Babylon 5

Episode 5

The Lost Tales : Voices in the Dark

3
Aired Monday 7:00 PM Jul 31, 2007 on
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

8.3
out of 10
Average
89 votes
  • A slow but promising beginning to what will hopefully be a continuing effort

    8.0
    It's been more than five years since the last new entry in the "Babylon 5" franchise. "The Legends of the Rangers" TV-movie had its own particular crosses to bear. As a "backdoor pilot", it had to introduce characters, setting, and initial apparent conflicts, yet it also had to stand on its own. While criticism of that film was often unfair, it was hardly the best way for the on-screen "Babylon 5" franchise to come to an end.

    Plans for a feature film went as far as a script and pre-production, but "The Memory of Shadows" never found its footing and the project was cancelled. When even new novels were ultimately scuttled in 2006, fans had every reason to wonder if the franchise had come to an end. When the announcement for "The Lost Tales" came later in the same year, it was a pleasant shock.

    Of course, there was reason to be wary. This project, direct to DVD, is something of a test case for shows without a network and a limited studio budget. Instead of a full-length film, the DVD would feature two stories, largely stand-alone but concurrent, featuring a limited cast. Given some of the limitations and challenges, some fans found it hard to believe "The Lost Tales" would ever come to fruition, at least until the product was in hand.

    Some of the initial criticisms of the project have been disingenuous. Many complain about the length; these critics claim that a two-episode release should have been two hours long. Basic knowledge of the television medium corrects this misconception. The standard television episode runs, without commercials, 40-42 minutes, and those episodes typically involve more than one plot thread at a time. Segments on this volume of "The Lost Tales" are each 35 minutes long, only 5-7 minutes shorter, and focus on one specific plot element. So those complaining about the length of the production are being needlessly selfish; the product is effectively two normal episodes with the subplots removed!

    Creatively, the challenge of any post-series venture has been one of relevancy. The hallmark of "Babylon 5" was its deeply serialized plot and character arcs. Decisions and events had consequences. Cause and effect played out over the span of seasons. Many fans argue that the weakest episodes had the least connection to the big picture, and for similar reasons, TV-movies like "Thirdspace", "The River of Souls", and the aforementioned "Rangers" can seem extraneous.

    With the limited scope of each segment and the inability to plan ahead for long-term story arcs, "The Lost Tales" struggle to justify their existence within the grand scheme. J. Michael Straczynski (JMS, to the initiated) does everything possible to make these stories stand out without unnecessary connections to the original series. Even so, the stories fit within a set tapestry, and understanding the context requires prior knowledge. New viewers may find it hard to understand, for instance, the relationships at play in Sheridan's segment.

    JMS must have understood that issue, because in the end, the two stories boil down to concepts that could viably exist without any connection at all to "Babylon 5". Given JMS' experience with the 1980s incarnation of "The Twilight Zone", there is a similar tone and approach. Generally speaking, success or failure of each segment comes down to the core concept.

    The first segment ("Over Here") centers on a possible religious crisis on the Babylon 5 station. Colonel Lochley (played by Tracy Scoggins) is still in command after 10 years, having settled in for the long run. One of her maintenance crew appears to be possessed by a demon, so she calls in a priest from Earth. What results is an interesting and often creepy look at the effects of space travel on religion. This entire segment is essentially a three-person stage play with the occasional special effects shot, with an aesthetic not unlike the classic episode "Intersections in Real Time".

    The story is intriguing, but two aspects keep it from reaching its full potential. First and foremost, Lochley was a late addition to "Babylon 5" and hardly one of the fan favorites. Her character was one of the least developed, and Scoggins always seemed to struggle with her performance and line delivery. None of that has changed. If anything, Lochley is still generic enough that it's difficult to understand why this situation has meaning for the character. Since the segment focuses on Lochley, one might assume that the events should hold personal meaning.

    On top of that, as explained, the "possession" and everything surrounding it doesn't quite mesh with the "Babylon 5" universe. While the events and ideas themselves can be incorporated into the tapestry of the franchise mythology, this is ultimately a story that just happens to take place on Babylon 5. In the end, that keeps the story from reaching its full potential.

    On the surface of things, the second segment ("Over There") resolves that issue by dealing with political issues that pertain specifically to the Babylon 5 continuity. Certainly the details tie into a few open questions from the series and its successors. Still, the core concept is more generic: "if you could knew Hitler as a child, knowing what he would become, would you kill him to save millions?". Everything that happens to President Sheridan (played perfectly by Bruce Boxleitner), as prompted by technomage Galen (played by the equally perfect Peter Woodward) comes down to that philosophical question.

