on December 24, 2004
As a lover of sci-fi series, it's great to see such a saga sold as a set. The reality for the B5 connoisseur is that this isn't the Full Monty. You should also purchase "Babylon 5 - The Movie Collection" and the B5 spin-offs "Crusade - The Complete Series" and "The Legend of the Rangers". The reasons are indicated below in my recommended viewing order.
1. Watch the B5 movie "The Gathering"
The Babylon 5 pilot movie The Gathering was originally broadcast in 1993 a full year ahead of the regular show.
2. Season 1
3. Season 2
4. Season 3
5. Watch Season 4 up to episode "The illusion of truth"
6. Watch the B5 movie "Thirdspace"
7. Season 4: continue with episodes 9-22
8. Watch Season 5 through to and including episode "Objects at Rest"
9. Watch the B5 movie "River of Souls"
10. Watch the B5 movie "In the Beginning"
This is a prelude set 10 years before Babylon 5. Against the logic of the title, I would strongly recommend seeing it at this stage. Should one see it before Season 1, much of the suspense in the main series would be ruined.
11. Watch the B5 movie "A Call to Arms"
This movie lays the groundwork for the spin-off TV series "Crusade".
12. Watch the B5 movie "The Lost Tales" [Thanks to Eric Pregosin for his comments to build on the original list]
13. Watch the B5 movie "The Legend of the Rangers" [Thanks to Lisa for her recommendation]
14. Watch Crusade Series
15. Season 5: watch final episode "Sleeping in light"
The question which is debated in several other reviews is: Despite the release dates of the material produced, in what order should it be seen? In particular, if the viewer is a total new comer to the series. The above is an attempt to give some structure to great content so it is more enjoyable as a complete work.
PS - It is astounding that the Warner marketing dept. gives no official recommendation on how these products should be best enjoyed.
on July 5, 2004
J. Michael Straczynski (jms) created the space station Babylon 5 and spent years getting it produced and on the air. It premiered about the same time ST: Deep Space Nine did, and for a while, fans compared the two. It was almost "apples & oranges" time, but it was tried.
As a long-time Trek fan, I was surprised when I first saw the pilot ("The Gathering") in 1993. I was absolutely stunned. Why Babylon 5, not just Babylon Station? Well, #s 1 - 4 were sabotaged & destroyed; # 4 disappeared after going on-line. (Disappeared? It's 5 MILES LONG, for crying out loud!) Word was that this would be an on-going, progressive five year story arc, the likes of which hadn't been done before on US television. Risky. Okay, jms had my attention. I couldn't wait for the series. When it finally did air, I (being cynical of tv production in general) figured it wasn't going to stay as good. It didn't. It steadily got better.
I repeat, I speak as a long time Trek fan (beginning with the original series - skip Voyager, I did). B5 is one of the best televison series ever produced. Note I did not say "science fiction series." (It is THE best s/f series ever put up to the audience.) I introduced several non s/f fans to the series, as a dramatic series and they all loved it. (So much for "only for space opera hounds.") The story arc freed Straczynski (he wrote 90% of the scripts) from having to make everything "come right" in a 45 minute time slot, and off it went.
Crowd scenes were, well, crowded, with humans of all types and aliens as extras wandering through scenes. (The aliens, by the way, are much more than odd skin colours, strange noses and "hair.") The station wasn't pristeen, the population wasn't always picture perfect. We have shysters, homeless, personal problems, espionage, humour, betrayal, relationships, and deaths (being in the opening credits did not guarantee survival, and it didn't always happen at the end of a season). Opening credits and theme music changed every year. One character's very appearance even changed dramatically. The plotlines are tight, and the threads are woven into five years of shows. The special effects are believable. (Yes, you could "hear" space battles, but hey, cut them some slack - NASA asked for plans of the Starfuries for reference for future space station repair vehicles.) B5 was the first show to rely on CGI effects, born out of budget necessity. More than once, watching the show, I found myself pounding the furniture with excitement - and we won't go into (here) what I did during series finale "Sleeping in Light."
Sinclair, Sheridan, Ivanova, Garibaldi, G'Kar, Londo, Lennier, Vir, Na'Toth, Talia, and Lyta came into our home as people with problems. The characters grew and changed and made choices and dealt with the consequences of those choices for good or bad. G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) put it best: no one on Babylon 5 is exactly what they appear. Keep a score card handy: this week's ally may be next month's enemy. There is no clear deliniation of good guys and bad guys - mostly it's all shades of grey. Acting (with the exception of one season five regular) is superb.
