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  • JMS changed the ending of B5?

    I was reading through the comment section on Mojo's blog, and this caught my eye:

    B5 was a great series but letÆs not look at it through rose colored glasses. The overall story arc was wonderful, but if you think JMS didnÆt change it as he went along youÆre deluding yourself - the ôone, cohesive story from start to finishö didnÆt exist on B5 any more than it does on BSG. In fact JMS changed the conclusion of B5 simply because ôafter five years the fans deserve a happy ending.ö

    Now, not having the script books I don't know if this is a JMS quote from those or from somewhere else, but those who do, can you tell me which "downer" ending is Mojo referring to? Something from the original outline in vol. 15 or something developed later? Something that was changed at the last minute while doing SIL? Or am I forgetting something?

  • #2
    1: Of course he changed details as he wrote. jms said many times that "writing is fluid."

    2: This is the 3rd time I've heard this "after five years the fans deserve a happy ending" so jms changed it. What happy ending does this refer to? I didn't see a happy ending. I've showed all of Babylon 5 to two other different people and these were the reactions I got: One said "that sucks!" referring to Sheridan's death...and the other cried for a whole day afterwards. What kind of happy ending are we talking about?!?! (yes there are some happy moments, but I wouldn't call it an overall happy ending)

    3: A lot of the points that occurred in the series were listed in the outline, but the original ending wouldn't be possible after the episode "Moments of Transition" because the ending in the outline included in the script books is (I put it in spoiler tags):

    Season Five ends with an assault on, and the destruction of Babylon 5 by the Minbari. Sinclair and Delenn manage to escape with their newborn child as the station explodes behind them.
    And if you go farther down in the outline, the ending has some similarities to what we got:

    The story of Babylon Prime ends with the formation of new alliances, and a final great war, in which Babylon 4 is a prime player. The Shadowmen are finally conquered. The Minbari are defeated by Earth, which clears Sinclair's name. Delenn takes her leave to rejoin the Grey Council, departing from Sinclair's side, possibly forever. Their son takes his place as head of a new alliance, promising peace for the first time. He is able to command political and religious leaders in a consortium of power.
    4: It is apparent from the outline that jms had many many details planned out early on even if he changed a few later. It is very very doubtful he would have changed the ending at the whim of the fans.

    5: jms said he writes episodes based on his titles. (11/15/1996)

    I always have to have the title before I begin writing, since it sets the whole tone for the episode. I can labor for hours just coming up with the right title...other times it just hits me.
    6: The title "Sleeping in Light" was known early on, at least as early as 1994 (10/19/1994):

    So it may change, but for the time being, in my notes for the series, the last episode of year five has this note: Title? -- "Farewell" or "Sleeping in Light."
    So even if the details changed, the tone of the episode was likely the same.
    Last edited by JoeD80; 06-03-2008, 10:53 PM.

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    • #3
      I found this quote looking up stuff for a different thread, but I'll add it now (from Volume 11):

      Prior to getting started on year one of Babylon 5, I'd broken down every single season, episode by episode, onto 3x5 cards which I kept on a shelf in my office. Yes the overall arc was in an encrypted file on my computer, but the details were all in the cards. Each card had the title, the basic story of the episode, key lines of dialogue, bits and pieces of scenes, all written on cards shoved into matching pockets, 22 pockets per page, in a three-ring binder I kept in my office.
      Some of the outlines of these episodes were expanded on in some of the memos that we've seen in the other books, and you can see where some stories get shifted around. For example, the B-plot of "River of Souls" was originally planned as a season two episode called "The Customer Is Always Right."

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      • #4
        Of course he had to change the ending, simply because Sinclair replaced Sheridan.

        I don't see a "happy ending", either. And I don't know anyone who does. I don't know hardly anyone who makes it through SiL without crying even on second viewing.

        the “one, cohesive story from start to finish” didn’t exist on B5 any more than it does on BSG.
        This, IMO, is a misconception. There is a difference between one cohesive story that's there from the start but modified as the show progresses, and a some long-term arc ideas existing but not in a cohesive form, or even developing the entire thing during the process. As we know from the outline, the "one, cohesive story from start to finish" did exist. It changed, but taking the original arc and the outlined sequel series together, not as much as it seems at first view.

        And as for the ending, IIRC the ending of the sequel series wasn't even outlined. I can only assume that Mojo is referring to the ending of the original B5 arc proper. But in my view it's pretty obvious that what we got was a combination of that and the sequel, so obviously what's relevant is the ending of the sequel. I'd like to know where it's been written or stated what this "original ending" of the sequel was supposed to be.
        Last edited by mandragora; 06-04-2008, 03:08 AM.

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        • #5
          About two posts up under the second spoiler tag for one. Unless Babylon Prime wasn't the sequal to Babylon 5.

