B5 returns in a nostalgic road trip through the multiverse.
Babylon 5 is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. It was a pioneering adventure in cohesive storytelling—a five-year serialized novel. I was thrilled to learn that, after years of campaigning, creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) finally got a green light to bring B5 back as an animated film. Babylon 5: The Road Home captures the spirit of the original in a nostalgic tribute.
The story begins with Captain Sheridan leaving Babylon 5 after the end of the Shadow War. On Minbar, he is caught up in a tachyon particle accident that "unsticks" him from his timeline. This plot gimmick provides an interesting angle that sends Sheridan on a trip down memory lane, as well as a trip across alternate realities.
It's the alternate realities that I find most interesting, especially the one where the Shadow War is still underway. B5, under the command of Jeffrey Sinclair, is under siege and things aren't looking good. Seeing these characters in different contexts brought a perfect mix of novelty and familiarity. Some of the setups are a bit jarring (Londo and Ivanova pal-ing around, or G'Kar and Lyta fighting side-by-side), but I can sympathize with how hard it must have been to work everyone into a single film.
Many of the original cast return to voice their old characters, including Bruce Boxleitner as Sheridan, Claudia Christian as Ivanova, Peter Jurasik as Londo, Bill Mumy as Lennier, Tracy Scoggins as Lochley, and Patricia Tallman as Lyta. Sadly, many of the original main cast have passed away since the show was made. (Side note: Boxleitner gave a moving tribute to them in a special message on the Gray 17 podcast channel.) The new voice actors do a great job being faithful to the original performances without trying to mimic them directly.
I generally prefer live action to animation, but the switch to animated here serves the story well. Recasting voice actors is one thing, but recasting half the actors in a live-action series was probably a non-starter. The Shadows look way cooler than in the original show, and the space battles are awesome. My daughter, who's far more of an animation connoisseur, declared that the style and lighting were great. Some of the characters looked a bit weird to me (Ivanova and G'Kar in particular), but that might just be personal taste. (My daughter assures me it is.)
The vignettes as Sheridan bounces around through time and dimensions are all focused on him. This is understandable, but it makes The Road Home a bit of a one-man show. Characters like Ivanova and Delenn appear only in supporting roles, and Lyta and Lochley are basically cameos. If you haven't already, watch the original series to see them in their full 5-star Self-Rescuing Princess glory.
While The Road Home is primarily geared towards existing fans, filled with callbacks and easter eggs, it stands on its own enough to be accessible to new viewers. JMS has talked a lot in recent years about a B5 revival, and I hope this film stirs up enough interest to get something going.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Fail
Learn about my Ratings System.
- Violence/Scariness: Sci-fi battles and deaths. Blood from minor injuries.
- Language: Mild swearing.
- Romance/Sex: Tame kisses between a married couple.