YMMV: Babylon 5

  • Anvilicious: Boy, howdy. JMS wanted to make an Important Show full of Significant Messages, and he wanted to make sure you knew it. Almost every episode has a moral, usually delivered with a sledgehammer (like Parliament of Dreams). He gets more graceful after the first season, but subtlety is never his priority. By and large, though, most of them are pretty good anvils.
    • The end of "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place", where Refa is killed, interspersed with a gospel song about how bad people are going to get what's coming to them.
    • "Infection" was one such episode where JMS admitted the moral had too heavy-handed a delivery. Given it was the first episode filmed after the pilot, he could perhaps be forgiven.
  • Arc Fatigue: The telepath colony in season 5. A hotel maid accidentally threw out JMS' notes for the season, and that was the only part he could clearly remember his plans for, resulting in it taking up far too much space.
  • Awesome Music: Quite a few over the show's run. Special mention goes to "And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place."
    • And the music playing at the end of the very last episode.
    • The bar music in “The Face of the Enemy” playing when Sheridan is arrested thanks to a brainwashed Garibaldi.
    • The later opening arrangements are certain to inspire chills as the music perfectly captures the emotions of their individual seasons.
    • "Requiem for the Line", the tense music generally associated with the Battle of the Line. First used in "And the Sky Full of Stars", and later used as the opening theme for season 3.
  • Base Breaker: Marcus Cole caused huge trouble while the show was being broadcast, with all out war between the fans who thought he was a fun Gentleman Snarker and the ones who thought that he was an irritating Gary Stu who'd only been brought in as Mr. Fanservice. Things got even worse when he died (mostly) at the end of the fourth season, and his anti-fans celebrated while his fans launched a fervent campaign for his resurrection.
  • Better on DVD: It's easier to follow the arc-based story structure. It also makes Season 5's telepath arc better, since you can move along faster.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Jha'Dur, known as Deathwalker, from season 1’s episode of the same name, is a Dilgar war criminal and the worst example her species had to offer. Known for performing gruesome experiments upon innocents, Jha'Dur finds herself upon Babylon 5 and when cornered, she unveils a grand scheme: to offer immortality to the other planets' governments. Earth accepts her offer and Deathwalker reveals the secret of immortality to Commander Jeffrey Sinclair: it would require cannibalism, forcing civilizations to fall upon and destroy each other. The sheer delight she took in watching others suffer was nearly unmatched in the series, and her sudden demise was, despite its anticlimax, quite a relief.
    • Lord Refa, from seasons 2 and 3, started off as an Smug Snake who wanted to “return the Centauri to Glory,” but he's the one who started Londo off on his Start of Darkness, making him ask Morden, the Shadows' servant, for favors. He's the one who began the Narn/Centauri War and authorized the illegal weapons the Mass-Drivers used against the Narn Homeworld, killing hundreds of millions. Refa's only loyalties were to himself and his own ambitions and he thinks nothing of condemning countless innocents to death. It says much about him that when Londo had him killed, and faked evidence that he was secretly working with the Narn against his own government to further his interests, the Centauri officials decided to take it at face value.
    • Cartagia, the mad Emperor of the Centauri, from season 3, was a psychotic despot who let his whims dictate Centauri society. He authorizes the ethnic cleansing of Narn and when the Narn leader G'Kar falls into his clutches, Cartagia has him viciously tortured simply for fun, before opting to attempt to sacrifice his own race just because he feels he's a God and can do whatever he likes.
    • Earth's despotic President William Morgan Clark, while rarely seen, turns Earth Government into a dictatorship, has the Psi Corp Mind Rape as a form of interrogation, and forms the Nightwatch, a Nazi-esque group of secret police to kill and torture political enemies. He has dissidents brutally tortured as procedure and bombs civilian colonies, including Mars. When his war is lost, he even tries to turn weapon systems to destroy Earth, solely out of spite.
  • Crack Pairing: Marcus/Neroon is ridiculously popular with the fandom.
  • Crazy Awesome: David Mckintyre AKA "King Arthur".
  • Creator's Pet: An awful lot of minor characters early in the 5th season seem to go on at length about how amazingly awesome Captain Lochley is, to the point of her getting a standing applause by a mess hall full of personnel after going on a tirade at Garibaldi. JMS has said he regrets having Those Two Guys from "A View from the Gallery" singing her praises at the end of the episode, thus giving the impression that shilling her was the whole point of the episode.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • After being criticized for showing a rabbi singing and dancing along to the eponymous gospel song in the episode "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place," JMS claimed he hadn't realized it was a New Testament-exclusive song. One wonders if he ever actually listened to it, since it's a song about sinners trying to avoid the wrath of God on Judgement Day, and name-checks Jesus repeatedly. Presumably, the Rabbi was going along with it to be polite, and it was an interfaith session given the presence of aliens.
