It doesn’t seem like there’s ever any shortage of reboots or remakes — either on the small screen or the big one — but there’s one coming that may have some unique potential. There’s a Babylon 5 reboot on the way, with creator J. Michael Straczynski attached.
Deadline reported today that Straczynski’s Babylon 5 reboot has landed at the CW for what’s being called a “from-the-ground-up” retooling. Straczynski will executive produce through Studio JMS while the studio will be Warner Bros. Television.
While there haven’t been a lot of details revealed about the Babylon 5 reboot, Deadline’s report already indicates at least one change from the original series. The series’ lead character will reportedly be Captain John Sheridan, a role Bruce Boxleitner originated. However, in the original series, Michael O’Hare played the first lead, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. The character of Sheridan was created specifically to replace Sinclair.
Originally released on the now defunct PTEN in 1993, Babylon 5‘s introduction to audiences was marred by alleged plagiarism, something the Babylon 5 reboot wouldn’t have to contend with. Straczynski has been clear many times about his contention that Paramount — who he’d tried and failed to sell Babylon 5 to — had stolen his idea for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Both shows took place on a space station, both featured a captain with mystical destiny, and the stories of both shows eventually revolve around a conflict with a distant, seemingly unbeatable foe. Even character names from Babylon 5 were reproduced in their Star Trek counterpart, and Stracyzinski claims he only refrained from suing Paramount because WarnerBros. told him not to.
Winning two Emmys in its five year run, Babylon 5 has often been praised for the narrative cohesion throughout all five seasons of the series. In 1993, when the series premiered, few television shows had adopted serialized formats and those that had didn’t tell as cohesive a tale. Considering the narrative landscape of television is much different now, with episodic storytelling for the most part becoming the exception, it may be that a Babylon 5 reboot will have a much tougher time standing out from the pack.
There’s no word yet on the casting for the Babylon 5 reboot, though it would seem inevitable there would be at least some cameos from original series stars. Sadly, going down the list of lead actors from the series can be pretty depressing for fans, as so many of them have passed away. Mira Furlan, who played Ambassador Delenn, died from complications from West Nile Virus earlier this year. Richard Biggs, who played the station’s Dr. Stephen Franklin, died in 2004. But arguably the most heartbreaking story of them all belongs to Michael O’Hare, who played the original series lead Jeffrey Sinclair.
O’Hare died in 2012 from a heart attack at the age of 60, and the following year Straczynski finally — at the late actor’s request — went public about why O’Hare left the show after the first season. The actor suffered from paranoid delusions, Straczynski said, and was barely able to make it through the first season of the series without suffering a psychotic break. Straczynski said after O’Hare left the show, he continued to help support the actor financially and in helping him find the right care. He made Straczynski promise that if anything happened to him, the Babylon 5 reboot creator would share his story to help spread mental illness awareness.