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aborted B5 spinoff series with original cast?


Over five years ago, several months before "Legend of the Rangers" aired, Ain't It Cool News ran a negative review of the movie by a contributor with the handle "Christopher Pike". "Pike" later set up an account on this board, and proceeded to defend his review to the skeptical posters here. Another new poster, named "Tobias Clutch", also claimed to have seen the movie, and had an even more negative reaction to it. You can read some of this discussion here:


(Old accounts, including those of Chris Pike and Tobias, are now refered to as "**DONOTDELETE**" in these old threads.)

I don't want to rehash the issue of the Rangers review, but one of the side discussions in that thread had to do with Tobias's assertion that Boxleitner was originally slated to star in Crusade as Sheridan. Not just in A Call to Arms, but the series itself. Quotes from the aforementioned thread:

Tobias Clutch wrote:
Crusade did have a pilot - it was called A CALL TO ARMS, and set up an infinitely better series premise had Boxleitner - through clouded circumstances - not been removed from the picture in the period prior to Crusade.

Verdana wrote:
Also, are you implying that Boxleitner was originally slated to be in Crusade.

Tobias Clutch wrote:
Yes... And I'm in no way implying. I believe I phrased it as a statement in my former post.

Over the years, I believe a few of the others in the old AICN gang have occasionally made some cryptic remarks along the same lines. (Example: I can't find it right now, but I believe Glenn Oliver, after he moved over to IGN and was reviewing the Crusade DVDs, made some reference to "the original idea for Crusade, which we never got to see", or something like that.)

Fastforward to today's advertisement for the B5 Script Book Vol. 10:


Most startling of all, this volume contains a recently uncovered FULL LENGTH TREATMENT for the B5 sequel series JMS had proposed before Crusade, that was his first choice over what eventually became Crusade, a series that would have starred Sheridan, Delenn, G'Kar, Marcus, one of the Zathrii, and several others in a story set against the backdrop of the Alliance attempting to create interstellar peace.

Anyway, I thought that was interesting.
I mentioned this in the "B5:TLT - New Logo and CGI" thread, as it had some relevance on the on-going discussion that had crept up in that thread, but I totally think this deserves a thread on its own. Thanks for making one for it.

I thought it sounded very significant that there was a spinoff idea jms had prior to Crusade that he tried to get the network to go for that involved Sheridan (et al). After reading this little blurb in the scriptbooks email, I then also remembered that whole bit of Bruce having thought he was going to be in Crusade. I guess this then explains why he had been thinking that. It just sounds like TNT disapproved of the idea. :(
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Marcus was listed in there? Back from the dead eh?

Good thread, glad you dug it up and referenced the Scripts email. Nicely done. :)
I guess the main setting would have been Minbar? Otherwise it sounds almost more like a direct continuation (season 6?) than a spin-off. It sounds good though..

TNT were holding out for a sixth season, IIRC, maybe this was pitch was a compromise?
This, along with the Babylon Prime idea (one and the same ??) are of great interest to me. Thanks for the info. I'm not getting the scripts though, so i would be interested if anyone could produce summaries of this information...

I also suspect that Boxlienter would have cost more had he stayed on. Interesting also how B5 appears to now be going back to this premise, continuations of the original story with the original (remainder) cast...
I also suspect that Boxlienter would have cost more had he stayed on.

Wasn't that JMS' intention by putting everyone on 5 years contracts ... that the cost increases required to keep the cast on for year 6+ would effectively make the production of the show unviable, meaning that no matter how successful, the show would end after year 5?

Interesting also how B5 appears to now be going back to this premise, continuations of the original story with the original (remainder) cast...

I imagine that is, at least partly, to do with the fact that (in the eyes of your average TV viewer and SF fan) the original series is the only successful part of the franchise.
I guess the main setting would have been Minbar?

Maybe. Or it might have been starship-based and incorporated elements of what eventually became Crusade and Legend of the Rangers. Remember, up until JMS wrote the screenplay for "Sleeping in Light" in 1997, it was not necessarily set in stone that Sheridan would remain ISA president for something like 15 years, so Sheridan could have potentially been free to go off on some adventure.

At this point, it's worth reviewing JMS's early comments on the idea of a spinoff series. It's been clear for some time that his conception of what the spinoff series would look like changed somewhat over time. You can find some of those early comments reposted at the Lurker's Guide pages for "Crusade" and "Sleeping in Light".

A couple of these comments I've also dug out from jmsnews:

January 1st, 1997:

http://www.jmsnews.com/thread.aspx?id=_=Crusade= Spinoff?

Q: I just read about your as yet fully formed concept of a B5 spinoff
involving the rangers. I would like to know some of your specific ideas
regarding this proposal. 1. Does the story take place before, during,
or after the 5 year B5 arc? 2. What characters, assuming you
can sign up the actors, would be involved?-Dellen, Marcus, Lanier,
Sinclair ?

