Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / Babylon 5

Go To

  • Adorkable:
    • David Corwin. The scenes involving him trying to buy and give roses to Ivanova, and his ownership of a Love Bat, especially. He just has a big smile on his face as he is demonstrating the bat which gives short, saccharine statements to Lochley.
    • Vir Cotto. His quiet, generally bumbling manner slips him into this territory.
  • 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.
    • Advertisement:
    • "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.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • Numerous, but Michael O'Hare having to leave B5 due to struggles with mental illness is the biggest. Had he stayed, the "War without End" story would have been at the end of Season 5 and had a much longer burn.
    • If you stop to think about it, the Bad Future in "War Without End" doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If Valen never travels to the past, who is to say B5 (to say nothing of B4) would even exist, with all its senior staff still in place? No Valen means no Grey Council, which would upset a lot of events in B5 history. Why would the Shadows use torch cutters in order to fight hand-to-claw (so to speak) when they're just going to blow the station up with their ships anyway?

      Well, there's a reason for that. Ivanova's message from the future was supposed to be a Call-Forward to the other 5-year series JMS wanted to do that got (mercifully) abandoned at some point: Where B5 fell after failing to bring peace and Sinclair stole B4, in order to set up a spinoff. In the original storyline, it was the Minbari attacking B5 and destroying it, not the Shadows. The Shadows were supposed to be ultimately defeated during the spin off series: Babylon Prime.

      Of course once Michael O'Hare left they very well couldn't use that ending (since it all hinged on Sinclair). Coupled with worries about even getting B5 finished, JMS merged his original plan for Babylon 5 (basically what we got in season 1 & 3.5) and Babylon Prime (seasons 3.5 & 5) to create the B5 we got. "War without End" was then used to retconn the vision as being about the Shadows attacking and not the Minbari (whose civil war story line was now moved to season 4). It also allowed the show to better tie together the show by establishing everything was a causality loop.

      Considering what JMS was dealing with it's kind of amazing how he managed to pull things off. He combined two 5-year series into a single series. Leading to at most the only complaint being about why the Shadows would bother with a "ground" attack; a minor question mark.
    • Advertisement:
    • The reason why the end of season 4 seems so crowded, and the beginning of season 5 seems mostly composed of filler, is because the show was originally going to be cancelled after four seasons due to PTEN going under. Season 4 was originally intended to end with the episode "Intersections in Real Time", and the Earth Civil War would be resolved at the beginning of season 5. Instead, the events of season 4 were shortened by four episodes (removing a story arc about Londo and G'Kar returning to Centauri Prime), and the resolution to the Earth Civil War arc was crammed into three super-dense episodes followed by the grand finale.

      Then, at the last, minute the show's fifth season was picked up by cable network TNT — but now they'd already used half a season's worth of material. They filled the gap by stretching the telepath-colony arc from three episodes to eleven and re-inserting the aforementioned Londo-and-G'Kar arc, as well as including standalone filler episodes ranging in quality, from the yawner "A View from the Gallery" to Neil Gaiman's marvelous "Day Of The Dead".

      A new standalone season 4 finale was also hastily shot, with the finale "Sleeping in Light" held back to the end of season 5.
  • 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-Breaking Character: 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.
  • Broken Base: Whether Season One is worth watching all the way through, or only selected episodes that are key to later plots, and whether Season Five is worth watching at all apart from the previously-created finale.
  • Catharsis Factor: Part of why the show has aged so well - after watching the bad guys' psychotic villainy built up over the course of so many episodes, watching them get their just desserts is immensely satisfying.
    • Lord Refa getting beaten to death by a vengeful mob of angry Narns. The black preacher leading a lively cover of a Christian hymnal about the wicked getting their punishment when Judgment Day arrives really drives it home.
    • Londo finally getting one over Morden by blowing up the island where the Shadows are stationed, then killing the two Shadows in the room, and finally ordering Morden's execution. After three seasons of them being unstoppable demons, it's beyond satisfying to watch the Shadows and their servant truly, utterly lose completely.
  • Complete Monster:
    • "Deathwalker": Jha'Dur, known as Deathwalker 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 to Commander Jeffrey Sinclair that immortality 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.
