TV REVIEWS : ‘Babylon 5’: Not Stellar but Entertaining


There is good news and bad news about “Babylon 5,” the latest in a burgeoning cluster of sci-fi series streaking across your television screen (premiering at 8 tonight on KCOP-TV Channel 13).

The show’s premise is not exactly original but it’s not a copycat “Star Trek” either. Imagine a five-mile-long, futuristic, United Nations-style space station called Babylon 5 spinning through the galaxies as a port-of-last-call, a neutral zone on which humans and alien creatures live peacefully and work out their differences. That is, until raiders from a disaffected planet blow up a friendly agricultural colony and threaten to divide the galactic’s fragile political and economic harmony.

Well, OK, it does sound a little familiar.

Almost nothing in the future, emotionally speaking, has changed. The script by writer-creator J. Michael Straczynski, set in the year 2258, wryly mirrors the insanity of the world today with several stinging sci-fi analogies, including references to a terrorist nuking of San Diego and the destruction of our first Mars colony.


Technically impressive, and perfectly scaled to TV, the production hardware is fashioned by compelling, low-key, desk-top-generated computer effects (designed by Ron Thornton), including vrooming “Star Wars”-like spitfire marauders. Visually, the opening four-minute action sequence is textbook editing.

On the negative side: Notwithstanding improvements on the show’s year-old pilot broadcast, characterization is highly uneven. The weirdos and bad guys are flavorful enough, like ghosts from that “Stars Wars” barroom scene (notably the lizard-like Andreas Katsulas). But the space station’s twin commanders (Michael O’Hare and Claudia Christian) are insufferably stiff and seemingly incapable of animated expression, and the dialogue is occasionally banal and trite.

Still, to paraphrase poet Robert Frost, there’s miles to go before this show will put you to sleep.