The Last Best Hope

The Most Resilient Sci-Fi Show Just Set Up A Massive Reboot

Babylon 5 is very much back. But not the way you might think.

Space station Babylon 5 and a Starfury.
Warner Bros
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What was the most pivotal moment in the timeline of Babylon 5? In the show’s fourth season credits voiceover, Susan Ivanova says that 2261 was “the year everything changed.” But was that true? What about the Shadow War of 2260? Or what about New Year’s Eve, 2258? Or maybe that time the crew of the White Star had to move B5’s predecessor, Babylon 4, back in time one thousand years? In the brand-new Babylon 5 animated feature, The Road Home, the beloved and scrappy sci-fi franchise ditches any fatalist or deterministic plotting and suggests, that perhaps, the most essential Babylon 5 truth was all the parallel timelines we met along the way. In fact, the ending of The Road Home gives the original TV series a kind of alternate ending, which, interestingly, seems to set up a hypothetical reboot for the entire show. Spoilers ahead.

Babylon 5: The Road Home begins in 2262, just after the Season 5 episode, “Objects at Rest,” with Sheridan and Delenn leaving the space station, heading to the planet Minbar to permanently set up the base for the Interstellar Alliance. Once there, however, Sheridan (Bruce Boxlienter) becomes “unstuck in time,” just as he was in the Season 3 two-parter, “War Without End.” But instead of just jumping to the future, this time, Sheridan leaps into the past and then starts popping into alternate timelines.

While The Road Home could have quickly devolved into Easter egg-heavy ‘90s fan service, series creator J. Michael Straczynski keeps the story grounded. Part of what made Babylon 5 so unique when it first aired in the ‘90s, was the way the writing favored naturalistic dialogue and messy characters who didn’t always do what the audience expected. Here, the signature wit of Straczynski’s characters is on full display, most laudably Bruce Boxleitner, playing multiple versions of Sheridan. And although most surviving B5 cast return for voice roles — including Claudia Christian, Tracy Scoggins, Patricia Tallman, Bill Mumy, and Peter Jurasik — JMS hedges his bets on an emotional story about Sheridan being enough. Smartly, for a premise about the multiverse, going smaller with the themes is what makes The Road Home click. We might have seen some emotional beats like this before in Babylon 5, but it’s never looked quite this slick.

But, for new and old Babylon 5 fans alike, the big surprise of the movie isn’t so much how it honors the characters and continuity of the series. Instead, it straight-up reboots the entire universe, in a bold third act.

Babylon 5: The Road Home ending explained

Ivanova in the new Babylon 5 timeline.

Warner Bros

Before Sheridan is able to reconnect with Delenn, and thus, get himself back to his home universe and the “correct” version of 2262, he finds himself in an alternate version of 2260, which should have been the year of the Shadow War. But, instead, he finds a different Babylon 5, in which all the familiar characters are there, but the impending threat of the Shadows simply isn’t going to happen. Why? Well, as Michael Garibaldi reveals, Interplanetary Expeditions — a private group that charted a mission to the Shadow homeworld — went out of business 10 years prior. So, in this universe, the Icarus never goes to Z'ha'dum, and thus, doesn’t reawaken the Shadows, and trigger the war that defined the third and fourth seasons of the series, and thus, much of Sheridan’s arc.

And here’s the rub. Once “normal” Sheridan returns to his correct universe, the ending of the movie remains in the new, peaceful non-Shadow War version of the Babylon 5 timeline. On the commentary track on the Blu-ray, Straczynski makes it clear that yes, this is a not-so-soft reboot, saying: “It reboots the Babylon 5 universe and we may or may not have the Shadow War, and everyone is there, in the beginning, as it were, and the slate is clean. We can do whatever we want.”

Because there’s no Shadow War, the civil war on Earth also appears not to have happened; Sheridan, Ivanova, and others are still rocking their blue EarthForce uniforms, rather than the black ones they got in Season 3 after breaking away from Earth Alliance. The Narn and Centauri aren’t at war in this timeline yet either, probably because the Shadows aren’t assisting the Centauri. Delenn has also not metamorphosized into a human-Minbari hybrid.

“You can bring in Sinclair, you can bring in Lochely,” Straczynski says in the commentary. “You bring in Ivannova they’re all available.” To which Bruce Boxleitner adds, “All new now.”

Is a Babylon 5 animated reboot coming?

As of right now, there are no officially announced plans for an ongoing animated Babylon 5 reboot, spinning off from The Road Home. Since 2022, there has been a different, live-action Babylon 5 reimagining in the works at the CW, but no official announcement has happened on that front either. That said, The Road Home makes a pretty clear case for a full animated reboot of the classic show, complete with a good portion of the original cast. Straczynski’s commentary on the Blu-ray is fairly unequivocal, that this story presents a possibility for a new version of Babylon 5 in which the character’s destinies might not be the same as they were in the series. Is Sinclair still destined to become the Minbari prophet Valen? Are the Shadows still out there? What about the Rangers?

The Road Home doesn’t linger on any of these nitty-gritty “what if?” questions. Instead, it’s content to end with the future wide-open, in a newly rebooted 2260. As Ivanova says at the end of the movie, “Babylon 5 is back online and we’re here to stay.”

Babylon 5: The Road Home is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, and available for digital purchase.

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