Feb 26 2013 10:30am

Is This the Smoking Gun Proving Deep Space Nine Ripped Off Babylon 5?

Babylon 5 Star Trek Deep Space Nine controversy ripped off

This past Friday, February 22nd marked the 20th anniversary of that little space station that almost couldn’t; Babylon 5. Early 2013 also marked the 20th anniversary of another science fiction show centered on a space station: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And ever since then, the creators and hardcore fans of both shows have accused one of stealing from the other.

But which came first? The Babylon 5 chicken or the Deep Space Nine egg? Recently, a new piece of information has popped up that inexorably ties together the origins of DS9 and Babylon 5.

Babylon 5 Star Trek Deep Space Nine controversy ripped off

Pioneering complex and ongoing story arcs in mainstream science fiction television is probably Babylon 5’s lasting contribution not only to genre fans but to TV in general. However, while it was on the air, B5’s truly herculean accomplishment was simply maintaining its continued existence as a serious outer space science fiction show not called Star Trek.

For years, speculation has existed that Paramount stole aspects of Babylon 5 for the premise of Deep Space Nine, owing to the fact that B5 was pitched to Paramount before being picked up by Warner Bros. And while B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski worried his show would be seen as a “last minute knock-off” of DS9, he soon adopted a “live and let live” attitude toward the whole affair. From JMS news in 1992:

“Were Pillar and Berman aware of B5 at any time? No. Of that I am also confident. The only question in my mind is to what degree did the development people steer them? One scenario is that they did not steer them at ALL...but knowing of B5, and knowing how swell it would be if they could co-opt B5, if Pillar and Berman came up with a space station on their own, they would likely say nothing, even though they might be viewed as being under a moral obligation to say something. Another scenario is that they gave direction to the creative folks without telling them the origin of that direction. There are several ways of dealing with this. One is to launch a major suit with full powers of discovery. The result is that DS9 gets tied up for months, maybe even years in litigation, and maybe the show doesn’t go forward. It also means hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Warners and me and others pursuing this...not to mention the sense of ill will that will fly back and forth.”

The two shows eventually came to a reconciliation of sorts. Star Trek’s first lady Majel Barrett Roddenberry guest-starred on Babylon 5 in 1996 and B5’s Bill Mumy showed up in the 7th season of DS9. Further, in 1996 JMS went on record again on his site saying he doubted that Rick Berman and Michael Piller would have actively been “cribbing B5 plotlines,” and went on to defend Voyager producer Jeri Taylor. This particular entry even mentions friendly games of softball between the Babylon 5 cast and the casts of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. (DS9 lost to B5, which lost to Voyager. Why could this crossover not have actually happened on TV!?)

It appears that old space graves are being re-opened now, however, due to an interesting comment that emerged from an (excellent) io9 article celebrating the origins of Babylon 5 that was published on February 21st by Jason Shankel. A comment so interesting, in fact, that B5 creator JMS posted it on his own Facebook forum.

A commenter named Steven Hopstaken left the following comment in the io9 article:

I was working at Warner Bros. in the publicity department when Warner Bros. and Paramount were preparing to launch a joint [emphasis mine] network. Warner Bros. already decided to buy Babylon 5 for their adhoc PTEN network (a group of independent stations that agreed to show Warner Bros. shows in prime time.)

Paramount and Warner Bros. both agreed that Deepspace 9 would be the show that would launch the new network and there wouldn’t be room for two “space” shows on the network. I was told they purposely took what they liked from the B5 script and put it in the DS9 script. In fact, there was talk of leaving the B5 script in tact and just setting it the Star Trek universe. I had to keep rewriting press release drafts while they were trying to make the final decision.

But then, suddenly, Paramount decided to launch a new network on their own and screwed Warner Bros. over. That sent Warner Bros. scrambling to create their own network; grabbing up any station not already committed to Paramount and getting WGN to show the WB network on cable.

So Paramount definitely knew about the Babylon 5 script, I don’t know about the DS9 show runners, but I find it hard to believe they didn’t know.

What’s most damning about this statement is the notion that Paramount and Warner Bros. were teaming up to make a television network at a time when both DS9 and B5 were in development, meaning some kind of crossover (perhaps unbeknownst to Rick Berman, Michael Piller, or J. Michael Straczynksi) was bound to occur. Further, the idea that this guy was having to write and rewrite press releases that presumably did or didn’t establish the “space station show” as being set in the Star Trek universe, is totally fascinating. Can you imagine the names this hybrid show might have been called? Star Trek: Babylon Space 5, Star Trek: Babylon Deep, or worse yet, Space Babylon Nine.

JMS’s only reaction to this on his Facebook page so far has been to note that the comment is “interesting,” which seems like the appropriate response. After all, an unverified comment on a website is not exactly proof.

This notion sort of matches up with JMS’s 1992 theory that Berman and Piller didn’t know about Babylon 5, but that the powers-that-be might have manipulated the DS9 showrunners in certain directions. In the end, the two shows ended up being different enough to allow both to survive, and the characters and stories became divergent to the point of making everyone forget there was ever a controversy. And yet, the superficial similarities present at the start of both shows are staggering.

