How do I describe Babylon 5 without referring to Star Trek?
I don’t. Star Trek is nice and shiny. Babylon 5 is down and dirty. Well, not as down and dirty as some other sci-fi fantasies, but a good mix. Unlike the Enterprise, the Federation’s Flagship, Babylon 5 is a military-governed diplomatic outpost on the edge of human space. And what manner of diplomacy is better than the one that not only shows that two or more peoples can coexist peacefully, but are in fact economically co-dependent, so, Babylon 5 is also one big galactic bazaar. So, what happens when you have diplomats and politicians, soldiers, traders of every hue in one big steel can? Well, it’s not a zoo, I can tell you that!
Plots, ploys, favors, intrigue, enough to make anyone go mad. Add extremely exotic life forms, even more exotic customs and beliefs, and you’re wondering how this steel can, or, more exactly, the commander of it, is keeping everything together, and those are just the starting conditions! The show is quite misanthropic, everybody has some kind of agenda, and politics are everything but stable. At some time, the human government is taken over by a dictator, Babylon 5 severs its ties to the Earth, which is not easy at all. First of all, the commander is a highly decorated military officer with friends in the remaining Earth Forces, and the new “President” doesn’t want to let go of Earth’s prestige project. Add the war against the mystical “Shadows”, and you’re in for one helluva ride!
Babylon 5’s story is more coherent than that of Star Trek up to that point, but they’ve learned as well, beefing up DS9 (still my favorite Star Trek series) and releasing Voyager, adding more grit to the STVerse, but they still don’t compare to Babylon 5. Babylon 5 didn’t exactly get the hang of spin-offs, though. They were not as great.