TV Genre Show Smackdown: DS9 vs. Babylon 5

It’s time. Time to settle, once and for all, which genre shows rule and which ones drool.

Talk to the fans and you will always run into people who feel one show with a premise of x is so much better than that other show based on x.

Today’s Smackdown: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Vs. Babylon 5.

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The Premise: A space station run by humans but far from where humans call home. Adventures ensue week to week as an assortment of aliens and humans come by for a visit.

Deep Space Nine:

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When the Bajoran people free themselves from a long and brutal occupation at the hands of the Cardassians, naturally, they call up the United Federation of Planets and say, “Hey! We have this space station called Terok Nor that was used by our oppressors to keep us inline – there’s a ton of bad blood and bad memories there – why don’t you send some Starfleet types to run it for us? We’ll totally let you call it whatever you want.” *paraphrasing*

Babylon 5:

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Following the events of the Earth / Minbari war, the idea of a ‘united nations’ in space was appealing, only they would need to build it. They said it was mad to build a space station in the middle of nowhere, but they did! And it sank into the swamp! (actually, it blew up) So, they took the debris and built Babylon 2 and that sank into the swamp too. SO, they started again and built Babylon 3! It blew up, caught on fire and sank into the swamp. Babylon 4, though – it held! Didn’t blow up, didn’t burn up and it did NOT sink into the swamp. It did, however, disappear without a trace but Babylon 5 – now there was a space station!!!

“If you build it, they will come.”

Well, that was the idea anyway. Rather than having a ship that’s flying around visiting alien planets, why not have a fixed point in space (not a planet cuz that would be all expensive and stuff) where everyone comes to visit?! It’ll be brilliant and never boring and we’ll never run out of story ideas! (yeah right)

We can even have the space station be near something cool! (Deep Space Nine had the Wormhole, Babylon 5 had Epsilon III and it’s ‘Great Machine’ that only showed up in a story like twice. Can’t be all that ‘great’ if it only shows up twice, now can it?! Someone should’ve asked Zathras. But no, no, no – no one ever asks Zathras. Zathras just goes about his day, doing his job without anyone paying any attention…)

“Ships? We don’t need no stinking ships!”

Actually, both shows had ships almost immediately. Deep Space Nine had their ‘runabouts’ which were bigger than a shuttlecraft and capable of warp speed. Babylon 5 had starfury squadrons which were single pilot, short range fighters and they had some shuttle craft for longer trips.

It wasn’t long before both shows added permanent, bigger, long range ships that the crews could take out for a spin. On Deep Space Nine it was The Defiant, the first ship in a new class of heavily armed warships designed to fight the Borg.

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Babylon 5 had the White Star, a fusion of Minbari and Vorlon technology built specifically to fight The Shadows.

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Both ships, designed to fight off the big bad, also and conveniently allowed for new stories that took place OFF the respective space stations.

Speaking of stories…

When it came to story telling, the two shows started out very different. Babylon 5 was conceived with a series arc in mind – that is, the show had a long-term plan. (Unlike the Cylons… but that’s a different post.) Politics, religion, racism and war were all a part of the plan that would run for five seasons. Deep Space Nine, on the other hand, ran with the same basic formula that had worked well for The Next Generation – single-story episodes from week to week – at least, for the first season. Fairly early on, they began to move away from the ‘monster of the week’ concept and into more arc driven plots like with the Klingon and Dominion Wars. Religion and politics also played a large part in the series, just like with Babylon 5.

Controversy? Oh yeah…

Babylon 5 creator, J. Michael Straczynski said that he first took the idea for the show to Paramount in 1989, providing them with a detailed synopsis of the concept and a series bible. Paramount passed and so he took it to Warner Brothers where it was eventually greenlit. After that, Paramount announced Deep Space Nine. Straczynski cried foul but never sued anyone. Both shows ended up in syndication, Deep Space Nine for seven seasons, Babylon 5 for four seasons in syndication and a fifth on TNT.

On writing

Straczynski rather famously wrote 92 of the 110 episodes of Babylon 5. Lots of people wrote the 176 episodes of Deep Space Nine. Did Stracynski’s efforts in maintaining control over his vision pay off in the long run?

Yes.

Innovation & impact

When you look at both shows, at what they did, what they accomplished, you have to wonder – how did they innovate? What did they bring to the genre, to tv, that wasn’t there before?

DS9: When The Next Generation first came on the air, it was immediately compared to the original series. Deep Space Nine found itself being compared to The Next Generation, which was still on the air (unlike the original series, of course). It stood out by being darker than Next Gen and was nominated for two Hugo’s (Babylon 5 beat DS9 both times it was nominated). The special effects were the same model-driven effects combined with blue/green screens used on The Next Generation. It was, however, a Star Trek show and that name carries with it a lot of clout and a lot of expectations. The writers, producers, actors and everyone else involved with DS9, were able to not only produce a good Star Trek show, they were able to stand out from their predecessors and shine in their own light.

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B5: Babylon 5 was an ambitious endeavor out on a very thin limb. It constantly struggled in the ratings and had the threat of cancellation hovering over it very nearly all the time. Set in an entirely new and unknown universe, it didn’t have the Star Trek name to help launch or sustain it – it had to fight pretty much every step of the way. Stracynski even had to change his plans for the show, condensing the arc from five seasons to four due to the looming threat of cancellation. When a fifth season was commissioned for air on TNT, a sort of ‘epilogue’ season was written. Many fans felt that this fifth season was the weakest. Bucking the system, B5 also used computer generated images or CGI rather than miniatures and models. Although groundbreaking at the time, comparing B5 to DS9 today, I think DS9’s visuals hold up better. But, oddly enough, I tend to forget that when watching B5 because the stories are compelling and engrossing.

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omfg epic space battles

Both shows had some massively cool space battles full of lazors and pew pews!!

One of my favorite B5 battles is below:

I can’t talk about how utterly badass that battle is without including this clip (“If you value your lives, be somewhere else.”):

Not to be outdone, DS9 gathered a massive amount of Starfleet vessels for a battle with the Dominion & Cardassians:

…the DS9 clip has way more talking in it. I also have to say, KLINGONS KLINGONS KLINGONS! (still too much talking, not enough pew pew imho):

…being a red shirt has always been dangerous, but it also sucks to be the guy standing next to a main character during a battle no matter what color your shirt is.

