A while back I found some (on-line) press releases from around 1996/7 which put some meat on the bones of the subject for me – at the time I was looking for information on the show.
Cost was the big factor.
The problem was, Netter recalls, that "the networks had had science fiction pitched to them before, along with the caveat, 'We can do this for a reasonable price.' Of course, that was one of the great lies in Hollywood. And even though John and I had an excellent reputation for bringing shows in under budget and on time, as soon as they heard about big effects, red flags would go up in their minds. They were afraid that any attempt to do a science fiction show on a tight budget might result in inferior production values."
And like everyone else, Warner Bros. didn't see how a high-quality show could be done on a cut-rate budget. "They said, 'Well, if you are going to do it for that, this stuff will look terrible.' And we said, 'No, it won't," Netter remembers. To prove their point, Straczynski, Netter, and Copeland had Ron Thornton -- who had worked with them on "Captain Power" and subsequently pioneered the use of CGI effects on an Amiga computer -- produce a startling 50-second sequence featuring a computer-generated space ship being tracked from far in the distance to its arrival at the space station's docking bay, all in one shot.
Another highlights who’s idea it was for going the CGI route (the demo he showed them is the one they showed Warner) – Thornton was originally approached to hopefully do the miniatures on the cheap as he was a friend of Copeland and they had worked with him before.
It was mid-1991 when Thornton was approached by the producers of "Captain Power" to bid on miniatures for a sci-fi project they were developing, Babylon 5. At that time, Thornton had been working with innovative rock music and multimedia artist Todd Rundgren on a short computer-animated film. The work with Rundgren led Thornton to suggest using computers for the effects on Babylon 5.
Thornton and Beigle-Bryant created a one minute video of proposed visual effects for Babylon 5, which would become instrumental in selling the show to Warner Bros. television in July 1992. Upon pick-up of the new series, Thornton and Beigle-Bryant formed Foundation Imaging to continue creating the visuals for Babylon 5.
I’ve always had a teeny bit of a problem seeing how Trek could have been a big hurdle for them at the time of pitching the show. (later, keeping it on air, and the whole DS9 hoo-ha is a different story I suppose). According to jms posts he’d been trying to sell B5 since 1988, or there abouts, but back then the only trek was the long finished original that had been cancelled after the third season and the next generation which had only just started.
Anyway, the above is another reason why I'm none to fond of the idea of the CGI being given a modern face lift.