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Sci Fi planning a 'B5' sequel

Big-time news, Babylonians — the saga of "Babylon 5" is being revived!

The long-rumored collaboration between "B5" creator/writer/executive producer J. Michael Straczynski and the Sci Fi Channel is no longer a rumor — the cable network has ordered a two-hour TV movie titled "Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers," which will air sometime later this year.

Better yet, it's not just a movie — it's the pilot for a whole new series set in the "B5" universe.

The movie "takes up the story of the legendary Ranger fleet as they attempt to restore order to hundreds of civilizations devastated by the Shadow War."


No casting has been announced, but members of the original cast "may" make guest appearances.

According to Straczynski, the new show will be set about three years after the end of the five-year time frame in which most of the action took place in "Babylon 5." Which would make it possible for those guest appearances by original cast members, of course. Heck, it would almost seem mandatory for some kind of crossover, given that two of the original series' characters, John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Delenn (Mira Furlan) commanded the rangers.

Sci Fi seems determined to build on its "Babylon 5" franchise. It's the home of the original series, which ran in syndication and on TNT from 1993-98. In addition to the 110 hourlong episodes and four two-hour movies of the original series, Sci Fi will begin airing the first "B5" sequel, "Crusade," this coming summer.

It's also possible that, if it becomes a series, "Legend of the Rangers" could tie up the loose ends left by "Crusade," which ran for only 13 episodes on TNT. The premise of that series — which would have started about two years after the launch of "Legend" in Straczynski's time line — was that the evil Drakh had unleashed a biogenetic plague on Earth that would render the planet lifeless in five years, sending the ship Excalibur and its crew on a mission to scour the galaxy for a cure.

We know from episodes of "Babylon 5" set in time periods after the five years covered in most of the rest of the series that a cure was found — but we don't know how or where.

But that's getting somewhat ahead of ourselves. First they've got to make the movie, and then Sci Fi has to order the series.

The fact is that "Babylon 5" was not only one of the best science fiction series of its time but one of the best science fiction series of all time. And that would be an equally accurate statement without the words "science fiction."

It's hard not to have high hopes for a sequel.

DON'T BEAM UP YET: There have been widespread reports about the next "Star Trek" series — reports that indicate that the fifth installment in the franchise will be a prequel of sorts set a century or so before the original series.

(Which was set a century or so before "Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager.")

Now, I don't have any inside information. And I'm not saying that the next "Trek" won't be exactly what those reports indicate.

But don't discount the possibility that this "leaked" information is disinformation. A ploy by the powers-that-be at Paramount to keep the secret a secret.

Let's not forget that "Star Trek" and "Survivor" are all part of the big Viacom family, and it's entirely possible that the former has learned a lesson or two from the latter — and the producers of "Survivor" have proved to be the masters of disinformation in order to keep their secrets secret.