Stalwart DS9 fans will likely continue to maintain it is the best and most dramatic Trek, while Babylon 5 fans will always cite their show as one of the most pure and original “novels for television” ever. I’m a fan of both, but cop to being in the minority of folks who was pro-B5 and anti-DS9 when both were on. Being a Babylon 5 fan in 1993 (when I was REALLY young) felt like being a punk. I loved (and still do love) Star Trek, but even then could recognize its size and power might actually be preventing other cool sci-fi TV from flourishing. As recounted by Jane Killick in the Babylon 5 series guide book Signs and Portents, “The people behind Star Trek didn’t believe it could be done and sat on the idea [Babylon 5] for nine months.”

Star Trek had gone from being the underdog of the 60’s to the schoolyard bully of the 90’s. And while time has probably been more kind to DS9 than B5 (owing I’d say mostly to better production value on the former) B5 might have indeed been a victim of Star Trek's success, at least early on.

In Babylon 5’s ambitious fourth season finale, “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” the events of the series are depicted in a flash-forward historical retrospective. First the viewer sees what Earth thinks about the characters at the present time, then 100 years in the future, then 500, and so on. Each subsequent jump creates more bizarre distance, and strange manipulation of the heroic actions of Sheridan, Delenn and the other big characters. From academic trivialization, to military propaganda, to outright myth and legend, the story of Babylon 5 becomes a growing, changing thing.

Perhaps we’ll never fully know how much Paramount plucked from the B5 script for DS9; nor who knew about it. Do I think DS9 was a Babylon 5 rip-off? In the end, like JMS, certainly not. But it may have began its life that way, but there's not that there’s much we can do about that now. After all, historical accounts of the initial construction of fictional space stations is hardly something most people get too worked up about. But as the future marches on, the deconstruction of these fictional space stations might provide us with some uncomfortable truths about the casual and wanton theft of imagination by powers who don’t possess any imagination themselves.

Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

Kit Case
1. wiredog
Stalwart DS9 fans will likely continue to maintain it is the best and most dramatic Trek, while Babylon 5 fans will always cite their show as one of the most pure and original “novels for television” ever.
I fall squarely in both camps: DS9 was the best Trek, and B5 was the best (or at least first) novel for TV. Both were awesome, I watched both all the way through.

BSG was almost as awesome as B5. If B5's sfx could be reshot with today's tech, and the non-sfx parts scanned into hd, it would be amazing.
2. Koralatov
@wiredog: I don’t really agree with that. Babylon 5 would definitely benefit visually from a Next Generation-style remastering, but that would come with two serious problems: it would make the already shaky sets look even worse; and, more importantly, it wouldn’t improve the acting. I really enjoyed B5, but overall the acting was of a much poorer calibre than DS9’s.

What held B5 together as a series was the storyline, and the audaciousness of writing a “novel for TV” when nothing like it had really been done before.
3. Neil B.
The only people this matters too is the original writers of B5. These are 2 of my faviorite shows. I too agree DS9 was my faviorite run of Star Trek. The war with the Dominion and the war with the Klingons was pretty awesome.

It think we all benefitted from this. They took the idea from B5 because it was a good one.
Adam Whitehead
4. Werthead
As has been pointed out before about the very comment referenced above, it appears to be pure BS. There is no evidence of WB and Paramount planning a joint network in 1991-92, and Paramount's solo network did not launch until 1995. The show that was used to launch that network was VOYAGER, not DEEP SPACE NINE. BABYLON 5 was also not part of The WB, instead airing in direct syndication (initially via the PTEN ad-hoc network and later just in standard syndication when PTEN fell apart).

A guy called Steven Hopstaken did work at Warner Brothers in the 1990s, according to JMS himself in that Facebook comment, but otherwise we don't know how reliable the info is. Given the timeline of everything else that fell out, it seems to be bunk.

As for how B5 and DS9 were both developed, we do know a fair bit of info about this. We know JMS came up with the B5 concept (actually an amalgamation of two previously-separate projects) in 1987 and by early 1989 had a pilot script and outlines of a full season's worth of episodes. This is what was shown to Paramount in early-to-mid 1989, and which they sat on for nine months before returning the material in late 1989 or early 1990.

Brandon Tartikoff then joined Paramount in 1991 and one of his first orders of business (certainly very early in his tenure) was to call Michael Pillar and Rick Berman to suggest expanding the STAR TREK franchise. TNG was due to end at the end of Season 6 (the conversation happened halfway through Season 4, and of course TNG did stay on air for an extra year) and Paramount wanted another show to air alongside it and then replace it. They didn't want two starship shows on at once, and a planetary setting was dismissed as being too expensive due to the amount of location filming needed. At that point you're only left with a space station as the direction to go in.

From that point Pillar wrote the pilot script with Berman producing. It's unclear exactly when material 'stolen' from the B5 script would make it into the DS9 one, or who would do it. Tartikoff, by all accounts, was extremely well-respected in Hollywood and noted for his integrity. Some nameless exec slipping in ideas may be possible, but that sort of creative control is normally only handled by the producers and writers. In addition, the argument for setting the show on a space station seems quite strong regardless of B5 also being in development. The only really damning thing that JMS has raised is the presence of shapeshifters on both shows, but then morphing technology at the time was a huge deal because of TERMINATOR 2 (and, as far as I am aware, the shapeshifter on B5 was a one-off villain who was only ever going to appear in the pilot, not a regular character as on DS9).