    • The Stockholm Syndrome is called "Helsinki Syndrome" in "The Illusion of Truth". Since Die Hard made the same error, it could be an homage or have otherwise inspired its repetition.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Cartagia walking up to Londo & Co. in his pure white suit, except for his entirely blood-red hands, and in a bored tone of voice, talks about how his torturers—"excuse me, pain technicians, they used to be called torturers but ever since they got organized it's been pain technicians"—just couldn't manage to make G'Kar scream, and, well, he'd just had to do it himself... On its own, the scene would be horrifying, but between the way the scene is written and Wortham Kimmer's utterly bored delivery as Cartagia you can't help but laugh.
    • Then he pours the bloody water he rinsed his hands in on some flowers in the garden, to help them grow.
    • What really sells the comedic aspect of the scene is Vir's facial contortions as he listens in growing horror to the Emperor.
    • The end of "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place." Lord Refa being brutally murdered by a gang of Narn would be grim and kind of horrible, at best coldly satisfying. Intercut it with that song in particular and show people celebrating as they sing it, and the scene becomes an exercise in such sheer audacity that it skips gaily back over the line. All to help kill any sympathy one might have for Lord Refa.
  • Crossover Ship: Elizabeth Lochley (with Captain Gideon of Crusade).
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Morden in the official spin-off novel The Shadow Within, which most fans consider non-continuity as a result. Specifically, the novel's depiction of Morden joining the Shadows not for cowardice, gain, or because he agreed with their ideology, but because they Mercy Killed his family, who were trapped in an eternal instant of agony by a jump accident.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Neroon was not originally part of the five year plan, having been created by D.C. Fontana in her script for the episode "Legacies." But JMS was so impressed by John Vickery's performance that he brought the character back several times, eventually making him an essential part of Delenn's story.
    • In the episode "Spider in the Web," JMS gave Jeff Conaway a bit part as a security officer, simply wanting to help him get back on his feet after he kicked his heroin addiction that cost him his job on Taxi. This worked out so well that his character got a name, Zack Allen, and eventually joined the main cast.
  • Fandom Rivalry: During the original broadcast, it was practically compulsory in online fandom to hate on Star Trek in general, and in particular Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This was worsened by Straczynski's claim that Paramount had plagiarised the concept of Deep Space 9 from early Babylon 5 pitch documents. Even at the time, however, a lot of fans quietly enjoyed both shows, and it's now perfectly acceptable to be a public fan of both.
    • And it should be noted that the rivalry existed almost exclusively within the fandom. The cast and crew of both shows felt no hostility towards each other, and would often congratulate each other on well done episodes. This was most evident when Majel Barrett, Gene Roddenberry's widow, guest starred in an episode of B5. Though Straczynski has also said that he considered making an appearance on DS9 to reciprocate, but decided against it due to how seeing his face would likely cause many fans to instantly shut off the TV.
  • Fanon Dis Continuity: Babylon 5 had four seasons. And no TV movies save for "The Gathering" (which is more properly a part of the first season) and "In The Beginning".
    • Seasons 2 - 4 are the height of canon. The first and last seasons can be jettisoned. The Films and Season 5 are mostly self contained, so they can be disregarded easily. Season 1 has a different lead, so the new commander works as a PoV coming in on season 2. Crusade and Call to Arms tend to get grouped because the latter is a Poorly Disguised Pilot for the former.
    • Of course many fans who have discovered the show on DVD rather than first airing don't feel the effects of Arc Fatigue in the first half of season five, and consider that season just as good as the rest. And not watching Season 1 deprives you of huge amounts of Foreshadowing, Fridge Brilliance and a few great episodes. Probably the only thing universally considered discontinuity though is Legend Of The Rangers, because, well, it's just not that good.
  • Foe Yay: Londo and G'Kar, lots of it. Even lampshaded as early as the first season.
  • Genius Bonus: In 1848, Giuseppe Garibaldi led the Italian revolutionaries known as Red Shirts. "Red Shirt" is a fan nickname for the disposable security guards on the original Star Trek. On B5, the head of station security is Michael Garibaldi.
  • Growing the Beard: The show really grew into it's own around season 2, so much so that some fans recommend skipping season 1 entirely.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • One of Zathras's most memorable lines is "[Zathras] probably have very sad death." The actor playing him, Tim Choate, died in a motorcycle accident.
    • Franklin's musing on the briefness of human life in his debut episode. His actor Richard Biggs only lived half of one.
    • The scene after Londo gets G'Kar removed from the council, where Sheridan tells him that he'll miss him and how the council just won't be the same without him. The actor playing G'Kar, Andreas Katsulas, died from lung cancer in 2006, and was mourned by all the rest of the crew.
    • "And the Sky Full of Stars" features Sinclair being drugged and suffering from delusions. It was revealed after Michael O'Hare's death that he suffered from schizophrenia, which was the real reason he left the show after the first season.
