Babylon 5 was a ground-breaking TV show in many ways — but a couple of episodes, in particular, stand out as especially influential on television as a whole. When we were preparing yesterday's roundup of the 10 TV episodes that changed television, we wanted to include an episode of Babylon 5, so we consulted Babylon 5 expert (and io9 contributor) Jason Shankel.
Sadly, he got back to us after the article had already gone up. But here's what Jason told us:
My first pick is "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars." This episode shows events in the Babylon 5 universe 100, 500, 1000 and one million years after the show. Babylon 5 was a, if not the, harbinger series for long-form storytelling on television and this episode gives us a little peek behind the curtain to reveal how the long form takes its shape. Alan Ball used a similar device for the conclusion of Six Feet Under, showing how all the main characters eventually die.
My second pick is "War Without End" and its companion episode "Babylon Squared." The major story arc of Babylon 5 depends on time travel. Contemporary characters travel back in time 1000 years to defeat the Shadows in the previous war. Straczynski, knowing that time travel is a well-worn trope and wanting these episodes to have maximum impact, never allowed time travel to be used anywhere else in the series. Avoiding easy devices in order to preserve the overall integrity of a series is something we see today in shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad.