So here I am, enjoying the last day of my vacation by staying up since about 2 in the afternoon yesterday (yeah, I slept way late) and watching my new Babylon 5 Season 1 DVD collection.
The special effects have not aged terribly well, but the story is incredible and it's amazing what they did on a TV budget (a shoestring TV budget at that). And the creator, J. Michael Strazynczki, was screwed out of his profit sharing by Hollywood accountants.
As he put it:
"The show, all in, cost about $110 million to make. Each year of its original run, we know it showed a profit because they TOLD us so. And in one case, they actually showed us the figures. It's now been on the air worldwide for ten years [this was 15 years ago, if anything he's now been screwed even worse by now]. There's been merchandise, syndication, cable, books, you name it. The DVDs grossed roughly half a BILLION dollars (and that was just after they put out S5, without all of the S5 sales in). So what does my last profit statement say? We're $80 million in the red. Basically, by the terms of my contract, if a set on a WB movie burns down in Botswana, they can charge it against B5's profits."
B5 invented the season-long story arc, the series-long story arc, the mythology arc, all the things we now expect from a TV series. LOST, Breaking Bad, Lois & Clark, The Sopranos, Heroes, The Walking Dead, even a series like Veep, all owe their structure to Babylon 5 and JMS having faith in an audience's ability to follow a plot over the course of not just multiple episodes, but multiple seasons.
All that, and there's some actual science in the science fiction.
I just finished watching all five seasons. I enjoyed the series immensely in spite of the computer graphics. Considering they made the show on no budget, I don't mind them. I can't see them making a show like it again. Hollywood is famous for creative accounting, whole new fields of mathematics are involved.