Anyways, I just finished watching Season Two and I have to say: fucking awesome. This show is amazing, and I'm told the next two seasons are even better. Y'all need to watch it.
So, it's a science fiction series from the 90s. First started airing in 94. Used CGI for a lot of special effects, although thankfully the creators knew when to use physical effects and sets. The CGI's good for the nineties, which makes it look rather dated today. This is compounded by some mastering issues when converting it to widescreen for Scifi Channel and later the DVDs, which resulted in some loss of image quality. But whatever.
The series begins in the year 2258, and...well, I'll just let the opening sequence for the first season do the talking in terms of premise (stop watching after the logo vanishes, or you'll get spoilered. It was the best I could find):
"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth/Minbari war. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call - home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5."
So basically, it's a space station, operated by Earth Force but located in neutral territory, where the members of different species can come together to resolve their issues peacefully, in an effort to avoid another devastating war like the one between Earth and the Minbari.
The five major powers in the galaxy are the Humans, the Minbari, the Narn, the Vorlons, and the Centauri. The Centauri were the first alien species we made contact with, and they sold up the jumpgate technology that makes intersteller travel possible. Although they look like us, we aren't related at all--despite Centauri claims to the contrary upon contact. They're a proud race of conquerors, with a once-mighty empire stretching across space. The Narns were once a species subjugated by them until they rebelled, threw off their masters and established their own presence in the galaxy. The two species are constantly at each other's throats, and war is always threatening to break out between them at any moment.
The Minbari are an advanced species, with a strictly stratified, caste-based society, with a very, very strong sense of honor. In the Earth-Minbari war, the Minbari were wiping the map with us until they suddenly (and mysteriously) surrendered.
And the Vorlons are a power above and beyond even the Minbari. Their advanced technology is at least a thousand years ahead of ours, and nobody wants to get on their bad side. Fortunately, they don't seem to be at all interested on getting on any side of anyone; They are secretive and insular, to the point where nobody even knows what they look like. All expeditions into Vorlon space have vanished; the Vorlons cite 'accidents' as the cause, and advise very strongly against sending any more.
In addition to these five major powers, there are also various species who make up the 'league of non-allied worlds'. These are vastly varied, and although they are not as powerful as the Human, Narn, Centauri, Minbari, or Vorlons, each has a voice at Babylon 5.
So the series deals with these five disparate groups as they deal with each other, and threats to the station and the surrounding space. The main cast is as follows:
Commander Jeffrey Sinclair
Commanding officer on Babylon 5, he is responsible for the station's operation and the security of the surrounding space, in addition to essentially functioning as Earth's ambassador. He only was on for the first season; they always intended to replace him, but he tested poorly with audiences, so they bumped that up ahead of schedule. And I can understand their point; he's not terrible or anything, and he can even be quite good, but his actor's range is pretty limited. When the scene calls for the tone he provides, he's great, but otherwise it doesn't work out so well. However, in Season Two, he's reassigned to be the ambassador to Minbar, and is replaced by...
Captain John Sheridan
A hero of the Earth/Minbari war, he won Earth's only real victory against the Minbari, by destroying the Minbari flagship with fusion mines. Naturally, this makes him a controversial choice for command of Babylon 5, which is partially funded by the Minbari. His actor is much better suited to this sort of role than Sinclair's was.
Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova
Second-in-command, Ivanova is known for her sharp temper, sarcastic manner and tendency to motivate through death threats. She gets stuff done, though, even if it takes hours and hours of extra work. She's the poster-woman for 'always on duty'.
Chief of Security Michael Garibaldi
He's the law in these parts, and you mess with him at your own risk. He's responsible for enforcing the rules and keeping the peace within the station, and he does it very well. Which isn't to say that he's a humorless hardass; quite the opposite. As long as you aren't doing anything wrong, he's quite friendly and is a bit of a joker. He's also a suspicious bastard, though, so you better really not be up to something.
Chief of Medical Staff Doctor Stephen Franklin
The local doctor. He's very conscientious about his work and does his best to help everybody in need of medical assistance. He also has a tendency to do things that frankly should get him fired--all in the patient's best interest, of course. Or at least, what he thinks is their best interest. Not always the same thing.
Commercial Telepath Talia Winters
Talia is the local representative of the Psi Corps, an earth organization to register and train telepaths found amongst the population (theoretically to protect everyone else from invasion of privacy). Commercial telepaths such as Talia sell their services to entities conducting business deals, typically involving a simple surface scan to ensure that all statements made in the course of the deal are true. Deep scans, delving into one's memories and thoughts beyond the surface noise, are forbidden by regulations, except under specific circumstances.
That's the humans. Now, here's some of the alien ambassadors:
Narn Ambassador G'kar and Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari
I put these two together because they are essentially a package deal. G'kar hates Londo. Londo hates G'kar. Around and around they go, shouting match after shouting match after horrible trick after horrible declaration of vendetta. Watching them hate each other is sort of amazing. And hilarious. Definitely hilarious.
Minbari Ambassador Delenn
Delenn is rather quiet and reclusive, although perhaps a better word would be 'perpetually dignified'. Of the four ambassadors, she is the one who tries the most to get along with the others, albeit in a somewhat haughty way. And there's more to her than meets the eye; she's involved in some rather spoiler-tastic backroom dealings that are seriously epic as they unfold.
Vorlon Ambassador Kosh
Kosh is as secretive as the rest of his species. Nobody knows what he looks like, within the Encounter Suit that he always wears. He rarely appears at council meetings, and when he does he usually remains silent. When he does speak, his words are cryptic and difficult to understand.
The series is episodic to a certain extent, but it's telling one big story over time, not just a series of short, unrelated stories. It also loves Chekhov's Gun, constantly bringing back plot points from earlier episodes in awesome fashion.
Also, the Starfuries. I love those little starfighters. Instead of just being JETS IN SPACE like most starfighters, they actually use drift physics in a realistic manner, often turning around to shoot behind them while their momentum keeps them moving.
Anyways, it's a fantastic series and I can't wait to watch some more. You should all watch it, too.