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Babylon 5 and the Time Change

The annual recurrence of Daylight Saving Time prompted me to remember a story that took place years ago, on the weekend we went off Daylight Time and back onto Standard Time, and when the TV show Babylon 5 was first being broadcast.

If, like me, you were a fan of Babylon 5 from the beginning, you may recall that it was broadcast as part of the Warner Brothers PTEN network, meaning that whatever local channel in your area had chosen to sign on had the rights to broadcast the show. But it also meant that, unlike network shows that were supposed to be shown at precise times and days (such as, say, every Monday at 8 pm), Babylon 5 could be shown by each channel whenever it wanted to within the week of broadcast.

In October 1996, my main source for the show was channel 50 out of New Hampshire, which at the time was an independent station with the call letters WNDS. Channel 50 did a pretty good job of keeping the show on schedule, but there were times when the show got moved around to another slot. Fortunately, with the aid of a magazine called TV Guide that included print listings of television broadcast schedules, I was able to know when the show would be on. If the show was being broadcast at an inconvenient hour, such as in the middle of the night, I would set my VCR, a device that allowed me to record television shows onto a medium known as videotape, to watch later. (If I recall correctly, channel 50 showed a lot of local live sporting events, which is why their scheduling was often a bit flaky.)

The week that the B5 episode "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place" was supposed to be broadcast, there was no listing at all for the show. Concerned, I actually called up the station to find out what was going on. Fortunately for me, they were very understanding, although I did get the impression that I was the only viewer who had contacted them.

A staff member explained to me that due to the quirks in scheduling there was only one time slot during the whole week in which they were able to fit the episode. A movie was going to run until 3 am Sunday on Daylight time, and then, at 3 am, when they moved the clocks back, they were planning to squeeze in the Babylon 5 episode during the second 2 am of the night.

Basically, the episode was going to be shown during the extra hour of the night that didn't really exist. Somewhat appropriate for a show like B5...

This also explained why the episode wasn't listed on the schedules. TV Guide didn't bother printing what the stations had planned for the second 2 am of the night, probably because most people wouldn't care. But given the TV show I was chasing around the airwaves, I did care.

That evening, I set the VCR timer to record channel 54 from 3 am to 4 am EDT (which by that point would be 2am to 3 am EST), and I hoped that the staff member had been correct. When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was run to the TV and VCR, and I confirmed that the episode had recorded successfully, along with a lot of the, um, interesting advertisements that were broadcast during the early morning hours.

I told this story at science fiction conventions for many years, and it usually got a laugh. I do sometimes wonder if any other New England fans found themselves confused when the next episodes were broadcast, as this particular one included some rather vital plot points for the show's arc.


Wow, what a great story! Ours moved around some too, as I recall, but never into that particular slot. :-)

(But wait, you were a fan from the beginning but you weren't tied into the tape tree from the UK when they got episodes months before we did?)
Alas, I was not plugged into the UK tape tree.
Boston fandom failed you. :-(
I had moved to Massachusetts by then. I remember just telling my VCR to tape from 1:30 to 5AM. And putting in a fresh tape. I usually recorded B5 at higher resolution, but the tradeoff was worth it that time.
Very cute!
Great story and as I recall a great episode! I remember pten :).

I tried watching a couple episodes at some early point and didn't like it, but I became a regular watcher sometime during the second season reruns I think and then became addicted :).

What channel?

Are you sure it was Channel 50? I remember it being on 56, and since I've never gotten 50 very well, I don't think I could have watched it there, and I know I watched it for the original run.

Although... I do remember that for some reason I wasn't able to watch the 5th season easily, though I can't quite remember why. It might have been because it had been moved to Fri night, or maybe because that season was on channel 50 and I couldn't get it.

Re: What channel?

Channel 50 was on channel 56 on our cable box, gnomi recalled. Perhaps that's what you're thinking of?

The fifth season was on TNT only, so without cable you couldn't watch it.

Re: What channel?

No, I'm pretty sure we didn't have cable anymore by that time, and although our rooftop antenna could get some NH stations, we never could get 50.

http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/resources/online.html seems to indicate that it was on channel 38, so it looks like we were both wrong. Or, it could be that it was on 50 as well as 38.

Confirmed, it was on both. See https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!search/babylon$205$20boston/rec.arts.startrek.current/RJPc8pIz3rY/KD_d3SyxBkYJ where someone complains about Ch. 38 pre-empting it because of sporting events, and so he decides to watch it on 50 instead.

Interestingly, one of the times I taped the show, I had taped over a previous recording that had a commercial for Ch. 38's Red Sox broadcasts, and a bit of that commercial remained on the tape. So the recording showed scenes from Fenway Park, and then immediately went into the B5 episode that starts with Sheridan and Garibaldi working out in a batting cage! I wish I could find that tape!

Edited at 2013-03-13 12:44 am (UTC)
The episode in question really ought to have been "The Hour of the Wolf".


December 2016

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