First off, Babylon 5 premiered in an era when I already had an awful lot on my plate so far as my SciFi diet was concerned. Televised Star Trek was still in its syndicated glory, and the explosion of new channels in the TV line-up really gave homebound audiences a wealth of options when it came to filling up one's entertainment schedule. Furthermore, the home video craze was also near it's zenith, and I had already begun exploring SciFi and Fantasy properties from around the world that I'd heard and read so much more about and wanted to get to know. To add even more kindling on to that fire, I'd seriously begun reviewing movies via Amazon.com and other websites, so sitting down to yet one more hourly investment really was a bit much.
Now, I didn't ignore Babylon 5. I did give it a viewing of those first few episodes. What I found -- while I loved much of the show's practical effects with make-up and some fledgling CGI -- was solid ... although it wasn't enough to pique my interest for hanging on to the long haul. I didn't completely tune it out; but I've always admitted that -- at that time -- it just didn't hook me the way other programs did.
Once life settled down and it came out on home video, I did try to discover it ... several times. I've told the story here about Jerry Doyle and I swapping a few Tweets about the show; and it was largely his encouragement that prompted me to put-up-or-shut-up and make it through as much of the show as I could. I'd mentioned to him that I'd started that journey twice before, and somewhere around the middle of the second season I just fell out of step with the characters, that the story became all-encompassing, and I was much more of a character-fan than I was a plot fan. I've always said that "good characters can make even a dull story interesting," and my inability to identify with any of B5's central folks kept me away.
Whatever the case, I rose to the occasion of his challenge, set aside my differences with the property, and finally did it: it took me some time -- along with some starts and stops -- but I finally made it through Straczynski's tale.
Sadly but perhaps not predictably to me, my opinion didn't much change. Yes, the Babylon universe is one rich with its own species and history, but its characters -- for whatever reason -- just didn't do much for me. The only one I truly connected with was Doyle's Garibaldi -- the everyman law officer whose tasking with martialing the impossible for a whole host of reasons -- but everyone else in the line-up seemed bigger-than-life in their own braggadocious way. While parts of the ensemble worked wonderfully, there were other relationships relying on -- dare I say? -- some overly hammy acting.
Occasionally, I debated the show's merits with hardened fans. (Mind you, when I debate any show, I'm never interested in changing anyone's mind: you like what you like, I like what I like, and if the two meet then that's great. In the end, we're each allowed to enjoy what we want, and that's what makes SciFi fandom work at its best.) While I've always agreed that the show was definitely gifted with an incredibly talented cast -- some that did remarkable work with what they were provided -- everything felt a bit too important all of the time, and that kept me from truly enjoying the show more.
One time, I described it this way: the Star Trek trinity -- Kirk, Bones, and Spock -- works because each player his a role within the trio. Sometimes, I agreed with Kirk. Other times, Bones convinced Kirk that he was wrong, causing Kirk to kinda/sorta 'bend the knee.' Other times, Spock's logic won the day. See, Star Trek wouldn't work if all three acted like Kirk. There would be no trinity. There'd just be all Kirk all-the-time; and Babylon 5 felt too me like a show very much incensed with characters trying to be the king of the hill constantly. It felt to me like every one of B5's players were trying to be Kirk, and I found that off-putting.
I know, I know, I know. I'm wrong. You're right.
As I said, at the end of the day, we are where we are.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, an article on IO9 reports that the somewhat 'remastered' incarnation of Babylon 5 -- something fans have clamored for for ages (and I agree one is due) -- is now streaming on HBO Max. The author points out (splitting hairs necessarily) that these available streams are not quite truly 'remastered,' but I suspect interested parties will look beyond some of those quibbles in favor of just enjoying the show in a much more polished fashion.
And yes that includes yours truly. I'm thinking about surfing over there this weekend to watch an hour or two just for giggles. Maybe I'll find my position has softened with age.
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!