J. Michael Stracyznski’s Babylon 5 (1994 – 1998) was groundbreaking for a number of reasons – its unified five-year structure, its use of CGI, and Stracyznski’s use of internet forums to engage with fans during the run of the show among them. But what makes the show last nearly 20 years after it left the weekly broadcast schedule has to be the quality of the writing and the skill of its lead actors in bringing these memorable characters – and their relationships – to life.
Perhaps the brightest lights in the Babylon 5 constellation are G’Kar (played by the late Andreas Katsulas) and Londo Mollari (played by Peter Jurasik). These two go through two of the most amazing character arcs seen, not just on science fiction television, but on television, period. Full stop.
In the universe of Babylon 5, G’Kar is a Narn and Londo is a Centauri. At the beginning of the show, the Narns have only recently won their independence from a century of slavery under ruthless Centauri rule. Therefore, the two are sworn enemies, who have good reason to hate, loathe, and utterly distrust each other. But they serve their people as ambassadors, meaning they are expected to nevertheless work together. The characters slowly evolve over the five seasons of Babylon 5 to show tremendous emotional growth, leading their respective people out of the somewhat-comforting darkness of hatred to a larger, far more interconnected world. Very gradually, their mutual contempt for the other transforms into a grudging respect, and ultimately, into true and abiding friendship. It is an incredible relationship to watch and the masterful acting of Katsulas and Jurasik in bringing these complex characters to life is a marvel.
Often, science fiction can be dystopian and dark. While the arc of G’Kar and Londo most certainly has dark and disturbing moments, these two also get some of the funniest lines in what can often by a very funny show. In fact, the quips and barbed comments between the two are one of the highlights of the show.
At one point, their good-natured bickering causes them to even be referred to as a married couple! They actually enjoy one of their best quiet moments after another wedding on the show . . .
While Babylon 5 is not currently showing in syndication in the United States, nor is it currently available through any streaming service, ask around. If you love science fiction, you’ve got a friend who knows this series and has the DVDs to lend you. I’m willing to bet after watching just a bit (maybe start with “Signs & Portents” in Season 1 – good Londo/G’Kar stuff there, or maybe “Passing Through Gethsemane” or “Messages from Earth” in Season 3 for overall awesomeness), you’ll be interested in seeing more. Sure, the CGI is 20 years old and the budget of Babylon 5 meant the designers and crew had to get creative in a few places, but allow yourself to just fall into the story. It’s well worth the trip.