J. Michael Straczynski Explains Why Babylon 5 Had to Be Rebooted

J. Michael Straczynski Explains Why Babylon 5 Had to Be Rebooted
Hopefully they keep the Babylon 5's design though, at least. (Screenshot: Warner Bros.)

Yesterday brought the shocking news that ‘90s sci-fi cult classic Babylon 5 would be returning to screens with a brand new reboot on the CW. But its original creator J. Michael Straczynski — who will write and produce the new series — wanted to calm fans down who were immediately concerned. He explained why now was the time for more Babylon 5 and more importantly, why it had to be a new iteration, rather than a continuation.

Taking to Twitter in the hours after the news first broke, Straczynski stressed that the new series being a reboot — which is a first for Babylon 5, which already received several spinoff series and movies picking up where the beloved show left off — was a vital choice he wanted to make. Part of the decision was simple: a lot has happened in the world, in television, and in Straczynski’s career since Babylon 5 first aired, and the writer relished the challenge of bringing all those changing circumstances and his own growth as a writer to the beloved series.

“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,” Stracynzski tweeted. “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?”

But another appeal the writer found in specifically telling a new iteration of Babylon 5 for the 21st century is to build on what the original show already pioneered. At the time it aired, Babylon 5‘s five-year overarching plot, laid out from the get-go, was unprecedented as a style of long-form television storytelling. Now, in the age of mega franchises dominating TV — perhaps inspired by the likes of Babylon 5‘s initial approach — it’s normal.

Not only that, the series’ dark sci-fi storytelling commenting on the state of the world in the mid-’90s needs to evolve, Straczynski argued, so that a new Babylon 5 could be more than just relevant to our current time, but try to imagine a future beyond it as well. “How can it be used to reflect the world in which we live, and the questions we are asking and confronting every day?” Straczynski continued. “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.”

Combined with the fact that much of Babylon 5‘s original, beloved cast are now “stubbornly on the other side of the Rim,” as Straczynski put it, making the new Babylon 5 a complete reboot makes complete sense. A continuation would have to compromise on who from the original series still remained, the constraints of its storytelling from decades ago, and push back on Straczynski’s own desire to make a Babylon 5 truer to our current moment rather than the past. And if anything, the writer is excited by the challenge.

“Let me conclude by just saying how supportive and enthusiastic everyone at the CW has been and is being with this project,” Straczynski added. “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 honouring all that has come before. Onward!”