Due to Michael O'Hare struggling with an increasingly debilitating case of schizophrenia, which caused him to miss an increasing amount of time from work as the first season progressed, O'Hare was eventually replaced by Bruce Boxleitner. At first, Creator J. Michael Straczynski told O'Hare he would hold production of the show, so that O'Hare could get the help he needed, but O'Hare refused. He felt it was unfair to the rest of the cast and crew to be left without work for so long, so he and J. Michael Straczynski mutually agreed to have O'Hare leave at the first season's conclusion, with J. Michael Straczynski utilizing a "trap door" storyline to explain the departure of Sinclair at the beginning of the second season. Straczynski also honored O'Hare's request to keep the real reason for the departure a secret until after O'Hare's passing in October 2012.
Because of the televised "novel" format developed by J. Michael Straczynski, and to account for any unforeseen changes during series production (cast changes, budget cuts, et cetera) each major character and storyline had a "trapdoor" designed into it. Thus, if a change had to be made to the show, Straczynski could integrate it without changing the major plot of the series.
J. Michael Straczynski made television history by becoming the first person to write an entire twenty-two-episode season of a television series (this show's third season). He also wrote alone the fourth season, and all but one episode of the fifth and final season.
During the first season, Commander Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) said, "This station creates gravity by rotation, so the room never stops spinning." Reportedly, the animating team had the station spinning at a near-Earth gravity simulation. This was determined by a physicist who was also a fan of the show, who determined the approximate size of the station by comparing it to the image of a human being on the edge of the station and extrapolating.
Delenn was originally going to be a male character. The "transformation" at the start of season two would have been from a male character to a female character, both incarnations were to have been played by Mira Furlan. This is why, in the pilot, Delenn's appearance is much more severe and masculine than in the first season. The plan was to electronically modulate Furlan's voice into a lower register, so her voice would sound male. J. Michael Straczynski wasn't happy with the results, so the male-to-female idea was dropped. Furlan's unaltered voice was used for the pilot, and her make-up was made more feminine for the series.
The series was conceived to run for five seasons as a sort of giant video novel. This plan was nearly shelved when it appeared that this show was going to be cancelled after the fourth season. J. Michael Straczynski pushed forward much of the material he had planned for the fifth season into the fourth, and even filmed the planned series finale for that year. When word came that the fifth season had been granted after all, the series finale was held back, and used in its proper place.
Walter Koenig played Psi Cop Alfred Bester. Alfred Bester (1913-1987) was a leading science fiction writer, one of whose best works, "The Demolished Man", deals with murder in a world where the police are telepathic, as is the Bester character in this show.
The teddy bear that Radu finds in Space Cases (1996) season one, episode two, "Who Goes Where", is the same one that Sheridan tosses out of an airlock into space on this show, season two, episode fourteen, "There All the Honor Lies", which was written by Space Cases (1996) Creator Peter David. It's a running gag between David and J. Michael Straczynski. David's wife gave the bear to J. Michael Straczynski, who hates "cute" things, and thus had Sheridan dispose of it in a rather unkind manner. Peter David took revenge in defense of his wife's honor. When Radu brings in the bear, Rosie says, "What kind of dope would toss a perfectly good Earth bear into space?" Later, we find out that the bear was left by an evil race called the "Straczyn". J. Michael Straczynski has reportedly sworn vengeance.
When Stephen Furst went in to audition for Vir, he saw, much to his surprise, that everyone else in the waiting room had done their hair up into the Centauri crest, but he was the only person without one. In a blind panic, he went to the bathroom and attempted to use liquid soap to create a badly made crest. Upon being called in, he stumbled in, and with a disheveled, lopsided crest, liquid soap dripping into his eyes (causing his eyes to tear up), began to apologize profusely, and stammering with run-on sentences. Without missing a beat, series show runner J. Michael Straczynski and the producers looked at each other and declared "Oh my God, it's Vir!" They then told Furst that he didn't need to bother reading for the part and offered it to him on the spot.
When this show entered production, there were claims that the creators of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) had stolen this show's basic premise. It was never proven, though both shows share striking similarities. This controversy led to friction between Babylon 5 and Star Trek fans over the course of both series.
