Instead of joining in on all the fun of Comic-Con this year (I was invited to moderate a panel but couldn’t attend), I got at least a consolation prize – an advance copy of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales for review. So Read More for the no spoiler review – the Encyclopedia should be updated soon. Babylon 5: The Lost Tales will be released Tuesday. Check out the official web site for some previews as well.
It feels like I was visiting some old friends – yet it also strangely felt like they had never left.
From the synopsis: “Times change. Dangers remain. 10 years after he became President of the Interstellar Alliance, Sheridan prepares for a fateful Babylon 5 reunion that could prevent Earth’s impending doom…if he will also compromise his core principles. Meanwhile, commander Lochley confronts an unexpected interloper on the way station – a being whose presence makes the B5 freeport the crossroads between heaven and hell. In Voices in the Dark, Series creator J. Michael Straczynski reunites with stars Bruce Boxleitner and Tracy Scoggins in two richly imagined stories set after the events of the original series. Richly imagined, too, is Straczynski’s vision of the 23rd century (including a dazzling New York City) – a vision made more spectacular via filmmaking technology unavailable during the original series. Director: J. Michael Straczynski Actors: Peter Woodward, Bruce Boxleitner, Bruce Ramsay, Tracy Scoggins, Teryl Rothery, Alan Scarfe, Keegan Macintosh”
It’s been five and a half years since we’ve had anything B5 related, so it is great that we can see some extension to the story.
What is hopefully the first of several The Lost Tales releases, Voices in the Dark consists of two distinct stories, listed on the DVD menu as “Over Here” and “Over There”. There is a minor conversational link between the two, which implies the two stories are concurrent. There was also mention of Garibaldi and trouble on Mars, which was probably also a connector to the planned 3rd story that was shelved due to the complexity of the story requiring more time (and will hopefully be part of the next installment).
Some general notes: At times it looks like B5 got a paint job. at one point it looked liked the blue-purple sections were more vivid. Another time it seemed like there were white sections. Regardless, the station was more brilliantly lit.
“Over Here” features only (now) Colonel Lochley of the original cast, and concerns an unusual visitor to the station making an even more unusual request – a demon possessing a human, asking to be exorcised, necessitating that Lochley call in one of the dwindling number of priests to investigate. I was confused when Lochley was addressed as Colonel – apparently there has been a shift in the rank structure, as Sinclair, Sheridan and Lochley all held ranks in the naval tradition previously.
This was borderline what is called a “bottle” episode – there were very few sets shown, typically to minimize costs. Most of the episode takes place in a cell in which Asmodeus, in the form of Eliot, is held prisoner. And there is little action as well – primarily it is all dialogue, discussing theology and beliefs.
This episode could have benefited from more time, and I think a lot more conflict. The dialogue was great, but there was little tension, perhaps due to Scoggins not being comfortable back in the character. There was some major special effects to show of the “ability” of this demon, but it was all show – Asmodeus seemed totally resigned to what was happening instead of fighting for what he wanted.
“Over There” was a much different story. Sheridan is getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Interstellar Alliance with a return to Babylon 5, and a discussion with a reporter (Stargate SG-1 fans will recognize Teryl Rothery) helps set the scene. Then the scene shifts to a vision of a devastated city, which the Techno-Mage Galen shows Sheridan – with the usual warnings about how Sheridan can stop it. And before the alarms about how this isn’t a new story go off, Sheridan questions the same thing, and gets an explanation…
This story worked much better. It was able to add humor without distracting from the story, although again it could have done with much more time – as such the ending seemed too simple and convenient, although it could lead to some more interesting stories later. We also get to see more visual effects, including some glimpses of the new Valen-class cruiser with an almost manta ray-like profile (and looks nothing like the ship called the Valen from The Legend of the Rangers. Keegan Macintosh did a reasonable job in general with the character of Prince Vintari, but I had a hard time seeing the spark of what should have led to the belief that he could have become what Galen foretold.
Sheridan did have a couple lines of importance: During the interview, he mentioned that G’Kar was “…out there somewhere…beyond the rim…”, a nice node to the late Andreas Katsulas. Lochley added later that Dr. Franklin had joined him in his exploration (Richard Biggs had also passed away a few years previously). The other line was at the end: “Babylon 5 is a place of beginning and endings – I wonder which this will be?” In essense a question as to the success or failure of this DVD and the future of the franchise.
For special features, I first headed to the Memorials. Both Andreas Katsulas and Richard Biggs had two “Beyond the Rim” features, basically anecdotes from JMS, Bruce Boxleitner, an Tracy Scoggins. Perhaps some footage of them at their best would have been good, but it was nice to hear what their friends had to say about them.
JMS and Bruce Boxleitner – chatting about the show, interspersed with shots around the stage.
Meet Tracy Scoggins – showing around the set.
JMS and Peter Woodward – chatting about Galen, and replacing him with a sock puppet.
The Straczynski Diaries – JMS on screen talking about the production, showing the sets during construction, and more sock puppets.
Fireside Chats – JMS answering questions compiled from fans.
The packaging was a fairly simple DVD case with printed cover, and a screen printed disc. Remarkably, neither the case or disc mention the title “Voices in the Dark”. The DVD menus were also static and straightforward (except for the lack of explanation of “Over Here” and “Over There”).
In summary again it is great to see some of our favorite characters telling more stories. I wish they had been longer to provide a better story flow, especially with the ends of each story. As such, these feel like just episodes of the series, without the distraction of a B story to feature more characters. Hopefully the fan base will come through and sales will be sufficient to breath further life in the series, as there are so many more tales that can be told. If not, maybe that sock puppet idea isn’t so bad…