(This is the IMDb review I wrote. I hope to write a longer, more detailed, and even more emotional review at a later date. You know how it is with these things, though, so it might take a while.)
Babylon 5 is probably the best television series ever made. It’s not that I have an uncritical “fanboy” view of it – it just happens to be the most thoughtful, complex, well-written and touching bit of television I have ever seen.
While B5 is not really a franchise, there is a lot of unexplored space (no pun intended) in the B5 universe; space which should allow for some very interesting stories to be told. The Lost Tales is just that. Not another series, or a pointless and unrealistic “cast reunion” thing (as some people would have wanted it to be), but small stories about the characters and the world that we have come to love. An anthology.
Previous outings into the B5 universe (apart from the series itself) have been mixed; In the Beginning was quite brilliant, for example, whereas River of Souls and Legend of the Rangers suffered from bad direction in one case and studio interference in the other.
Voices in the Dark is everything that we could have wanted it to be. Visually, it beats just about everything out there to a metaphorical pulp – both the special effects and the camera work are just stunning. Musically, Christopher Franke outdoes himself yet again, making me wish he’d done the music for Crusade. (Yes, I see the logical arguments behind using another composer for that series. However, the music in Crusade sucks, no matter how you look at it.) But above all, B5 is about the characters and the story, and that’s where the Lost Tales truly shine.
The actors are, as cliché as the phrase may be, simply superb, adding another layer of complexity to already deep characters. Bruce Boxleitner’s Sheridan in particular is just brilliant; the mixture of humour, empathy and authority makes for a remarkably layered and likable character.
The writing is not just fantastic, but thoroughly enjoyable. From snappy one-liners to long discussions of the role of religion in a spacefaring society, JMS has once again crafted a web of words that will be remembered and quoted for years to come, filled with an intense love of humanity and with hope for its future.
Does this sound over the top? It isn’t. I wouldn’t write such emotional words about The Legend of the Rangers or Thirdspace – but when it comes to this first installment of The Lost Tales, I can go on and on. This is the real deal. This is storytelling of the highest quality.
P.S. Since writing this, I’ve looked around the net and read some reviews. That was a serious mistake which almost made me lose my faith in mankind. It’s amazing, really – people will claim any kind of nonsense just to attack something that is too intelligent or thoughtful for their tastes. Someone said the episodes were too talky (umm… hello? not everything has to be about space battles, you know) , someone else claimed the effects were bad (and I’m a Norwegian cephalopod), and yet another deluded soul claimed the original series stole liberally from other shows. The last bit in particular just made me shout WTF? at the top of my lungs. If there has been a single original sci-fi series on TV in the past twenty years, it was Babylon 5! That’s not a matter of debate – there just isn’t anything even remotely similar. And don’t say Deep Space Nine, that’s absurd. DS9 is fine, but it’s a completely different kind of thing. Another drooling ghoul claimed Galen’s lines were badly written – when Galen has some of the most astonishingly brilliant lives ever! Maybe it’s because they’re so Shakespearean, and some people think that’s “unrealistic.”
This always happens to B5. Why is it such a crime for a show to be literate and intelligent?
It’s just sad. *sigh*