A CULTURAL ICON REBOOTED: THE BABYLON FIVE REBOOT…
Those who know me know that my all-time favorite science fiction series is Babylon Five, a five year series that was unique in its approach to science fiction television. This week so many people sent me the news of the possibility of a re-boot of the popular series, under its original producer and creator, J. Michael Straczynski, that were I to thank each one by my usual practice of listing their initials, we'd be here until tomorrow, and I still would not get to the main point of this blog, so a "thank you" to all of you who did. Here's the story:
Now let me tell you why I was initially excited to hear about the reboot, and then, upon further consideration, and then reading the above version of the story of the reboot, I entertain "doubts." Babylon Five was a unique concept in that it had a real story arc, that is to say, it was to tell a story, with some compelling characters involved in that story. The story was, literally, about a "cosmic war," but a war in which the whole causus belli was actually not about resources or economics or even ultimately about empires or politics. It was about those things, but behind it all it was really about something else, about something spiritual and metaphysical, revolving around two seemingly innocent and simple questions. For those who have seen the series, you already know what they are, and for those who haven't, I won't ruin it for you. Along the way, there are heroes and heroines, monsters both real and metaphysical, bottomlessly corrupt villains, moral quandries and surprising redemptions, and yes, a really big war and plenty of double-crosses and deep intrigues. As the article states:
In 1994, J. Michael Straczynski (Sense8, Changeling) brought the world a science fiction show like nothing we’d ever seen. Babylon 5 told a single five-year story, filled with foreshadowing, deep political intrigue, and characters who grew and evolved, at a time when most TV shows still reset the agenda after every single episode. He wrote the vast majority of the award-winning show himself, and it appears he may be about to do it again — Warner Bros. Television is now in development on a “from-the-ground-up reboot” of Babylon 5 with Straczynski as writer and showrunner, designed to air on the CW.
And that pretty well sums it up: it is a story, with a real beginning, middle, and end. Even in episodes that seemingly have little to do with that story, they really do. Imagine, then, a television series that had to be sold as a story: buy the whole five years, or nothing at all. Contrast that with a series like Star Trek, that lurched from one episode to another, and telling no story. Characters? yes; special effects? yes; memorable episodes? yes; story? no.
Babylon Fivei was unique. Like all good stories, it had a plot.
So when I heard about the reboot, I had a big smile...
... until I remembered that this series will be rebooted in modern "woke" America, where every television series must constantly preach "wokery" to the audience. The article itself gives me pause and the fear that there is wokery lurking in between the lines, even these from Straczynski himself commenting on the reboot:
As noted in the announcement, this is a reboot from the ground up rather than a continuation, for several reasons. Heraclitus wrote “You cannot step in the same river twice, for the river has changed, and you have changed.” In the years since B5, I’ve done a ton of other TV shows and movies, adding an equal number of tools to my toolbox, all of which I can bring to bear on one singular question: if I were creating Babylon 5 today, for the first time, knowing what I now know as a writer, what would it look like? How would it use all the storytelling tools and technological resources available in 2021 that were not on hand then?
How can it be used to reflect the world in which we live, and the questions we are asking and confronting every day? Fans regularly point out how prescient the show was and is of our current world; it would be fun to take a shot at looking further down the road. So we will not be retelling the same story in the same way because of what Heraclitus said about the river. There would be no fun and no surprises. Better to go the way of Westworld or Battlestar Galactica where you take the original elements that are evergreens and put them in a blender with a ton of new, challenging ideas, to create something fresh yet familiar. (Boldface emphasis added)
It's in those boldfaced lines, I suspect, that lurk much promise, but I also suspect, much danger of wokery.
I sincerely hope I'm wrong about the possible wokery, but in the meantime, I'm ordering the old show, just for a backup...
See you on the flip side...
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