You Can't Step in the Same River Twice: Babylon 5 Gets Ground-Up Reboot

Fans of the iconic, beloved, heart-wrenching Babylon 5 series will be interested to hear that it’s getting a “from-the-ground-up” reboot. And it’s not just some enthusiastic rando in charge, either. J. Michael Straczynski is at the helm. He’s writing the pilot, and he’ll be running the show.

According to an early synopsis from Warner Bros., in the rebooted 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.”

‘The river has changed, and you have changed’

Currently none of the original cast are involved with the project. Naturally there’s some speculation about whether that might change, but JMS seems set on the course he’s chosen for the show.

“To those asking why not just do a continuation, for a network series like this, it can’t be done because over half our cast are still stubbornly on the other side of the Rim,” Straczynski explained in a thread. “How do you tell the continuing story of our original Londo without the original Vir? Or G’Kar? How do you tell Sheridan’s story without Delenn? Or the story of B5 without Franklin? Garibaldi? Zack?”


After its reboot, B5 won’t be telling the same story in the same way as last time. “There would be no fun and no surprises,” Straczynski said. Instead, he means to work in the same universe, but with “a ton of new, challenging ideas,” in order to create something “fresh yet familiar.” Straczynski then invoked Heraclitus to explain his creative direction. “You cannot step in the same river twice,” he said, “for the river has changed, and you have changed.”

The original B5 fought every season to be renewed, so JMS built in what he called trap doors and detours, allowing him to roll with problems as they happened. This time around, Straczynski is betting the whole fandom on the idea that a Babylon 5 reboot can take advantage of what he’s learned between the OG series and now. On the positive side, he’s clearly aware of the hazards of show cancellation, which often happens in the middle of a season, with little chance to resolve the plot. He’s keeping the details to himself until the big reveal, as usual. But this time, he’s confident in his grip on the wheel.

Glass half full

A lot has changed between B5 and now. To start, Straczynski has worked on a ton of other creative projects. And the A/V storytelling tools available today are not the same as they were then. CGI, for one, has advanced tremendously since B5’s pioneering use of the tech the first time around. Furthermore, the reboot will enjoy the resources of a much larger producer.

“The great news is that the new B5 is for an actual *network* with proper budgets and PR.,” Straczynski pointed out on Twitter. “B5 originally had a ridiculously tiny budget, and aired on syndicated PTEN, which most folks never heard of and could only be found with a Ouija board and a hunting dog.”

When I first watched B5 way back when, the person who recommended it told me: “None of the characters are quite the same person at the end that you thought they were in the beginning.” All the main characters changed, in ways subtle and profound, over the course of the series. What I didn’t know going in is that I, too, would be touched and changed by their bittersweet stories. Perhaps this new trip through the B5 universe will remind us again how to dance.

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