Babylon 5’s Jerry Doyle dies aged 60

b5jerryIts getting so I’m almost afraid to look at the news these days.

Well, mark this as another reason why this year seems particularly horrible. The actor Jerry Doyle, who played the space station’s flawed security chief Michael Garibaldi, has died at the age of 60. The show’s creator  J.Michael Straczynski has posted a moving tribute  regards Jerry’s passing, noting that “…Of the main cast, we have lost Richard Biggs, Michael O’Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, and now Jerry Doyle, and I’m goddamned tired of it.” 

Jerry’s Michael Garibaldi was a refreshingly realistic character for a science fiction show; he came across as a no-nonsense, working-class guy just doing his job the best he could, with his some interesting character flaws and backstory which developed over the show’s five seasons. At a time when most tv science-fiction featured idealistic characters in utopian futures (dominated of course by Star Trek), Babylon 5 and its characters with individual arcs that changed over the length of the show was such a radical thing, it’s hard to describe its impact back then with the changed tv landscape we experience and take for granted now. Certainly Garibaldi was one of my favourite B5 characters; a little overweight, balding, suffering from drink problems… he seemed to be a ‘real’ guy in a genre dominated by tall, handsome, muscular heroes who always got the women and saved the day. Garibaldi was just doing his job and he didn’t get everything right- he could be a bit of a jerk as much as a hero; indeed in the latter seasons he was frankly a bit of an asshole.

Jerry didn’t have a ‘traditional’ acting background; he moved into acting fairly late, following a career as a pilot in civil aviation and a stint as a Stockbroker on Wall Street. I think his life experiences informed his acting and gave added depth/life to his character. I’ll certainly never forget Garibaldi. Post-Babylon 5 Jerry turned into politics and ran for office in the US House of Representatives as a Republican candidate but failed in his campaign, later having success on a national talk-radio show.

Its funny,thinking about it, the way the world is now, Babylon 5 is more valid and topical than it ever was, with its varied alien races seeking to exist in harmony in the face of interplanetary war, and its ensuing refugee crises and far-right political machinations. It all seems so familiar to the world we live in today. While I don’t think we need a reboot, I thinks its past time Warners remastered the show with updated CGI effects and re-released it to current audiences who might have missed it (the original effects files are long-lost and the show can’t be properly aired in widescreen or HD without replaced effects) .

Well, its a lousy reason to dust-off my Babylon 5 DVDs but I think I shall watch an episode tonight. Here’s to you, Jerry Doyle.

4 thoughts on “Babylon 5’s Jerry Doyle dies aged 60

  1. I watched the first season of B5 years ago (long after it ended, but also a long time ago now), and didn’t really give it its due in terms of the attention I paid it. I keep meaning to give it another go round, because I’m sure it’s worth it.

    Anyway, maybe it isn’t true statistically, but the cast seem to have terrible misfortune with dying relatively young.

    1. Matthew McKinnon

      I did watch most of it at the time – I think I came aboard at the end of the first season and saw it through to the end.
      I remember it being really really good, and I’m not generally that kind to… well, anything really. It had amazing, exciting arcs and some incredibly emotive peaks.
      I haven’t revisited it since because I’m 45 and life’s literally too short, but I suspect maybe the FX are a bit dated, but the drama would still be as strong.

      1. God, yes, I watch some of it once in awhile and it looks pretty terrible now, in all honesty, but back then I absolutely adored it. It broke such new ground with its grand space opera and cgi fx and pounding synth score. The technical issues of losing the original cgi files has caused it all sorts of legacy problems- it was shown in 4:3 but shot in widescreen, but can’t be released in widescreen now because the only cg files are 4:3 and look terrible upscanned to 16:9. The DVDs are awful-looking really. But yes the drama is great. The shows needs a new remaster with rebuilt fx but it’ll never happen.

        I have such fond memories of the show though, and its always sad to hear of members of the cast passing away.

      2. I was going to say the exact same thing about the ‘conversion’ of the CGI. I get that it was shot with widescreen in mind and they wanted to put that on the DVD, but it just makes all the effects look even worse (particularly any live-action shot with effects in it).

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