Conclusions

My personal experiences with both shows is amusing and sad. Deep Space Nine aired Saturdays on the local CBS affiliate (The Next Generation aired Sundays on the local independent station that became a FOX affiliate later). It was often preempted by sports, had its time slot moved around without notice or warning and would, at times, be joined ‘already in progress’. This meant that it was very difficult for me to get into the show with any sort of consistency. Calls and complaints to the station fell on deaf ears.

Babylon 5 aired on that independent station that became FOX, but was just as wildly erratic in its time slot. Sometimes it would be on as normal, sometimes it would be listed but not on. I would later find it airing at 3 am or some weird crap. The battle that I linked above? When they aired it originally, Sheridan told everyone on the station that the battle was acomin’, then they cut to commercial and when they returned, Sheridan had a bandage on his head and the battle was over – THEY’D COMPLETELY CUT THE BATTLE SCENE!! When I called to complain, they said there was a mixup, they were really sorry, and had absolutely no plans to reair the show anytime soon – have a nice day.

Sigh.

Of the two shows, I fall squarely on the Babylon 5 side of the aisle. When TNT picked the show up, they started airing the complete series every day and I was able to (fairly quickly) get caught up and fall in love with the show (I also was able to catch up with DS9 when ITS reruns began airing every day a few years after the first runs). I recorded it every day religiously and eagerly awaited the new season (arguably the worst season). When it was released on DVD, I bought every season and rewatch them occasionally to this day.

I still don’t own a single season of any of the Star Trek shows. That really goes more to the ridiculous pricing of the shows from the get-go rather than saying anything about how I feel about them. ($100 a season last time I cared to look, and that was just way too much. $51 on Amazon as of this writing for S1 of DS9 and even that is too much as far as I’m concerned. Max I will pay for a full season is $40.)

So. My vote: Babylon 5.

What’s your vote?

58 thoughts on “TV Genre Show Smackdown: DS9 vs. Babylon 5”

  1. B5, hands down.  I usually watch the series about once a year, but am taking a break for awhile.

    Season 5 is a bit disappointing to me but that wasn’t JMS’s fault as had no idea a 5th season was going to be picked up.  I even like Season 1 with all the character setup and foreshadowing.  Seasons 2-4 are some of the best science fiction television ever created IMO.

    The new Star Trek universe leaves me a bit cold.  It’s too…sterile.  The characters are a little less flawed (and thus likable) than B5.  Londo on the other hand, he’s a character that you love, hate, and then sympathize with…all in ONE episode.

    B5!!

  2. DS9, without question. Better writing, better dialogue, a better feeling of it being a “family.” Ignoring the first season, which only had a few good episodes (every S1 of Star Trek sucks), it was one of the best shows on TV period, not just sci-fi.

    It broke huge new ground: first Star Trek not on a starship, first Star Trek with some truly dark, bitter stories, first Star Trek to address modern racial issues directly, first Star Trek to use a multi-season story arc… And some of the best actors on TV, Avery Brooks being the first to come to mind.

    I’ve never been able to watch an entire season of B5… The effects don’t work for me, the costumes and makeup look absurd, and the dialogue is by far the worst–hackneyed, overacted crap, usually. Not sure whether to blame the writers or actors though.

    Just my opinion.

  3. No question that B5 was the better show.  With a huge story arc in place from the start it provided a driven, focused narrative.  It’s the kind of show that will be remembered as a milestone in SF, for all its flaws. (Particularly with the last season, as Patrick noted).  I can remember catching the shows as they aired originally, taping and loving most of them. Their high notes were particularly high, in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible without Straczynski’s arc. I also remember the long, interesting discussions with JMS on usenet. What a lark.

    DS9 was a second rate corporate decision. It had good actors and decent writing, but didn’t break any new ground except in the Trek universe. (Thanks to JMS’s own storyline).

  4. B5 up to the end of the Shadows war is the best written SF series ever.  Epic and mythic with enormous power.  

    When it shifted to the political aftermath of the war, it lost much of its power, but it remained a very good series until the last season when everything fell apart.  Even the characters fell apart to the point where I could no longer believe in them.  

    DS9, on the other hand, kept getting stronger as it continued, and the gradual overall story arc was excellent. The characters remained true to themselves, and they were even able to make a Ferengi like Quark understandable and likable.   Moments of truth about the characters’ personalities would make me laugh or go “exactly.”

    So, sadly despite the incredible Shadows war arc, I must say DS9 is the better of the two.

  5. DS9.

    The first season of B5 was a pig’s breakfast.  B5 lost me then, and I never came back (although I did watch selected episodes that my friends recommended; B5 aired twice a week where I lived).  That’s a pity, because I really wanted to like B5.

    The first season of DS9 was not well-focused, but the episodes entertained well enough to keep me for the second season.  At some point in the second season, DS9 found focus and rose to become the best of the Star Trek Universe shows.  (I always thought the Borg was a borrowing that DS9 did not need.)

  6. That’s a very hard vote, those two shows. DS9 is my favorite Star Trek show — it covered so many more issues, was a lot funnier than most of Trek, and broke a lot of ground. But Babylon 5 was a novel in television form, with complicated time travel plotlines that were amazingly maintained from season to season. The ending was indeed a bit weak, with the big war turning out to not be so big and a really dumb torture episode, but that was because MS was under budget and time constraints. Overall, Babylon 5 made a big impact and paved the way for series like Lost. So I guess I have to say Babylon 5, but DS9 is still my favoirte Trek.

  7. B5 – and there is NO room for discussion.

    (DS9 heads, in case you didn’t notice, the above statement was a DIS.)

    Why?

    1. Originality.  The rip-off was already mentioned, but added to that is the fact that B5 had not a single Star Fleet emblem anywhere in site.  DS9 just limped along on the same tired old premises of all ST that had gone before;  let’s call the Romulans Kardassians.  Please.