Answer from JMS: t would take place after the main B5 arc. As for specifics on
cast, nothing can be said until things get closer to being nailed down;
there's still a lot that can change on this, and it's a question of
what works best for the show, and who wants to move on, and other

A couple of points here: There's a reference to the spinoff series being about the Rangers. That's obviously different from what we got with Crusade, but fits in more with Legend of the Rangers. There are several such early references to the spinoff series being about the Rangers, but somewhere along the way, the premise got changed so that we got the show we now know of as Crusade. Maybe the early conception for a Rangers series is what could have included much of the main cast.

Second: In talking about keeping original series characters, JMS says "it's a question of what works best for the show, and who wants to move on". That sure makes it sound like JMS was amenable to several (more than just one or two) of the original cast sticking around for the spinoff series.

Also, as late as March 12, 1998, JMS wrote:

http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-1597&query=crusade actors QT

There are one or two actors who might slide to Crusade, depending on
circumstances, and we have spoken to them on the QT about it...which is
probably why this was said, because I asked the actors in question not
to say anything until we got closer to seeing how things were going to
work out; the inquiries were mainly of an "if we had this role, would
you be interested in doing it?" nature, checking avails and
possibilities so we could plan accordingly.

So at that point, just a few months before Crusade went into production, JMS was saying that there was potentially more than one original series character (not just Lochley) who might end up as a regular on Crusade.

(Edit: Actually, rereading that last quote, it's not 100% clear that JMS is talking about actors from the original B5 cast. He might be talking about new roles. Though "who might slide to Crusade" sounds like they're sliding there from B5.)
TNT were holding out for a sixth season, IIRC, maybe this was pitch was a compromise?

Seriously? Did JMS simply refuse? Does anyone else wish they got it? I could have lived with having SIL pushed back another year.
Well, I received my script book in the mail, and read through all the stuff about a spinoff series. My head is spinning from all the different permutations of what might have been. As far as I can tell, based on both the script book and JMS's public statements over the years, the timeline goes something like this:

From the very beginning (as in, even before Season 1) JMS makes some comments online to the effect that, should B5 be a big hit, he has an idea for a side story that could be used for a spinoff, but he doesn't think this is very likely.

Some time in the fall of 1996 (right in the middle of production on Season 4), Warner Bros. asks JMS for ideas on a spinoff series. Because of PTEN folding, it doesn't look like they're going to do a Season 5. But they'd still like to try to do a spinoff series. JMS proposes a series concept that he describes as "Camelot in Space". A series that would take place in the early days of the ISA (chronologically, just after the conclusion of B5), that would feature the Rangers going out and helping to maintain order in the galaxy....giving the various worlds the choice of "joining us, staying neutral, or fighting us". JMS describes it as "Arthurian".

Warner Bros. asks JMS to come up with some kind of gimmick that they can use as a hook to sell the series. JMS suggests the idea of a plague that will wipe out all life on Earth within five years unless a cure is found. (Based on his description of events, it sounds like he came up with this idea on the fly in the middle of a meeting with WB.)

The script book includes two memos written by JMS around this time, though it's unclear which one came first. One memo (which JMS really just intended as notes for himself; not for anyone else) outlines story elements that could be added to the existing arc for Season 5 that would lead into the spinoff series. JMS was trying to argue that Season 5 could be used as a setup for the spinoff series, and that this is why, if TPTB wanted to produce the spinoff, they should also produce a Season 5. These added story elements were ultimately never included in Season 5. One of the elements was the introduction of a Technomage character, who would have pretty much the same role that Galen ultimately had on Crusade.

The second memo was the pitch for the spinoff series, titled “Babylon 5: Rangers”. It's all about the Rangers and the “Camelot in Space” idea. There is no mention of the plague storyline. The cast of characters includes such B5 characters as Sheridan, Delenn, G'Kar, Franklin, and Marcus. The story makes sense only if Season 4 ends in such a way that Marcus is alive and Sheridan does not become president at the end of Season 4. (And remember, this was written when JMS was in the middle of writing Season 4, so that's cutting things close in terms of how the season would end.) It's unclear whether the idea of featuring so many of the original cast in the spinoff was always part of the plan or not.

As early as November 1996, JMS mentions that the name of the spinoff series would be “Crusade”. Or more specifically, “The Babylon Project: Crusade”:


By at least the end of 1996 (perhaps much earlier, I'm not really sure), JMS has revealed that the spinoff series will deal with the Rangers:

http://www.jmsnews.com/thread.aspx?id=_=Crusade= Spinoff?

As early as February 1997, JMS has publicly mentioned the plague storyline in online discussions:


Also as of February 1997, JMS has mentioned some possible new characters for Crusade. This is refered to elliptically here:


but I can't find the original post that discusses the new characters. In the aforementioned post, JMS says:

BTW, that new characters were mentioned does not exclude any current cast members...doesn't include them, either, but bottom line, that ain't a complete list of characters. There's room and flexibility in there, depending on what happens.

Throughout 1997 and into early 1998, JMS repeatedly mentions that the greenlight for Crusade could come at any time, and that he's hopeful that it'll come soon, but nothing is certain.

