When you think about when Babylon 5 started, most of us will say 1993, which is true, this year it’s 30 years ago since the pilot aired on February 22nd, 1993. But what most probably do not realize is that the first season started 11 months later on January 26, 1994. A huge gap indeed. JMS already was toying with the idea of Babylon 5 in 1987! Straczynski presented his idea to his fellow producers John Copeland and Douglas Netter which created a lot of excitement. He knew them from “Captain Power” and the “Soldiers of the Future”.
They tried to sell Babylon 5 to various stations and networks like CBS, ABC, FOX, HBO but none of them were interested. Basically they all cringed at the words “science fiction”, the market for SCI-FI was too small, shows like that can never stay on budget and of course they also argued, there is Star Trek, there is no room for any other science fiction show, which in itself is of course ludicrous because there are numerous cop shows, drama shows, comedies, you name it. So you would expect that Star Trek would be helpful to other SCI-FI shows but it was the opposite. Paramount also had the script for 9 months before deciding they would not do it. One could argue that the idea of Deep Space Nine was born because of the Babylon 5 script, highly probable.
Because producers lie about being able to stay within budget, networks and stations are very hesitant when I comes to SCI-FI. But Douglas Netter is someone does what he says, when he says he stays inside the budget, he will, but they simply had a hard time believing this was possible. Of course on a ship this is harder but with a space station, where the action needs to mostly come to the station, it saves budget.
For more IOV B5 posters, please check out: babylon5iov.tumblr
They got rejection on rejection, one would imagine, they would lose faith but these 3 guys, Joe Straczynski, John Copeland and Douglas Netter kept having faith, perseverance to get this show sold! Ultimately, the recently available CGI possibilities were a big help in securing the deal. Special effects wizard Ron Thornton had created a 30 second clip which impressed the suits from Warner Bros. and the PTEN consortium. So a deal was made for creating the pilot. Douglas Netter, John Copeland and JMS were a bit disappointed because they were hoping on a 22 episode season one order. Ultimately it worked all out for the best but it was 1992 when they could start work on the pilot, 5 years after JMS had the idea.
The Pilot, The Gathering was a solid story, a good intro into the Babylon 5 intro. But here you can see that 11 months between the pilot and season one, is a long time. The make-up of Delenn and also that of G’Kar is obviously different in season one, which was definitely a good thing. Also there were a few major cast changes and to be fair, in my opinion, also a positive thing. Claudia Christian as Susan Ivanova instead of Tamlyn Tomita as Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima. Also the doctor was replaced, Richard Biggs as Dr. Stephen Franklin instead of Johnny Sekka as Dr. Benjamin Kyle. There is another major cast change, but I liked both characters, Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters instead of Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander. Of course we all know that Lyta returns at the end of the second season. So I don’t mean to say that Johnny Sekka and Tamlyn Tomita were bad actors of something, but for some reason the new characters replacing theirs were more fitting for the part they were playing. I regularly see Tamlyn Tomita in shows like Stargate Atlantis/SG1, Star Trek: Picard and Eureka, she is a good actress. Unfortunately Johnny Sekka passed away in 2006.
I also have to admit, when I first started to watch Babylon 5, I did have a bit of a problem with Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare). Thought he was a bit stiff, not very relaxed, it took me more than a few episodes to get comfortable with him. Ultimately he has become one of my favorite season one characters. His calmness, the way he solved a crisis, he truly was a good commander. Perhaps fun to mention, when I first watched Captain Pike (Anson Mount) in season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, he so much made me think of Commander Sinclair, same type, a true presence! I had this feeling all through the second season. Sinclair’s sentence in the last episode at the end of season one: Nothing’s the same anymore, give me goosebumps every time!
So next year I get to write another blog about the 30th Anniversary of the series itself! Although my 20 years anniversary blog from 2014 is already quite complete. 😊 All kidding aside, the pilot is not my favorite episode but it is the basis for four seasons of perfect television, it remains my all-time favorite TV show, together with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, those two stay on top. And if indeed Paramount did use the Babylon 5 script for their station home base Star Trek show, I don’t care because these two shows are both are perfect in their own way, I for one never had any animosity towards Babylon 5 or towards DS9, I was a fan from the beginning. In 2017 I wrote a rewatch BLOG about the pilot, is a nice addition to this 30 year anniversary blog.
Inspired by “Getting Babylon 5 into Orbit” in the Signs and Portents book, a comprehensive episode-by-episode guide to the first thrilling season!
Screencaps: Google search & scifiadventures.blogspot.com