    2. Writing.  J Michael S had the one and only Ellison as a consultant and actually listened to him. 

    Writing tangent: B5 avoided technobabble as much as possible

    B5 did not have a whole history to fall back on

    B5 did not give itself fantasy elements to use as story-saving plot devices

    3. Aliens.  Unlike Star Trek, not ALL of the aliens were people with strange foreheads.

    4. Believability.  Unlike Star Trek, the universe of B5 did not begin with the premise that everything in the future is going to work out just fine as long as we talk about it long enough.

    5. I’d say that about the only real thing that DS9 has going for it over B5 is a profound inability to recognize when the franchise is dead;  ST should have been ended with Next Gen – and even then I’m hedging a little bit.

    You can close the voting now.

  8. B5, no doubt, and not just because any show with a holodeck episode should be ignored. I still have a major crush on Ivanova:

    “Who am i? I am Susan Ivanova, Commander, daughter of Andrei and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth … I am Death incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me.” 

    I don’t remember any speech on DS9, or any of the ST franchises for that matter, that gave me goose bumps like this did. I’d follow her anywhere.

     

  9. DS9 was the stronger series overall, despite the weak first and last seasons.

    B5 had a stronger concept than DS9 but B5’s execution varied from lackluster to awful.  B5 was written and directed as if it was a stage production rather than a TV show, with the end result that the dialog was stilted and inhuman and the talents of the actors were wasted due to bad direction.  Beyond this, JMS wouldn’t respect the integrity of his characters, or the setting, as anything more than empty props to be manipulated in service of the plot without any regard for motivations, interests, or consistency.  B5 characters did whatever the plot required rather than whatever made sense for them, with the net result that most of the characters looked pathologically hypocritical, crazy, or both.

    DS9 had a weaker concept but much better execution in terms of dialog, direction, and acting.  Until season 7, DS9’s writing crew did a good job of protecting the integrity of the characters and maintained good setting consistency by Trek standards.  Up until Dukat went crazy and the writers introduced the fire monsters, DS9 held together its character motivations very well and managed believable characterization and dialog.  Ultimately, integrity matters a lot more than the strength of the concept and that is why DS9 turned out to be a stronger effort than B5.

    The fact that the best of DS9 writing was on a completely different level than the best of B5 didn’t hurt, either.  Nothing B5 ever did could touch In the Pale Moonlight or Far Beyond the Stars and even the DS9 S1 episode Duet did more character development for Kira in one episode than most B5 principle characters managed in a season.  B5’s highpoints (e.g. the ‘be somewhere else’ battle clip in the main post) are mostly mindless entertainment but DS9’s high points actually expected the viewer to think.

  10. DS9 rarely made me cringe. B5 had some laughably bad dialogue and was — at its heart — space opera. Praise the story arc if you will, and remember the good times, but DS9 has some of the most complex characters and interesting situations in televised science fiction.

    I still occasionaly ask myself: What Would Sisko Do?

  11. The only B5 I’ve seen was years ago as a kid and I thought it looked terrible. I’ll plan to revisit it now that I’m older.

    I can’t imagine ever saying it’s better than DS9, though.  As others have said, the best of DS9 is the best TV has offered, period.  Far Beyond the Stars and The Visitor defeat entire seasons of other shows. Did B5 have even one episode that was that good?  I’m asking seriously, because if it does, I want in.

    The writing for DS9 was some of the best I’ve ever seen, season to season. Character development was amazing and the look and feel of it was completely original within the Trek universe.  I love DS9 and I’m not sure what could ever take its place.

  12. This conversation always surprises me.  

    I know that the Trek Universe carries a lot of weight.  But the story!  B5 is a real story.  It has meaning, it has depth.  It was always going somewhere.  It never fell into the trap of stuff happens but everything is reset next week to the status quo.  

    B5 challenged you with its characters, addressed real issues.  It was always different.  You could see DS9 learning from B5 and trying to keep up with it later in its run.  But DS9 was hampered with characters that started as “neat ideas”.  

    The development of characters like Londo and G’Kar was unmatched.  There were always real consequences to characters actions.  The breadth of the story is reminiscent of where many of our more modern shows have gone, or at least tried to.  

    Get it on Netflix.  You may squirm through some of the first season episodes, but you will appreciate it in the long run.  

  13. @A_Z:

    B5 is plot driven. It’s about events, not people. B5 seldom attempts character stories–and fails miserably whenever it tries–because its characters are props that serve the plot rather than entities in their own right.

    There is nothing in the B5 canon that even remotely compares with The Visitor.

  14. It amazes me this is even a contest. DS9 is so bad, as to be unwatchable. I was a big fan of Next Generation and eager for DS9 when it came out, and then I watched DS9….and realized it was about as interesting as crocheting in space. Star Trek: Enterprise or Voyager are better than DS9 (no, I am not saying those two were good). There seems to be a contingent within SF that loves ungodly boring shows and they defend DS9 unwaveringly.

    B5 had a fantastic arcing plot and decent characters (no, idea what show Curmudgeon is watching). DS9 failed to find a plot and it’s characters were boring, not terrible, just outright boring. As previously mentioned one of DS9’s biggest plot lines were the Kardassians, who were just Romulans with new make up.

    Oh, Quark, the Ferengi, cheated someone again for the 500th time? Who knew Ferengi or this specific one did this? No one apparently.

    I have to agree with Cr1spy. Londo and G’Kar were fantastic characters, as was the storyline between their two races. Which, was just part of the bigger storyline.

    If you look at this one storyline from a high level it is very similar to the Kardassians vs. Bjorns (old masters vs. freed slaves), but the detail and execution of the storyline in DS9 is pop warner football when compared to B5’s NFL storyline of masters vs feed slaves (actually a little less than NFL, as Galactica is the best).

    I wanted to give the Kardassians the Bjorns back, if only to shut the whiny “woe is me” victim race up.

    Best quote by any commenter:

    “B5, no doubt, and not just because any show with a holodeck episode should be ignored.”

    So, true, though I liked Next Gen, but hated the holodeck episodes.

    I’m not saying that B5 was perfect, far from it, but it at least had original storylines and did these story lines well.

  15. It’s posts like Chad’s that make me think the whole thing is hopeless.  If people are really so divided and I already love DS9, what chance is there that I will also like B5?  DS9 was so bad it was unwatchable? That statement just blows my mind.