    • President (William) Morgan Clark is the former Vice President and eventual dictator of Earth. Taking office after arranging his predecessor's assassination, Clark quickly establishes himself as a xenophobic fascist who justifies his naked power grabs by claiming they're done to protect Earth from alien sabotage. He creates the Nightwatch, turns news outlets into his propaganda machines, and conducts torture on political enemies so they confess to crimes they're innocent of. Upon enacting Martial Law, Mars refused to obey President Clark's decree. In retaliation, he bombed their civilian centers. When Babylon 5 secedes from Earth until President Clark is removed for his crimes, Clark wages war against Sheridan and the station. One of his most notable atrocities is slaughtering 10,000 refugees fleeing the war just to send a message. Clark also has no loyalty to his troops, trying to kill some in a False Flag Operation to turn public opinion against Babylon 5. When the war turns against him and his capture is imminent, President Clark opts to commit suicide, but not before enacting SCORCHED EARTH: With a final act of spite, Clark turned Earth's own defense grid against it to destroy the entire planet rather than allow anyone else to rule it.
    • Seasons 2 & 3: Lord Antono Refa is a Centauri nobleman and politician defined by his limitless ambition and utter willingness to murder millions of innocents for his own advancement. While he claims he wants to "return the Centauri to Glory", in reality he only cares about himself and plans on claiming the Imperial Throne. Refa sabotages his own people's military and economy to undermine his Emperor, Turhan, and stages the assassination of Turhan's loyal prime minister to remove resistance for Refa's candidate for emperor, the psychopathic Cartagia. Refa consolidates his own power by framing and executing political opponents for treason, disgracing their families, and exploiting the law to steal their property, such as what he attempted to do to a war hero who asked too many questions. Personally overseeing the Centauri's war against the Narns, Refa uses illegal mass drivers to bombard the Narn home world, targeted civilian centers, created death camps and initiated genetic cleansing programs. Throwing his lot in with the Shadows, Refa exploits the alliance by waging war against other alien worlds. Refa served as a dark shadow of Londo Mollari, showing what he would be if he cast aside all scruples in the pursuit of power.
    • Season 4: Emperor Cartagia is the psychopathic ruler of the Centauri Republic, a madman whose murderous and mercurial moods leave his courtiers living in perpetual terror. Those who disagree with, criticize or even annoy him with things as mundane as a constant cough, are decapitated, their heads kept in a secret room for Cartagia to converse with at his leisure. When a jester makes a joke at Cartagia's expense, he at first pretends to be unoffended, only to then kill him. After G'Kar is captured, Cartagia becomes obsessed with breaking him by making him scream, so he has him tortured for hours straight by his best torturer, then, when that fails to elicit a response, Cartagia tortures him personally. He only refrains from cutting off G'Kar's hands because he passed out and it wouldn't be fun without a reaction. Later, he has one of G'Kar's eyes plucked out because he didn't like the way G'Kar was looking at him. He then takes G'Kar to the Narn home world for a public trial and vivisection to crush the enslaved Narns' spirits. Cartagia's ultimate plan is to use his alliance with the Shadows to provoke their nemeses, the Vorlons, into destroying Centauri Prime. While the Centauri believe their emperors become gods upon death, Cartagia wants to become a god while alive, planning to be off world while his home world dies. Cartagia sees no problem with the eradication of his species since he thinks their lives would be meaningless without him, and wants Centauri Prime to burn as an inauguration pyre to mark his ascension into godhood.
  • Crack Pairing: Marcus/Neroon is ridiculously popular with the fandom.
  • Crazy Awesome: David Mckintyre AKA "King Arthur".
  • 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 rabbi could have also just liked the song and enjoyed the experience. It's not unheard of for non-Christians to enjoy gospel music.
    • 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.
    • In the UK's captioning of the show anyway; When Garibaldi heralds an invasion by playing a recording of Porky Pig going "Th-th-th-that's all folks!" the captioning misattributes the quote to Bugs Bunny.
  • 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.
    • There's also Cartagia casually throwing the towel he dried his hands on at the aide standing next to him but rather than catching it the towel sails right past his head and the aide could do nothing but smile while hiding his exasperation. It was a small moment but actually hilarious.
    • 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. JMS, in describing the scene, refers to it as "counterpoint," and describes a similar scene in Cabaret which inspired him.
