"Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tonnes of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last, best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5."Babylon 5 is a Nineties Space Opera created by J. Michael Straczynski, running from 1994-1998 (a two-hour pilot, "The Gathering", had aired in 1993). It was syndicated as a part of the PTEN network package for its first four seasons, and was picked up by TNT for its fifth.The story takes place on Babylon 5, a giant cylindrical space station (the design is more specifically referred to as an O'Neil Cylender, the station referred in-universe as O'Neil class) and sort of United Nations in space. It's not all roses, however, as Earth's military is woefully outmatched by those of the other delegates, resulting in what can be generously described as a tentative peace. It's up to the crew to throw cold water on old rivalries and keep these various factions from devouring one another; a task made difficult by an increasingly-reactionary and despotic Earth command.
— Season 1 Opening
Babylon 5 took the use of Story Arcs to new heights, and introduced the concept of the Wham Episode, with probably over half of its episodes contributing to one major series-long arc (a Myth Arc). JMS had plotted out much of the arc before the series began, and occasionally referred to it as a five-year long Mini Series or as "one story told over five years". Some of the story was also told through the tie-in novels and comic books since there wasn't time within that five-year timeframe to tell the entire story on television.While the series is often given as an early example of a hard science fiction show, it does have Humanoid Aliens and Rubber-Forehead Aliens (with human-like Fantasy Counterpart Cultures) making up the majority of its non-human cast, aliens and machines with powers verging on magic, and humans with Psychic Powers. Still, by TV standards, it's fairly crispy sci-fi. Likewise, while the show is often seen as being more toward the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, at times almost edging into Black and Gray Morality, it also has some shining moments of idealism as well. One could say that the overarching Aesop of the series is "the pragmatic survive, and the determined thrive, but Faith Manages."It is available via Netflix, in disc form only. The WB has also put up Season 1 and cycling episodes (think Hulu "view X episodes at a time") of season 2 for online watching. The first season does not include the tenth episode, "Believers." There is also a DVD box including all seasons and movies.Has an in-progress Recap page. Vote here for the Best Episode.
Spin-Offs and TV movies:Crusade, which ran for 13 episodes in 1999, told the story of the spaceship Excalibur and her search for a counteragent to/cure for a slow-acting biological weapon which has been deployed against the Earth by a returning B5 villain. The series had serious trouble: superficial resemblance to the plot of Star Blazers was cited, and creators raged against the ridiculous amounts of Executive Meddling that they had to fight against. (These network notes were attacked more than once in the Crusade scripts themselves.) Opinions on the quality of the episodes were divided: to some, the series showed considerable promise before its premature death; to others, markedly less.There were several associated B5 Made-for-TV Movies:
- The Gathering — 1993 Pilot Movie, with certain differences from the series
- In the Beginning — 1998, a prequel to the series
- Thirdspace — 1998, takes place during the fourth season of the series, after the heroes win the Shadow War and all the First Ones leave the galaxy, but before the beginning of the war to liberate Earth.
- The River of Souls — 1998, takes place shortly after the end of series (excluding its Distant Finale). Features Martin Sheen.
- A Call to Arms — 1999, takes place about five years after the end of the series (excluding its Distant Finale). Serves as a lead-in to Crusade.
- The Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight — 2002 Made-for-TV Movie telling the story of a Ranger ship. This was actually intended to lead into a third B5 series, but it didn't pan out due to the movie airing at the same time as the NFL Divisional Championship.
- The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark — 2007 Direct-to-Video interquel which was intended to be the first of a series of new DTV stories. This one didn't pan out, either, despite some degree of commercial success.