  16. B5 for me, could never really warm to DS9 (mostly because I hated the end of episode reset button that came from TOS and TNG, I know they changed to ongoing plots and story arcs in later seasons, but by that point B5 had me hooked and was far superior IMHO).

    Must admit I am curious about some of the criticism of B5 from some posters… it seems to me that never watched the show, at least going by their critiques. Maybe they have the show confused with Space Precinct or something.

  17. B5 without a doubt

    I adored it, and watched every episode as it was shown in the UK. I think, for me, it’s the storytelling that I love most. The sense of impending doom; the darkness; the tragedy of some of the characters; and the almost mythological feel to events.

    Yep, I’m a fan. :)

  18. I’m going to have to come down on the side of B5.  Straczynsk’s unified vision trumps the hodgepodge of Star Trek every day of the week.

    Watching these two series back to back on DVD over the years, I’ve come to realize that most of the mistakes made by B5 were externally imposed,  I.E. the result of making the best of a bad budget situation.  On the other hand, I feel like most of the mistakes make with DS9 were their own fault.  The first few seasons suffered from the writers’ attempts to tie the series into the larger Star Trek Universe, often with recycled stories.  Then, the middle seasons suffered from the producers reacting to fans’ reactions to their mistakes in the first seasons.

    If there is any justice in the world, one day B5 will get the reboot it deserves at a studio committed to playing out the full series without with all the resources it deserves…

    Of course, that’s a big if.

     

  19. @ A_Z

    I don’t know if there is a reason to feel hopeless. I just really don’t like DS9. It could be compared to almost any SF show and I would go against DS9. I have tried to watch DS9 multiple times, but I always come away feeling like nothing of interest is happening and the characters never make me feel for them or against them.

    If there is any hope I never thought the two had much in common other than the space station. Maybe your interests (not quite the right word) are broad enough to like both.

  20. @Pipedreamergrey

    That would be cool if B5 got rebooted with at least decent resources. Even if they got BSG resources B5 could be really good, as BSG demonstrated.

  21. “DS9 rarely made me cringe.”

    @Jeff

    YES, perfect, that was the sort of idea I was trying to say, about the dialogue, but you summed it up perfectly. Just in the 10 or so episodes I watched of B5, I just could not STAND the way just about every character talked. Definitely cringe-worthy.

    And yes, indeed, WWSD?

  22. Casting my eye over the DVD collection…B5. I have the complete run plus spinoffs. The only other show that I have nearly a complete run on is the Stargate franchise (still missing a couple of seasons of “Atlantis”, plus whatever they will release for SGU).

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Star Trek. I have several of the movies with the original crew. I will eventually buy ST:TOS on DVD. And eventually I will buy the others. However, I ran into “Trek burnout” at the height of having multiple television series and multiple (multiple) book lines…and I haven’t been able to get enthusiastic about it since.

    Still won’t give up my original Franz Joseph Tech Manual! Still ready to break out “Federation Commander” or paint up some “Star Fleet Battles” minis…just prefer those other two ‘verses on the screen, for now.

  23. @Chad:

    It’s really hard to argue that the B5 characters are well drawn.  Apply the Mike Stoklasa (aka “Mr. Plinkett”) test to the B5 characters and see what you get:

    “Describe a character without saying what they look like, what kind of costume they wore, or what their profession  or role in the series was.  Describe them to someone who has never seen the series.”

    Compare the kind of answers you’ll get for Sheridan and Delenn (the nominal B5 protagonists) with what you’ll get for Sisko.

  24. B5 all the way.

    That said, I do quite enjoy DS9—especially the later seasons, after it takes a page from the B5 book and introduces some real story arcs.

    DS9 has higher production values, but B5 somehow ends up being more than the sum of its parts—look at any individual part of B5 (visual effects, dialog, acting, etc.) and you can find something to complain about, but all together there were moments that had me jumping up and down in my seat out of sheer awesome, speeches I still remember, and awe at the character journeys over the five years that took me from hating some charaters, to loving them, to hating them, then pitying them.

    There are B5 episodes I still remember because they blew my mind.  DS9 had its moments too, like the oft-mentioned The Visitor, but even then I had to look up the title to see which episode it actually was, and it turned out to be one that writes itself out of existence with a big old reset at the end.

    So, for the DS9 fans worried about trying B5—it is totally possible to like both.  Seasons 1 and 5 are a bit rough at times, though they have highlights, but are well worth sticking with for the glory of Seasons 2 through 4.

  25. B5 all the way.  The 1st depiction of “big idea” SF I had ever seen on TV.  And the G’Kar-Londo duet was magnificent.

    To be fair, I was tired of ST in general & gave up on DS9 a couple of seasons in, returning only to see the end of the Dominion War.  Far too much of the ST super-idealism that made the Klingons more human than the humans.  And B5 does not hold up over time.  The aliens were far too human, not merely in appearance but also in behavior.  The writing & the acting did not compare to the revival of BSG.

  26. B5 was my favorite, hands down. Better writing, better stories, better characters. Being a huge fan of the Original Star Trek and Next Generation, I wanted to like DS9, but most of the episodes were forgettable crap.

  27. @ Curmudgeon

    Lando – Torn between the racist views of his race and the growing friendship with a former slave to his people. Arrogant and haughty in public, but can be humble in private. Afraid to show weakness, though he has many. Has a dark side that overcomes his good side more often than not. Does not want to die for his cause.

    G’Kar – Pain. Feels pain from being a slave. Feels pain from his people. Feels pain from consorting with his former masters. But, he softens as his friendship with his arch enemy grows. Deeply committed. Vulnerable. Has no problem dying for his cause.

    Applied, and that’s after not seeing the show for 15 years. I can’t do the same thing for DS9. It has been too long and I didn’t find it interesting, so not a lot stuck in my head.

    The B5 characters are spectacularly drawn. Though, they do get bad lines now and then, or cheesy effects.

  28. DS9 for many, MANY reasons, not the least of which being acting that blows away anything B5 could muster.  Seriously, B5 acting was in general just terrible whereas DS9 got robbed by the Emmy Awards on a constant basis.  Even overlooking the comedic foil chemistry between Quark and Odo, Avery Brooks’ Captain Sisko lent a dramatic weight to even trivial scenes.  Give him some real drama or emotion to work with and the result was freaking magic.

