(New information...updated on 11/11/04...I kid you not) The Babylon-5 project started as a dream, both in reality and in fiction. It was to be the first science fiction television show planned out 100% ahead of time, with a beginning, middle and an end. In November of 1998, it completed its run of five years with the episode Sleeping in Light. It was not an easy journey. So many things got in the way of production. Those that watched the series from day one, followed the rumors, and participated in the struggle to keep B5 on the air, know that not all things ended up the way they were supposed to. Those newcomers to the B5 story (fans at the start of season two or later) may not know the intricacies of what Babylon-5 was meant to be and what Babylon-5 became. This website is meant to be a permanent monument to the Babylon-5 that, in all probability, is lost forever.
Some discussions here are speculative and are personal opinion.
I encourage all to make their own decisions about the topics discussed.
My name is William Piniarski. I am a science
fiction writer myself, and know some of the things the writer of the
B5 saga, JMS, might have went through in the process of creating and maintaining
B5. He did a great job making the series and striving to make sure
it stayed on the air. However, as the writer and producer of B5,
he is restrained from talking about some things for the good of the series
future. I can understand that. I might do the same thing in
his place. Please note that there are a lot of spoilers below.
You should not read the following unless you have seen the entire 5 year
Commander Jeffrey Sinclair - THE DEPARTURE
Many just getting accustomed to the B5 story have asked one question over and over again: Why did Michael O'Hare leave the series after season one? Most assume, surprisingly, that he quit. Michael did NOT quit. I want that to be 100% part of the record. The short of it is, the powers that be at PTEN (B5's home for the first 4 years) wanted a stronger leading man, so he was quietly forced out. Michael O'Hare is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He lives in the east coast and ever since leaving the series he has always had glowing things to say about B5. He always wanted the project to succeed, which is what makes his departure from the series so sad.
A lot of people, years later, have noticed how good of an actor he was in season one. Unfortunately he is not a run of the mill actor. He has certain mannerisms that you have to get used to. Unfortunately the powers at PTEN didn't take the time to get used to him. It just so happened that these mannerisms were the exact ones that the character Sinclair was supposed to have. But they were misunderstood by the powers that be (and some early fans) as inadequate acting. That was a shame.
At the time of O'Hare's departure many rumors flew around. Most
were untrue, and in fact, the whole truth is not known. From JMS
and production, it was said that Sinclair's part was to grow smaller in
season two, and because of this JMS and O'Hare mutually decided that he
should go. However, it is not that simple. A character just
can't exit from the B5 universe. JMS had everything planned and now
his lead character was taken out of the mixture. This was an event
that would change B5 forever. Some aspects of the original story
arc were preserved, but it is apparent that a lot was warped.
It is my personal opinion that JMS was faced with a decision at the end of season one, forced on him by PTEN (or possible Warner Bros): Get rid of O'Hare or B5 would be canceled. Not a choice I would like to make.
Sinclair - WHAT WAS IS NO MORE
There are tons of things that confirm the belief that Sinclair was supposed
to be the main character in B5 for the full five year run. This has
been denied over and over again for the good of the series obviously, but
there is just no avoiding the truth. A lot of the things that happened
to Sheridan would have happened to Sinclair.
Some clues are major. In season one, it was established that Sinclair had a girlfriend, Catherine Sakai, who worked for an earth company that surveyed planets. Now, to those who know anything about Zahadum, this should be the biggest give-a-way. Things were put into motion here for Sakai to go to Zahadum, instead of Sheriden's wife (who just happened to have the same job as Sinclair's girlfriend). Sinclair would then follow, and die, etc. It should be noted that in the final episode of season one Sinclair and Sakai were planning to be married. This would then set the stage dramatically for her disappearance which would launch Sinclair on a quest to eventually find her at Zahadum. This original scenario would have been much more dramatic then the "forced" quest that we discovered Sheriden was one suddenly by him running in to Morden by accident.
There are also indications that Sinclair would have married Delenn. Late in season one, the relationship between the two was beginning to grow. They spent more time in scenes alone, preludes to romance. Sinclair talked and acted like a Minbari, thus he would be a perfect person for her to be attracted to. And most importantly, in BABYLON SQUARED there was a key moment at the end when Delenn touched Sinclair gently and whispered to him in a loving voice. Later on, when the story was altered for Sheriden, this occurrence was slightly altered in WAR WITHOUT END PART TWO so that the scene did not appear as romantic.