  • 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 Dark Horse:
    • 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.note  This worked out so well that his character got a name, Zack Allen, and eventually joined the main cast.
    • Zathras (and his brothers Zathras, Zathras, Zathras, and the others...) only appeared in a few episodes, but he's beloved by the fans for his kooky personality and because every single line out of his mouth is solid comedic gold.
    • Alfred Bester is one of the show's best-remembered characters, partly because he's fucking Walter Koenig, but also because he is absolutely nothing like Chekov. A nasty piece of work, for sure, but so, so very smooth.
  • 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 plagiarized the concept of Deep Space 9 from early Babylon 5 pitch documents.note  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 and who had several recurring roles on Trek series, including as the computer, guest starred in an episode of B5, and often encouraged Trek fans to try the show out at conventions. Walter Koenig (Chekov on Star Trek: The Original Series) also had a recurring role as Bester. 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.
  • 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.
    • Londo's "Purple Folder" is an encrypted file containing all the secrets he's gathered about his rivals in the Centauri royalty (S3 E01 "Born To The Purple"). "Purple" was also the American name for the Japanese Foreign Office encryption cipher used from February 1939 through the end of World War 2.
  • Genre Turning Point: For the entire genre of dramatic television, not just in sci-fi, but television period. B5 pioneered the use of Story Arcs to previously-unforeseen heights and paved the way for basically every prestige dramatic TV show since (Lost, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, you name it, etc.). Babylon 5 was the first American TV show to even have a Myth Arc. At the time, this was considered a huge gamble because of fears that audiences wouldn't understand what was going on, and JMS was the first who really pulled it off note . Nowadays, the Myth Arc for dramatic TV is the norm, not the exception.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: A sleeper hit in America, the show met with bigger audience across the pond. The conventions back home were modest in attendance, which left the actors ill-prepared for the Elvis-like reception they got in the UK.
  • Growing the Beard: The beard-growing started in the middle of season one, when Morden first arrived and the arc started to kick in. The first season finale and Captain Sheridan's arrival at the start of season two kicks it up another notch. And the beard is indisputably fully grown by the end of "The Coming of Shadows". Sheridan doesn't literally grow a beard until he's taken prisoner near the end of season four.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Sinclair/O'Hare's exit from the show. There was a hole in his mind.
      • "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.
      • Crossing into real life, Jerry Doyle wasn't aware of O'Hare's condition and did a few interviews where he derisively called O'Hare "crazy."
    • 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, dying at age 44 from a heart condition.
    • 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.
    • 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 Ukrainenote  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.
      • Doubles as Foreshadowing, since Morden's only reply is a patient "One thing at a time, Ambassador."
    • 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.
      • There's a scene involving Zack, Garibaldi, and Lochley in "The River of Souls" where they discuss the afterlife. As of 2017, two of the actors have found out about it personally.
    • 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.
    • Part of season 5 was devoted to Garibaldi's lapse into alcoholism. Alcoholism was a contributing factor in Jerry Doyle's death in 2017.
    • In the series finale, just before the station's destruction, Ivanova, Delenn, Vir, Franklin, Zack, and Garibaldi all take a last look around. Less than 25 years later, five of the six actors in that scene had passed away.
    • Sheridan and Delenn spend years knowing he's going to die in his 60s. In fact, it was Mira Furlan who died at 65 after years of failing health.
    • Sheridan being doomed to die in his 60s also makes it horribly ironic that Bruce Boxleitner was one of shockingly few members of the show's main cast who made it to age 70.
    • The sheer amount of untimely deaths suffered by the cast, which even more than Poltergeist or Bewitched can make you wonder if there's a curse on them:
      • Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin), congenital heart defect in 2004 at age 44.
      • Tim Choate (Zathras), motorcycle accident in 2004 at age 49.
      • Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar), lung cancer in 2006 at age 59.
      • Jeff Conaway (Zack Allan), pneumonia as a complication of opiate addiction in 2011 at age 60.
      • Michael O'Hare (Jeffrey Sinclair), heart attack after years of schizophrenia in 2012 at age 60.
      • Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi), heart attack as a complication from years of alcoholism in 2016 at age 60.
      • Stephen Furst (Vir Cotto), complications from diabetes in 2017 at age 63.
