Babylon 5 Franchise


Introduction

Babylon 5 is an American space opera television series created by writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski, under the Babylonian Productions label in association with Straczynski’s Synthetic Worlds Ltd. and Warner Bros. Domestic Television.

After the successful airing of a pilot movie, Warner Bros. commissioned the series as part of the second year schedule of programs provided by its Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN). It premiered in the United States on 26 January 1994 and ran for the intended five seasons. Describing it as having “always been conceived as, fundamentally, a five year story, a novel for television”, Straczynski wrote 92 of the 110 episodes and served as executive producer, along with Douglas Netter.

The original show spawned a multimedia franchise of spin-offs consisting of a miniseries, five television movies, twenty-two novels, two tabletop games (an RPG and a wargame), and various other media such as technical books, comics, and trading cards.

Outline

Set between the years 2257 and 2262, it depicts a future where Earth has sovereign states and a unifying Earthgov. Colonies within the solar system, and beyond, make up the Earth Alliance and contact has been made with numerous spacefaring races. The ensemble cast portray alien ambassadorial staff and humans assigned to the five mile long Babylon 5 space station, a centre for trade and diplomacy. Described as “one of the most complex programs on television” the various story arcs drew upon the prophesies, religious zealotry, racial tensions, social pressures and political rivalries which existed within each of their cultures to create a contextual frame for the motivations and consequences of the protagonists’ actions. With a strong emphasis on character development set against a backdrop of conflicting ideologies on multiple levels, Straczynski wanted “to take an adult approach to SF, and attempt to do for television SF what Hill Street Blues did for cop shows.”

Babylon 5 Series (In Order of Series Chronology)

TimelineTitleFilm/SeriesAir DateRemarks
2245-2248In The BeginningFilm 0104 January 1998The framing story is set in 2278.
2256Babylon 5 station is commissioned.
2257The GatheringFilm (Pilot)22 February 1993
2258Signs and PortentsSeries 0122 January 1994 to 03 October 1994
2259The Coming of ShadowsSeries 0202 November 1994 to 15 August 1995
2260Point of No ReturnSeries 0306 November 1995 to 22 September 1996
2261No Surrender, No RetreatSeries 0403 November 1996 to 27 October 1997The final episode of the season include scenes of future events up to 3262 and beyond.
2261ThirdspaceFilm 0219 July 1998The story is set between the two wars in Series 04.
2262The Wheel of FireSeries 0521 January 1998 to 25 November 1998The final episode of the series is set in 2281.
2263The River of SoulsFilm 0308 November 1998
2265The Legend of the RangersFilm 0519 January 2002
2266A Call to ArmsFilm 0403 January 1999
2267CrusadeTV Series (Spin-Off)09 June 1999 to 01 September 1999
2271The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark2 Episodes31 July 2007A direct-to-DVD production. The DVD contains two episodes, each focusing on a particular character.
2278In the BeginningFilm 0104 January 1998The framing story is set in 2278.
2281Babylon 5 station decommissioned.

Television Movies

During and after production of Babylon 5, six television films set in the Babylon 5 universe were produced.

The Gathering is the pilot, depicting the arrival of several major characters upon the Babylon 5 station in the year 2257. In the Beginning depicts the events of the Earth-Minbari War, as revealed in the first few seasons, in chronological order, and in greater detail than the main series. Thirdspace and The River of Souls are largely stand-alone storylines.

A Call to Arms sets up the initial premise of the Crusade series, depicting the alien Drakh species releasing a nanovirus plague on Earth, which will destroy all life on the planet within five years, if it is not stopped. To that end, the Earth Alliance destroyer Excalibur is sent to look for a cure beyond Earth itself. To Live and Die in Starlight, also known as Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers, was intended as the pilot for the series of the same (Legend of the Rangers) name, but since the show was never picked up, it is now considered to be the sixth and last Babylon 5 telefilm.

Television Spin-Offs

Crusade

Refer to Crusade (1999).

The spin-off series Crusade ran on TNT for 13 episodes, having been set up by the TV film A Call to Arms. The production team received help from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to ensure that the series depicted space science and futuristic technology accurately, according to current scientific theory. However, creative differences between Straczynski and TNT caused problems; the network wanted more sex and violence, and forced Straczynski to begin the first episode with a fistfight. The sex-and-violence request was later withdrawn, and TNT allocated more money to Crusade, giving the actors better uniforms and new sets mid-season. However, due to further creative differences, TNT eventually decided to cancel the series after 13 episodes had been produced, but before any of them were aired. At the time of the cancellation, only hints of major story arcs had yet come into play, though unproduced scripts published online by Straczynski.

