Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales - Voices In The Dark

There's a reason these tales were lost.

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales is Joe Michael Straczynski's direct-to-DVD continuation of his well-loved B5 universe. Intended to be an ongoing series, of which Voices In The Dark is the first and so far only, each disc in the series features two or more short telenovellas featuring original members of the Babylon 5 and Crusade casts.

The first half of Voices In The Dark opens 10 years after the final season of B5 and showcases Commander Lochley, now promoted to the rank of Colonel. Actress Tracy Scoggins has clearly seen better days, but stumbling around like a drunk on a bender and going to bed wearing ridiculous prostitute makeup are the least of her worries when she finds herself dealing with a traveller exhibiting a raging case of demonic possession.

No stranger to The Exorcist, Lochley promptly whistles up a deeply generic old priest with a shaky belief system, who endlessly pontificates about the nature of God and the Devil until you're begging Lochley to flush him out the nearest airlock. The next half hour drones by in a procession of tedious monologues; Lochley asks herself some hard and deeply uninteresting questions about the nature of faith, and then somehow it all resolves itself, ending the first half of the disc in an uninspiring drizzle of mediocrity.

For the second Tale, we find Sheridan looking rather dapper as President of the Interstellar Alliance and being interviewed by an unconvincingly trampy ISN reporter. Some winceworthy attempts at humour are made, until the real story kicks into gear when technomage Galen visits Sheridan in a dream to tell him that Sheridan must kill a young Centauri to prevent a forthcoming apocalypse.

Of course, Sheridan is going to do no such thing, no matter how much the show attempts to convince you over the next 30 minutes that he might. Bruce Boxleitner is a vastly better actor than Tracy Scoggins and is sober to boot, so this expedition is by and large more successful than its predecessor, but it's still a tiring farce that avoids B5's traditional strengths as though they were made of killer bees.

Neither of the two stories are well written or well directed. JMS is responsible for both the script and the direction, so the blame falls squarely at his feet. The short story format sits poorly with his traditional flair for the epic, and his penchant for the monologue finds neither the dramatic timing nor the acting talent to be effective. The special effects and digital compositing fail to convince and the small set and cast budgets make the environments feel claustrophobic and provincial.

Ultimately The Lost Tales adds nothing of consequence to the Babylon 5 universe, completely fails to stand on its own merits, and is a depressing embarassment to all concerned in its creation. No amount of obsessive fandom can justify supporting this rubbish with money and you're best to leave it alone and wait for B5 to resurface in the fullness of time with some genuine inspiration and enthusiasm behind it.


Xantar said...

No chance of an Ivanova reappearance, then? :(

Greg Tannahill said...

Doesn't seem likely. I think everyone involved is better off if she avoids these horrible things.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review. Couldn't agree more.