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BEHIND THE SCENES / ORANGE COUNTY

Babylonians' Party of '5'

March 06, 1997

Three hundred loyalists attended a convention this weekend at the Holiday Inn-Costa Mesa dressed as their favorite characters. They spent hours eyeing the trading cards, games and comic books devoted to the TV show they're nuts about. They happily renewed their fan club memberships.

Trekkers? Not this time.

These were enthusiasts of "Babylon 5," one of the many series inspired by the venerable "Star Trek."

Although "Star Trek" has been a sci-fi hit for more than three decades, "B5" has been in syndication only four years. And although more than $1 billion in Trek stuff has been sold, Babylon is just getting started.

But give the upstart some time. Newsweek magazine predicted in November that "B5" is on the verge of "overtaking 'Star Trek' in the hearts and minds of space adventure devotees."

Take that, Capt. Kirk.

Or, as "Babylon 5" fans might say: "Hey, Capt. Sheridan rules!"

To celebrate the success of the show, fans gathered at AgamemCon, a "Babylon 5" and science-fiction convention Friday through Sunday.

Many of the exhibits were open 24 hours. The Video Room flickered nonstop, and in the Gaming Room, demo games were the hit. Agents of Gaming gave fans a chance to check out "Babylon 5 Wars," the company's latest game.

Convention organizer Alec Orrock of Laguna Hills says he runs into a lot of people who "wouldn't consider themselves sci-fi fans but who do watch the show," which airs Thursdays on KCOP Channel 13 at 9 p.m. "They say it's not like the rest," he says.

How?

"It's entertaining and far more complex than other shows," Orrock says. "There are subtle historical and moral issues, but the biggest difference is that with the other shows, each episode is self-contained. You know that your main character will be alive at the end of the episode.

"In 'Babylon 5,' the story continues from episode to episode," he says. "Over the show's seasons, major characters have moved on, changed their role dramatically from evil character to good characters, and the plot has developed."

Apparently, this all adds up to big fun for devotees. Consider the convention's weapons policy, as printed in the program: "If you draw your mock PPG out of your holster and the Costa Mesa Police Dept. shoots you on sight, don't blame us."

* The Babylon 5 Fan Club has a Website: www.thestation.com

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