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I admit it. I am a Babylon 5 junkie. No, better stated... Babylon 5, the
series, is a spiritual journey for me, one which largely outlines my own
belief structure quite succinctly. This does not make me a Babylon 5 fan(as
in fanatic) however. I do not attend conventions. I do not collect
memorabilia. I do not keep a cherish autographed picture of Bruce
Boxleitner in my closet. No, the show is enough for me.
So now I have to ask myself. What was J. Michael Straczinski thinking when he wrote Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers? I eagerly anticipated this premiere, largely because I felt if left to his own devices (which was clearly not the case on Crusade), he might create something that measured up to the genius of the series. Not so. In fact, the premiere of LotR (not to be confused with LotR of the big screen!) was a tragedy. Hackneyed, confused, and sometimes laughably bad, this will not earn him more fans.
There are a few bright spots. An early scene between Martel and Dulann hints of Straczinski's ability to humanize his relationships. And Andreas Katsulas is always a pleasure to watch; his imposing presence as G'Kar always made Babylon 5 a joy and his presence in this film is much the same.
Tragically, we see too little of both of these things in LotR. Instead we are treated to some truly bad acting in the form of Myriam Sirois as Ranger Cantrell. This character is as superfluous as she is poorly conceived. As weapons officer, she has little more to do than to make laughably ludicrous punching and kicking motions in the virtually reality weapons chamber. This outlines a big problem in and of itself; the need to include gratuitous special effects, even if there is no logical reason for their existence. The virtually reality weapons are the perfect example of this. They make no sense, they look absolutely ridiculous, and they appear *far* too often.
Contrast this to the original series, whose special effects were notoriously "fake" looking, quite obviously conceived on a limited CGI budget. But that was part of the charm of the show; our attention could be drawn temporarily to the eye candy of the effects while our concentration remained squarely on the relationships.
If the show actually goes to series after this premiere, I will give it a shot. After all, if I had based my opinion of Babylon 5 solely on the basis of the premiere (Babylon 5: The Gathering), I'm not sure I would have watched the show either. But Mr. Straczinski, really. I know you can do better than this.
Let me start off by saying I love Babylon 5- the first four seasons
What appealed to me was its long-story format, the epic taking years to unfold, full of lore, myth, and detailed characters that evolved and changed over time.
I would suggest to J.M. Straczynski that he create some new sort of epic. Babylon 5 was a great story. But one of the things that make stories great is that they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It ended. Let it be. Perhaps the book trilogies that continue the Babylon 5 canon would make good miniseries- such as "Legions of Fire" or the Psy-Cop trilogy. What is NOT needed is another "adventure of the week" series in the B5 universe. It obviously did not work with "Crusade." Why should it work here? The format is so similar to Crusade (a ship of people zipping around the galaxy having adventures) that one wonders if they were simply planning on using unaired "Crusade" scripts to cut writing costs.
The tele-movie's biggest flaw is that it has no plot whatsoever. A ship full of very young Rangers is sent on a mission to protect some diplomats. For some reason, bad guys attack them. Our heroes spend the movie outwitting the baddies. However, these bad guys are merely working for THE bad guys- who are described as bigger and badder and older than the Shadows.
No imagination there.
The next flaw is the concept itself. The Rangers on B5 were spiritual, dedicated, fighters, sort of like Jedi Knights. A few were sent here and there to protect the peace, to run covert operations and gather intelligence, to be a revered force working mostly behind the scenes. Keep in mind that Sinclair created them based on the Rangers of Tolkien lore. Instead, these Rangers- who seem as if they came out of your typical "space-marine" movie- now serve on crews of their own ships, going out on adventures of the week- I mean assignments.
The characters are dull cardboard cutouts. We have a captain that looks like he just finished playing high-school football, a hot-but-tough weapons officer, a cheeky second in command (who sees the ghosts that the ship is- for some reason- haunted with.) One crew member is so dimwitted that one can't possibly imagine him being a Ranger (One of his twelve lines is, "I lift big things.") G'Kar is in this movie as the guest star to link us to B5. He really serves no purpose to the story. Sadly, he is the only interesting person in the entire show.