    It becomes a balance between letting the core concept dictate the setting or the setting informing the core concept. In this case, the situation with Centauri Prince Vintari is staged in a manner that sometimes overlooks elements of the series' continuity to present the key point about the young man's future. The threat Vintari is meant to represent pales in comparison to the threat posed by the Shadows from the original series or the "planet killer" from "A Call to Arms". The final solution also introduces certain continuity complications, but serves the core concept more readily.

    These concerns make it sound as though the writing was a major issue; in the end, that's not true. For an ongoing anthology series set in the "Babylon 5" universe, either story would have made a solid, compelling episode. The stakes are simply raised based on the ephemeral nature of the format. When these are the only definite entries for the project, one is left wanting material that couldn't have been applied to any other franchise. This is why the Sheridan entry works better than the Lochley entry (aside from the disparity in popularity).

    The majority of the performances are solid. While Scoggins does struggle with her part, it's no different than her struggles on the series. Boxleitner and Woodward, as noted previously, stepped right back into their roles as if no time had passed. The guest stars were all on top of their game. Special mention goes to Teryl Rothery, who has never looked better, even in all the time spent on "Stargate SG-1".

    Visually, the Babylon 5 station has never looked better, and the virtual sets are leaps and bounds above the original series. Some of the green screen work is a bit rough, but to a certain extent, it fits the franchise. Straczynski doesn't have much experience as a director, beyond the series finale of the original series, and sometimes the lack of experience shows, especially in the Lochley segment. The score by Christopher Franke is far better than the score for "Rangers", more in keeping with his best work.

    Overall, given the many challenges (specifically, budget), this is a good beginning. There's certainly room to grow, especially in terms of linking the stories more directly to the characters and the Babylon 5 universe, but the concepts were strong. Hopefully the sales for this volume will justify a future installment, so this won't be the last statement on the franchise.
  • There are two parts to this story. The short answer is that I really disliked the first part and enjoyed the second part.

    6.5
    Babylon 5: The Lost Tales is an anthology show set in the Babylon 5 universe. Each story is worked around a single established character. The beginning of the show had a quote from G'Kar that made me want to cry. Both G'Kar and Dr. Franklin was mentioned but described as being "beyond the rim". *sniff*

    "Over Here": TOO PREACHY. TOO RELIGIOUS. The idea of the story was clever but the dialog went on for too long. I felt like I'd been backed in to attending a church service disguised as a Babylon 5 episode. The Seraphim as aliens is a interesting idea because it suggests "that "God" is an alien. I just think that the story too took long to say that. After awhile, I was dying for someone to punch a ship. I expected more action and movement in a B5 show. I know the budget was slim but something was missing. The acting was great. Lochley isn't my favorite character but it was good to see her again. Alan Scarfe as Father Kelly is a treat. Even the guy as the Seraphim was good. It just didn't come together for me. The station and special effects were good enough. Everything was green screen and stills heavy but it looked great. Even with all the praise... it's just... I was bored. I feel really guilty about not liking it but I have to tell the truth. :(

    "Over There": WHAT I EXPECTED. If you are expecting gun battles, combat or even a fist fight... just stop it now. I don't have to have action to feel like a woman. Sometimes, dialog is just enough. Seeing Sheridan again got the blood pumping. He was funny, he was comfortable. It felt right. We got to see Galen, everyones favorite Technomage from B5: Crusades. Teryl Rothery from SG1 was a reporter and a treat. In this one Galen wanted Sheridan to kill an up and coming, young Centauri that was third in line for the crown. This had the suspension that I was looking. Because of this story, I went away not being TOTALLY disappointed in the project.

    I think I had expectations of action. I didn't read much about the return of B5 because I didn't want to be spoiled. I supposed this is why I wasn't prepared for the direction of this project. I will watch what ever JMS puts out next I just hope that there's more of a blend of heady topics and action.
  • Surprisingly excellent. Restored my faith in a continued B5 franchise.

    10
    I was worried at first that the Lost Tales would be a complete and utter disgrace to the B5 legacy (like Legend of the Rangers was), but i'm glad my worries were dismissed within the first five minutes of viewing. This "minidouble" episode is at least as good as the best episodes of the original series, and quite possibly even better than any of them.

    the first part of the episode even managed to turn around my loathing for non-scifi themes in sci-fi shows completely around, as the acting and dialogue were absolutely brilliant.

    The second part, while not quite as good as the first, was amazing. JMS hasn't lost his touch in writing brilliant dialogue, as it dealt with a very serious theme, and at the same time had several hilarious snappy comments.

    I can only hope for many more installments in this continuation of the B5 saga.
  • A bold new beginning for the Babylon 5 saga. With one eye on the past and the other firmly on the future.

