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Best episode to convert newbies

Here's a different type of questions for all and sundry; what episode(s) would you pick to show to those who haven't got a clue yet about how good this show is? All seasons and movies are open for suggestions.
"In the Beginning". It has everything that makes B5 the engrossing story that it becomes over the seasons and leaves a nice teaser for the series. Even though there are spoilers for those who haven't seen up to the fourth season, the show is rich enough that you don't need to focus on the mystery of the Earth-Minbari War plotline, and to most new viewers they really don't know what they are supposed to be spoiled by until its pointed out to them later in the series (by which time the specifics of events of the movie have faded).
In the Beginning worked for me. I was flipping through channels and came across the movie on TNT leading to two thoughts.."What the hell is this?", and "Where can I find more".
When I look back on what episodes in the early part of Babylon 5 stick out in my mind that don't give off too many spoilers of the show yet still have a sizeable grabbing-my-attention factor, here are some I think of:

"Mind War" -- While this episode has sizable contribution to the whole show's telepath arc, seeing it so early in season one really didn't alert me to how important the tone and questions presented in it would eventually become. It has touches of romance, mystery, ponderings of the future of humanity, fear of unchecked authority figures, fear of what those with power could do to normal people, etc. All of which make it a mind-gripping episode, in my opinion.

"Deathwalker" -- This episode is definitely one of my favorite of season one. Na'Toth, though a minor character, shines as a great character in the episode revealing some of the Narn culture. Jha'Dur's immortality serum, while being a fairly staple of classic science fiction, presents the whole idea of a foutain of youth in a much more interesting and non-heavenly treasure light pulling one to think about exactly how would people in society would react to be able to have immortality. The addition of the total weirdness of Kosh and his negociations helps to establish the Vorlons as being the cryptic freaks they are.

"The Long Dark" -- While not revealing the Shadows themselves, this episode serves to fuel up the worry fires about what's going on in the darkness of the galaxy that the main characters don't know about. It's one of those enclosed stories that has ties to the greater story of the show that leaves one with some fairly sizable ominous feelings.

"Confessions and Lamentations" -- That this episode has an entire race die out instead of being saved "just in the nick of time" like so many other shows screams of just how hard-hitting and thought-provoking the show is. It helps illuminate how Babylon 5 is quite different than other sci-fi like most of Trek and others where the heroes always succeed. That difference is something that attracted me to the show so strongly.

"Passing Through Gethsemane" -- There's a lot of ambiguity in this episode, a lot of cause to think about things, a lot of mystery to be revealed, and a touch on the world of the future in which telepathy and mental manipuation is much greater than it is now. It brings one to ask what is choice and what is forgiveness.

These are just some of my personal thoughts on episodes that could be shown to try and draw in someone to get hooked on the show. Please feel free to discuss agreements and disagreements with things I've said.
Personally I'm an arc freak and don't like showing newbies stuff out of sequence. I personally find "Midnight on the Firing Line" to be a great first episode. Lots of explanations without beating the audience over the head with them, good action, good interpersonal stuff, and a few good lines. But I also recommend Parliament of Dreams, Mind War, and Signs and Portents.
I've seen that question asked with respect to a couple / few different shows. I always think that the answer is the same:

It depends on the newbie in question.

Different people get hooked by different aspects of the show. An episode that would immediately hook one personmight very well, when seen alone and out of context, leave another person relatively cold. What are the tastes and tendancies of the person you are trying to hook? Will they be more likely to go for political intrigue, "action", romance, humor, shades-of-grey ambiguity, appearances by familiar actors, .... ?

I would be in the camp of trying not to spoil them too much. And I would consider In the Beginning to be "too much". Of course, this could also depend on the potential convert. If they are someone who often does everything they can to track down any and all spoilers for things that they watch, then it might not be too bad. If they are like me, and get pissed when they accidently get spoiled by people putting spoilers in subject lines on message boards, then I would avoid showing them anything anywhere near as significant as some of the stuff in ItB.

