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"Babylon 5" on TNT.

By Devin D. O'Leary

JANUARY 5, 1998:  Ted Turner's TNT network, never exactly known for its candy-ass tactics, has made another bold move. TNT has bought the entire rights to the syndicated sci-fi hit "Babylon 5." Starting in January, TNT will be the sole home for "Babylon 5" reruns, a brand new fifth season of "Babylon 5" and the spanking new "Babylon 5" movie. It's enough to make a fanboy weep.

Novelist, story editor and producer J. Michael Straczynski has been the driving force behind "Babylon 5" since its inception four seasons ago. Straczynski (known for his work on such diverse shows as "Murder, She Wrote" and "The Real Ghostbusters") says that, from the beginning, "Babylon 5" was conceived as a complete five-season story arc. The upcoming fifth season will, apparently, be the last. If you're a fawning fanboy or a giggling geek girl, such news is both blessing and curse. If you've never bothered to watch the show before, then this may be a good opportunity to jump on board.

"Babylon 5" tells the story of a massive, self-sufficient space station that serves to bring together representatives from various races, both human and alien, to resolve their differences peacefully. Unfortunately, the political climate has deteriorated, and Earth's government is buckling under far-reaching corruption. Fortunately, that means there's a lot more warfare going on than there is diplomacy. Bruce Boxleitner stars as Interstellar Alliance President John Sheridan, but the show's rotating ensemble cast includes Tracy Scoggins as the captain of Babylon 5, Patricia Tallman as a resident telepath and Billy Mumy as an alien ranger.

Unlike its counterpart "Star Trek," "Babylon 5" tends toward more "hard" science fiction. The storytelling, plotlines and characterization are all dense and tightly interwoven. "Babylon 5" doesn't deal in simple one-hour allegories. For that reason, the show isn't particularly conducive to neophytes. Those used to plowing through stacks of science fiction novels will feel at home here. Those who get their only space fix from the occasional "Jetsons" episode will likely be left in the dust.

Babylon 5: In the Beginning is a two-hour prequel movie chronicling the story of the human/alien war which led to the creation of Babylon 5. Like the series, it features lots of computer-generated special effects--some of which are effective, most of which make me want to reach for a joystick and a "fire" button. The show's original cast has returned, though, which is a nice little bonus for longtime fans.

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