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Babylon 5: The Lost Tales (DVD)

Starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Tracy Scoggins & Peter Woodward.

Rated: 12

Story: Some Warner Brothers executives agree to a cash-in movie to mark the tenth anniversary of the end of the original Babylon 5 show. Then they spend all the money on a wild weekend in Vegas. We're left with a couple of short B5 episodes that take place almost entirely in three corridors. Fans sigh.

Comments: Babylon 5 is one of the finest science fiction series ever made. It has complex characters who develop and change allegiance over time, an epic plot spanning five seasons and story-lines that favour cunning and communication, rather than invented technology, for solving problems. Babylon 5 is funny, dramatic and thought-provoking.

For those of you who don't know, Babylon 5 is an enormous space station in neutral territory which serves as a diplomatic and trade hub. It's run by humans but houses ambassadors from various alien races. Of course, half the ambassadors hate each other and, as the main story arc develops, their petty squabbles turn into a galactic war. The humans must steer their way through cultural differences and political situations in order to build a lasting peace.

It's great.

Unfortunately, everything set in the Babylon 5 universe since the original ended has been a bit rubbish. In the ten years up until now, we've had four tie-in movies, half a season of Crusade and the pilot episode of Legend of the Rangers. In the Beginning is an OK prequel movie but it only really re-tells lots of backstory already mentioned in the main series. The rest of the spin-offs seem to miss the point of Babylon 5 entirely. Its strength is in the characters, the diplomacy and the interaction of the different alien races. Taking these out just leaves Star Trek and there's more than enough Star Trek for anyone already.

The Lost Tales makes similar mistakes. It's set on and around Babylon 5 but there are only two and a half characters from the original show - Sheridan, Lochley and Galen. As for aliens, there's one Centauri character we've never met before and a passing shot of a couple of Minbari.

The first of the two episodes involves a demon, an exorcism and a priest with wavering faith. It mainly entails a lot of sitting around chatting about religion and is strangely confused. Lochley comes across as having more 'faith' than the priest but there's little understanding of what faith actually is. Faith is not about believing things which are against reason, it's a relationship based on reason and experience (both personal experience of God and what we've been told of the experiences of others). Without this understanding of the subject matter, the whole thing comes across as a little pointless.

The second episode is much more standard Babylon 5. President Sheridan is presented with a prophecy and must make a difficult moral choice between the good of the many and that of the few. There's some CGI space combat, some flying about in Starfuries and occasional touches of humour. The best bits, however, are the fond references to all the other old characters who aren't present. It's a reasonably good episode but the low budget is crippling. One of the sets consists entirely of two swivel chairs. I mean, honestly...

There are plenty of DVD extras but they're mainly interviews recorded on set. The memorials to Andreas Katsulas and Richard Biggs are worth watching, though.

The whole thing is essentially a bone to throw at desperate fans. It's not awful (unlike River of Souls) but it doesn't come close to satisfying the craving for some more 'proper' Babylon 5. I just have an urge to go watch the real thing again. Newcomers should, most definitely, not start here - rent the feature-length pilot, The Gathering.

Conclusion: Fans of the original series will feel a renewed pang of sadness at its passing.

Explosions: A few.
CGI: Shiny.
Sets: Not really.
Babylon 5?: Sort of.
Fond memories: Stirred.

Rating: 3/5.

1 comment:

Pablothehat said...

Oh dear..the more I read of fan's reactions to The Lost Tales, the more I think I will wait till I find it on a car boot/garage sale.