>If you’re a fan of Babylon Five, you’ve probably been counting down days until we get the arrival of Babylon Five: The Lost Tales, the first in what could be a series of direct-to-DVD adventures set in the universe of B5.
Now, I have to admit I was of two minds about this. As a B5 fan who watched the epic story unfold episode by episode for five seasons, I’m always glad to get to spend a bit more time in the B5 universe. That said, B5 was a show that had a definite beginning, middle and end point defined before the first frame of the show was committed to film. So, to go back and try to fill in gaps in the series didn’t seem like a great idea (indeed, the weakest of the B5 movies “Thirdspace” suffers from this…trying to fill in a gap that wasn’t really there).
So, when I heard there was a new series of direct to DVD movies coming out, I was both excited and wary. Excited because it was new B5, written and produced by the creator of the show. Wary that it might just be another attempt to get some more money out of an extremely profitable (at least in DVD sales) franchise by Warner Brothers. After all, since the series is over and done, it’s not like there is going to be any new product to put out any time soon. And there’s only so many times you can re-release the entire series on DVD.
Well, I’ve seen the first of the new Babylon Five: The Lost Tales and I’ve got to say, so far so good.
It’s really two episodes in one–each a separate story, but both of them dove-tailing together. The common link is that it’s the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Interstellar Alliance and various dignitaries are gathering on Babylon Five to celebrate. The stories here feature the familiar faces of President John Sheridan, Col. Lockley and Galen.
The first story is Lockley centered and finds the commander of B5 summoning a priest to the station. A worker in brown sector has been possessed by some type of demon and Lockley seeks the priest’s help in figuring out how to deal with the demon. The story itself has some interesting ideas such as how once humanity ventures into space and finds the realms of heaven, that a general disillusionment with organized Christianity begins to develop. And how this demon possession could be a great boon to the faith and restore people to the pews is an interesting concept. But I wish the story had gone a bit more toward the exploration of faith and issues related to it such as the third season’s “Passing Through Gethsemane” did in exploring the issue of forgiveness. And the resolution of the story is interesting with Lockley coming up with a third option and an interesting idea of why the demon possession has come to Babylon Five.
The second story features the familiar faces of Sheridan and Galen. Galen comes to Sheridan and shows him New York being destroyed by Centauri forces. In 30 years, a new ruler will ascent the throne, taking over for Vir (who we all know takes the throne once Londo passes away). This new emperor will determine that Centauri needs to become a galactic power again and last out at the one planet that can stand against them–Earth. Galen tells Sheridan that he (Sheridan) can prevent the tragedy. The third-in-line to the throne is aboard Sheridan’s ship as they travel to B5. Galen arranges to create a way for the regent in training to be killed and prevent the future from occurring.
It’s in this story that the movie feels most like B5. A lot of this has to do with how comfortable Bruce Boxlightner is playing Sheridan. But a bigger part of it is that this is what B5 did best–tell a good story. The dilemma Sheridan faces as he must make this hard choice is fascinating and it does lead to some great tension as he debates what he can and should do. It also feels like an organic long-term plot that could be played out and resolved over the course of this series of direct to DVD stories, should JMS choose to take it that direction. If he does, I think it’d be a satisfying story arc and one that would fit within the B5 universe we’ve come to know and love.
Visually, the effects are stunning. B5 was one of the first shows to use all digital effects and the technology has really jumped forward in the ten years since B5 wrapped up. To see the station digitally rendered using today’s technology is breath-taking. And the jumps out of hyperspace are a treat as well.
So, if you’re a Babylon Five fan, I recommend you pick this one up or Netflix it. If you’re not a fan, I can’t recommend the series enough. And I must say that it’d be best to leave this movie until you’ve seen most of the series run and some of Crusade, the attempted spin-off. If you’ve not seen those, very little of what you’ll see here will make much sense.