(11/04 Update) While browsing the web I ran into an interesting news thread from 2002. It was a long discussion related to this site (here is the archive of it) and why I made it. I was happy to see the majority of people defend the site (my typos aside). It is definitely out of love to this show and not for any other reason. In any event, a poster mentions a good point about the severe aging of Sinclair in WAR WITHOUT END. In that episode JMS wrote that the aging was related to going back to B4 a second time. This was a convenient way of explaining severe graying hair on Sinclair in BABYLON SQUARED and makes perfect writing sense. However, it is more likely that the aging seen in BABYLON SQUARED was due to the fact that Sinclair should have already returned from Zahadum reborn. We see in the final two seasons of B5 a very aged Sheridan. More indirectly though, there is the situation with Garabaldi which I think is the best clue on this new angle. He was essentially totally written out of WAR WITHOUT END because of the need to explain the aging. I know I myself would have let him interact with Sinclair as much as possible because their interpersonal dynamic is just great writing.
And that leads me to some new further analysis on time travel which is a sticky subject to me. I feel it is a writing crutch and you can tell very bad writers from very good ones by how they tackle it. Because time travel, when used incorrectly, can be used to solve any writing block in any way you want instead of taking the time to write it correctly. When you overuse it, it ruins science fiction. For instance, although many of my collegues have argued me on this point, you can't use time travel as an ends to a means. Star Trek Voyager for instance was resolved and ended with time travel, even though the series had nothing to do with it. This is an example of bad writing.
Unlike other science fiction series that waver with time travel rules, JMS was very specific and smart with his time travel leaps with Babylon-5. He is a very good writer. Every scene you see related to the future or prophecy is used again in some form or at least explained, except one. Prophecy is very important to the B5 universe. During season one there is a flash forward of Garabaldi and Sinclair battling something about to come through into the station. This scene was never resolved in the series and that is very odd. JMS does not allow time travel or leaps for no reason. It is part of his writing code. Period. We can assume without doubt that what was coming through was either the shadows or President Clark's invasion force. Of course, because Sinclair was removed from the series, we will never know. My theory on this though, and this is a guess to be sure, is that scene was supposed to be resolved when Garabaldi visited the B4 vortex in WAR WITHOUT END PART ONE and heard Ivanava's voice saying "they are coming through". Chances are, if things were left as they were in the story arc, Garabaldi would have experienced a replay of that older scene with him and Sinclair instead. It fits like a puzzle piece.
Next is Sinclair's scar which also appears in SQUARED AND WWEnd. To be sure if you are to deface an actor you better do it at the end of a series run, purely for esthetic reasons. You're not gonna have anyone carry around a scar like that for half a season, unless it specifically means something like the loss of an eyeball, ahem. This is another shining clue that WWEnd was to be at the very end of the series. Another writing hickup to be sure is that the scar was never explained. And to speculate on how he got it originally and how he got it in the new arc would be fun indeed.
Sinclair - THE END
It is very likely that the events depicted in WAR WITHOUT END would
have occurred much deeper in the series than they did,
perhaps as part of the final season or final episodes of the series.
Death of the main character was always supposed to occur in a weird way
so he would be revered by those that followed. It was likely that
Sinclair wouldn't have actually died at all. At the end of the series
he would have became Valen.
This may be hinted to with one of the most important lines in B5 lore, that survived the changes. It is a Vorlon riddle said to Sheriden in the DAY OF THE DEAD: "At the End, Go To The Beginning." With the Sinclair-Valen scenario this riddle makes even more since. Note: a version of this is also told around Sinclair during WAR WITHOUT END PART ONE!
On a side note, it has been heavily criticized that the Great Machine, introduced in VOICES, was not used much in the last few seasons. It was hailed as a huge weapon and a point of focus for the series. However, it wasn't used much at the end, which is why many fans now call it the Not-So-Great Machine. This fact seems to support that in the original story design the Great Machine's primary time travel role was supposed to occur toward the end of the five years instead of early on. Once again, we see that some form of the events seen in WAR WITHOUT END are better placed at the end of the five years.
