I know that I hung on a wind-rocked tree, nine whole nights, with a spear wounded, and to Odin offered, myself to myself. When a god sacrifices himself to himself, who is sacrificed and who is exalted? But when even truth shifts with every telling, who can know all their friends?
Or all their enemies? Whatever the truth, American Gods is raising its spears to go to war, and raising its game, too.
Contributor, The A. Emily L. Stephens writes about film, television, entertaining, gender, and cake. A lot about cake, really.
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About the author Emily L. Stephens Contributor, The A. Twitter Posts. The reason I can respect this narrative, as outdated and self-defeating it is at points, is because B5 is never afraid—or embarrassed, even when it should be—to state its positions and their proximity to the world outside its narrative confines. This specificity of framing is in sharp contrast to Star Trek, which presents a vibrant playground in which to pose infinite number of philosophical moral quandaries but has shockingly little to say about the political architecture of that playground. Starfleet Officers are awfully self righteous about a way of life that the franchise seems averse to actual spelling out in explicit terms.
I find specificity more valuable the older I get.
I can have a conversation with Babylon 5 , all the parts I find illuminating as well as the ones I find odious. I can interact with its ideas about capitalism and extremism and religion and western interventionism without getting lost in the weeds of polite innuendo post-Cold War Star Trek often malingered in. B5 has some very obvious fantasy trappings—ripped directly from Tolkien here, quoting Arthurian legends there—but what makes it capital-F Fantasy in my opinion is its preoccupation with communicating story and theme through the evocation of historical verisimilitude in its world-building.
Babylon 5 uses its world to tell a mythic tale with contemporary tools rather than to posit questions about our future. In Babylon 5 , lore-heavy episodes often have frivolous B-plots and seemingly inane stand-alone adventures can affect the course of the series in unexpected ways.
Each episode shows you a new facet of the world. The show has a lot of gut-punches. They scramble to decode where this evidence leads in a race against the clock that they ultimately lose—by a shockingly wide margin. By the time anyone found indication of foul-play, it was already too late to stop the the gears from turning.
Earth welcomes the New Year with a sinister change in regime and the protagonists are left empty handed, disbelieved, and alone in the night. At the time, this episode was shocking because it broke the rules set up by Star Trek: The Next Generation , a show that JMS was actively and obviously reacting against. And the show continues its mostly episodic pace afterwards, so that the next paradigm shift hits just as hard. And the next one, and the next one, until the entire galaxy is on the brink of collapse. It still feels fresh today, maybe even fresher than it did in the s simply because very few people are making shows like this anymore.
Modern serialized television asks you to be a voyeur to the chaos, to consume it as fast as possible, or to consume it as a communal project. You and your friends waiting for the next big bombshell and treating everything between like treading water. A show paced like Babylon 5 asks you to come live in those in-between moments.follow url
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It wants you to watch the chaos from inside the world and to stick with it during the long silences. And it is very easy to inhabit those silences.
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Babylon 5 has a very particular kind of tonal variety that makes the world inviting—an appealing balance of drama and playfulness. A lot of the humour is character derived, and I love the characters. I really do—I love the contrast between their realistic flaws and depressing personal lives and the cheesy, stage-play poeticism of the dialogue.
He grows a beard while being tortured by his own government and never shaves it off. No character ends where they begin. Most characters shed their comfortable roles for new directions on a season by season basis. Babylon 5 is a station full of weirdos and failures. It attracts alien ambassadors with lists of sins ten miles long, disgraced nobles that no one else wants, military officers desperate to either escape their demons or build their careers on their own terms, rejecting the path laid out for them by mentors and patriarchs.
It bears witness to the extinction of an entire species and the destruction of the key to immortality. I am a big fan of grimdarkness. Babylon 5 is shamelessly fanciful. Here it is: King Arthur knighting a guy in a rubber alien mask. I can quote many of them off the top of my head, and I bet every fan of the show can sing along at home:. I have seen what power does, and I have seen what power costs. The one is never equal to the other.
I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. Then you accept it or you kill yourself or you stop looking into mirrors. Will you lay down your life—not for millions, not for glory, not for fame—but for one person, in the dark, where no one will ever know or see? The further away from the original context of a work we get, the more its ephemeral aspects begin to matter over its literal ones.
And the aspect that leaves the deepest impression in the sands of time is always how something feels. Babylon 5 remains emotionally evocative in all the places it has become perhaps thematically irrelevant: in the jagged edges of the sets, the stumbling waltz of its plot threads, the lush indulgence of its dialogue, the patchwork aspects held together by glue and determination, as imperfect and brimming with colourful quirks as its most beloved characters.
Babylon 5 is a story that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Modern plot-driven shows tend to do one thing, and do it very well. Babylon 5 does a little bit of everything: mostly okay, sometimes horribly, and occasionally with an earnest beauty that is almost transcendent. She says:. We are starstuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. Everything is interconnected, the ugly and the beautiful, our triumphs and our mistakes.
Our best work and our worst.
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Long after we are gone our voices will linger in these walls…. Jennifer Giesbrecht is a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia where she earned an undergraduate degree in History, spent her formative years as a professional street performer, and developed a deep and reverent respect for the ocean. She currently works as a game writer for What Pumpkin Studios.