Geek Trivia

What Was The First TV Show To Use Computer Generated Models?

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Babylon 5
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Answer: Babylon 5

Babylon 5 was an American television show and sci-fi space opera set in the 23rd century. The show aired from 1993 to 1998 with a total of 110 episodes and six TV films. Babylon 5 was highly praised for its development of complex storylines that involved religious conflict, economic disputes, racial tension, and more, all woven together with excellent writing and character development.

Besides doing a service to the sci-fi television genre by demonstrating how mature and developed a sci-fi story could be, Babylon 5 also pioneered the use of computer-generated models in television.

The trend at the time was to use real-world models mocked up against various backdrops to create the illusion of things like space travel—the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, was simply a trio of large and well-done models of the ship hung in front of a screen. In Babylon 5, however, the space station (the nexus of the show’s many story arcs) and the ships that visited it were all rendered using computers.

In addition to using CGI as the primary method for its visual effects and being the first TV show to use virtual sets, it’s notable that the computer crew behind the models invested a significant amount of energy into creating computer models that followed the laws of physics so as to create a realistic experience for the viewer.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.