MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE REVIEWS: "Babylon 5: Thirdspace" (1997)

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I just watched “Babylon 5: Thirdspace” (1998) – A Made-for-TV movie (Oxymoron if ever there was one), I’d only seen this twice, once when it first aired, and once a year or so later when I was wracked with insomnia.

While not at all a classic, and not even required-viewing for B5 Fans, It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, actually. Not great, by any stretch of the imagination, but not terrible. In essence the plot is B5-Does-Lovecraft: A sniveling, snarling, tentacled asymmetrical beasty released by ‘the old gods’ (In this case, the Vorlons) attempts to invade our universe, but is narrowly defeated by Captain John “Nuke ‘Em” Sheridan. The actual structure of the plot is kind of all over the place, and not really very good. There's a long slow burn to try and build up tension, with goings on that are supposed to be spooky, but really aren't. Then a long-lost hunk of Vorlon Tech turns on thanks to one of those cliched "You don't know what's going on here, only I know what's going on here!" kinds of scientists, then the fighting starts, the good guys win, the bad guys are once again consigned to outer darkness, the end. In the end, it's essentially an uninspired standalone episode stretched out to (Barely) feature length. The particulars of who goes where, why, and when are fairly unimportant, serve no larger purpose, and are ultimately rather tedious so I won't spoil 'em for you here, though I will say that all this pointless running around gives Sheridan one of his best lines in a moment of introspection immediately prior to going off on yet-another-virtually-suicidal mission.

The actual details on *when* this movie takes place in the grand scheme of things are a bit vague – they say “After the shadow war” and “Before the war to liberate earth” but it always felt a bit of a shoehorn. I decided to figure out when, more specifically it took place, and after some searching I discovered that according to the semi-abandoned “Lurker’s Guide” site here and here the movie actually takes place in between the first and second scenes of “Atonement”, the 9th episode of Season Four. Weird. It doesn’t *Totally* fit there, either, as Zack closes things out with Lyta in that seemingly endless scene in the elevator in this movie, but then continues to hit on her for the rest of the season, which is a bit of a continuity snag, but, meh. Good enough for a sloppy retcon that no one much cared about.

Noteworthy: the Special Effects in this are much, much better than I’m used to for B5 – I’m not sure if it’s the better transfer used for the movies than the episodes, or that it was done by Netter Digital rather than Foundation, but whatever, it looks good. Also, Shari Belafonte guest stars as Dr. Trent, a Xenoarcheologist. I’m increasingly sure that Shari Belafonte is actually Harry Belafonte in drag, but beyond that I noticed that every line that comes out of her mouth in this movie is pretty much exactly like every line that ever came out of Dr. Max Eilerson’s mouth from Crusade. Same details, lack of loyalty, style of speaking. Dr. Trent is obviously an early draft of Max. I got to thinking ‘man, what a wasted opportunity! This would have been a great time to introduce Max, and then set him up as a recurring character in Crusade” because if you’re not introducing a character who’ll pay off later on, what’s the freakin’ point of an entire movie with a one-shat guest star that gets 25 minutes of screen time? Throw that on the pile of things I’d fix if I ever get a chance to remake B5. Oh, and a minor Downbelow thug turns up again briefly here - "Deuce" from "Grail" shows up in a small part.

(In fact, William Sanderson who played Deuce auditioned for Thirdspace, and the producers had completely forgotten that he'd been on the show playing a similar character before, so they hastily re-named said thug. Again, this shows how much thought was put in to this movie)

Finally, this movie represents Claudia Christian's swan song for the series. She was fired (Or quit) immediately after filming on it wrapped. Continuity-wise, she's still got about 13 episodes in the series that take place *after* this, but they were filmed before this. One of the many continuity errors of this movie - shoehorned in to the pre-existing story as it is - is that her hair is all super-hydrated and curly and glamorous and bouncin' and behavin' and whatever other terms women use to describe, you know, really not-at-all-natural looking movie star hair. This in no way matches her 'do in the episodes that take place before or after this movie. I guess it was an extrordinarily good hair day for Commander Ivonova, and no one got to see it except Vir and the sniveling, snarling, betentacled asymmetrical beasties from the other dimentions. Poor thing.

As with all the B5 movies, much of the cast is missing, or only present for one or two cameo scenes in order to bring the thing in under its very limited $3 million budget. Shoehorning the story here between the Shadows and the Civil War does help that somewhat, as many of the principle cast were away from the station on various missions at that time, but even so, the station feels oddly empty with so few familiar faces around. There's a "Summerschool" feeling to the proceedings.

Oh, almost forgot: Longest fight scene ever – it’s like they tried to pad an episode up to movie length by tacking on a 30-minute riot scene. Nedless to say, it doesn't really work.