      • Mira Furlan (Delenn), complications from West Nile virus in 2021 at age 65.
      JMS: It is another loss in a string of losses that I cannot understand. Of the main cast, we have lost Richard Biggs, Michael O'Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, and now Jerry Doyle, and I'm goddamned tired of it. So dear sweet universe, if you are paying attention in the vastness of interstellar space, take a moment from plotting the trajectory of comets and designing new DNA in farflung cosmos, and spare a thought for those who you have plucked so untimely from our ranks... and knock it off for a while. Because this isn't fair.
  • 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, as of this writing, still counting.
  • He Really Can Act:
    • Walter Koenig proved once and for all that he was so much more than cuddly Pavel Chekov, after his semi-recurring role as the intense, manipulative Psi Cop Alfred Bester.
    • Andreas Katsulas was, to American audiences, mostly known as an actor who portrayed bit sci-fi parts (like Tomalak on Star Trek The Next Generation) or vaguely European thugs (as he did as the One-Handed Man in The Fugitive). It was B5 that proved to the world what his fellow Greeks had known for ages: Katsulas was a once-in-a-generation-level talent, and his performance as G'Kar stands as his magnum opus in English.
    • Claudia Christian, who was at the time most famous for providing fanservice for directors on a budget, managed to give Susan Ivanova both strength and vulnerability, creating a very compelling character.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • When one sees Malcolm's Dad/Walter White as a Ranger and Dr. Kelso as an Earthforce Captain.
    • In "The Long Night", Bryan Cranston played a Ranger. Two decades later, he would be involved with a different type of Rangers.
    • 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.
    • In The War Prayer in Season One, the home guard members mention their conspiracy to stage a mass assassination of the major ambassadors of Babylon 5 - Delenn, Londo, G'Kar...And Kosh. Too Dumb to Live embodied right there, if the Home Guard thought they could kill a Vorlon.
    • Many fans of the series have pointed out that Ancient Aliens correspondent Giorgio Tsoukalos' infamous hairstyle rather resembles that of a Centauri (itself based on Marvel Comics's Shi'ar race).
    • The Centauri race are very obviously based on the Shi'ar Star Empire from Marvel Comics. Three years after the show ended, J. Michael Straczynski would go on to write for Marvel Comics, largely because of the clout he gained creating Babylon 5.
    • The original "Gathering" pilot and 4th season episode "The Illusion of Truth" feature automated hovering drone cameras. This, no doubt, seemed incredibly futuristic to the viewing audiences of 1993. Not so much today.
    • In Supergirl Bruce Boxleitner plays a Vice President who's suddenly thrust into the Presidency after his highly popular and alien-friendly boss resigns, naturally raising suspicions among fans that he was behind it. Even better, the role was originally going to be played by Brent Spiner from B5's arch nemesis franchise.
  • Homegrown Hero: Practically all the human representatives, if their origins are explored, are from the US, the Russian Susan Ivanova being a notable exception.
    • Sinclair is from Mars, though it's not mentioned as frequently as Ivanova's origin. Similarly, Marcus is from a distant colony which was destroyed by the Shadows.
  • 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!
    • There's a DVD Commentary in which Jerry Doyle jokingly refers to the scene in which Garibaldi confronts Franklin over Franklin's drug abuse as seeming as if Garibaldi might be about to make a love confession.
    • 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."
  • Idiot Ball: In the season 4 arc, Garibaldi is hired by a man who is going up against the Psi Corps, who can program people and easily wipe human memory. Garibaldi disappeared from Babylon 5 for two weeks earlier that year, yet the client accepts the fact that Garibaldi doesn't remember what happened to him, verified by a telepathic scan by a member of the Psi Corps. To no one's surprise but the client's, Garibaldi had been programmed to get close to him and bring him down.
  • Idiot Plot: One was unfortunately forced on the show by the need to push the Babylon 4 resolution back to Season 3, meaning that for the remaining two-and-change seasons, Sheridan knowing for a fact that a horrible fate is awaiting Centauri Prime, plus some other tidbits about the future, makes him look pretty asinine several times. The only time the show even tries to incorporate this is his overthinking Delenn's warning not to go to Z'Ha'Dum, and in all the cases afterwards it appears his knowledge of the future just conveniently slips his mind.
