Babylon 5 and Captain Power
September 28, 2015
If I may indulge in a little TV literary analysis. I think I mentioned I’m rewatching Babylon 5. I’m about halfway through season 2. I might also have mentioned that one of my favorite TV shows of all time is Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, an obscure one-season wonder kids show from the 80’s. I was fourteen when it aired, and the show had a huge impact on me creatively.
I mentioned this because the story editor and head writer of Captain Power was J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5. I make an argument that Captain Power was something of a dry run for Babylon 5 — maybe not intentionally or consciously, but you can see Straczynski trying out ideas that would come to fruition in B5: an ongoing science fictional storyline with a plot that builds from episode to episode, an ensemble cast of close-knit characters who all have rich and diverse backstories. An ethos that values peace over war and is continually determined to show the destructive cost of warfare. It’s unusual to be able to track common literary impulses of a single creator across TV shows and/or movies because they’re usually so collaborative, but I think this is one example where it’s possible. (Another is Joss Whedon and his talent for writing stories about broken people coming together into emotionally close-knit teams, and his reliance on impalement as a plot device.)
Then there are moments where the ties between the two shows are a lot more obvious. Like how both shows have ultraviolet clearances, and how CP character Tank comes from a genetic engineering program called Babylon 5.
And then I’m watching B 5 and suddenly think, “Wait a minute, that scene looks really familiar.” Which leads to this:
This is destroyed San Diego from B5 Season 2 Ep. 6, “Spider in the Web:”
This is destroyed San Francisco from Captain Power Ep. 1, “Shattered” (I tweaked the brightness a bit because the original was really dark):
And taking screen caps in order to do a side by side comparison may very well be the third nerdiest thing I’ve ever done.