Babylon Podcast #208: The Babylon 5 That Might Have Been

Welcome to Show #208!

John from Jersey joins Summer, Tim and Bret for this episode, and brings us a quick update on future story explorations on tap for the Voices of Babylon audio dramas.

Discussion: This episode scratches the surface of some of the untapped, the unexplored, the rewritten, and the highly speculative Babylon 5 storylines that were changed or dropped to give us the story we have, leaving us little option other than to argue about whether or not they should have been, and how things might have progressed differently for the series as a whole.

Would you have wanted 10 years of Babylon 5, or a very different 5 years from the ones we fell in love with?

Fanfic aficionados got nothin’ on us.

Let the disagreements, debates and discussions commence!

Lurker’s Guide 2.0: Summer is starting a push to get Lurker’s Guide 2.0 completed and finished, including missing collectibles, photos of magazine covers and toys, and all sorts of other B5 goodies that didn’t get included in the original guide during the years after Crusade. Let her know if you want to lend a hand.

More Parody/Filk Songs Wanted: If you know of any more B5-related fan songs out there, definitely let us know, so we can let other B5 fans know where to buy them! And if those CDs are out of print, let’s brainstorm on ways to get those songs back out there for fans!

Babylon Podcast Social Communities:
Twitter: @babylonpodcast

Babylon 5 Information Gathering: If you know of a dead or abandoned B5 related website that may be in need of a new home, let Summer know! Maybe we can mirror it here or house it on a sister site.

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Promo: Theme and Variations Volume 2

Comments

  1. Coming this fall to Syfy Saturday…Night of the Emopaths!

    Oddly enough, I’ve started a rewatch of the show, because my daughter is suddenly interested in it. And what I find is that I’m even more convinced that JMS was following the original outline during the course of the first season. The Minbari ritual in “Parliament of Dreams”, as Tim mentioned, makes so much more sense, from beginning to end, when Sinclair’s original story arc is considered.

  2. Another aspect of the B5/Prime outline was that the Warrior Caste was to usurp power from the Gray Council. In that light, the activities of the Wind Sword clan – and their disappearance from the scene – seem to support the theory that JMS started production with a ten year story in mind.

    On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a case of believing is seeing.

  3. Well, as I said on the podcast…at the end of the day, it all comes down to the fact that the connections come right out of an outline that JMS says he wrote at the time he says he wrote it, and the theory fits the facts. If there was no outline, and it was just some fannish theory, then I’d agree with your “believing is seeing” take. But we have the documentation right there in our hands!

    And for that matter, when I first read the outline, I was taken aback by much of what I read. Because I really thought that the gist of the differences would pertain to Sinclair becoming Valen in the series finale somehow, with that being the payoff for “Babylon Squared”. I was floored by that outline, especially the Babylon Prime stuff!

    It wasn’t until later that I realized how the outline actually addressed my laundry list of items from the first season that didn’t seem to add up. While I still think the show holds together just fine, I think the final version didn’t serve Sinclair quite as well as the original intention would have, in terms of what made it to air. The character fit the original timeline better, IMHO.

    (Perhaps a minor point…I see JMS’ decision to write the bulk of the episodes after the first half of the second season as a direct consequence of compressing the two-series, 10-year Sinclair-centric story into the eventual five-year Sheridan-centric arc. There’s no way he could have done all that rearranging and plot gymnastics while also dealing with keeping other writers on the same page. At least some of the problem in the first season was the lack of consistency between the freelancers and JMS, IMHO.)

    I meant to mention it on the show, but it kinda reminds me of that huge set of books put out by Christopher Tolkien, outlining the origination and evolution of the Middle Earth novels. I mean, those books contained every single scrap and revision that could be found, exposing every minor deviation from the eventual canon version of the stories. It’s a similar exercise, though on a much smaller scale. I found it fascinating to get a look “under the hood” of the writing process, to see the roads not taken, but at the end of the day, the story is the one that gets the stamp of author approval.

    And as usual, I see I have been brief, focused, and concise…LOL…

  4. Warlord2k says:

    REMEMBER:
    We will send out an announcement to our email list the moment
    CRUSADE: What the Hell Happened, Volume 1
    releases on Wednesday, August 25 at 10:00am.
    It will be on sale at $10 off for the first 7 days of release.

    More books!!

  5. Twice so far in this episode (35:05), Brett has mentioned that Michael O’Hare is not as good an actor as Bruce Boxleitner. Michael O’Hare is a respected New York stage actor, and perhaps this is why he does not appeal as much? I liked Sinclair more than Sheridan as a character, but O’Hare’s acting chops are every bit as valid. Now, on to the rest of the episode!