  • Iron Woobie: Vir becomes this as part of his Character Development. Constantly put upon, he refuses to stoop to the level of people like Morden, and always stays true to his principles, come what may. Londo even comments on it when Vir gets blind drunk after assassinating Emperor Cartagia in the 4th season. He states that he envies Vir for still being so idealistic that he thinks he can't live with himself for killing an Ax-Crazy genocidal maniac.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Londo. Even at his absolute worst in the second and third seasons, his original motivation is so sympathetic and his moral conflict so clear that you never really give up on him. And the consequences that happen to him later are absolutely horrible and heart-wrenching.
  • 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." The genius of it is that it's played so magnificently subtly, it can be read almost any way the viewer wants. Even Ivanova's declaration of love could be taken as friendly love instead of romantic. One of the sharpest pieces of both writing and acting in show filled with sharp writing and acting. Even the fact that they were sharing a bed could be seen platonically (after all, it's not like Ivanova has a spare bedroom in her quarters).
    • Some fans think that the implied depth of the relationship between Delenn and Susan after John's death might imply a sexual one, especially the description of Susan's tomb as created by Delenn in "Death, Time and the Incurable Romantic".
  • LGBT Fanbase: Talia and Susan have an implied relationship (confirmed by the creator), with Susan later saying she loved Talia, which has resulted in them being popular with queer women.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Alfred Bester is a charming psychic operative who combines ruthless scheming with an infuriating charisma that drives the heroes crazy even as they are forced to respect his skill. Bester can do this even when his telepathic powers have been removed, frequently arriving on Babylon 5 and twisting events to suit his purposes or the purpose of the Psi-Corps. In one such instance, Bester tricks a prisoner by claiming he can read his mind, even when Bester has been blocked from doing so, relying on bluffs and gambits to get the information he desires when he simply suspected the prisoner must be lying. Bester frequently enacts daring schemes either for the benefit of the Corps or himself, only breaking from his self-serving nature when the woman he loves is threatened by the Shadows, stating that it has made Babylon 5's war his own
    • Londo Mollari, despite his buffoonish exterior, steadily grows into true magnificence. In one famous instance, Londo blackmails his rival, the monstrous Antono Refa into helping him because "Because I have asked you. Because your sense of duty to our people should override any personal ambition. And because I have poisoned your drink." He goes on to describe how the poison comes in two parts, one of which was in Refa's drink. If he does not comply, one of Londo's agents in the Royal Court will introduce him to the second half of the poison. Londo proceeds to create a plan to rescue the Centauri from their mad Emperor Cartagia and later arranges a plan to lure Refa to his death at the hands of Narns when Londo believes Refa murdered the love of Londo's life. For this, Londo simply tells the truth about Refa's horrific crimes and vows to free Narn prisoners in exchange for the Narns murdering Refa. Londo later even manages to outwit the Shadows and their servant Morden, blowing up an entire island to wipe out the Shadow presence on Centauri, even ascending to the throne himself. even when the Drakh think Londo defeated and broken, he works against them to ensure the freedom of Centauri, even at the end when it costs his own life with his once greatest enemy turned best friend G'kar of Narn.
  • Memetic Badass / Memetic Psychopath: John "Nuke 'Em" Sheridan. Known for the unbeatable strategy of dealing with any foe via:
1. Attempt to reason with the enemy and resolve situation nonviolently
3. Verify enemy's destruction
4. If enemy has been destroyed, declare victory. If not, refer back to step 2.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Emperor Cartagia manages to cross it in the same episode he's introduced.
    • President Clark ordering airstrikes against civilian targets on Mars.
  • 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?
    • The otherwise-great intro ends on "The year is 22XX. The name of the place, is Babylon 5!" Comes off as very awkward. Thankfully changed in season 4, to just "The year is 22XX. The place: Babylon 5."
    • In these days when long-form storytelling on TV is much more the norm, the amount of hand-holding the show does to make sure viewers are keeping up with its story can get pretty silly, especially in Season 4 where numerous episodes open with an onslaught of As You Know.
    • The holographic monster the techno-mages conjure to scare Vir in "The Geometry of Shadows" is pretty goofy, even setting aside the dodgy CGI.