Ironically, the only time that one show seems to have definitely influenced the other was during Season 3 of B5 (when Season 4 of DS9 was on the air), when B5's head of CGI, Ron Thornton, was asked by SFX Magazine about the influence behind bringing in the White Star. He said, "Oh, it's a cool ship for the crew to get around in, like the Defiant on DS9." When asked, "Are you allowed you to say that," his reply was, "I'll say what I want."
5. Mazarkis Williams
I am with wiredog. DS9 was my favorite Trek and Babylon 5 had the best arc story on TV. Newer shows understandably are afraid to plot anything out over several years and instead try to retcon to make it all fit together later - after they know they're not getting canceled. I believe this is what Battlestar Galactica (new) resorted to. Fringe dealt with the issue by constantly resetting itself in a believable way, but in so doing sacrificed an overall story for a different message of love and family.
6. Mazarkis Williams
@Werthead I agree the storylines are not similar. DS9 was political in nature with an ultimate mythological theme, while B5 was the opposite (imho). Only in superficial details were they similar. The White Star vs. the Defiant. Kira versus Ivanova. The head of each space station being prophesized to do whatever.
Christopher Bennett
7. ChristopherLBennett
@4: Thank you for clearing that up. Really, Tor.com should've investigated the validity of the comment before posting it. It does sound quite illegitimate.

The idea that DS9 is a copy of B5 just because it's a space station show has always been silly. How many dozens of shows are set in hospitals or law offices or schools? The only reason the space-station settings caught anyone's attention was because there weren't already a bunch of space-station shows.

If anything, I think that any parallels in tone or setting were just due to the cultural context. Probably both JMS and Piller independently wanted to do something that was different from the standard Trek format that dominated genre TV at the time, something that was in a different setting from just another starship and that deconstructed Trek's idealism a little. As for them both being more arc-driven, that's because TV as a whole was evolving in that direction at the time. The more ubiquitous syndicated reruns and home video became, the more people started thinking of TV series in terms of the whole entity rather than individual episodes, so the perspective of series television began to change.

According to the book The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, pp. 59-62, the original plan for DS9 was to set it on the surface of Bajor, not on a space station at all. The only reason they switched to a station is because they realized it would be too expensive to shuttle the whole production between the studio and an outdoors location on a weekly basis. And once you've ruled out a starship and a planet surface, then a space station is pretty much the only remaining option.
8. jere7my
Well, it's not just the space station. The Narn/Centauri situation is very similar to the Bajorans/Cardassians; the wormhole and the jumpgate are quite visually similar; the commander is attached to a religious prophecy; etc. I don't think DS9 ripped off B5, but the long laundry list of coincidences makes it a not-unreasonable thing to think — and remember that the accusations started out going in the other direction.
Ryan Britt
9. ryancbritt
You said: "Really, Tor.com should've investigated the validity of the comment before posting it. It does sound quite illegitimate."

I said in the article: "After all, an unverified comment on a website is not exactly proof."

Sounds like we agree.

The reason I wrote this article was because this new comment prompted me to take a new look at an interesting quirk of science fiction history. I cop to my biases in the piece, but came to the same basic conclusions you and @4Werthead did. (This isn't a smoking gun, it wasn't, in the end, a rip-off.) Not sure where my investigative responsiblities faltered there. Not to mention, I am not the only Tor.com writer , Tor.com is a lot of people and writers with different viewpoints and voices.

Thanks for reading!
Paul Weimer
10. PrinceJvstin
Looking back, I think its a good thing we wound up with B5 *and* Deep Space Nine.
Shelly wb
11. shellywb
I don't think anyone thinks DS9 was a ripoff of B5, but Paramount certainly did see the script and likely used elements of the idea in in the genesis of the series. Everyone in Hollywood borrows things they like from someone else's ideas. Few rarely call them on it (except maybe Harlan Ellison).

Both series turned out so very different though, and like PrinceJvstin @10, I'm glad they were both on so that different fans could enjoy both or either.
B. Dowdle
12. Lancer
Having watched DS9 recently the whole series I can say w/ absolute certainty that B5 had influences in DS9...The whole story arc of "The Dominion" was created in Season 1 but took off in Season 3-7 with more hints in Season 2...in B5 the whole arc revolved around an ancient enemy and was just an incredible self-contained 5 Season arc.

DS9 started getting good when the Defiant was deployed and it just took off from there, just as B5 took off w/ Sheridan when he was brought on board.

So there are a lot of parallels in the series' but BOTH are Top Notch Series
13. Lalo
I was quite young when DS9 and B5 both premeired--not quite 7? And at the time I had been watching TNG since before I could SAY star trek, so it was a natural continuation for me and my dad (who I watched all Science Fiction shows with) to then continue onto DS9 (it also helped that we were like 'YES someone is FINALLY calling Picard out on his Borg Days!').

however I equally have recollection of watching B5 and loving G'Kar (I frequently told my dad I wanted G'Kar or Garek to be my adoptive father if he ever died and even wrote an essay about such in 5th grade about why I would choose the Antihero Patriot as a replacement father figure) and my father didn't prefer one above the other (except in terms of actors/actresses).