Action, yes. Yet one of the most moving episodes is a one-on-one battle of wits and nerve between two characters in a single room. Wars - some with aliens, some between alien races, and some with just us humans - start & end. There are four ambassadors from alien races on board, with a League of Non-Aligned Worlds to complete the roster. Telepaths of all races (except the Narns) add more colour. Intrigue, smuggling, dealing, double-dealing, romance, all leavened with humourous touches throughout - what more could you ask!
For the first four years, the hardest part of being a B5 fan was FINDING it. (Our local station played ping-pong with its time slot.) To own uncut, widescreen versions on DVD of the whole story arc was a dream we had. Thank heavens, it's one dream which became reality.
If you have seen B5, welcome back. If you haven't, welcome aboard. However, Babylon 5 is a whole complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. View it that way. Start with the pilot ("The Gathering," not included in this set but available) and then move to Season One. Enjoy. This is a unique series.
Babylon 5 is a five mile long space station. Located deep in neutral territory, it is designed to prevent intergalactic war by providing a place where peace can be worked out between the races. Run by Earth, it was built with help from the Minbari after our war with them when we were almost wiped out. Since it is also a trade station, it attracts aliens of all kinds on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, it also attracts trouble. There are raiders in the area, the Narn and Centauri have at best a fragile peace, and someone is always trying to smuggle something on board. Even worse, an ancient enemy is rebuilding forces, and the effects of this will reach all the way back to Earth.
Babylon 5 is still unique in television. It set out to tell a single story that had been mapped out beforehand over five years. Now you can own the entire story on DVD, minus a few movies and the spin off series. Season 1 is the most uneven and hardest to get into, but the beginnings of the story are there, and it lays the background on the races and cultures we will be dealing with over the course of the show. Season 2 brings a new captain and a storyline that is gaining speed, season 3 brings surprises and increasing tension, and season 4 is full steam ahead as most of the plot lines are resolved. Season 5 was a last minute reprieve, so it starts slow since it has little previous story to immediately resolve like the previous years have. By the half way point, however, you are once again hooked. If you stick with season 1, you will get hooked and need to watch all five seasons to find out how the story ends. I certainly did, and I continue to watch. It's one of my favorite TV shows of all time.
Of course, if you are looking at this page, odds are you are already a fan and looking for information on the sets. The picture, presented in widescreen, is hit and miss, with some dust popping up occasionally. It is clear and sharp most of the time, however. Sound is presented in full surround and has never sounded better. Each set contains two audio commentaries by series creator J. Michael Straczynski and a season intro by cast and crew. They also have some behind the scenes documentaries and encyclopedia entries introducing you to the world of Babylon 5. All the sets but season 1 have one audio commentary each by various cast members and great blooper reels hidden in the data files area as Easter eggs.
Whether you buy the seasons bundled like this or individually, don't miss your chance to own this fantastic TV series. Bought here, all you'll be missing are the original pilot ("The Gathering"), the later made for TV movies, and the spin off series Crusade.
on March 14, 2004
Yes, Babylon 5 is the best sci-fi show ever produced. No doubt in my mind. It simply is.
Season 1 starts slowly. Mainly because the show was not written by J. Michael Straczynski (series creator) but by outside help. Result: Lousy B-movie scripts. Only 5-6 episodes are truly good.
But then Seasons 2-5 arrive, and the series truly shines. This is the CORE of the Babylon 5 story. J.Michael Straczynski took the reins and wrote ~95% of the show. AND IT SHOWS. Seasons 2-5 start with battles, end with battles, and have plenty of drama in the middle. A new race called "The Shadows" starts pulling strings, manipulating the characters, and ultimately spinning off a war. And just when you think all is dark and dreary and depressing... all hell turns loose! The drama just builds and builds and builds.
And then we have... THE GRAND FINALE TO THE NOVEL FOR TV: Set 20 years in the future, this single episode will bring tears to your eyes, because it shows the death of the hero: President Sheridan. As series creator J.Michael Straczynski wrote:
"The sad truth is that we die. That is not a happy ending, not a sad ending, simply a fact. The question is what we accomplish during the days and months and years preceding; do we leave the world a better place or a worse place? If we have left the world around us a better place, as these characters did, then it's a happy ending. - - - - - Ultimately, for me, the end of B5 is neither a sad ending nor a happy ending; I'd say it was a graceful ending, a dignified ending, an ending that said individuals can effect profound change, if they are willing to put their own lives and happiness on the line; not happy, not sad, but a testament to the idea that you have used your time here well."
"What interests me, what I wanted to do with making this show, was in large measure to examine the issues and emotions and events that precede a war... the effects of the war itself... and the aftermath of the war. The war is hardware; the people are at the center of the story." Well said Mr. Straczynski, and thank you for creating this wonderful show. Like a classic novel, Babylon 5 reaches beyond mere entertainment. Thank you.
on July 25, 2006
This is the best tv show ever produced. Sci-fi or otherwise. There are other shows that were done afterwards that may have matched it's greatness but the problem thus far is that those shows never fullfill their glory by either not having the quality writing, special effects, longevity or production value it needs to be grand like B5.
