TV MOVIE CAPSULE REVIEWS:Babylon 5:”Legend of the Rangers” (2002), “River of Souls” (1998) and “A Call to Arms” (1999)

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Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight (2002) – yet another TV Movie, intended as a pilot for yet another B5 spinoff. This one was stillborn, but watching it again for the first time in 5 years or so, I rather liked it. Not great, but I think maybe it had more potential than the quickly-cancelled Crusade. As with nearly all pilots, it’s really exposition-heavy. The acting is all rather stiff, and it’s a crying shame seeing the late Andreas Katsulas in his last-ever appearance as G’kar without him having someone solid to play off of. The bad guys - “The Hand” - were a fair adversary, but we never got much sense of them, and I suppose it’s unlikely that we ever will. There are tantalizing clues all through this movie that producer/writer Joe Straczynski (Who I would love to interview some day [Editor's note: and I did! Check it out here ) had some long-range plans for the series this show was intended to spawn, and while rough, you know I kind of think this show would have had some promise to it, despite it’s obviously threadbare budget.

“Babylon 5: The River of Souls.” – Pretty much sucked. I’d write more, but how many ways can you say “Sucked?” Quite a few, actually: I’m articulate, but I don’t think it’s the best use of either of our time, so I’ll be brief: Ian McShane comes to the station with a planet full of ghosts in a glowing bowling ball. The ghosts haunt the station until Martin Sheen shows up to get them back. There’s an entirely un-funny “Comedic” subplot involving a brothel. Stuff happens, there’s some running and shouting, it ends. Ultimately no one really cares. This is far and away the weakest of the B5 tv movies.

Babylon 5: A Call To Arms (1999) – This TNT TV Movie was intended as a segue/not-quite-pilot for the spinoff “Crusade” series. This was a damn fine farewell to some old friends and a nice setup for the show that, alas, died in thirteen weeks. I said at the time - and I maintain now - that this is the best of the B5 TV movies (Surprisingly there were six of these. Seven if you count the special edition. Parhaps that makes it six-and-a-half?). Budget is good, story is interesting and moves briskly, Galen is just a great character played greatly by Mr. Woodward, and while the Drakh may be merely a placeholder villain for the Shadows, there’s a nice feel and energy to this. I actually like the Evan Chang soundtrack, though most fans of the series do not, and I feel the final battle scene is edited a bit too choppy to really be fully appreciated, but this was our last chance to see and Garibaldi, and it is great and glorious and fitting that as the Starkiller goes riding off in to one last battle, The Chief is holding his coat. It’s fun stuff, but a bit bittersweet.

In fact, between Garibaldi and G’Kar both of these movies are rather bittersweet. All goodbyes are, of course, but unexpected last goodbies are moreso, filled with hopes and dreams and unrealized potential that comes from being forced to give up something you were nowhere near done with yet.