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I was a fan of B5 even before it premiered, back when JMS was on GEnie and dropping hints to us (in the form of posts saying nothing more than "Eep!") that his special project was green-lighted.

I'm re-watching B5 with my girlfriend now and she's frustrated with the first season. She feels like it's moving VERY slow and that it's taking a long time to develop the characters. I do remember that by the middle of season 2 (specifically "The Coming of Shadows") that all the characters were so strongly developed that their complexities showed.

But my girlfriend is not as patient with the slower development in the 1st season as I am (I know even JMS has acknowledged that he felt he moved too slowly in season 1 because he took too long to introduce everything).

With that in mind, it'd help a lot if, when re-watching this show with her, I could let her skip the episodes that aren't arc related and don't give us information that matters later on. There are some episodes I remember that were quite powerful (like "Believers") that I still want to show her, but I'd like to know which episodes she could skip so we can move through the 1st season faster.

So what 1st season episodes of Babylon 5 can be skipped without it hurting one's enjoyment of the show and the overall story arc?

  • 3
    If she doesn't like season 1, just wait until she learns that Gray 17 is Missing. – Jeff Oct 22 '11 at 23:07
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    Sometimes I wish Gray 17 is Missing was missing... – Tango Oct 23 '11 at 2:02
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    I think skipping episodes in an arc series is a bad idea - even if the episodes are not necessarily part of the arc. There is usually significant character development, and in most cases, there is still at least a thread of main arc through even the most tangential episodes. That said, Gray 17 is Missing is truly awful, and I feel sorry for Robert Englund. – HorusKol Oct 24 '11 at 7:24
  • @HorusKol: I'd love to include all episodes, but she's frustrated and what appeals to her in a show or movie is characterizations, but if the plot is intriguing enough, that will do. Unfortunately, something like the mystery of why Sinclair lost 24 hours and the Minbarri surrendered is not enough when she didn't see enough of Sinclair's character to care much about him in the first place. So I'm hoping skipping the ones that aren't part of the arc will make things move fast enough she'll develop an interest. If that works, we can go back and watch the others later. – Tango Oct 24 '11 at 14:00
  • but without Eyes, the B4 episodes make less sense... – HorusKol Oct 24 '11 at 21:39
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Ones that can be dropped are...

  • TKO
  • Grail
  • Eyes
  • Legacies

Those 4 really create a drag on the first season since they're grouped together and aren't all that good. There are some arc tidbits in each but may be better viewed after you get into the show.

Kind of middle of the road episodes, not essential though.

  • Infection
  • The Parliament of Dreams
  • War Prayer
  • By Any Means Necessary
  • Born to the Purple

Really good episodes but not arc essential

  • Deathwalker
  • Believers

Story Arc essential ones

  • Midnight on the Firing Line
  • Soul Hunter
  • And the Sky Full of Stars
  • Survivors
  • Signs and Portents
  • A Voice in the Wilderness
  • Babylon Squared
  • The Quality of Mercy
  • Chrysalis
  • Just watch the Story Arc essential episodes and move on to season 2. That's what I did and you won't miss much and it will greatly increase your enjoyment of the series. – Mark S. Oct 23 '11 at 4:04
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    @aramis - Yes, all of them, even the less than good episodes, have various bits of arc and character development in them that will be important later on. For example, Adira in Born to the Purple drives Londo in a certain direction later. TKO also does some foreshadowing and develops Ivanova. That said, the first season has its slow spots as compared to the fast pace of 2-4. – jfrankcarr Oct 26 '11 at 2:03
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    Born to the Purple is one of my favorite season 1 episodes. It's an excellent character study. – aramis Oct 26 '11 at 6:05
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    I'd actually consider Born to the Purple an arc-essential episode; it tells us so much that will matter later about Londo. – Tynam Apr 19 '12 at 10:46
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    Mind War is missing from this answer. I think it ought to be arc-essential episode given that it's the first appearance of Bester and Catherine's expedition has the first clues that there are "things we don't understand" out there. Plus The Lurker's Guide calls it a "WHAM!" episode that advances the storyline. – Thunderforge Aug 3 '14 at 1:52
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I'd broadly agree with jrankcarr's list, but it might be useful to know that The Lurker's Guide has an episode list where the "WHAM!" episodes are highlighted in bold.

For season 1, they are:

Personally, I would definitely add "Survivors" (1x11) and "Soul Hunter" (1x02) to that list. And I too have a soft spot for "Born to the Purple" (1x03).

I remember there being a B5 marathon at Cambridge University and them posting their episode list to umtsb5 back when I was at uni (not at Cambridge), but I can't find the post. I did find this post (dated 1996), though, which suggests:

Both of those lists, obviously, also provide suggestions for episodes to catch in the later series, as well, though the umtsb5 list predates the end of season 3.

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