Wednesday 29 March 2023

RUMOUR: BABYLON 5 reboot dead at CW, still in development with Warner Brothers

Rumours are swirling that the Babylon 5 reboot project may be getting a renewed lease of life.

As previously related, Warner Brothers put Babylon 5 into development with a whole new fresh lick of paint as a ground-up reboot, with original writer/creator/showrunner J. Michael Straczynski once again in charge. The CW picked up the project and spent two years developing a pilot script (an unusually long time) before the network was sold off to new owners, who promptly smoked almost its entire drama development schedule to focus on cheap reality programming. Although Babylon 5 2.0 wasn't quite dead, it had certainly been dealt a serious injury and did not look likely to survive.

However, Warner Brothers have taken the view that there's no reason to waste all that expensive development work and have been shopping the project to other venues. The most logical option, HBO Max, is seemingly out of the question because they have their own budget and development issues in the wake of the Discovery merger. HBO proper don't seem interested, despite the presence of self-confessed Babylon 5 uberfan George R.R. Martin in the development process over there.

That meant Warner Brothers having to team up with another streamer or network. WB have a good relationship with Netflix, where former Babylon 5 scriptwriter Neil Gaiman (he's also done some other work) is currently working on their adaptation of Sandman. It's also possible that Amazon might be looking for a space opera show to replace the recently-concluded The Expanse. Paramount+ have so much Star Trek on the go that it's improbable they'd want a competing space opera show, but they do also have Halo on the go, suggesting they might be interested if the script was good enough. However, having two space opera franchises in operation might instead just make that possibility even less likely.

Some rumours (cited here) have Apple TV+ circling the property. Apple TV+ also have two ongoing space opera franchises, with the original alt-history From All Mankind charting an alternate history of the 20th and 21st centuries where the Space Race between the USSR and USA never wound down in the 1970s but continued full tilt with missions to Mars. Meanwhile Foundation is a loose adaptation of the Isaac Asimov novel series of the same name. Apple TV+ has also enjoyed success with psychological SF thriller Severance and the partially SF-themed sitcom Mythic Quest (which featured an outstanding literary SF storyline in its second season featuring actors playing authors Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Ursula K. Le Guin).

However, Apple are possibly about to loose their biggest draw, with football comedy-drama Ted Lasso (itself a Warner Brothers co-production) set to conclude after three seasons. If Apple can't find a direct replacement, they might be looking to establish a broader portfolio of shows with broad appeal. Babylon 5 is often cited as being enormously ahead of its time, featuring serialised storytelling long before it was fashionable, cutting-edge vfx, epic space battles, rich political intrigue and complex characters, often acting in morally flexible ways.

There are all strong arguments, but it does not mean that Babylon 5 reboot will definitely go ahead, at Apple TV+ or elsewhere. It does suggest that the CW was not quite the last, best hope for the project, and there are other interests circling it.

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