Sinclair and Sheriden - SYMMETRIES
Ever notice their initials? Think about it. Then, think about the initials of the writer of B5. Perhaps to JMS this was a way to tell the fans that something was wrong and to remember the past, because he was not going to be able to show us his true vision.
Not the One - NOT THE ONE WHAT?
I feel the way WAR WITHOUT END was rewritten to include Sheriden was
pretty incredible. Its obvious to me that things are not what they
were supposed to be, but yet it all fits together nice and snug, which
is a testament to just how good JMS is at writing. I mean, this is
some major stuff that he had to rewrite and he made it look and feel good...wonderful.
The most impressive example is the ONE WHO WAS, ONE WHO IS, ONE WHO WILL BE line. This triad, compared with the Minbari cast system, pulled the altered story together wonderfully. I mean watch BABYLON SQUARED and then WAR WITHOUT END and think about this whole ONE deal, and then tell me that your brain doesn't explode. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and makes perfect sense.
Its obvious that JMS treated the Sinclair character with a lot of respect
in WAR WITHOUT END. Even if the original plan for the character was
not going to be completely restores, he tried very hard to make Sinclair
a key part of the overall story. He did succeed in this respect.
Its funny, some of the same people who wanted O'Hare gone after season
one were calling for him to appear more in the series after WAR.
They finally got it...too bad it was too late.
Delenn - INCEST?
The way the story ended, Delenn was a direct descendant of Valen, who as we found out in WAR WITHOUT END was Sinclair. But, if as stipulated above, the original story had Sinclair getting involved with Delenn (as everything seems to suggest) then on a parallel level we've got a little bit of inbreeding going on here. So who is Delenn really, Sinclair's great granddaughter or his wife...you be the judge.
Talia and Lyta - THE TELEPATHS
This series of cast changes may have confused the story line a bit, but in the end worked out probably how JMS had intended...although a but of luck did enter into it.
As many people do not know, Lyta was the original telepath on B5. She appeared in the pilot movie THE GATHERING, and played a pivotal role. From the beginning she was linked to Kosh. The B5 story line required that something happen to the main telepath to give her extraordinary powers. This need was put into motion with the Lyta-Kosh relationship right off the bat.
When the show went into series production a new actor was hired and
Talia Winters became the B5 telepath. Now there was a writing problem:
to finish the story Talia had to get super-powers. So, low and behold,
she aquired these powers from a rogue telepath who suddenly ascends beyond
his physical form. So, that writing problem is solved!
But then, as luck would have it, problems arose. It has never been disclosed exactly why, but in season three Andrea Thompson, the actress, left the cast. There are rumors that she wanted to quit and those that suggest she was forced out. She was formerly married to Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi) before she left, so it can be assumed that stress in their marriage "might" have played a role in her departure. But, in any event, she was gone.
Then steps in Lyta Alexander again, who was being reintroduced (since October 2nd 1995 in DIVIDED LOYALTIES) into the cast slowly anyway in what I feel was one of JMS's best casting moves in the series. Very interesting that she was being re-introduced just before things fell out with Andrea Thompson! In any event, this swap suddenly brought the story line full circle, telepath wise, to where it was supposed to be. And, by a function of Lyta being gone so long, established her history with the Vorlons instantly with only a few lines! Thus, Vorlon influenced super-powers came into play...the way it was meant to be.
There is a small indication that Talia's relationship with Kosh may have grown deeper if Lyta wasn't re-introduced into the cast. In one early episode Kosh played pinball with her mind and stored some of her thoughts on a crystal. This was the first time Talia and Kosh had directly interacted in the series and even Sheriden and Garibaldi took special note of it. This was a key moment, at that point, in the story line. But, when Lyta came back that story thread was dropped like a rock.
Zack and Garibaldi - TELEPATH LOVE
There are even minor plot threads which were adjusted because of the telepath flip-flop. Garibaldi, from day one, had the hots for Talia. If Talia had played through her full five years it can be assumed that what happened to Zack, love wise, would have happened to Garibaldi instead.
When Lyta came back, it would have been odd to have Garibaldi go after her too. So, Zack was the man. Two security guys went after two telepath girls and both got the cold shoulder...coincidence...no.