As I've gotten older I've rewatched both marginally equally. I did a DS9 rewatch a year ago and I plan on doing a B5 rewatch starting this fall (need to finish Road to Avonlea), but I don't think I prefer one over the other.
Christopher Bennett
14. ChristopherLBennett
@9: Well, the piece would've been more balanced if you'd given equal time to the other side, interviewed someone who could offer specific counterarguments as Werthead did. Just presenting one side and saying "Well, it doesn't prove anything" doesn't really cut it, since not everybody reads the comments. Especially since, as Werthead showed, some of the assertions in the post don't seem consistent with the facts. Claims should at least be fact-checked before they're repeated.
Adam Whitehead
15. Werthead
Well, it's not just the space station. The Narn/Centauri situation is very similar to the Bajorans/Cardassians; the wormhole and the jumpgate are quite visually similar; the commander is attached to a religious prophecy; etc. I don't think DS9 ripped off B5, but the long laundry list of coincidences makes it a not-unreasonable thing to think — and remember that the accusations started out going in the other direction.
STAR TREK had wormholes long before BABYLON 5. A Season 3 episode of TNG (the one where the Ferengi get stuck in the Delta Quadrant, where VOYAGER finds them many years later) depicted one in 1989, and of course STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE featured a wormhole in 1979. I don't think anyone would get a TREK wormhole and a B5 jumpgate mixed up very easily.

The Bajoran/Cardassian situation does have some similarities to the Narn/Centauri one, but both were drawing on the times, namely the break-up of the Soviet Union, the fading of an old imperial power and the fragmentation of various states. SF literature was doing the same thing (Peter F. Hamilton's NIGHT'S DAWN TRILOGY of a couple of years later drew on similar themes). It was a huge deal at the time.

The religious parallel between Sisko and Sinclair is definitely more striking, although it should be noted that Sinclair's storyline unfolded completely differently in the series to how it did in JMS's original outline (including the materials given to Paramount). Originally Sinclair was not Valen, did not go back in time and become him etc. He remained on B5 and fulfilled a role more similar to Sheridan's. The idea of Sinclair being Valen apparently occurred to JMS only whilst working on DC Fontana's script for Legacies in Season 1, and then O'Hare's departure allowed him to modify his storyline to accomodate it.

If you can, it's worth tracking down a copy of Volume 15 of JMS's B5 scripts. It contains a detailed outline of the original storyline for B5 and let's just say it's very different to what we ended up with. B5 was pre-planned, as is often said, but that plan changed quite extensively between the original outline and the screen.
Christopher Bennett
16. ChristopherLBennett
On wormholes: For decades, they were a rather obscure solution of Einstein's equations that didn't get a lot of attention in either physics or SF, and the fact that TMP referenced them back in '79 just underlines what good science advisors that movie had. But in the mid-'80s, Carl Sagan wrote Contact and asked physicist Kip Thorne to help him come up with a plausible FTL mechanism, and Thorne's research into wormholes led to a new generation of theoretical investigation into wormhole physics, and the novel gave the idea new exposure and popularity in science-fiction circles. TNG's "The Price" was one of the earliest mass-media mentions of wormholes after that, but they started to become an increasingly popular trope in fiction in the '90s, featured in the film Stargate and the TV series Sliders and Farscape as well as DS9. So wormholes were just a trope that became part of the genre's vernacular around that time.

As for jump gates, B5 certainly didn't invent those; the concept has been around in science fiction for decades, both in prose and onscreen. Hyperspace jumps have been part of SF since the 1930s, and fixed "gates" that allowed interstellar jumps have been around for a long time too. (I initially offered Andre Norton's 1958 novel Star Gate as an example, but that was actually an interdimensional portal.) The 1979 Buck Rogers television series used "stargates" for hyperspace jumps, well before Devlin & Emmerich appropriated the name for a wormhole-based travel system. There are also the "Space Bridges" of the Transformers franchise in the '80s.

As for the specific visual effects of the jump gates vs. the Bajoran wormhole, I don't see any real similarity beyond blueness. Okay, there's a certain circularity, but the jump gate effect is more cylindrical while the wormhole effect is more spherical. (As it should be. Just as the ends of a 3-dimensional cylinder are circular, so the ends of a 4-dimensional wormhole should be spherical. Most wormhole portrayals in fiction get this wrong. The DS9 version isn't quite there, but it's as close as we've gotten.)

As for the Bajor/Cardassia situation, that of course originated in the TNG episode "Ensign Ro," which was written before there had been any thoughts of spinning off a TV series focused on Bajor.
17. Lsana
Having been a fan of both, I think there were really only two things that stood out as feeling like one must have been derived from the other:

1. The Defiant/White Star. So the crew of DS9 gets their fancy spaceship so they can go zipping around, and in the very next season, the B5 crew gets theirs (made with super-cool alien technology none the less)? Coincidence, I'm sure, yeah right.

2. The DS9 tie-in novel The Siege and the first season B5 episode "Believers." The main plot in "Believers" and the sub-plot in The Siege about an alien child whose parents religious beliefs prevent him from getting medical care are just so similar that it strains credibility to believe that it was a complete coincidence.
Ryan Britt
18. ryancbritt
I'll cop to maybe not presenting the most balanced of an article. But I decided to take a certain angle with a certain tone. I use the word "I" in there a lot, so this isn't intended as hard journalism, but more of an op-ed to start a conversation, and I'm hearing lots of awesome stuff here!

The only facts I tried to present were that people did say all these things, and then I linked (or noted) where I saw them saying those things. So, people saying the things I said they said seem to be facts, with citations. JMS did say those things and that person did post that comment on io9. That was my angle, that's what I wrote the essay about. But I totally appreciate your input.

(BTW: Next time you're in New York, come read some some Star Trek (or Babylon 5?) fiction for me at my reading series! Our mutual pal Keith DeCandido did a bang-up job back in October.) :-)
Ryan Britt
19. ryancbritt
Those original scripts sounds awesome. I do totally want to track them down. :-)
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@17: It's perfectly natural that a show set on a space station would need to add a starship at some point to broaden the opportunities for storytelling. If anything, it would be surprising if they hadn't both gone that route.