    8.0
    It is hard to believe that Babylon 5 aired its final episode almost 10 years ago. 5 years I could accept, but 10 is a very long stretch. However that drought is now over. With the failure of Crusade and the debacle of The Legend of the Rangers, it seemed as though Babylon 5 had breathed its last. Even the possibility of the movie The Memory of Shadows ultimately failed to materialise. So when it was announced that Babylon 5 was to return as a series of DVD movies I was fairly sceptical. And yet here we are, with a bon-a-fide B5 adventure, all brand new and shiny. With friends old and new brought together, it's an exciting experience. Perhaps not on par with the return of Star Trek or Star Wars with their respective film franchises, but the welcoming of old friends and familiar characters is almost worth the price of the DVD itself. Almost, because the real meat has to come from the story.

    The DVD's are subtitled The Lost Tales. Why they are exactly considered lost in the first place is irregardless, what matters is whether or not they continue and expand the B5 story in the same manner that the series excellently managed. And the answer is a simply kind of.

    In many ways The Lost Tales is an improvement and enhancement of the series that spawned it. But it still suffers from the gravities and mystery that the series was so wonderful at conveying. The pared down cast which consists mainly of Sheridan, Lochley and Galen is an interesting trio, but perhaps a bit light when considering such popular fan characters as Londo and Garibaldi. Of course, the loss of Richard Biggs as Dr. Franklin and Andreas Katsulas as G'Kar has severely diminished the character pool. And it is the absence of some of these character more than anything else that casts a shadow over the story. In the past, Babylon 5 was seen as a truly ensemble piece, with dozens of characters moving in and out of the main story. Not to mention the masses of background characters which gave the station a real sense of galactic importance.

    Throughout The Lost Tales we are constantly reminded of events in the past as well as events occurring in other parts of the universe. We learn Garibaldi has some problems on Mars, Delenn is on Minbar with her and Sheridan's son, and Londo and Vir are on Centauri. In a way these throwaway comments serve to only heighten the anticipation of further 'Lost Tales' in the future. And the appearance of Galen only adds to the desire for some sort of conclusion to Crusade.

    However, onto the real crux of The Lost Tales, which is the story. The DVD is essentially two stories combined. The first is a rather awkward one about demonic possession and religion, with Lochley enlisting the assistance of a priest to deal with a possibly supernatural event. It is an interesting idea that ultimately fails under its own lack of ambition. Unlike many, I was interested in the idea that Lochley, and Babylon 5 as a station could see so many wondrous and strange events over the years that were alien or scientific in nature, that when something spiritual came along that it troubled them. Indeed, the story begins very promising. With Alan Scarfe playing a wonderful priest, and Tracy Scoggins doing a great turn as a deeply conflicted Lochley. But it all falls to pieces with clunky dialogue and a resolution that even Star Trek would find disappointing.

    Early on we have Lochley and the priest discussing religion in the future and the impact that space travel and alien contact has had on them. It's a weighty discussion, but ultimately falls flat. The discussion between them almost reads like a teenagers school report in which they try to be all deep and spiritual, but instead come across as narrow and shallow. I expected a lot more coming from JMS, who has written some fantastic religious characters in the past on Babylon 5, and dealt very well with the nature of religion in the future. In the Lost Tales we have a fantastic concept badly executed.

    Lochley herself appears almost ghostlike. We can certainly believe that she has be on the station for all this time. She looks tired and ragged, almost a shadow of her fiery determined self. Whether this is actually intentional or merely my perception of the character in the story I simply can't say. But either way it is unwelcome. I had my doubts about Lochley when Season 5 began, but she soon won me over and I warmed for her. Her work on Crusade even was a bonus, elevating that uneven series to some easily watch able.

    Ultimately, Lochley's section seems weak, not simply because it doesn't boast the spectacular special effects of the second part, but because it fails to create any real tension or drama. We never feel that anything is really at stake, for the station or for the people stuck in the middle of things. What is really frustrating is the lack of pace, it starts off reasonably well, with some sense of drama. Only to screech to halt as we are forced to suffer endless scenes of plodding banter. Hopefully we will get to return to Lochley again, and perhaps even see her with something to get her teeth in. In the first section alone, I was worried about the merit of even doing a DVD project such as The Lost Tales with it looking almost as if the Babylon 5 well had run dry. Thankfully I stuck around for the second section and my faith was all at once restored.

