Ever since Babylon 5 went off the air in 1998, show creator J. Michael Straczynski has been trying to get it back on the air in one form or another, only to have it go right back off the air.
So, when Walter Koenig (who played Star Trek‘s original Chekov and B5 semi-regular Alfred Bester) told fans at a recent Star Trek convention that Straczynski might be making more B5, it sounded pretty plausible.
He told me that he is in negotiations to reacquire the rights to Babylon 5 and it looks pretty good. Now, what that portends, I am not entirely sure. It could be a new series, or it could be a feature film, but he was quite animated about it. He seemed very excited, and Warner Brothers is dealing with him in good faith. So you might see another Babylon 5 in the not-too-distant future.
Sounds pretty reasonable, right? After all, Straczynski’s become a more popular writer than ever and he’s passionate about the property, so why wouldn’t he be trying to do something more with it? Unfortunately, it turns out Koenig’s completely wrong, as Straczynski explained through twitter:
While a lot of Sci-Fi shows try to get back on the air, B5 has actually succeeded more than most. (If by “succeeded” you mean “get canceled again.”) In 1999, TNT picked up the spin-off show Crusade, which only lasted 13 episodes before TNT yanked it off the air, apparently for not having enough sex and violence. In 2002, the Sci Fi Channel aired a new B5 movie Legend of the Rangers, which would’ve been a backdoor pilot for another B5 series, if it hadn’t been hammered in the ratings by an NFL AFC championship game. (It also didn’t help that it was pretty damn forgettable.)
In 2007, Straczynski tried doing a series of straight-to-DVD B5 movies under the heading Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. Each DVD would contain three 30 minute episodes, but only the first one, “Voices in the Dark,” made it to stores and it only had two stories on it. (The third, which would’ve featured Michael Garibaldi, proved too expensive to do.) While that disc supposedly sold well, Straczynski has said the low budget Warner Brothers would’ve given him for more discs (reportedly two million dollars per DVD) left him uninterested.
He’s said that he would only go back to the property if Warner Brothers wanted to do either a new TV series or a big budget feature film. And since that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, it looks like we’ve probably seen the last of the Babylon 5.
Of course it doesn’t help that three actors from the cast, Jeff Conaway (Zach Allen), Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar) and Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin), have all died since the show went off the air. And since Straczynzski has gone on record that he won’t recast their parts, there are already a lot of B5 stories that we’d never get to see anyway.