I think I remember reading something, way back when DS9 was first starting or in the first season, about how the producers did have plans to add a larger ship than the runabouts eventually. It was probably something they were always considering, since after all the show was under the Star Trek supertitle and thus there would have to be a degree of trekking through the stars. The reason they finally decided to do it in the third season was because they needed a ship powerful enough to face the Dominion.

As for the White Star, I imagine the thinking was similar -- as the war narrative built toward its climax, the heroes needed a ship suitable to the task. Not imitation, just convergent evolution.

As for David Gerrold's "Believers" and its similarity to Peter David's earlier novel The Siege, here's JMS's response:
1) When "Believers" was written, Peter's book hadn't yet hit the stands. 2) Peter likely got his notion of the sick kid and the religious parents from the same basic source we did: the headlines. This has been an ongoing problem in real life for some time. So he took that real premise, and did one story based on it, and we did another extrapolation. This notion did *not* originate in the Trek universe....
Not surprising; writers are influenced by real life, so it's not that unusual for different writers to come up with similar ideas independently around the same time. Again, not imitating each other but drawing on the same antecedent. (Also the novel and the episode resolved the crisis in very different ways. Personally I prefer Peter David's version.)

Also, the odds that David Gerrold would've read a DS9 novel are probably slim, given that tie-in novels don't have a huge readership. And if Gerrold had known of the similarity, he's a professional enough author that he would've changed the story.

Plus, Peter David wrote a couple of B5 episodes in season 2 as well as a Crusade episode and a B5 novel trilogy (and one of the movie novelizations, IIRC), and I doubt he would've gotten along so well with the B5 team if he thought they'd ripped him off.
21. amrothery
Like others in the thread, I immediately dismissed the claim about Paramount using DS9 to launch a network. Then I remembered that they also had an Untouchables reboot that was part of the same package that included DS9. If Untouchables had lasted more than two seasons, I can easily see the lineup expanding to more shows across more nights until it became a defacto network.

Locally, the same independant channel picked up both this two-fer and PTEN, so DS9 and B5 were airing on the same station anyway. I wonder how many other cities had this happen, and what sort of impact it may have had on both shows.
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
@21: A syndication package is a far cry from a network. PTEN may have called itself an "Entertainment Network," but it was just a package of shows, and so was Paramount's syndie package (and so was the Universal Action Pack which included Hercules and Xena).

Anyway, I don't remember hearing anything about Paramount developing a network at that time, and we surely would have if it had been going on. It would be documented in the behind-the-scenes books about DS9, not only The Making of Deep Space Nine but the superbly in-depth and detailed Deep Space Nine Companion by Terry J. Erdmann with Paula M. Block. But it wasn't.
Alan Brown
23. AlanBrown
With all due respect to folks like Werthead, I'm not going to start doubting one internet posting because of yet another internet posting--I tend to take it all with a grain of salt. It is pleasant for us to hang around the internet speculating, but it is speculation nonetheless. I think Ryan B wrote an interesting article, and while he found the IO9 posting intriguing, he also didn't give it an inappropriate amount of credence.
If all the ideas in both B5 and DS9 had not been presented in a host of written SF stories over the years, the argument of which came first might be more interesting. As it is, both of them borrowed heavily from printed genre material. The ideas may not have appeared on TV before, but most of them were familiar.
Adam Whitehead
24. Werthead
@23: That's actually not entirely fair. There are extraordinary and serious claims being made in the Facebook posting this article popularised. Most of those claims are fact-checkable in just a few minutes on the Internet, and these show that some of those claims are erroneous, either through being deliberately misleading or because the person making the claims is misremembering the situation (which seems a lot likelier, and the person is completely confusing the DS9 and B5 situations with the VOYAGER situation of several years later).

It's not a case of 'choosing sides', but checking the veracity of the information. The original post's reliability is, at best, highly questionable.

@ 19: There is an excellent summary of JMS's original plans for the arc here:


The biggest one is that JMS originally planned two series spanning ten years, with B5 ending with the good guys losing, and then a sequel series would have picked up later on. There are some massive changes from the arc as we saw it. And frankly, I think what we saw on TV was a lot better. By condensing the 10 seasons of the two shows into 5, JMS was able to make a story that moved a lot faster and was more compelling.
alastair chadwin
25. a-j
I go for the 'something in the water' argument myself. There was a third space station series about the same time. Forget the name. Starred Linda Hunt and did the 'western in space' thing way before Firefly, but not nearly as well.
Watching both series as they were transmitted on UK TV, I was more struck how B5 influenced DS9, most notably from season 3 onwards as noted above.
But, also as said above, I'm just pleased we had both.
26. jere7my
Werthead, I am not saying B5 invented the concept of "tunnels through space"; I am saying the idea of sticking one next to a space station and making it a major plot driver struck some people as a tad coincidental. That wasn't an unreasonable thing to comment on at the time.
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@25: The show you're thinking of is Space Rangers from 1993, starring Jeff Kaake, Marjorie Monaghan, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. It was actually ship- and planet-based rather than space station-based; the main characters crewed a patrol ship that operated out of a human colony on the surface of an alien planet. It ran for all of six episodes.

