I’m never one for nostalgia.
There’s something about it that feels so familiar and safe that it can almost be like cheating. Not that there’s anything wrong with having comfort, or looking for that familiarity to comfort us in life. But, for me, there’s a giant, unexplored world out there and looking back can feel nice for a while. The problem is, it can never be the same.
Trying to re-watch old shows is fine, but you reach a saturation point where it loses its magic. I’ve seen the first three seasons of Arrested Development so many times that every joke is seared into my mind. By the time the Netflix continuation happened, I was older and the show couldn’t live up to that head cannon that had been built up. The actors couldn’t coalesce during the filming, making the show fractured and stilted, without the original magic of the Bluth family together in that Balboa Towers condo playing off of each other. Frankly, I have no idea what happened in season five because I never watched it.
So what does it mean when it’s announced that Babylon 5, bar none one of the best science fiction series in television history, is returning, but not quite how we remember it? Much of the cast has passed away or aged to the point where continuing the story would mean essentially starting over anyway, so instead, J. Michael Straczynski is doing something drastic: he’s rebooting the series on the CW.
JMS explains via his Twitter account and regardless of your opinion on Twitter, it’s a must-read for fans.
I’ve watched Babylon 5 a few times through now. There’s still a magic in it, a lot of it bolstered by the ideas presented in the show, them being unapologetically political, and of course, the cast. Trying to continue the magic of B5 without Vir interacting with Londo, without G’kar or Delenn or… shit, so many of the cast are gone. It would be skeletal and brutal.
The decision to start the show from the ground up leaves room for interpretation and for new ideas. Nostalgia is something we can all get lost in and, for what it’s worth, the original B5 will always exist. A new B5 existing only means the original will be easier to find than it has been since it went off the air because of the obvious nature of the show’s fandom and new viewers’ curiosity about the original.
We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things or rework old ideas. I’m sure it’s difficult for someone like JMS to return to an old idea and be given a blank slate again. Most creators, even those with fond memories of past works, still have that desire to go back and fix those imperfections we all find in our own work. It’s taken every ounce of my self-control to not go back and re-write Terminus Cycle repeatedly. It needs it! I was trying to write a sci-fi novel with universal appeal, adhering to genre norms I hated and resulted in something I don’t love. I still write in that series, though. The next book, Cydonia Rising, worked as a reboot and continuation, meaning it was a starting point with nodding to the past book for those who read it.
A new Babylon 5 can exist in the same universe that the old one did. Zathras has seen some shit, alright? Or, it could be an entirely new thing. If watching Apple TV+’s new Foundation series has shown me anything, it’s that anything can be tinkered with to fit a format and sometimes even work better. Don’t be afraid to see your favorite things iterated on or changed. Don’t let nostalgia choke you.