Voices in the Dark

Story: Babylon 5: The Lost Tales
Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Season: Movie #6

Here we are…at the end.  Babylon 5’s final entry came only a few years ago, though 7 years have actually passed since it was released.  This is a Direct-to-DVD anthology movie, that features two different stories.  Straczysnki had wanted to do a Babylon 5 anthology series before, but nothing came of it.  He finally worked it out with Warner Bros. to create a series of Direct-to-DVD movies that would feature two stories each based on the characters in the B5 world, though not necessarily anything to do with the major arcs, just lost tales of our characters in this universe.
The first story in this movie features Lochley, who recruits a priest for an exorcism of some guy.  It isn’t very interesting.  Lochley is a fine character, and Scoggins does her best with her, but she was always just a last minute replacement for Ivanova, and she never did that much for me.  The story itself is dull and just didn’t do anything for me.

The second story is more interesting, and a lot of credit has to go to Boxleitner who really brought this initially dreary experience of watching this thing into something semi-worthwhile.  He still knows how to play Sheridan, and it is still fun to watch him.  So, just like he had done for the series itself when he came in at the start of Season 2, he saves this DVD from being a totally pointless experience. 

Sheridan’s story is about his visit to Babylon 5 for the 10 Year Anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance. While en route he is visited by Galen, who warns him of Earth’s destruction in 30 years. The best part of the whole movie is when Sheridan just get’s pissed because why must he always be shown shitty things like this?  He is told that unless he kills a Centauri Prince, he will eventually rise to power and attack Earth.  Sheridan frets over killing a young man for the sins of his future, and eventually realizes there can be another way…he decides to try and take the young man under his wing a bit, to hopefully keep him from becoming a hardened prick that will destroy people for the hell of it. 

The Sheridan story is pretty light in comparison to most of his arc, but thats what the idea of these Lost Tales was supposed to be.  Here are some lesser adventures our character might have had in between or after the major story of Babylon 5. 

In a way, it is a shame that this didn't do well and was ceased after only one release…but at the same time Babylon 5 had it’s day and succeeded in what it set out to accomplish in Sci-Fi Television.  Straczynski need not beat the dead horse, because it died well originally. 

There has been talk of a possible feature film or some other revisit to Babylon 5 by Straczynski, but it seems unlikely.  I was unsure about the original show at first, but it won me over and I became a fan. Pretty much the Fifth Season on is rather needless (save for Sleeping in Light), but it is a series I enjoyed overall.  It shouldn’t be a franchise, it shouldn’t be revived. It was sort of perfect as that 5-year story, and chances are it will be left that way for a long time, because I don’t think the numbers are really there for a revival.  I could be wrong though. 

THE END (Most Likely): It’s been fun!

To Live and Die in Starlight

Story: Legend of the Rangers
Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Season: Movie #5

In 2002 Straczynski and co. attempted a second spin-off of Babylon 5.  All that was produced was a 90 minute TV movie that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel and was not picked up to series.  The reason it wasn’t picked up to series is simple, this is pretty bad.  I don’t even see real potential in it.  The thing about Babylon 5 is that it was one major story being told over 5 years.  Crusade also had a story that was meant to unfold over 5 years, though it seemed less thought out and didn’t manage to get past it’s initial 13 episode order. 
This has no story, it is just a pointless revisit to the Babylon 5 universe. It has features Rangers on a mission to escort some diplomats, though they are really just tagging along with the real ship carrying diplomats, because they are in a worn out old ship that is supposedly cursed while the real ship is a big bad ass new machine.  Why send the old ship at all?  I guess to rescue all the diplomats when the big ship is destroyed.

Straczynski struck out here.  The movie is lame with no story to justify it’s existence, and acting that is some of the worst in the history of the B5 universe…and it has had some pretty bad acting.  The effects are probably the only good thing in this, because they look better than anything that has really come before in Babylon 5, but even these look cheap compared to something like Star Trek: Enterprise that was being produced at the same time.  And if we are being honest, producing better looking effects than previous Babylon 5 shows is not a really hard task…they’ve always looked awful.  But I’ll just say that for the first time, I didn’t wince at the look of the jump gate. 

Bad, pointless, weak story, dumb characters, worse acting.  Really no reason to recommend this, and Straczynski should’ve learned to leave well enough alone, and move on. 