Ivanova - JUMPING SHIP
Once season four was coming to a close it was all but certain that Babylon-5 was doomed. The cast held out, beyond their contracts in some instances, until the season five offer came around at the last second. Claudia also gave JMS and the rest of B5 a lot of leeway waiting. Her decision to leave the show was rumored to be based on the recommendation of her agent. And hell, if we were her agent we probably would have given her the same advice. So, Claudia deserves our respect just like the rest of the original cast, because she too held out to the end no matter what anyone else says about it. Initial backlash on the internet newsgroups was severe...a lot of people blamed JMS for her leaving, and a lot blamed Claudia. In retrospect it wasn't anyone's fault. However this incodent did drastically change how JMS dealt with fans on the internet. After this, he spent much less time responding to posts and e-mails and has publically stated that this will continue to be his new policy.
Fortunately, the last episode of B5 (Sleeping In Light) was filmed before Claudia left. So, at least on the surface, her departure did virtually nothing to the B5 story line, when you take into account the major story threads. Captain Lockley, who replaced her, did not have one thread that we can look back and say "Claudia absolutely should have done that. Had to do that." It is clear from the end of season four and from Sleeping in Light that Ivanova's story arc was near or at an end.
Ironically, if you remove season 5 or still use it, Ivanova's scenes in Sleeping fit perfectly, feel perfect, and there is in fact closure to her character. Her motivations make perfect sense. In this case, you have to applaud both JMS for the writing and Claudia for the acting which made this closure possible.
The only exception to this (and this is something several people have told me to add, so I am) is the telepath thread. There is every indication that Ivanova would have been directly involved in the telepath crisis that ran through season five. Whether she would have stepped into Alexander's role totally, battled with her or Bester (far more likely), the fact is that season five would have been much more interesting with her aboard. Without her the telepath thread in season five seems forced which should also tell you, "hey this has been changed". Every major plot change you can feel FORCED WRITING which is like a band-aid. For certain, the plot threads of her being a telepath and her wanting to hide that had been well laid out. The crisis would have involved her "coming out" or getting caught, in some form.
Keffer - WHAT DA?
Don't get me started on Keffer. The day that he died I sent a e-mail to JMS and asked "Is the story arc for Zack and Keffer Finished?" I assumed that Keffer was captured by the Shadows...as many did. I imagined that he would return influenced by them and cause havoc in the cast. Well, I am proud to be the first person who actually got the truth from JMS, who responded to me quickly saying "Nope...Keffer is dead and that's the end of his story." That response blew my mind. It was pretty obvious that the character wasn't going as he planned and was ejected into sub-space :). But that was not the answer I thought I was going to get.
And thus, Keffer gets the award for being the most insignificant character ever introduced into the B5 universe. Although he died in a pretty darn cool way and introduced the main characters directly with the Shadow threat, he did nothing to permanently affect the B5 story line. Who's more memorable to the B5 fan who's watched since day one: Deuce or Keffer. I rest my point. In fact, he was so insignificant, that I had a hell of a time finding an image of him...the one at left is laughable ( :) ). If anyone has a good one please send it over.
And don't get me started with Na'Toth.
General Hague - WAY TO GO BUDDY!
Robert Foxworth starred as General Hague during very key points of season four. He was the leader of the resistance movement in the earth military and an important ally to Sheriden. Unfortunately, due to a casting conflict he did not choose to film his pivotal episode and thus he is dead. What happened to Mr. Foxworth? Well, he opted to appear in an episode of Deep Space Nine which was being filled around the same time. The rumor is that he and JMS has a verbal, gentleman's agreement and he backed out. It just so happened that the character on DS9 was approximately the same as Hague was...what a strech!
So, instead of finishing off Babylon-5 with an episode that would have placed him firmly in the B5 history cannon, and possibility given him the opportunity to star in further episodes down the line in season four, he had to be killed off with the help of a few lines. So, thus, I hereby give Robert Foxworth the WAY TO GO BUDDY award for Babylon-5. Will we remember you in a few year, nope. But, we could have. I guess immortality isn't his style. Note: I need a good picture of Haque in uniform if anyone has one.
Black Projects Division - AH WE'LL LET EM BE.
One of the only major surprises with Babylon-5, to me, was the fact
that the Black Projects Division, the secret earth agency responsible for
plenty of havoc around the station in the early Sheriden episodes, was
pretty much forgotten. Sheriden made it clear early on that he was
a conspiracy buff and that he and Garabaldi were going to hunt these Black
Projects down. However, they never really accomplished that directly.