  6. This episode clarifies for me some things about JMS’s original ideas and how some of them survived. While it may be tempting to criticize a writer who changes so much of his original plans, it is surely a large plume in Joe’s professional writer hat that he could change so much, stay faithful to his vision, and create a story, many of which episodes are vigorously debated today.

    Star Trek handled and continues to handle time travel plots badly; Doctor Who before Russell Davies handled time beautifully and with style and grace. JSM weaves the time travel bits into B5 with the assumption that the viewer will accept them and doesn’t spend too much time explaining the paradox. Now, I find in this discussion that he switched time direction? JMS may be worthy of the label, “The next Rod Serling,” one of his heroes and television’s greatest writer.

    This episode of the Babylon Podcast gets 5 stars. Good job, everyone.

    Cheers!
    Michael

  7. Not a bad episode, but I am wondering why are you doing so many of these show about side issues when there still is the A Call To Arms movie and Crusade to talk about? Is there a reason these two topics are being delayed?

    Some these topics should also include what JMS did in Crusade so that the B5 Universe as a whole could be discussed together.

    Rob in MI

    • Rob,

      I believe we mentioned this in the first of the “B5 Topics” episodes… we want to cover everything we possibly can about the main series first, including resolving our own questions and theories, before moving onto Crusade, because we likely won’t get to talk about them again, not even when we begin to cover the novels, comics and games.

      So we’re sweeping the floor and cleaning out the fridge before we close the door on the main 5 seasons of B5. And with me around, trust me, we will definitely be talking about Crusade with the same lovingly obsessed detail that we’ve shown B5 🙂

      Plus we had originally wanted to have the Crusade scriptbooks in hand to go over and include in our discussion of the series, but those were delayed a few months longer than planned…

  8. I agree Michael O’hare was a good actor, very powerful the way Patrick Stewart was on TNG.
    I remember first hearing of his firing when at a convention (before the internet) and being upset about it, although also hearing that Tron himself was the new star helped alleviate some of it.

  9. Michael, I think O’Hare brought a mixed bag to the show. There are some very intense, interpersonal moments where his performance is riveting (just rewatched “The Gathering”, and the scene where he tells Carolyn about The Line is quite moving). But when scripts called for Action Hero, I think O’Hare was less than convincing.

  10. @ John – I am now totally convinced. I have re-watched “The Gathering” and there are plenty of story points in that pilot that I think fit better in the B5/BPrime scenario than in the final series as was delivered. Whether JMS percieved a ten-year story as late as Year One production, though, might be debatable. (sp?) Anyone with a full set of Asked and Answered – please date JMS comments regarding a five-year arc!

  11. Jason Davis says:

    The earliest reference to a “five-year arc” that I can recall from working on the books is from 12 January 1993, a month before THE GATHERING aired. Of course, that was ANSWERING a question about said arc, so it must have been a known quantity prior to the post preceding JMS’s.

    Also, for the sake of pedantry, it should be noted that BABYLON 5 and BABYLON PRIME were two separate series, just like B5 and CRUSADE. There was never the idea of a single, ten-season series. The raises due to the cast alone would make such a thing impossible, which is why you rarely see a long-running series (LAW & ORDER or ER, for example) with its original cast intact a decade into the run.

  12. Jason Davis says:

    One earlier mention for the “five-year arc” on 10 November 1992. He explains the concept in the post, so that’s likely the first public mention of the concept.

  13. Tim, I agree on “The Gathering”. As for Season One, I still point to “Babylon Squared” and how it fits the B5/BP scenario better than the eventual final version.

  14. Jason, you are right. I remember that from the Usenet days, and searching back through the archives way back when.

    To your point, the five-year-arc comments probably referenced the original story arc for just the B5 portion, as it and BP were supposed to be two separate entities. Of course, the fact that one was strongly dependent on the other is hard to dismiss. I’m not sure, based on that outline, if ending B5 without the BP follow-up would have been satisfying. In the end, that’s why I feel the eventual final version of the series was ultimately for the best, warts and all.

  15. One last point…I submit that the podcast bring back JMS for one last interview, so he can give the fans the final word on the “when did the production deviate from the original outline” question!

  16. I can’t remember where I saw it but I recall JMS talking after the series ended about how, around the time the decision was made for Michael O’Hare to leave the show, he had decided that a Sheridan-type character would eventually be necessary because Sinclair couldn’t do everything that was planned for him and that his son David would be too young to do some of the stuff that was planned for him per the outline in Vol 15. When the question of Michael leaving the show came up JMS decided to move the Sheridan character in earlier than he would have otherwise and use the Valen storyline for Sinclair. At least, that’s my recollection of what he wrote.

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