So twenty years or so ago, there was this TV show called Babylon 5. It was set on a space station a few centuries in the future. Humans and aliens made war and peace on each other. It was groundbreaking TV in so many ways: it told a serialized story as if it were a novel for television, it incorporated CGI into (or replacing) physical sets, it used a little more science than other contemporary television science fiction franchises, the show’s creator was constantly engaging and educating fans on the Internet about what the production of a TV show was like. At times the ongoing story was epic, operatic, with compelling characters that broke under pressure or reached for the stars. It had its demerits, too: its miniscule budget meant that they sometimes had to scrimp on things like good actors. The CGI wasn’t always the greatest and is not getting better with age. But the show told its story, and ended. I really liked it.
The show’s creator, J. Michael Straczynski, or “Joe Straczynski” or “jms”, went into the comics field following the series finale. He eventually broke into writing for the big screen. Probably his biggest success was the first “Thor” movie.
Efforts at B5 spinoffs had mixed results. One TNT series was cancelled before the pilot aired. An increasing number of the original cast members have passed away. Further spinoffs seemed impossible. However, last month, at the San Diego Comic-Con, Joe announced (paraphrased) that since he has retained the film rights to B5, and since his new personal film studio* is rolling in cash, he’s totally going to just go ahead and make a B5 movie.** He’s calling it a reboot, I guess, instead of another sequel or followup to the original series. This news was released before the box office success of Guardians of the Galaxy, but I bet that movie’s success won’t hurt. “Sci-fi films with aliens and spaceships and ray guns are in nowadays,” you can imagine a hypothetical investor thinking, greedily rubbing his hands together.
To me, this news felt exactly like the news about Sierra’s imminent reincarnation. There’s the initial rush of sweet memories, rapidly walled off by layers of trepidation. A nostalgia gobstopper. There are so many reasons why this could fail. A movie’s running time is too short to use B5’s greatest strengths, which were characters evolving while driving a complicated and overarching story. B5 has about the level of mainstream name recognition as SeaQuest. Modern audiences just won’t get the Centauri hairstyle, or the collarless shirts the Earthers wore, or the Zima references. Some of the later spinoffs were painful, and now there’s no more Andreas Katsulas. Maybe jms is just trying to drum up excitement to get this made. But…maybe it will be great?
So, perhaps by 2016, this B5 movie will be facing off against Gary Whitta’s Star Wars movie. Won’t that be an epic battle of the planets?
- you can just have your own studio? Nice. So far its greatest success is a Netflix series that is still in production. I hope it will still be around when it comes time to make this B5 movie.
** I have never heard of this website. This should be a red flag. But the article appears to accurately recap other accounts of that Comic-Con panel and an announcement on jms’ Facebook page.