Babylon 5 Gets Reanimated in The Road Home

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Babylon 5 Gets Reanimated in The Road Home

The science-fiction series Babylon 5 is not for everyone, and if you ask those of us who love the show exactly what we love about it, you’ll probably get a slew of different answers. If I had to pin down a single element that makes the franchise great, though, I would point to the sense of completeness running through the whole thing. 

Creator and principal writer J. Michael Straczynski famously designed his series – about a group of humans and aliens trying to coexist amid uncertainty and conflict on the title space station – with the long term in mind. Babylon 5 was built to carry character arcs across dozens of episodes, atop a solid foundation of worldbuilding and in-universe history. It wasn’t always the flashiest sci-fi show, or the easiest for new viewers to get hooked on, but Straczynski’s focus on maintaining a sense of wholeness in his world meant that the B5 faithful always felt we were in good hands.

Though it’s been more than 15 years since the last new Babylon 5 stories hit screens, that same sense of being in good hands persists in Babylon 5: The Road Home. The franchise’s first animated feature, directed by Matt Peters (a veteran of various direct-to-video DC Comics-inspired animated projects) from a script by Straczynski, serves as not just a new story, but a reminder of the breadth and depth of the old stories, a trip down memory lane that might not break new ground, but will certainly remind you why you loved this saga in the first place. 

Set two years after the events of the Shadow War, the major alien conflict that drove much of the original show’s action, The Road Home picks up as John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and his wife Delenn (Rebecca Riedy) are leaving the Babylon 5 station so Sheridan can officially take up his duties as President of the Interstellar Alliance. But the trip is about more than “opening shopping malls,” as Sheridan puts it. After a sci-fi tech mishap tied to Zathras (Paul Guyet), one of the franchise’s stranger alien beings, Sheridan finds himself unstuck in time, drifting through moments that seem to exist not just in his own timeline, but in alternate timelines as well. Adrift in a kind of multiversal game of hopscotch, Sheridan must find a way to get back to the time and place where he belongs, or risk unmaking all of existence. 

With a runtime of just 78 minutes, the narrative basically plays like an extended episode of the TV series, with all the storytelling efficiency and lean, mean intercutting longtime fans might expect. The Road Home is an apt title for the story, as Straczynski has essentially designed the film as a combination of new adventure and retrospective guided tour. The nature of Sheridan’s predicament gives the writer plenty of natural opportunities to dig back through major B5 events, from the Shadow War to Sheridan’s early relationship with Delenn to the era when Jeffrey Sinclair (voiced by Guyet this time around) was in charge of the station back in Babylon 5‘s first season. And of course, with each quantum leap, Sheridan gets more opportunities to interact with beloved B5 characters, from Londo (Peter Jurasik) and G’Kar (Andrew Morgado) to Lennier (Bill Mumy) and Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian). For B5 devotees, it’s a wonderful chance to get the band back together, particularly because several members of the original cast (including Andreas Katsulas, who played G’Kar, and Michael O’Hare, who played Sinclair) are no longer with us. 

Animation is a particularly helpful tool when it comes to staging these reunions, and Peters and Straczynski are well aware that rendering the characters through this medium offers plenty of other worthy opportunities. For all its narrative scope, Babylon 5 never had the biggest budget while it was airing, so The Road Home jumps at the chance to convey a grandness that the original series could never quite afford. Peters’ shots zip in and out of the action, swoop around characters as they talk, and push the story into places the original series never got to go. The alien nemeses known as the Shadows are more numerous and more terrifying, the battle sequences unfold with a kinetic force not seen on the original show, and the character animation seems to render things just a little more dynamic as friends old and new drift in and out of this adventure. It’s a format that works exceedingly well for Babylon 5, and leaves us with opportunities for even more animated stories down the road.

But even with the sense of new dynamism that comes from the animation, The Road Home should not be mistaken for a new beginning in the B5 world, at least not where incoming fans curious about the franchise are concerned. This is a film that plays like a love letter to devotees, one that allows Straczynski to say a few new things about the enduring appeal of his world and characters, which means that it never feels like the kind of thing anyone can just pick up and watch for a full narrative experience. If you’re one of the Babylon 5 faithful, though, you’ll get a welcome reminder of why you loved the show in the first place, as well as a chance to view it all in an exciting, well-rounded new way.

Director: Matt Peters
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Rebecca Riedy, Paul Guyet, Peter Jurasik, Andrew Morgado, Bill Mumy, Claudia Christian
Release Date: August 15, 2023

Matthew Jackson is a pop culture writer and nerd-for-hire who’s been writing about entertainment for more than a decade. His writing about movies, TV, comics, and more regularly appears at SYFY WIRE, Looper, Mental Floss, Decider, BookPage, and other outlets. He lives in Austin, Texas, and when he’s not writing he’s usually counting the days until Christmas.

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