  • Narm Charm: The entirety of "A Late Delivery from Avalon". Michael York hamming it up as a woobie atoner who thinks he's King Arthur? Pure unadulterated cheese of the best kind.
  • One-Scene Wonder: President Levy's Emergency Presidential Address in "In the Beginning" is her only scene, but the sheer lump-in-the-throat-inducing power of her Rousing Speech makes it easily one of the most memorable scenes in the entire franchise.
  • Only the Author Can Save Them Now: "Into the Fire". How to face the Shadows and Vorlons?
    Marcus: Did we just win?
  • Popularity Polynomial: Despite its cult following, the series was not seen in reruns after it left the airwaves, but it has found a new audience on Amazon Prime Video and with airings on Sinclair Broadcasting's Comet digital subchannel.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Elizabeth Lochley - rather unavoidable as she was replacing the much-beloved Susan Ivanova. As a matter of fact, her character is already so similar, it's a lot easier if you just pretend they recast Ivanova.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • The Scrappy: Introduced in the fifth season, which many fans consider to be inferior to the other four, Byron is a Fabio-haired rogue telepath and former Psi-Cop who dreams of founding a colony of telepaths. He's broody, introspective, a devout pacifist to the point of looking Christ-like, and managed to rub the fans in entirely the wrong way. He and his telepaths are just plain creepy, the way they dress like Anne Rice characters and never speak (one character lampshades this by saying they look like a flock of crows). Most fans prefer to pretend that his brief character arc never occurred. Fortunately, his messianic fiery death cheered up viewers immensely.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • The consensus is that the fifth and final season suffered this badly, particularly during the "Telepath Colony" arc, which suffered from being overlong and centering around a new character widely considered to be dull and uncharismatic. The "overlong" part was mainly due to the show's potential cancellation at the end of the fourth season, which caused many plot arcs destined for the fifth season to be crammed in early, leaving relatively little for the last season to work with.
    • To a lesser degree, Season 4 gets this as well, also due to the plot cramming, which caused weird pacing issues.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • Particularly if you've already seen other, subsequent, Myth Arc Space Opera shows such as Battlestar Galactica. Back in 1994 the idea of a syndicated TV show having a continuing, multi-seasonal arc was unheard of, now it's practically required. 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. Also, Babylon 5 is still impressive by how well they pulled it off. It mostly rewards repeated viewings, while the "making it up as we go along" nature of shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica becomes more apparent on re-watch. 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.
    • The romance between Ivanova and Talia now comes off as quite tepid, but JMS did fully intend to take it further if Andrea Thompson hadn't left the show (he made sure early on that both actresses would be okay with physical romance scenes, to which they responded by passionately making out), to a level unheard of at a time that even predates Willow and Tara. His later work on Sense8 stands as proof that he's not shy at all about this kind of material.
  • Sequelitis: Crusade has its share of problems, but inciting laughter isn't one of them. Fans still poke fun at Legend of the Rangers for the weapons officer and her CG 'gun turret.' Dance Dance Revolution is the best interface. (The original concept was a weapons chair which would have been more like The Last Starfighter.) The Hand is supposed to be older and even worse than the Shadows and yet they're defeated by an obsolete flying brick with a mediocre crew. Twice. And what happened to casting character actors? Never mind, this fella's got a leading man's chin.
  • Special Effects Failure: The overall quality of the special effects (especially the early 90s CGI) is the only thing about this show that has not stood the test of time.
    • 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.
    • The series uses quite a bit of CGI, none of which looks remotely convincing even by the standards of the time — let alone by today's standards. Although, this can produce a Heartwarming in Hindsight effect when you remember that it proves we'll forgive bad special effects if the story is good enough.
