Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Babylon 5: The Road Home

It has been thirteen years since the last Babylon 5 franchise property released, but the cast does not look like they have aged a day during the time that had elapsed. In fact, sometimes they look younger, depending on the alternate time line. That is the advantage of animating sequels. The airbrushing of wrinkles is remarkably effective. It also allows for the return of several characters whose original actors are now sadly deceased. If you were a fan of the 1990’s series, it should be far more appealing than another reboot that totally misses the point of the original. If you weren’t a fan, you might be a little confused but also intrigued by Matt Peters’ Babylon 5: The Road Home, written by series creator J. Michael Straczynski, which releases today on DVD and VOD.

Having saved the Babylon 5 station and pretty much the whole known universe during the Shadow War, John Sheridan (still voiced by original star, Bruce Boxleitner) is now the president of the Alliance. Leaving Babylon 5 is difficult, but it is required by his new position. However, his loving wife, Ambassador Delenn is still by his side (even though original thesp Mira Fulan is no longer with us).

Although Sheridan left without his “lucky socks” (a call-back for the fans), he forgot something more important. A time stabilization beam the annoying pseudo-hive mind alien Zathras aimed at Babylon 5, for Sheridan’s benefit, after his previous misadventure with time travel. When the temporally-weakened Sheridan officially opens a new power station on Minbari, the tachyons untether him from his current time and dimension. As he jumps between alternate times and realities, he is drawn back to the Shadow War, but at much more dire junctures than his timeline ever witnessed.

Straczynski devises with some interesting time travel twists, based on quantum mechanics. The “observer effect” and entanglement get a good deal of calling out, in ways that make sense and move the story along. There is also a good deal of fan service, including Sheridan fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Commander Jeffrey Sinclair (Sheridan’s first season predecessor, originally played by the late Michael O’Hare).

The cast mortality rate has been surprisingly high, including the great Jerry Doyle (also common sense radio talk show host) as Chief of Security Michael Garibaldi, who makes a small appearance during one of Sheridan’s jumps. However, fans will be happy to hear Claudia Christian returning as Commander (or Lt. Commander, depending on the timeline) Susan Ivanova, who has at least two highly memorable scenes. Plus, original cast-members Tracy Scoggins, Bill Mumy, Patricia Tallman, and Peter Jurasik also reprise their roles.

Series newcomers need deduce some context on the fly, but it is not impossible. In some ways, it serves as an appealing series “sampler.” Supposedly, a live-action reboot is in development, but continuing the pre-existing series forward with animated sequels seems like a much more attractive option. Recommended for fans of the franchise and time-dimensional-warping sf,
Babylon 5: The Road Home releases today (8/15) on DVD and VOD.