    John Sheridan is an incredibly strong, heroic and charismatic character. Galen is a frustratingly enigmatic and mysterious technomage. Aside from their brief union together in the TV Movie A Call To Arms, both Sheridan and Galen have forged separate paths. And it seems such a shame. Out of the ashes of Crusade it was almost inevitable that Galen would rise unscathed. Even during the dark days of critical torrents and fan backlash, you could always turn to Galen as a shining beacon of what Crusade could do well.

    The Technomages were a stunningly interesting device little used on Babylon 5 itself. It was as if the series was just as paranoid and secretive as the Technomages themselves. So getting an opportunity to see once such as Galen again was more than worth the price of the DVD for me. Frankly, Peter Woodward nailed the character from the moment he appeared onscreen back in A Call To Arms. So I was a little worried that he might be a bit rusty after all these years. Especially with the baggage from Crusades messy end. But he segues easily into the main B5 universe, and almost looks comfortable pestering the mind of Sheridan.

    And really, the second section stands head and shoulders above the first not simply on the scale and scope it presents, but on the calibre of its characters and actors. Sheridan looks like he has a the weight of the Galaxy on his shoulders. When he is forced to give an interview with a ISN reporter, he is both frustrated at having to do so, and also candidly honest. It continues the duality of Sheridan's struggle between his military background with his statesman role. He's uncomfortable in almost any situation save sitting in the cockpit of a Starfury.

    When Galen does show up and demonstrates to Sheridan the stakes of future failure with the stunning destruction of New York, you know immediately that Babylon 5 is back. Planetary destruction and great wars, conflict and death, pretty much business as usual for Sheridan. And congratulations must go the special effects people who have taken the iconic imagery of B5 and updated them in a way that looks completely modern and cutting edge, but also respectful of the past. And the destruction of New York is really the key to The Lost Tales, it demonstrates that this is only the beginning. That a new chapter in the saga is beginning.

    Before I completely forget I must mention the simply wonderful Keegan MacIntosh as Prince Vintari. He portrays a distinctly Centauri diplomatic, but also manages to add something new and different to the accent. Both Molari and Vir are easily remembered as Centauri, but so many of the other characters from their planet failed to match them. Keegan MacIntosh manages to be both naive and chilling at the same time. You can see his dark future in his desire for revenge, but also redemption in his youthful exuberance.

    It is the trio of Sheridan, Galen and Vintari that give me hope for the future. Hopefully we will get to see where this story goes, and not reach yet another premature dead end. But on the strength of these two stories, it seems as though Babylon 5 has a future, but also continues to be burdened by the same shortcomings and problems that plagued it as a series. That being its ambition and failure to properly conclude a story.

    The Lost Tales: Voices In The Dark is an inauspicious start. Both stunningly evocative of the brilliant series that spanned it, and boldly ambitious with its future. But still suffering from the same character faults and difficult dialogue. JMS may be a genius with the pen, but even sometimes that is not enough. A good start to what will hopefully be many more Lost Tales and the dawn of a new age of Babylon 5 stories.
  • Another enjoyable instalment from the pen of J Michael Straczynski. Buy it and we may be lucky enough to get some more.

    8.0
    The first thing: don't believe the box when it says 'an original movie'. This is not a movie but rather two separate episodes of around half an hour each.

    I was really excited about 'The lost tales' and couldn't wait to go out and buy it. But then I heard from friends who watched it before me that it wasn't so hot, so I went in with lowered expectations accordingly.

    But in fact I found it really enjoyable. Admittedly the firstmost scene is a bit shaky, the low camera angle and darkened room really gives the production a 'low budget' feeling from the get-go. But in fact this is the nadir over with right at the beginning: almost every subsequent scene is better. Admittedly all the live action scenes are very obviously stagebound (and the casting is a bit thin with only about two people other than the stars appearing, even virtually no extras), but countering that the SFX are excellent; better than the original series, as technology has improved over the past decade. And anyway the real reason to watch this is not the filming of course, but the writing and the characters. About five minutes in and already we were back in the familiar JMS rhythm - thoughtful stories, moral dilemmas and characters making progress on their individual life journey, all with liberal sprinklings of humor. Speaking of characters, this dvd (hopefully the first of many) brings back two B5 characters, Sheridan and Lochley, and one from Crusade (Galen) and they pick up right where they left off. It also introduces two new intriguing characters - an Earth priest in the first segment, and a Centauri prince in the second. The interplay between the priest and Colonel Lochley was particularly fine and reminded me strongly of Lochley's characterisation from such S5 episodes as Day of the Dead and Tragedy of Telepaths.

    Overall I give this release 8/10 and would encourage everyone to go buy it so that we can have some more.