Last, but not least, are the virtual space fights. This is so terrible. How could anyone seriously have gone along with this concept? The weapons officer enters the VR fighting unit, where she is blue-screened against a star field. When the bad ships come, she literally kung-fu fights them. Fireballs shoot from her virtual hands and feet, which is actually the ship firing at it's enemies. Were there any viewers who were not on the floor, curled in a ball, laughing hysterically? I really don't think this was the creators' intention.
Again. I love B5, and the B5 Universe. But it's over. Please let it rest in peace, Mr. Straczynski, and concentrate your efforts elsewhere. Please.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
MILD-ISH SPOILERS throughout.
We live for the one, we die for the one. And so this needless attempt at another Babylon 5 spinoff series begins, with Ranger David Martel (Dylan Neal) breaking the Anla'shok code of honour and fleeing from battle rather than needlessly dying. His superiors punish him with the command of an old starship that lost its previous crew in battle. This previous crew still haunts the ship. Martel gathers a small crew, and their first adventure involves a lot of nancying around, chewing scenery and saying "We live for the one, we die for the one" every few minutes.
The thing that made Babylon 5 so great was its five-year plot arc. All non-arc stories are remembered with distaste, in particular the dire TV movies like "Thirdspace" and "River of Souls". When B5 isn't doing its five-year arc, B5 just isn't working. So I don't think a "starship adventures" series would have worked, and this pilot doesn't do anything to disprove my theory. (We live for the one, we die for the one.)
It's easiest to list the things that didn't work:
G'Kar's appearance is the most welcome thing, but it feels pointlessly tacked on. He's the "bridge" between shows, rather like Picard's appearance in the ST:DS9 pilot, or Quark's appearance in the ST:Voyager pilot. He waltzes into private Ranger disciplinary hearings. He just conveniently happens to be one of the ambassadors picked up later in the episode. We live for the one, we die for the one... or did I say that already?
Rather than introducing the new characters subtley throughout the episode, there is one big cheesy scene where the new crew gathers around a table to state their names and specialities. Imagine if a new Star Trek series started with a scene like: "Hi. I'm Will Riker. I'm a First Officer. Yay me!" "Hi. I'm Data. I'm a robot guy. I don't have emotions." "Hi, I'm Tasha Yar. I'm kinda butch and I'm going to die soon."
The Rangers are nothing like their previous portrayal in B5. We remember Marcus Cole as the perfect blueprint of a Ranger, and none of the characters here compare. There is so little spirituality or nobility. The Rangers here are wise-crackin' gung-ho heroes. It's just not right. Oh by the way: we live for the one, we die for the one.
The weapons thing. Oh dear. The first time the weapons chick (Cantrell) jumped into her virtual reality chamber and started punching and kicking fireballs to control the space battle, I thought it was pretty unique. It's good to make weapon control more interesting than simply pushing buttons. But then there was ANOTHER of these scenes, then another, and another. The last one was full on CHEESE, with Cantrell having what can only be described as a laughable spaz-attack. And can I just add: we live for the one, we die for the one.
The "haunted ship" concept is very interesting, but it didn't work well here. There just wasn't room in the plot to squeeze it in. If the pilot went into a series I'd have loved to see more stories about the ghosts. But at the end of the episode the characters basically say: "Well, it looks like we've satisfied those ghosts and we won't be seeing them anymore." Damn!
BIGGER SPOILERS NOW. This pilot introduces what could have possibly been the main nemesis for the series, known as "The Hand". These aliens are said to be about a billion years more ancient than the Shadows, and they have finally got back to our dimension. This just sucks. It undermines the Shadows totally. The TV movie "Thirdspace" did something similar with an ancient deadly enemy breaking out of another dimension, and it was annoying that time too. But anyway... we live for the one, we die for the one.
