I got my copy delivered from Amazon Canada today, and I've already watched the 72-minute episode.
The Single-Sentence Verdict?
If you're a fan of Babylon 5 -- whether hardcore, or simply someone who enjoyed the series-long story arc while it was on -- I think you'll enjoy this if you pick it up.
I loved B5 for its series-long story arc, and for the breadth and depth of its storytelling (the new Battlestar Galactica wasn't first in that regard), but I don't own the DVDs and I haven't watched an episode in years. It didn't matter. This disc gives you enough right off the top to remind you of what you should know, and to get you back in the groove.
If you're completely unfamiliar with B5, you should consider buying the boxed DVD sets, and then pick this up. :-)
It's essentially two stories in seventy-two minutes and it shows as a labor of creative love.
Babylon 5 Creator/Writer/Director Straczynski's trademark sharp writing (and humor) are in full evidence. The acting is solid, even from lesser players. Boxleitner (Sheridan) has improved as an actor with age, in my opinion. He's subtler in many ways; less "showy".
The visual effects are beyond what I expected for this sort of Direct-To-DvD project. Very nice, and well-used. Since there are no commercial breaks (hooray!), shifts in the story are most often signalled by a quick cut to an exterior shot.
The visual effects detail is markedly better than on the original show. When I heard that this (projected) series would be using CGI green-screen for certain backdrops, I sort of cringed inwardly -- we've all seen how wrong that can go -- but, to my surprise, it was well done, particularly in the crucial aspect of "light-matching". In one setting, you can sort of notice that the background and foreground lighting don't precisely match, but for the most part, I was surprised and impressed by how well the CGI backgrounds were implemented.
For the B5 fan faithful, there are extras on this disc: "making of" segments; interviews; and even memorial spots where creator and cast reminisce about the two actors in the ensemble cast who have passed on since the series ended.
Creator Straczynski has said up-front that this whole direct-to-DVD distribution model for an SF series is a big experiment/gamble. He's also said that their budget (at least, if and until this proves to be a succcessful distribution format) is significantly less than what a regular, network-produced SF show would get.
To their credit, you don't see any "cheapness" here. I've seen cheaper-looking shows done by the Sci-Fi network in the US, for example. As above, the CGI visual effects are first-rate -- more than I ever expected.
The major way the lesser budget shows through is in the lack of physical sets. A lot of scenes take place in corridors, or smaller rooms. The C&C (Command and Control -- i.e. the "bridge") of the Babylon 5 station is mentioned, but we never actually go there.
Given the fact that this release is a "pilot project", I can understand the creators wanting to put their finite budget where it would have maximum effect, rather than spending money on building a bunch of standing sets which might potentially never be used again, should this distribution model fail, and we see no more episodes.
If this distribution model does prove a success -- and I hope it does -- I would expect to see at least a few standing sets built. I mean, how many times can station commander Colonel Lochley have meetings in her quarters, before it all starts to seem a bit odd?
Still, what the episode lacks in physical substance, they cover with good lighting, inventive camera work, and solid editing. The score is orchestral and professional.
The only other place in which the lack of budget shows through is that both stories in the episode are very character- and dialogue-centred.
If you're looking for ferocious fights, with exploding scenery, and stunt people flying everywhere, it's not in this installment. We get some brief space-based CGI "blowin' stuff up real good", but nothing with live actors in fake peril.
The two stories here are all about character, and Straczynski's sharp dialogue. In fact, the first story in the pair is positively philosophical in tone -- bringing in topics like God, the devil, heaven and hell into the mix.
The actors are universally solid, so I found both stories interesting -- but if you're the kind of viewer who loses interest unless somebody's getting punched in the face, or something's on fire, this episode probably isn't for you.
I hope this DVD sells well enough to deem its distribution model a success -- not only so we can see more Babylon 5, with (hopefully) bigger budgets thanks to profits -- but so that it opens the door for other quality direct-to-DVD series of this type. I can't be the only one who'd like to see a little more Firefly, for example.
For that reason, I'd say buy this if you're interested. Send a tangible message that you like the distribution model, as well as the specific content, in a way that renting or pirating the DVD won't do.