It might be said that some of the black projects were linked with Bester, the Shadows and Night Watch, but that is a bit of a stretch. It can also be said that Garibaldi stopped some of them when he reformed Edgers industries, bu that is also a bit of a stretch. B5 ended without this division being identified or stopped. But then again, maybe you can't get everyone. Let's give the heroes a break huh? I'll go along with that.
The Powers That Be - DEALS WITH THE DEVIL
The people responsible for the making of Babylon-5 are divided into a number of sections. Sometimes one group or another did not see eye to eye with the other, and that is usually when problems arose in the series. At the top of the flagpole is JMS, Douglas Netter (Chairman of Netter Digital) and Babylonian Productions. They are the people do deal directly with the cast and put the show together. Warner Bros is the official distributor of the series. PTEN (The Prime Time Network) was the network the series ran on for the first four years of production. In the last year TNT rescued B5 from cancellation and showed year 5.
Life making B5 was very stressful. Every year they did not know if they would be canceled. PTEN, which is now dissolved, was a very small company which showed 2 or 3 shows per year on a unstable number of independent stations. Babylon-5 was by far the best program they ever aired. The quality of their other shows lacked as did the support from the independent stations in the PTEN network, which are the primary reasons why things were iffy from year to year.
In the first four years B5 was kept on the air by a shoe string, with the help of tons of fan letters and of course a crusade by production and cast to make it happen.
PTEN was always incredibly hard to deal with. They put way too many commercials in every show making breaks in B5 shows incredibly long and annoying. And they did very little promotion with the show. A rare ad in TV guide was about all you ever saw. it was even hard to get them to place an ad during B5 itself or during the other PTEN shows.
After season four, PTEN dissolved. It looked very much like the
series would end after four years. However, in the last possible
minute, Turner Network Television picked B5 up. It was an incredible
deal that would lead to a season five, a handful of TV movies and hope
for a long future for the Babylon universe. TNT advertised heavily
and made B5 one of their signature shows. They also had shorter commercial
breaks which allowed shows to be longer. (special thanks to Mike
Warner who provided the PTEN logo I have been searching for).
Time Warp - FOUR YEARS VERSES FIVE
Babylon-5 was designed from the start to be a five year project. Five years and end, period (no more and no less) However, because renewal was so iffy from year to year, that goal was severely affected.
In the days following the final episode of Babylon-5 (SLEEPING IN LIGHT) there was heavy criticism dealing with the fact that many loose story ends appeared to be dangling. JMS stated when the B5 project began, and throughout it, that it would end with no major threads open. Yet, it "appears" that this is not the case as the series concludes. This anomaly can be easily explained.
JMS did, in fact, fulfill his promise. During season four, while PTEN was still in the mix, everything pointed to it being the last season of the series. Major cast members had expiring contracts and there was no way to sign them without the go ahead for season five (which came incredibly late at the last second). Thus, JMS chose to complete the series in 4 years instead of five.
JMS stated on several occasions that if season four was to be the last season, the major story points could and would be completed. The last half of season four would all be arc stories without any filler at all. And this is just what he did. What we see in the last half of season four would have been interspersed through the next year in the original design.
Before people complain about loose ends, please try this. Watch seasons one through four (except for the last episode of four) and then watch SLEEPING IN LIGHT. You may also choose to watch the final episode of season four after SLEEPING IN LIGHT as a bonus. I think you will agree that the whole thing makes more sense and the thread troubles disappear almost completely.
When season five got its go ahead there were many questions. People asked, "now that the series has been completed for the most part, what will season five be about?" That was a good question and its one people forgot they asked. New plot threads had to be opened. Threads that were not part of the grand design, at least not the immediate design. The majority of events taking place in the resurrected season 5 would not have been told on screen if JMS knew ahead of time that he had five full years to work with.
So, for history, how do we look at season 5? It should be looked at as a bonus. The stories presented in 5 would probably have only been seen in books. And the loose threads that season 5 introduced would not have been begun in the first place.
In short, JMS did complete his promise. If you take the time to
look for it.
all text copyright 1998,99,02,04 William J Piniarski.
all rights reserved.