@26: But B5's jump gates weren't actually "tunnels through space" in the way the wormhole was. They weren't direct conduits from one star system to another, just openings into hyperspace, an expansive realm through which ships navigated much as they did through normal space, only much faster. Also, the Bajoran wormhole was a unique phenomenon, the only one of its kind, while jump gates were the standard, routine method of FTL travel throughout the known B5 galaxy -- no more exceptional in that world than airports are in ours. So any comparison between the two falls apart completely if you bother to look beyond the most superficial level.
28. jere7my
Yes, on anything but a superficial level the similarities fall apart. But we're talking about network suits here. They don't have any levels other than superficial. If the ripoff theory held any water, it wouldn't be one creative person digging deep into another creative person's work to borrow from it; it'd be an executive making "suggestions" like "Hey, can you put a big glowy tunnel next to the space station, to bring aliens to it? Oh, and there should be a gritty marketplace on the station, with gambling dens — a totally new vibe for Star Trek! And let's tie the commander in to an alien religious prophecy, and give him some war trauma in his backstory."

Again, I don't actually think that anything was ripped off. But back in 1994, in the context of a laundry list of other coincidences, it wasn't a ridiculous thought to have.
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: I don't see the point in arguing that people could've had the idea. What matters is that the idea is wrong.
30. jere7my
If you don't see the point in that argument, might I suggest you stop having it? I can decide for myself what matters, thanks.
alastair chadwin
31. a-j
That's it. Thanks. Six episodes eh? I'm surprised it managed that many. Could have sworn the characters were based on a space station. Good example of memory cheat.
32. Houckman
but this is all moot - Farscape eclipsed both.
34. MalcolmM
Thanks to Jere7my for pointing out some parallels where clearly the shows were influencing each other; which direction was leaking and which sucking is very much a litmus test of your partisan position, of course.

As for the idea of putting up a show with a space station in it, there was a lot of fuel for that notion in the real world at that time, as the International Space Station was being built during this period. Part of the nobility of science fiction as a genre is its mission to reflect and project current trends and realities into the future.

So the good idea of a show with a space station was in the air at that time, nobody owned it for sure, nor did anyone own the SF tropes that showed up in each of them.

And I am with the people are are so happy that we got both of these shows!
Christopher Bennett
35. ChristopherLBennett
@34: I think it's been clearly demonstrated that the shows were not influencing each other, at least not with regard to the specific alleged similarities referenced here; that either they were drawing in parallel on the same antecedents or simply had some superficial similarities between elements that were in fact very different. It's quite common for two given works to have common elements without one drawing directly on the other, because they do not exist in a vacuum. They are just two fish in a much, much larger cultural pond, and there are many, many other things that they could both be drawing on in parallel. If anything, it's almost inevitable that two works in the same genre or about the same subject matter, produced around the same time, will have elements in common even if they have no direct awareness of one another at all, because they're influenced by the same larger cultural context and because the nature of their common genre guides them in certain directions. Assuming that one must be copying the other is gross tunnel vision -- it's forgetting that they are not the only two creative works in the universe.
36. The Dork Knight
After all, an unverified comment on a website is not exactly proof.
But by all means, let's dedicate an entire article to it as if it is...
37. John Doggett
Is This the Smoking Gun.... - Britt, Tor

Absolute rubbish. I was a fan of both series, but DS9 always featured better scripting, more compelling episode plots, superior production values and a pleasant absence of the JMS "stroke my ego" melodrama. I still watch and enjoy both shows, but, again, Star Trek Deep Space 9 has aged far better; featuring stories which are still relevant and compelling. Babylon 5 was a glorious, space opera, menagerie and, more importantly, was not Star Trek, which, at the time, actually helped it to succeed. However, suggesting that the King Kong of all television space franchises had to plagerize, or borrow from a "B" grade show is simply the height of hubris for Babylon 5 supporters.
Alan Brown
38. AlanBrown
I will not deny that Star Trek has made more money than other SF franchises, Mr. Doggett, but I find your argument a bit parochial. You state that you like Star Trek best, and think that it has aged better, and then jump to the statement that thinking it has borrowed ideas from elsewhere is engaging in hubris.
39. Olivette Franklin
I don't know about script being taken from B5. I loved both of these shows, including next generation. B5 started out great and kinda of got mediocre. In a sci-fi show you never marry off you captain, what you'll end up with is a soap opera. I dislike soaps, In ds9 the captian did get married but the bride died the same day, I think and the show was coming to its end.

I am not a tv person, but when it comes to a good sci-fi I will watch it. I miss star trek, I am waiting for a new series, I do hope they come out with one soon.
The movies so far AWESOM! Star Trek I can watch over and over again. That is a series that will never aged for me. Gene Roddenberry
41. Daniel Burke
It's absolutely obvious that DS9 stole from B5. Even names like "Leeta" and "Dukhat" have obviously been used. Then you have episodes like the one where the entire station was infected by a virus that couls be spread by the stations air supply. It wasn't until well after Season 2 that DS9 went its own separate way, and even then there were still obvious influences.

The good news is, B5 kicked DS9's ass. More mature, and better written. Just take the virus episode... in DS9 they have a poxy trekbnobabble fix and in B5 an entire race is wiped out by the virus.

B5 is for mature and intelligent viewers.
42. Greenygal
Yes, Deep Space Nine's Dukat (first appearing onscreen January 1993) was definitely a reference to Babylon 5's Dukhat (first referenced onscreen February 1994). DS9 should get some credit for being committed enough to copying B5 that they invented time travel to do it, though.
43. Omahaks
Sounds like there's only one solution... REMAKE B5 AND AIR ON TNT!!!
44. Shakey
@26 specifically, but all in general.

