on August 4, 2007
Yes, it's not action packed and doesnt have some huge overall story. It's basically two little morality/slice of life tales set in the B5 universe. Nothing is really added to the characters or universe, but the stories themselves are pretty interesting and entertaining. If you treat them as two episodes and compare them to B5 the series, they would be average, not classic, but not stinkers.
The first 'episode', which features Lochley trying to figure out what to do with a B5 resident who claims to be possessed, would probably get 3 stars - it is a bit too preachy and full of itself dealing, as it does, with religious themes.
The second 'episode' is better, featuring the return of Boxleitner as Sheridan. Returning to B5 for a celebration, Sheridan receives a visit from Galen who warns him of a terrible future catastrophe. Sheridan faces a tough moral choice: is it right to take a life to prevent that future? Dealing with Sheridan - a character with much more history and nuance than Lochley, it feels more substantial as does the story and I would give this four stars on it's own.
Both stories suffer from the lack of a secondary cast to bring more background to the story, each one probably only has two or three speaking parts so instead of cutting away to other subplots or activities what we get is more of one straight plot.
Overall, if you are a B5 fan I would recommend this - it is talky and a little dry, but it's much more in keeping and in the same tone as B5 proper, rather than the more campy Legend of the Rangers...
on July 24, 2007
Today is the 24th July 2007 and did I have a surprise parcel in the post this morning. I heard about Babylon 5 the Lost Tales several months ago and made sure that I pre-ordered it ASAP. I was surprised today because, I live in the UK, I'm British and have been a Babylon 5 fan since it first came to our screens in the mid 1990's. I watched every episode when they were first shown in the UK on Channel 4, and the T.V movies that were shown on Sci-Fi and I have been eagerly awaiting new Babylon 5 since the ill-fated Crusade and Legend of the Rangers. This morning the new DVD came through my door.
I did not expect to receive it untill a few days after it's release in the U.S. not a full week before. I have tried the DVD in my non-region free player and the disc plays perfectly. It does not seem to be region encoded, which is good news for those who wish to own it as a region 2 release date has yet to be announced.
The DVD is well packaged. The two stories told can be viewed induvidualy or as a whole movie. The rendering of the CGI is brilliant, I was very impressed. They re-did the destruction of Babylon 5 scene from Season 5 finale Sleeping In Light and it is breathtaking, the detail of the Station and the ships throughout Voices In The Dark are outstanding.
The movie starts off with a voice over from Andreas Katsulas, actually its a piece of dialogue from a Season 5 Episode and it is very moving, it is well placed and dramatic, a fitting opening. Then there is a montage of the Babylon 5 characters. I will not go into further detail of the story because I do not want to ruin it for the first time viewing experiance.
I have rated this DVD 4 stars for One reason only. The length of the feature, not including the opening montage and the end credits the story only lasts for 1hr and 10mins. It could have been fleshed out a bit more in length.
An excellent purchase for any fan and a great introduction for a new viewer. J.Michael Stracynski you have done this Babylon 5 fan proud, I look forward to future DVD releases.
on August 9, 2007
In many ways Babylon 5 was bungled from day one- not necessarily by the cast and crew, rather instead by the world-class batch of idiots who run Warner Brothers. What we got in the initial five year run was not what J. Michael Straczynski had intended and foisting the 22-episode disaster that was Season 5 on us was just plain unfair. Stories abound on WB's executives how they have messed up many projects- Smallville, Teen Titans, Superman Returns- is it any wonder then that they couldn't manage to give JMS his full five years to tell the story he wanted and instead brought down to the wire each for each season and forcing him to alter the series as a result. The Shadow War was supposed to last right through to end of Season 5, instead we get the worthless ponce Byron and the largely meaningless telepath war. Despite that, despite everything WB did to hamper the show, destroy it even, when Babylon 5 was bad it was still very good and when it was good, it was best science fiction ever seen on television, it's that simple.
It's now been almost a decade since the series ended and there must be some lingering interest in it or else Lost Tales would never have seen the light of day. As I watched it for the first time a few days ago, a part me of wished it hadn't. It was almost painful to watch the movie, presented as a pair of vignettes, because it was very obvious that Warner Brothers had given J. Michael Straczynski almost nothing to work with in terms of money. There are almost no sets- a few corridors meant to be the interior of the Babylon 5 station, a jail cell and a few spartan hallways meant to be the interior of a Minbari cruiser. One of the aspects of Babylon 5 that I always appreciated was that no matter where the camera was you could always see people- humans and aliens- in the background, breathing life into the station, giving it a sense of being inhabited. In Lost Tales there is none of this, the station appears empty and lifeless. We do not see the CnC, the Zocolo or anything from the original series. What CG we get is excellent- the revamp of the station and space craft are incredibly well done- greater detail and very beautiful. But like the stories and everything else in Lost Tales, it just isn't enough.
