• The new B5TV.COM is here. We've replaced our 16 year old software with flashy new XenForo install. Registration is open again. Password resets will work again. More info here.

Babylon 5 and pop culture.


While discussing the unfortunate demise of Legend of the Rangers, several comparisons to Star Trek have been made. And it started me thinking, has B5 made an impact on pop culture?

Star Trek, Star Wars and other sci-fi shows have imprinted themselves into pop culture. "Use the force", "Beam me up Scotty" are popular phrases. One could have never seen Star Trek, yet would still know what a Vulcan is. IOW, people that are not genre fans still know about Star Trek and Star Wars.

I remember years ago reading someone that called B5 the "undiscovered gem of science fiction", and I wonder if that is still the case.

The only reference to Babylon 5 I can remember is an episode of a sit-com (I think it was Drew Carey) where a character was dressed up in an alien costume, and explained she had just gotten off the set of B5. Has anyone else heard references to B5? Farscape fans, has Crichton ever dropped a B5 reference?

Admiral Dave
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by admiraldave:
<font color=yellow>Farscape fans, has Crichton ever dropped a B5 reference?</font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>

I sure don't remember any. He has made Trek and Star Wars references, but not B5. I remember just a couple of references back when it (B5) was on the air. One or two on Drew Carey (the tall one went to a con or something dressed as G'Kar and met, and made a date with, a woman dressed as a Minbari), and a couple in daily comic strips (although I don't remember which ones).

As much as I wish it were different, I don't think that B5 is likely to ever reach the level of penetration into the general pop consciousness that Star Trek or even Lost in Space did. It is matter of changing market conditions, not level of quality of the shows. When I was a kid in the '70's Trek reruns were on at 5:00 or 6:00 on Saturday and Sunday for years and years (I know that the exact schedule varied around the country, but the level of exposure was pretty similar in most of the country.) In my area Lost in Space was on M - F after school for years. As I remember it, it was one of the later offerings so that even when the weather was good we often saw it (or part of it) between coming inside for dinner and when dinner actually got served. More importantly, there were only 5 or 6 total stations on at all (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, 1 or 2 "independants", plus CBC for me because we were so close to the Canadian border). Noone knew what a VCR was. The massive growth in the number of choices available to viewers means that no show, certainly no rerun show on a niche cable outlet, ever really imprints on nearly as wide a sample of the general audiance any more. Ratings numbers that are considered big hits on the broadcast networks now would have been considered dismal failures in that early to mid-70's time period. It was that universal public recognition because of the reruns that created the climate for the first movie to be made, not the movie that revived interest (although if the movie had not made money then obviously there would not have been a TNG series).

That's why I doubt that "In Valen's name." will ever garner the general public recognition that "Beam me up Scotty" or "Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!" have.

How many people remember the first preview for the first Addams Family movie? All it was was a blank black screen with the sound initial 4 note Da-da-de-Dum of the theme and the two finger snaps. Then "Coming next summer" (or Christmas or whenever it was) in plain white letters. That was all it took. They didn't even have to use the words "Addams Family". The crowd in the theater went nuts. In the post-cable era even the huge hits like Seinfeld or Frasier wouldn't get that kind of universal response to just one measure of their theme music. That is the difference that I am talking about.
In this corner of the world, knowing what a Vulcan is might be less likely than knowing what a Vorlon is. Trek never reached here. Babylon 5 managed it twice. Besides, you may not know that <font color=yellow>Vorlon</font color=yellow> is the name of a quite serious VRML editing program.

The exceedingly cool associates certainly made an impact. Shadowtech is a convenient term for many occasions. <font color=yellow>Shadows 98</font color=yellow> may easily be the most popular science fiction related Windows startup logo. For those interested:

<a target="_blank" href=http://my.tele2.ee/lennier/shadowlogo/shadowlogo.jpg>Preview (logo.jpg)</a>
<a target="_blank" href=http://my.tele2.ee/lennier/shadowlogo/logo.bmp>Logo file (logo.bmp)</a>

You can edit the startup logo with any graphics program. For installation, place the logo file into the "c:\" directory and rename "logo.bmp" to "logo.sys". Gave my copy of Windows 98 a much more professional look. /ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif
Also, B5 is less than 10 years old. Star Wars is 25 years old and Star Trek and Lost in Space are 40 years old
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Lennier:
<font color=yellow>In this corner of the world, knowing what a Vulcan is might be less likely than knowing what a Vorlon is. Trek never reached here. Babylon 5 managed it twice.
The exceedingly cool associates certainly made an impact. Shadowtech is a convenient term for many occasions. <font color=red>Shadows 98</font color=red> may easily be the most popular science fiction related Windows startup logo.[/</font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>
I will take your word for that. I can only speak vaguely intelligently about the market conditions in the US (and to a minimal extent, Canada).