Babylon 5 wasn't positioned next to a jump gate, in fact it would take ships quite a few hours to fly from the station to the jump gate. And even then, I fail to recall a single episode where Babylon 5's proximity (or not) to a jump gate had any significant bearing.

The Great Machine on Epsilon 3, however, is a different matter entirely. But it's really cluching at straws to draw any comparisons because both stations were situated next to an item of incredible strategic importance.
Christopher Bennett
45. ChristopherLBennett
@44: I hadn't realized that about the jumpgate; I thought it was rather closer to the station than that. But you're right -- jumpgates are just a routine means of FTL travel, like freeway on-ramps, so they're more analogous to warp engines than to the Bajoran wormhole.

As for both stations being positioned next to an important thing, that's pretty much an inevitable consequence of the format. If you're going to set a show in a fixed location, then it makes sense to have it be proximate to whatever important entity or phenomenon drives your series. Buffy's Sunnydale was right on the Hellmouth; Torchwood's Hub was right on a spacetime Rift; and so on. Indeed, I'd argue that this is a good trope to use, because if there isn't some established special or unusual thing about your setting, it becomes contrived when everything important in the world seems to congregate around it anyway. Defiance is guilty of this, because the title community is supposed to be a small, isolated frontier community, and yet people and phenomena important to the lead characters just keep happening to pass through there from all over the country without any good explanation for the convergence. Grimm has never explained why there are so staggeringly many Wesen in Portland, Oregon. And Primeval never explained why temporal anomalies only ever seemed to open around London -- or around Vancouver in the Canadian sequel series.

So it's like I've said before: Many of the similarities between DS9 and B5 exist only because they were logical choices for a space station series to make. You could find a similar number of parallels between any two shows with equivalent settings, because they're things that make sense for the setting. It's just that there haven't been enough space station shows for that to become as clear as it would be for, say, courtroom dramas or school-based sitcoms.
46. kcvaliant
I would just enjoy a remastering of all of the cgi on babylon 5. Seasons 2-4 are the best scifi storytelling out there. The acting was great for what it is. The only thing that holds it back is the horrendous and super out dated cgi.

The makeup and creature work was fantastic. Just have some fans redo all the cgi, images of the ships, lazer fire and space battles. Release it on syfy. Or hell, make some of the episodes longer with longer space battles.

I enjoy watching ds9, and it is good. I like imagining if B5 had its budget. ds9 cgi still holds up fairly well.
Christopher Bennett
47. ChristopherLBennett
@46: I think people forget that the CGI in B5 was seen as very impressive when it first came out. The recent advent of the Video Toaster made CGI affordable on a TV budget to a degree it never had been before, so while you could often see the CGI-ness of the effects, they were really rather revolutionary and remarkable to see for audiences at the time. They certainly had a versatility that the miniature effects of Star Trek at the time couldn't match -- and Foundation Imaging, the company founded to do B5's effects, went on to bring Trek's effects into the CG age in the later seasons of DS9 and Voyager.

So I'm not sure I like the idea of B5's CGI being replaced. I think it deserves appreciation for its historical importance. And I think if something was good by the standards of the time, it should be respected for that.

(And I have to point out: "Remastering" does not mean replacing. That's the exact opposite of what it means. Remastering means going back to the original master print of the material and making the most accurate, highest-quality reproduction you can from that original source. The replacement digital effects in the Star Trek Remastered Blu-Ray project were the only parts of it that were not remastered.)
48. para
Although Star Trek is good, Babylon 5 is in another league. Star Trek, and this goes for ALL of their various series, are inconsistent, the handling jumps all over the place, there is no proper consistent story to pull you into it. One can watch DS9 in any order without losing the plot. Characters are wooden and un-realistic.

B5 is a masterpiece of story telling, characters are believable and the actors, although relatively unknown, did a GREAT job of making the show successful. The best sci-fi series ever to grace our tv screens in my view.

Now for someone like me who reads a far superior sci-fi (Perry Rhodan, sadly only in German), B5 is the only other sci-fi that comes close to that, and i for one, await the proper filming/movie/series of Perry Rhodan, that is, if it ever comes about. From the comments of the Authors and those responsible, it would not become a hollywood led agenda, but would be done with FULL control, else it will not be done.
49. Jamie99
I just finished watching seasons 1 - 4 of B5. As a DS9 fan who has a couple of friends who preferred B5, I wanted to see for myself if B5 was superior story telling and if DS9 "stole" from B5.

I am flabbergasted. There's no comparison. DS9 is superior in every way. Because of budget differences, I ignored B5's horrible cgi and costumes. I compared writing, acting, and directing.

Acting: The only actors on B5 that did a credible job were Peter Jurasik (Londo), Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar), Stephen Furst (Vir), and some of the minor actors. Every other lead actor was terrible (excusing Michael O'Hare because of his illness), especially Mira Furlan (DeLenn) and Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi). By contrast, every single actor on DS9 was credible (yes, Avery Brooks' acting was stilted in 2 or 3 scenes of ep. 1; I chalked that up being new to the role). Watching B5 gave me a better appreciation for the DS9 cast. By comparing the actors of the two series, I learned what it means when it's said that an actor is "acting" rather than "being" a role.

