Friday, January 29, 2010

And The Rock Cried Out

I've never hidden the fact that Babylon 5 was my favorite science fiction show.  Actually it's my favorite show. Period. I've been a Trekker since I saw The Man Trap on Armed Forces Radio and Television.  Or Afarts as we called it.

Star Trek provided me with a vision of the future that told me I could be anyone I wanted to, that eventually everyone would be equal.  And from my point of view that meant men and women could both be captains or they could be navigators or they could whatever they wanted.  I had to take this on faith because female captains were pretty rare on TOS.  I believe that the first one was Klingon, the rest were women Kirk tried, and many times succeeded, in bedding.  It wasn't until TNG that we learned there had been a female captain of the Enterprise, who dies trying to right a blip in time and her helmsman ends up saving the timeline.  But still, I just knew there would be a time when men and women were equal, unfortunately it isn't likely to be in my lifetime.

Enough about Trek, on to a more realistic version of the future:  Babylon 5.  Way back in the mid-nineties another vision of space appeared on television and Battlestar Galactica should thank its luck stars.  B5 had aliens who didn't always get along with one another and women were considered the exact equal of men and could protect themselves. The special effects were fantastic when you remember that this was a television show that saved them for when they were needed, not as plot filler. B5 had politics galore and most importantly, it showed how easy it was to turn a liberal civilization into a totalitarian society.  For two years the hints were simple and sprinkled on the wind before coming to fruition. B5 was the last, best hope for victory.

While Gene Roddenberry created and produced a great show (thank you Lucille Ball), most of the episodes were pretty much fluff except for The Famous Kiss and The City on the Edge of Forever.  The stories tended towards being lighthearted and playful while touching on a few important themes.  J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5 was nothing like that.  Most of the episodes were completely serious interjected with moments (and people thought he would always be Flounder) of humor.  The story arc from first episode to the last was incredibly consistent and from today's perspective, way too prescient.  Take out the space ships and the aliens and you pretty much have the present we live in and the future we're headed for.

At the end of the first season, the President of Earth was killed under what the viewers knew were suspicious circumstance, but looked like a tragic accident to others.  A Narn outpost had been destroyed and the Centauri were solidifying their alliance with the Shadows.  Then things got worse.

The Earth Alliance under President Cheney Clark rounded up people who didn't agree with his decisions, bombed civilians deliberately to get their leaders to surrender, forced television stations off the air until he could get his own mouthpieces to recite the company line while he declared war on former colonies of Earth and B5. In the end Clark was willing to destroy the Earth as his last act before killing himself instead of being captured.

B5 didn't portray humans as the best of the universe, other cultures and characters always had something to offer (such as the (one moment of perfect beauty) and embracing the differences made all of the characters stronger for it,  Even if it took acts of evil to realize their redemption.  Or, as in the video below, revenge. And how sweet it was.
Marva Hicks can certainly belt one out, can't she?  The episode was about different faiths coming aboard the station to have a conference and the music was perfect for the scene and for the moral of the story.  Here is a version of just the lyrics and music.Unlike most shows, B5 credits were always worthy of watching, you never knew what you were going to hear.For those who say that those who participated at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and black sites we don't know about were just doing their jobs and also believe that waterboarding and other forms of torture are okay, there will come a day (hopefully) where somebody, somewhere will stand up and fight for what is right instead of blindly following orders, especially the ones they have qualms about.Otherwise, it really is too late for the pebbles to vote.

That is all.


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