      • While the CGI can look pretty bad when it's mixed with (or replacing) live actors, the ships hold up pretty well (even if they do look a little "too slick.") But the CGI spaceships let them pull off some serious Visual Effects of Awesome, such as Starfuries pivoting on their axis to shoot pursuing fighters, as well as having relatively realistic ranges in big space battles (and having big space battles to begin with on the show's shoestring budget.) A British computing magazine did an extensive article on the show and its use of Amiga/Video Toaster systems and Lightwave to generate the effects. The tagline for the article was "Star Wars effects on a Doctor Who budget" note 
      • There is at least a reasonable excuse as to the poor quality of CGI in interior shots, at least as far as the DVD versions are concerned. The original video masters were shot in what would today be considered high definition widescreen. At the time, the video was reduced to 4:3 standard and the CGI elements included later. Which was fine. The idea was that it was easier to downconvert from widescreen to standard than vice versa. Perfectly reasonable. But when time came to convert the video to DVD specifications, many of those masters and, more importantly, the CGI effect masters, were lost or simply not used. This resulted in the standard definition shots made for television being converted to widescreen, with more or less acceptable success, but the CGI could not be reinserted the same way without the masters as a reference without a great deal of effect recreation which the studio did not want to spend the money on, which meant that in scenes with computer special effects in them, the video would have to be stretched to accommodate the new shot. This meant that in every shot with a mix of both real and computer effects (primarily shots involving holograms, PPG shots, or exterior space views) that there would be an immense drop in video quality.
      • This is all (finally) fixed in the 2021 remaster. With modern technology (and the original broadcast negatives) the show's visual quality is finally restored to its original quality and then into HD. While the special effects are still 90's CGI its now a huge improvement on the horrific DVD version and the show is watchable on a modern television.
    • The show's attempts to create "monsters" are generally not very good. The worst include the Nakaleen Feeder in "Grail", the show's first attempt at an all-CGI "character", which looks utterly artificial and devoid of interaction with the physical sets and actors, and the terrible physical costume for the Zarg in "Grey 17 Is Missing".
    • An attempt was made to simulate Sheridan's office having a view of the station's interior without having to render the interior in every shot; the result was an obvious painting that the characters occasionally claim is a window.
  • Strawman Has a Point: In season 4 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. Technically, it's exactly a military dictatorship, albeit one that's trying 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.
  • Uncanny Valley: On the DVD menu screen, watching the characters morph from one to the other as it waits for your selection can range from amusing to... very unsettling.
  • Unfortunate Character Design: The brakiri's foreheads look like, well...big sets of testicles. Or butts.
  • 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.
      • What about the two-way tv-set? It cut in on people in bed with no offer to decline on people in compromising positions, as Garibaldi was having something which amounted to foreplay with Dodger, yet still the captain could cut through and get her call routed through seeing him in bed with her.
    • 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.
      • Also he saved her in the comics from an assassin walking out of the elevator so the creepy stalking of Talia might have made sense in context.
  • 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...
    • In the continuing wake of the 2016 American presidential election, the dangers of President Clark's brand of authoritarian ultranationalism and xenophobia seem more relevant than ever before.
  • Villain Has a Point/Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Byron, who is supposed to be a sympathetic character, came across as very Jim Jones in wanting to make himself a martyr. The way he kept trying to take the fall for "his" people just screamed for attention and worship. Even moreso, he seemed to consistently prove Bester right with how he acted.
    • There's a little hinting in one of the Psi Corps trilogy books that Byron was some kind of a conscience for Bester: Bester is pretty much scum who will use his own people as disposable tools if need be, Byron is (or was supposed to be) more concerned and responsible toward telepaths. If they'd have played this up more in the show it would have been a better dynamic. Instead Byron just looks like a batshit cult leader with an army of Vidal Sassoon terrorist hippies. We know the actor can do better, so put all the blame down to the hasty writing decisions.
    • Bester can be this to the heroes, at least Sheridan and the human command crew. Especially in the canon Psi Corps novels it's clear that telepaths have been brutally mistreated (with their reveal to humanity resulting in beatings, ostracizing, being locked up "for their own good" and mass murders) and we see even good guys treating telepaths like Lyta and Talia as more tools than people. Bester is not particularly nice, but as his anti-Shadow alliance demonstrates, he genuinely feels his people (telepaths) are a threatened minority at constant risk from mundanes for things like being sold to the Shadows as "weapons components." Never mind Edgars engineering a virus designed to make every human telepath part of a permanent slave class. He's ruthless and isn't any nicer to mundanes than they are to him, but it's hard say he's not Properly Paranoid. If anything the only difference between him and Byron is Byron wants to run off to a world somewhere far away, while Bester thinks telepaths should eventually supplant mundanes as the dominant version of humans.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: