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Why We Like B5

I (Monica Hübinette) have been a huge B5 fan for a long time now but I really have my husband to thank for turning me on to the greatness of Babylon 5. Before we even met, I had watched a few episodes from season one, but only sporadically (mostly due to the bizarre scheduling of PTEN). So, when I saw season two (when everything changed) I was completely lost. It was just my luck because apparently, I had missed all the key episodes! So, when my husband and I finally got together for the first time, he sat me down and had me watch the episodes that I missed and I was in love. Both with him and with B5. :)

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JMS on Babylon 5
If you want to read a moving story about how the idea came to JMS and why he fought so hard for this little sci-fi show that everyone else told him to give up on already, read this post from Jan.24.1995:

"What was the spark that ignited your desire to create B5?" It was a number of things, actually, that all came together at the same time.

1) I'd just gotten off an SF series (Captain Power) where the budget was out of control half the time. It made me nuts. I come from this very old fashioned school of thought that says if somebody gives you X-million dollars to make a series, it behooves you to act RESPONSIBLY. Then I looked around more and found that virtually ALL sf series had gone and were going over budget, mainly because they weren't planned out properly. The emphasis was on just selling the idea, who cares what happens next. Whatever one might think of the episode, the 1/2 hour "Nightcrawlers" installment of the new TWILIGHT ZONE cost a tick over ONE MILLION DOLLARS. That's nuts. I kept thinking, "There has to be a sensible way to do an sF series that's responsible, and by virtue of showing it CAN be done responsibly, help to create MORE sf from other people, since the industry overall is afraid of it."

2) I'd interviewed and known too many SF producers who knew absolutely NOTHING about the genre, didn't respect the genre, just wanted to collect the bucks and get out.

3) As a lifelong SF fan myself, I loved the sagas, the huge cycles: Foundation, Childhood's End, Lord of the Rings, Dune, and kept wondering, "Why hasn't someone done this for TV?" To which the only answer is, "Nobody's tried."

Those elements just kept niggling at me until finally I sat down and worked out first how to design a series responsibly, then came up with the concept for the storyline. (Learn from mainstream TV: don't go in search of new worlds, building them anew each week, create a place where the stories come to YOU, as they do in a hospital, a police station, a law office. This led me to a space station.)

Once I had the locale, I began to populate it with characters, and sketch out directions that might be interesting. I dragged out my notes on religion, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, science (the ones that didn't make my head explode), and started stitching together a crazy quilt pattern that eventually formed a picture. Once I had that picture in my head, once I knew what the major theme was, the rest fell into place. All at once, I saw the full five year story in a flash, and I frantically began scribbling down notes.

I spent the next couple of years just expanding upon what I saw in that flash, building out the characters, the conflicts, the changes in alliance, shoring up the thematic elements which will only really become apparent over time. In a way, in the midst of this, it was Tennyson's "Ulysses" that more surely pointed me toward the heartmeat core of the story, which is why I've quoted it in the pilot, in the series, and in issue #1 of the comic.

I knew, instantly, that this show might well be impossible to sell; that I could invest years of my life into the task, only to fail in the end. And, in fact, it took *five years* to finally get this anywhere. During that time, had I dropped it, I could've likely sold two or three other more conventional series. But like Sinclair, I strapped myself into this particular Starfury, pointed myself at my target, and swore not to flinch, no matter what. (In discussions about this with Michael, we agreed that only he and I were really entitled to wear the patches from the Battle of the Line.)

For a long time, a lot of people told me to drop it. My agent said, "Kiddo, you know I love the project, but I think you've got to face reality. It's not going to happen. I have several other gigs you could take if you'd drop this for a while. Maybe later you can try again." Friends, family, acquaintances, network suits, studio suits, Major Agencies...everyone said let it go. It's been four years, going on five. How much longer are you going to DO this?

As long as it TAKES, goddamn it.

I knew that there was a story I wanted to tell, something that I wanted to SAY. And there is nothing more essentially deadly than someone who believes, rightly or wrongly, that he's on a mission, grandiose and possibly stupid as that sounds. I also wanted to make this show because I wanted to SEE it as a viewer. Several years ago, I was looking for a particular kind of book to read. Couldn't find it. So I wrote it, then shoved it in a closet. My agent heard about it a year or two later, dragged it out, read it, and sold it. Go figure.

Also, you have to understand...when I was a very young kid, I went to visit my grandfather's grave. My grandfater was an alcoholic who died in the gutter. Literally. And was buried in a pauper's grave. Ever been to a pauper's grave? Lead pipe. Brass number. You check the roster to find out who's buried. No name, no date. He passed through his life without leaving footprints. It terrified me beyond the capacity of words to convey to you. I swore, at that moment, that I wouldn't go down like that, that I'd leave a mark, somehow, that I'd been here. And on one level, that's what Babylon 5 is to me. See, that's why nothing stops me...it's not about money, or fame, or merchandising...there's nothing they can use agains] me. Whether I stand or fall doesn't matter. If I write hard, if I work hard, what I have created will survive me. Even when I'm forgotten, this will go on. I will have left my mark.

That, at least, is the conceit I allow myself in the Hour of the Wolf, when everything looks futile, and I doubt myself the most.

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