Respectful Insolence

Babylon 5 to return?

I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I really loved Babylon 5 while it was on; it was one of my favorite TV series of all time, and I own all five seasons on DVD. Even though the fifth and final season seemed a bit stretched out, the last five or six episodes of the series made up for it, so that the conclusion packed every bit of the punch that the high points of the best seasons (seasons two and three) did. So, what to make of this?

BURBANK, CA, November 13, 2006 – Warner Home Video (WHV) and Warner Bros. Television (WBTV) have announced the start of production of “Babylon 5: The Lost Tales,” a made-for-video movie that will be targeted towards the Babylon 5 loyal audience and science-fiction fans in general . The announcement was jointly made by Jeff Brown, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Non-theatrical Franchise, Warner Home Video and Gregg Maday, Senior Vice President, Movies and Miniseries, WBTV.

WHV will be the home entertainment distributor for this made-for-DVD release which will include two new Babylon 5 stories collectively entitled “Voices of the Dark” in one film plus exclusive behind the scenes content. The stories will be written and directed by executive producer and original “Babylon 5″ creator J. Michael Straczynski. Executive producer Doug Netter also returns in that role. Actors from the original series that have signed on to participate in the project include Bruce Boxleitner (“President John Sheridan”), Tracy Scoggins (“Captain Elizabeth Lochley”) and Peter Woodward (“Galen”).

Babylon 5 is a top selling franchise on DVD to date with over $44 million in consumer sales. Launched in February 1993, the award winning series was a top rated show on television with more than 13.7 million viewers in its debut season. After its original planned five-year run – introducing the concept of a five year arc before other TV series began to use multi-season arcs — the show went on to enjoy 9 successful years in syndication and Cable on the Sci-Fi Channel and TNT. It also spurred the creation of five feature length movies based on the series including The Gathering, In the Beginning, Thirdspace, River of Souls and A Call to Arms, as well as the limited series Crusade. Babylon 5 has received numerous awards including two Emmys, two consecutive Hugo Awards, the Ray Bradbury Award for Dramatic Screenwriting from the Science Fiction Writers of America, five English Media ‘Cult TV’ Awards, the E Pluribus Unum Award from the American Cinema Foundation, the Sci-Fi Universe Reader Choice Award for Best TV Series and was the winner of the TV Guide Poll for Best Sci-Fi Show.

“We are very excited to be releasing this new made-for-video release filled with original content for ‘Babylon 5′, one of the most successful science fiction series of all time,” said Jeff Brown. “This popular TV show which has been off the air for a few years continues to have a strong loyal fan base that is hungry for more content. This is the first time we’re utilizing one of our popular TV franchises as a made-for-video title, and we have a strong commitment to the growth of this sector.”

“It’s great to be reunited with Joe and Doug once again,” commented Maday. “I have always been very proud to be associated with their wonderful work on Babylon 5 and I’m confident the “Lost Tales” will add to the legacy of this very special franchise.”

I’m really not sure how this will work, particularly since Andreas Katskulas (G’Kar) and Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin) have both died since the original series concluded. I could see the resurrected movies working without Biggs, but G’Kar and Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik apparently hasn’t signed on either) were the heart and soul of the original series, even more so than Sheridan and Delenn.

Given that the B5 spinoffs attempted (Crusade, for instance) have generally been rather mediocre, I don’t have high hopes for this straight-to-DVD venture.

On the other hand, B5 geek that I am, I’ll probably rent the DVDs at some point after they come out.

Comments

  1. #1 Brent
    November 15, 2006

    This idea of continuing a series in a direct to DVD form is one that’s been floating around for a while. In fact “Firefly” fans (Browncoats Forever) talked about this a lot when Fox pulled the plug on the series and then again when the sales for the series DVD set were way beyond the expectations of just about everyone. It’s only natural that they should try something like this with what they describe as the best selling DVD series ever. How do you deal with the absence of Londo, G’Kar, and Dr. Franklin? Depending on the focus of the stories – and from what I’ve read the focus seems to be on individual characters rather than on the “big picture” – that doesn’t have to be a huge problem.

  2. #2 Babe in the Universe
    November 15, 2006

    This is good news. Given how much the market has changed, straight-to-DVD makes economic sense. The actors will certainly enjoy the work.

  3. #3 Ahistoricality
    November 15, 2006

    I disagree, in the sense that the B5 milieu is entirely capable of sustaining storylines that have very little to do with the station and its denizens (I also disagree that Crusade was mediocre, because it contained a lot of disparate elements that clearly needed to mature and be worked together over time — much like B5 — and they never got the chance), for example the Psychic Wars trilogy (the only spinoff fiction I’ve ever read from this series, because the Bester character and sociopolitical issues really intrigued me).

    With J. Michael Straczynski in charge, even without the “powerhouse” characters (I don’t want to see more Sheridan; I want an Ivanova spinoff), I would expect it to be very good.

  4. #4 Ahistoricality
    November 15, 2006

    For the record, I’m disagreeing with Orac’s reservations, not Babe In the Universe’s positive comments. Sorry about that.

  5. #5 Orac
    November 15, 2006

    I also disagree that Crusade was mediocre, because it contained a lot of disparate elements that clearly needed to mature and be worked together over time — much like B5 — and they never got the chance

    Maybe so, but we have no way of knowing whether Crusade would have improved to B5 levels. If B5 had ended after 13 episodes of the first season, I’d have said the same thing: It was mediocre. By and large, the first half of the first season of B5 wasn’t that great, as I discovered when I went back to watch the first season. (I first discovered B5 early in the second season, when it was really starting to get good; I don’t know if I would have stuck with it had I watched it from the beginning.)