Legend of the Rangers

Refer to Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers (2002).

A television film titled To Live and Die in Starlight was produced by the Sci-Fi Channel. It was the proposed pilot episode of a new series titled Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers. Rescheduled after the September 11 attacks, the film aired on 19 January 2002. However, it was scheduled against an NFL AFC Divisional Championship playoff game. The pilot’s poor ratings contributed to the lessening of the network’s interest in a series pick-up, as did the poor reception it received from fans and critics alike, particularly for its depiction of a virtual-reality weapon, but the final nail in its coffin was the dispute between Warner Bros. and Vivendi Universal (owners of the Sci-Fi Channel) over revenue-sharing for the potential weekly series.

The Lost Tales

Refer to Babylon 5: The Lost Tales (2007).

A new project set in Babylon 5 universe was announced by Straczynski at San Diego Comic Con 2006. Babylon 5: The Lost Tales is a set of mini-stories featuring established characters from the series, released direct-to-DVD. Production of the first anthology of two stories, named collectively Voices in the Dark, commenced in November 2006 with Straczynski writing, producing, and directing. It was released 31 July 2007. In a Usenet post on 05 September 2007, Straczynski stated that Warner Bros. “are most pleased as sales have been several orders of magnitude beyond what they anticipated.”

On 13 July 2008, Straczynski revealed that he had no plans to continue The Lost Tales. He said that although the studio was interested in another disc, they wanted to budget the next instalment similarly to the first. Citing his disappointment with the first release due to the low budget, Straczynski said he did not want to dilute Babylon 5’s legacy with further sub-par stories. He stated that he would only return to the Babylon 5 universe if Warner Bros. wanted to do a large-budgeted cinema release.

The Memory of Shadows (Unproduced)

In 2004 and early 2005, rumours widely circulated about a planned Babylon 5 film for theatrical release. However, on 25 February 2005, a post from Straczynski announced that the project had fallen through, and was, for all practical purposes, dead. The proposed film, titled The Memory of Shadows (TMoS), was written by Straczynski. Filming was to have begun in April 2005 in the UK, with Steven Beck as the director.

During the “Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski” panel at the 2010 New York Comic Con, Straczynski revealed, “I said to Warner Bros. a while back, ‘When you’re ready to do something real with Babylon 5, either a big-budget film or a TV show, if you want to do one of those two things, call me; otherwise, don’t bother me.’ About a month ago the phone rang. I don’t know where this is gonna go yet, but when they call you, there’s something going on. I can’t tell you what it is yet, and it may not go anywhere, but there is movement in the tall grass.

Reboots

Several attempts to reboot Babylon 5 have occurred.

Untitled 2010s Feature Film Reboot

During the San Diego Comic Con event of 2014, Straczynski announced that he would soon be sitting down to write a Babylon 5 feature film, which is envisioned as a reboot of the iconic sci-fi series. JMS said that he plans to get the script locked down by the end of 2015 and the film would then enter production in 2016. However, this film has yet to be produced.

The CW Reboot TV Series

A reboot of Babylon 5 was announced in September 2021. It is being produced by Straczynski through Studio JMS, and developed by Warner Bros. Television for The CW.

The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5

The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5 is a fan-run website that includes detailed episode guides and analyses, production history notes, background materials, references and other information related to the science fiction epic, Babylon 5. The name is derived from the term lurker, which creator J. Michael Straczynski adopted to refer to the underclass residents on the Babylon 5 station.

Literature

  • A range of novels, short stories, and comic books have been published.
  • n 1998, the series briefly published a cookbook titled Dining on Babylon 5. Set during season 3 and ostensibly by the owner of the Fresh Air Restaurant, Emerson Briggs-Wallace, it was actually written by Stephen C. Smith. It was a limited run published only in the United Kingdom but made an appearance in one episode. In “A View from the Gallery”, a character is shown reading it; since the book was not yet finished, a mock-up was used with a different cover. The book is, however, considered canon.
  • In 1996, the security manual for the station was published by Boxtree/MacMillan in the UK followed by re-issues in the US and Australia. Whilst written by Roger Clark, Allan Adams and Jim Morimore, it was in the style of the station manual and is considered canon.

Games

A number of video and card games have bee produced.

Production & Filming Details

  • Rating: PG to 12.
  • Running Time: Variable.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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