“And so it begins….” — Ambassador Kosh
The “Babylon 5” series (1994-1998) is generally acknowledged as one of the best science fiction shows in TV history, and it’s certainly one of my all-time favorites. It might have been a little slow getting out of the gate, and there were a few episodes that weren’t quite up to snuff. (Also, I thought season 5 felt somewhat anti-climactic following the big war in season 4.) But, that is to be expected with any series, especially over a period of several years. Overall, the writing by creator/producer J. Michael “Joe” Straczynski (JMS) and a handful of guest-writers (e.g., sci-fi great Harlan Ellison) was terrific. Both the larger, preconceived 5-year arc and the development of individual characters was creative, dramatic, and a lot of fun. As with Star Trek, a significant part of the series’ appeal was that it tackled big issues, big questions about religion, philosophy, morality, war, power, survival, trust, loyalty, hope, destiny, revenge, etc. Of course, the cool alien races and their equally cool starships were visually appealing, too!
Recently, I discovered that JMS is considering a reboot of “Babylon 5”. A reboot?! Don’t do it, Joe! Leave our… er, I mean… your baby alone! Assuming “reboot” means retelling the 5-year story arc from the beginning, I don’t see how this is a good idea, especially after the relatively recent success of the original. (Very different situation than, say, “Battlestar Galactica”.) I have a hard time believing JMS would go this route, but… who knows? Maybe he has something clever in mind that wouldn’t quite be a retelling of the original. Also, I understand that he is beginning with a TV movie (as he did the first time), which will serve to test the waters rather than jumping right into a new series.
I’m a little leery about returning to the B5 universe, even by its creator, given the lackluster attempts made shortly after the original series went off the air. (“Crusade” was enjoyable during its short run, but The Legend of the Rangers TV movie was rather disappointing, and I’m glad it wasn’t picked up for a series.) But, given the right concept and talent involved, it could be another hit. With this in mind, Jules-Pierre Malartre over at Den of Geek! recently presented 14 alternatives to doing a “straight reboot”. Here are my brief reactions/comments on each:
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
1) Babylon 5: The New Crew: This would essentially continue with life on the station after Sheridan & Delenn left and would include Captain Lochley and a mix of new and familiar faces. This might’ve worked if it was only, say, 1999 or 2000. But, it’s 2015. Jeff Conaway (i.e., Security Chief Zack Allan) passed away in 2011 and everyone else is several years older. The familiar characters would all have to be re-cast. Also, it could not be set 15 years after Sheridan left, because we already know that B5 is decommissioned only 10 years later — with Zack there ’til the end.
2) What’s up with Lennier?: At the end of “Babylon 5”, loyal Lennier loses it, betrays Sheridan, and flies off for parts unknown. A spin-off that follows his adventures and quest for redemption sounds interesting, and while Bill Mumy probably still looks relatively youthful, it could pick up with Lennier several years post-B5. This might work, assuming Mumy is game.
3) The Life & Times of Sheridan and Delenn’s Son: There were references to Sheridan and Delenn’s son in a couple episodes, including one set in the future that references an infamous “incident”. In the other, the Drakh-influenced Emperor Mollari clearly has plans to control the boy. So, either or both of these could be addressed in a story — either movie or series — about the child. Regardless, we have very few details about that future (other than Delenn living a long time), so there would be plenty of room to explore this new character and the post-B5 universe.
4) Whatever happened to Citizen G’Kar?: G’Kar and Lyta left the station at the end of the series (2258). Then, our favorite Narn popped up in The Legend of the Rangers (set in 2265), and we know the character lived another 12 years after that. Plenty of years of adventuring(?) to explore,… except that Andreas Katsulas died in 2006, and no one wants to re-cast G’Kar.
5) Legends Of The Rangers: Sure, they could give this idea another try, hopefully with better acting and a better story. But, without the original series fresh in our minds to set the stage, as it were, I’m not sure it would get much of a following.
