Straczynski reveals moving story of why Michael O'Hare left Babylon 5

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May 28, 2013, 8:47 PM EDT

There haven't been many secrets in the world of TV since the advent of DVD commentary tracks, but JMS kept this very big one until now. 

Forget the comparisons with Deep Space Nine -- when it comes to unbridled fan love, Babylon 5 has far more in common with Firefly. There's not really a lot of in-between when it comes to B5 -- either you love it with every fiber of your being, or you don't. It's that simple.

And over the weekend, the fans who still feel that love piled into Phoenix Comicon for a massive 20th-anniversary Babylon 5 reunion. It was glorious. Stracynski and much of the cast turned up to answer fan questions. There was just one problem -- the questions weren't very good, and neither were the moderators. And so, as JMS is a man who does not suffer fools lightly, he dismissed the moderators and called a moratorium on the questions.

Instead, JMS just started a dialogue with the cast on stage, and something astonishing happened -- it turned into these wonderful performers reminiscing about all the people from the show they'd lost.

It's no secret that a saddeningly long list of Babylon 5 actors are no longer with us. But there is a secret about one of them that has never been told, and it's a secret that Straczynski solemnly promised to keep until the time was right.

In 2012, Michael O'Hare, who played the original Commander of Babylon 5, Jeffrey Sinclair, passed away. During his life, however, fans were unaware of the fact that he suffered from delusions and paranoia due to mental illness. That was the real reason he left the show after only one season. Straczynski explained how O'Hare struggled, how he was barely able to come back for a two-parter to close his character's story, but above all, that O'Hare wanted people to know the truth after his death.

And the most important truth of O'Hare's struggle with mental illness is that he loved the fans, that they were what sustained him during the difficult times in his life. Here's an audio clip of Straczynski's exact words:

Very few things can both break and mend a heart at the same time, but O'Hare's story does exactly that. And the respect JMS pays to O'Hare's memory shows an unwavering empathy not just for that one man, but indeed for anyone who has ever struggled the way he did.

Almost the entire reunion panel is just like this -- recounting story after story of all these beautiful performers' lives. If you've got the time, we recommend sitting down and listening to the whole thing.

(via Breit Bart)