So those are the bad things about Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers. But it's not a total loss. There were moments of J. Michael Straczynski goodness. One thing you can say about his writing is that he's not afraid of full-on balls-out cheese. The usual charm and groan-worthy humour can be found here in small doses. And for all its faults, it's still better than an average episode of Enterprise. And aren't ALL pilots rubbish in comparison to the show that blooms from them? Wasn't B5's pilot quite rubbish and cheesy too? I'd have liked to test out Legend of the Rangers for a full 22 episodes before giving up on it.
We live for the one, we die for the one. Or we just watch fairly average TV pilots for the one.
Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers is the second ill-fated attempt to
launch a spin-off to the critically acclaimed space saga Babylon 5.
not only does this telemovie, intended to launch the series, fall short of
the precedent set by the epic Babylon 5, it comes off looking worse than
Crusade, the original attempt at a B5 spin-off, widely criticised by fans
for the network's handling of the show's artistic and storytelling side.
Here, it seems that the makers of Legend of the Rangers have managed to
screw up all on their own, and the result is a movie that is lacklustre at
best and dreadfully appalling at worst.
Legend of the Rangers is set some time after the conclusion of Babylon 5. It deals with a group of Rangers: scouts and warriors drawn from the ranks of member worlds of the broad-reaching Interstellar Alliance. Originally an institution exclusively handled by the Minbari race, it has also been accepting humans (occurring in the Babylon 5 series) and more recently others. The main character is David Martel, a young Ranger struck from ship captain candidacy and facing disciplinary action for breaking one of the Ranger's guiding rules: never break from combat. The fact that he fled only because his ship no longer had weapons capabilities, his captain was dead and he had no chance of winning does not phase his Minbari disciplinarians. He is demoted and a rival Minbari Ranger assumes the post he was to take aboard the newly commissioned Valen, the most advanced ship in the Ranger arsenal. Backed up by his crew and Citizen G'Kar (an oddly un-engaging Andreas Katsulas), he is given command of an old, supposedly haunted patrol boat and sent off as an escort to the Valen on a secret security mission transporting diplomats to a conference.
And that's when things go crazily wrong. The Valen is destroyed by a mysterious new alien race, the diplomats are forced aboard the tiny patrol ship and Martel and his crew have to fight the aliens, find a traitor in their midst and deal with the troubled ghosts of the last crew. Martel solves many of these problems quite simply: all the solutions involve sticking heaps of explosives inside an escape pod and blowing the enemy up when they go to retrieve it. This happens twice in the course of the movie. So much for superior alien intelligence.
Nothing comes off quite right in Legend of the Rangers. The best elements seem mediocre and the worst are laughable. The acting is average, with only Martel and his Minbari 2IC Dulann coming off as likeable characters. The rest come across as narrow stereotypes: quiet Minbari healer, stupid Drazi loader, feisty Narn engineer and, who could forget, the aggressive red-headed weapons officer. In fact, its her role that creates one of the stupidest sequences in the whole movie: her in the 'weapons pod' which suspends her in a holographic representation of her surroundings in which she randomly spins in mid air firing the ships guns by punching and kicking the air causing plasma bursts to erupt from her clenched fists. This is only made more ridiculous by remembering that Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski always prided himself on having realistic technology. Is this the worst idea in a highly billed sci-fi show to date? In short: if it isn't, I deeply fear anything worse than it.
The enemies, an ancient alien order known as `The Hand' don't come off at all either. We are told they are billions of years old, and only their servants show themselves in this movie. Despite their superiority though, their technologically superior ships (which tear the Valen to pieces in seconds) have a really hard time taking out a damaged patrol vessel and its escape pod slinging captain. Their leader, glimpsed in transmissions is hardly menacing: he simply wears a horned hood and speaks in a vaguely legalistic sense. On the whole, these aliens feel like a mix of the Shadows and the Thirdspace aliens from Babylon 5, both of which relied on the exact same premise of ancient evil. The difference: the originals were better.
Even the presence of the charismatic Andreas Katsulas cant save this movie, and for the most part, he looks like he doesn't want to try. No explanation is offered for G'Kar's presence, and he feels like he's only there to bridge the original series and the spin-off and make them feel like a cohesive whole.
