Babylon 5
The Lost Tales

Starring: Bruce Boxleitner and Tracy Scoggins
Warner Home Video
RRP: 13.99
Certificate: 12
Available 03 September 2007

Commander Lochley, who was the first officer which replaced Ivanova around eleven years before in this timeline, is faced with a
Babylon 5 worker who seems to be possessed by a demon - or maybe the Devil himself. A priest is caught in a dilemma of whether or not to perform an exorcism, as the incarcerated man debates theology with them. But Lochley discovers the demon is tied to the Earth and, in an attempt to escape, is trying to trick the priest into performing an exorcism in space...

Technomage Galen appears to President Sheridan as he travels to Babylon 5 for the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Interstellar Alliance. He shows Sheridan the destruction of New York and says that in 30 years Prince Ventari of the Centauri Republic will destroy the Earth in his quest to return his race to their former glory. This can only be prevented by Sheridan killing Ventari.

Having decided the time was right for more Babylon 5, and to cater to a fanbase crying out for more, after the hugely lucrative DVD box set sales of seasons one to five, Warner approached writer, creator and visionary J. Michael Straczynski with the idea of perhaps making a feature film version. JMS reportedly told them he couldn't imagine a movie without G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) and Dr Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) - both of whom have died since the series ended - and instead proposed a number of short, straight to DVD stories concentrating separately on major characters from the series.

The first of The Lost Tales consists of two stories loosely connected to form the TV movie Voices in the Dark (a typically poetic JMS title). The Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) tale is lacklustre at best, and would barely have passed as a stand alone episode in the old first season. Aside from Lochley, who hasn't got the presence of Ivanova as first officer in the series, the priest is convincing, but the whole fails to carry as a story in its own right. The second tale is much better. Bruce Boxleitner slips easily back into his role of Sheridan like he's never been away, and Peter Woodward, briefly in Babylon 5 and a main character in the spin-off series Crusade, is engaging as the sometimes dangerous, sometimes humorous technomage Galen. Of course, this dramatic plot dilemma has been played out several times previously, but it is well-handled here.

The potential continuity problem of the Babylon 5 station exploding at the conclusion of the five-year story arc is overcome here by rolling back time a few years, setting these tales before that momentous event. Credit should be given to returning music composer Christopher Franke, who creates effective fresh dramatic enhancement rather than relying on any of his major themes from the series. The visual effects are utilised to their best order within the obvious confines of the budget (exterior views of the station appearing somewhat darker and more sinister), but haven't the same impact as the groundbreaking CGI seen on the series. Having recently re-watched all of Season One, the old effects hold up remarkably well considering we are now more than ten years down the line. The dialogue, as you would expect from JMS, is one of this release's strong points, with lines like "I've never known hope when it wasn't on a diet," from Sheridan.

On the menus we are given the option of watching Voices in the Dark as a TV movie, or selecting one or the other of the two half-hour segments. Extras include: Fireside Chats (18 minutes of questions posed by fans which are answered by JMS); The Straczynski Diaries (21 minutes of production information and nonsense about glove puppets); Memorials (JMS and cast talk about Andreas Katsulas who played G'Kar, one of the best characters from the series, and Richard Biggs who played Dr Stephen Franklin). Some interesting snippets of information can be collected here, such as the fact JMS would watch his main actors off-set and then incorporate the witnessed traits into their characters. JMS also mentions what I remember as being one of the strongest scenes in the entire Babylon 5 series. Londo is trapped in a broken-down lift with G'Kar. G'Kar is happy to die because his sworn enemy will die too. Andreas Katsulas introduced the madness of laughter into the scene, which JMS okayed because it made the moment so powerful.

I could probably talk all day about Babylon 5; it was after all one of the greatest TV serials of all time. However, The Lost Tales is quite obviously a nostalgia trip for established fans, of which I'm certain there are plenty. This feels like Babylon 5 but is missing the interaction of its loved characters. It's rather like saying this is a good stew because there are potatoes - even though there's nothing to go with them. There should be more of these releases to come, whereas I would personally prefer one release with as many of the ensemble that can be collected together.

Ty Power

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