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Old October 29th 16, 21:22   #4
Alkibiades410
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The Babylon 5 Official Viewing Order, Pt. 4

KEY TO THE LISTINGS

In addition to the whole “official viewing order,” the entire listing below provides both Run and Production numbers, i.e. the order in which the episodes originally aired and the order in which JMS produced them. Because the made for television movies have different production numbers than the two series or the DVD release, and no run numbers, I have also included the original airing date, so any fan can (if they so desire) reconstruct and experience the show like those of us who watched it when first aired.

I also provide the most widely accepted “in-universe” chronological timeline, so you may know when an episode supposedly takes place relative to other episodes. Because I prefer JMS’ originally expressed desires, however, this chronology differs from the two publications, which present subsequently established definitive times.

Lastly, the titles with an “*” after them indicate what JMS considered “WHAM” episodes, those episodes absolutely critical for the overall story arc. Titles with “+” after them indicate episodes, which contain more than just passing references to the larger plot development (or semi-WHAM episodes). Someone who wants to watch Babylon 5 but cannot commit to the entire run could conceivably watch just the WHAM and semi-WHAM episodes and still at least understand the essence of this saga.

A special note concerning Season 4:
JMS made considerable alternations to the plot structure for the show’s fourth season, because, when Season 3 ended, Babylon 5 had entered a “ratings death watch.” A fifth season might not actually have happened. Consequently, he compressed what should have taken two seasons into one. It therefore becomes impossible to skip any episodes as he abandoned all one-off, self-contained stories for full blown ultra-serialization.

Arguably, more happens in the first six episodes of this season than during the entirety of either Seasons 1 or 2. Then, at the end of what essentially becomes this six part miniseries, the audience (sans Thirdspace) immediately becomes pulled into 16 more episodes that resolve the second conflict, which had slowly and meticulously grew since Season 1. This “second-half” also ties-up all loose ends developed during the first three seasons.

The 4th Season thus significantly increases the action, tension, drama with an almost relentless pace of divulgements and resolutions. Interestingly enough, ratings, this one inescapable reality of television production, forced Babylon 5 to reach its zenith.

Season 4 is, without question, Babylon 5 at its finest.

Nevertheless, the threatened cancellation did not alter the show’s ultimate ending. It merely postponed it. When Babylon 5 earned a fifth season, JMS simply expanded greatly on several plot threads “concluded” by the 4th Season. He was now able to provide much greater detail, while also setting conflicts (like the Telepath War and “The Hand”) for the then planned spin-off series, a possible theatrical movie, and future miniseries or made-for-television movies, while also adding significant depth to the conclusion of Babylon 5 itself.

In short, even after all the forced changes, which the falling ratings and a move to a new network created, the show itself concluded precisely as JMS envisioned from the very beginning. In essence, then, a viewer could conceivably skip the final movies, the entire 5th Season, the spin-off series Crusade, the failed pilot, and DVD release yet still enjoy the show’s last two episodes, originally produced during the 4th Season.

Special Note on Season Four’s Final Two Productions:
JMS intended the final two episodes produced for the 4th Season to end the show effectively (and they do). In this format, the next to last episode offered a “glimpse” into the future and revealed the final fate of the human race, while the last episode then closed the story. With the advent of a 5th Season, then, JMS simply moved the finale to air after it completed. The episode leading into that finale, however, now appeared jarringly out-of-place.

Deconstruction of Falling Stars
begins with a flashback that takes place just after the resolution of the six episode “mini-series.” It also foreshadows an incident during (what would become) one episode from the 5th Season, an incident they thought they would never actually film, but then it skips the rest of the (arguably more) important events from that year to jump ahead 100, 500, 1000 and finally 1 million years into the future. The show’s more ardent fans have come to view this episode as a kind of “epilogue” -- to be viewed after the series’ finale. I agree -- any other viewing makes it feel misplaced if you commit to watching the entire run.

CONCLUSIONS


In sum, to enjoy fully all the multi-faceted, multi-character developments and changing dynamics, both the small and large moments, the grandeur of the entire story JMS sought to tell, that is, the majestic epic, which indeed the Babylon 5 universe became, one should view every episode, every movie, every spin-off in the order presented below.

You will experience moments of tension, laughter, sadness, shock, and a chain of revelations too numerous to count. You will, despite your best efforts, invest in all of these characters and fall captivated and often surprised by their individual and interconnected stories. The arcs of Lando and G’Kar, without question, deserve top honors here -- with Vir, Lennier, and Garibaldi taking honorable mentions along with Sinclair.

Season 1 will carefully craft the entire vista and slowly begin to sow intricate threads, which will eventually culminate in Season 4: that is, the coming Shadow War and then the Earth Alliance Civil War. Season 2 will plant the specifics for both, while also cementing a virtual mosaic of intricate, interconnected, and ever changing character relationships. As G’Kar so correctly observed during this season: “No one here is exactly who he seems.”

Season 3 will expand on all three legs of this now established stool, while building your expectations. All of the relationships will grow and evolve. The great Shadow War will begin, and the Earth Alliance will slip away. Season 4 will simply leave you exhausted. The story moves relentlessly from the struggle against the Shadows, the greatest ever fought, only to find it promptly replaced with the Earth Alliance Civil War, a war with critical consequence for the future of the human race.

The fifth and final season, takes a breath and seeks to build an even larger world, an Interstellar Alliance, while still ending in massive conflict for Centauri Prime. The season will introduce even more characters, suggest that further stories still exist to tell, and ultimately leave you quite somber as the original characters we have come to know and admire finally leave the station for new chapters in their lives.

The subsequent movies will make you appreciate that there indeed existed far more to this universe than broadcast. You will also become amazed at how surprisingly good Crusade actually was, despite all its production problems, and leave the experience without answers and utterly frustrated at what it could have been, while the Legend of the Rangers will drop a shocking mystery onto the table then promptly never resolve it.

Finally, the next to last episode (the actual original series finale) will make most fans cry -- or at least seriously tear-up, while the “epilogue,” will then offer closure: an eloquent footnote, which, with In the Beginning, not only bookends the entire epic, but reveals the final future and ultimate destiny of the human race. It’s all too brief summation will nevertheless leave you, despite Crusade and Rangers, satisfied that you have spent your time wisely.

The reward for this effort, in short, thus remains nothing short of outstanding.

Last edited by Alkibiades410; October 30th 16 at 15:51.
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