Anyone who considers themselves a science fiction buff has to have watched all five seasons of Babylon 5 and the many television movies that were produced to complement the complex storylines that creator J. Michael Straczynski envisioned for the show. When the show finally ended, the die-hard fans clamored and begged for a feature-length movie. Instead, they got more television movies and a spin-off show called Crusade which was canceled very early into the show’s run.
When Straczynski was again approached to do a feature-length for a show that hadn’t been regularly broadcast since 1998, he was very hesitant, especially after two of the main actors from the show (Andreas Katsulas and Richard Biggs) have since passed away. So instead of a feature-length, Straczynski decided on a few direct-to-DVD anthology sets that would be more character-driven and more personal than anything that been done before, but still have essential roles in the already established B5 universe.
Voices In The Dark is the first anthology set with two episodes, one featuring Colonel Elizabeth Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) and the other featuring President of the Interstellar Alliance John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Galen (Peter Woodward). Both episodes intertwine and are set during the same 72-hour timeframe in the year 2272. The Babylon 5 station is busier than usual as President Sheridan is set to arrive in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance’s founding.
The first one titled “Over Here” involves Lochley and a crew member (Bruce Ramsay) supposedly possessed by the devil. Lochley summons one of the few priests left on Earth, Father Kelly (Alan Scarfe), to perform an exorcism. It seems like a straightforward action, until the crew member begins reading minds, predicting the future, and even creating a firestorm around the station to show his authenticity.
These events lead Lochley and Kelly to believe that the crew member is possessed by the devil, but what’s strange is that he actually wants to be exorcised. The devil‘s willfulness leads Lochley and Kelly to second-guess any and all options. Can the concept of God and the devil still be viable even after humans have long explored the far reaches of the galaxy and after all of the angels and demons (“The First Ones” to you newbs) have left?
The second one titled “Over There” involves President Sheridan as he travels to Babylon 5, but on the way he stops to pick up Prince Regent Dius Vintari (Keegan Macintosh), a representative of the Centauri Republic, for the B5 festivities. During the trip, Sheridan receives a dream from the technomage Galen about Earth’s future destruction, and that the only way to prevent it is to kill the young Vintari.
Sheridan is at odds over the situation. He is one of the few people who trust in the visions of the technomages, yet after meeting Vintari he realizes that the prince is just a young man, still at the crossroads of what kind of person he will become. Galen is already predicting Vintari to be an unholy tyrant, even citing Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan as equals; yet, Sheridan sees Vintari as a kid, eager to explore the stars with a strange passion for non-Centauri starships.
This first anthology set highlights one of the strengths of the original show, which was its emphasis on the characters and how they relate and react to the universe around them. With Lochley, she has to cope with the idea that the battle between God and Lucifer is still being waged even long after the heavens appear to be nothing more than empty cold space with sprinkles of planets and stars. With Sheridan, he has to cope with the idea of being the judge, jury, and executioner of a man who is supposed to be Earth’s destroyer thirty years into the future. And neither Lochley nor Sheridan has much time to make a decision, let alone try to make the right one.
The Lost Tales is presented in 1:77:1 widescreen. Special features include many interviews with Straczynski on the show and on the evolution of the anthology series concept and its future. There is also a section of the creator asking several fan questions. The last batch of extras includes a memorial feature with interviews by Straczynski, Boxleitner, and Scoggins on the lives of Katsulas and Biggs and what it was like working with them.
Any future installment of this anthology series will depend solely on the success of Voices In The Dark. Straczynski already has a few stories lined up to tell, and if this set sells well then the next one is a go for 2008.
For die-hard fans looking for another B5 adventure, this DVD is more than adequate. For casual fans looking for the B5 action and thrilling intrigue that the show is known for, you might be disappointed, since much of the 75-minute running time is solely dialogue. But with anything B5, it certainly fills gaps in the B5 universe while also creating a few new ones.