Last week a story broke about JMS planning a potential BABYLON 5 feature film. I was flattered that people brought this to my attention, as if I were some authority on the subject. You can read up on the story here and here.
As I said in my last article, B5 is one of my favorite series, yet it’s also a bit of a rocky show to navigate. You start off by watching a TV movie that’s not included as part of Season 1, feels very isolated from the series proper, and just isn’t very good. You then start Season 1, which is a bit stiff, enjoy the next three seasons while taking two breaks during Season 4 to watch THIRDSPACE and IN THE BEGINNING…, and conclude it with a so-so Season 5. If you choose to watch any of the other TV-movies or spin-offs is up to you. The series is so rich and rewarding that it’s ultimately worth this endeavor, but I prefer something simpler. Take BREAKING BAD, for instance. You start on Episode 1 and finish on Episode 62, all of which are of consistent quality. No tangents or breaks needed.
Now a feature film may be added to the B5 canon, which would only feature some of the original cast and attempt to reboot the whole thing. The article I linked above said it best:
…a reboot is just so completely counter to the mission statement of the series. From its inception, the entire point of Babylon 5 was to have a finite, predetermined arc, a saga that built, crescendoed, and ended properly rather than, in the words of Commander Susan Ivanova, “some deep space franchise.”
I enjoyed B5, but don’t really see the need to expand it any further. However, if the franchise must continue, one wonderful thing it could do would be to bring back Susan Ivanova, played by the great Claudia Christian, and give her some closure after her abrupt departure in Season 4. Ivanova was one of the heart and soul characters of the show. Of course, there were several heart and soul characters as well: I could just as easily be writing an article about how amazing Delenn or Garibaldi were, or how no one on Earth besides Peter Jurasik could ever have played Londo. The show’s strength was its characters. But Ivanova stands out because she was the perfect barometer of the show’s quality. Basically, it’s pretty black and white: when Ivanova was on the show (Seasons 1-4, THIRDSPACE, IN THE BEGINNING…) it was good! When she wasn’t on the show (THE GATHERING, Season 5, and everything else) it suffered. Basically, if you have the name Claudia Christian in the credits of your production, you are guaranteed great quality.
Compare Ivanova with the two other women who served in the same Executive Officer position: Laurel Takashima and Elizabeth Lochley. These characters are all metaphors for their era on the franchise. Takashima, portrayed by Tamlyn Tomita, is bland, boring, and only there to serve a purpose, just like THE GATHERING. Lochley, portrayed by Tracy Scoggins, is interesting and has potential facets to explore, but not much is ever really done with her, just like Season 5. Ivanova ranges from stiff to colorful to humorous to angry, which sums up what all of us loved about the show the most. There’s a reason why her “Boom Shakalaka” dance is often cited as the single funniest moment of the entire series. Ivanova deserved a better exit from the show than what she got. It would be nice to finally see this character once more, on the big screen, being her usual brash self with whatever new alien races she would encounter.
“We are not some deep space franchise” is ultimately one of the defining lines of the dialog of the entire series. JMS could have put those words in the mouth of any character, but he chose Ivanova. If he’s going to bring B5 back, I hope he proves that sentence is still true.