Peter David wrote a throwaway joke that was not used; describing it later, he said that if you didn't get it as soon as you heard it, it could not possibly be explained well enough to make it funny for you. The setup was Garibaldi (who was established as a pop culture fan) and Londo in a corridor. Londo says he doesn't understand why Garibaldi wants him to do something. Garibaldi begs him to just do it. Londo sighs and says "Very well. 'Moose and squirrel'. Are you satisfied?"
Claudia Christian was originally scheduled to appear in season five. According to J. Michael Straczynski, she backed out of the final season, due to a contract dispute. However, according to Christian, she was fired by the producers.
The set dressers and stage hands were only hired if they had previous experience in theater work. In theater, sets are constantly re-used and minimally altered to resemble new locations, something that was done repeatedly on this show to save money.
To quell the rivalry between fans of this series and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), Majel Barrett, widow of "Star Trek" Creator Gene Roddenberry made a guest appearance on this show as a sign of good will to the fans. Appropriately enough, she played the widow of a goodwill ambassador.
Robert Foxworth, who played General Hague during season two, was supposed to return for season three, episode ten, "Severed Dreams". However, he got booked on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) that same week. So they re-wrote the script, killed off his character, and brought in Bruce McGill as his aide, Major Ryan. Oddly enough, Foxworth's Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) character attempted a coup on Earth, whereas his Babylon 5 character was a loyalist fighting against a coup on Earth. Also, in a Stargate SG-1 (1997) episode, Foxworth's character was nearly the victim of a coup on his home world, and in a Star Trek: Enterprise (2001) episode, he attempted yet another coup on Vulcan.
Claudia Christian auditioned for the role of Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager (1995). In fact, several actors and actresses from this show also did Trek: Andreas Katsulas was Romulan Commander Tomalak; Bill Mumy was an engineer on Starfleet's AR-558 outpost; and more. Trek co-Creator Majel Barrett made an appearance on this show as the seer who foretells Londo's ascension to the throne. Majel Barrett's character, Lady Morella, was the widow of the recently deceased Emperor Turhan, an homage to Gene Roddenberry.
One of the visible differences between humans and Centauri is that Centauri canines are slightly longer. Stephen Furst found that the canine extensions gave him a noticeable lisp, and stopped using them.
Peter Jurasik (Londo) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) got along quite famously on and off camera throughout the series' run. Their performances together were widely hailed by fans to be the best of the series, and they rarely needed more than two or three takes to shoot their scenes together. In fact, they would often play for the camera, and between takes or while waiting for their scenes to be shot, they would improvise off each other (since J. Michael Straczynski would often forbid it while cameras were rolling), leaving the cast and crew in stitches, and providing some much-needed comic relief during the long shooting schedules. In one instance (in character and in full costume), Jurasik and Katsulas recorded a hilarious infomercial for The Book Of G'Kar, parodying infomercials at the time, which was later included in various blooper reels and DVD extras.
Because of the epic five season video novel format, ad-libs were forbidden on-set. Any script changes had to be approved by J. Michael Straczynski. Occasionally, ad-libs slipped through. In season one, episode twenty, "Babylon Squared", a flash-forward in time shows Garibaldi leading security forces in defense against an attack on the station. As he fires his weapon, he shouts at the enemy, in a manner reminiscent of Hudson from Aliens: "Come on! Take some! How about you? How about YOU?! Come on, take some, take some, TAKE SOME!" When asked on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 how it was that Garibaldi knew where to shoot when other scenes indicated that the attackers were invisible, J. Michael Straczynski explained that Jerry Doyle ad-libbed the dialogue. There had been none written for that scene, and Doyle felt that an emotion charged battle like this would not have been fought in silence. Straczynski agreed with Doyle, but circumstances prevented his being present at the filming. He said that had he been there, he would have written some lines for Garibaldi, and that they would have sounded less like Hudson.
Spoo, an oft-mentioned Babylon 5 food, had its first mention years earlier in She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985), for which J. Michael Straczynski was a writer. Spoo was mentioned as an Etherian delicacy in the episode "Gateway to Trouble".
Once rendered, CGI shots were re-used whenever possible. This was not only to cut costs, but given the computing power available during the series' run, fully rendering ships, plants, the station, and anything else that was required took a significant amount of time.
