Babylon 5 creator reboots a sci-fi classic ... and a sequel?

J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of TV's Babylon 5, is now drafting a screenplay for a new movie version of the classic 1956 sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet, and he told us that the reboot will remain faithful to the original while adding more backstory and leaving room for (gasp!) a sequel.

The 1956 original, which was loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is famous for its Oscar-nominated and groundbreaking visual effects, as well as for the introduction of Robby the Robot, and told the story of a shuttle crew (led by a then-serious Leslie Nielsen) that lands on the planet Altair IV to investigate a missing colony that landed there decades earlier.

"We've actually decided to show more of the first ship when it first arrived 20 years earlier to sort of counterpoint what's happening in the present story," Straczynski said in a group interview Saturday in Hollywood. "If you're a fan of the original, as I am, and have always been, I think it's very faithful to that." Warner Brothers owns the rights.

The biggest worry about the Forbidden Planet remake could be that the studio would turn it into a straight-up action movie. The original was carried by dialogue as Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), one of the planet's two survivors, explained scientific theory to the visiting astronauts. Tension between the astronauts and Dr. Morbius' daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), filled in the rest.

Straczynski says not to worry. "There's a little more action, but it's still a strong character piece, because it's based on The Tempest and the idea of a father whose daughter is being courted by, in the original play, sailors that are washed up on shore," Straczynski said. "You need to have that dynamic still in place to respect the original and the source material. So there's a fair amount of talking, but there's some really cool action pieces in it as well."

It is possible Warner has eyes for more Forbidden Planet adventures beyond one remake, said Straczynski. "Warners is very excited about it, thinks it's a big franchise for them and a huge budget, so they're very much oriented toward getting it done."

What about Robby? Stay tuned ...