    The extra features: I enjoyed the interviews - nice to see Bruce and Tracy and they clearly had a great time during filming. The JMS diaries are OK, although the sock puppet joke gets old quickly. But it's worth sticking to it for the SFX segment.
  • two very different storylines one quite spooky ,complex and deep the other is derivative and woefully predictable

    8.5
    okay it probably unfair to lump these two together in a single review but here goes

    lockley (now a colonel but still in a blue uniform?)
    asks a catholic priest to journey to B5 to help out with a little possesion problem.
    i love some of the ideas in this ep.
    The theological debate ,the idea that the priest can stop the decay of faith by allowing him to remain possessed or do his duty and countinue to watch his relgion wane.
    the final revalation about the demons true intentions were inspired.

    one or two bugs
    they seem to expect that the age of space and science has lead to a decay of faith.
    not sure i accept that ,im think there are a multitude of reasons for this.
    the idea that heaven is space ??
    dont buy it for a second
    lockley contacting others in earth force in case the demons try the same trick again .That would be an interesting conversation

    okay the second instalment
    galen appears to sheridan and shows him a devasting attack on a planet(er is this a call to arms or babylon 5?)
    he tells he can prevent it by killing the 3rd in line to the centuri throne.A young man with a fasination with alien technology.
    as the time of the assasination draws near sheridan wimps out(shock horror)and instead invites the future devastor of worlds to live with him in tuzenor in the hopes of changing his destiny.
    galen appears hints that it was his plan all along and goes again .the end

    Nice to see sheridan again
    and thats all the positive things i can think of quantum space??
    made from vorlon technlogy??
    then how come they only used hyperspace in the show
    if they had this technology in this era
    why didnt they use it in the "sleeping in light" ep set 15 years later

    the virtual set of new york looked really fake
    though the clips of the battle were quite good

    all in all totally pointless and unoriginal
    if i could give this a seperate mark id give it a generous 3 out of ten
  • Good to see B5 again.

    6.8
    It is good to have something from the B5 universe that doesn't stink (eg: Rangers spin-off). However, it did left much to be desired.

    I don't know. Maybe trying to replay a character part you played so long ago is not easy for actors. I found most of the recurring performances unconvincing. Galen was well played, but for the rest, it definitively could use some brush-up.

    My main complain was the time lost explaining while the other characters weren't there. If that was really necessary, make a sequence at the end of the dvd, telling us where the were. But don't stop the storytelling to do that.

    About that I missed the most, it was a sense of purpose. The whole B5 original arch was a single story with many branches. Some events were hinted at the epilogues, like the telepath war, the Drak war (Crusader?), and one that devastated earth "500 years ago". The rest was smalltalk, and unfortunately, that is what we are getting.

    Don't get me wrong. I've bough the DVD, and will by the next one (if it ever sees the light of the day), but mostly because I still hope for some good stuff that is not smalltalk. Maybe we will get it.

    For those who are reading this and feeling depressed, there is some good stuff on this DVD. The effects were well made. The StarFury sequence on the second episode was very nicely done. There are some minor inconsistencies (humans getting Vorlon technology they left behind?!?!), but they don't spoil the fun.

    If you are a B5 fan, you should get this DVD. If you are not, better go look for something else to watch.
  • At 72 minutes, it's longer than the average Babylon 5 episode (44 minutes), but contained less. Felt thin, very thin.

    6.0
    Not the B5 Episode or Movie You're Used to Seeing.

    Most reviewers seem to be expressing extreme disappointment with Babylon 5: The Lost Tales - Voices in the Dark. These reviewers *expected* Babylon 5 as if the show had never shut down in 1998. They expected something of that level, and that is the problem, *expectations*. Well folks, a lot of the stuff needed to make something like that (the sets, CGI, wardrobe and props, etc.) *no longer exists* at Warner Brothers. It is *gone* (destroyed, lost or sold off, respectively). Combine that with JMS wanting only to do some small short stories in an anthology format, *not* long arcs right now, *and* Warner Brothers *obsessive, compulsive timidity* (always in "test-the-waters" mode) when it comes to allocating money to *any* new Babylon 5 project, especially a new material Direct-to-DVD venture, and this is what you get.

    Given all of the above, I do not think JMS and Co. did a bad job. Not great, but not bad either. However, what B5 needs is a huge shot in the arm, something to revitalize that universe, and this low budget DVD of two 36 minute B-stories, with Warner Brothers still not deciding whether there will be more, isn't it.

    ps. Almost forgot. When Galen said "....a thousand vast war machines are warping into normal space, each of them armed with terrible engines of destruction, capable of devastation never seen before, until right now." (BTW, it should have been "jumping out of hyperspace" not "warping".), evidently both he and JMS forgot about the Shadow and especially Vorlon Planetkillers. (sigh)
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