Friday, June 22, 2012

Babylon 5: River of Souls

I've been obsessed with Babylon 5 for many, many years. During the original run of it's third and fourth season, it was my favorite show on television (it's still one of my favorites of all time).

Like most people I don't actually like the fifth season of the show very much. It has amazing moments, and the way they wrap up the Narn and Centauri story lines is astonishingly good. There are few moments as poignant as The Fall of Centauri Prime.

Of course, there are large swathes of fifth season that I just don't enjoy in any way. One of those significant problems for me is Captain Elizabeth Lochley. I have problems with her on multiple levels, all directed at the writing.

Her character is almost always used as the one that asks the stupid questions so that somebody can remind the audience of things that happened before. She's also usually the one who repeats things back in a slightly different phrasing so that the point is clear. She's frequently the one they use to churn out the expository dialogue. The character is at a huge disadvantage because she's the new one in an established ensemble cast. She's taking the place of a very beloved character. For no reason they give her a plot twist that will set part of the audience against her (her relationship with Sheridan). And the writing didn't do her a single favor.

All of this is my way of explaining why I managed to be so in love with this show and say that I also had never seen River of Souls until we watched it during our rewatch. I knew it was a movie that featured Soul Hunters (not my favorite alien race) and Lochley, a character I find uninteresting.

While part of me was a little happy to have this new and fresh Babylon 5 experience, I also found all my suspicions confirmed. It was nice to have something I didn't know the end to, to be discovering the story as it went along. But Lochley's dialogue was exactly like what I described above. She explained a lot of things, and strategically asked questions so that people could explain things that we already knew so that new viewers wouldn't be lost.

I'm not saying Lochley's not still a better female character than most that you'll find on television. She gets a lot of crap just for not being Ivanova. And obviously she's just not the type of character that I tend to enjoy either.

This isn't supposed to be a review of Lochley, but of the film. But I find talking about Lochley more interesting. I have no idea how Martin Sheen ended up with this part, or what kind of direction he was given to chew the scenery quite this much. He's completely miscast and it gets awkward. Garibaldi is, as always, fun. Seeing Richard Biggs in his cameo was actually a little heartbreaking because of the context and how his life was cut so short only a few years later.

But all in all, it was a story that would fit in with the show, it just didn't feel special enough for it's own movie. It was really more of an episode that got stretched out and repetitive at times.