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'Babylon 5' prepares for final bow

Web posted on:
Friday, November 20, 1998 6:27:01 PM EST

From Correspondent Dennis Michael

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- After enduring space traumas and successfully negotiating a precarious syndication situation, the 5-year-old science fiction TV show "Babylon 5" is wrapping things up -- a fact which surprises many in the TV biz.

They probably shouldn't have been -- after all, the show's creator, J. Michael Straczynski, told everyone that "Babylon 5" was a novel for television with a planned five-year storyline.

"Back five years ago, I said we'd go five years with this," Straczynski said, "and no one would believe us. I explained, we're on a mission from God, we're going to do this.

"So to have finally reached the end of our story and finally finished it up properly -- and get off the stage, having told our story, a novel for television -- I'm very pleased, very relieved and very tired," he said.

The "tired" part is easy to understand: Straczynski has set an all-time record with "Babylon 5," singlehandedly writing 91 out of the show's 110 episodes, not to mention four TV movies. His output is the equivalent of 50 feature films in five years.

'Use it in the story'

During the course of the show he changed lead actors twice and networks once, landing on TNT. Yet the man who calls his opus "art by accident" still ended up where he planned.

How? "If an actor breaks a foot, use it in the story. If an actor leaves the show, use it in the story," he explains. "Because life is random. If you incorporate the randomness of life into a TV series, it lends that show a certain verisimilitude -- 'Oh, this happens in real life.'"


"Babylon 5" bears less resemblance to "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" than it does to a long novel like "War and Peace," with its complex politics and murky moral and ethical questions. When the show's spinoff, "Crusade," comes to TNT a year or so from now, things will be a little lighter, the show's creator says.

"This series was about 'sturm und drang und angst,' and great empires," says Straczynski. "I want to do something a little more on the fun side, having gone through grief for the last five years."

"Babylon 5" will exist on video and in reruns for a long time to come, not unlike "The Twilight Zone" or "The Prisoner." For those who have made the five-year journey, there is only one question left: Where does the time go?

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