Originally created 03/18/97

`Babylon 5' already has celebrity on board



LOS ANGELES - Inside a warehouse miles from Hollywood lies the galaxy of Babylon 5, where one of the science fiction show's biggest fans has just shot a cameo for an upcoming episode.

"I'm playing Mr. Adams, who is trying to get (series regular) Mr. Garibaldi to take on the case to find his lost dog," the fan says between takes.

This fan happens to be Scott Adams, creator of the popular comic strip Dilbert, who says Babylon 5 is the only TV series he catches every week.

Indeed, Babylon 5 has carved a niche in the TV universe despite the irregularity of syndication scheduling and a touch of skepticism from Star Trek devotees.

Ratings have slowly gathered speed over four seasons. And the series has returned creative energy to the space opera genre at a time when the Star Trek spinoffs seem to be dwindling in appeal.

While Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are "really well done on a lot of levels, there's something about this that just touches some deeper thing," Mr. Adams says. "There's like an emotional bind, like you really care about the characters. And when it goes into reruns, I'm just really sad. I feel terrible."

The episode featuring Mr. Adams will air the week of May 19. (Mostepisodes are rated TV-PG.)

Babylon 5, set in the 23rd century, is a 5-mile-long, self-sufficient space station, a kind of floating United Nations.

Unlike Star Trek and most episodic television, Babylon 5 is more like a soap opera, with a continuing storyline.

For those who have missed key developments or are late-blooming fans, the entire series will be rerun on cable channel TNT beginning in January. It will be kicked off with a two-hour original film prequel.