NEXT TIME: Over Here, Over There

Crusade - Series Recap

Crusade was pretty much doomed from the get go.  Straczynski had a good premise, but very few stories, even “A Call to Arms,” are that stellar.  The fact that early on TNT realized that folks that were watching Babylon 5 were not watching any of their other programming, and the fact that folks watching their regular programming weren’t watching Babylon 5….made the studios interest in the property wain considerably.  It didn’t fit their brand, and thats a legitimate concern for a channel.  Babylon 5 and Crusade would’ve fit in just fine at the Sci-Fi Channel, but not at TNT.  So they began to meddle, and some of what they demanded of Straczynski, which he opposed but did anyway, was to demand a clearer opening episode.  This was actually a decent idea, because Straczysnki’s opener feels like you’ve jumped into the middle of something with no premise and it feels wrong.

The problem was that they did this and also demanded that they start the show off with the newer costumes that they just paid for…which made no sense continuity-wise, and it complicated things. They mixed all the episodes up, then revised it, than JMS told everybody the nonsense order he preferred, and then there is a chronological order…it is just confusing.  I watched this in the chronological order, and I honestly don’t think there is a good viewing order to this series.  I think the ideas were scrambled, things were missing, it feels like everybody rushed in.  Straczysnki wasn’t yet ready to move on from his B5 universe, and TNT wanted to get a little more bang out of this potentially big sci-fi property…but then both parties weren’t ready.  I don’t think Straczynski really planned this show out as well as he had Babylon 5, and TNT changed gears and realized that the property they thought they could get more out of wasn’t actually a good fit for them…then the meddling didn’t help either party. 

Like I said, it was doomed.  The characters rarely come to life, they aren’t well written. Like Babylon 5 before it, Straczysnki started with plot and the characters are all just conduits to get his plot out.  The difference was the characters began to shine through at the start of Season 2, and this show is just beginning and it feels like a bunch of people I don’t know rarely getting moments to shine as they are drowning in plot.  I am of the mind that the best way to do things is to start with a hint of plot or a premise (like saving the Earth from a plague), then give us several character episodes to build up who we are following…then jump in to plot craziness.  I tend to be more invested in a plot heavy show if I am invested in the characters.

Straczynski is a good writer, he proved that with Babylon 5, but he decided to milk the property, and he just needed to face that the story he wanted to tell got told (hell, it got told by the end of the fourth season, the fifth season and the subsequent movies is when things began to get dragged out), and Crusade is kind of chore because of it.

NEXT TIME: The Failed Pilot

Lorkans

Story: The Rules of the Game
Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Season: Crusade

The last episode of Crusade, at least in my viewing order, is an another average episode that does nothing to advance the plot, but at least it attempts character development. Excalibur’s crew is on Babylon 5 so that Gideon can try to get permission to land on a planet. Why he wants/needs to land on the planet is never really mentioned, but I guess we can all just assume it has something vaguely to do with finding a cure.  The people on that planet have no interest in letting them land on the planet, and so talks are going nowhere.  The point of this is really to put Gideon and Lochley in danger, so they can escape danger, get all hot and bothered and they can have sex.  That is really it.
There is also a subplot involving Max and his ex-wife, who owes money to some kind of gangster guy, and he’s cheap so he doesn’t want to pay the full amount owed, gives half…but then comes up with a clever way to stop his harassment.  I kind of hate Max because his smug attitude is frustrating in every scene he is in.  I know that there were moments hinting that there was more to him in earlier episodes, and this one as well…but I never warmed up to him.  Just an ass. 

This episode highlighted something that bugged me about Gideon this whole series, and that it that he is essentially our hero, but in his mission he will do whatever the fuck he wants to get his way, other cultures be damned. It never seems like the things he gets all pissy and self righteous about deserve to be…it’s always just “screw your personal beliefs or culture, my planet is dying!” I know it is a desperate situation, but he never seems conflicted about what an ass he is forced to be, and THAT is what bugs me about him. 

So ends Crusade, a show that never got the chance to build itself up, but didn’t get off to a strong start…due to both TNT’s meddling, and (let’s be honest here) Straczynki’s rather weak scripts and characterizations. 

