inside story on how the ground-breaking Sci-Fi series was created...
Babylon 5 reaches the end of its five-year story arc, its
difficult to believe that J Michael Straczynskis epic space
station saga was able to be told at all. Now one of the most
critically acclaimed genre series in television history, it actually
took several years of frustrating negotiations to get Babylon 5
on the air.
The story of B5
started in the mid-1980s, when Straczynski, then a story editor on
the short-lived Captain Power, a Sci-Fi/action-adventure
series based on a line of Mattel toys, began playing with the notion
of a space station series. He even managed to slip the name Babylon
5 into one of his episodes. At the same time, Straczynski was
playing with the idea of creating a huge Science Fiction saga of
some kind, and it wasnt long before the two ideas came
together and became the same story.
with most SF series in general, explains Straczynski, is
theyre either the man on the run going to different places, or
the man searching for something; those are the two major paradigms
in SF. Either one involves going from place to place, so why not
create a place where the stories would come to you? The most logical
choice, I felt, was a space station of some kind, so that was the
story-line I was developing on the economical feasibility
On the other
track over was this notion about doing a big, no borders, huge saga
that would span across many years and have a whole lot of different
characters and different worlds. I thought it was a different show,
because the requirements of something like that were huge, as
opposed to this little space station story. It wasnt until I
was in the shower one day, which is where I have my best thoughts,
that the two stories collided in my head and I said, No, you
idiot, its the same story!
a treatment for the proposed new series. He took it to Doug Netter,
who had been the executive producer on Captain Power, and
John Copeland, the shows associate producer. Both Netter and
Copeland thought the idea showed considerable promise, so
Straczynski went ahead and wrote the pilot screenplay. He also
expanded the original treatment into a fully fleshed-out bible.
Joe and I
developed a good rapport long distance-wise, while we working on
Captain Power, recalls Copeland. We shared equal
frustrations and aggravations about an out-of-control toy company;
we wanted to tell good, compelling stories, and they wanted to sell
toys, so it was a very twisted relationship there.
December of 1987, Joe came to our offices and said, You know,
Ive got this idea for a Science Fiction series that is
containable and has the potential maybe to cross over to a wider
audience of people than normally perceive Science Fiction, and its
something that can be done for a price. He brought in all his
materials and we read them and thought, This is pretty cool.
I then showed it to Ron Thornton and asked him, Do you think
this is do-able, do you think we can do this as a contained thing?
Rons feeling was pretty much the same as mine: if we really
controlled things on the production, then yes. Then I brought
[production designer] John Iacovelli in, and we were all on board
with a collective vision that this would be a cool world to
Get the full story of how Babylon 5 began (and lots more B5
coverage) in TV Zone Special #30.