Monday, August 28, 2023

Review: Babylon 5: The Road Home

Babylon 5: The Road Home is an animated slice of a story that centers the relationship of two of its main characters as being the lynchpin of all

"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind..."

Those arc words defined the 1990s series Babylon 5. A five-season epic SF show that wasn't named Star Trek, Babylon 5 told the story "of the last of the Babylon stations." A story of epic war and conflict, a story of a gathering place, a place made for the meetings of cultures, societies, and peoples, as they faced a conflict threatening to tear the galaxy apart. Rights and issues with trying to reboot or revisit the world have ended in failure or stillbirth or both.

Finally, however, a new chapter in Babylon 5 has arrived. Babylon 5: The Road Home takes an animated approach, and, fittingly for this moment, a multiverse story of John Sheridan.

The actual logline of the story is relatively simple. The Shadow War is over, and John Sheridan is about to lead to Minbar, retiring from his job of running Babylon 5 and instead being President of the Interstellar Alliance. Things start to go strange for him, slowly at first, but it is when a new power station on Minbar goes wonky that the problem emerges, and John Sheridan, becomes, like Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time.

Or, more to the point, like himself. Relying on prior series events, the movie posits that the events of a couple of time-travelling episodes in the series have come back to haunt him, and the tachyon power station has caused him to not only become unstuck in time, but also in space. Sheridan is catapulted through a variety of timelines and points in that timeline. His efforts are directed at trying to get back home, to his wife, Delenn. Babylon 5: The Road Home tells of that journey.

Having an animated movie does and did solve one of the major problems in any contemplation of new stories set in the Babylon 5 universe. It is sad, but true: a number of the fine actors who played key roles in the series have since passed on, some of them rather young. This movie uses the original actors where it can, and adequate replacements for when it couldn't.

Sheridan's journey through a multiverse of possibilities allows him to interact, ultimately, with every major character in the series (Zathras, for those who have seen the series, is not surprisingly a key character in trying to get Sheridan back home). We also get some animated versions of some key shots in the series: the launching of Starfuries and their classic maneuverability (even the spin around and fire on a trailing ship). The animated format allows for station and planetary destruction on a budget. Animation of the characters is good, the characters are to a fan of the series immediately recognizable, although the stylings are not always the same. (This is particularly true of the Narn ambassador G'kar, who has a much leaner and taller look here).

The movie itself mostly works for nostalgia, although it is clear that the movie attempts to be introducing a rebooted and re-envisioned Babylon 5 'verse. Sheridan does get home; in the end, we see that his love for Delenn is his compass, ultimately allowing him to reunite with her. But his "last world" he visits before managing to get home is the interesting one. We get to see a Babylon 5 that has not yet had the Shadow War, a Babylon 5 still at relative peace. And when "our Sheridan" makes his reunion and leave, the action does not return to us on Minbar.

Instead we linger in this alternate Babylon 5 'verse, and we see all of the characters, one more time, in tiny little vignettes with each other. Sheridan and Delenn. Lyta and Lennier. Commander Ivanova on the bridge, as usual. And of course, Londo and G'kar.  These last moments are almost an invitation: look, this is how the show could be rebooted. Here. Here is the template. Take THIS alternate world, and run with it.

It's a tempting thought. Could it, will it ever happen, in animated or in live action form? I don't know. Maybe Babylon 5 has had its place, its time, and rebooting it isn't going to happen. Frankly, with everything else being rebooted, one would think risk-averse Hollywood would jump at the chance to tell the Babylon 5 story again. Will it, though? Time will tell.

I am going to leave further, detailed observations that really are of interest only to a Babylon 5 fan in a footnote below (1). In the end, I think the movie itself really works only best as a nostalgia piece, although I would love the thoughts of someone who has never seen the series and get their reactions and opinions on it.


  • Classic characters come alive again in animation
  • A multiverse story with heart and love at the center
  • Lord, it felt good to be in the B5 universe again

Babylon 5, The Road Home, Warner Brothers 2023

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.

(1) So here we are. This may confuse people who are not steeped in Babylon 5, but if you know your Swedish Meatballs from your Narn Breen, this is for you. Okay, so we get to see nearly every major character in the series.  A few noteworthy absences:

Vir. We get a background shot of Vir and that's it. As a big fan of Vir, this was more than a little disappointing.

Talia: Fans of the show will remember that the *first* telepath on the station was Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson). There is no sign of her at all, and that final alternate universe seems to retcon her out of the timeline entirely in favor of Lyta being there for the entire time. (Mind, she was in the Pilot, left, and then came back again. So... is the retcon that she never left?)

Zack Allan, who became Head of Security and also provided a good view of the temptations of fascism (and ultimately rejecting it) is nowhere to be seen.

The Minbari Draal who ultimately came to run The Great Machine as an essential piece of it on Epsilon 3 (and which is essential to the plot of Sheridan getting home) appears to have been retconned out.

This is not a major character in the series, but this is definitely a retcon. Given how this movie so focuses on John and Delenn as a OTP (to the point of Love Saving the Multiverse), I suppose it is understandable, but very odd and weird. Early in his Billy Pilgrim's Progress through time, space and the multiverse, Sheridan arrives on Z'ha'dum when the Icarus arrived and ultimately woke up the Shadows. And he knows where he is, and tries to warn them. The thing is, the movie seems to have forgotten that one of the archeologists on that ship was Anna Sheridan, John's first wife. Is it a retcon that he doesn't even *think* of her, or try and introduce himself as her husband? I found it very weird. I was *waiting* to see and hear Melissa Gilbert.

A rebooted Babylon 5 along the lines and timeline of the "final world" would be very interesting, given how little they do know by the time Our Sheridan leaves and what people like Delenn *clearly* know and knew from the series. If Star Trek can do it...why can't Babylon 5?