Category Archives: Essay

Stephen Furst, 1954-2017

The cohosts of B5AG are mightily tired of saying good-bye to the stars of Babylon 5. If Babylon 5 has a moral center, it’s Stephen Furst’s Vir Cotto.

By Lois Benton – Stephen Furst, July, 2014, Moorpark, CA, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

We have only to look at other intended-recurring characters in B5’s early years to see how important it was for the actors to bring JMS’s characters to life. Mary Woronov as Ko’Dath only lasted for one episode (largely due to an inability to work with the prosthetics), leading to the character’s replacement by Julie Caitlin Brown as Na’Toth. When Brown chose not to re-sign for Season 2, Mary Kay Adams attempted but failed to essay the role, leading to the character’s disappearance.

Is there any question that had Stephen Furst not been up to the task, Vir would have possibly met with an “airlock accident” as well? And yet the “comic relief” soldiered on as the first character to challenge Morden to his face, the first Centauri to display shame before G’Kar, the assassin of Emperor Cartagia, and always–always–Londo’s conscience.

Furst went on to direct episodes of Babylon 5 and Crusade. His DNA is quietly intertwined with the whole of the series–a constant reminder of the show’s theme that it is our individual choices that define us and that humans build communities.

From the stars we came, and to the stars we return, from now until the end of time.

Richard Biggs – 2004

Andreas Katsulas – 2006

Jeff Conaway – 2011

Michael O’Hare – 2012

Jerry Doyle – 2016: Statement from J. Michael Straczynski here

We’ve mentioned here and there in our podcasts about some of the actors on “Babylon 5” who died much too young. Now, for the first time since starting the Audio Guide to Babylon 5, we have to deal with the loss of yet another member of the B5 family.

At the time of posting, actor Jerry Doyle – known best by this little podcast circle as Security Chief Michael Garibaldi – has died. That’s about all that is known at the moment, with no details as to how. After “Babylon 5” wrapped, Doyle moved on to try his hand at politics and then became a popular radio host for conservative views, eventually creating the Epic Times website. Doyle would use this platform to support his former castmates, such as promoting Claudia Christian’s efforts in helping people break alcohol addiction. In the statement linked above, J. Michael Straczynski pointed out how he disagreed with Doyle on almost every issue when it came to politics, but valued him both as a friend and as a consummate professional during his acting career.

RIP, Mr. Doyle. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

(Moderators have moved comments from “Ship of Tears” threads to here. Everyone is welcome to share their thoughts about Doyle’s and other B5 actors’ passing in this thread.)

New to B5? The Joy of Jumping In

A while back, Shannon guested on Random Trek with Scott McNulty. Scott and Shannon compared Babylon 5 and Star Trek (as we often do on this show!), and they observed that B5 is a commitment. We’ve talked about this here ourselves. The idea is this: In order to truly appreciate the show and know what’s going on, one must start at the beginning and watch the story unfurl episode-by-episode. You can’t just jump in in the middle and appreciate what’s going on.

But you know what? I don’t think that’s true.

Now wait a second. Before you jump down my throat, know that I fully support the idea of starting from the beginning of a serialized show. (That shouldn’t be a surprise, as that’s kinda how our podcast is laid out.) It’s the best way to see a property play out the way the creator envisioned it. In fact, I have trouble purposely doing anything different myself. My nerd-brain just does not like it. But honestly, I sometimes think my nerd-brain exerts too much control. What am I missing out on because of it? Possibly a lot.

I’m not just talking about B5 here. This goes for any serialized media.

Shannon and Scott mentioned the soap-opera aspect of B5, and I think that phrase perfectly illustrates my point. You don’t go back to the beginning of a soap opera. My great grandma started listening to The Guiding Light as a radio show back in the 40s.1 Can you imagine trying to go back to start at the beginning? It’s a thing you’re simply not meant to do. (Nor can you, I suspect.) The same is true of long-running comic book series.

And when it comes to Babylon 5 in particular, I happen to know jumping in mid-stream works like gangbusters! In B5’s case, it may actually be preferable.2 Season 1 does a great job of building the world, but it’s undoubtedly rocky, as they were (understandably) still finding their feet.

I discovered the show by accident during season two. My friends Max and Jeff and I got together to watch Star Trek: Deep Space 9 every week. Babylon 5 was on just before that. Eventually we caught enough B5 that we started watching entire episodes. Deep Space 9 night quickly became Babylon 5 night. Would that have happened had we started at the beginning of the series? I very much doubt it. We dipped our toes just as the show’s arc was starting to heat up. That’s what drew us in.

Not only did it draw us in, but it held on tight. All three of us became proper hooked. So much so that as soon as earlier episodes were available (thank you TNT marathons), we did go back and watch from the beginning. I have to say it again: If we’d started from there, I really doubt we’d’ve stuck with it long enough to get hooked.3

B5 is not alone in this. I’ve dived into a few shows mid-series. I never saw an episode of The Good Wife until last year when Twitter scuttlebutt told me Something Huge had happened.4 That made me curious, so I jumped in with the earliest episode available On Demand. (It was only a handful of eps back from The Big Thing.) I enjoyed it so much I’m still watching the series. And no, I feel no need to go back and watch the first 4 seasons. The writers did an excellent job of including backstory and flashbacks, so I feel like I’m caught up.

If I had balked at jumping in, I would never have watched The Good Wife. Four seasons before I even got to That Thing everyone was talking about? Nah. Way too daunting. I wouldn’t have committed that heavily just to investigate the buzz.

I’m not saying watching from the beginning is a bad thing. It’s great! But if the need to start at episode 1 will keep you from trying something, think real hard about that. Regardless what your nerd-brain might tell you, it is possible to enjoy something without consuming ALL of it in order–even if it is highly serialized like Babylon 5.

So I encourage you, dear reader, to jump into B5 with us right here and now. If you’re somewhat interested, but daunted by our back catalogue, ignore it! Throw nerd-caution to the wind and dive in with “The Coming of Shadows”. I strongly suspect you won’t be disappointed.

Editor’s note: This blog originally appeared in a slightly different form on Erika’s personal blog.