Available from Amazon.com
Once a time, Babylon 5 was the bee’s knees of sci-fi television. With a five-year arc full of surprises and effects entirely created using CGI for the first time, it was geared towards an adult audience from the outset. Even when Deep Space Nine upped its game, Babylon 5 still got the geek love.
Then things went wrong. Its five-year arc got compressed down to four years when it looked like the show wasn’t going to be renewed. Then the show got renewed and a fifth year had to be grafted on. That season wasn’t at all good and the love began to ebb away. The sequel show, Babylon 5: Crusade, got cancelled before the end of the first season and the follow-up pilot didn’t even get commissioned for a series.
Ten years on, it’s back as a straight-to-DVD movie, Voices in the Dark, which could be the first of many stories featuring the surviving members of the original cast. Can it recapture what it once had or has it finally had its day?
Plot (with the serial numbers filed off from the Amazon.com web site)
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.
Is it any good?
In places, it has its moments. But for the most part, it has problems.
This is, despite supposedly being a movie, two stories stuck together. The first, involving Tracy Scoggins (who’s soap-honed acting really shows), is basically The Exorcist crossed with Jeff Goldblum-fav Mr Frost: a Babylon 5 worker gets possessed by something claiming to be a demon and she calls in one of the few surviving priests to exorcise him. The thing is, the demon wants to be exorcised. What’s the catch?
It’s an excuse really to ruminate on God, religion, whether religion could survive humanity’s exposure to aliens and life among the stars and whether there’s any truth to it. It’s just not terribly well written, with one of those wretched Basil Exposition-style denouements where the demon’s game is rumbled and it just sits there listening to it.
The second story, featuring Bruce Boxleitner and Crusade‘s Peter Woodward (as well as Stargate/Kyle XY‘s Teryl Rothery), is a far better piece, a nice twist on the “if you travelled back in time and met Hitler as a child, could you kill him?” dilemma. It has a nice ending, and the interaction and dialogue between Boxleitner and Woodward are excellent.
But the lack of any other cast members shows at times, with important characters always unable to turn up for one reason or another (Steven and G’Kar are off exploring. Londo’s busy. Delenn’s on Minbar. Garibaldi’s just coming, honest… And so on).
Effects have certainly improved in the last ten years, and the rendering of Babylon 5 et al is at least as good as it was in the original (and everything looks the same as well, which is a big plus). But time has moved on and shows like Battlestar Galactica and even Doctor Who have lifted the bar in script-writing. Voices in the Dark is pretty much where Babylon 5 was 10 years ago, and it feels a little unsophisticated now. While it’s nice to have the old guys back, creator JMS really needs to look around and see what everyone else has been up to in B5‘s absence.
Worth watching as a curiosity more than anything else, but if enough people buy it, there’ll be more to come and maybe they’ll get better. It’s your choice if you want to support struggling independent sci-fi producers….