This week saw the release of the new animated movie Babylon 5: The Road Home set in the universe of the titular space station. Written by series creator J. Michael Straczynski, the story intertwines itself in the events of the sweeping sci-fi opus that was the 90’s TV series. Produced by Warner Bros. animation, the look of the movie is very able and more closely resembles one of the better DC animated flicks than the less-than-stellar Night of the Living Dead cartoon a few years ago.
But the question more prescient since someone asked “Whatever Happened to Mister Garibaldi?” is “Is it any good?” Let’s put it this way: The hour of the wolf has crossed beyond the rim and the view from the gallery shows a strong story, great voice work and absolutely no compromises. Well, mostly. Here’s our top 5 takes:
Objects in Motion
The framing story takes place right after President Sheridan and Delenn depart B5 and head to Minbar in the second to last series episode “Objects at Rest”. When the time travel shenanigans start, you get a whirlwind of Sheridan finding himself intermixed in events we’ve already seen, heard about—or hadn’t yet happened. But none of it feels like a retread at all. In fact, you get to see storied (the Icarus’ arrival on Z’Ha’Dum) or fan favorite (”War Without End”) events from unique angles. In other realities, Sheridan sees the road that wasn’t taken as the Shadows attack B5 under his predecessor Commander Sinclair or a timeline where the Shadows never reemerged at all.
Nearly all of the original series actors returned—save for those, of course, that have passed beyond the rim in B5 lingo. On one hand, it’s a bold movie to even try this without the likes of Mira Furlan, Andreas Katsulas, Jerry Doyle or Richard Biggs. On the other, their characters are handily voiced by new actors. In fact, the only one that seemed a little off was G’Kar and that was simply because of Andreas Katsulas’ noteworthy tones. The most welcome surprise was Delenn, who, at times, had me convinced this was Mira Furlan. Kudos to all those involved in bringing these characters back to life—even if, unfortunately, their real-life progenitors can’t be here to see it.
Grey 17 is Missing
No, part of B5 isn’t missing again, but some of our favorite characters were. The most obvious one is Anna Sheridan. There was no mention of her at the Icarus landing site (nor Mr. Morden, for that matter). Similarly, in the altered “no Shadows” future, there’s no mention of Anna, who, in theory, Sheridan should still be married to.
The fairly shocking events with Lennier at the end of the TV series are never mentioned. In fact, Lennier doesn’t appear much at all. We do know that by 2281, Lennier is dead. Little else is known about the events of the Minbari Ranger’s life other than he was believed to be killed in something called the Telepath War.
Londo Mollari’s appearances are sparse in the movie, but his aide, Vir is absent altogether. Though not part of the later seasons, the first B5 resident telepath, Talia Winters is similarly forgotten.
Captain Lochley does appear in The Road Home, but her design is…strange. Her face doesn’t quite resemble Tracy Scoggins at all.
Now, these are more observations that criticisms. The layers upon layers of storytelling in B5 make it quite easy to fall into a rabbit hole. The decision to omit most of these is probably in service to the overall story.
My one actual criticism of the movie is the soundtrack. It tried to bring in familiar B5 themes at some points, but overall it was a dud. There are no memorable musical moments which were so prevalent in the TV series. A Christopher Franke sweeping score is certainly missed here.
Points of Departure
Just as the episode “Points of Departure” brought a new captain and renewed interest in Babylon 5, is it possible that this animated movie is setting up a new B5 reality. The end of the movie doesn’t close off with the Sheridan and Delenn we know—rather it makes a strong effort to show what’s happening in this new, Shadowless reality. Could this be a setup for more adventures with this version of the B5 denizens? Maybe not, but it makes for an interesting endgame.
Let’s home we see more of Babylon 5! There are so many storylines from Crusade and other ventures that still need resolution. Whether it’s a new, reimagined TV series, animated movies, novels or comics (yes, please!), I’m there. The 90’s was the golden age of TV sci-fi for me and any chance to revisit those universes are a welcome journey through a jump gate.
Babylon 5: The Road Home is available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.
I’m giving it 4 1/2 Zathras’ out of 5.