The first story deals with a man named Simon returning to the station after a vacation who appears to be possessed by a demon- not an alien, but an honest to goodness fire and brimstone `from the pits of Hell' demon. However, the story makes no sense once Colonel Elizabeth Lochley discovers the truth. Mankind has had space travel for two hundred years and the `demons' have been on earth the whole time and are just now making their presence known and moving into space? Sorry, that doesn't track.
The second `tale' is about Sheridan as he travels to Babylon 5 for the tenth anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance and agrees to pick up Prince Vintari of the Centauri Republic while en route. Sheridan is visited by the technomage Galen who tells him that in thirty years time Vintari will destroy earth because the humans are the only force in the galaxy capable of stopping the Centauri from reclaiming their former glory- we knew the Minbari were dying out, but who knew it would happen this quickly? Galen then explains that Sheridan must kill Vintari and sets up an elaborate scheme to make it happen when the two dignitaries are transiting from the Minbari cruiser to the station.
My theory is that JMS knew how much money he would be working with when he wrote the scripts (he also directed Lost Tales) and as a result got a this very weak offering. In my view, Babylon 5's fire has gone out of the universe and it's time is over, but it took Lost Tales to prove it. Maybe if there had been more money and a larger crew, something beautiful might have come of this. Instead we get an hour and half of mediocre story telling. If there is anything more to be done with Babylon 5 then perhaps WB needs to step forward with some dough and let J. Michael Straczynski tell the tales he wants instead of forcing him produce movies like this. Babylon 5 was never treated fairly, never got its due and now it looks like it never will.
on September 17, 2007
First, understand that I love B5, and will continue to support and purchase Lost Tales DVDs as they appear, in spite of the quality of this first one. I had such high hopes, but one can clearly see effects of a minimal budget, minimal sets, and minimal cast. The use of the big green screen technology fails in many wide shots, that clearly show actors standing in front of a screen. Sets look barren and overused. What furnishings there are look like they just arrived from IKEA. Lockley's bedroom wall looks like a free-standing wall set with a green screen window, which it is. You get no sense that your seeing her pacing in her bedroom. The one and only B5 corridor set, despite being shot from a few different angles, feels like we're seeing the same set over and over, which we are. This doesn't feel like 5 mile long B5, with 250,000 people. It feels like what it is, a few sets and a few people. The same holds true for the Alliance ship, where Sherridan sits on a tired old arm chair on a black set. I understand the Minbari are minimalists, but I'm afraid this just looked cheesy. Only on the exterior space shots do you get a feel for the old B5. Eventually I could no longer suspend disbelief, much as I really really wanted to, and the whole thing left me feeling a bit sad. You can't go home again.
The stories themselves had all the JMS hallmarks, but the first really felt flat and uninteresting. Sort of a B5 version of "The Exorcist" without the pea soup; a computer-generated fire effect in search of a story. The second story presented a true dilemma, and for a brief time placed us back in Sherridan's world, and as such was the only really positive bit of the DVD.
Acting was as expected. Scoggins just isn't believable. Boxleightner is sublime as always, in this role he was destined to play. And Woodward is over the top as usual, but that is part of the character, so I'm not complaining too much.
In summary, you can really see the effects of a shoestring budget. Perhaps a full-time director could have patched things up a bit, but maybe they couldn't afford one. Despite my negative review of this DVD, I still encourage you to buy it, as I did, and support the project. Now that many of the startup costs are paid, I'm hoping JMS makes enough from this first DVD to do a more B5-like job on the next.
on July 20, 2007
After many false starts such as the Legend of the Rangers and the planned movie, The Memory of Shadows, it is nice to see that series creator JMS has finally been able to get Babylon 5 back. The DVD is the first of a planned 6 that will look at select characters from the series that will fill in bits of their story as well as that of the Babylon 5 universe as a whole.
The new information that is given is often subtle while some of it is very upfront. One such instance is when a Centauri Prince who is 3rd in line to the throne brings up the subject of Vir. In a somewhat offhand manner, the character mentions that rumor has it that Vir killed his father. Fans of the series will be able to conclude that the character is the child of the Manical Catragia, and that when a dire warning is given about his role in the future, you have a nice framework for possible futuire events.
