In the wake of shadows: the legacy of Babylon 5

It’s a five-mile-long cylindrical hunk of spinning metal, containing a menagerie of aliens, soldiers, leaders, and secrets, lost together in the night, amidst a futile search for peace. This place is important. Pitched as ‘Casablanca in space (opens in new tab),’ Babylon 5 was powerful and ambitious and despite it’s myriad of flaws and tribulations, it’s an icon of sci-fi TV. But thirty years on from the show’s debut, there are many who haven’t experienced this particular corner of exceptional sci-fi history, and we think that’s a damn shame.

In broad terms, Babylon 5 is a time-honored fantasy story about good and evil. It has alien races like the Centauri, Minbari, Narn, Drazi, and Vorlon instead of elves and dwarves, with the expanse of space as the battlefield. Part of why it works so well is because this is a classic story people have heard their entire lives, with relatable conflicts, but told from a different approach. 

There are the huge universe-altering wars, smaller battles, personal rivalries, and internal conflicts, all expertly told. Viewers get to watch the characters grow and change, they are urged to laugh, love, and cry with the residents of the station. The heroes are always fighting back against the darkness, but they sometimes have to make tough choices, while some don’t realize they are being used or are becoming the villains they seek to destroy in the process. Can they all put aside their differences and get on the same page to save the galaxy?

Babylon 5

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

What made Babylon 5 different was how it wanted to tell this epic tale. It was planned out from the very beginning with ‘trap doors (opens in new tab)’ and backup plans to move characters around and change things as needed. This meant that the show wasn’t reliant on any single character, letting the whole cast breathe and grow. 

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