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Friday, 7 September 2007

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales

There's part of me that believes "any Babylon 5 is better than no Babylon 5" (even Crusade and Legends Of The Rangers kept the flame alive) - but I'm starting to wonder if, perhaps, it's time to give this franchise a dignified send-off to the stars.

Part of Babylon 5's curse has always been that the reach of its ambitions and aspirations always exceeded the grasp of current technologies and the format of serial television. Unlike the literary forms it emulated, it was constrained by having to tell each 'chapter' of its story in an hour format - no matter how much or how little needed to be expressed to the viewer.

Nevertheless, to the fans, the depth of the story always shone though and writer/director J. Micheal Straczynski (JMS) was rightly proud of his flagship creation which, at its zenith, set the bar so high that few subsequent sci-fi shows have even come close to equalling it.

The Lost Tales is the latest entry into the franchise, struggling to keep the story of Babylon 5 alive. While infinitely more competent than Legends of The Rangers and more engaging than Crusade, you can't help coming away thinking: "So what?"

Production technology has advanced significantly, so the computer-generated scenery now looks better than it ever did on the show (although the blending of live action with CGI still needs a bit of work - as is evident whenever characters are standing in the docking bay), but the two 34-minute stories on this DVD are quite weak and rather a waste of the talent involved.

Released under the joint title of "Voices In The Dark", the first has station commander Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) dealing with a case of possible demonic possession that not only plays out like The Exorcist-lite, but is even filmed in such a way as to highlight this obvious homage.

Weighed down with JMS's trademark pontificating dialogue, this is a visually appealing, but ultimately silly, story that seems to mess with the Universe's established mythos by introducing previously unheard of power players to one of the key planets in Babylon 5's metaplot.

The second story sees President Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) returning to B5 after ten years. On the way he is visited by one of those annoyingly omnipotent technomages (Galen - Peter Woodward) who dangles before the President the galactic equivalent of that old cliche "would you kill Hitler as a child, knowing what he would do when he grew up?"

There's a pleasing, and at least unexpected, resolution to both stories, but they didn't exactly leave me fired up for any more Lost Tales, despite some flashes of large-scale effects, moments of pithy dialogue and touching tributes to the late Andreas Katsulas and Richard Biggs.

There is no real drama or tension - for instance, the "destruction of New York" is just a vision of "what may happen" and the demon's fiery embrace of the station is just an illusion, and the central characters never seem in any true jeopardy.

Had these been mid-season episodes in a new run of B5 I would have welcomed them with open arms, but standing on their own they seem slightly lonely; not really 'lost' rather rightfully 'forgotten' by the rest of the episodes as they tussled for screen time to tell the Big Story.

2 comments:

  1. I think the only scene in this entire piece that seemed like classic B5 to me was the interview between the ISN reporter and president Sheridan.

    "Was that a new dress?"

    Classic B5! :D

    (plus it's great to see Teryl Rothery on screen in any capacity)

    ReplyDelete
  2. ::shrug::

    While B5 and it's children had potential...it was squandered by several substandard actors, insane tv excs and a creator who falls into the cliche and stupidity pit way too often.

    We just finished watching it all. We cared for two seasons. But the fact that we can scream at the tv the plot that the clueless actors are still trying to find every single episode just turned us off. If it had aired on a channel I got I would not have made it past season 1. The creator constantly rewrites and goes back on history...the over uses the plots again and again.

    The best actors are under used.

    And the doctor is stupid...very very stupid. (If he only had bumps and bruises why did you operate for 5 hours? Oh...you need a cure...lets have conference and stop your mission for a bit. Five mile walkabout anyone? )

    Sorry the nostalgia for this show is thick and murky. Once you wade through it find it overly dull and problematic. Two good seasons doesn't make for a good show overall.

    I plan to go back and watch DS9...my fav scifi show of all time....and see if it is as bad as many B5 fans contend. It is possible my own nostalgia is just as bad...I'm willing to admit that...but B5 is on the bottom with other shows I never want to see again...like Smallville.

    ReplyDelete

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