Feature: Star Trek: The Next Generation  
Star Trek: Interference, Divided Loyalties and Insurrection 

The inside story on how the ground-breaking Sci-Fi series was created...

As Babylon 5 reaches the end of its five-year story arc, it’s difficult to believe that J Michael Straczynski’s 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 wasn’t long before the two ideas came together and became the same story.
“The problem with most SF series in general,” explains Straczynski, “is they’re 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 track’.
“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 wasn’t 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, it’s the same story!’”

Straczynski wrote 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 show’s 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.
“Anyway, in December of 1987, Joe came to our offices and said, ‘You know, I’ve 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 it’s 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?’ Ron’s 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 create...”

Joe Nazzaro

Get the full story of how Babylon 5 began (and lots more B5 coverage) in TV Zone Special #30.

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