          I can see where the misconception about the cohesive story from early days originates from. The DVD special features where jms said he had the story worked out, something like 1,000 years on either side of the series.

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          • #6
            In his foreward to JMS' Rising Stars comic series, Neil Gaiman outlines that his writing generally begins by knowing the start of the story and the end of the story and some of the stuff that happens in between, and I think JMS has alluded to something similar in some of his postings.

            The ending for B5 obviously changed when the decision was made for Sinclair to leave and Sheridan to come in in his place, but for seasons 2-5 to have the coherence that they do, I think JMS must have known at that point how it was all going to end.

            But he certainly wouldn't have had everything mapped out in between, since he had to allow the story to take its own shape along the way ... didn't he say, for example, that he had planned to kill Kosh later but in writing Interludes and Examinations it became clear that that was when it should happen?

            The criticism B5 fans have for shows like The X-Files in comparison with B5 is not that B5 had a coherent 5 year story to tell that was all mapped out in detail ahead of time, but that B5 knew where it was going to end up whereas the X-Files didn't. That helped the B5 story to cohere much better. The big change in the B5 story is where the big continuity errors had to be fudged somehow, and that was in War Without End.

            JMS described it as a novel for television and, funnily enough, that's how novels work too. Agatha Christie, for example, apprently used to write all but the last chapter of her books before deciding who the killer was. She would then go back over the story and tweak it to make sure the clues were in place and the story made sense. A novel does, however have the advantage of being kept under wraps until it is complete, unlike a weekly TV show.
            Last edited by Garibaldi's Hair; 06-04-2008, 04:42 AM.
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            • #7
              Tears or not, I find "Sleeping in Light" an immensely happy ending because we actually got to see that they did live 'happily ever after' and, as Delenn once said, they did everything they set out to do.

              IMO, Mojo's error was in trying to state that "in fact" JMS changed the conclusion for the sake of the fans. JMS has done many things for the sake of the fans but I don't think anybody who's been reading his posts for any length of time, much less the script books, would think that he'd change a story for anything but *story* reasons.

              It's not a contradiction to say that B5 was planned in detail ahead of time and yet it also remained fluid and open to changes that were necessitated by changing conditions *or* that became desireable in order to make it a better story. Heck, I found it obvious from reading JMS' posts long before the script books came out and the script books illustrate that process at work beautifully.

              Jan
              "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair View Post
                In his foreward to JMS' Rising Stars comic series, Neil Gaiman outlines that his writing generally begins by knowing the start of the story and the end of the story and some of the stuff that happens in between, and I think JMS has alluded to something similar in some of his postings.
                Yes, here's one example:

                "My structure is always very tight on these things, in the sense that I plan out the basic *spine* of the novel. I know I'm starting at point A, I want to end at point Z, and I want to hit a certain number of spots along the way. Then I start writing. Once I've committed to that STRUCTURE, everything else becomes expendable or fluid. I've had background characters suddenly lurch into the foreground, and major characters (or characters I *thought* would be major) fall into the background. Sometimes, while chugging along the structure highway, I'll see something interesting just off the main road, and I'll go poke around in there for a while.

                Basically, I like being *surprised*. And I think, in general, that readers do as well. At no time do I diverge from where I want to go; the spine never alters. But the details are absolutely fluid."

                http://jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-12195
                IMO, that's the only approach that's going to work in a long-term project. This is even more true for a TV show that has to allow for the possibility of actors leaving and other real-life stuff interfering.

                I'd be concerned if a writer had no problem sticking to a detailed plan for over 10 years, because this, in my view, would be a sign of stagnation. What kind of person doesn't change and evolve over the course of 10 years?

                Rowling claims to have stuck to her masterplan in detail over the whole Potter series, and specifically to the ending, the final chapter. While I'm not sure if that's what really happened over the rest of the series, the result in the last book is, IMO, that the story was forced to fit an ending conceived over 15 years before at any cost - and without going into details, suffice it to say that on a closer look, I think it shows considerable costs.
                Last edited by mandragora; 06-04-2008, 05:32 AM.

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                • #9
                  That's a great example, Mandragora, thanks.

                  Jan
                  "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

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                  • #10
                    I disagree with the Rowling example, since I thought the ending was perfect, but you're right about stagnation. If you don't change anything as you go along, especially on a TV series, then something is off. The very act of casting should affect a story - different actors bring different things to a story. And planning a story is not the same as writing it. In writing, the story takes over, and sometimes it does things you weren't expecting - because these things are more appropriate, more true (in a sense) than what you had planned. And a good writer will accept that and move with it.
                    Jonas Kyratzes | Lands of Dream

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mandragora View Post
                      Rowling claims to have stuck to her masterplan in detail over the whole Potter series, and specifically to the ending, the final chapter. While I'm not sure if that's what really happened over the rest of the series, the result in the last book is, IMO, that the story was forced to fit an ending conceived over 15 years before at any cost - and without going into details, suffice it to say that on a closer look, I think it shows considerable costs.
                      Even there, she didn't stick to her whole plan ... She said she'd planned to kill off Mr. Weasley in book 5. She also said she'd had the final chapter written years earlier, but had to re-write it because one of the main 3 characters lived. She still won't say whether it was Ron, Harry, or Hermione that was to have been killed.

