It’s been 30 years since the first instalment of the grand and ground-breaking TV series, Babylon 5, graced the screens of sci-fi fans across the world. Often wrongly considered a cheap Star Trek rip-off, it was instead an instrumental step in the evolution of modern television, fundamentally changing the way TV show story arcs were made, and how political and sociological dynamics played into long-running TV serial narratives.
Over the next decade, it would see five seasons, several spin off TV movies, and a couple of abortive spin-offs before the franchise went televisually dormant. But to mark the 30th anniversary, showrunner J. Michael Straczynski has penned an animated film follow-up to commemorate and celebrate the show.
Babylon 5: The Road Home picks up around the end of the final season, as President John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) departs the titular space station, with his wife Delenn (Rebecca Riedy), to take up his new political role. However, an accidental blast of Tachyon radiation from an experimental power-station sends him hurtling through reality, unstuck in both time and space. With only hours before his situation destroys both him and possibly even the fabric of time itself, he must resolve the mystery of what’s happening and find a way back to normality.
It was always going to be a tough task to bring back Babylon 5. Even though there have been serious murmurings in the dark about a reboot for some years, this film may well stoke those fires if successful. It’s a series which told a complete story in five solid seasons but has always been happy to throw in side-stories in some medium or another. But the animated form suits the feel of the show really well. It also side-steps the unavoidable and tragic real life deaths of a large number of the main cast. Fittingly the film pays homage to them, with a tasteful end title card. It does mean though that some of the new voices sound discomfiting at first.
Yet the film is decidedly one for the fans. With Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Bill Mumy, Peter Jurasik, Tracy Scoggins and Patricia Tallman all returning to voice the classic B5 characters of old. Moreover, the new actors make a great fist of embodying the characters they voice, rather than trying to mimic the tones and cadences specifically. The story also feels rather like something you’d get during a midseason of the show. Fun and light, but richly characterised.
At times it does feel that the episodic nature of the time-jumping story is in part to allow them to squeeze in a host of character and location cameos. While this never feels like it’s cheapening the story told, it does feel like the wink and nod that it undoubtedly is. Similarly, while there are enough jokes and sly info-drops to keep the uninitiated from being confused, the resultant story feels more than a little bit thin at points, with a little too much reliance on quips and one-liners, and a story that feels oddly pedestrian.
These downsides especially come to the fore when some characters simply accept who Sheridan is without real question in moments of genuine peril. At one stage with a military officer even tossing a gun to this odd stranger who appeared out of nowhere during an alien attack. Such moments lack credulity and frankly point more towards early career as a writer on The Real Ghostbusters and He-Man cartoons, than the mostly more serious tone of 90s TV series.
It’s been a long time coming, and honestly, if you are someone who enjoyed Babylon 5, then you won’t be disappointed. This is a return to form and a welcome return to e beloved franchise; as well as a fond homage to absent friends. For those who haven’t ever seen Babylon 5, it’s fun but certainly a harder sell. Those interested would do better to seek the newly remastered Blu-Ray release out and pick it up from the beginning.
Available on Blu Ray now