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The news that The CW is rebooting the sci-fi classic Babylon 5 is exciting for fans of the original show, which ran for five seasons from 1993 to 1998 — but what should modern-day sci-fi fans expect from the 2.0 version of this 1990s touchstone?
While The CW’s version promises to be re-imagined “from the ground up,” we do know that the new show will focus on Earthforce officer John Sheridan, who was played by Bruce Boxleitner in the original series. While further plot details remain thin, we also know that the new series will start when Sheridan first lands on Babylon 5, the five-mile space station that’s a port of call for all kinds. His presence there sets off a series of events that leads to a major conflict with an alien civilization.
The other good news for Babylon 5 fans is that J. Michael Straczynski, the original creator and primary writer of the original series, is on board to produce and write The CW show. And so while the new series is being advertised as a reboot, it’s a safe bet that certain elements from the original show will carry over. Here are four things we hope to see in the Babylon 5 reboot, whenever it makes its way to The CW.
Big, multi-season story arcs
Babylon 5 was one of the first television shows to move beyond the single-episode story arc and incorporate narratives that spanned across at least one season. While this is much more commonplace today than it was in the early ‘90s, it’s a core part about what drew fans to the original series back in the day.
Given that this overarching narrative structure is far more common today, it stands to reason The CW reboot will also feature some massive, season-long stories that reshape the galaxy year-to-year as the show goes on.
Complex political themes
The original Babylon 5 explored several socio-political themes that reflected our contemporary times. One of the major story arcs, for example, revolved around Earth slowly falling into a dictatorship and the resultant civil war. Any reboot of the show, especially one led by Straczynski, will most likely incorporate these larger political themes, including why we find ourselves more often at war than at peace.
Straczynski pushed the boundaries of what you could do in the genre while shining a mirror back at our real world, and in the years since, shows like Battlestar Galactica (a reboot itself, of course) have taken those concepts even further. It'll be interesting to see how Straczynski takes on the new issues facing our world today through the lens of the future.
A budget that gives it the VFX it deserves
The ‘90s show was also revolutionary in that it was one of the first to use CGI for most of its special effects. CGI was still in its early stages then, and this — along with the show’s relatively small budget — have caused the show’s VFX to not hold up well as the decades have passed.
The CW will hopefully give the series enough of a budget to pull off the compelling VFX the show has always deserved. The network has already shown it can do a lot with a little when it comes to world-building, with alien worlds (and space ships) galore showing up every other week in series like DC's Legends of Tomorrow, hopefully Babylon 5 can take it even further.
Characters that grow and change over time
The original Babylon 5 had a host of characters populating its namesake station, some of whom left the series suddenly and some of whom stayed around for awhile but underwent significant changes in who they were.
One example of both is the Narn Ambassador, G’Kar, played by Andreas Katsulas. In the series, G’Kar started out as villainous and ended as a Messianic figure to his people (with many pit stops in between). G’Kar was a deeply developed and complex character, and one emblematic of what made the first show so memorable. Whatever the final cast of characters may be in the reboot, we hope that there will be characters as interesting and complex as G’Kar and the other original Babylon 5 cast.
All five seasons of the original Babylon 5 are streaming on HBO Max. Check out our watch guide here, if you want suggestions on which episodes to focus on.