Well, now that the official announcement has been made, here's the
straight skinny on BABYLON 5.
For the last three years, this project has been in secret development
with some of the Major Players at Warner Bros. Because everyone realized the
potential of what we had, we all played things VERY close to the vest. Part
of the reason for secrecy was that it was slated to be one of several projects
that would spearhead what is, essentially, a new network formed between Warner
Bros. and a consortium of TV stations, similar in some ways to Fox
Broadcasting. And that deal as well had to be kept secret. It, too, was
announced today at the conference.
I created the concept of BABYLON 5 somewhere in between working on
CAPTAIN POWER and TWILIGHT ZONE. I'd seen so many SF shows by then that
backed into a budget, and thus went forever OVER budget, that I wanted to
challenge myself to develop a show that met several important criteria:
1) It would have to be good science fiction.
2) It would have to be good TELEVISION, and rarely are SF shows both good
SF *and* good TV; there're generally one or the other.
3) It would have to take an adult approach to SF, and attempt to do for
television SF what HILL STREET BLUES did for cop shows.
4) It would have to be affordable, done on a reasonable budget.
5) It would have to look unlike anything ever seen before on TV, and
present not just individual stories, but present those stories against a much
The result was BABYLON 5.
After creating the bible and writing a 2-hour script, I commissioned
artwork for the series, knowing full well that it would be difficult for most
execs to fully understand what I was trying to communicate unless they could
see it with their own eyes. I then linked up with my producer from POWER --
who had previously run MGM studios -- and we formed a partnership to get the
show produced. He and I will both serve as Executive Producers on the
Our first thought was syndication, and took it to the head of one of the
biggest consortium of stations around. We didn't at that time know that this
group was putting together the Warners project, and in short order they
snapped up the material. Because the fate of B-5 was linked to the new
"network," of sorts, we had to wait for that deal to go through. Which has
gone through various permutations, on-again, off-again, for three years. They
never gave up on us once, and we never gave up on them. Our support came from
the very top of both operations.
It was our initial thought to begin with either one or two television
movies, and then proceed onto the series. The reason for the movies had to do
with 1) a desire to bring down the per-show budget by building the lion's
share of our sets via the movie(s), and 2) because we wanted to hit the
airwaves with a big story, more an event via a movie than the series pilot,
which at one hour would probably get lost.
And after three years, this has finally come to pass. Phase One of
BABYLON 5 has been approved to production, and the financing is now in place,
and we have an approximate airdate and production schedule. We have assembled
a REMARKABLE production team, some of whom are classified (on current projects
that they will leave to come work on B-5), but they include some of the best
EFX and art direction people around, including many responsible for HONEY, I
SHRUNK THE KIDS and the Henson-shop-supplied DINOSAURS. People are coming out
of the woodwork to work on this show, threatening us with dire consequences if
they aren't allowed to work on it.
As for the storyline and characters of BABYLON 5...I'm going to hold off
just a little while longer, until I know how much I can say at this point.
Some of it we're trying to keep fairly secret, but some other parts we can
probably talk about. I just want to be sure I stick to protocol.
I *will* say that it's set in the future, in space, that it isn't a
battle-oriented show, though it has more than its share of action. One person
described it (for commercial purposes) as CASABLANCA in space, though that
doesn't quite hit the mark.
More will be revealed as I am able to do so.
The only other thing I will say is that we are going to need as much
support as we can get from the fan community. By choosing to go the route of
a movie first as a pilot, we basically have one shot at the ratings. It's
better than a single pilot, but still chancy, so we will need support and
every ratings point we can get our hands on to guarantee the number of
episodes ordered subsequent to the movie.
For years, at conventions, I have heard fans lament, and even sat in on
panels entitled WHY CAN'T THEY GET IT RIGHT? This, I firmly believe, is a
chance to do exactly that...to Get It Right, to take SF seriously, to build
characters for grown-ups (not a Wesley in the bunch), to incorporate real
science but keep the characters at the center of the story. Over the next 11
months, they will have ample opportunity to voice their desire to finally Get
It Right. And I hope they will.