Season 3: Point of No Return
“The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed.
“But, in the year of the Shadow War, it became something greater: our last, best hope for victory.
“The year is 2260. The place: Babylon 5.”
- Earthforce Commander Susan Ivanova
Captain John Sheridan Bruce Boxleitner
Commander Susan Ivanova Claudia Christian
Security Chief Michael Garibaldi Jerry Doyle
Ambassador Delenn Mira Furlan
Dr. Stephen Franklin Richard Biggs
Marcus Cole Jason Carter
Security Aide Zack Allan Jeff Conaway
Vir Cotto Stephen Furst
Lennier Bill Mumy
G’Kar Andreas Katsulas
Ambassador Londo Mollari Peter Jurasik
Creator J. Michael Straczynski
Producer John Copeland
Executive Producers J. Michael Straczynski & Douglas Netter
Conceptual Consultant Harlan Ellison
Production Designer John Iacovelli
Costume Designer Anne Bruice-Aling
Visual Effects Designer Ron Thornton
Visual Effects Producers Foundation Imaging
Makeup Supervisor John Vulich
Makeup Producers Optic Nerve Studios
Music Composer Christopher Franke
Music Performers Christopher Franke & the Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra
Unlike the previous year, the changes between Season 2 and Season 3 were relatively restrained. The biggest change was that J. Michael Straczynski decided during the planning of the season that he would write all 22 episodes himself. This was because the situation in the show fluctuated rapidly over the course of the season and there wasn’t enough time to fit in more than a couple of stand-alone episodes, so it was simply easier for JMS himself to write them all. This move saw the leave-taking of script editor Lawrence G. DiTillio from the show, since JMS notoriously refused to let anyone tamper with his scripts after he had finished them. Larry went on to write scripts for cult CGI series Transformers: Beast Wars and would later return to write an episode of Crusade.
Straczynski claimed that his decision to write all of Season 3 – and late Season 4 and most of Season 5 – set a record for the largest number of cumulative episodes written by a single writer. In total, Straczynski wrote 52 sequential episodes of Babylon 5, running from B17 through to E3. However, the subsequent episode E4 was still co-written by Straczynski (with Harlan Ellison). Including that episode, the correct cumulative tally is (running up to episode E7, as E8 was written by Neil Gaiman) 56 episodes and 41 hours, including the entirety of Seasons 3 and 4.
Although this is almost certainly an American record, it is not a world record: as noted by Andy Lane in his seminal Babylon File, British writer Ted Willis wrote nine complete seasons of British police drama Dixon of Dock Green – 201 episodes and 113.5 hours – between 1955 and 1963.
On the cast front the biggest move was the departure of Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters and the introduction of Jason Carter as Ranger Marcus Cole. Thompson actually left in episode B19 since she was disappointed at the amount of screen time she was getting in Season 2 (and, from the look of it, she would have had even less to do in Season 3). At the BabCom ’96 convention she revealed she would be willing to make one-off appearances to resolve her storyline, but Straczynski chose a clean break and only rarely referred to her character again. The character of Marcus came in as a “free-roaming” agent separate from the Earthforce personnel and able to do things those in the military couldn’t. He also provided Ivanova with a new sparring partner, resulting in some nice dialogue scenes between them.
Between seasons Stephen Furst was offered a regular role in a sitcom called Misery Loves Company. Furst preferred to remain on Babylon 5, as it was a serious and more dramatic role, but Misery was also more money and gave him many more episodes to appear in. He discussed the situation with Straczynski who noted that the shooting schedules for the two shows, both filmed in Los Angeles, also allowed the possibility of Furst doing both shows; as a result, Furst was allowed to depart the show in episode C3 and return in C12 when shooting was completed (he was also able to fit in a couple of other appearances inbetween). Misery was not picked up for a back season order, so Furst was able to return full-time.
Season 3 was originally going to be called I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds, taken from a Hindu saying and quoted by Professor Oppenheimer upon the detonation of the first atom bomb in July 1945 at Los Alamos, New Mexico. JMS realised this was too apocalyptic (and was better suited to the following season, though he chose not to use it there either) and changed it. His next choice was War Without End, but thought this over-emphasised the Shadow War which didn’t start until the last third of the season. He eventually settled on Point of No Return.
The CGI effects were upgraded again between-seasons, this time resulting in a much more believable and impressive explosion effect and higher-resolution shots. The time needed to render scenes also dropped slightly, which was a good thing as several episodes pushed Foundation Imaging to the edge of their abilities in rendering space battles and composite shots. However, the relationship between Foundation Imaging and Babylon Productions began to strain somewhat this season, with several errors in episodes C8 and C10, the result of a higher workload for the effects team with no corresponding rise in pay (which forced Foundation Imaging to take on more work outside of Babylon 5). This relationship would break down altogether between Seasons 3 and 4, and we will cover that in the episode guide for next season.
The title sequence for this season was once again changed. A collection of scenes from previous seasons were used along with a new, slow fly-past of the station with the actors appearing out of jump points. The first pass of the title sequence had the White Star flying at the camera with weapons blazing, but J. Michael Straczynski didn’t like the shot and asked for it to be redone with the final shot of the ship spinning around. Preview tapes of the first two episodes went out with the original shot still included, however.
Christopher Franke provided a new title theme for this season, rather than simply creating a new version of the same tune as with the first two seasons. The new theme melds elements of “Requiem for the Line” from episode A8 and the music used for both the Shadow battle and the bombing of the Narn homeworld from episode B20. The original theme music was used for the end credits of episodes C1-C4 before being replaced from episode C5 onwards; the original UK broadcast, however, had the new theme music used throughout the season.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP