A couple references: JMS is the author and Lord High Creator of the show. "Lurkers" refers to people who read the Lurker's Guide (http://www.hyperion.com/lurk/), the primary B5 reference guide. And there are a few episode titles in there: Severed Dreams, The Long Twilight Struggle, ...
At its best, B5 represents an uncertainty about how much worse things will get rather than a comfortable belief in things eventually returning to normal over smiles, quiet laughs and hot cocoa after the battle's over. It's about slowly wading through the thick muck of ugly tensions instead of backslaps and handshakes between the warring parties when an individual episode comes to an end. It's something beyond antiseptic portrayals of main characters visibly confident that they'll survive the season no matter what happens.
B5 is not about two-ships-passing-in-the-night-firing-slow-intermittent-glorified-cannonballs-at-one-another. Its about several swarms of metallic worker bees degenerating from fixed formations into chaotic interactions along three dimensions.
B5 is a relentless barrage of painful hesitations, difficult judgements,terrible miscalculations, aborted detentes, paralyzing fears and grudging resignation to the demands of necessity. It's a man biting his lower lip as he pulls the trigger.
B5 is a long, drawn out camera pan over a landscape of battered carcasses at the end of an undesired firefight; B5 is a confrontation between an organized conspiracy of insecurity and a disorganized, insecure conspiracy of competing interests; B5 is a council leader whose gesture of greeting is welcomed with weapons fire; B5 is a dying emperor and a targeted president entertaining wild and pretentious ambitions of a peace neither will survive; B5 is a command staff in command of very little, anxious, confused, bewildered, in mild disarray; B5 is a head of security unable to protect himself; B5 is a medical officer suffering from an illness he cannot treat; B5 is an ambassador and a people wildly chasing vague hopes of an elusive grandeur to will fill the voids of moral decay; B5 is an ambassador whose efforts at strengthening the ties that bind two species are rewarded with the scorn of both; B5 is a war-hardened diplomat-soldier cowering like a baby against the wall of a hallway, tears in his eyes, fragile hopes betrayed, disheveled, demoralized...angry; B5 is a submissive, hesitant and otherwise insignificant subordinate with a rare courage to vainly declare the unspoken, mitigate the irreprable, and speak to the face of an enemy the words "I'm sorry."
B5 is about the death of important characters; it's about the lingering threat of impending death hovering over *all* of the main characters *all*of the time; it's about people succumbing to petty selfishness; its about consequences, repercussions, enduring tensions, irony, things going bad just when characters thought they couldn't get any worse. It's about quasi-protagonists who, more often than not, act as recalcitrant puppets reluctantly dancing to the tune of forces beyond their control. It's about the frayed-yet-sturdy conviction of an individual where institutions have failed. It's about the universe as you once knew it going straight to hell.
It's about the primacy of fear, prejudice and self-interest over last-ditch, heartfelt appeals to reason, open-mindedness and sacrifice for the greater good. Its the loud, united thunderclap of euphoria celebrating a signed treaty contrasted with the quiet, lonely sobs signalling the wake of its failure. Its about dealing with life as it is, not life as we wish it could be or life as we may have once envisioned it. B5 is about severed dreams-- the death of grandiose visions-- and the effort to adjust and build new ones. B5 is about the turmoil of the human condition and the struggle to transcend it- about a long twilight struggle against the lesser angels of our nature.
Make no mistake. B5 is no "line drawn against the darkness;" it is no "line in the sand" drawn against some dark and nefarious nemesis, some well-defined and unabashedly evil enemy, some clear, present and external danger.
B5 is a near-hopeless holding action against the bland and indifferent avalanche of inevitability. B5 won't die. Babylonians, armed with weapons of telecommunication that TOS viewers and Roddenberry himself could have only dreamed of, simply wont let that happen. Any possibility of cancellation would engender a viewer movement for reinstatement unseen in the world of television since...say...the 1960s when the first ST series was experiencing some of the same travails. B5's strength is beyond numbers, beyond ratings, beyond pragmatic and jaundiced assessments of its commercial viability.
It's bigger than you. It's bigger than all of us. Frankly, it's bigger than JMS, himself.
This is about an immense yearning (however inchoate) heretofore untapped, for a serious, organic, well-integrated, meaningful, realistic portrayal of the struggle of life with sci-fi as the metaphor, vehicle and medium. This is about the exploration of archetypes that have helped us to define the human condition. This is about a sci-fi novel with moving pictures. It's a deliberate focus on the painful duality of human nature and the incredible darkness underlying it.
It is not about a mere agglomeration of television episodes or some line-item on a ratings list or about a mere collection of aliases on an internet newsgroup or about some staff stationed in Hollywood.This is a leviathan, immensely bigger than the sum of its parts.
My fellow Lurkers, this...thing...is alive.
Ari Rapkin Last modified: Thu Oct 17 20:31:01 EDT 1996