JMS Should Have Written B5 *MY* Way

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at
Sat Dec 20 06:13:28 EST 1997

From: tnaran at (Travers Naran)
Date: 18 Dec 1997 17:56:10 -0700
Lines: 245

[MODERATOR:  This is in response to a thread in and  I've seen bits of the
same thread in the moderated group and I would hope it would help
clear the air.  If you feel my tone is to 'flamey' feel free to help
me correct it.  Thanks.]

Or at least that's how some people would have it.

I'm sick and tired of this Cult of Worship for Laurel Takashema and
Catherine Sakai.

First off, regarding Sheridan's legitimately being part of the Arc.

"Babylon Squared" Lurker's Guide Page in JMS Speaks:
(JMS Speaks is from Season One.  *Before* Sinclair left)

> "So who IS the One? Some of the evidence points to Sinclair, but
>other bits seem to indicate Delenn. Yet neither seems to fit all
>the facts above."
>	   Exactly.
>	   What you have here in your message are two pieces of the puzzle.
>You're confounded by the fact that somehow they don't quite seem
>to fit into one another. That's because there's one last piece
>missing in this part of the picture, which fits in between them.
>The intent is to put this piece into clear view in year three,
>probably between episodes 8 and 11 approximately. At that point,
>the question of the One will be fully answered.

The establishment of Threes and The One was set-up since "Parliament
of Dreams".  Sheridan was coming in to the story one way or another.

JMS said he moved Sinclair off the stage because he had written a
story so entirely Sinclair based it was ridiculous.  Everything
happened to this one character like some melodramatic heroine from a
Victorian penny-dreadful.  In one way or another, Jeffery Sinclair was
going back in time *before* Season 5 (probably during the height of
the Shadow War making his departure more poignant).  The Third was
going to Z'ha-Dum to die. (See Endnotes [1] & [2])

Now, Catherine Sakai.  JMS claims he never intended Sakai to die on
Z'ha-dum.  In fact, if you consider Sinclair was going to lead the
Rangers, the book's idea that Sakai would have joined the Rangers
becomes even more interesting.  Could she have been the original
Marcus?  Possibly her part would have combined Ivanova and Marcus'
role.  Sakai met the First Ones and was an experience explorer.
Couldn't you see her flying around the galaxy instead of Ivanova and
Marcus?  Marcus' family were mineral explorers.  Sakai was a mineral
explorer.  A picture forming here? :-) (See Endnote[3])

I normally leave people alone who are *convinecd* Sakai was going to
Z'ha-dum.  Bull. Shit.  She was going to be a Ranger.  The Third part
of The One, I still personally believe, was going to be a Ranger who
ended up scarring Sinclair in a Ranger training session.

So I've addressed my theories that Sheridan was always in the arc, and
Sakai was not going to be Anna Sheridan.  What would have happened?
Nothing.  JMS mentioned that he couldn't figure out how to get 
Sinclair personally involved without stretching credulity.

Laurel Takashema.  Ms. Wooden 1992.  I do not *like* the actress.  I
have yet to see that actress in a role that I liked.  You want a good,
strong Asian actress?  Go watch DS9 and see Rosalind Chow wasting away
her talents.  Yes, JMS has admitted her character was the "traitor"
that had the implanted personality and would shoot Garibaldi in the
back.  Would that have been good?  "Yes," you say breathlessly.  Let's
examine why not.

First off, it wasn't that big a surprise.  There was rampant
speculation since the pilot it was her; that's why people were asking
JMS point blank about this later on.  So we would have this treasonous
character that everyone, but the characters, were pretty sure was the
traitor.  The claim for this working is character development.  What
character development?  We get to see her be herself then completely
lose it when a password is sent to her?  Where's the conflict?

Instead of an implanted personality, we got a security officer who
attempts to kill his senior officer *willfully*.  Traitors are
far more interesting when they _chose_ their paths.  People forced
down that path without choice or resistance are rarely interesting.  In
this case, we've got an externalized conflict:  One can sort of forgive
a stooge, but how can you forgive someone who willfully does something
wrong because they think it's right?  Someone you trusted, but who
consciously violates it.  Now that's interesting.

