This month's thoughts are basically "The Babylon 5 Dilemma" revisited. Last time I talked about the seminal J. Michael Straczynski TV series, I wasn't terribly kind to it. This time will be different.
I've been trying to find things my mom will enjoy watching. This is not always as easy as it might seem. As a family we've always been obsessed with Star Wars, so I figured one day that maybe she would like seeing the original Battlestar Galactica film. It kind of landed with a thud. I followed that up with In the Beginning, the Babylon 5 movie TNT aired in 1998 as part of the network's push for the show's final season. It's always been my personal favorite memory of the series. Surprisingly, my mom liked it too.
The dilemma this time is that I don't really have a lot more B5 to show her. There are, of course, five seasons of the series, plus the short-lived Crusade spin-off, and a bunch of TV movies (Beginning, as well as the pilot, The Gathering, and River of Souls, Thirdspace, A Call to Arms, The Legend of the Rangers, and Lost Tales). I have the DVD collection of all the movies except the last two. I can keep showing her these movies. I could start buying more of the saga.
Should I? In the Beginning is pretty unique. It's self-contained in a lot of ways, a story told from the perspective of Londo Mollari, the draconian (in more ways than one) Centauri who regrets his secret role in the Earth-Minbari War, speaking about it years later as a way to amuse a couple of kids. It's elegiac, prosaic, probably the best single selling point of the whole experience.
Babylon 5 always suffered from a relatively minuscule budget. This caused issues with the production I wasn't always able to overcome. At least two of the actors were of the quality I think would otherwise have been beneath the series under ideal circumstances. But then, I think Straczynski's famous need to control nearly the entire scripting process severely limited the series. When he was inspired, such as the scope and the arc of his vision, Joe was close to untouchable. But he wasn't always keen on the details. One might say he tended to write in broad strokes. That's evident in Beginning as well.
But I love Beginning all the same. I love its subtleties. I always loved Peter Jurasik (who played Londo; the other real treasure was his nemesis, Andreas Katsulas as G'Kar). I love how it's written.
At its best, Babylon 5 was everything its fans always said it was, and I guess my mom unexpectedly liking it was a way for me to see it that way for, really, the first time. We all have experiences like that. For years we're convinced we hate something, and then all of a sudden we realize we don't. We might even become big fans.
As a writer, as a writer who specifically fears that his material might never find an audience, this is a special kind of dilemma. Execution is a hard thing to master. What works for the writer won't always work for the reader. It might be an issue of the talent simply not being there. It might be an issue of the story needing to overcome a general lack of writing talent. It might be an issue of the talent being something the reader simply can't appreciate for whatever reason. It could be a combination of all those. Then again, appreciation might only come as a fluke anyway, so who's to know where it comes from? Get people to think positively about something, and they'll sell the merits of anything, even stuff that has no merit. How do you even gauge these things? One day you don't get it and the next you do. If it exists, if it continues to exist, there're always possibilities.
I mean, life is hard enough just trying to figure out what you can control. The things you can't, maybe that's just something writers should worry less about. So what do you say? Should I try and get my mom some more of this Babylon 5 material?