      • There's also his angrily telling Bester "Get out of my head!"
      • And saying "Enough people have messed with my brain this year" in "Eyes." Even worse, that was the last episode to be filmed in the season, so when he said it he was actually very close to starting intensive therapy to manage his condition.
    • A more in-universe example: At the beginning of Walking Through Gethsemane, Ivanova asks Brother Edward if he wants to place a wager on a chess match. Brother Edward replies that gambling is a lesser sin, and he always felt that if you're gonna sin, go for one of the really big ones. This joke takes on a new light when it turns out that before he had his memory wiped, he was a Serial Killer.
    • A semi-fictional list of unexpected power grabs includes "Russia in 1917 and 2013." Cue Russia's invasion of Ukraine at that time.
    • Another more in-universe one. Londo at one point jokingly wonders to Morden why he and his associates don't just wipe out the Narn homeworld. Near the end of the season, when his own people really do bombard it with asteroids, Londo is silent and horrified.
    • In the series finale, Zack Allen walks with a limp 20 years later due to a prosthetic leg. Jeff Conaway would wind up in a wheelchair due to his painkiller addiction, and didn't make it 20 years past the end of the show.
    • In "Walkabout," Franklin wakes up after a one night stand to find the woman unconscious, much like the circumstances of Richard Biggs' wife finding him dead.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: In "A Quality of Mercy" June Lockhart's character says she may have as much as 20 years left. Lockhart, already 69 at the time, did indeed live that much longer and counting.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Occurs with Hey, It's That Guy!, when one sees Malcolm's Dad/Walter White as a Ranger and Dr. Kelso as an Earthforce Captain.
    • Also, with "You Can't Break Those Cuffs", the scene in which G'kar is chained up, and told that he can't break those chains. G'kar breaks the chains.
    • Also the scene where Garibaldi vents his frustrations by slamming a bar loudmouth's head down on a desk while claiming it is a magic trick.
    • In season 3, there is mention of a serial killer named Charles Dexter. Doubles as a Shout-Out to "The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward" by H.P. Lovecraft.
    • In season 4 "Rising Star" someone put a "dog shaming" sign on the dead body of President Clark, who committed suicide in the previous episode. It read "Traitor to Earth".
    • The "privacy field" seen only in the pilot episode looks a lot like the lighting effects from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
    • A few years after the series, JMS began suffering from acid reflux, with part of his treatment being to sleep in an elevated position. That is, he now sleeps on a Minbari bed.
  • Ho Yay: Played with hilarious Lampshade Hanging during Marcus and Franklin's trip to Mars due to a Smithical Marriage in their stolen IDs.
    • Londo and G'Kar from late season 4 on. Lampshaded in a season 5 episode when two workers who encounter them for the first time comment on their relationship with: "How long have they been married?" The irony is, they technically have been married, at least according to Minbari tradition, since the middle of Season One!
    • JMS actually made a point to occasionally have pairs of background extras act like gay couples. His thinking was that homosexuality was more or less a completely accepted practice at the time thanks to contact with aliens making anything humans do seem more "normal."
  • Les Yay: I mean, come on. Talia and Susan? Is it not that obvious? When they had their sleepover, the sexual tension could have been cut with a knife! Word Of God says they actually did have sex the night Talia stayed over at Ivanova's place. Later Ivanova says "I think I loved Talia."
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Londo Mollari is either a Magnificent Bastard or a Tragic Hero, depending on the episode— sometimes both at once. He's vastly entertaining to watch, but once his machinations begin to spin out of control, everyone knows it, and his few friends stop liking him.
    • Bester qualifies as well, managing to get the upper hand every time with even the protagonists impressed by his evasion of karmic justice. He slips into Smug Snake at times, though (especially in the first couple seasons). Too many of the heroes think just shooting him is a reasonable option. By Seasons 3 and 4 though, he has clearly graduated to this. It should say something about Bester that even Doctor Franklin, a through-and-through pacifist, feels that Bester needs to be shot.
    • Much like Bester, Mr. Morden sits right on the line between a Magnificent Bastard and Smug Snake, depending on the episode.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Emperor Cartagia manages to cross it in the same episode he's introduced.
    • Sheridan comes perilously close to crossing it when he orders the use of human telepaths altered by the Shadows as weapons against Earthforce. Only the fact that he does it reluctantly and fully understands the implications of what he's doing prevents him from fully succumbing to the MEH.
    • The Season 5 episode "Learning Curve" shows the Rangers as a violent, completely unaccountable paramilitary group who will violently avenge any offense against one of their members with no regard for local law enforcement or due process.
  • Narm: That immortal line from the Season 2 episode Spider in the Web. "I'm already dead, Mr. Security-Man!" Who didn't ROFLcopter at that line?
