Earlier today, The CW announced it was teaming with original series creator J. Michael Straczynski for a "from-the-ground-up" reboot of the original sci-fi drama Babylon 5. With Straczynski set to write the script and Warner Bros. TV involved, the new series is set to focus on John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner in the original series), an Earthforce officer with a mysterious background who 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.
Needless to say, the news created quite a stir among the Babylon 5 fandom, so JMS took to Twitter this evening to address the news in further detail. In a series of tweets, JMS offered an update, writing, "I'm hip deep into writing the pilot now." It was announced that should the project be given a series greenlight from The CW, he will executive produce via his Studio JMS with WBTV on board as the studio. JMS added in his tweets that he "will be running the series upon pickup" if the green light happens. Here's a look at the text of what else JMS had to say, including why they're going with a hard reboot instead of returning to the original series' universe.
"To answer all the questions, yes, it's true, 'Babylon 5' is in active development as a series for the CW. We have some serious fans over at the network, and they're eager to see this show happen. I'm hip deep into writing the pilot now, and will be running the series upon pickup.
The network understands the uniqueness of Babylon 5 and is giving me a great deal of latitude with the storytelling. As noted in the announcement, this is a reboot from the ground up rather than a continuation, for several reasons. Heraclitus wrote, "You cannot step in the same river twice, for the river has changed, and you have changed." 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?
How can it be used to reflect the world in which we live, and the questions we are asking and confronting every day? Fans regularly point out how prescient the show was and is of our current world; it would be fun to take a shot at looking further down the road.
So we will not be retelling the same story in the same way because of what Heraclitus said about the river. There would be no fun and no surprises. Better to go the way of Westworld or Battlestar Galactica where you take the original elements that are evergreens and put them in a blender with a ton of new, challenging ideas, to create something fresh yet familiar. 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.
How do you telling 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?
The original Babylon 5 was ridiculously innovative: the first to use CGI to create ships and characters, and among the very first to shoot widescreen with a vigorous 5.1 mix. Most of all, for the first time, Babylon 5 introduced viewers accustomed to episodic television to the concept of a five-year arc with a pre-planned beginning, middle and end…creating a brand new paradigm for television storytelling that has subsequently become the norm. That tradition for innovation will continue in this new iteration, and I hope to create additional new forms of storytelling that will further push the television medium to the edge of what's possible.
Let me conclude by just saying how supportive and enthusiastic everyone at the CW has been and is being with this project. They understand the unique position Babylon 5 occupies both in television and with its legions of fans, and are doing everything they can to ensure the maximum in creative freedom, a new story that will bring in new viewers while honoring all that has come before.