  29. Seeing all the DS9 fans raging against B5 makes me want to re-watch it again.

    Now, where’s my funny forehead and random earring makeup…. =)

  30. B5 for me.  I thought the writing was extremely clever, managing to create stand alone episodes that contributed to the greater story arc.  As others have said before, seasons 1 through 4 were excellent.  G’kars speech at the end of “Mind War” (Season 1) is still one of my favorite monologues of all time.

  31. None, really. They both sucked, DS9 from the lack of any real drama for the whole of its first two seasons (after which I felt I’d invested way too much time on something which seemed to be going nowhere and completely abandoned it) and B5 from the crappy FX and crappier acting (which could have been a bit better, if it weren’t for the terrible dialogue).

    I suppose if anyone would put a gun to my head and make me choose one it would be Babylon, only cause it would be over sooner.

  32. Babylon 5

    I liked the original Star Trek, being a sci-fi fan I watched TNG and was rather turned off to Star Trek because of it. Babylon 5 became an improvment for sci-fi on TV. DS9 started out rather lame as it tried too hard to be a darker Trek at first. It kind of improved when it started to follow B5’s  method, but it was a little too late to draw me in at that point.

     

    I have all the Babylon 5 DVDs, but do not own a single Star Trek DVD of anything. And Star Trek being  over priced is part of that reason as well. I view it like I do the iPod, it’s only rediculessly expensive because of it’s name brand. You can buy something else just as good for less money.

     

  33. B5 for orginality and creativity.

    A further note; isn’t it a shame that we don’t have a SciFi Channel any more?  We have – yuck – a SyFy channel whose management seems to place much higher value on professional wrestling and fake “reality” shows than on any kind of speculative fiction.  If this crew had been running things earlier, we wouldn’t have even seen Battlestar Galactica.

    We have to look to the UK for real imaginative SF/F televison.  And, in their infinite wisdom, the managers of the US version of the BBC have chosen to adopt a US advertising model.  Which means we are missing up to 22 minutes of programming.

    Either there are not enough of us Fans to support a real SF network or, we’re not paying attention or, we’re not supporting advertisers who pay for what we want to see.

  34. Agreed, Rick. We don’t have a SciFi channel anymore.

    There are enough people to support a real SF network, but unfortunately there are a lot more who support the garbage reality shows and wrestling. Thus, the execs pick the higher number.

    Personally, I’m hoping “channels” go away and we can start buying the shows we like directly (Hulu or something similar).

  35. @Neal - “Seeing all the DS9 fans raging against B5 makes me want to re-watch it again.” Wow. That’s an amazing bit of grotesque misrepresentation of the facts. A little like spitting in someone’s face and being outraged when then they spit back. There are few things more “‘raging” than a B5 fanatic condemning DS9. The DS9 guys are almost always throwing the second punch.

    “Now, where’s my funny forehead and random earring makeup.” As opposed to bald caps and stupid hair-dos? The criticism of DS9 or Star Trek in general over forehead and earring aliens is pointless. They were tv shows done during a time when non-humanoid aliens were costly and difficult to pull off. It was actually quite a creative way to establish a difference and more to the point, B5 did exactly the same thing.

    @Chad – You described the ONLY two characters in B5 who were “spectacularly drawn” and that was due entirely to the actors who played the roles. B5 was extraordinarily fortunate to have them and its success as a series was due in no small part to their talents.

    How narcissistic does someone have to be to think that because they don’t like a show it’s crap or trash? Lots of narcissistic science fiction fans out there, huh? This debate (Haha! Sorry.  I couldn’t say it with a straight face) is one of the more embarrassing quirks of this genre. Not the most embarrassing, but it’s up there. For crying out loud they were freakin’ tv shows. It’s possible to like or not like one or the other without being a dickhead about it.

    The notion that DS9 ripped off B5 is silly. Everybody borrows from everybody on tv, in writing, in music. It’s a lame criticism. Both shows took some similar ideas and did very different and interesting things with them. B5 had simultaneously some of the best acting and some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen. The worst of B5’s acting was cringe-worthy like nothing that ever appeared in any Star trek series, as someone else mentioned. And yet, it had some of the most beautiful speeches and at least two of the most exciting scenes I’ve ever seen on tv. Some of its writing could be clumsy and downright bad, but Londo and G’Kar always shone. B5 stories mostly required that you watch at least a set of them to feel the impact of the drama, but the basic story arc was compelling and for the most part excellently told.

    DS9 had tv actors playing tv roles. Everybody came to play ball. The entire extended cast were professionals and almost without exception took their characters and ran. The show told some of the finest science fiction stories ever told on television, and many that were just tv as usual. About what you would (or should) expect from a tv series, but in DS9’s case, their “good” episodes were really good, breathtakingly good, and it’s just a damned shame that some fans have chosen to deny themselves that.

    B5 was an novel. DS9 was a themed collection of short stories. Both were memorable and deserving of a place on your nightstand.

     

  36. Well, seeing as how I’m the co-host of a podcast dedicated to Babylon 5 that’s about to begin is SIXTH year, I guess my bias is showing  :)

    That’s right, we have done more episodes of our podcast than there are episodes of B5, of its spinoffs, novels, tv movies, direct-to-DVD movies combined, and we haven’t even started discussions on the novels and comics and collectibles yet. We’ve also done some great interviews with JMS, Bruce Boxleitner, Peter Jurasik, Jerry Doyle, and many others.

    B5 wins in my book, hands down.

  37. @MikeP

    You think the acting was good in DS9?  Come on.  I completely agree that B5 had good and bad acting.  Along with bad lines.  I don’t agree that DS9 was overall good acting and script.  It was stiff and, maybe it didn’t make others cringe, but it never had highs either.  So, if you like a bland show then DS9 is fine.  Captain Sisko was complete cardboard.

    I don’t even care about comparing it to B5.  Even if you removed B5 from my options I wouldn’t watch DS9.

    1. @Chad

      Dude DS9 is seriously the best Star Trek show PERIOD. You obviously never got past the first or second or even third seasons. Not only is it full of great character development, it is the most action packed of all the Treks. Hell it out-Star Warses Star Wars. Characters like Dukat and Damar are so flawed yet so enjoyable to see transform. The Dominion may be one of the coolest sci-fi enemies I’ve ever seen.
      Maybe you should start with season 4 when Worf joins the station. Or look up the Dominion War on youtube.