We got a new XO with an interesting background and a far more
interesting destiny.  An ethnic Russian (sort of) with a brother lost
in the Minbari war.  A mother lost because of the Psi-Corps.  A woman
tormented by a fate she did not chose, being a latent telepath.
Someone who will consciously betray her superiors because she's doing
something she thinks is right and will have to live with the

Putting all that work into Laurel, then having her personality and her
future development yanked away in Season 3.  This is good drama?
Characters that have a future are far more interesting.  The game of
"What might have been" gets old fast, but the game of "What can be"
never gets old.  Having all that happen to Laurel could be considered
realistic (in that it's bad luck), but it's more exciting when all the
character development becomes a launching pad for new stories.  How
would Laurel's death of personality make her character development a
launch pad?  The revelation of her as the traitor would be a launch
pad, but all the stories that could have been told become moot.  The
choice to separate the traitor from second in command not only made it
harder to spot the traitor, it let the second in command have a life.

Breaking up characters who carry a piece of the story, instead of
focusing on one Unifying character, is a common practice.  It makes it
more realistic, albiet most people find it more dramatic to fuse these
things together.  I *never* liked it when drama fuses characters
together ("He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Saved the Jews at
Auschwitz and invented antibiotics!")  Don't laugh, some people on love stories like that.  Sometimes a person has a
single tragedy and that's all they have.  Others have more complicated
lives that logically and relentlessly drives them to a worse fate.
The original arc sounded like a bunch of good plot points contrived to
cram into a handful of characters.  The actual arc become a bunch of
good plot points spread across a Universe of characters.

[Ford Thaxton: Pay attention -- I told you I do criticize B5, but not on where it won't do any good]

*MY* Criticisms of B5's failures are far more fundamental ones.  I
felt the Shadow War was handled too casually and not given the depth
it needed.  Partly because of time, but mostly because JMS wasn't
interested in the Shadow War.  He wanted to get to what happened
*after* it.  Even when he dealt with the Shadow War, it didn't feel
like a real war.  He sabotaged "Shadow Dancing"'s combat sequence, not
with the cross-cutting to Franklin (which was a good idea), but the battle
sequences themselves being nonsensical and so fragmentary that it didn't
*feel* like a war was going on.  It was like fast forwarding through the most
important act.  Foundation Imaging had even created a really *nice*
and realistic Tactical Display for Sheridan and Delenn to interact
with, but JMS thought a normal display was better (not a good idea).

My other problem was Season 3.  I *loved* the story it told, but it
was done so poorly.  JMS seemed to be so tired he tossed plot points
on the table with a casual disregard to dramatically piecing it
together like he did in Season 2, and later in Season 4.  If JMS
wasn't such a loner, he could have found a good solid writer to help
him out.  DeTillo came close, but Peter David would have been a better
choice.  He's a man who understands what JMS was trying to do,
especially in Season 3.  "Severed Dreams" was a high point, but
finally JMS pulled himself together to do "And The Rock Cried Out, 'No
Hiding Place'".  JMS doesn't like war; he likes aftermaths.  This is
why some people are so disappointed with B5 now: they can't
understand why an aftermath would be the *high* point of the arc.

As well, everyone assumes that the _glimpses_ of the original arc they
got were going to flesh out the way *they* thought it would; not JMS'
way, but theirs.  Are you sure of that?  How do you know the original
outline JMS had written would have come out as good as your own
imaginings?  It could very easily come out as melodramatic as a Marvel
comic book.  Outlines rarely survive contact with the implementation,
and for good reason.  Outlines are sketches that leave out  details
whose importance is only clear when you are writing out the *full*

My personal belief is that the version of B5 we got is the best JMS
was capable of producing.  Anything else would have been worse than
what we got.  Could B5 have been better?  Oh, yes!  Could B5 have been
much, much worse if JMS hadn't taken the changes needed to improve the story?
I believe so.

