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Thread: The Expanse v Babylon 5

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    Question The Expanse v Babylon 5

    I've been rewatching The Expanse prior to Season 4 and this question came to my mind as rewatching Season 1 was pretty much just as good the second time. When it comes to television, there have been a handful of competent sci-fi/fantasy shows. Star Trek TNG / DS9, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galatica (original / reboot), The Expanse. Yes, there is Firefly, but that was snuffed out.

    While I love DS9, I think Babylon 5 is superior, even if the special effects were better (arguably the ship designs were more elaborate in B5), mainly because of the arc. While DS9 was the first ST series to actually have an arc, it wasn't as expansive as B5, a show where the story expands in every episode! We all know how BG ends in the Syfy reboot, which led to criminal convictions (though under appeal at the moment). We can only hope for justice there. Yes, the writers strike was a big issue there.

    So that leaves us with The Expanse and Babylon 5, as what I consider the pinnacle of Sci-Fi (The Expanse) and Space Fantasy / Loosely Sci-Fi (Babylon 5). Which is better?

    The Expanse trumps Babylon 5 on so many aspects, special effects, sound, advent of 4K, and the science while not perfect, definitely has a much tighter grip on the series. However, the Expanse also benefits from having only 10 or so episodes a season. Like DS9, The Expanse has a budget. If B5 had a similar one, we can only imagine what the final product would have looked like.

    The Expanse
    • Tight, though imperfect, adherence with science
    • Well thought out character set up with Mars, Earth, Belt
    • Very tight plot and character exposition slowly leaks out
    • Starts with just a seed, and develops it methodically.


    Babylon 5
    • Highly imaginative universe
    • Resolutions always came with well thought out consequences to propel the ploy
    • Special effects not great, but weren't bad for time and ship / alien designs were great. The attention the show gets despite the low budget feel just exposes how great the story had to be.
    • Character development is remarkable!
    • Overall story arc plan which went over 4 successful seasons (could have been 5) was unique and never tried before
    • One of the best villains of all time in Bester


    Honestly, it feels like a Lebron James v Michael Jordan argument. Both shows are well put together, produced, and most importantly... know where the heck they are going and how they are going to get there.

    Thoughts? Are the The Expanse and Babylon 5 battling it out as the best ever? Is it even a battle?

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    I only saw a little bit of The Expanse first season. It was interesting, but never became something I had to see. B5 I've watched through at least twice. It was hampered a bit by being dropped from its network to be picked up by another (twice), and they wrapped most stuff up in the 4th season because they didn't know if they would have a 5th. Despite that, it was an incredible series. G'Kar and Londo were excellent characters with an amazing arc for their pairing. Unique in the big war was not the end-all be-all of the story, but just a major step on where they were going.

    Yes, Bester was an excellent villain. One of the smartest people in the room, and knew it. A villain with a sense of humor, quick with sarcastic comments for those that hated him.

    Even got some of the B5 novels. The Psi-Corps trilogy was good. Book 1 covers from when people first realize that psychics are now real, through proto Psi-Corps vs resistance, to the birth of Bester and the end of the resistance. Book 2 covers Bester from childhood up to his first trip to B5. Book 3 is Bester as a wanted war criminal after the Telepath War
    Also got books covering the Techno-Mages helping Vir, leading to his becoming Emperor.

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    I think B5 wins, just by a Shadow (see what I did there?).

    Expanse is very good, though, and I thoroughly enjoy it. One of the things I really enjoyed about B5, although much more limited in budget, is the way they developed not just the characters, but the other civilizations. Most of them were technologically superior to the humans, which was a nice twist on conventional human-centric space opera.

    I suspect if someone had proposed The Expanse back when B5 was made, it wouldn't have even gotten a second look. Doing all of the zero-G scenes, especially, have to be hard on the budget. And people wanted far future with technology almost as magic (literally in the case of the techno-mages!).

    The Expanse reminds me more of playing Traveller (the RPG) back in the day, with even slightly lower tech.

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    I don't think it's possible to compare the two. It's kinda like comparing the Model T Ford to a Tesla Model S. Two cars from two very different eras performing two very different functions. Both are important cars.
    I'm also very wary of superlatives when it comes to TV shows. Better to put them into categories like Don't watch/It's up to you/Watch if that's your thing/This is good/Don't miss this. B5 and The Expanse fall under "Don't miss this"

    Also, the best Sci-Fi villiain is Scorpius from Farscape.

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    My son has been telling me I need to watch The Expanse, and given the comments in this thread he may be right. I love B5 and DS9 and have them both on dvd, so will I be disappointed in it?

    Ruth

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruth Harris View Post
    My son has been telling me I need to watch The Expanse, and given the comments in this thread he may be right. I love B5 and DS9 and have them both on dvd, so will I be disappointed in it?

    Ruth
    Yes. There are only 10-13 episodes a season. Completely unacceptable.

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    The basic thread of B5 mirrors our geopolitics, even more so today. Political corruption and the rise of authoritarian leaders. Media control and propaganda. As in ST the characters are well developed.

    But really, Battlestar Galactica?

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    The basic thread of B5 mirrors our geopolitics, even more so today. Political corruption and the rise of authoritarian leaders. Media control and propaganda. As in ST the characters are well developed.

    But really, Battlestar Galactica?
    You don't think Battlestar Galactica mirrored US political sentiment of the early 2000's? You don't remember the controversy when they portrayed the "good guys" as suicide bombers for example?
    Last edited by Patooka; 01-04-2020 at 01:24 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patooka View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    The basic thread of B5 mirrors our geopolitics, even more so today. Political corruption and the rise of authoritarian leaders. Media control and propaganda. As in ST the characters are well developed.

    But really, Battlestar Galactica?
    You don't think Battlestar Galactica mirrored US political sentiment of the early 2000's? You don't remember the controversy when they portrayed the "good guys" as suicide bombers for example?
    Galactica, both versions, was a hokey tongue in cheek show. As was Lost In Space and Buck Rodgers In The 24th Century.

    The original ST series was able to deal with a lot of social issues under the guise of scifi. Topics that could not be explicitly addressed in the 60s media. Kirk kissing black Uhura was almost left out, scandalous on 60s TV.

    B5 took a look at racism, prejudice, bias, and the roots of conflict. Not that action adventure wasn't part of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Galactica, both versions, was a hokey tongue in cheek show. As was Lost In Space and Buck Rodgers In The 24th Century.
    have been rewatching BSG (reboot) the last 2 weeks with a friend and after binging it i have to disagree with this assessment.
    certainly in the later seasons it went to shit and that is pretty much 100% due to the writer's strike, the showrunner up and completely changing his mind about every major detail that would have concluded the arc of the series about 3 different times (mostly due to the writer's strike), and the team in general not having the staff required to make as many episodes per season (which, again, the writer's strike)

    but if you watch what was before the strike, it has a lot of themes and ideas... it's just that they are not the central focus of the show's narrative, which acknowledges philosophical issues but does so within the framework of a harried survival story.

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