      1. Why you gotta bring Star Wars into this? The two have few similarities beyond a space-based setting that warrant saying it has “out-Star Warses Star Wars”. Have you heard of Grapples? They’re apples with grape juice injected into them for flavor, but they still aren’t grapes.

        Small tangent aside, I liked both shows but Babylon 5 captivated me a hell of a lot sooner than DS9 did. I think you have a problem when you make the argument that if someone hasn’t gotten past the first THREE SEASONS in order to enjoy it they haven’t given it enough of a chance. I usually give a show 3-6 episodes and if I’m not at least warming to some of the characters or story, I’m done. Babylon 5 did have an extremely slow start in the first season and some awful episodes, but there was enough there that I got into it and adored it and it’s crazy, peacock-headed Centauri.

  38. Working for years in tech, I “compartmentalize” very easily, and that’s what I did with DS9 & B5. DS9 changed so much over the seasons that it didn’t seem like the same place and characters. B5’s characters developed more or less along the lines JMS set for them.

    If ST TNG was “Trek Lite,” DS9 tried to be “Trek Dark,” and judging by that it didn’t succeed. I really like some of the characters though, and some episodes are as good as Trek gets. I liked your article very much.

    Cheers!

    Michael

  39. DS9 without a doubt..

    B5 has a decent story but such bad dialog and im missing all the feeling from DS9.

    Can´t really get a handle on B5 after 10 episodes, got the series but cant get attached to the B5 series.

     

  40. After struggling through the first episode of B5, I had to ask my friends on Twitter whether it was truly worth getting through, it was so boring. I was 5 when it originally came out, so I don’t have much of the nostalgia thing going on. I have to agree with some of the criticisms I’ve seen so far but I’ve only seen the first movie and the first three episodes, so hopefully it will get better. I really wish they had foregone the bad cgi and did models instead because it really shows its age.

    That being said, I couldn’t really get into DS9 either however, that was from watching a smattering of episodes. Avery Brooks is fantastic and I’m currently in an entire Star Trek rewatch starting with TOS, so I’ll see what I think once I can dedicate time to watching DS9 beginning to end.

  41. OK, I did like both shows. Two entirely different animals in my opinion. I watched and enjoyed both shows.

     

    Deep Space Nine Followed up TNG, which may be the best Star Trek show yet produced (I haven’t watched Enterprise yet), and the first season did flail about a lot while trying to find its footing. But its main flaw was that it really started getting good when it started “borrowing” plot and story ideas from Babylon 5

    The first one was theongoing story arc itself, which did not exist at the beginning of the show, but was well entrenched by the end.

    B5’s shadow war became DS9’s dominion war.

    DS9 also copied B5’s problems with totalinarianism on earth, but it being Star Trek, they did kiss and make up in a few episodes.

    that guy who lost an eye, etc. etc.

    I am left to wonder just what DS9 could have been if it didn’t lean so much on B5. Something different than it was, certainly.

    Babylon 5 was making a new way of tv for itself, and even though its first season was not great, it still was superior to the DS9 that was on at the same time.

    Then it started going places, getting really good, and blowing my mind. And though DS9 started doing similar things, it was just falling behind – not quite as good, and B5 had done them first.

     

    Deep Space Nine’s biggest flaw was that they couldn’t let go of the dominion war and stretched it out way too much.

     

    Babylon 5’s biggest flaw was that after everybody kissed and made up in the fifth season, everything else seemed kind of anticlimactic.

     

    Still, B5 outdid DS9 on almost every angle – Except in being Star Trek. I think “War Without End” beats “The Visitor” any day. They were both great episodes, but B5’s was better.

    Bret Filipek on The Babylon Podcast said that he cried for more episodes of DS9 than B5. That statement flabbergasted me because I cried for exactly 2 episodes of DS9. They were: In the Pale Moonlight, and The Quickening. The Quickening wasn’t even a definitively Star Trek story. it would have worked in almost any universe. In The Pale Moonlight was definitely a Star Trek story though, and deserves the applause it gets.

    B5 seemed like it made me cry 3 or 4 times a season (except the first). some standouts include: Shadow Dancing, Severed Dreams, War Without End, The Long Night, Passing Through Gethsemane, Objects At Rest, etc. etc.

     

    So, though I like both shows, DS9 is definitely in the shadow of B5.

  42. I have to say B5.  Had a grand time watching it as it first rolled out.   I do think the dialogue of a lot of the first season was leaden.  I wonder how many people tried to watch the series and stopped before things improved.  And they did improve a lot.  

    With DS9 I thought the early episodes were also not very good.  I liked it more when the main protagonist started channeling Hawk from Spencer for Hire.  What killed it for me was when they had the episode where things really started getting dark and exciting it turned out to be all a dream… or at least a simulation running in someone’s head.  

    I gave up then.

  43. @A_Z, you should definitely try Babylon 5 and whatever your initial impressions of the show are persevere and you’ll truly understand why us Babylon 5 fans love the show.

    I like Deep Space 9 but I love Babylon 5. For me there’s no competition between the two, even though DS9 is the best Trek series Babylon 5 took science-fiction to a whole new level that has not been reached ever since.

    The ridiculous thing I’ve noticed in this thread and from other Babylon 5 verses Deep Space 9 battles on other forums over the years. Is that a high percentage of those on the side of Deep Space 9 have not even seen the entire series of Babylon 5. Many judge having seen less than one season ! Babylon 5 is greater than the sum of all its parts due to the massive tapestry created by  JMS. The five-year pre-planned story arc threads from beginning to end and makes the show so much more satisfying. Seemingly insignificant moments from early seasons pay off years down the line.

    To truly appreciate Babylon 5 you need to watch every single episode in the correct order. Even now watching for the umpteenth time it’s fantastic seeing all the subtleties, hints and clues, and watching everything come together. It’s a truly amazing body of work that really serves as a 100 hour movie. Sure there are plenty of imperfections but the way the story weaves itself together is something to behold.