In the end, only the visual effects stand out as above-average, and even then we feel uneasy with them. Depictions of Minbar in this movie differ wildly from any place on the planet ever seen before, and while the space scenes are impressive, they're not above anything seen in the B5 telemovies or Crusade.
In the end, Legend of the Rangers comes off as a barely credible mess that lacks the intelligence and characterisation of its predecessor. Its not that character motives are unclear, its that they're too clear, each person so wrapped up in a traditional stereotype they are unlikely to break it. Those B5 fans still looking for a successor after the demise of Crusade will have to keep looking: they wont find it here.
Rangers !? These people are cowboys. Gone is the intelligent, cool,
ranger. In the original series Rangers were a highly trained group of
multi-talented people, kind of like a special forces unit. They were
trained in Minbari ways, had a lot of personal control and subtlety was an
important part of the way they worked. This group of rangers seems to
practically no knowledge of Mimbari ways, little self control, and no
The ship is ridiculous. The Whitestar ships were beautiful and elegant. This one is poorly lit and silly. Some of the control stations are in hallways -- that's where you want crucial system controls -- in the hallway so the operators can block people rushing from one station to another. That way they can get blocked when something hits the ship and all the actors have to do the old "Star Trek" "something hit the ship boogie" (yes, they do resort to that in this movie). The ship is constantly losing weapons systems. It seems like their ships should be better equipped than that, but then again, if they didn't keep losing weapons there would be no other way to make the "plot" work. With properly working weapons it would be a half hour movie !
I am an avid fan of Babylon 5. I love the series and all the other movies. This movie is nowhere close to the same quality. The acting is stilted, the characters are shallow and the special effects are lame (the lady "punching" the projectiles is really funny).
This movie has been promoted for months, yet it has the feel of a movie that they didn't have enough time or money to do properly.
Oh Marcus, we miss you!
The best thing about B5 was that it was all planned from the beginning :
five seasons. That made it good. That made log story--archs possible. That
created wonderful intrigues that could never be concieved in the regular
kind of show (read: Star Trek) where the plot is always the same: "bust
alien-of-the-week for the mystery-of-the-week, or defeat the
microbe-of-the-week with a stream-of-technobabble".
Rangers seems to be dangerously near falling into this trap. The crew was more Star-Trek-all-american-hotshots than the seasoned, competent people of a B5 crew.
The battle interface was an outright stupid idea. Let's just leave it at that.
The dialog was bad. Good lines were overused, like "we live for the one, we die for the one".
And for the love of all that's good and true... the Rangers are NOT kamikaze pilots! The original rangers were never some suicidal freaks ready to die pointless deaths just to save face. They fought in their own ways, but they were intelligent enough to realise when there was a need for retreat, to return to fight another day.
Marcus was a true ranger. He was a gentleman and a warrior of honor, dedicated to a great philosophy. This new bunch seemed more his opposits than his equals.
They were not rangers. This was not worthy of the great label B5. This is a story that might as well have been stolen from the Star Trek files.
The only thing that I really, really liked was a single line (reference to Lord of the Rings): "We stand on the bridge none may pass".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this film after finishing the whole five seasons, all 13
episodes of Crusade and the other five films. I had already got the
general idea from Babylon 5 forums that this film was not going to be
good. But since I am a forgiving and merciful person and a big fan of
Babylon 5, I thought I'd go soft on it.
However... the disappointments prevailed.
To start with- the Rangers. Every other comment touches the same problem: the Rangers here are nothing what they ought to be. These guys are impulsive (especially Ne'Feel and Sarah) and irrational and one of them (Tirk) is just plain stupid. How could such people command a Ranger ship (and a strange one indeed)? How could they even BECOME Rangers? And since when does the Grey Council judge them?
To continue with- the Hand. You may remember Delenn telling the B5 crew about the First Ones, Shadows being the eldest. You may remember Lorien, the eldest of all. And here we have a race, billions of years old, powerful beyond imagination, sensing their chance to conquer and destroy (or just destroy), whose ships fall to simple explosives in a life-pod...
