I’m a huge dork, and even I keep it on the D.L. that I’ve seen this show. Pick any random clip and you’ll see early 90s CGI and aliens with rubber heads, and hear synthy percussion and words like “G’Kar” and “Minbari.” You watch Babylon 5 and, like, you regain your virginity. I don’t even know how that happens. Maybe it’s like the time Sheridan was born anew after he fell at Z’ha’dum and was given life force by Lorien the First One AGH YOU SEE? YOU SEE WHAT THIS SHOW DOES TO PEOPLE?
I kid, I kid Babylon 5, it’s all coming from a place of sincere affection. That said, it being one of the first of these shows with long term stories, there are some bugs to work out. If you watch all 110 episodes, there are some severe highs and lows. Now, I wouldn’t advocate skipping any episodes if it’s your first time watching the show. But the second go-around, you can single out the 40 most important episodes, and watch only them. Suddenly Babylon 5 feels like The Lord of the Rings in space, only with stupider hair.
But whether you’re watching Babylon 5 for the first time or the tenth time, pretty much everything in Season 4 is vital. This was clearly meant to be the banner year for the series (the ponderous opening narration even tells you so). Season 4 is nothing less than the story of how in 2261, the entire universe is reborn in fire after being pulled into a massive galactic war.
This is the year in which the careful, long term planning of the first three seasons really bear fruit. From the start, sinister, shadowy villains have launched their attacks, mysterious god-like figures have revealed their agendas, tragic characters are beyond the point of no return, and heroic characters are rallying forces for all that is good and worth fighting for (how great is Bruce Boxleitner in this show, like, really?). It’s all really exciting, really immersive stuff. You don’t even care about the mid 90s era TV CGI, it’s that good.
Sorry about this guy’s hair, though. You get used to it by this point.
If I Had to Nitpick…: For a few episodes in the middle, we get bogged down in some internal conflicts with the Minbari, that regal, humourless alien race that always seems obligatory in stories like this. Any time they’re on screen for too long, I kind of check out. I never know what the LotR Elves or those Krypton guys are on about either.
Notable Episodes: “Into the Fire” bring a long running conflict to a head in a highly unexpected way. If you also want a big, action packed showdown, “End Game” delivers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Intersections in Real Time” has a kind of quiet, minimalist intensity. And this is a bit confusing to get into, but “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” is a Season 5 episode that aired in Season 4, and “Sleeping in Light” is a Season 4 episode that aired in #5… let’s just count ’em both.
Honorable Mentions: Season 3 is actually very close, and contains just about the same number of big earthshaking episodes as Season 4. The only difference is that its low points are a bit lower and more evenly distributed throughout the season, making it feel slightly inferior to Season 4 overall.