  6. #6 The Ridger
    November 15, 2006

    I tried to watch Crusade, I really did – despite feeling like the first episode was a silly D&D set-up … here’s the Fighter, now we need a Mage and a Cleric, and let’s bring in a Thief or two – but I couldn’t stick with it. Even knowing that B-5 took a while to really get under way.

  7. #7 Rob Knop
    November 15, 2006

    Heh — I had the same reaction to Crusade, it had the classic D&D character stereotypes.

    However… as I watched it, I came to find it better and better (except for that infinitely stupid and silly X-Files parody episode). It would be some time bofore I realized that the later episodes that I thought were better were the ones made first, before TNT started interfering more and more with what JMS was doing.

    I was lukewarm about Crusade after 5 or 6 episodes, but by the end I was very sad that it didn’t go on.

    On the other hand, I was seriously underwhelmed by the Legend of the Rangers pilot that was broadcast a couple of years ago. What bugged me most was that the set-up was for “some ancient race that is all but forgotten that is starting to meddle.” Wait… haven’t we done this already? But, no, this is even more than the Shadows and Vorlons…. Foo. That didn’t impress me, and the overall story didn’t impress me enough. Crusade had much more verve, at least once we got to the later-broadcast episodes.

    Re: B5 itself, about half of the 5th season bugged me. I felt like we could have done without all that Byron stuff. Yeah, there was a telepath conflict brewing, but what they did with it didn’t nearly match the lead-up to it. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that came out of that was cementing the estrangement of Leeta Alexander from everybody else, which needed to happen and was already happening anyway. But the Fall of Londo stuff was good, and captured some of what I thought was great about the 2nd and 3rd seaons of B5.

    It’s too bad that the questions about cancellation forced the rushed 4th season and stretched 5th season.

    Of the B5 spinoff movies, I feel fairly luke about most of them. They were entertaining, but what really made B5 by and large was the story arcs.

  8. #8 Davis
    November 15, 2006

    By and large, the first half of the first season of B5 wasn’t that great, as I discovered when I went back to watch the first season.

    I bump up against this issue repeatedly, as I keep introducing people to the show. Which first season episodes are necessary to watch, which should you watch because they’re good, and which can you skip? It’s an important question if you want to inspire other people to share your love for B5.

  9. #9 Rob Knop
    November 15, 2006

    If I’m introducing somebody to B5, but don’t need to be completist about it, these are the first season episodes I show:

    * Midnight on the Firing Line
    * Mind War
    * And the Sky Full of Stars
    * Signs and Portents
    * A Voice in the Wilderness I
    * A Voice in the Wilderness II
    * Babaylon Squared
    * Chrysalis

    Those are the most crucial to the ongoing storyline. There’s a thing or two in a few others, but the storyline doesn’t fall down without them. And, some of those above are the best episodes.

  10. #10 James
    November 15, 2006

    The trouble with season 5 was that it was stretched out. They had been told that B5 was being canned after the 4th season so they wound up the war on Earth story arc faster than they were going to originally. Season 4 was supposed to end with Sherridan’s capture. The war on Earth would have taken up a chunk of the 5th season and the material in season 5 would have been only half the size it ended up.

    The conclusion we can draw from this – Strazynski only falls short when people frak with his creative process.

  11. #11 Runolfr
    November 16, 2006

    From what I’m hearing, a lot of the stories are likely to revolve around Crusade characters like Lockley and Galen. I never cared much for Galen, and I despised Lockley, so I’m already a bit unmotivated.

  12. #12 rrt
    November 16, 2006

    This has been in the works for a good while now…this is a good resource to get early notice of whatever JMS is up to. He’s got some (non-B5) movie projects in the works too:

    http://www.jmsnews.com/

    Given that Joe seems to have full rein here, I think they’ll be pretty good. Of course the absence of Biggs and Katsulas will be felt.

    FWIW, Joe has stated that there’s going to be some severe overhauling of the shows’ visuals. I would expect that, given the fact that as they were the first to commit to CGI they’d be the most obsolete, but it remains to be seen just what exactly that means. He claims it’s not really a redesign.

    Also note that more are planned, and they postponed the third, Garibaldi-centric movie from this set because they were getting overwhelmed with the first two.

  13. #13 Chris
    November 16, 2006

    I thought Lochley wasn’t bad once I got over the disappointment of her not being Ivanova (just like Sheridan wasn’t bad once I got over the disappointment of him not being Sinclair). Londo and G’Kar were crucial to the B5 story, but the new project will have its *own* story, which they may not be that important to. It’s a universe. Universes are big. More than one thing can happen in them.

    Now, of course it *might* be a rehash of what he’s already done, or require implausible breaks with previous continuity, or have characters conspicuous by their absence simply because the actors weren’t available; but there’s no reason to jump to those conclusions before the project is even shot.

  14. #14 Rob Knop
    November 16, 2006

    By the end of the fifth season, the entire original cast was pretty much gone from the station. As such, if it’s set after that, then any collection of people become plausible.

    (There was a scene I liked in one of the last episodes. Not the very last (which was set 20 years into the future), but one of the couple before that. Sheridan and Delenn were relocating to the Minbari homeworld, and were leaving B5 for the “last” time. The main crew of the station — including ambassadors — lined up in the observation dome to wish them well. It was neat, because pretty much every position had been replaced by then. Yeah, it happened over time, not all at once that day, but right there was where we realized it. We had Lochley in place of Sheridan, Corwin in place of Ivanova, Zack Allen instead of Girabaldi, Ta’lon in place of G’kar, Vir in place of Londo, Dr. Hobbs in place of Dr. Franklin, etc. It was a good message that, hey, all the main characters had their story and were central to what happens, but life goes on, the Universe continues, and there are always other stories.)

    -Rob the B5 geek