To further continue with- the VR shooting and other minor points. It seemed quite interesting when Sarah first jumped inside, but the sheer impracticability of it and the ridiculous scenes that followed killed the idea off. After the ambassadors get on board, they complain and after that, they somehow disappear from the scene. And G'Kar is simply abused and flattened here.
To end with- I could dismiss the darkness and mist around the base on Minbar with thinking "it was at night, probably in industrial quarter". I could judge it as a pilot knowing that JMS has some tricks up his sleeve he would show later. I could appreciate the CGI. I could do all that and I still cannot find enough compassion for this film.
I am truly sorry it had to end like this.
For someone who can come up with the concept of B5, and write most of the episodes, JMS sure can't write a movie to save his life. At a time when the B5 franchise needed a masterpiece, JMS gave us bad rip-offs of his own work. Take "Thirdspace," add some ancient shadow-like enemy and throw in a dash of young James T. Kirk and you basically got this pilot. I'm not sure why JMS threw out such tripe like "The Hand" when he knew that every B5 fan in america would call him out on it, but he did it anyway. All of the reviews, except for those that live only to praise JMS, have said that this "pilot" "telemovie" or what have you, sucks. They are right. Due to the ignorant mismanagement on the part of the Sci-Fi channel, it aired opposite an NFL playoff game. Due to hackneyed writing, however, it virtually sealed the deal of no series.
I love Babylon 5. I have seen every episode of the series and the
movies as well--so it's obvious that I really care about this show.
Heck, I even saw the spin-off series, CRUSADE--that's how much I love
the show!! And, in light of this love, it really hurt to watch such a
seriously flawed and inferior product as THE LEGEND OF THE RANGERS. I
guess that after having written so much that the series creator, writer
and executive producer J. Michael Straczynski finally was due for a
fall as this is easily the worst of the Babylon pantheon.
So why was it so bad? Well, the fundamental idea of a new spin-off series wasn't the problem--this movie could have led to a decent series. However, the characters and writing just weren't up to snuff. Particular problems were a very, very predictable plot through at least the first half in which time and again I found myself guessing exactly what would happen next. In fact, my wife and I were both very accurately telling what would happen next because it all seemed so unoriginal and clichéd. Fortunately, it did improve later and I did like the escape pod sequences. In addition, the weapons officer and her gimmicky way of fighting was just embarrassingly bad and silly. She was completely one-dimensional and the fighting sequences made me cringe--they were THAT bad.
So what you have left wasn't without some merit and I guess it is a passable 90 minutes of entertainment--but just barely. My advice is that if you are a Babylon 5 geek (like me), then by all means watch it. Otherwise--skip it and watch the series.
By the way--take a look at all the ratings for this film. Like many popular sci-fi TV shows or movies (such as Star Trek or Star Wars), there are a small number of mindless zombies who declare that EVERY episode and EVERY movie is an artistic masterpiece--giving ALL OF THEM 10s!!! Now if you liked this movie, I have no argument with you. But, to take an obviously flawed movie that is clearly inferior to the previous series and films and STILL give it a 10 is just ludicrous. These zombies, I assume, are like cult members who CANNOT objectively rate anything from the series and think by giving EVERYTHING a 10 that they are somehow "helping" the show or being loyal. I am sure my harsh words will draw many "not helpful" ratings, but I don't care--the casual viewer needs to know that some reviews can't be trusted.
The show has promise. JMS provides the setting for a new slice of the
Babylon 5 universe that fits into the existing B5 arc. G'Kar, a main stay
in the original series, provides a good tie in and Andreas delivers
great job of acting. One can only wonder what characters and actors will
The depth of background JMS gives the characters early on is refreshing. Unlike other pilots, one is not left waiting for future episodes to flesh out characters. This makes the crew real and the humor less contrived.
The computer generated imagery (CGI) is prominent and more detailed than a typical episode. New aspects will create questions for the die hard fan. A bonus is the chance to see the Ranger base on Minbar for the first time. If you like the released promotional pictures and wallpaper, you will love these scenes.
The pilot is good entertainment for the novice and a "must see" for the devotee.
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