And Londo Mollari for the Centauri:
I think what impresses me most about the series are the unusual little incidents such as the one where the Vorlon ambassador insists that Captain John Sheridan, the military governor of Babylon 5, visit a particular compartment deep inside the station (Blogger won't embed):
Can you think of any other television show that would have a segment like that? Another one is when the two ambassadors pictured above, bitter enemies, are trapped in an elevator after an explosion:
One of the most hilarious scenes ever--superbly acted by Andreas Katsulas. Or Londo and his assistant Vir, singing opera:
There are some awkward scenes as well and the special effects look dated, but the show is really about the characters. There are some good satires on government and media as well. There are a lot of very likable characters, something that is not so common these days. I can think of a number of tv shows that have virtually no likable characters!
Battlestar Galactica is quite a different kettle of fish. The special effects are really well done and have the feel of gritty plausibility. As a once-resident of the area, I like picking out locations that are obviously Vancouver and environs. Amazing how many alien planets look just like a temperate West Coast forest! When this series began I was hugely impressed. It got a lot of initial energy feeding off the shock of the 9/11 attack--the series begins with a miniseries in 2003 that evokes the shock of civilizational destruction. Some of the best features were the sympathetic depiction of military characters and the tension between a civilian administration and the military.
There are some great characters in this series as well. Commander, later Admiral, Adama played by Edward James Olmos is a rare kind of character, exemplifying non-toxic masculinity and authority. Starbuck, played by Katee Sackhoff, is another strong character with a streak of rebelliousness. The theme of the robots of humanity's creation returning as twelve different models in multiple copies that look just like people is a brilliant solution to the problem of making villains that are interesting. There are a lot of excellent episodes featuring the ongoing war with the Cylons, internal treachery, defeat and recovery, the search for Earth and so on. There are some deeply touching episodes, such as when Kat sacrifices herself to ensure the safe passage of civilian ships through a radiation zone. And Lee Adama's defence of Gaius Baltar in his trial for treason. For me the climax of the series came with the finale of season three when four members of the crew are revealed as Cylons. This was brilliantly done through the skillful use of music. For the last few episodes of the season, these four characters keep hearing tiny melody fragments (that no-one else hears) and occasionally quote a few words. The viewer is perplexed for quite a while but finally these fragments coalesce into a song: "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan! This works very well with anyone who has this song deeply lodged in their brain--suddenly you recognize it and that perfectly parallels the self-realization of the four characters. Battlestar Galactica has the very best music of any science fiction series, written by Bear McCreary. Here is a clip of that season finale:
Sadly, after this, for me at least, the show went completely off the rails. I'm not sure what happened, but the fundamental bases of the series and the fundamental narrative structure just seemed to evaporate as if the writers no longer had a clue about where they were going. This seems to be a recurrent problem with a lot of series: there is a great pilot, but each subsequent season after the first one just gets less and less interesting. Instead of the narrative developing it just dribbles off into irrelevancy and then, inevitably, the series "jumps the shark." The one creator/producer who seemed to be able to do the opposite was Joss Whedon. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel he made each season an improvement and development of the previous ones. The characters gain depth and weight and grow in interesting ways. The series that seemed to have enormous possibilities for development was Firefly, but it was canceled in the middle of the first season! In my next post I will take up Firefly and then move on to my favorite series, which I am sure will take you all by surprise!