You say, "New characters and sets apparently do not work." The basic
problem, you seem to feel, is that it's the same show, and how do we go about
making B5 different?
I think that the question is more accurately phrased as, "How does one
make DS9 more like TNG?" I'm going to do this absolutely as non-pejoratively
as humanly possible, because this is fundamentally the truth.
When TNG first went on the air, a lot of the legwork was done for them
already. Much of the universe was established: phasers, the Enterprise,
starfleet, klingons, warp speed, doors, terminology, on and on. There was
additional material added on, but the basic *foundation* is the same. This is
neither good nor bad. One can do (and there have been) good stories within
this format. What it *is* is a continuation of the same universe. You can do
good stuff with that, but it's still fundamentally the same universe.
Now comes DS9, and again, it's much the same situation: it builds upon
and integrates what went before. We have the Federation, stuff introduced in
TNG (Bajorans, Cardassians), some overlapping characters, and a carry-through
of many pre-existing stories and themes. Once again, and let me be clear
about this, this doesn't mean you can't do good stories here.
It's just that it's the same universe. It's not a question, really, of
"sets and characters," it's a question of the universe overall, and the fact
that it's really a repackaging of the same show, with some modifications.
B5 simply does not take place within that universe. Every frame of film
reminds you of this. Without making a qualitative judgment for a moment,
consider ST vs. Battlestar Galactica. Both are space shows, but very
different in tenor, tone and universe. (BG and Star Wars is, of course, a
very different discussion.)
The comparison I've always made has been to say "What if all the space
science fiction stories ever published were written by Larry Niven?"
Yes, they would be fine stories...but one kinda wants something different
after a while. He might change characters, create different empires, but it's
still a Niven point of view.
And that -- to get to the heart of your question -- is the point re: B5.
It's a question of *voice* as well as all the physical elements you see on
your television. The *voice* is the underlying philosophy of a show and its
creators, the perspective they bring to it. Babylon 5 brings in a whole
different voice. Better or worse, that's a question for the viewer to
decide...but it IS different.
We don't really have to try to be different from DS9 or TNG because we
were never like them in the first place. As opposed to DS9, which is linked
to another show, and proceeds from the same producers/writers, and to which
they have an obligation to make it, to whatever degree, much the same as TNG.
Those who have seen the two shows have no problem telling them apart.
And future B5 stuff will continue to remain separate and fresh for the same
reason that the pilot is different and fresh: because it proceeds from another
voice. Just as Clarke's stories have always been different from Asimov's has
been different from Ellison's have been different from Bova's have been
different from...well, you get the idea.
No comparison of quality implied there, only as examples of voice. (One
final note: B5 has always been conceived as, fundamentally, a five year story,
a novel for television, which makes it very different as well.)