Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Babylon 5 remastered on HBO Max



Following the cancellation of Doctor Who in 1989, there was an unfillable void vacated by my favourite time traveller until the BBC's beloved sci-fi series returned in 2005.

Star Trek: The Next Generation came to the fore with a Marvel UK tie-in and Playmates Toys' action figures and accessories as an early nineties sci-fi renaissance began, across the Atlantic, heralded by Steven Spielberg's SeaQuest DSV, Babylon 5 and The X-Files.

All of which became synonymous with undergraduate studies at Bournemouth University.

SeaQuest DSV and Babylon 5 both utilised Amiga Video Toasters and were the subject of lively debate in computer animation studies. George Lucas' Star Wars prequels were still a few years away, non-linear media production was still in its infancy and prohibitively expensive for the homebrew crowd (myself included) before Steve Jobs returned to Apple, democratising the industry with the iMac and iPhone.

"Sooner or later, everyone comes to Babylon 5." - Commander Jeffrey Sinclair

Babylon 5 was originally shown on Channel 4 in the UK running for 5 seasons between 1993 to 1997. J. Michael Straczynski's sci-fi opus, a galaxy-spanning retelling of The Lord of the Rings, quickly became a touchstone in the space opera firmament. There were countless carshare and water-cooler conversations with fellow fans when I was hired as an online journalist following graduation.

Babylon 5 embraced long-form storytelling and the late Mira Furlan, who played Minbari Ambassador Delenn, would go on to star in JJ Abrams' Lost (available on Disney+).

A passion for computer-generated imagery (CGI) was rekindled when I bought an iMac DV SE in the summer of 1999 and subsequently published in 3D World magazine in the early noughties.

This is a very convoluted way of saying, I never saw Babylon 5 (nor spin-off series) after its original transmission and, as I toiled tirelessly on Bryce 3D, Poser and Photoshop, I yearned for the adventures of Commander John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and crew of the titular space station.

So, it was a surprise to see Ged Maheux, friend and co-founder of the Iconfactory, tweet Babylon 5 has been meticulously remastered for HBO Max. Seemingly in the spirit of Paramount's Star Trek: The Original Series and The Next Generation but stopping short of updated visual effects. Incidentally, I recently rewatched stablemate V AKA V: The Original Miniseries, on SyFy, and the eighties anti-fascist allegory benefits from its original widescreen presentation.

Alas, the subscription-based streaming service from Warner Bros. isn't available in the UK, but I'm hoping Nick Smith will be able to review Babylon 5 on HBO Max. The remastered series is also available to buy (affiliate link).

Babylon 5 has deservedly become a cult classic and will find a new generation of fans. How about a reboot utilising technology developed for Disney+'s The Mandalorian, HBO Max?

What are your memories of watching Babylon 5? Let me know in the comments below.

4 comments:

  1. No reboot. Too much of the original cast has passed away. But I love the entire freaking universe.

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    1. That's a sobering point, and I still haven't watched the spin-off series Crusade after all these years!

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  2. Great article, lots of memories! I remember conversation at Bournemouth Uni and my dissertation drew heavily on Babylon 5... cliffhanger to season 3 was the highlight. Want it as a blu-ray set, fab if it got a physical media release!

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    1. Thank you for sharing such a fun anecdote.

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