As late as November 1997, JMS is still describing Crusade as “the Rangers series”:

http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-3534&query=rangers series

April 1, 1998: As production on Season 5 is wrapping up, JMS responds to rumors about cast turmoil and actors being upset that the show is ending:



In that second post, JMS says:

One or two cast members may transition over into Crusade, assuming it goes ahead, but that show *has* to be its own show, it can't be just a repackaged B5. (And I'm referring to regulars here, there's plenty of room for guest-starring roles for nearly all of our characters at one point or another, plus the likelihood of more B5 TV movies, plus the real possibility of a B5 feature.)

A few days later, TNT confirms that Crusade is being greenlit. You can read the press release here:


There is no mention of casting. The Drakh plague storyline is featured in the press release, but there is no mention of the Rangers or the empire building stuff that JMS apparently talked about in his original pitch a year and a half earlier. However, the title “Crusade” remains, and the series itself turns out to include a lot of Arthurian iconography. The unfilmed scripts (released in 2000) reveal that the “real storyline” of this version of Crusade deals with Earth's covert use of Shadowtech. Again, something that's quite a bit different from the original pitch.

After Crusade is cancelled, there is a second attempt made at a B5 spinoff a few years later. This one features the Rangers.

That is the timeline as far as I can reconstruct it. It bears repeating that the ad for Script Book 10 appears to be a bit misleading, in that it leaves the impression that the “B5: Rangers” series was an entirely different animal from “Crusade” as we know it. But, based on what I've shown in this post, it actually looks like the former evolved into the latter. (Several elements got carried over, including the plague storyline initially being suggested as a gimmick for the Rangers series ultimately being a gimmick for the non-Rangers series that we ultimately got.) And then a few years later, when JMS had a second crack at a B5 spinoff, he chose to go back to his original idea.

The biggest question I have is what happened with regard to the idea of bringing back so many of the original cast. At what point was that idea dropped? (If anybody can find that Feb. 1997 post about new characters, maybe that can provide some clues.) Also, does any of this stuff bear any resemblance to what JMS was talking about way back in 1993, when he was already talking about a “side story” that could be spun off of B5? Or is that yet a different series idea?
"Infection" and "A Voice in the Wilderness" Part 2 show Earth searching for alien technologies without many scruples. Add in IPX and there is plenty of room for a side story. This search makes more sense during the main Babylon 5 story when Earth is on its own than after joining the Interstellar Alliance.
Also you gotta remember in 93 Sheridan didn't even exist yet. Perhaps JMS will explain in the bonus volume about the side story (why the heck is he making the volume that most people really care about, unavailable to all but a select few?)
I think the concept you are referring to is "money" ;-)

Or on the other hand, why not simply take him at his word and assume that Volume 15 is meant as a 'thank you' to the people who buy the other 14. Don't think for a moment that he wouldn't probably make more money if he DID sell it because the 5-year outline alone has been on fan's wish-lists for well over a decade. The 'joke script', too. Volume 15 alone would probably out-sell several of the regular script books combined if it were for sale so perhaps the concept you're looking for is 'generosity'.

It's a kind of exclusive form of generosity, though, isn't it? ;)

Is there any reason why it shouldn't be? It's not meant to be a general 'thank you' to the fans in the same way that his posting his unproduced Crusade scripts was (and we won't go into how he was thanked for that), it's meant as thanks for the fans who buy all of the other volumes.

While the b5scripts.com website's sales pitch frames it as a thank you, it's pretty obviously an incentive for people to get the complete set of scripts. It's a "thank you" for spending money on a certain amount of products with them, and there is nothing wrong with having a savy business sense and rewarding that behaviour, but it isn't quite generosity either. Nothing wrong with JMS trying to make some money though, apart from the fact that I will be really jealous of everyone who is getting the 15th volume. ;)

Although, as evidenced by this thread, I'm sure that if there is anything really earth shattering in it, bits and pieces of info will trickle down to the rest of us eventually.
Or on the other hand, why not simply take him at his word and assume that Volume 15 is meant as a 'thank you' to the people who buy the other 14. Don't think for a moment that he wouldn't probably make more money if he DID sell it because the 5-year outline alone has been on fan's wish-lists for well over a decade. The 'joke script', too. Volume 15 alone would probably out-sell several of the regular script books combined if it were for sale so perhaps the concept you're looking for is 'generosity'.


Oh, please. The purpose of selling them this way, where the only way to get Volume 15 is to buy Volumes 1 thru 14, is to get more people to buy Volumes 1 thru 14. That's where he makes significantly more money than if fans cherry-picked. I would LOVE to be buying Volumes 1 thru 14, but I can't afford it. So, I can't get Volume 15. If he made it such that the only way to get the Crusade volumes was to buy B5 Volumes 1 thru 14, I'd REALLY be in a pickle. :rolleyes: Jan, the reason for the selling tactic is money. "Telepath" got it exactly right.

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