Divided into two stories, the first is a interesting spiritual based story, while the second is more of the thriller variety.
The FX have improved and the station has never looked better. My biggest concern with the film, was that there was a severe lack of any real action. While I know the series did not always have to rely on violence, a bit of a extended fight sequence would have been nice after so many years away from new material.
Boxleitner is solid as always as President John Sheridan, and the supporting cast of Woodward, and Scoggins, round out what is an enjoyable return to the beloved Sci Fi Epic.
on December 12, 2007
I'm very confused by some of the reviews that I have read here about the Lost Tales. Having just completed viewing, and being a long time fan of the B5 stories, I can not disagree more with the negative reviews posted. This was an excellent addition to the B5 universe!
I'd like to question the negative reviewers on their overall attraction to the show. What did you like about the preceding adventures? If you only watched for the sci-fi aspects then I can agree that this was not the DVD for you. Although, the CGI was fantastic. My eyes widened in amazement at the new models for B5 and the other ships. I also loved how the windows of the rooms had more depth than previous installments. Also, the lone space battle was great to watch with the improve art work. I checked to see who had done the CGI work on the DVD, and it turns out that the company responsible for the stellar art work on Stargate SG1 and Atlantis were the Technomages. Bravo!
These two stories were designed to capture the emotions and character of the B5 universe. A goal that JMS is well adept at accomplishing. Once again he has mesmerized me with his ability to draw the depth and mystery of real life into this fictional world. Without discussing the plot, I would like to say that the stories are very thought provoking and at times moving.
If you're a fan of B5 or of good drama in general, I highly recommend B5 Lost Tales as an excellent addition to your DVD collection. Here's to many more great stories in this wonderful universe that JMS has created!
I read some reviews of these "lost tales", and I really didn't expect everything that was Babylon 5 to be rebuilt just for a ten year anniversary "something or other" DVD, so I didn't expect a whole lot when I sat down to watch this.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised at the first story that merged religion and sci-fi in a way that isn't done very often, and I also enjoyed the second episode which at least let us see some great special effects that really did remind me of the original series.
But these two vignettes (for lack of a better term) are really about the characters, not the special effects, and I for one thought they were both well written, even if the acting did appear a bit strained at times (like it's easy to just jump back into a character you haven't played in ten years).
I started watching Babylon 5 from the pilot movie in 1993, and I attended the Babcon convention in 1996 in London, and I can completly understand the disappointment so many feel at seeing only three characters brought back in such a minimalist treatment of the grand Bab-5 universe.
So, my advice is to somehow get to view this without paying full retail. Each episode is only a bit over a half-hour, and if you're a lifelong Babylon-5 fan you're likely to enjoy it if only for the bittersweet memories of those few years back in the 1990s when you couldn't wait for the next episode, and you felt so smart because so many of your friends simply didn't "get it" and perhaps couldn't "get it" if they tried because you had to really think about this show and preferably watch it from the beginning to "get it" at all.
Well, those days are gone, so consider this a postcard from some old friends you haven't seen for ten years. Perhaps the best attitude is to just be glad it's here at all.
on July 30, 2007
(If you're going to rate this review, I'd respectfully ask that you read it before rating it, rather than simply reacting on the basis of how many stars I gave this).
I wish I could rate this five stars. I really do. (very minor spoilers). If you are a serious fan of the series. While you may in part be disappointed, you will also rejoice. If you are a more casual fan or a general SF fan, then... I'm sadly not sure I can recommend this. I'd be inclined to recommend one of the earlier B5 movies, such as the prequel, In the Beginning.
Great opening, some fine acting from Boxleitner and occasionally outstanding writing. Generally excellent special effects.
Dialogue that, in the wrong voice, often seems overly dramatic, comic-book style. Very low budget, with next to nothing for extras, costumes (Sheridan flying a Starfury in a business suit?), and sets. Almost painfully low-budget very flat two-dimensional CGI in place of some sets that made it look like a (good) fan production (the docking bay in particular).
Make no mistake though, given these limitations, JMS does an excellent job of putting it all together.
The opening is magnificent. Lovely special effects, a nicely redone station, with a lot more detail and a fantastic nebula in the background. The lovely atmospheric B5 music is back.
It opens, rolling back through the years from the station's demolition in the final episode of the series to the setting of the timeframe of these two tales.