NEXT TIME: Crusade Recap

Mythical Place of Power

Story: The Well of Forever
Written By: Fiona Avery
Season: Crusade

Galen asks for the Excalibur’s help in finding “The Well of Forever” a sort of mystical place hidden somewhere in hyperspace.  He thinks he has found it with his ship, but his own ship couldn’t sustain itself in hyperspace the way Excalibur can.  He claims it could provide info for the plague so they go for it.  But when they get there it turns out it is actually a mausoleum for technomages and other wise beings.  Galen wanted to go there to fulfill a promise, taking his dead girlfriend’s spirit or something there in a necklace. 
It is a decent episode, sad that the show’s best episodes are finally starting to shine through right before it is over. Though I must admit none of these are so brilliant or exciting that I really wish the show hadn’t been cancelled.  Even in creative and well made episodes, something is lacking to get me too invested. 

There is also a subplot about Lt. Matheson having to deal with some telepath watcher, making sure he hasn’t been reading others minds without permission.  The watcher is, as you’d expect, actually just a prick who is not following the very rules he was meant to enforce.  It feels like a tired Strazcynski plot point, even if he didn’t actually write the episode. 

Decent premise, the Well of Forever is a neat idea and it actually looks neat (in this shows dated CGI effects), and while I would certainly call this one of the better episodes of Crusade, it still lacks that certain something that made me a fan of Babylon 5. 

NEXT TIME: The Most Holy

Spreading the Plage

Story: Patterns of the Soul
Written By: Fiona Avery
Season: Crusade

The Excalibur is sent to a colony of Earth Refugees who left the planet about the same time that the plague was sent to the planet, so they could possibly be infected and spreading the plague.  The colony is made up of a small group who are very resistant to EarthForce, and since the General who is ordering Gideon to do this seems like a prick, it is pretty obvious that the General and EarthForce are up to something dubious. 
While on the planet testing the colonists Dureena finds a tribe of her own people, the only other tribe of her people that she knows about.  Unfortunately, not only are the humans infected, but they’ve spread the plague to them as well, and now they are dying off too.  Oh and apparently the virus spreads faster in her people than in humans.  So time is not on their side at this point.

It is also discovered that the colonists were free of the plague when they left Earth, but were infected by contaminated food supply that the General made sure they picked up when getting supplies.  I guess he was in charge of the program they were in, where they were experimented on to become cyborgs…and when they escaped, he wanted to save face and made sure they got infected. 

As it is an episode that focuses on the plague and whatnot, I found it to be entertaining, as the show is at it’s best when it just focuses on the premise of the series.  Dureena gets some moments and Dr. Chambers didn’t seem nearly as flat as she often does, so I'll call it a solid episode in an average series. 

NEXT TIME: Mausoleum in Space

Backstory

Story: The Path of Sorrows
Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Season: Crusade

The crew is investigating some ancient ruins, which seems pointless in the mission of finding a cure for the plague…especially considering how they now know it is a nanotech virus..but we must again remember how the episode order is completely screwed up so maybe they don’t know yet.  Fucking dumb show. 
Anyhow…in these ruins they find an alien in a jar, and they decide to take him aboard the ship.  Once there, a few go to him, and this alien essentially causes flashbacks of painful memories, which is convenient for finally giving us background on our characters.  As hinted in some previous episodes, Gideon was left floating in space at some point, now we know that he was out checking some troubles on his ship, and they were attacked and destroyed by a Shadow ship, apparently long before the Shadow War actually began. He also won the Apocalypse Box in a poker game.  It is still mysterious and I’m sure it won’t be resolved before the show was cancelled.

Matheson (the telepath second in command I’ve barely mentioned because he barely had a role in any episode up to this point) goes and we learn a bit about his background, and get a taste of what happened in the Telepath War, which was foreshadowed at the end of Babylon 5 and seems to have taken place before the start of Crusade. 

The last is Galen who we learn had a love of his life who died, and it really pisses him off.  I think I should feel some genuine emotion for this one, but I didn’t.  Probably because it feels like a shoehorned in backstory, whereas there is a little bit more meat to the Gideon and Matheson flashbacks. Gideon’s had been set up a little bit more, and Matheson’s gave some explanation on something set up in B5.  Galen has been in a couple episodes and I have little interest in his backstory, especially when it boils down to “my girlfriend died so now I don’t believe in any higher power.”

It is a decent character episode, which the series seriously needed, but with three episodes left, it is essentially too little too late. 

NEXT TIME: Earth Refugees