Will we see more Babylon 5 this way? Time will tell -- but I certainly hope so.Read more ›
This new DVD release of 'Babylon 5-The Lost Tales' is a welcome return to a show that many consider one of the best Sci Fi shows ever to have graced television. The "Lost Tales' of the title consists of two vignettes,if you will,that are held together by a thread of the narrative/plot.The first concerns the demonic posession of a crew member which Capt.Lochley(Tracy Scoggins) with the help of a priest(Alan Scarfe,lately of Andromeda) has to contend with.This segment raises many philosophical questions about religion and the future of it and our place in it in the future. The second segment concerns President Sheridans' return to B-5 to attend the 10th anniversary of the alliance.Along the way our/his pesky technomage Galen(Peter Woodward)returns with a view of what could be Earths' future demise.Sheridan is(delightful to watch!) peeved off at his return and tells him to get lost,but to no avail.It seems the "message" is too important and Sheridan must take steps to do something before it occurs.The technomage recommends a path but,as usual,Sheridan takes his own,much to his(the technomages')chagrin.Will it be enough,will it work? The roughly 70 minute show ends as we all ponder his decision and he walks toward the anniversary celebrations on B-5.It leaves us with alot of unanswered questions and possibilities for the future of the B-5 universe and it leaves it wide open for more future B-5 movies(or another series?). I have seen an interview recently at AOL with Mr.Straczynski in which he states that the bottom line as to whether or not anything further develops from this is dependant solely on its' sales and the response it garners. Well I for one was left salivating for more after the 70 minutes of this movie came to its' very(seemingly) swift conclusion.So I can only hope all you B-5 fans out there will join me in getting this excellent and newest part of the B-5 Universe,you will not be disappointed. As a footnote there some neat extras in this DVD.There are interviews with Mr.Stracynski,Mr.Boxleitner,Tracy Scoggins and Peter Woodward.There is a 'fireside chat' with the producer who answers a slew of fan questions and there are two touching memorial segments dedicated to the memories of actors Richard Biggs(Dr.Franklin) and Andrea Katsulas(G'Kar) who passed away in 2004 and 2006 respectively.Lastly there's a segment from the producer giving us a glimpse into the making of the 'Lost Tales'.Enjoy.Read more ›
JMS provides two pretty solid stories to the viewer with the budget that he had been given to make this DVD. It's a shame that this didn't restart some of the series since with some more money per show I think these could have reached the quality of the main series. There are moments where the Lost Tales does reach B5's level but unfortunately the lack of characters and the short length of the film at only 75 minutes stop it from being anything more then o.k. Still it was great to see the B5 universe for what now looks like the last time and JMS certainly has written the script well I just wish he had more support from the executives.
If you are not a fan of Babylon 5, you're probably not looking at this page right now, so I'll write the review a B5 universe crack would want to read. Did I enjoy taking to my home 2 brand new B5 stories? Yes, sure. But each story is 35 minutes long, or rather, 35 minutes short... At the conclusion of each episode there is a wrap up - do I need a wrap up? Too short...
Are the stories any good? Well, the first one stars Stacy Scoggins as B5's CO. It's a story about heaven and hell and the existence of God... There are less than 10 actors in this episode and we mainly see 3 in two sets... Lots of dialogue and almost no action. Talk, talk, and talk. Some of it very well written with philosophical overtones... Some of it very bad... But the story is weak. In a weekly series, such so-so episodes are to be expected. But not when you waited 8 years for it. A priest is called in from Earth, but since the series we know B5 is a place where priests are based. Apparently Stracynzski forgot about that. The camera is interesting, the lighting is weird but excellent. Why weird? Because the backgrounds are CGI, the light on the actors does not fit the lighting of the background, but sometimes it gives the picture a surrealistic and artistic colour... Surround FX are great. There are some great CGI and the station never looked better... It's still less realistic looking than Battlestar Galactica, but I imagine they wanted to stay close to the original look and feel of B5 so they did quite well then. But, sadly, the story is just not interesting and could have been written for something other than B5...
The second episode is much better because its star, Bruce Boxleitner, gets into President Sheridan's skin as if the series never ended. Visually, the episode is also very good. We get to see Star Fury fighters in all their glory. The episode also marks the return of Galen, a Technomage seen in B5 and a main character of the ill-fated B5 Crusade spin-off. He warns Sheridan of a threat and wants him to act now to prevent the destruction of Earth in 30 years... Huh, what's the rush? This does not make sense... We get to see a future New York that closely resembles that of the movie The 5th Element... And we see it destroyed (New York, again??!!)... The camera looks at Galen and Sheridan with devastation in the background... We can see an almost identical shot in Star Trek Enterprise when Archer is brought to the future by a Temporal agent to see what remains of a destroyed San Francisco... Star Trek's Xindi weapon - a beam of light - is exactly what destroys New York... Such pastiche is sad indeed...
And another big problem is that Galen tells Sheridan that this new Centauri weapon is more powerful than anything ever made... Huh, and what about the Shadow's and Vorlon's planet destroyers? Those two ancient races were ahead of Humans and Centauri a million years technologically speaking! It's amazing that Stracynski, again, seems to forget about his own creation... Centauri Prime just can't possibly become the threat Galen predicts. Not in 30 years. Not in the B5 universe we know... Not in the B5 universe Straczynski should know so well... Or maybe they got Shadow weapons from the Drakh, but hey, we'll just never know in short 35 minutes capsules... And then again, the Interstellar Alliance, in which Earth is a member, is strong of the membership of many major powers... Who's afraid of Centauri Prime? I'm tired of sci-fi stories where Earth is targeted for destruction. B5 has already ventured in such territory in 'A Call to Arms' - and very well too - , but in a 90+ minutes TV movie...
Am I being too demanding? Am I thinking too much? No. I expect B5 to be treated with care and intelligence. This DVD release shows it's been treated with care but Straczynski certainly could have thought his stories over a great deal more...
I want more B5. But I want more than 35 minutes episodes. There are dozens of featurettes, they're not really interesting, except one or two - Boxleitner's interview and the memoriam for Biggs and Katsulas...Read more ›