Your comparative statement doesn't really address the question of whether B5 has become part of the general public's consciousness your area the way that Star Trek has in the US. Here a mass market talk show host can use phrases like "warp speed" or "Beam me up, Scotty" and reasonably expect that they will be understood without having to explain anything. This is true even for that portion of the audiance that hasn't ever watched any Star Trek and wouldn't know a Vulcan from a Klingon. Does Babylon 5 have that kind of general recognition in your country? Could you use a refererence to "Shadow-tech" or "jump gates" or "jump engines" in a some random hardware store and fully expect that whoever you were talking to would understand. I think that it would be wonderful if it did, but so far it still seems unlikely to me. /ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif

I know that that is not the way it is in the US. And for the reasons stated in my previous reply, I don't expect that to change (in the US).
Three references that I know of: the Drew Carey thing, a fleeting mention of B5 collector's plates on Buffy, and Dave Attell uses "the fat kid in the B5 t-shirt' instead of star trek shirt to describe a dork. I said to someone else that the fact that he uses that is proof that he's a closet fan because no one but a fan would have any clue what B5 is.
The concept of hyperspace and jump engines comes from a much earlier time. Unless I'm mistaken, Arthur Clarke used both already in <font color=yellow>"The City and the Stars"</font color=yellow>.
I for one think time will endure and B5 may eventually find a niche and the phrase In Valen's Name and Great Maker will one day become household apart of pop culture like Beam me up Scotty
In casual conversation around my campus (true, I do go to a very geeky college) in talks not involving B5 or with a B5-fan heavy crowd I've heard the occasional reference - but most probably go on deaf ears to their meaning. I've heard "Great Maker!" used a few times and some mention to "The Egyptian God of Frustration". Though phrases like that make sense - at least heard in context - without needing to know the source.

I think we could try to get at least one reference into pop-culture ... I'm sure it works ...


Tiagra, no they haven't.

I actually kind of like the fact that I could say great maker and have nobody understand what I mean.
I've used "Great Maker!" before.

And once, I did it in Londo's accent.

But that was deliberately - to psych out a friend.
I've set my mail notification sound at work to be a wav file of Morden saying: "What do you want"? You should see the strange looks I get in my office from other people when they hear that.
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Loadhan:
<font color=yellow>I think we could try to get at least one reference into pop-culture ... I'm sure it works ...


/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif</font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>

Well.... a guy here in my college uses it....
he says his dad's into B5, but I'm not sure if he knows where it's from....
in fact I think he may have caught it off me....

its a start /ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

There is actually a scholarly book on this subject, titled: Interacting with Babylon 5: fan performances in a media universe. Author: Kurt Lancaster. Published by U. of Texas Press, Austin.
I think there was a B5 reference in Third Rock From the Sun.....but hell if I can remember now. And I don't think that reference had anything to do with Jason Carter's guest appearence either!
I've seen in a few shows

Sabrina "I'm sure the Babylon 5 convention will be just as fun" - sarcasm from one of the aunts

and then another from that comedy show about a hollywood family "and that is why babylon 5 will never be as good as the original star trek"
... And remember, today's average tv viewer has the IQ of a goldfish! B5 had/has loooong story arcs, and requires some form of memory / thought to fully enjoy!

We will all (possibly) just have to be satisfied with B5 having a cult following....

... it worked for Blade Runner... /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif
1) I have a smidge more faith in the intellectual capacity of my fellow man to be able to follow a 5 year story arc. Hello, soap operas have been airing in the US for over 30 years & people tune in every day to find out what's coming next. Granted, I've only seen one soap have the nerve to continue a mystery over 20 years & only have it partially resolved as recent as last November so maybe that's rare.

2) No, I haven't seen any references to B5 anywhere & aside from my sister who was a casual viewer (if the tv happened to be on she'd watch it for awhile) I don't know anyone besides you online sci fi geeks who watch & love the show like I do or can even quote from it.

3) B5 has to get off the sci fi cable channel and onto main stream tv in syndication if there are hopes for it to spread into pop culture farther than one liners dropped by other sci fi geeks who happen to write for sitcoms. People weren't saying "Beam me up Scotty" in the 1960s or 70s because it was never once used on the show. The term was first used in the motion picture and that's how it got into main stream culture. People went to see the movies because they saw the reruns on television for 10 years.

4) JMS may have written some wondeful stuff but we can't have it both ways. We can't be thrilled by its depth & pat ourselves on the back for being smarter & more enlightened viewers than the rest of the world for getting it. And then groan & bemoan because it isn't popular with the masses. I think that's why someone holds the patent on panty hose that never run but wont ever manufacture them. He'd revolutionize himself right out of a job because a consumer need only buy one pair. JMS did that.
Mom and I sat watching "Futurama" last Sunday hoping for something that didn't happen ...

It was their "Star Trek" episode where Fry and the others meet up with the (heads of the) actors who played the original series crew - well most of them. At one point he was discussing how "Star Trek" allowed the actors as people to grow into something more; when he got to Walter Koening he said "And after 'Star Trek', Waltor went on to - " [and here we thought they might mention B5] " - become an actor." Possibly a nod to his excellent portray as Bester but it wasn't said enough so anyone who isn't familar with B5 would understand anything ... *sigh* Almost ... damn you Fox! Use some B5 references! /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

Latest posts

Members online

No members online now.