Robert M. Price again recommended the series Babylon 5 on The Lovecraft Geek podcast, and he mused on the idea that its key plot themes could be seen as rather Lovecraftian. So that’s enough to encourage me to have another try at viewing this famous SF series. There are five seasons and five movies, so I may be away for some time… 🙂

I have tried Babylon 5 before. About two years ago I made the mistake of going into the first season “straight”. I slogged through about 11 or 12 episodes, before giving up. That’s apparently about as far as most people get, unable to face another twelve weary episodes of the same. The problem is mainly in the slabs of excruciating “problem-of-the-week” self-contained episodes, which I remember as being made worse by creaky dialogue and some even creakier early-90s political tub-thumping. Viewing the main story arc in season one is, regrettably, vital for later understanding and enjoyment. But the series is said to get much better in season two, and by three and four it is reputedly some of the best TV SF ever screened.

But I never made it that far. I also made the newbie mistake of watching the pilot movie, followed by the very first episode. Different actors play the same characters in these two, and this proved a really jarring way to ease into a long series. That’s why I list (below) the pilot movie The Gathering as “optional”.

The chronological viewing order that follows is the result of an hour or so of research and comparing viewing-order lists, and also skip lists, and it doesn’t contain spoilers.


BABYLON 5: LIST OF THE COMPLETE VIEWING ORDER

* “SKIP” = “…but read the plot on the episode’s Wikipedia page” — taking great care not to look at the “Arc significance” section which is often filled with massive spoilers which reach across seasons.
*   outicon = “viewed out of broadcast sequence”.

Pilot:

outicon OPTIONAL 1×00: The Gathering, The pilot movie. Note it also had a TNT 1998 special edition, with 14 mins extra and better pacing. Perhaps best watched between 1×08 and 1×13.

Season 1:

1×01: Midnight on the Firing Line
SKIP 1×02: Soul Hunter (tries to set up a key character, but has her act out of character)
1×03: Born to the Purple (sets up a key character)
SKIP 1×04: Infection
1×05: The Parliament of Dreams (bad, but establishes key character bonds)
1×06: Mind War
SKIP 1×07: The War Prayer
1×08: And the Sky Full of Stars
SKIP 1×09: Deathwalker
SKIP 1×10: Believers
SKIP 1×11: Survivors
OPTIONAL 1×12: By Any Means Necessary

1×13: Signs and Portents
SKIP 1×14: TKO
SKIP 1×15: Grail
SKIP 1×16: Eyes

1×18: A Voice in the Wilderness (1)
1×19: A Voice in the Wilderness (2)
1×20: Babylon Squared
SKIP 1×21: The Quality of Mercy
outicon 1×17: Legacies (not vital, but sets up the season finale)
1×22: Chrysalis

To consolidate your understanding of the Babylon 5 universe, the Season One DVD set has a “Universe of Babylon 5” overview extras set (spoiler free, once the first season has been viewed), with video profiles of key characters, technological innovations, and political and historical details introduced so far. Plus a brief tour of the space station itself, and its levels. If you really feel you have to skip the whole of season one for some reason (maybe you saw it a while back), then Tuning In To SciFi has an excellent five-minute video summary of the season.

The first few episodes of Season 2 get rather creaky, as the series re-orients itself. But stick with it…

Season 2:

2×01: Points of Departure
2×02: Revelations
2×03: The Geometry of Shadows
SKIP 2×04: A Distant Star
2×05: The Long Dark
2×06: Spider in the Web
SKIP 2×07: Soul Mates
2×08: A Race Through Dark Places
2×09: The Coming of Shadows
SKIP 2×10: GROPOS
2×11: All Alone in the Night
SKIP 2×12: Acts of Sacrifice
2×13: Hunter, Prey
SKIP 2×14: There All the Honor Lies
SKIP 2×15: And Now for a Word

2×17: Knives
outicon 2×16: In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum
2×18: Confessions and Lamentations
2×19: Divided Loyalties
2×20: The Long Twilight Struggle
2×21: Comes the Inquisitor
2×22: The Fall of Night

Season 3:

3×01: Matters of Honor
3×02: Convictions
3×03: A Day in the Strife
3×04: Passing Through Gethsemane
3×05: Voices of Authority
3×06: Dust to Dust
3×07: Exogenesis
3×08: Messages from Earth (1 of 3)
3×09: Point of No Return (2 of 3)
3×10: Severed Dreams (3 of 3)
3×11: Ceremonies of Light and Dark
outicon 3×13: A Late Delivery from Avalon
3×12: Sic Transit Vir
3×14: Ship of Tears
3×15: Interludes and Examinations
outicon 3×18: Walkabout
3×16: War Without End (1)
3×17: War Without End (2)
3×19: Grey 17 Is Missing
3×20: And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
3×21: Shadow Dancing
3×22: Z’ha’dum

Season 4:

4×01: The Hour of the Wolf
4×02: What Ever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
4×03: The Summoning
4×04: Falling Towards Apotheosis
4×05: The Long Night
4×06: Into the Fire
4×07: Epiphanies
4×08: The Illusion of Truth

Movie: Thirdspace

4×09: Atonement
4×10: Racing Mars
4×11: Lines of Communication
4×12: Conflicts of Interest
4×13: Rumors, Bargains and Lies
4×14: Moments of Transition
4×15: No Surrender, No Retreat
4×16: Exercise of Vital Powers
4×17: The Face of the Enemy
4×18: Intersections in Real Time
4×19: Between the Darkness and the Light
4×20: Endgame
4×21: Rising Star
outicon !!! NOT THE FINAL 4×22 (it should be viewed later)

Season 5:

5×01: No Compromises
5×02: The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
5×03: The Paragon of Animals
5×04: A View from the Gallery
5×05: Learning Curve
5×06: Strange Relations
5×07: Secrets of the Soul
5×09: In the Kingdom of the Blind
5×10: A Tragedy of Telepaths
5×11: Phoenix Rising
5×12: The Ragged Edge
outicon 5×08: Day of the Dead
5×13: The Corps Is Mother, the Corps Is Father
5×14: Meditations on the Abyss
5×15: Darkness Ascending
5×16: And All My Dreams Torn Asunder
5×17: Movements of Fire and Shadow (1 of 2)
5×18: The Fall of … (2 of 2)
5×19: The Wheel of Fire
5×20: Objects in Motion
5×21: Objects at Rest
outicon !!! NOT the FINAL 5×22 (it should be viewed later)

Movie: River of Souls

Movie: The Legend of the Rangers (a rather poor movie)

Movie: A Call to Arms (sets up the Crusade series that follows)

Crusade spin-off series: (optional, all   outicon are out of broadcast sequence)
Crusade 1×09: Racing the Night
Crusade 1×11: The Needs of Earth
Crusade 1×10: The Memory of War
Crusade 1×02: The Long Road
Crusade 1×12: Visitors from Down the Street
Crusade 1×03: The Well of Forever
Crusade 1×13: Each Night I Dream of Home
Crusade 1×05: Patterns of the Soul
Crusade 1×04: The Path of Sorrows
Crusade 1×06: Ruling from the Tomb
Crusade 1×07: The Rules of the Game
Crusade 1×01: War Zone
Crusade 1×08: Appearances and Other Deceits

[Unfilmed final episodes for Crusade]

[The Memory of Shadows, a failed, shelved theatrical feature film — read up on the plot idea online]

6×01: The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark (a special one-shot DVD)

Novo Babylonia: a fan audio series (optional). A free and unauthorised audio-only B5 series. Amateur cast. Only a few episodes left, at Feb 2014, to complete the series. Fits into the overall story arc after 6×01: The Lost Tales. Download.

Movie: In the Beginning

outicon 5×22: Sleeping in Light

outicon 4×22: The Deconstruction of Falling Stars


There are also a number of fill-in-the-gaps authorized novels, short stories written by the Babylon 5 showrunner, and an 11-issue run of DC comic books, that all help fill out the story if you’re still anxious for more. The Correctness blog seems to have done a ton of work making a good short timeline that shows exactly where the novels fit into the overall arc chronology (warning: has spoilers!!).

There are also two print encyclopedias: The Babylon File: The Definitive, Unauthorised Guide volumes one and two. These may be especially useful for those writing fan fiction set in the B5 universe.

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