These are my favourite television shows... And also a rather cute cartoon...

Babylon 5

Link to Lurker's Guide

The Lurker's Guide

The Australian mirror of the Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5

Link to Babylon 5 UK page

Babylon 5 UK page

A very comprehensive list of Babylon 5 links, United Kingdom based.

What's so great about Babylon 5?

Babylon 5 is a five season science fiction series (all five seasons have been shown in Australia. Many video stores have at least SOME episodes available) with an epic scope. Characters don't live forever, they are actually written out of the script and the central conflict of the entire series does have a resolution.

The basic story was (and still is?) of good versus evil. Not terribly original, no different from 'Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien in that respect, but that doesn't detract too much from the strong character stories and observations of a society under strain.

In Babylon 5, like other science fiction television shows, humans are central to the plot. Unlike other science fiction shows, humans are certainly not the most powerful beings that regularly appear on the show.

As mentioned before, the character stories are strong. Characters do change during the course of the seasons. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to know if characters are on the 'good' side or 'bad' side at times. Unlike Star Trek, the 'good guys' are not just-about-perfect know-it-all goodie-two-shoes. Babylon 5 does not resort to re-inversion of the phase modulators to save planets, and time travel has been used only once in three seasons.

From a philosophical viewpoint, I somewhat dislike Star Trek's humanistic belief that human society will be perfect, without any money, in the future. Actually, this is eventually becomes the official Earth Government line in Babylon 5, but that is another story!

I also appreciate the writers' sensitive stance towards belief systems, they accept and do not ridicule current world religions (yet, I hope it stays that way) - all of which are apparantly flourishing in the future. This is somewhat remarkable, given the producer's stated belief in atheism.

That is not to say that Babylon 5 characters are moral in the Moral Majority sense. However, the fact that certain characters might be bisexual is just part of the narrative. The issue has not become the focus of entire episodes, such as has happened on Star Trek.

And, of course, there are the computer graphics! Blows the socks off anything that appears in the Star Wars trilogy (even the re-made version), let alone Star Trek. Incidental note, initially multiply networked Amigas were used to generate the graphics. However, NewTek eventually ported the 'Lightwave' software to Sun stations and Windows NT, and that is what is used to create the computer graphics now.

A small number of `spin-off' made-for-television movies have been made. A `spin-off' series by the name of `Crusade' has also been filmed, but only thirteen episodes (all episodes have now been shown in Australia, some episodes are available in video stores).

Evangelion

Link to Evangelion Library site

Neon Genesis Evangelion Library

Part of the much larger Anime Info web-site. Explains why Neon Genesis is such an intrigueing series. Even explains how Neon Genesis is in some ways like Babylon 5!

A thoughtful introspective cartoon...

Evangelion is one of the greatest cartoon series every made, and ranks as my personal favourite. This Japanese made cartoon does have its inherent defects. It portrays the typical sexist attitude pervasive in many Japanese anime (animated cartoons) and manga (cartoon strips), although it is not as bad as some of the anime screened on public television in Australia. I suspect some of the anime NOT shown in Australia are considerably worse! At least Neon Genesis's creators are a little self-conscious about this issue, and poke some fun at the way they and other anime have strayed from reality.

(Those who would prefer to see a much more 'family friendly' anime, please see the 'Totoro' section below.)

Evangelion also seems to advocate a jumbled philosophy which would not be out of place in a suicide cult (Sarin gas, anyone?) There is considerable reference to a Buddhism and a rather gnostic (hidden truth) form of Judaeo-Christianity.

Nevertheless, for a cartoon, it does ask big questions. What does it mean to be human? to be alive? why do soldiers fight? what is humanity's place in the universe?

Evangelion contains plenty of surprises during the series. It starts as what seems a fairly routine violent and bloody conflict with some father-son relationship problems thrown in. It later develops a conspiracy/mystery plot while at the same time exploring the still evolving psyche of its characters.

Much of the artwork is quite beautiful. The cartoon often `lingers' on a single emotion scene/shot in a way which could either be considered poignant or cheap, depending on your point of view.

Evangelion was screened twice on Australian public television. The whole series, twenty-six episodes, is also available in most Australian video stores. All these episodes have been 'dubbed' into English. Of course, cartoons are dubbed rather more seamlessly than live-action movies! At the time of writing, the two Neon Genesis movies were not available in Australia.

SBS, who broadcasted Neon Genesis in Australia, had hoped that the `South Park' audience would also like Neon Genesis. They were proven sadly wrong, and Evangelion did not live up to SBS's rating hopes. The two cartoons are rather different forms of entertainment!


My Neighbour Totoro

Still picture from 'My Neighbour Totoro'

For those who would like a totally family friendly introduction to anime, I can heartily recommend My Neighbour Totoro, currently available in English dub from Fox studies, but soon to be re-dubbed and re-released by Disney. Most of Studio Ghibli's animated features are suitable for all ages, Disney has of course already re-dubbed 'Spirited Away'.

A handy Anime review and 'offensiveness rating' web-site is Anime Cafe. Oh, My Neighbour Totoro does have a 'G(eneral)' rating! By contrast, Neon Genesis has a 'M(ature)' rating. 'Spirited Away' has no rating, but I would personally rate it PGR (Parental Guidance Recommended), due to scenes which could be seen as scary, unkind or even a little violent. My Neighbour Totoro is much more sensitive, its two main protagonists are pre-school and senior primary school age. The title character is a big furry, but rather cuddly!, monster.

In fact, the opening title of 'My Neighbour Totoro' is so upbeat and cheerful that I found it a struggle to stay and watch the rest of the movie! Nevertheless, its beautiful depiction of an idyllic countryside provides a lovely backdrop to a story which is not 'multi-layered' or 'knowing/self-conscious', but is still entirely enjoyable by both adults and children.

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Last modified 10th April 2004.