Endnotes and Quotations:

[1] December 7, 1994 on USENET
> ATT JMS: What would have happ
>    7 Dec 1994
>      Okay, alternate-universe time to answer your question....
>      "What if Sinclair had not left Babylon 5?"  (Isn't this kinda like
> the Marvel What If? comics..."What If Dr. Blake's Nurse Had Been The One
> to Find Thor's Hammer?")
>      The differences would be more noticeable in the later episodes of
> this season, rather than the first batch, which are still dealing in
> large measure with the after-effects of the season finale.
>      So the first few episodes would have been somewhat the same in some
> ways to what is there with Sheridan.  The problem that I had was that he
> was becoming (and would have become) mainly a problem-solver character;
> there's a squabble or a problem between other characters who are rising in
> profile (G'Kar, Londo, Delenn, etc.), and he solves the problem in some
> way.  These, to me, were the least interesting episodes of our prior
> season.
>      It would've been necessary to bring in another character with a
> direct connection to the shadowmen, since Sinclair's main connection is
> to the Minbari, and it would've been straining credulity to plug him too
> much into THAT story as well...hero of the line, missing 24 hours, Minbari
> soul, AND a tie to the Shadowmen...c'mon, what else does he do, fly under
> his own power?
>      Had he stayed, the Shadowman tie probably would've gone to either
> Keffer or Garibaldi.  Which, again, further removes Sinclair from the
> main thrust of the story.  He would have stayed on as more of an observer
> of other people *acting*, while he *reacted*.
>      I can't get too specific otherwise without revealing, by contrast,
> what's going to happen later on this season.  Suffice to say this: watch
> the show up to and through "The Coming of Shadows," "All Alone in the
> Night," "Acts of Sacrifice," and "Hunter, Prey."  (That's about episode
> #13.)  You can then ask the question again, but I have a real suspicion
> that once you've seen those episodes, and what Sheridan does, you won't
> NEED to ask, because you'll see how he fits into the overall story in a
> very specific fashion with is 180-degrees different than Sinclair.

[2]  May 10, 1995 from USENET
> [Usenet postings by JMS] Search - Previous - Next
> ATTN: JMS: Has the Arc Changed
>    10 May 1995
>      Actually, no, believe or not the arc really hasn't changed much; it's
> gotten filled out a bit in places, but the direction hasn't altered.  I
> had always had kind of a (?) in the thing as to how to transition clearly
> from Sinclair to the Shadows, because I needed some way to connect the
> stories, but having Sinclair have a hook to the shadows just strained
> credulity past the breaking point.  Gradually I figured out a way to do
> that, and that (?) was filled.  Other than that, no; it's going where it
> was always going.
>                                                                        jms

[3]  February 2, 1997 on CompuServe
> [CompuServe postings by JMS] If people didn't leave..
> Date: 02 Feb 1997 03:00:38 -0700
> {original post unavailable}
> Sinclair was never intended to go to Z'ha'dum.
> And it wouldn't have worked for Sakai to be the one who awoke
> the shadows and "died" at Z'ha'dum because *they were already awake* in
> the first season.  People who try to lay the one line atop the other
> tend to forget this.  We also get Garibaldi's mention of crawling out
> of the Martian desert in the very first episode...which tied into the
> whole Messages From Earth thread, putting the shadows at work for at
> least 2-3 years.
> jms

From: jmsatb5 at (Jms at B5)
Date: 19 Dec 1997 15:08:29 -0700
Lines: 11

BTW, the one big reason that Sakai could not have filled Anna Sheridan's role
in awakening the shadows...and this is the one thing that everyone who
advocates this theory tends to that they were *already up and
awake* in the first season, as we saw in "Signs and Portents."  They were up,
around, and had had some time to build stuff up, reclaim some of their ships,
and in other ways get organized and develop their contacts.  

Also, Morden was already working for them.

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