In 1994, J. Michael Straczynski (Sense8, Changeling) brought the world a science fiction show like nothing we’d ever seen. Babylon 5 told a single five-year story, filled with foreshadowing, deep political intrigue, and characters who grew and evolved, at a time when most TV shows still reset the agenda after every single episode. He wrote the vast majority of the award-winning show himself, and it appears he may be about to do it again — Warner Bros. Television is now in development on a “ground-up reboot” of Babylon 5 with Straczynski as writer and showrunner, designed to air on the CW.
Here’s the full description Warner Bros. provided to The Verge:
In a from-the-ground-up reboot of the original series, John Sheridan, an Earthforce officer with a mysterious background, is assigned to Babylon 5, a five-mile-long space station in neutral space, a port of call for travelers, smugglers, corporate explorers and alien diplomats at a time of uneasy peace and the constant threat of war. His arrival triggers a destiny beyond anything he could have imagined, as an exploratory Earth company accidentally triggers a conflict with a civilization a million years ahead of us, putting Sheridan and the rest of the B5 crew in the line of fire as the last, best hope for the survival of the human race.
That’s pretty much a dead-on description of the original show, minus some big surprises. So as a long-time fan myself, I have extremely mixed feelings!
In one sense, it’s pretty exciting because Straczynski told fans for years that Warner Bros. wanted nothing to do with the show ever again. “They literally told my agent ‘We have no plans, and no intentions, of letting anything else be done in terms of television with Babylon 5,’” he tweeted in 2018, and that seemed to be that.
Won’t work. They literally told my agent “We have no plans, and no intentions, of letting anything else be done in terms of television with Babylon 5.” And a kickstarter wouldn’t pay for even a fraction of a season. That won’t change for years, when those execs are dead/gone. https://t.co/NZ80WiIIcR
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) April 20, 2018
So if Warner Bros. and Straczynski have now abandoned their feud and might expand on the intriguing universe JMS built nearly three decades ago, that’s pretty exciting. But if it’s just a straight reboot rather than a sequel or spin-off, one aimed at the CW at that, it makes me wonder why bother — particularly when the excellent original series has a newly remastered version you can stream on HBO Max and purchase via Amazon and iTunes since January of this year.
Sure, the remastered version still has its issues. Engadget has a great story about why the original Babylon 5 will never look its best, partly due to aging CGI that might have looked groundbreaking at the time. Some of the early episodes feature hamfisted plots, scenery-chewing actors and a general lack of subtlety, and I can see how they might turn off a modern audience used to shows like The Expanse. (Straczynski certainly still seems to feel the first season is worth it, and I think you’d lose a lot by skipping it.)
And while the remaster’s 4:3 transfer does an excellent job of cleaning up old artifacts and counteracting the bonkers decision to zoom in on the low-quality CG (see examples above and below), the noisy footage still doesn’t necessarily look great on a 4K TV.
Still, it’s there’s never been a better time to watch Babylon 5 in the modern era than this remaster, which is so much better than the DVDs. You just might want this guide to the agreed-upon proper viewing orders since HBO Max and co. seem to have ordered the episodes in a new way entirely.