Other shows that may come/came close: Odyssey 5, Lost, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica(current series).
So far, there is nothing that has ever been broadcast or currently being done that is better than the Babylon 5 series. Nothing. Period.
on June 7, 2005
I bought this 5 season set years ago and am now starting the series for the fourth time. It is that good. I seem to need to watch it about one every two years. Hence, despite it's priciness (especially then!) I have received great value.
I STILL recommend this and even more than I did in my original review 6 years or so ago.
I first watched B5 beginning in the middle of it's 4th season when it was on TNT.
I liked it then but I don't remember loving it. Then a friend recommended this 5 season box set. Although it's price sort of scared me I bought it anyway (also with the movie pack) and I am so happy I did. Having begun watching the series "late", I was unaware of the rich character development that made their later actions so spectacular.
Yes, this is science fiction but you do not need to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy this series. My wife is no fan at all (she dislikes ST), but as she sat down by me while I watched, she got "sucked into" its plot, just like I did. And like others have stated, we began to care so much about the characters as the episodes and seasons progressed.
If you appreciate great writing, characters, passionate philosophical speeches, this box set containg the entire televised seasons is for you.
For instance, consider this moving oratory from Delenn (sort of the conscience of the show):
"There are moments when we all become someone else, something other than what we are. It takes only a moment. But we spend the rest of our lives looking back at that moment in shame."
IMO this is the best show in television history. Not Sci-Fi television history, but television in general. It is not in the least bit shallow and is not for those who dislike thinking, or who merely want something visual to fold their socks in front of. This is serious philosophical writing with serious philosophical characters whose choices force serious philosophical examinations of right and wrong, good and evil, and happiness and misery. There are many analogies to modern religion and politics and in this regard the show is most relevant given current world events.
Lastly, if you also buy the "movie set" at the same time, I HIGHLY recommend you follow the order Andreas Cohen in his gratious review suggested. In this regard I thank him for his kind sharing in this regard. (I have a print of his review tucked inside the box set for reference).
In summary, if you are a serious "thinking" person who enjoys fun yet meaningful entertainment, these six box sets (5 seasons and the movie pack) are a wise investment in your human capital.
I am a significantly better person as a result of watching these DVD's. I have no buyer's remorse what-so-ever.
on June 14, 2004
Unlike most other television series, where you know the main characters will be the same at the end of each show, B5 has episodes that move the show along a huge "arc" of a story. Although it may be nice to pick the best bits out of other science fiction series like Star Trek for your home, there is a lot of value in having the COMPLETE collection of Babylon 5 (or more!). Not *just* for the sake of having the "whole story" though: this is one of the consistently best written and thoughtful television series ever, sci-fi perfection; even the "worst" episodes are clever.
Along with "The Prisoner", this is one of the "must have" TV series for any collector, a thought-provoking brilliant work of art. As with Blake's 7 you don't know who will be left at the end of each episode. Like Quinn Martin (Invaders, Fugitive, 12 O'Clock High), JMS keeps it all perfectly-paced exciting entertainment. As with the Onedin Line and serious British sagas, the overall story and character development is what makes tv worth watching for me. Pay special attention to Vir's development - I think his character is in many ways a metaphor for the show and mankind in general. Also be prepared to find more in the details of shows even after rewatching episodes, and tributes to others (and even LOTR) in names and ship designs.
The Amazon pricing for the 5-series collection is noticeably less than the individual series or any combination of other multi-season collections (which seem to be more than buying the individual series). You will probably want to also get the pilot episode too.
on April 28, 2006
This is one of the greatest Sci-Fi stories every made in Film. I won't go into the details of the story as there is so much information already out there. However the structure is a masterpiece. The main ingredients of success are:
1) The story was put together whole before the first episode was filmed.
2) The writer i.e. JMS kept a tight rein on the production and made it true to his story.
3) The story was greater than any actor, and therefore able to survive the loss of any actor intact.
4) There are lots of mysteries which are revealed piece by piece over the course of the story.
There are other promising films which were made at the same time. X-Files is a perfect example. X-File however, fails where Babylon-5 succeeds. The main reason being that B5 is a complete story, while X-Files just presents mysteries that are never resolved.
The only real drawback is that B5 was meant to be done over the course of 5 years, perhaps that is why it is named B5! Alas, JMS was forced to bring the story to end in 4 years fearing its premature cancellation by the network. This made season 4 a bit rushed. Once season 5 did get funded JMS had to look for material to fill it in. In my opinion he missed the best "filler" which was: the story of Centuari. This story has since been written up in a trilogy of books. It would have made a wonderful 6 parter in the 5th season!