A few that I would consider, depending on the person being converted (but by no means a comprehensive list):

Midnight on the Firing Line
Parliament of Dreams
Born to the Purple (mostly for people who might need a romantic angle when the hook is first being set)
A Voice in the Wilderness (both parts together)
I'd be reluctant to use "Confessions" because the whole emotional impact of the show is that a regular supporting race that we've been watching for years is wiped out - instead of the one-shot alien race that would have been used had any other series done an episode this brave.

I would pick "Believers" as a "not your father's SF show" that essentially foreshadows "Confessions" as once again the doctor fails to save the patient. But a lot of people really seem to hate that episode, so YMMV.

I'm in the camp (along with JMS, I'm happy to say) who does not regard In the Beginning as "too much". I think it is a terrific introduction to the characters and the universe, and the framing story gives a hint of the overall scale of the piece. While some people take great pleasure in figuring out what happens next, Babylon 5 is not Murder, She Wrote. It isn't a mystery story, except in the sense that the first time you read it you don't know what the sequence of events and the outcome will be - and that's true of every story, mystery, western, SF, romance, comedy. I think the Sinclair story works as well for a viewer who knows the secret and knows that the character doesn't as for one who watches the story "cold".

I think "Gethsemane" is a terrific choice, another "not your father's SF show" story, very well told and acted.

If I had to chose a single episode it would have to be from S1 or S2. Anything else has too much arc in it. I think "Parliament" is great for an S1 episode. It highlights all of the main characters, has lots of humor, and gives a sense of how busy the station is. From S2 I'd choose "Soul Mates". Again humor features prominently, most of the regular cast is highlighted in a way that illustrates the characters, and Psi Corps is explored a bit. (G'Kar is so deliciously evil in this one, and Delenn is hilarious) True, like any S2 episode it gives away Delenn's appearance. So what? 90% of the publicity photos in existance do the same thing. Know that she changed without knowing how or makes the transformation as intriguing (if not as surprising) as not knowing.

Finally using either ItB or a second season episode emphasizes Sheridan, who is, after all, the series lead for four of the five years. Showing only a Sinclair episode may set up false expectations. Maybe the best thing is to chose two episodes - one from S1 and one from S2 and see what that does.

A word of warning, though:

When my best friend was trying to hook me on the show, when the first season was just airing, I watched an episode or two. I couldn't even tell you which ones, they made so little impression on me. All I saw was cheap-looking productions values, a somewhat stilted leading man and an apparently complicated back-story that didn't seem worth learning about.

What actually worked better was his challenge later the same year, after I told him how rotten the show seemed to me. He told me to find it in the local listings (another of my problems is that they kept moving the show when I was trying to watch it) and to promise him that I would watch at least four episodes in a row. You know, I still don't remember which four they were I saw that first time. They were from the second half of S1, but did not include either half of "A Voice in the Wilderness". Individually they still didn't make a strong impression. But collectively they helped me see the outline of an arc, how the cosmic reset button was not being hit at the end of each episode and how events in one story carried over into a later one. I decided at that point to give the show a chance. (Although work and TV schedule changes conspired to keep me from becoming a regular viewer until around the middle of S2.)

You might do better just to have a friend watch the first four episodes on the first disc - just make them promise to watch all of them in order - preferably in a single sitting. (Serve dinner, make an evening of it. :)) But if you're going to go with single episodes, I think I'd choose "Parliament" and "Soul Mates".


I think "Midnight on the Firing Line" works pretty well. Also because its the first.

The only other one that jumps out at me is "A Voice in the Winderness" because it was the first one I saw and it got me interested.
I got my dad hooked with "War Without End". When you think about it, pretty much all of the arc references are explained in the story, so it doesn't really confuse someone who hasn't seen the show before. He didn't really ask me that many questions about what was going on and was actually pissed when it said to be continued.

