The Babylon 5 that (thankfully) never was: Season 2

Although there was a new episode of Sailor Moon Crystal this past weekend, I was at a convention, so the liveblog is not until this coming weekend. Thus, have the second installment of my series attempting to reconstruct how Babylon 5 was originally (for certain values of original) “supposed to” go. More detailed explanation and Season 1 are here.

So, in response to the first part of this series, one of my readers, Glenn, sent me photos of his copy of the treatment I discussed. This means I have now read that treatment, not just summaries of it, and need to rewrite this whole series in that light. I am extremely grateful for this! I always prefer to use primary sources when I can.

Some overall thoughts on the document:
  • I did not know it included an introduction that explained its genesis. According to JMS, the document came about because  he had an outline of the series in “milestone” form–a series of notecards that laid out plot beats–but not narrative form. He says the only person he remembers showing it to is Michael O’Hare, Sinclair’s actor, who was having trouble with the character’s motivations.
  • JMS claims there were 110 notecards. The obvious implication is that there was one per episode, which is another case of him blatantly BSing–he knows full well that that’s the implication, but nobody can read this treatment without realizing that very few of those episodes could have actually happened as he planned, especially in the latter half of the series. 
  • The document is FAR less organized than online summaries would suggest. It meanders, blends together seasons, jumps forward and back in the timeline–the most egregious example is the two-paragraph paranthetical in the middle of season three/four (they’re rather blended together) that lays out the plot of season one’s “Babylon Squared.” 
  • My speculation about Psy-Corps appears both partially confirmed and partially denied. The document mentions Psy-Corps as slowly emerging as sinister and manipulative, and alludes to Clark gaining power in the wake of Santiago’s assassination, but does not connect the two. There appears to be no hint of a relationship between Psy-Corps and the Shadows. 
Anyway, onward to Season 2!

Known: The biggest difference, of course, is that Sinclair was never supposed to leave. The treatment indicates, however, that the reason for the surrender at the Battle of the Line revealed this season would have been notably different. It would have been revealed partway through the season that Minbari fertility rates were declining and their species headed for extinction; a Minbari prophecy predicts a savior who would somehow solve this problem. At the Battle of the Line, the Minbari discovered that Sinclair is the (equally prophesied) father of that savior; Delenn’s transformation is so that she can mate with him and produce a son. (Note that there is nothing here about reincarnation or souls passing from Minbari to humans, nor is there any prophecy of the Shadows returning.) This, of course, is impossible because of his existing relationship. In addition, the Warrior Caste interpret the prophecy differently, and believe that Sinclair and his son will instead bring about their final extinction. This is very different from their motivation in the show, which is mistrust of humans due to the war and of the Religious Caste due to their role in ending the war.

A number of things which occurred this season either do not happen or happen later in the treatment, most notably the Narn/Centauri war. In the treatment, the Shadows and Londo continue to attack the Narn throughout the season, but there is no indication of a full Narn/Centauri war breaking out and, by the end of the season, Narn has suffered heavy losses but still remains an independent nation. In addition, by the end of the season the identity of the mole has not yet been revealed. On the other hand, Kosh would still have revealed himself to save Sinclair’s life at the end of the season. G’kar still leaves the station to investigate who is destroying the Narn, but spends MUCH longer than in the aired series–he seems to spend the bulk of seasons two and three investigating, and it’s not at all clear whether the show follows him on this journey.

Speculation: Season 2 of the show notably accelerates as it goes on, and thereafter the show’s main arc is much faster-paced than the relatively sedate unspooling of Season 1. It seems likely that this was a deliberate choice to deviate from the treatment’s plan, in which major aspects of (show) Season 2 do not happen until (treatment) Season 3. G’kar’s time off the station was likewise notably shortened, possibly to allow more interaction between him and Londo, which by the end of Season 1 was clearly emerging as a highlight of the show.

Most notably, there is no reference to First Ones or a cycle of past Vorlon/Shadow conflicts. It would appear that, while the Shadows and Vorlons are significantly more advanced (and presumably therefore older) than the other races, the building conflict between them and their allies among the younger races is the first time they have fought.

Lennier’s speech explaining what happened to Sinclair at the Line and why, in the Season 2 premiere, appears to be the sole relic of a transitional stage between the Sinclair-as-Joseph and Sinclair-as-Valen stages of the plan; note that in his speech there is still the concept of the Minbari being in decline, but we have the added element of a human with a Minbari soul, foreshadowing “War Without End.” By Delenn’s speech in “In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum” the concept of the cyclical war seems to be pretty well cemented. JMS’ claim that he got the idea of the conflict being cyclical from the same Babylonian mythological sources as the general “order vs. chaos” theme seems quite reasonable–Marduk’s defeat of Tiamat was ritualistically reenacted annually–but it’s notable that he never said he took those two ideas at the same time. The conflict of chaos and order seems to be the main Babylonian element built into the series from the start (that and the “Babel” pun of a giant tower in space with many squabbling cultures living in it), but the cyclical nature of that conflict seems to have emerged in the course of writing Season 2, as opposed to being present from the start.

Continued in three weeks…

ETA: Updated link to the first post, which was broken. Thanks for pointing that out, RexMax!

2 thoughts on “The Babylon 5 that (thankfully) never was: Season 2

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