How is Babylon 5 perceived as a sci-fi series?
I am very biased - I think Babylon 5 is the best show ever produced for TV, no matter the genre.
I find my stance is more common among science fiction book fans than science fiction movie fans. That's interesting to me. People who like Babylon 5 best focus on story line and social commentary. Babylon 5 came out near the end of the Cold War before it was well known there would be a new battle of religious fundamentalism against secularism. In the end Babylon 5 was about getting out from under empires.
People who object to Babylon 5 tend to mention special effects or costumes. SF book people aren't interested in special effects or costumes. We always made those up in our heads anyways.
People who object to Babylon 5 tend to mention the involved story line. To me that was always its appeal. We start out like we're on a diplomatic mission between Attilla the Hun and the late Roman Empire but we can't quite tell who is who. Then the characters gradually evolve into something like a contest between non-US NATO and non-Soviet-Union Warsaw Pact. Then the story goes zoom off in a random direction. That's book SF stuff not movie SF stuff.
I always liked comic books and there movies. I knew from the pilot that Babylon 5 was not like that. I always liked space opera and Star Wars. I knew from the pilot that Babylon 5 was not like that either. I always like the episodic Twilight Zone and Star Trek. It took going to the rumor mill to know Babylon 5 was not going to be like that.
Babylon 5 was more like Foundation or Dune than like anything else made either as movies or TV.
Most hard-core fans of scifi (and all of the ones I've ever known) acknowledge that it was really good for the time/place that produced it. Sure, a story-telling device can't be judged on the FX alone, but in a visual medium, FX count and they are incredibly dated. The story is very melodramatic and frequently wandered waaaaay too far into "campy" territory. Still, it was good. I remember loving it passionately.
The singular mystery of the series (the nature of the ages-old conflict between the Vorlons and the Shadows) was a nice device for story-telling ... until it wasn't. Once it was revealed that the story was less about good v. evil, but different styles of promoting growth and development, it did make sense but was a skosh anti-climactic. That is: existential fights usually end in the victor neutralizing, if not eliminating, the defeated. This explains why the Vorlons didn't just wipe out the Shadows - they simply were trying to win an argument, one which never truly threatened them, not win a battle of survival.
I've attempted to rewatch it a few times since then and found it lacking. It's very hard to appreciate how "okay" the FX were back then but how terrible they are today. So, every time an outer space scene was shown, I couldn't stop rolling my eyes. Maybe a remake is in order. Even better, maybe someone could just go back and re-master the FX.