Barring that, I would suggest "In the Beginning" as a better jumping off point than "The Gathering". Sure, there are some spoilers in it, but they don't play out for awhile (with the exception of Sinclair's missing day, of course). After all, "The Gathering" has a HUGE spoiler in it and I never even noticed it until I rewatched it after the first four seasons.
I'll have to go with "In the Beginning." I loaned my "Gathering/In the Beginning" to a friend who is a train buff and a so-so Scifi fan. I explained "The Gathering" was the pilot, shot, and took place, a year before Season One began and also explained that "In the Beginning" was filmed a couple of after Babylon 5 began to set up the characters and established the background for those who hadn't followed the series so suggested he watch "In the Beginning first, then "The Gathering."

Result was that after watching the double disk he was hooked and bought a copy plus Seasons 1, 2 & 3 and now waiting for S4. I did offer to let him have the VHS tapes I made of Seasons 4 & 5 but he refused, wanting instead to watch on DVD.
You all forget three very good episodes

--"Severed Dreams"-All you need to know to understand the episode is two things (1) Earth is ruled by a bad man. (2) Big "evil" things called Shadows are doing big "evil" things. This episode is action packed but not without sacrificing the story.

--"Into the Fire"--End of the Shadow War. Also action packed but story driven. Completely easy to understand. A newbie may be confused at the start but points are explained in time.

--"Endgame"-Coolest battle sequences in the show. The final fight to free earth. Again all you really need to know is (1) Earth is ruled by bad man and (2) Shadows were big "evil" things who had done big "evil" things

For story only episodes:

--"Intersections in Real Time"--High quality episode. The only points to know are that Sheridan is an important character captured by the "enemy" No action, and takes place almost entirely in a small room. The interregator is particular good.

--Crusade: The Path of Sorrows--Some of the best acting by the character of Galen. Also provides a lot of backstory for understanding the other episodes. Questions the idea of fate and forgiveness.

--"A View from the Gallery"-Follow two maintenance workers around the station during an attack by a "hostile alien force". Were this episode shines is the direct interactions between the workers and the lead characters of B5. It shows quite well that on the surface there are all these larger than life figures walking around, but at a closer look there is a humanity about them.
I would go for the one that grabbed me - Dust To Dust. I was at a Sci-Fi Convention, and someone played this episode... and it just blew me away. The tension, the acting, and the atmosphere just grabbed me and would not let go. And the final line - 'and some must be sacrificed so that all may be saved.' just clinched it for me. I then started on Season 2 (which was just about to start on our TV network), and I never looked back.

Despite my comments about mysteries vis a vis ItB, I would absolutely recommend against using "WWE" as an "intro" to the series. That show pays off three years of slow steady build up. First, it is a huge spoiler (because in ItB we merely learn that the Minbari think Sinclair has a Minbari soul, is perhaps Valen reincarnated - we don't know the real reason the Triluminary reacts to him.) Second it simply cannot pack the same emotional wallop if it is the first thing you see from the series that it would if you watch it around 60 episodes into the show.


I disagree with pretty much all of your choices on similar grounds. :) Start someone with the crisis that leads to the split with Earth? Would you get a friend hooked on The Lord of the Rings by having them start with the first chapter of Book IV? And why would you want to show a newbie the end of the Shadow War? It means nothing without the build-up, and it is an outrageous spoiler. Ditto the Earth Civil War. Finally seeing these episodes sets up false expectations that are going to be sorely tried when the person goes back and starts with S1 to watch the show in order.

"Endgame" is a strong episode, but one that gives a new viewer no idea of what the series is generally like. It is deliberately "off-format", which JMS liked to do at least once a season to mix things up, but what makes it interesting and atypical is what makes it lousy as a representative "sample" episode.

I wouldn't use a Crusade episode as a introduction to the B5 universe. As an introduction to Crusade "Path" isn't a bad choice - but of the 13 surviving episodes, I'd go with "Racing the Night" which, after all, was intended precisely to be an introductory episode and hook new viewers. I wouldn't second-guess JMS on which episode to use for that purpose. :)


I agree with Joe here. It would be like reading the last chapter of the Lord of the Rings to someone who'd never read the books before. The person might be impressed by the quality, but it ruins most of the surprises, and it simply can't compare with the weight you feel after reading the entire saga.

