Scratching the Surface With Mavrs: The Rise of “Babylon 5” The Awakening
Imagine a world where Papa Bezos actually ends up making his cylindrical city in space. Now imagine that same city being in a universe that is full of back door negotiations, assassination attempts, and newfound discoveries from unknown worlds and cultures. The floating city in space, Babylon 5, is that and more.
In light of the new announcement of J. Michael Straczynski returning to reboot this gem of a show, I took it upon myself to binge watch the series for the dozenth time. This is one of those shows that depicts the future in a light more plausible than any spin off of Star Trek. Don’t get me wrong, my passion for Star Trek stems as deep as the calcium deposits in my bones but Babylon 5 is a beast upon itself.
The show begins with Commander Jeffrey Sinclair played by Michael O’Hare. At first glance, you could almost mistake him as the father from Leave it to Beaver. The guy is practically your average 1950’s sitcom dad who can do no wrong. This character is who you can see the work of the master writer that is J. Michael Straczynski. You start off with a character that seems like they can do no wrong to a guy who is built up to be the messiah of the entire galaxy.
Although the arc that Commander Sinclair goes down wasn’t the intended choice since the actor had to leave for health reasons, it shows the ability that Straczynski has to pivot the story for unsuspected, real-life events. It was rumored that Straczynski had a booklet with five year’s worth of the show planned out and even took into account an infinite seeming amount of “what if” scenarios just incase something happened to the show’s cast. The great writers of Star Trek’s spin off show Deep Space Nine did the same and is why you see the actor who played Kira Nerys, Nana Visitor, suddenly get pregnant and then disappear from the show for a few episodes.
In this era of Hollywood being so low on creative ideas, this reboot does give me huge amounts of excitement. Babylon 5 was a show riddled with constant Hollywood execs not wanting to give this show the time of day. From the very get-go, Straczynski pitched the idea of the show as basically a 180 from the future that Star Trek depicted. Paramount practically laughed him out of the room. The nineties were a time when a show as gruesome as Game of Thrones would hardly be seen as appealing to audiences. Audiences want escapism, so dark and dreary didn’t exactly make the cake. Practically a few minutes later, those same execs come out with the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Now, I’m not saying the idea was stolen but it sure is a weird coincidence both shows’ premise start on a space station with a captain who is the messiah of the galaxy. It’s like watching an Oscar’s post-show of “Who Wore it Best”.
Another huge story-breaking event involved the show’s cancelation after season 4. Straczynski planned for Babylon 5 being a five season arc. Once again, the execs of the show sabotaged Babylon 5, forcing Straczynski to make a choice: end the show’s story arc in season 4 or have a show with no conclusion. As a blessing to the long time fans, he chose to end the story. This decision unfortunately would end up costing the show dearly when it finally got renewed for a final fifth season. When the fifth season came around, it was as if the show lost all meaning; like watching the once great Goliath, Toys R’ Us, liquidate its assets before ultimately shutting down. Characters’ arcs concluded, people died and the sense of danger from ancient powerful races all were left behind in season 4, only to be replaced by essentially one-off episodes with little meaning behind them.
With all that being said, I am excited that Straczynski is back to do the show that he intended to make, but also with cautious optimism. Babylon 5 is a masterpiece, but he also wrote Ninja Assassin and World War Z, so maybe he’s a little rusty. Straczynski has said that he does not plan on redoing the same story as before and that he will apply all the knowledge he’s learned throughout his career to make a better show. Time will tell for us to see what that actually pans out. Looking back at some of the Babylon 5’s characters such as G’Kar, Londo and Garibaldi, it wasn’t just the script that made these characters who they were. The actors made those characters come alive with each of their own personal quirks. Whoever ends up filling those roles will have some big shoes to fill.
Modern first-time viewers might say that the show looks dated with its 90s-era CGI, but in my opinion, the effects stand up well, even by today’s standards. If you’re looking for a show to binge, give Babylon 5 a go. By the end, even you will want to “live for the one and die for the one.”
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