Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek: DS9

Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek: DS9
What I really owe here is a 12-page paper - this is going to fall about 11.5 pages short of that, but hopefully, I'll still get my main point across.  This is mostly for Dani Shaped Object and the other folks at WorldCon.  It's an old argument, but a passionate one, even after all this time.

Here's a link to a giant list of similarities between the two series - though I include this with much hesitation, as it's not a really compelling list, and it doesn't really include my main point.  (Does it really matter that each series had a Lyta/Leeta or Dukhat/Dukat?  Not so much, since the characters themselves were very different.  Still...it's an awfully long list.)


Also included in this article is the link to "Grand Theft Drama" detailing Straczynski's claim that Paramount executives had DS9 developed only after turning down the incredibly similar Bab 5.  Again, that's not really my main issue, either, though it's interesting.

My main point is simply the format, which appeals to me deeply as a writer.  After watching 3-4 years of TNG which (as much as I loved) was often frustrating for lack of any overarching plot, Bab 5 - and shortly thereafter, DS9 - was such a welcome innovation.  Bab 5 had a 7 year story arc right from the beginning - and rewatching the series, you can see how deeply imbedded that arc.  (Later this got compacted to 5 years.)  Powers and civilizations rise and fall, politics change, *characters* change.  A lot.  This was something missing in the Star Trek world, which invariably ended every episode with a world exactly the same as it began.  After the success of Bab 5, DS9 quickly followed suit - with a great many similarities in that overarching plot.  With its larger production values and bigger studio, it quickly overshadowed Bab 5.  (Paramount still never really developed larger stories for TNG - their cash cow - in the same way.) 

I can't emphasize how striking this was, watching all of this happen when the shows first aired.  The stories seemed larger than life, more interesting and complicated then even seen before in the Star Trek world.  As did the characters.  The changes that happen to Lando Mollari's character had no parallel in the Star Trek world, except (possibly) in the larger-scale movies.  This was exciting sh*t!  Sure they'd been doing this kind of thing in Soap Operas and elsewhere for decades, but Star Trek had somehow avoided that up until now.

So my point is merely this: that while I adored both series, I feel anyone rewatching Star Trek: DS9 owes a word of thanks to Straczynski as much as to anyone who actually worked on DS9. 
(We also started to see a little bit of this even in the ultra-conservative TNG, with things like actual romances between characters that *didn't* get reset by some alternate-universe whammy, but only on season 7, when it was due to end.)

Also, I still harbor the fantasy where my fav Bab 5 characters (Delenn, Lando & G'Kar) all get imported along with the Shadow War Arc into the DS9 world and their awesome characters.  (And better special effects and budget.)  Sheridan was fine, but I think of Peter Jurasik, Andreas Katsulas or Mira Firlan sparring verbally with Avery Brooks or RenĂ© Auberjonois, say...I get the willies.

OK, so maybe I got 2 or 3 pages out of this.

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