2 Decades Later: J. Michael Straczynski Remembers SYFY's Would-Be Babylon 5 Spinoff Legend of the Rangers
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski reveals the reasons why Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers never made it to series.
With the Blue-ray release of a brand-new animated Babylon 5 animated movie this week, the hype for J. Michael Straczynski's space drama is swirling again. It's been 30-years since Straczynski launched his original sci-fi drama that examined a future where a united Earth in 2257 has hyperspace travel capabilities and maintains a delicate military and diplomatic balance with other alien species on the space station, Babylon 5.
As a series, Babylon 5 produced 110 episodes and six television movies, including the 2002 Sci-Fi Channel (now SYFY) original, Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers.
Meant to be a backdoor pilot (or, proof of concept to get a series greenlit), Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers was written by Straczynski. Set after the devastating Shadow Wars, the telemovie introduced the efforts of the Interstellar Alliance, with the help of the Rangers, to help restore peace and protect where needed. The cast featured Dylan Neal, Andreas Katsulas, Alex Zahara, Myriam Sirois, Dean Marshall and more.
The storyline introduced this unit of Rangers escorting diplomats across space, until an ancient force known as The Hand thwarts their mission.
J. Michael Straczynski Remembers Legend of the Rangers
Over the last two decades, there's been plenty conjecture amongst fans about why Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers never got picked up. Straczynski confirms to SYFY WIRE that it was a one-two punch of bad TV luck that prevented Rangers from having a future.
"I would have liked it to go on," he said in a recent interview. "But what happened with that was we were told we had to hit a certain ratings threshold. The evening they had planned for us [to premiere] was perfect. But then they moved this huge, massive, like highest-rated ever football game opposite us and it killed us. We never got the pick up. But the cast was really solid. The effects were good. It was a lot of fun. It could have been a cool show."
The football game in question was the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. It would go on to be called the "Tuck Rule Game" or "Snow Bowl 2," and was played at January 19, 2002 — the same night Legend of the Rangers premiered. The Patriots would go on to win the contest 16-13.
The second contributing factor was the decades long stalemate that Straczynski had with Warner Bros. who owned the TV rights to Babylon 5. Recently, Straczynski revealed that Babylon 5 never progressed in any way because one executive at WB disliked Babylon 5 and killed any licensing deals or live-action development.
Straczynski says after the ratings clobbering for Rangers, there was no way it could have been resurrected due to the WB moratorium. "It's a moot point because there was somebody putting their thumb on the scale for 20 years, so that it was impossible to do more novels. It was impossible to do more TV shows, or iterations of it. And we could not license out the comic to anybody," he says of his fondness for the spin-off but no recourse to keep it going.
The Five Year Plan For Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers
He says he had a five-year series blocked out in his mind for Rangers, which slipped into his legendary, exhaustive show bible for the series that charted the mythology of Babylon 5 in either direction for 100, 1000 and one million years. He also confirms there would have been much mingling with the main and recurring characters of the Babylon 5 series in Rangers.
"There would have been room [for them] because those characters were all still alive at the time," he explained. "That's why we have G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) in the pilot. We would have had other characters from time to time popping in as required. Not stunting, but just organic to the story."
Looking for more high-concept science fiction? Stream SYFY's The Ark on Peacock right now.