What Could Have Been: Babylon 5: Crusade Season 2
With Babylon 5 standing as one of the crowning achievements of serialized television in the 90’s, it’s no surprise that it eventually got a spinoff. And Joe Michael Straczynski (henceforth, JMS) had plans that were just as big–a full five season arc, just like Babylon 5 had. Babylon 5 always painted itself as the “anti-Star Trek,” so I think many people were surprised to see it branching out into spinoffs in the same way as that franchise. Unfortunately, TNT executives had little patience or understanding as to what they’d signed up for and didn’t give the show a chance to finish, killing it after only 13 episodes (heck, before they’d even aired). So once again we’re left to examine what could have been: Crusade season 2.
First things first, there were actually several episode scripts written at the time the show was canceled that would’ve still been in season 1. If you know anything about how Babylon 5 was structured, you know that the individual seasons were named, often after a key episode that turned the plot so far on its head (B5‘s first season was named “Signs & Portents,” for example, which was also the name of the 13th episode of the season). Crusade would’ve had a similar structure, and that episode that turned everything on its head is one of the ones that was written but unfilmed (the very next one, actually, called “To the Ends of the Earth”). Another would’ve featured the return of Alfred Bester, Walter Koenig’s character from B5, dealing with the fallout of the Telepath War at the end of that series. Others dealt with Gideon and the fate of his previous ship. You can check synopses of these and the others out here. Apparently the full scripts of the three written episodes are floating around online somewhere, but I won’t help you find them out of respect for JMS’s wishes.
- One of the points JMS specifically alludes to is that the 5 year time frame for the Drakh plague isn’t a coincidence, and indeed during the series another species is encountered which is also suffering a similar situation. Considering he’s also stated the plague would’ve been solved and dealt with by the midway point of Crusade season 2, in favor of other story arcs, it’s probable this was the first clue towards a cure.
- More interesting is that the Excalibur would’ve visited the planets of the First Ones as part of their quest. Given that the plague was related to the Shadows, this is a perfectly logical development, and that’s aside from the advanced tech one would expect to find there.
- As is revealed in one of those unproduced season 1 scripts (the season 1 finale, actually), there’s actually a huge Earth conspiracy going on which has been experimenting with Shadow technology, dating back to before B5 even began, from what I gather. Visiting the worlds of other First Ones might have been a way to help deal with these new and powerful opponents.
- At the end of this season 1 finale, Gideon would be shot and actually die, temporarily. His permanent death would be averted because his consciousness had “merged with that of the Apocalypse Box.” I think we all knew his dependence on that thing was going to cost him; it’d have been interesting to see how it developed.
- While they would’ve solved the plague issue by mid-season 2, not everything would be going so well for the crew of the Excalibur. Having uncovered this conspiracy, the universe at large would be convinced that the crew had turned traitor to cover it up, sending them “on the run” and without any kind of support. This is somewhat similar to Babylon 5 and the station’s declaration of independence from Earth after Clark started to move against them, but JMS was quite adamant about not wanting to repeat the same things as B5. We can probably assume here that the Excalibur would be even worse off throughout Crusade Season 2 than the station was.
- He also mentions some general themes of the show in that interview. “The impact of technology on society” in particular is a pretty easy one to see, even with what we saw already.
- In the DVD commentary, which is apparently extremely hard to find as it was edited against JMS’s will and eventually removed from later editions of the series, he mentions pretty much all this stuff, and tops it off with a reference to the Book of Job from the Bible, and implying the story of Crusade would’ve mirrored that in some ways. I’ll be honest, I really don’t understand how that would work. Would it be on a whole civilization level, casting the suffering of Earth in comparison to that of Job? Or would it have been more personal to our characters? It’s a little outside my wheelhouse, anyway.
- JMS also promised to give up the whole plan, someday, but to my knowledge that hasn’t happened yet. So, much like with Friedman and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, there may be more details waiting to be unraveled in the future…
While JMS admits that it was probably for the best for him personally that the show was canceled when it was, it’s hard as a fan not to wonder What Could Have Been. He’s a good guy and he deserved that break. TNT really screwed him over on this, by all accounts, and the truth is far from hidden. If you’ve even heard of this show, you probably know all about it, so I won’t dive into that here. Still, the show got the short end of the stick from day 1, and it hardly deserved it. This may be, by far, the least likely potential season I’ve looked into yet, but it’s also one of the more interesting ones. It’s a true shame, and I can only hope there’s some more Babylon 5 ahead in the future (rumors of a cinematic adaptation aside).
Do you wish Crusade season 2 had been made, at SciFi or elsewhere? Or did you prefer some of the other projects JMS worked on afterwards? Are there any other shows with lost seasons you’d like me to research? Leave a message in the comments, or send a tweet to @RetroPhaseShift. If you enjoy these and want to know when the next one’s out, you can also subscribe to the “What Could Have Been” RSS Feed here.