Although J. Michael Straczynski had said several times in public that the series outline was on his computer under a triple-encrypted code lock, the series plans were also in a couple of three-ring binders directly above his desk in his studio office.
According to the DVD commentary, if filming ran past 5 p.m. on Mondays during football season, the cast and crew would subtly hint that filming should wrap soon by humming the theme from NFL Monday Night Football (1970) whenever the director walked onto the set.
According to Usenet posts by J. Michael Straczynski, the term "psi cop" (for the powerful, merciless enforcers of the Psi Corps) intentionally echoes the acronym "C.S.I.C.O.P.", the acronym for the "Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal", a group of scientists and professional magicians who investigate psychic phenomena and unmask frauds and hoaxes.
For Centauri males, longer hair is associated with higher status. However, at least three Centauri emperors (Emperor Tuscano, Emperor Turhan, and Emperor Cartagia) had hair shorter than that of Ambassador Londo Mollari.
Two blooper cassettes were made of various gaffes and mistakes (and traded hands as bootlegs for many years), but they were never commercially released. A short "gag reel" features on most of the season box sets, however.
Jeff Conaway's death pneumonia as a result of a drug overdose was all the more ironic, given that his character, Zack Allen, was given a second chance in the series after overcoming a drug addiction. In fact, drug and alcohol addiction proved to be a major theme for several characters, such as Dr. Franklin, Michael Garibaldi, Captain Lochley, and others. After Conaway's death, several of his Babylon 5 co-stars, including Bruce Boxleitner, stated that despite his struggles with addiction, Conaway was the consummate professional, always arriving on-set on-time and prepared, and that the only state they ever saw him in was sober.
J. Michael Straczynski once said that the Earth Alliance military used a "blending" of rank systems, although this was never spelled out in detail on the show. Thus, the exact EA rank structure remains unknown, although most fans assume the different branches (Navy, Marines, Security) each use the appropriate system of ranks for that branch. (Contrary to popular belief, Admirals have been mentioned twice on the show, in season one, episode eight, "And the Sky Full of Stars", and season one, episode thirteen, "Signs and Portents") There are Generals who have been seen wearing the blue Navy uniform, although this could be evidence of yet another branch (Air Force?).
The casino walls on the Babylon 5 station are partially decorated with magenta and light blue prints of the tile design Frank Lloyd Wright used in the Ennis house. This building was extremely popular amongst set designers of science fiction films in the late twentieth century.
Because of the studio's proximity to the local airport, many takes were ruined by planes flying overhead. In several blooper reels, an airplane could be clearly heard during the shot, much to the amusement of the cast and crew who often burst out laughing, given the irony of it during occasionally tense or dramatic scenes.
After the series ended, Michael O'Hare, Jerry Doyle, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, Stephen Furst, and Richard Biggs died. Michael O'Hare died on September 28, 2012, at the age of sixty. Jerry Doyle died on July 27, 2016, at the age of sixty. Andreas Katsulas died on February 13, 2006, at the age of fifty-nine. Jeff Conaway died on May 27, 2011, at the age of sixty, Stephen Furst died on June 16, 2017, at the age of sixty-three, and Richard Biggs died on May 22, 2004, at the age of forty-four.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Originally, the character of Jeffrey Sinclair was supposed to continue throughout the series and fight the Shadows, as well as eventually returning in time to become Valen. At the end of season one, it was decided to write Sinclair out because, among other reasons, this amounted to too many plot lines for one character. Also, unknown to most at the time, Michael O'Hare was battling an increasingly debilitating case of schizophrenia, which made it virtually impossible for him to continue working as a series regular by the end of the first season. The backstory involving Sinclair's fight with the Shadows was transferred to the new character of John Sheridan, with Sinclair becoming the Earth ambassador to Minbar.
A comic book series, based on the show, was published by DC Comics. These comics were supervised, and in some cases written, by J. Michael Straczynski, to ensure their conformity to the continuity of the show. In some cases, important plot information was given months or years in advance, including the fact that the Minbari discovered humans with Minbari souls, and that Talia Winters had been subjected to Psi-Corp experimentation (although in both of these cases, some details were left undisclosed). Additionally, the story of how Sinclair and Garibaldi met on Mars, which is referenced at several points in the series, is told in full.