Babylon 5

Episode 5

The Lost Tales : Voices in the Dark

Aired Monday 7:00 PM Jul 31, 2007 on

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

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  • A bold new beginning for the Babylon 5 saga. With one eye on the past and the other firmly on the future.

    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.
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