Babylon 5  Season 1- Signs And Portents
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Babylon 5 Season 1- Signs And Portents

Ever since I was old enough to journey out from the family apartment to the local library my favorite type of recreational reading has been in the science fiction/fantasy vein. While I enjoy it all from the pulp paperbacks to the relatively new format of the graphic novels I have found that many of the best stories are those that require more than a single book to tell. These stories build an entirely new universe complete with histories, cultures and fully fleshed out back stories for the major characters. To do this, the author has to have the vision to imagine past the confines of a single novel to a grand work that spans some nice meaty tones. The one downside of such an endeavor is when they become popular the natural course of events is to bring the story to movies or television. No matter how well the intentions of the screen writer may be the visual and literary formats are frequently incompatible, at least on the level of some threads will have to be modified or deleted in the migration to the screen. Then a new approach was attempted by J. Michael Straczynski, and this new paradigm of storytelling became an incredible success.

Among the exceptionally long and much-lauded list of book, screenplays, movies and comics written by JMS his most beloved by the sci-fi fan community is ‘Babylon 5’. This story is rich in details and amazingly expensive in sheer scope. In the creation of the ‘Babylon 5’ as a series, JMS set out to craft something new for both the genre and the format. The underlying concept for the series was not to turn a novel into a television series but present a five-year story arc directly to TV. Each novel would be represented by one season with the 22 episodes used in place of the tradition chapters. This was quite a risk since all too many series, especially in this genre, are canceled long before they can establish themselves. James pulled it off better than any fan could have imagined, and the saga has been released to DVD. If you are considering adding this to your collection save up and be sure to get the complete series pack. Otherwise, it would be like reading a novel with pages torn out. The series was envisioned as a complete literary work and deserves to be treated as such. JMS has always been on the cutting edge of technology from the early Usenet days to keep in touch with fans through many online and convention based forums. This has enabled him to keep in touch with his global fan base considering their feedback to his various projects. Ever looking to the future JMS filmed the series in 1.78:1 aspect ratio in anticipation of laser disc release and hopefully someday a Blu-ray re-mastering. The current DVDs do up-convert extremely well to high definition the currently available sets will look and sound great right now.

In keeping with the televised novel motif each of the five seasons was given a sub title to set the stage for the main story arcs and themes explored. For season one that titles is ‘Signs and Portents.' This is only fitting since this initial season lays the necessary foundation required to tell the entire story. Here JMS introduces the audience to the players in his elaborately constructed universe. Humanity has already reached out to the stars. It has been ten years since our first interstellar war abruptly ended. Our foes in that conflict were the Minbari, an ancient race that was in most respects stronger and more technologically advanced than humanity. The Babylon project was started to provide an open port of call for all species and encourage the peaceful resolution of conflict through open exchange and discussion. The first three stations destroyed through sabotage, and the fourth mysteriously disappeared soon after becoming operational. The fifth has become a major commercial hub, and point of great strategic importance, representing the interests of Earth is the station’s administrator commander Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O'Hare). Along with his second in command Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) and chief of security Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) they share the arduous responsibility of keeping a five-mile long cylinder filled with strange and frequently antagonistic aliens from killing each other. The ambassador leading the Minbari delegation is Delenn (a powerful leader on her home world. A constant source of aggravation for Sinclair and the others in charge are the ambassadors from two rival galactic empires; G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) from the Narn Regime and the always scheming Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik). Just keeping them from starting another intergalactic war is a full-time occupation. The last of the major powers to be represented are the mysterious Vorlans represented by Kosh (Ardwight Chamberlain). They are beyond ancient, one of the oldest races in the universe. Their home world has an atmosphere poisonous to most other races and usually appears only in their ‘encounter suits’ that had every aspect of their true form.

There are several classic themes JMS employs in this series. One of the most important is the religious expression and beliefs of alien cultures. One episode, in particular, juxtaposes many such belief systems including the myriad of affiliations held by humanity. The Minbari have several castes in their social order including a religious and warrior caste. Another theme is the role of the individual. For some with paranormal mental abilities, this power frequently redefined the concept of privacy. These people were formally trained by a powerful, covert organization called Psi Corp. at the lower end of the scale they can assist with trade negotiations but the higher levels form an elite secret police force. Personal aspects such as this elevate this series from the science fiction on television allowing it to be a matured vehicle for telling stories that are full of allegory to circumstances evident in our culture. Political intrigue runs high throughout the series, and in this first season, a lot of the back story had to be established. By the end of this season, you will find yourself fully engaged by the vastness of JMS’ vision

Posted 08/08/2010            09/14/2017

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