Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to watch Babylon 5

Babylon 5 has been off the air for over 15 years, and there's now a whole new generation of science fiction fans who probably don't know about it, and definitely haven't seen it. If you start watching it straight through, I'm afraid you won't enjoy it. So this guide is here to help you to see the show in the best possible way.

You have to understand that it's a show that was finely honed for its audience and its presentation format. It built up a following by slowly ratcheting up the amount of story being developed and then delivering big "arc" episodes that drove all of the story lines forward at once. This makes for a great series, but a slow start. Many viewers see a couple of episodes and give up, assuming the show won't go anywhere.

The FX can be distracting as well. It was aired when HD was being talked about, so the episodes were filmed in wide-screen, but the FX shots were rendered for non-HD TV and then the master data files were lost in a fire, so if you see it in HD the special effects look even more cheesy than they should, given that they were created at the dawn of the computer-rendered FX age. In addition to the purely FX shots like the exterior, the show pioneered a lot of the virtual set work that has taken over the industry. These scenes too had to be transferred over from the original broadcast masters, and could not be re-rendered. That being said, the graphics are phenomenal, given what they had to work with, and one of the draws of B5 for the "hard SF" crowd is that space combat is highly realistic. Spacecraft don't bank in B5, for example, they pivot and thrust the way they should.

First off, get over the FX and buy the first season on regular DVD or watch it online on WB's site with commercials (no, there's no Blu-Ray because to do that, they'd have to re-build every FX shot from scratch, costing millions of dollars). The guide below assumes you have at least the first season available.

I will avoid spoilers as much as I can, but I suggest keeping a bookmark to this post and not reading ahead too far as you watch the series. I'm going to walk you through the first two seasons, telling you which shows to watch and which to skip. I'll also give you a sense of when to wait a while before seeing the next. This part is important, so try to stick with me, here.

My Low Carb Diet in Detail

As I've mentioned, before, I came dangerously close to gaining enough weight that I'd be back where I was before my first low-carb diet (which lasted about 2 years and helped me lose about 50 pounds). I was back to 250 pounds and feeling terrible. I had to use a CPAP machine again, and that was compounding how bad I felt.

So, I gave up. Thanks to Jeff's help, I've managed to get my life back into a low-carb routine. Now, because I find most low-carb diets horrifying, I think it would be useful for me to go over my diet. It's really this simple:

  1. Avoid all sources of mass starch and sugar (pasta, potatoes, grains and rice, sugar, honey, etc.)
  2. Reduce intake of high carb veggies (sweet fruit, non-potato root veggies like carrots, tomatoes, squashes, etc.)
  3. Trim intake of medium carb veggies (beans and other legumes, etc.)
  4. Reduce milk and juice intake (substitute cream or cheese where possible for whole or skim milk)
  5. Increase fiber intake (fiber supplements, use Fiber One as a garnish, etc.)
  6. Reduce or eliminate high-surgar alcoholic drinks like wine, beer and most mixed drinks.