Writing: I'm am floored that two commenters think B5 writing was better than DS9. YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS! What?! Comparing B5 to DS9 writing is like comparing a comic book to literature. B5 is melodramatic and obvious at every turn. DS9 is subtle and references seemingly minor events from previous episodes. DS9 characters grew over the course of its seven seasons. Sisko eventually accepted his place in Bajoran religion. Kira became more tolerant, eventually accepted the idea of Federation membership, and grew to revere Sisko as an icon. These are only two examples from DS9 (there are many more). With the exception of Londo and G'Kar, B5 characters did not grow at all. And even with the Londo example, the growth was not significant. And... with DS9, I was impressed with the way the scientific and religious perspectives of the wormhole and its inhabitants were juxtaposed.

Directing. Watching B5, there were many "where the hell is the director?" moments. With DS9 I can recall only 1 (ok, maybe 2 or 3). I'd love to give some B5 specifics, but it would mean watching it a 3rd time and I just couldn't bare it.

Seriously, I think the biggest problem with B5 was JMS himself. He wrote (badly) 90+ of the 110 episodes. While the B5 storyline was an admirable one, JMS could have benefitted from the perspectives of better writers. And the fact that he directed many of the episodes doesn't speak well of him either. He should have served only as B5's creator and consultant and left the implementation to a writing team.

As to the notion that DS9 is a ripoff of B5? Ridiculous. B5 devotees ignore the fact that NOTHING is new in writing (or science or math or fashion). B5 was not the first to conceive of space stations. Not the first to conceive of civil or interstellar war. Not the first to conceive of shape shifters. Not the first to conceive of one ethnic/alien group oppressing another. As an example: an aspiring writer I know (ok, it's me) conceived of a character who connects with an ancestor through time and space, only to later learn that scifi writer Octavia Butler had already written a novel with a similar theme (Kindred).

Stop the hate and appreciate all DS9 has to offer: great writing, great acting, great directing, and a great storyline.
50. Blackbird71

You have to look beyond what aired on TV to what happened behind the scenes. The ideas for B5, and a season's worth of episodes, were written up and pitched to Paramount long before DS9 was dreamed up, so the studio did have that information before B5 ever aired.


I'll join the chorus of those who prefer B5's writing to DS9's - and yes, I've watched all of both. B5's story had a consistency and continuity that few other shows matched, even DS9, mainly because from the first episode, the show knew where it was going. Yes, there were changes along the way, but the direction remained the same, and that guided the writing to produce a comprehensive story.

I think you're being a bit disingenuous, or at the very least are a bit blinded by your own bias with regards to the characters, as claiming that Londo and G'Kar were the only characters with any development is ignoring a great deal of what happened on the show. What of Franklin's and Garibaldi's struggles with their own forms of addiction? Garibaldi dealing with the effects of what the PsiCops did to his mind, and his involuntary betrayal of his friend? Vir, turning from a meek and lowly assistant into someone who could become the leader of his people? Delenn, flying in the face of traditions she had protected her whole life to break and reform the leadership of her people?

There were plenty more examples of meaningful characters and their growth. However, something to remember is that the characters were never the focus of B5's story - the story was the events that transpired in the world around them. The characters and the station they inhabited were simply the window into which we saw these events. It's a different form of storytelling, one in which the growth of charactesr is second to the growth of species and their civilizations. The characters were merely the vehicle through which some of this growth took place.

As an analogy, if B5 and DS9 were aspects of "The Lord of the Rings," DS9 would be the story of Frodo and Sam's journey to destroy the ring, while B5 would be the telling of the war of the ring. Frodo and Sam occasionally touched into the world around them, as they encountered others on their journey, in the way that DS9 showed bits of what happened in the Dominion war, on Earth, Bajor, etc., but the focus was always the characters on the station. The focus in B5 was always on the bigger events themselves, the interstellar conflicts and political machinations, as seen through the eyes of a handful of humans and aliens, some of whom happened to have a hand in such events.

Each series uses a different perspective for its storytelling, and I think each is better for it. Not everyone will enjoy either or both methods, but outright dismissing one as inferior simply because it's not your preferred style is being a bit narrow.
Christopher Bennett
51. ChristopherLBennett
@50: There is evidence to suggest that the studio executives wanted something similar to B5, but that doesn't prove that the people who actually wrote and developed DS9 were just imitating it. There are too many clear differences between them for that to be the case. There are many instances where a writer-producer has come up with original ideas that were coincidentally similar to some other work and that network executives embraced because of that resemblance (e.g. Glen Larson had been pitching the project that became Battlestar Galactica since the late '60s, but he didn't sell it until ABC wanted something to capitalize on the success of Star Wars). In those cases, it's often been assumed that the creations were "ripoffs," but the actual imitation was on the executives' part, not the part of the actual writer-producers who created their work independently and in good faith.
52. Blackbird71
I never claimed that DS9 copied from B5 (or vice versa), as I have no personal knowledge of it. I will freely admit that there are enough similarities to raise suspicions of the possibility, but I will also admit that much of those similarities may be simple coincidence. The fact is that I can claim no inside knowledge on the matter, and as such can't speak to either possibility as absolute truth.

My only intent was to point out that the specific argument of "DS9 aired episodes with these character names before B5 ever aired" was in no way proof that the names did not originate with B5, and claiming such an argument was pure ignorance of the facts and timeline.

Of course, it is also not evidence to prove such copying happened, it is merely unable to disprove it. I just thought the way that #42 threw it out so auhtoritatively as if it were an answer that meant anything was rather ridiculous.

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