Friday, August 20, 2004

I recently started rewatching the science fiction series Babylon 5. It was then, and is now, brilliant. J. Michael Stracynski masterfuly creates characters that must discover themselves among political intrigue and peril. I love it! The show is truly amazing, and here is why.

So many of you may be wondering how a television show constitutes literature? To me, Babylon 5 counts because it is written with purpose and careful thought. It's flowing language speaks directly to the soul. The acting is sketchy at first, but gets better. Andreas Katsulus and Peter Jurasik portray characters that start out one dimensional and carefuly grow into some of the most beloved characters ever gifted to man. Make no mistake, a television show can be great literature. The writing alone is enough to define it, but when combined with great acting it becomes a masterpiece.

If you've never seen Babylon 5, you should. The first and second seasons are shaky but they pave the way for a better series. The general premise is almost cliche for it is about the fight against good and evil. Much deeper, the plot is the very same as Harry Potter's: choices and consequences. Each character makes choices throughout the series that carefuly puts them where they are at. Each character has their share of mistakes and successes. For instance, Londo Mollari starts out as a nobody that could go on living happily as a nobody. But he is given a chance for power from unknown beings. Aware that such an acceptance must come at a high price, he still takes it and this decision becomes the opening for many of the problems Babylon 5 will face.

A great quote regarding Londo is found in season two. He seeks out a techno-mage to secure his power, as the blessing of a techno-mage woudl be a historic event. No one would doubt him if only he could get this blessing. When he finally gets the techno-mage to talk to him, this is what he is told (not exact):

Techno-Mage: "Well take this for what little it will profit you. As I look at you, Ambassador Mollari, I see a great hand reaching out of the stars. The hand is your hand. And I hear sounds, the sounds of billions of people calling your name."

Mollari: "My followers?"

Techno-Mage: "Your victims."

What's great about Londo's character is that he is both a bad guy and a good guy, each time depending on the wisdom of his choices. His main enemy and later friend, G'Kar, starts out as all bad and moves to be a great religious leader. The banter between the two is full of humour and wisdom. It is because of these two characters that I believe this show to be so great.

G'kar: "No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by the force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power governments, and tyrants, and armies can not stand. The Centauri learned this lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free."

Aside from the traditional good vs. evil approach, Babylon 5 also delves into our own history to teach us lessons. In season 2, a group known as Night Watch takes it upon themselves to "enforce peace". This group is started by President Clark, successor to the late President Santiago. There is good reason to believe Clark murdered Santiago but the lack of evidence allows Clark to remain in power. Along with the Night Watch, Clark starts a sort of Martial Law and a closing of Earth's borders to aliens; Earth wants to blame all it's problems on those that are different from them. All of this bears a striking resemblence to the Red Scare and McCartheism in the US history. It's well done and brought forth in a couple of seasons. It's drawn out nature has more of an affect than a single episode ever could.

The Night Watch is realistic because its goals make sense on the surface. The members are not dramatized as evil, but as people who truly believe they are seeking out peace. For example:

"As the name implies, you must also be watchful. Peace can be made or broken with a gun, a word, an idea, even a thought. Now, those who work against peace sow the seeds of discontent. They plant false stories, they undermine the public good. It's not because they are necessarily evil. It's because they don't know any better. They're rejected, they're unhappy, and they lash out in the only way they can. So, If we could be made aware of these problems as they occur, then we can find these people, we can talk to these people, we can embrace them again in the arms of society, while, at the same time, protecting society from misinformation and harmful ideas. We're less interested in actions than we are in attitudes. We must help protect society against its own worst instincts. And by taking these bold steps, we will help to ensure a better future for everyone. I'm proud to be a part of it, and I hope you'll all join me in becoming part of the Night Watch." -Macabee of the Night Watch

As the anty keeps getting upped, the members find themselves trapped in an organization with questionable intentions. A man gets arrested for planting the seeds of discontent when all he really did was say that he disapproved of somethign in the government. His store is closed down and a sign is hung that says "Closed by order of the Ministry of Peace pending allegations of sedition."

This scene is shown in the background to the following quote:

"We came to this place, because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. By the end of 2259, we knew that it had failed. But in so doing it became something greater. As the war expanded, it became our last, best hope for victory, because sometimes peace is another word for surrender, and because secrets have a way of getting out."

As you may guess, much of what Babylon 5 addresses is true today. I think there are many lessons much of the world could learn about what is going on now versus what we think is going on. Hind vision is 20/20 and we should remember that just because something sounds good, that doesn't mean it is good. We rarely have all the information and there are always cards yet to play.

I don't want to tell you everything in this rich story. Nor do I have the time. Go watch it! You won't regret it!