    Maybe to new viewers the CGI books badly dated but for the time was state-of-the-art for television and easily surpassed DS9’s Models. Babylon 5 brought three-dimensional space battles from the very first season, while bringing the longest and most exciting space battles ever seen in science fiction TV, far surpassing anything seen in the Star Trek TV universe at that time. Incidentally due to Babylon 5 ‘s superiority DS9 switched to CGI during later seasons using the team that made Babylon 5 looks so great!

    It’s also worth noting that Babylon 5 was nominated for episodes in three different years for the Hugo Awards, winning two of them beating Deep Space 9 on both occasions.

    Somebody else mentioned about quoting the show. Babylon 5 has so many wonderful moments to quote from. So many great speeches and funny moments. Some hard for I can read those quotes and just feel how I felt when watching. That’s some powerful stuff!

    Obviously Deep Space 9 was a rip-off of Babylon 5 there’s just far too many “coincidences” and similarities and it’s a fact that the paramount executives had the Babylon 5 Bible at least two years before Deep Space 9 came about.

    While DS 9 has the best, most three-dimensional characters of any Trek series they’re certainly not as nuanced as those on Babylon 5.

  44. sorry voice recognition error…

     

    Some hard for I can read those quotes and just feel how I felt when watching. That’s some powerful stuff!

    should read…

    So much so I can read those quotes and just feel how I felt when watching. That’s some powerful stuff!

     

    copied from elsewhere….

    http://www.firstones.com/wiki/Similarities_between_Babylon_5_and_Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine

    Similarities

    1. Both series are named after a space station name with a single-digit number
    2. Both series premiered in 1993, and were set aboard space stations that were hubs of interstellar trade and politics.
    3. Both stations were located beside portals to distant places. (B5 is near a hyperspace “jumpgate”; DS9 guarded the mouth of a wormhole.)
    4. Both series originally featured a shapeshifter character; however, Babylon 5 dropped that element before filming, replacing it with occasional characters using various illusory and camouflage mechanisms.
    5. Both started off with unmarried commanders haunted by a recent conflict.
    6. Commanders of each station had lost their wives before the series started. (Sisko and Sheridan)
    7. Both men’s wives reappeared during the series under the control of a more powerful race. (Sheridan’s wife returns in person under the control of the Shadows, while the Prophets speak through Sisko’s wife in visions.)
    8. Both commanders remarried during the shows run.
    9. Both commanders had a girlfriend who was a freighter captain, Carolyn Sykes for Commander Sinclair and Kasidy Yates for Captain Sisko.
    10. The commander of each station eventually became a religious figure who fulfilled a prophecy, advised by enigmatic aliens who were regarded as spiritual beings.
    11. Both commanders (Sisko and Sheridan) “ascended” to become noncorporeal lifeforms in the series finale.
    12. In both series the spiritual beings (the Vorlons, the Prophets) had an enemy (the Shadows, the Pah Wraiths) generally viewed as evil spirits by other races, with whom they had been at war for millennia.
    13. Both series build up to a war between Humans and a militarily powerful, hard-to-detect enemy (the invisible Shadows, the shapeshifting Founders).
    14. Both series had a sarcastic, cynical but dedicated head of security who started out as perceptive and extremely competent, but later succumbed to insecurity and compulsion (Garibaldi’s drinking, Odo’s link with the female Shapeshifter)
    15. Both series had an idealistic young doctor with a hidden secret (Bashir’s genetic enhancement, Franklin’s involvement with the Underground). Both doctors also had strained relationships with their fathers.
    16. Both series involved the use of genetically engineered diseases, designed to work against a specific group (Changelings, Markab, Human and Narn Telepaths, others) as a means of control or genocide.
    17. The second-in-command of each station was a woman with a hot temper who had lost a family member in a war.
    18. Central to each series were two alien races, one of which had until recently occupied and oppressed the home planet of the other. Furthermore:
      1. The oppressed race was a deeply religious one.
      2. The oppressors in both series were later manipulated by a powerful alien race to achieve its goals.
      3. This manipulation occurred via a regular character in the series belonging to the oppressor race, who vacillated between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ through the course of the series, ultimately being taken over completely by powerful evil forces, which eventually led to their untimely deaths.
      4. The plot of each series eventually centered around a war against the oppressors and those who manipulated them.
      5. These wars resulted in the devastations of the former-oppressors’ homeworlds.
    19. Both series involved an alien race who had once been humanity’s main enemies, but were now strong (but often troublesome) allies (Klingons, Minbari)
    20. Both series involve a character who must deal with the conflict between their alien heritage, and their adopted human qualities (Worf, Delenn)
    21. Each series added a small, tough starship, each the first of its kind, during the third season: DS9’s Defiant and B5’s White Star.
    22. Each series includes a sinister organization working within the humans’ government: DS9’s Section 31 and B5’s Bureau 13, not to mention Psi Corps and Nightwatch as well.
    23. Each series had a male character named “Dukat” (though B5’s is spelled “Dukhat”) and each series had a female character named “Lyta” (although DS9’s is spelled “Leeta”).
    24. Each Station was administered by an Earth based government (Earth Alliance in B5, the Federation in DS9) but was not in that government’s territory.
    25. While each stations was administered by Earth, that administration depended upon the sufferance of a second, deeply spiritual, race. (Minbari in B5, Bajorans in DS9)
    26. In the first season finales of both series, the character frequently regarded as the “everyman” (Miles O’Brien on DS9, Michael Garibaldi on B5) is betrayed by his assistant in an assassination attempt.
    27. Both series have a character who is the sidekick from an egocentric culture (Vir the Centauri and Rom the Ferengi). They both have values that are more “human” than those of their culture and are therefore seen as poor excuses for members of their race. Despite all this, they both end up as the leaders of their race by the end of the series.
    28. Both series featured a six-episode story arc at the beginning of their penultimate seasons that chronicled a major turning point in their respective wars (the defeat of the Shadows and Vorlons in B5, and the retaking of the station from the Dominion in DS9).
  45. I also forgot to mention the wonderful music score by Christopher Franke also helps raise Babylon 5 to the next level. The music is so emotive adding so much heart and soul to the show. As far as I’m aware and no other science-fiction show used so much original music in every single episode.

