One of the most underrated Sci-Fi series of the 90s was Babylon 5, a show full of nuances, twisting plots and some of the earliest CGI uses in a television show. Although it was on Amazon Prime it was an inferior version of the show. Now it̵
If you are a fan of Sci-Fi, space dramas or Star Trek, you owe it yourself to check out Babylon 5. It is famous that J. Michael Straczynski (the maker) sent a series of Bible to Paramount, who declined it. Not long after that, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 came to fruition, and the two shows shared quite a few similarities that everyone noticed.
Babylon 5 takes place in the distant future on a deep space station. The series begins not long after the end of a war between two major races, and the station’s goal is to bring the many races together to find understanding. It doesn’t take long for the station commander to accidentally come across a religious-esque figure representing one of the area’s great races – if you watch DS9, that probably sounds incredibly familiar.
But despite those similarities, the shows couldn’t be more different. Naturally, Babylon 5 has its own alien races, its own form of government. You won’t find a Federation equivalent here, just powerful races that gently dance around each other. But where Babylon 5 excelled was complicated stories.
It mastered introducing new plots and resolving old ones, and adjusting when a character left (or returned!) The show. Mysteries of a great war between two ancient races emerge and any decision could mean life or death for an entire galaxy. But with all that commitment, the show makes time for the little people, the stories of love, joy, sorrow and hate. Of betrayal and friendship.
Babylon 5 is a slow burn, but it is worth the time. Especially now that the show is looking good again. It was originally filmed in widescreen and cut to 4: 3 as most TVs were square during the day. But the show didn’t have a big budget, so rely on practical effects like Star Trek for space scenes it relied on CGI. However, the CGI is not made in widescreen.
Subsequent attempts to make the show work on widescreen TVs included cropping and scanning the CGI sequences. The top and bottom were cut off and the rest stretched to fit a widescreen display. This has been terribly successful for several reasons. Part of this was the loss of detail, color and fidelity. But that only got worse in many scenes that combined live action with CGI; the live action scenes suffered as well.
The show often features characters riding a train through a space station, with the entire background filled in with CGI. Where once you could see fields, houses and farmlands in the distance, the update turned everything into gray blobs. It is not uncommon to take a long series of exposures from space in the window of the station or a yacht. But while you can also see the person we’re zooming in on, they looked like a blurry mess.
Now the last Babylon 5 set things right by skipping the widescreen edition. It stays with the original 4: 3 format in which the show aired and restores the CGI effects to their former glory. Do not expect to much; this is still 90s CGI on a TV show budget. But it looks better than it has in a long time.
You can stream Babylon 5 today on HBO Max, or buy it from Amazon Prime.