The Writing StinksI’ve been dancing around this for awhile, but I’ll just say it: The writing, done almost entirely by J. Michael Straczynski, is consistently bad. It is full of clichés, the dialogue isn’t clever (there’s a fascination with light bulb jokes that goes on for way too long), it’s fairly humorless and it doesn’t make you feel for the characters. The best thing you can say about the writing is that it gets the job done and tells you what you need to know in a given episode. The worst thing you can say is that’s all it does. The writing isn’t My Immortal-bad, but it’s serviceable at best. Compare it to Battlestar or Doctor Who or Firefly or even Star Trek and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a handicap to the actors rather than a help.
“The thing that makes the current B5 conflict so uninteresting to watch is the absolute moral battle lines that have been drawn. Sheridan is what they call a paragon of virtue, a perfect ideal. He stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way, all in capital letters. ______'s side stands for nothing but fucking up other peoples’ shit. There’s no moral conflict because it’s been spelled out in the most explicit terms. Plus, there’s no documentation of what ______ does, how he does it or why. We don’t know how he got to be a police state-type of fellow, we’ve barely met him. We don’t know how he keeps everyone in line, other than through misinformation.
“There’s just such absolute ideological superiority from Sheridan, who sounds like a horse’s ass every time he draws upon it. There are very few moral choices or ambiguities to be found in B5.”
This is part of what I was saying about Sheridan, Zack Allan and Dr. Franklin in the Bad Characters post. They are so morally upright and the villain (in this case especially) is so poorly defined, it makes them unbelievable. There are very few moral conflicts on this show, and most of them feel manufactured (like the one near the end of Season 4 with the telepaths). The only convincing one comes at the end of Season 3, where Sheridan holds Morden against his will. For the rest, nothing. Sheridan and Co. are always right and the other guy is always wrong, period, end of line. This is especially true of the Season 4 villain, an evil cardboard cutout that we almost never see on-screen.
I’m Sorry… You Do What Now?B5 relentlessly hammers home the theme that its characters are special people. There’s an entire Season 2 episode devoted to making sure that Sheridan and Delenn are the right people in the right place at the right time. But on the level of their jobs, they never seem to have much expertise. This is a minor quibble, but what does Garibaldi do exactly? He’s a good shot and he knows how to ask questions, but he doesn’t possess any skills specific to being a Security Chief. Dr. Franklin lets machines do all the work for him, is rarely seen in surgery and operates as a glorified diagnostician. Everything from mission-critical research to flying starfighters is handled by omnipresent computers.
You Had A Problem? Since When?!Here’s a fairly typical scenario:
Something traumatic happens to Garibaldi in Episode A. The episode ends, the threat is dealt with and Garibaldi goes back to work. Several episodes go by, during which Garibaldi seems unchanged. Then in episode H, Garibaldi has a nervous breakdown and goes “I’ve been haunted by the vision of my wife’s buttocks ever since Episode A!!”
|Seconds before bursting into incoherent rage.|
In The Conversation:-The music isn’t very good or very memorable, and it’s kind of used as a blunt instrument. You know exactly how you’re supposed to be feeling because the violins tell you it’s an emotional moment.
-Straczynski’s enormous plot arcs move maddeningly slowly, although this shouldn’t be unfamiliar for recovering Lost fans like myself.
-Because we rarely leave the station in the first two seasons, it’s hard to get a sense of the greater outside universe. This does change in seasons 3-5, as more of the characters venture outside, but it’s a little off-putting early on.
- B5 tells, it doesn’t show, particularly with regard to characters’ emotions. Straczynski doesn’t let the actors show you how the character is feeling, he writes in huge info-dumps where the character tells you exactly how he feels today.
Not Bad, Just Weird:For some reason, whenever a character has a minor wardrobe change, it’s made into a big honking deal in the show itself. Sheridan’s beard, Delenn’s hair, the new B5 uniforms, Security uniforms, G’Kar’s eye color, etc. are all played up much more than you’d imagine them being. It’s not a bad thing, just a quirk.