                      Things happen in the writing .... Heck, Kosh is an example of that. As jms said, he hadn't planned to kill Kosh so early, but that's what happens during the writing process, things change.
                      "Jan Schroeder is insane" - J. Michael Straczynski, March 2008

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by OmahaStar View Post
                        She also said she'd had the final chapter written years earlier, but had to re-write it because one of the main 3 characters lived. She still won't say whether it was Ron, Harry, or Hermione that was to have been killed.
                        Do you have a quote with respect to the latter? Because while I'm familiar the Weasley changes (both Mafalda and Arthur/ Tonks/Lupin), I hadn't heard about changes relating to the trio.

                        My last post was somewhat inaccurate; my apologies. I didn't mean she stuck to it in every single detail, but overall my impression is that her plan was much more detailed and also less flexible than JMS' plan for B5. Meaning, unlike JMS I think she didn't really plan for the possibility of deviations, if that makes any sense. I'm, let's say, very familiar with her books, as well as her statements on them and the discussions around them (up to the end of last year, at least). More so than with B5, perhaps. And one of the most interesting things relating to all the "B5 original arc" discussion for me is the comparison how in both cases "masterplans" were designed and handled, and the outcome of it.
                        Last edited by mandragora; 06-04-2008, 01:29 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair View Post
                          JMS described it as a novel for television and, funnily enough, that's how novels work too. Agatha Christie, for example, apprently used to write all but the last chapter of her books before deciding who the killer was. She would then go back over the story and tweak it to make sure the clues were in place and the story made sense. A novel does, however have the advantage of being kept under wraps until it is complete, unlike a weekly TV show.
                          Christie even changed the killer and the ending to the book Ten Little Indians when she made it into a stage play after it had become popular. (as well as the title, but you can research that on your own)

                          Originally posted by Jan View Post
                          Tears or not, I find "Sleeping in Light" an immensely happy ending because we actually got to see that they did live 'happily ever after' and, as Delenn once said, they did everything they set out to do.
                          Londo did not live happily ever after. That is part of the sadness in the final episodes I think. Of course we knew he would die from "Midnight on the Firing Line" but it was still sad to see the end episodes of season 5 IMO.

                          Originally posted by Triple F View Post
                          I can see where the misconception about the cohesive story from early days originates from. The DVD special features where jms said he had the story worked out, something like 1,000 years on either side of the series.
                          What he says is he worked out broad strokes for 1000 years. The details were worked out on the notecards, which would have covered the series only. He mentions in the scriptbook that after his season 5 notes were thrown out in Blackpool, the main thing he remembered from them was Byron, and that's why he stuck to Byron so much and wrote standalone episodes in the first episodes of that season. The details had to be re-worked.
                          Last edited by JoeD80; 06-04-2008, 01:02 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JoeD80 View Post
                            1: Of course he changed details as he wrote. jms said many times that "writing is fluid."

                            2: This is the 3rd time I've heard this "after five years the fans deserve a happy ending" so jms changed it. What happy ending does this refer to? I didn't see a happy ending. I've showed all of Babylon 5 to two other different people and these were the reactions I got: One said "that sucks!" referring to Sheridan's death...and the other cried for a whole day afterwards. What kind of happy ending are we talking about?!?! (yes there are some happy moments, but I wouldn't call it an overall happy ending)
                            Yeah I don't really see the happy ending. I was depressed for a day or two after watching in the first time for sure.
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                            • #15
                              That comment (the original from Mojo) also caused me to raise my eyebrows. I really enjoyed BSG from the mini-series through season two. The more recent seasons, eh, not so much. I think that Ron Moore might pull out a very solid ending to the series, but I really don't think he had much of the "middle" of the story planned out. Certainly not to the degree that JMS did with B5. I believe this is probably due in large degree to the lack of a set length for BSG. While B5 was almost canceled a number of times, it was envisioned as a five year story from the get go and that was more or less what we got. I get the feeling that BSG had a plan for the first season or so and for the final few episodes with a few points to hit in between and not much more.

                              BTW, Mojo's site is great for B5, BSG, and even Star Trek/Wars fans. Really interesting behind the scenes info on everything Mojo's done effects/design for. If you haven't visited yet, here's the address:

                              http://darthmojo.wordpress.com/
                              Last edited by NotSoWize; 06-04-2008, 01:37 PM.

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