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I'm watching Babylon 5 for the first time, and while watching the last episode of season one, "Chrysalis", I thought something like wow, they're really hedging their bets! A lot of the important recurring characters are set up in a position that will make it easy to just write them off or to keep them, way more so than in a typical cliffhanger episode.

I will limit the spoiling by omitting their names, but I can think of three prominent characters. Anyone in a position to answer this question will know what I'm talking about:

  • One character is placed in a coma (classic!)
  • One character leaves a mysterious open-ended message: "Expect me... when you see me."
  • One character spins a cocoon, hence the title of the episode.

Thing is, they don't really come back until the second episode in season two, "Revelations". The first episode of season two only has a few scenes that might as well have been leftover or prerecorded footage from previous episodes. "Coincidentally" they all appear again in the second episode.

Is there an out-of-universe explanation for having that many options? Either one of them would have been natural in isolation, but with this many at the same time it just felt contrived. And why did they not return in the first episode which I think would have been the natural thing if it was some sort of contractual issue.

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    JMS: "...it'd be dangerous and short-sighted for me to construct the story without trap doors for every single character. Because Stuff Happens. An actor can get hit by a meteor, walk off, whatever. So I deliberately and very carefully constructed this puppy to be more or less airtight no matter what happens. ...You figure on taking the 5 freeway all the way down. Only when you get to the Slausen Cutoff (insert joke here), there's a traffic jam...so you get off, take some alternate streets, and come back again right back on track. Same thing here. - tinyurl.com/yfcb985d
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 27 at 8:03
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    I would expect the reason for the extra episode was so they could concentrate the first episode of S2 to introduce a new main character that hadn’t been planned for at the end of S1.
    – Darren
    Commented Feb 27 at 21:05
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    There are two questions here, which have different answers. One is "Why were there so many cliffhangers / exit points at the end of Season 1," and one is "why weren't the cliffhangers resolved until S02E02." Commented Feb 28 at 4:11

1 Answer 1

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Unplanned change of major character

For reasons that you can read about here, Michael O'Hare was tragically unable to continue playing the lead character in Babylon 5 and a replacement was needed. The first episode of the second season needed to establish the background of Bruce Boxleitner's character as a priority over starting to resolve or explain the cliffhanger aspects, all of which could plausibly remain unresolved for the days involved.

Once Bruce Boxleitner's place in the show was established, his interactions with the unresolved plot threads made much more sense - in many ways he could then act as the "Dr Watson" character to bring new viewers up to speed on those threads as continuing characters could explain the situation to him (and thus the viewers).

There is more detail in the season guide Babylon 5 - Season by Season #2 The Coming of Shadows by Jane Killick. Here's a partial quote from the S2 E01 chapter:

Introducing Sheridan to the audience, giving him a strong entrance that would ease the transition, was something the director Janet Greek was very conscious of. 'And very conscious of helping Bruce through the first episode, establishing his character,' she says. 'He was very nervous and he was very concerned about not making any missteps in terms of what he was bringing to the character."...

The episode focused on Sheridan's character, which was essential as far as Joe Straczynski, as writer, was concerned...

Of course, with such an abrupt change in command, there was no chance to resolve the story threads that involved Sinclair

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