6) Crusade: Take 2!: As I said earlier, I liked this show. The storyline was pretty decent, and I enjoyed the characters/actors. Given the time-sensitive mission, continuing the show 15 years later makes no sense. Also, would the original actors even want to return? (I doubt Daniel Dae Kim would leave “Hawaii Five-O”.) On the other hand, it could be rebooted with a new cast, but I don’t like that idea much, either. If they do a new “Crusade”, it should involve a new mission.
7) The first Shadow War: In season 3, Sinclair/Valen time-traveled with the abandoned Babylon 4 to roughly 1000 years in the past, offering the station to the Minbari as a staging point for their imminent war with the Shadows. Assuming that Michael O’Hare (i.e., Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair / Valen) was up for it, this could have been, as Malartre put it, “an awesome military sci-fi series of epic proportions”. Unfortunately, O’Hare passed away in 2012. But, I suppose re-casting the role is a possibility, hopefully with someone who looks & sounds at least somewhat like O’Hare.
8) The Dilgar War: Approximately 30 years before the events of the series, the Earth Alliance joined the League of Non-Aligned Worlds in a war against the xenophobic Dilgar. This might make for another cool, military-oriented prequel series, bringing back many of the familiar alien races from the original series.
9) Tales of Earth’s future: The season 4 finale provided information (however limited) about a few events/periods in Earth’s far future, which could provide avenues to explore. Personally, I don’t think they should jump too far forward, because that increases the risk of losing the connection with the original series. On the other hand, it worked for “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, which took place roughly 75 years after the last movie (at the time) based on the original “Star Trek” series.
10) Tales of the Psi Corps: The Corps was rather fascist, so it would be hard to make them “good guys”. Even if JMS came up with a workable concept (e.g., focusing on rebels within the Corps), it wouldn’t be the same without Bester. Still, I suppose Walter Koenig (who is going on 80 years old) might still be up for a few appearances.
11) The Interstellar Alliance: This would probably take place during Sheridan’s 10 years as President of the ISA. Plus, as Malartre points out, “Bruce Boxleitner is old enough now to portray Sheridan in that time period without artificial aging.”
12) More Garibaldi, please: Yes. Please! The end of the series saw the much-beloved, pain-in-the-butt, wise-cracking Michael Garibaldi — former B5 security chief — as CEO of one of the largest corporations of the Earth Alliance. Can you imagine what sort of trouble he could get into, trying to navigate the corporate world, while probably leaving the office more than he should and getting himself in the usual sticky “situations”. I’ll bet Jerry Doyle and JMS could have a lot of fun with it, especially if Londo showed up!
13) Ivanova: I was really disappointed when Claudia Christian left the show after the 4th season. As for Susan Ivanova, we know she was given command of a ship, and she appeared “10 years later” in the series finale. I had forgotten this, but at Delenn’s request, Ivanova took over as Ranger One, leader of the Rangers. That would be a perfect place from which to pick up the story. Plus, as with Boxleitner, she’s the right age. The more I think about it, the more I like this idea.
14) Book & Comic adaptations: Not being familiar with these, I can’t comment on any of them. I do know that some were quite well-received by fans and many are considered official canon. There may indeed be good material that could be adapted either as individual movies, mini-series, or a regular series.
If JMS (and whomever he gets to back him) makes a series and/or movies centered on (mostly) new characters, suggestions number 3 and 8 appeal and make the most sense to me. On the other hand, if it was to focus on more familiar characters from the original series, either number 2, 11, 12, or 13 would be great. Well-crafted guest appearances by other, previous castmembers would be terrific, too! In fact, a series set 10-15 years post-B5 which incorporates some combination of Lennier, Sheridan, Delenn, Garibaldi, Ivanova, maybe Vir and/or Londo, would be awesome!
If you are a fan of “Babylon 5”, I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. Do you like any of the above? Do you have a different idea? What do you think JMS will do?