In 2018, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski revealed on Twitter that Warner Bros. has clearly, explicitly and blatantly shot down the hope of any new content. Now, in a surprise announcement it seems the studio changed their minds - a full-on reboot is being made, with the original creator at the helm.
Announced, triumphantly, by J. Michael Straczynski, the new Babylon 5 remake is chugging along development for the CW. JMS returns as writer and showrunner, and has released statements about how the project is a reboot of the original series rather than a continuation.
Straczynski revolutionized television, and sci-fi shows in particular, in 1994 with Babylon 5, which heralded the then-rare serialized format of television programming. Instead of insulated 'monster of the week' style episodes, the entire show was a complete, long-form story with an overarching plot and a planned out beginning, middle and ending. This style of grand storytelling is the go-to for high end television these days, but was groundbreaking at the time.
Babylon 5's extensive use of CGI was similarly innovative and unusual at the time, when most sci-fi shows used small models for spaceships, stations and more. Now, Straczynski is back with a new set of tools at his disposal and additional decades of experience to retell the story through a new lens.
Warner Bros. has shared a brief description of the reboot, which reveals some plot points. The pilot episode is being worked on right now, with preliminary plans for the rest of the series laid out. Like the original, the Babylon 5 reboot is also extensively pre-planned.
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.
Based on this description, it seems as though the reboot will follow the same overarching plot as the original while altering some major plot points nonetheless. Either Sinclair, the commanding officer of the station preceding Sheridan got written out entirely, or their role has been repurposed - we don't want to spoil too much, but if this is the same story, they have to appear in some form.
It also appears that the reboot will introduce the audience to the Shadows a lot sooner than the original series did, accelerating the overarching plot. Whether this means that the reboot will be shorter and faster paced, or Straczynski is using this second chance to flesh out other elements of the story than in the original remains to be seen.
As for why we're getting a reboot instead of a continuation, Straczynski stated that it is mostly a choice of practicality that comes down to casting problems. Not all of the actors who performed in the original series and its many spin-off movies would be back on board. Additionally, the creator has stated that the decades that passed have changed him, his approach to storytelling, and the tools available to filmmakers which makes the prospect of a reboot definitely exciting.
In the years since B5, I’ve done a ton of other TV shows and movies, adding an equal number of tools to my toolbox, all of which I can bring to bear on one singular question: if I were creating Babylon 5 today, for the first time, knowing what I now know as a writer, what would it look like? How would it use all the storytelling tools and technological resources available in 2021 that were not on hand then?
It isn't yet clear when the Babylon 5 reboot will start airing, but this early on in the production it is to be expected that the studio is cautious with setting expectations.