I still say introduce people with season one. They might not be hooked until season two, but S1 can catch their interest to keep them around long enough for the really good stuff.
I see your points Joseph. I was going for episodes that were exciting and easy to understand, and contribute to intrest in the overlying arcs of the series. I still stand by my Crusade and Season 5 Suggestions, but add the Season Finale to season 1. One of the last lines in the episode is Sinclair saying "Nothing's the same anymore..."---One of the best lines in the series (but that's another debate). The episodes is full of conspiracies and tension, until the final sequence where the president...well I won't spoil it :)
One of the last lines in the episode is Sinclair saying "Nothing's the same anymore

Yeah it's a great line, but if you haven't seen any of the episodes leading up to that quote, then it doesn't mean anything. "Nothing's the same anymore." OK, so what? I don't know how things were before Jeff said that, so I don't care. For that statement to really make a connection, you have to know how things were before he said it. WHAT isn't the same anymore...people he cared about are shot, missing, and in cocoons. Without the suspenseful buildup of previous episodes, it just doesn't work.

Let me agree with everyone who has suggested In The Beginning for an intro to the B5 universe. That's how I got started, and after I saw it I was hooked. The movie gave me enough about each of the characters to care about what happens to them in the series...plus it gave me hope that the production value was going to get a whole lot better after Season 1. In The Beginning gives away the secret about Sinclair's missing day, but that's not what the story is really about anyway. As JMS said, that's just the story that gets you into the story. The real story is the Shadow War, the Earth Civil War, and the formation of the Alliance. So you have a secret in your pocket for the first 22 episodes or so...there are still 4 seasons worth of secrets that haven't been revealed yet...each one more tantilizing than the last ;).
I can only suggest the episode that got me hooked when I first watched B5.

The first episode that I saw was 'Mind War', and I only started watching it because I saw 'Mr Chekov'. The next one was 'The War Prayer', but that didn't impress me too much then. What really got me was the third episode, 'And the Sky full of Stars'.

Weather it was the backstory, or the darkness of it, or the mystery, I was completely hooked and never looked back.
Some great suggestions! I'd have to go with The Parliament of Dreams. I remember this being a real highlight for me when I first started watching the show, there was intrigue, sharp humor, a real sense of there being alien cultures on board. I feel it showcased so many of the characters (both human and nonhuman) very well and also ended with a nice message.

I actually liked Believers a lot - mostly because I was such a trekkie and had been dismissive of Bab5 and this episode broke the formula I had been conditioned to expect.

If you want to get the newbie sucked into political intrigue angle and dramatic plot arcy stuff then Signs and Portents is maybe a good one, or The Coming of the Shadows in season two with the Emperor Turhan.
I actually liked Believers a lot - mostly because I was such a trekkie and had been dismissive of Bab5 and this episode broke the formula I had been conditioned to expect.

That was one of the ones that really impressed me, and for much the same reason. It didn't hurt that it was written by David Gerrold - the man who made his first professional sale as a writer with "The Trouble with Tribbles" for TOS, worked as a script doctor during that show's third season and wrote the S1 bible for TNG. If you have real hard-core Trekkers to convert, you might also consider "A Distant Star" from S2. This does a terrific job of explaining the nature of space travel in the B5 universe, teases the mystery of the Shadows and was written by Dorothy ("Journey to Babel") Fontana. I was still a bit skeptical about the show (especially since I'd just gotten hooked on the Sinclair version and was now ajdusting to Sheridan) and seeing her name on the screen made me think that I was right to take the show seriously after all.


The only problem with A Distant Star in my opinion was that the Captain (Russ Tamblyn?) character just seemed a bit flat, wooden. Perhaps I just didn't like his acting (same sorta reaction I had to Jinxo in Grail with all his smiling).