  46. Probably too late to comment but when I got my first major job was when TV shows on DVD were really hitting their stride. I bought Babylon 5 first and then DS9. DS9 is my favorite Star Trek Series (I am a life long trek fan and TOS, DS9, and TNG each contain about 5-10 that are pure gold). That having been said. Babylon 5 is my favorite TV show PERIOD. It is without a doubt something I rewatch about once a year and though the effects look like crap it is an awesome testament to what very loyal and intelligent people can do when they work hard to pursue their dreams. JMS was on a shoe string budget and produced to the very best of his ability something wonderful that very frankly hasn’t been topped for me anyway in all the time since it went off the air. I am firmly a Babylon 5 Fan … then a star trek fan. I won’t badmouth either one as they sit very cordially next to each other on my DVD shelves.

  47. Babylon 5, all the way. It is so far above Trek as to make one’s heads spin. DS9 was a rip off of B5 and to me, was wooden, uninspiring, just, well forget it. No comparison. I am a fan of Classic Trek and Enterprise in the ST universe, but my heart belongs totally to jms and his incredible creation always. It has everything and the acting of the late great, Andreas Katsulas as G’Kar, and Peter Jurasik alone is astonishing. There is just no way any Treks, including the horrendous Next Gen could ever compete with the Best SF show ever, Babylon 5!

  48. I think DS9 was great. but i also love all the star treks….and the star wars…and battlestar galactica….so i probally would like B5 too lol.

  49. As much as I loved SF, I could not figure out why TNG seemed…..light weight. then along came B5 & DS9. I enjoyed both more. Someone has since pointed out that stories in Star Trek rarely have consequences in later shows, ie. a drinking problem in one was never spoken of again. I almost gave up on Babylon 5 when I noticed, stuff carried over. Consequences were there and a piper was paid.

    I almost gave up on both midway through the first season. Both were too “talkie”, DS9 all emo over slavery and the religious stories bugged me. B5, too much exposition and the religious stories (at first) bugged me. I found Strazynski’s postings online and realized there was a story and I was lucky enough to catch up. He pointed out the foreshadowing of certain things and I went back through old tapes (to all you young bucks, before there was DVD’s and DVR’s, there were VHS tapes look it up on Wikipedia)

    Season 2, B5 took off like a rocket that didn’t give up (until early S5, but redeemed by the last 4 eps). DS9 didn’t get interesting until late S2. Some of which is do to the 28 coincidences out lined above by Harry. Most of the characters of B5 stayed with me. Only a few in DS9 did. As too the complaints of overacting in B5? Really? have you ever seriously watched a ST show before? Look at anything with Captain________ and you’ll see what I mean.   :-) 

    Were there bad eps of both? Undoubtedly. I think DS9 went to the time travel well too often (Tribbles episode excluded from this) and to the holodeck too often, but much better than Next Gen and (shudder) Voyager. B5 went to Grey 17, which even the author says he should not have written. 

    B5 was a complete, planned out story and the characters made a journey in a (to us viewers) a new Universe. DS9 was the best ST but leaned too hard on ST’s back stories. The fans of both are somewhat passionate. DS9 fans bought DVD’s and pastiche books with their favorite characters. But B5 fans have bought DVD’s and script books of the entire series (92 out 110 eps by 1 author plus 4 TV movies) showing despite dated SFX, they wanted that story. While I will eventually get around to seeing DS9 again, I have seen B5 twice and can’t wait to finally watch it on DVD soon.   

    But we all can agree on one thing. Voyager sucked. “”Oh my, aliens took over the ship! Oh never mind. We got it back”. “Next week on Voyager, Oh my! Aliens….” you get the idea.

    We can also agree SyFy sucks until they get rid of wrestling.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  50. Babylon 5 FTW. Although it was at times inconsistent, and season 5 may as well as have never been made at all, it’s high points were so high as have been some of the greatest sci-fi, nay some of greatest TV in fact, that I’ve ever seen. Some scenes and ideas live in my memory years after I first saw them. DS9 was a good show, and at times very good, and it was more consistent in it’s writing, it just didn’t have the highs that B5 had. B5’s finale was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, DS9’s was a damp squib. B5’s highs left me awestruck, DS9’s I merely enjoyed.

  51. It warms my heart to see that so many others see the brilliance that was B5.  B5 is simply an authentic work of art that i’m not ashamed to say moved me to the core.  That’s not something that you get from television folks. DS9 is cute, nice science fiction short stories, a standard commercial product aimed at syndication.  B5 is a 100 hour long epic, the War and Peace of television sci-fi.  

  52. I love both shows but I have to go with DS9, I think both show’s characters had real issues but, with exception of when Londo and G’Kar lightened up later, DS9’s characters were more likable in regards to the good guys and you could understand the reasoning behind the bad guys.  I mean, I’d rather hang out with Capt Sisko over Sheridon or Sinclair and the only reason to hang out with Capt. Lochley is the hopes that her fine self would give you some.  You could understand the Founders forming the Dominion to keep themselve from being persecuted, it’s a little hypocritical but I understand the reasoning, I also understand the Cardassian’s reason for joining, you just spent the last year getting your butts handed to you by the Klingons after being the master race of your sector, you’d probably do anything for a little power and the Dominion gave them that.  In the case of Babylon 5, their bad guys were just dicks.

     

     

  53. IMO, B5 is in the lead. JMS did win the Hugo for writing it. Now, that is not to say that I hate DS9. I actually thought it was quite enjoyable. I really enjoyed the Dominion War Arc. The previously mentioned similarities are very true. I think that B5 did a better overall job of sucking in and keeping the viewer involved. However I must mention that I am a sucker for JMS writing style of long term story arc. That being said I do have to give him mad props. For those of you that are unaware, allow me to explain; In the process of creating the B5 universe, JMS took all of earths history up untill he started writing. Then created his own theory of how the galaxy would be shapped for the next million years, chose a 5 year section of that time line and made it into a show. 

     

    In generaly, both were great shows. DS9 did a good job of tarnishing that ‘Shiney, no bad can be done’ federation. It was a very big step for the Star Trek universe. B5 was a new and strong contender to the ST universe. Also, the first SF series that I can think of to follow real physics in space combat and an alternative to FTL travel. All in All, trying to compare the two is like trying to argue that choclate is better than vanilla or vise versa.

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