Movingly, the voice of the great Andreas Katsulas, who played G'Kar speaks over this opening. It's very touching, all the more so given the death of the actor.
We see stills of Londo, G'Kar, Delenn and Lennier, and Kosh with Christopher Franke's soundtrack setting the mood.
Then... it begins.
And, sadly, so does the disappointment.
The spaces are generally very confined; even when a large space exists, it is generally executed with CGI. This makes things appear oddly cramped, confined, which is rather sad in such an expansive universe with such an expansive story-teller as JMS.
The first story seemed quite weak to me, salvaged only by some excellent acting on the part of Bruce Ramsay. Some of the exposition that Tracy Scoggins pumped out seemed particularly strained, and she came off to me as someone simply playing a role, as did the Priest. Was it the writing? Was it the acting? A mixture of both, I think.
The second story came off much stronger. Boxleitner really made me feel he was Sheridan, back in full. Keegan MacIntosh did a very credible turn (accent and all) as a young Centauri Prince.
In much of this story, JMS made a virtue of necessity, having a scene on an empty soundstage dressed simply by two chairs and a spotlight, as a "Minbari viewing room". It worked impressively well. Even so, the lack of extras and regular cast, especially greeting Sheridan on his return to B5 and the off-the-camera crowd came off as quite weak, as did Sheridan's turn at Starfury in a business suit.
All-in-all it came off as a fairly well-written and reasonably well-executed play. I don't think there ever more than four people on screen at once, and often only two. It felt small, confined.
To any serious fan I recommend this. You'll enjoy it as I did, even if parts may disappoint you. If you're buying a gift for a serious fan of B5, this is worth picking up as well.
To those who aren't hardcore fans, I'd recommend starting with either the series or perhaps the prequel movie, In the Beginning.
on August 23, 2007
When it was announced that J. Michael Straczynski was making a series of direct to DVD sequels to "Babylon 5", there must have been happy anticipation among fans of his sci-fi universe. Since "Babylon 5" came to the end of its 5 year run, all we've had is the sequel series "Crusade", which got canceled after 13 episodes and the pilot TV movie "Legends of the Rangers", which the Sci-Fi Channel declined to buy as a series.
But the first disk of "Babylon 5 The Lost Tales" is a disappointment.
Placed 10 years after President Sheridan's departure from Babylon 5, and the founding of the Interstellar Alliance, it brings back three actors, Bruce Boxleitner as Sheridan, Tracy Scoggins as (now Colonel) Elizabeth Lochley, and Peter Woodward, reprising his role as the Technomage Galen from "Crusade" and the TV movie that set up that series, "A Call to Arms".
There are two separate 34 minute episodes on this DVD. The first features Lochley and a priest dealing with a demonic possession on the eve of the 10 anniversary ceremonies on Babylon 5, the second with Sheridan and Galen and a threat to the future of Earth, played out as Sheridan arrives for the festivities.
At one point in the beginning of the second episode Sheridan remarks that Minbari are minimalists. That could be said for the entire production. It is obviously low budget, without enough funds to pay for many actors. There are only three real roles in part 1, and three main roles with two short cameos (one by Lochley) in part 2. There are a few external voices and a couple of people walk by in a few scenes.
But instead of a people-filled Zocolo or C-in-C, all we get are a series of two person conversations in a few rooms. Occasionally there are three people in the conversation. Babylon 5 is supposed to be crowded, a quarter of a million people, all alone in the night. The place is empty here.
The space effects are limited but fine as computer graphics are cheap. Actors cost money.
The stories are also a bit thin. Each is only 34 minutes, shorter than the 40 to 45 minutes of an hour television show (without commercials). The demonic possession is not to be taken at face value in a universe filled with Shadows, Vorlans, rogue telepaths and other strangeness. The demon's story even sounds like a Christian take on the Shadow War of 1000 years ago.
Especially strange is Lochley's suggestion that calling in a priest is one of the weirdest things she has ever done on Babylon 5. The whole conversation suggesting that priests are rare and that faith has declined as humanity has entered space is exactly the opposite of what we have seen in the earlier series. In several episodes there are vital human religious expressions, and alien species from Minbari to Narn hold fast to their spiritual traditions.
One nice touch is when Lochley tells Sheridan that Dr Franklin has joined G'Kar in his journey beyond the rim. Since the actors playing those roles have died, they are indeed beyond, and we can only echo Sheridan's remark that he misses them.
So a disappointment, but still not to be missed for a fan of the Babylon 5 universe. We can only hope that later episodes in this series bring in a few more actors.