Thursday, March 28, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Two tales in my favorite sci-fi universe
Cons: Too few of the old characters; too short
The Bottom Line:
Babylon 5 fix
Not as good as the series
But nice to visit




Two Short Tales from Babylon 5

How I got hooked on Babylon 5, I really don't know. I mean, this is science fiction and I generally enjoy mystery. But ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you just how much I love this show. Even 10 years after it went off the air, I still consider it my favorite TV show of all time.

Even so, the thought of more adventures in the Bab 5 universe left me with mixed feelings. While the series itself is wonderful, the made for TV movies and spin offs have often left much to be desired. Granted, that hasn't always been the fault of creator J. Michael Stracznski (or JMS to us fans), but more often then not it has. So I approached The Lost Tales with excitement mixed with caution. Fortunately, I was rewarded for my faith.

Actually, calling this a movie is a bit of a misnomer. The DVD is a combination of two short stories. And with each one clocking around 35 minutes, I do mean short. They are only slightly tied together in the end, but stand alone quite well. Along the way, we get to see once again Lochley, Sheridan, and Galen.

Up first, we find Colonel Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) dealing with a strange new force on Babylon 5. In fact, she's called in a priest because it appears to be a demon possession. Is that what it really is? Should they try an exorcism?

Of the two stories, I felt this one moved slower. Still, it engaged me and I was quite into the story by the time it ended. And the ending really amazed me again at JMS's storytelling abilities.

The second story centers on President Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and techno-mage Galen (Peter Woodward). Sheridan is on his way to Babylon 5 for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the alliance. Along the way, Galen appears to him with a vision of the destruction of Earth. That destruction is still preventable. Will Sheridan do what needs to be done to save Earth?

This story felt even more like something from the Babylon 5 universe to me then the first, and I quickly got into it. It really helped that this one had a bit of humor to it and some tidbits that ties it better to the show. The pace was fast and the emotion real. I really liked it.

Both shows were well acted. The three series stars slipped quite easily back into their roles, which made it easy for me to get back into the universe. There were really only four other actors of note, and they did fine jobs as well.

The special effects on both of these stories were outstanding. The show has always used cutting edge technology, and this DVD is no exception. In fact, what is done here puts the series to shame.

But the disc does have its flaws. You can tell by the limited sets, set dressings, and parts what a small budget they had to work with. Frankly, I missed most of the characters from the series and kept wishing they'd pop up. I did like the references to them scattered throughout the film. In the 10 years since the show ended, we've lost two of the series actors. There are tributes to Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas, both during the show and in the extras. Both were very fitting to these fine men. It makes me sad we will never have a chance to catch up with their characters if the series of direct to video releases continues.

As much as I loved the disc, I find it hard to see anyone not already familiar with the universe enjoying the story. My emotional connection to these characters and knowledge of their back story helped me jump right into the show. Without that instant connection, it would be quite hard to enjoy what is here.

Because of the length and low budget, The Lost Tales isn't as good as the series was. But it is very, very close. Well worth watching if you miss this sci-fi classic.

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