In the Babylon 5 film “Thirdspace,” the crew makes a discovery that has terrible ramifications. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent
This was pretty cool! As a film, it felt like an extended episode of the show, so it never really gave me the sense that it could stand on its own. It’s heavily tied into the mythology of the show, so much so that I imagine that this would probably be a little mystifying if you’d not seen large portions of Babylon 5. (Seriously, the Vorlon stuff alone requires a lot of pre-existing knowledge of the series.) When it works, this is a really creepy story about generation mistakes, particularly one passed on by a race that JUST tried to fix their mistakes. At other times, this was more traditional sci-fi fare, and I was confused by some of the writing choices. LET’S DISCUSS.
Visually, you can tell that there was a lot of time and money spent on making this film look spectacular, and I do love when a television show suddenly has movie budgets. The design for Thirdspace really is incredible, but not just because of the special effects. One thing that’s remained satisfying about this experience is that the show just keeps giving us weirder and weirder space ships and aliens. The design for the Thirdspace ships, aliens, and the weird “gate” is just INCREDIBLE. I love it! I’m so used to sci-fi shows giving me bipedal, hominid aliens, but NOPE. The Thirdspace aliens truly look like monsters out of a horror film, and it helps to make them appear otherworldly. I mean, they’re from a literal other dimension, so why would they evolve to look anything like us? THOSE TENTACLES ARE A HUGE NO FROM ME, BY THE WAY.
Zack Allen ended up being a delight here, too. Actually, even if this film is unintelligible to a non-viewer of Babylon 5, I still enjoyed how well this fit in after “The Illusion of Truth.” That episode is… well, it still hurts to think about. But it explains why Garibaldi isn’t here; it gives weight to the blockade installed by Earth and Dr. Trent’s awkward presence; and it adds context to how isolated the station feels from everything. This story works best when that isolation is highlighted; as the people of the station are telepathically turned against one another, it truly does feel lonely. And to my original point: this is the first real chance we get to see Zack Allen as head of security, and he flourishes in the role. It’s fantastic to see because he’s nothing like Garibaldi and brings his own flair to the position.
For the most part, the creepiness factor works really well, and both the design and the way information is revealed helps to achieve that. I love a mystery that keeps me guessing until the truth is revealed, and lord, that creepy city was THE WORST. I kept thinking it was actually inside the artifact, but knowing that these people were actually glimpsing a place in another dimension is horrifying. There’s a sense of evil and wrongness to everything, one which Lyta recognized right from the start.
And that’s also where this film is a little frustrating. Lyta realized something was wrong as the artifact was brought into Babylon 5’s space. The script then devises one thing after another to keep her away from Sheridan, most of which didn’t really make a lot of sense. Did the telepathic aliens attack her first? Then why did she write all over her walls? (And who is going to clean them?) After this, was she completely under control of the aliens? I don’t think so, given that she tried to sabotage Interplanetary Expeditions with those worker drones. So, Lyta was actively fighting against them. Why couldn’t she just say something about it? I think this was something that logistically, the show normally deals with. It’s not often this ambiguous and vague. And when it comes to Ivanova, who had a really weird experience that was then later corroborated by Vir, it made NO sense that she wouldn’t tell Sheridan everything. All we see is her saying to Sheridan over the com system that there’s something wrong with the artifact. Which he already knew?
There’s a similar inconsistency with Dr. Elizabeth Trent, though her final scene in the film does shed some light on the timeline here. I actually didn’t think she was ever being controlled by the Thirdspace aliens. The whole film, I thought that she was merely an ambitious character who became so self-serving and arrogant that she was willing to risk the lives of EVERYONE in this dimension just to get at the technology within the artifact. It’s a rather one-note character, but it’s still consistent. So when we discovered that Bill had been murdered by Dr. Trent, I assumed she’d just gone to the extreme to complete her mission. It fit with her character and what we’d seen of her. And then her debriefing with Sheridan kind of undoes that? Or maybe I just misunderstood it. But she remarked that she was taking a break from her job because she didn’t like what the artifact brought out in her. That… doesn’t excuse murder? If she was controlled to do it, I understand Sheridan’s reaction. How can he hold these people responsible for things they did when their consent was violated and they were telepathically forced to do them? Maybe I missed the moment in which she was “taken over”?
Still, these are smaller elements of the whole. I loved how much this story was based on misapplied pride and the Vorlons’ many, many mistakes. (What other mistakes does Lyta know???) And speaking of Lyta, this also gave us some of the missing pieces about how she came into contact with Vorlon space!!! That was great! I feel like this was a self-contained story for the most part, with one exception: Lyta. And I’m curious if there’s going to be a follow-up on her role not just in the show, but her telepathic abilities. Multiple people now know she’s not a P-5 anymore. So… exactly how talented is she?
The video for “Thirdspace” can be downloaded here for $1.99.
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