Nevertheless it is as close to perfection as any TV series has got to. Therefore it deserves a 5. Since then JMS has produced material that while good, do not reach this level. Like Mists of Avalon, it is a unique masterpiece inspired by muses which may never touch the same author again!
on February 14, 2005
First, let me say that I think Babylon 5 is probably one of the greatest sci-fi series there has ever been. EVER. That should give you a glimpse where my review is going. I don't plan on trying to change anyone's opinion, but I do hope to explain why this series has been a favorite of mine ever since I first saw it.
For one thing, it has an epic storyline. When I say storyline, I mean how it was planned as a 5 season journey. The series main attraction to me was that it was connected throughout all its seasons, weaving a tale reminiscent of the old space operas.
I've been tired of the generic sci-fi at that time (Star Trek, I'm looking at you) that while good, it never really made me want to watch every single episode. I mean, did it matter that I missed one episode of ST:TNG? Not really, unless it was a two parter, becasue most episodes were self contained and had nothing to do with each other. Babylon 5 changed that.
It was like a book, made into a TV show. For anyone who has read a long book series, such as The Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, and even Harry Potter, you will understand why one has to keep reading the next book, and the next, and so on. It's the story, the wanting to know what happens to the characters that drives one to keep on reading. That's the feeling Babylon 5 gave to me.
Some people might complain that Babylon 5 was a lot of dialogue and not enough explosions. To me, that was the best part, the interaction between the characters, their motivations, their fears, and their failures.
To me, Babylon 5 is almost like a love story. Literally, and figuratively. For one thing, it was a labor of love from its creator and producers that the series was able to complete its five year run. The actors certainly loved working on that show as well. It was a matter of love to the series that kept the fans watching, and it was the love in the Babylon 5 story itself that makes it magic. It was the love of Earth that forces the actions of our main characters, it was the love of each other that brings them together, and it was the love of peace that drives them to fight.
So much one can say about this series......but now, I'm going to put in my two cents about this Amazon.com deal. I believe it's actually quite a smart move for you to buy it this way. I made the mistake of buying my copies retail and at different places; some places charge up to $100 dollars for each season, while the lowest retail I've seen is around $79. There also comes the problem of finding them all at the same time. Most stores don't carry all seasons, so to find them all, you'll need to go store to store. By using the Amazon.com way (which I wish I could have done myself) you get all the seasons at once, and the price is quite low.
Of course, the price is still steep, but consider this - you are looking at about 22 episodes per season, clocking about 45+ minutes each. That means you are looking at about 1000+ minutes per season, times 5, that's roughly about 5000+ minutes of great TV watching. Now, think about the price of one movie (most of which are around 98 minutes, on average) and then think to yourself how many times you've kicked yourself for wasting 20 bucks on a movie you didn't like? In the end, if you do a numbers game, your are getting more out of one season, than you would out of 4 movies (1 1/2 hours each, 20 bucks each, about 6 hours and $80 dollars) while Babylon 5 (1 season is about 1000+ which is around 15 hours of so, for only $74 at amazon.com).
on January 20, 2010
If you're hesitating over whether to spend the money and buy the whole 5 seasons, wait no more! This show is simply brilliant no matter how many times you've seen it! Although I have seen the complete series several times, including when it originally aired, watching it again has been a revelation. Babylon 5 is a remarkable and under-rated achievement. If you've never seen it and love good, well-written, believable Sci Fi - this is the show for you. If it's been a while since you've seen it, you've got a treat in store, because so many things are revealed than are easy to miss when watching it "live". Unlike Star Trek, which I've watched and loved since it's original airing, B5 is a complete and complex story, where everything and everyONE are connected. If you're a fan, you know almost everything the happens on the series is important and many seemingly insignificant things turn out to have great importance later on. All the characters are delightfully rich and complex and watching the series again on DVD is like finding some old family home movies you haven't seen in years.
I was delighted to discover hidden depths to the first season's Captain Sinclair, who I never particularly liked, but have now learned to appreciate. He's a sensitive and unexpectedly diplomatic man, finding unique solutions to a host of problems. And he's a prime example of things or people turning out to be of great importance later on - no spoilers but don't discount him. He will definitely surprise you!
Why this series has never received the acclaim it so richly deserves I will never know, but believe me, this is no late-night cult classic, but a brilliant epic spanning time and space and replete with every emotion found in the human heart. Don't worry guys - there are plenty of explosions, mayhem, battle scenes, space ships and shoot outs to counter any emotional overtones.
Babylon 5 may be the best Sci Fi series ever made. Don't miss it - for the first or fifteenth time. Owning it will only make it better!