While Star Trek and its spinoffs have set the gold standard for science-fiction shows in general, there are others that are arguably just as good. One such example is Babylon 5, which ran for five seasons during the mid-90s and has gained a cult following over the years.
Set at a space station in the distant future, the show was praised for its story-arcs which spanned several episodes instead of one or two and the development of its main characters. But there are some hidden details about them that not a lot of people may know about.
10 G’Kar - Started As A Minor Villain
Ambassador for the reptilian-like Narn race, G’Kar underwent one of the most drastic character developments in Babylon 5’s history. In the beginning, for instance, he started off as self-serving and ruthless often getting involved in several political conspiracies among which included discrediting Commander Jeffrey Sinclair in the Babylon 5 pilot movie The Gathering.
So in a sense, he was a minor villain in Babylon 5’s early seasons. Even the show’s creator J. Michael Straczynski initially set G’Kar up to be a “Scenery-chewing villain” according to Gizmodo before changing him completely. This happened following the increasing threat of the Shadows when G’Kar became more concerned about his people and doing the right thing.
9 Susan Ivanova - Secretly A Latent Telepath
Despite being a faithful second-in-command officer aboard the Babylon 5, Susan Ivanova was marred by a tragic past which involved her mother committing suicide. The reason this happened was because her mother was a Telepath, which are individuals with psychic powers, and was taking Sleeper drugs to repress her abilities which came with the unfortunate side-effect of severe depression.
Then in the second season, it’s revealed that Ivanova herself is a latent Telepath who had been mentally repressing her abilities the whole time. Yet the show didn’t do anything further with this element due to Ivanova's actress departing after the fourth season, despite plans to have Ivanova play a large role in the Telepath War according to WEBCS.com.
8 Delenn - Is Distantly Related To Jeffrey Sinclair
Part of the Minbari, an ancient race whom the Earth fought a war against prior to the creation of Babylon 5, Delenn became their ambassador on Babylon 5 before undertaking a procedure that made her more human. While it’s been revealed that she was originally meant to be a transgender character, there is one detail about her backstory that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.
In the two-part episode in the third season titled “War Without End,” Jeffrey Sinclair goes back in time to instigate a series of events that’ll happen in the present and undergoes the same procedure as Delenn only to become more Minbari instead of human. After this he came to be known as Valen, an important figure in Minbari history whom Delenn is descended from.
7 Alfred Bester - Played By Walter Koenig
A senior officer in the Psi Corps, a militaristic organization made up of Telepaths, Alfred Bester served as a reoccurring villain in the Babylon 5 series. But what some may not know is that he was portrayed by Walter Koenig. Though the name doesn’t sound familiar, his face is to those who’ve seen the original Star Trek series where he played as Chekov who was one of the younger characters on the show.
Although Koenig’s not the only former Star Trek actor to appear as a guest star on Babylon 5 as the other was Majel Barrett, who had previously played Nurse Chapel in the original Star Trek show and was the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. In Babylon 5, she portrayed the Centauri seer Lady Morella in the third season episode “Point of No Return”.
6 William Hague - Has A Counterpart In Deep Space Nine
When Babylon 5 was on the air, it was in direct competition with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine which takes place after Next Generation and is ironically set on a space station as well. Because of this and some other similarities, the two series were often compared to each other. But while Majel Barrett’s appearance on Babylon 5 as Lady Morella was meant to serve as a peaceful truce between the shows, another actor played characters on both Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine that were strikingly similar.
That actor was Robert Foxworth, who played as General William Hague of the Earth Alliance and was one of the few officers that rebelled against the Earth Alliance after its totalitarian takeover by President Clark in the third season. Yet this character was swiftly killed off due to Foxworth’s agent booking him to play Admiral Leyton on Deep Space Nine, who was an officer that led an unsuccessful coup to overthrow the Federation President.
5 Lyta Alexander - Returned As A “Trap Door” Character
Because an actor’s schedule can be sometimes unpredictable, they may not be able to fully commit to a certain role. So when this happens, their characters will be written out of the show and replaced with similar ones called “Trap Door” Characters as stated by Gizmodo.
In Babylon 5, there was a lot of them. Though in Telepath Lyta Alexander’s case, she debuted in the pilot movie and was replaced by Talia Winters (another Telepath) only to appear later in the series during the Telepath War event. So this was one of the rare occasions where a character that was replaced in the show came back.
4 Warren Keffer - Was (Allegedly) Conceived As Japanese
Every now and then, the executives behind a television network or a movie studio may intrude upon a particular TV show/movie for the purposes of adding and/or subtracting some things to make the product sell better. Such an action occurred during the second season of Babylon 5 when the executives at Warner Bros. told Straczynski to add a pilot who was hotshot.
While Straczynski was initially against this, some sources including TV Tropes claim that he first pitched the hotshot pilot as “A Japanese man who was deeply invested in his heritage”. The story goes that this was rejected and we got Lieutenant Warren Keffer instead, whom Straczynski gave an unceremonious death to at the end of Babylon 5’s second season.
3 Laurel Takashima - Intended To Be A Traitor
Debuting in The Gathering pilot movie, Laurel Takashima was the first officer of the Babylon 5 space station before Susan Ivanova replaced her. But when her character was initially scripted, according to Midwinter, she was going to be revealed as the mysterious assassin who tried to poison the Vorlon Ambassador Kosh.
The reason for this is because she had been implanted with an alternate personality that would’ve come out under the right conditions. However, Takashima’s actress Tamlyn Tomita opted out after the pilot so these plot elements shifted to Talia Winters who gets taken over by a “Control” personality implanted into her by Psi Corps in the second season episode “Divided Loyalties”.
2 Anna Sheridan - A Last-Minute Addition To “The Shadows” Storyline
One of the main antagonists in the show, the Shadows were an ancient race that fought countless wars over the centuries before going into hibernation after almost being wiped out. Then in Babylon 5’s second season, they are ‘rediscovered’ accidentally. While part of this discovery involved the disappearance of Anna, Commander John Sheridan’s wife, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes.
Because according to Gizmodo, the discovery of the Shadows’ home-world Za’ha’dum was going to be made by Commander Sinclair’s love-interest Carolyn Sykes who was a planetary explorer. Then after Sykes’ actress left the show, she was replaced by Catherine Sakai (another planetary explorer) who was going to make the discovery instead. But after Sinclair was replaced by Sheridan, this whole story aspect was done offscreen by Anna.
1 John Sheridan - Was Going To Appear In The Show Regardless If Sinclair Left Or Not
Though Babylon 5 is chock-full of supporting characters, the definitive main character is arguably the commander of the Babylon 5 space station. In the pilot and first season, this role was filled by Jeffrey Sinclair (played by Michael O’Hare) until the second season episode “Points of Departure” where he was replaced by Bruce Boxleitner’s John Sheridan who stayed in the rest of the series onward.
While the reason for this sudden departure had to do with O’Hare’s mental health problems, it’s unclear whether his role would’ve been the same had he stayed on or gradually diminished as the show progressed. According to an email sent by Straczynski himself that was collected on JMSNews, “The need for someone *like* Sheridan began to get through” during his initial planning of the second season. So even if O’Hare didn’t leave, a Sheridan-like character would’ve come along eventually.