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Captain John Sheridan

As written by series creator J. Michael Straczynski

A quick sketch
Since this has just been released by PTEN, and will be on the news wires shortly (and is probably already there), I can now announce this here.

The new Commanding Officer for Babylon 5 is Captain John Sheridan, former captain of the Earthforce military starship Agamemmnon. It was Sheridan who won what is arguably Earth's only real victory during the Earth/Minbari War, destroying the Minbari war cruiser Black Star and several accompanying vessels. He has been appointed to Babylon 5 over the strenuous objections of the Minbari Government, by the president's insistence that Babylon 5 has had too much influence from the Minbari and must begin to pull back and consider Earth's interests; Sheridan is a symbol of that desire because of his record, which is the reason for his assignment.

Captain Sheridan will be portrayed by the well-regarded actor Bruce Boxleitner, known to many as the series lead in "Scarecrow And Mrs. King." He has also starred in numerous TV movies, miniseries and feature films. He is also a solid SF fan (media *and* print), and is very excited about coming onto the Babylon 5 team. We're equally excited to have him.

Have any of the other officers served with Sheridan before?
Only Ivanova has served with him before; Garibaldi doesn't know him from Adam, and this will lead to some awkwardness and questions of trust down the road.

How does Sheridan regard the Minbari?
Sheridan is a soldier. A soldier is told, in wartime, THIS is your enemy. You kill the enemy or your enemy kills you. Afterward, you're in the same position American soldiers were in after the end of WW II when it came time to reconcile with the Germans and the Japanese. It can sometimes be very awkward...and sometimes reconciliation takes a while.

Sheridan ought to add some tension to the series.
[...] And you're right about the situation providing some tension and story line possibilities; it ties into where the story is going, and ups the ante on several emotional levels, some personal (Garibaldi), some diplomatic (the Minbari don't much like him).

Random additional information.
Yes, Sheridan is descended from Gen. Philip John Sheridan of the Union Army.

Response to an allegation that Sheridan is another Captain Kirk.
For what it's worth, Sheridan is neither a "space cowboy" nor a "gung ho type." This description has nothing to do with the character, and I'm not quite sure where you got this. Certainly I never said or implied it.

Captain John Sheridan is a war hero, of sorts; he squeaked out the only real victory of the Earth/Minbari War. (Which means the Minbari don't generally like him a lot.) He did what he did because that's his job. He's a professional soldier. For the last two years, he's been commanding the Agamemmnon, a high-visibility Earthforce starship on deep patrol. As such, he has had to learn to work with a number of different races and species.

In some ways, his character is somewhat more well-rounded than was the case with Sinclair, over whom a general sense of doom often seemed to hang. Sheridan is often very thoughtful and introspective; at other times, he can be just a bit eccentric; he leads by respecting those who work under him, and giving them room to grow; like any career officer, he HATES the bureaucracy with a passion, and this is the one thing that can drive him nuts; he knows that commanding B5 is a great opportunity, but he also knows that his presence brings certain complications with it, and he's very ambivilant about that aspect; he's the son of a diplomatic envoy who disappeared on his 21st birthday, running off to see (of all things) the new Dali Lama being installed; he has a very easygoing manner, and a great sense of humor. He quickly re-forms a friendship with Ivanova, for whom he has great respect and professional admiration. (For a time she served under him at Io.)

He is, actually, a fascinating and intriguing character with a lot of different shadings...none of which have *anything* to do with being a "space cowboy" or "gung-ho type."

Anyway...point being...when it was announced that there was going to be a new Lieutenant-Commander, a number of folks went ballistic and said the show would now be ruined. I said, in essence, look...I created Takashima; I can create an interesting character to replace her. And I thunk up Ivanova, who according to the rec.arts.b5 poll is the most popular character on the show. When it was announced that Sinclair would be STAYING with the show, after the pilot, a number of folks said this was bad, he was wooden, he stunk, get him off...and ended up being very enamored of him. My only reply now about Bruce...give him, and me, a chance. I genuinely think you will like what you see a *lot*.

In the course of the first season, Ivanova, Garibaldi, G'Kar, Londo, Delenn, others...they've exploded into strong characters. You need an equally strong character designed to hold his own, and be memorable, in that august company. Sheridan was designed knowing we had a much elevated playing field around the character.

Obviously, clearly, and irrefutably, an actor brings a *lot* to any role. No question. But it tends to begin with what is created. I've seen it said here, repeatedly, that none of the characters are uninteresting; they all have lives, and agendas, that make them fascinating to watch: Londo, Morden, G'Kar, Delenn, Garibaldi, Ivanova...what those characters are came out of my head, in terms of who they are, what they say, what they believe, where they came from and where they're going. Why would I invent a new character that was any less involving, or interesting, o multifaceted? Particularly knowing that he's going to be a central character?

Speaking as someone who's been in fandom a long, long time, I know there is always a tendency for panic, to assume the apocalypse is upon us, that something is never going to be the same again. I heard this after the Enterprise was destroyed in "The Search for Spock." I've heard this a lot over the years. It's generally over-reaction and worry before anyone has even seen a frame of film.

Bottom line being...wait and see, then judge. I've tried very hard not to let you down, and I think so far I haven't done so...I have no intention of starting now. Bruce is doing an absolutely *brilliant* job as Captain Sheridan, bringing a thoughtfulness and intensity and charm and intensity to the part that is a joy to behold. Give him a chance.

Why replace Sinclair?
Sheridan, or more specifically the need for someone *like* Sheridan began to get through clearly toward the latter part of last season, as I began planning out season two's progression, and kept looking at elements of the story and trying to find ways to get Sinclair into the heart of them. They felt contrived, for the most part; and the other characters, like Londo and G'Kar and Delenn, were *really* moving forward in a big way. The role of Sinclair was becoming primarily that of a "problem solver," and when that happens, a sort of glass bell falls down around the character, and you can't do much with him.

So what the writer has to do is break that bell in one way or another; do something totally unexpected to him, and bring in someone who has a direct, personal connection with the storyline emerging in season two, so it's not contrived or forced.

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Last update: October 8, 1995