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Drakh keepers. Guaranteed they'll make your skin crawl.
    • Garibaldi's subplot in "Grey 17 Is Missing" as well.
    • Do not think for a moment that the Shadows can't be scary. In-universe as well - the Vorlons modified the younger races so that they would find the image of the Shadows to invoke primal dread and fear.
  • Only the Author Can Save Them Now: How to face the Shadows and Vorlons?
  • Replacement Scrappy: Elizabeth Lochley - rather unavoidable as she was replacing the much-beloved Susan Ivanova.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Bob Kelso can apparently run a spacefleet as well as a hospital.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The carefully plotted out nature of the series means that there's so much about it that you'll never pick up on a first time viewing. Almost every one of Kosh's weird cryptic statements takes on new meaning later in the show. For example; "The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote". Think about that after we learn about how the war with the Shadows is basically a sort of cosmic game between them and the vorlons. With that going on, their concerns really are trivial.
  • The Scrappy: Byron. Mention him on a board with a lot of B5 fans, and watch the flames pour in.
  • Seasonal Rot: Season 5 isn't held in very high regard, mostly because the Myth Arc was already resolved so it felt pointless. JMS didn't like it himself but forced to make it by the execs. Not as bad as most examples as many simply regard it as So Okay, It's Average compared to the first four seasons. Also, the second half is far better regarded than the first, as it focuses on a plotline JMS decided to scrap completely when he was forced to end the story in season 4, meaning it was available to play out when he got a fifth season after all.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Particularly if you've already seen other, subsequent, Myth Arc Space Opera shows such as Battlestar Galactica.
    • Although even these days, you don't really see any shows where the creator went so far as to plan out the entire story from day one.
    • The show has even been noted by some as being ripe for a reboot, in these days when TV networks are far more open to serialized stories.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • The version of the Drakh that appears in one scene in Season 4 is never seen again, and for good reason: it looks like someone got hold of Rick Moranis' Dark Helmet costume and spray-painted it to look like Skeletor. Even filming it through a deliberately blurred lens can't make it look like a living creature, and not a hunk of rubber or plastic.
    • A couple of episodes of Crusade introduce that kind of Drakh again with a better make-up design, with the implication that the Drakh have a Fantastic Caste System with that type as a warrior and the one we saw on Centauri Prime as a leader caste. Also, Word Of God eventually admitted that the blur effect was because they tried to get the actor to do weird alien movement and it just looked stupid.
  • Strawman Has a Point: After Garibaldi is brainwashed, he develops an irrational hatred of Sheridan. While his accusation that Sheridan has started to buy into his own messianic hype is completely bogus, he has a point when he compares Babylon 5 to a military dictatorship.
    • For all intents and purposes, it was a military dictatorship, but one that tried to be benevolent while still keeping in mind its higher purpose.
    • A number of Strawman Political characters who visit the station browbeat Sheridan for not taking into account the political ramifications for Earth of his decisions. Considering that he is effectively Earth's ambassador on Babylon 5 in addition to being a military commander in a key region of space, he really should be considering the policies being pursued by his government and how his actions will impact them. He might be less inclined to do so once he finds out President Clark had his predecessor assassinated.
    • See also, Neroon in s03e19, Grey 17 is missing, as shown in this clip
  • Too Cool to Live: Kosh. He even lampshades this, telling Sheridan that he knew it had to happen but was in denial and had become scared of the concept of death after living so long.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions: Several episodes have major, galaxy-wide ranging A-Plots with B-Plots, who while they might be of great consequence to a specific character, seem petty in comparison to the main plot. Most noticeable is Dr. Franklin's stim addiction problem and subsequent journey to find himself - while the Shadow War is raging. Franklin eventually gets a pretty major What the Hell, Hero? speech for running off on his friends while the fate of the Galaxy was in question. By himself, no less.
  • Ugly Cute: The pak’ma’ra. Their dull, bovine eyes and tentacle faces make them rather appealing in an odd way.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The show was made right at the tail end of the era where G'Kar using his artificial eye to spy on Sheridan and Delenn's wedding night could have possibly been seen as anything but creepy cyber-stalking.
    • Also, Garibaldi's treatment of Talia in the first season. At the time, Garibaldi's constantly being in the elevator Talia needs to use made him come across as a Dogged Nice Guy who was being too dogged for his own good. Today, it gives off a creepy stalker-vibe. Garibaldi's defenders claim that his behavior is ameliorated by being totally in-character for Garibaldi and the fact that Talia could kill him with her mind if his advances were entirely unwelcome.
  • Values Resonance: In "The Long Dark" Dwight Schultz plays an EarthForce vet with cripplingly bad PTSD exacerbated by a Shadow creature. Probably referred to Vietnam originally, but with The War on Terror in the 2000s and hundreds of thousands of vets coming home barely functional...