:

Commander.
Susan.

Heh

quote:

(looking like she has a followup question) I wish to thank you again for your patience and understanding.
Oh, not a problem.

Uh

quote:

Taking on human characteristics has been something of an education for both of us.
Well, if you have any other problems, any other questions at all, just ask.

Oh god no

quote:

Well, now that you mention it do you have any idea why I suddenly started getting these odd cramps?

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



God, the doctor. I started out thinking he was pretty cool, but with every scene he's been in he's edged a little closer to super creepytown.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Did the other guys all pretend he was an rear end in a top hat as a cover story, or were they all as shocked as everyone else when they found out the real reason?

As for Sheridan, I'm having a hell of a time warming up to him too. It's weird, casting-wise you'd think he'd be a much more likable guy; he's got this aw-shucks smile and folksy manner about him, and lots of ways in which he's meant to come off as disarmingly confused and out of his depth. But he undermines it at every step by blustering and stomping around and yelling at people for stupid reasons. Whereas Sinclair was definitely a block of wood (as was said earlier), but everyone was written to find him personable and he made that stick really well.

This whole business about not wanting to pay rent for his cabins and bullying Ivanova into holding a sleep-in in his office was like,

Data Graham fucked around with this message at Sep 21, 2016 around 10:56

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



So "The Coming of Shadows", hell drat that's some kinda episode, huh.

Really impressive to see how so many of the slowly-building character subplots of Londo and G'Kar and their various confederates all suddenly come crashing together, and especially impressive in how inevitable it all feels, especially in retrospect. I doubt that the show is really trying to Say Something, but it's painting a really vivid picture of how diplomacy and negotiations are sometimes just completely futile, and the Star Trek view of things where any amount of centuries-old racial hatred can be assuaged with a few patriarchal platitudes is just criminally naive.

I never expected my opinion of a character to take such a huge leap through something as simple as sitting motionless, but Vir declining to take that drink at the end, daaamn I like him all of a sudden.

One thing I'm missing, though. I skimmed through that massive compilation of JMS' Usenet posts on this episode and didn't see anything addressing it, but: what's the deal with Garibaldi telling the Ranger guy that he may have saved the lives of a quarter million Narns? I don't know what he could have been referring to. All he did was show the tape of Sinclair telling us about the Rangers, and that there's a mysterious race out there to watch out for. How does that save anybody? That "quarter million" is really confusing. That's the same number of Narns that were on the colony that was attacked, and they were most certainly not saved, and everybody in the conversation knows it at the time. What's going on there?



E: Oh, okay, I see (I think): the 250K Narns are the civilian survivors that Sheridan was able to get Londo to release by threatening to have Earth observers come. But that was a bluff, which Sheridan was able to do based on what he learned from the Sinclair recording... which was what? What did Sinclair's advice of "watch out for the shadows, I can't tell you more" gave Sheridan the ability to threaten to send observers? Why couldn't he have sent observers anyway? Why am I missing this, I feel like I'm too dumb to watch this show in real time or something.

Data Graham fucked around with this message at Sep 21, 2016 around 14:12

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



There was? The dialogue is split up between intercuts, but it goes:

quote:

Their job for now is to patrol the frontier. To listen. To watch. And return with reports too sensitive to entrust to regular channels. They are my eyes and ears. Where you see them, you see me.

- cut -

In the name of our friendship, I ask that you give them every courtesy and cooperation. I wish I could tell you more, wish I could warn you but the others don 't think it's time yet. Stay close to the Vorlon. And watch out for shadows. They move when you're not looking at them.

And that's it. I don't see where else in that recording there could have been such an important thing glossed over.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Well that's what I'm wondering, maybe I do

I still don't see what Garibaldi could have told Sheridan that gave him the ability to bluff the threat of sending observers. Why couldn't he make that threat regardless of having heard anything from or about the Rangers? What exactly are we supposed to infer that he's basing the bluff on?

I don't mind only hearing something once, or even having to fill it in in retrospect; but hearing an important detail zero times is a bit of a stretch I think

quote:

Since New Year's, we've been hearing about another major race on the prowl. My source tells me the rumors are true. There may be some link to the Centauri government. Who or what that link is I don't know. But they're definitely getting support.

And you think this other race was behind the assault on Quadrant 14?

It's possible.

If it's true they won't want that information to get out.

Information? All we have is supposition.

Sheridan's rule number 29: Always make your opponent think you know more than you do. Now, if your source is right, we may be able to play a bluff.

Was the bluff based on Londo thinking Sheridan knows about the Shadows, and that ... means he can send observers? Is "observers" supposed to be read as "We are in league with the Shadows too, and they're the observers"?

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Hm, okay.

I guess I assumed the new friends were already gone and wouldn't be seen one way or the other.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Yeah that's pretty clear, it's just funny that the props are so obviously castoffs from Six Flags or something.

Not that there was much reason to make something new, it's a solid design for the purpose.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Fuckin' lol



JMS has a really odd sense of humor sometimes. :iamafag:

Also, just got to the conversation with the thread title. That was a good bit of dialogue.

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Moychandising! Moychandising!

Good belly laugh moments at the human mask, and the "attributes" of the Londo doll. "You feel like you've been symbolically cast— ... in a negative light."

Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



Hahaha

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Data Graham
Dec 28, 2009



The intro section of "Knives" is great; batting cages and alien opera, both more realistic than anything Trek ever did.

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