In the Babylon 5 film “The Legend of the Rangers,” a new crew is sent on a routine mission that quickly becomes disastrous. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
So, I really don’t know much of anything about what went on behind-the-scenes on this show. (For example, I didn’t find out that “Sleeping in Light” was filmed during the end of season four’s production and then just saved to air at the end of season five until just last week. Well, last week relative to when I wrote this review, which will be… two weeks for all of you? WHATEVER, YOU GET WHAT I MEAN.) I have no idea if this was made during the show’s run or well after or anything. Plus, I can only hazard a guess that this was intended as a pilot episode, sort of like “The Gathering,” and… that’s it? I mean, this could be what Crusade is about, but I have no idea. That’s okay; I want to review the things I read or watch without that outside context, to try and appreciate the story for what it is. Without knowing any of the context for “The Legend of the Rangers,” how does this hold up?
I’ll admit upfront that it was harder for me to care about new characters who are all introduced so late in the canon. I was quick to admire the humorous rapport between Dulann and David Martell. Indeed, it was the only thing that warmed me up to David, who felt like a stock character from about a hundred space operas and adventures that I’d read or scene before. There’s a particular brand of edgy, white men who get cast into or written about for these lead roles, and for a show that so often subverted expectations, David never really felt all that unique to me.
Until he was talking to Dulann, that is. This film is set years after G’Kar left Babylon 5 to explore the universe, and we also know that the Rangers have grown in considerable size in the interim. (I don’t know that that was ever openly stated, but the sheer size of the operations we see suggest that they’ve grown, right? I mean, the Alliance is doing well! So it stands to reason they need more Rangers to help with all the new races who have joined.) It’s neat to see this stuff, but with G’Kar as the only recognizable face, I tried my best to get to know these characters. And in ninety minutes, David and Dulann were the only ones given much exploration. Which makes me think this has to be an attempt to start a longer show, one that may or may not have ever been made. So, all of this is to say: I really liked Dulann. David… not as much. Malcolm seemed and I got the sense he loved using that holosuit, but that’s just an impression. And that’s mostly what I got from Sarah, Na’Feel, Kitaro, Tirk, and the others: brief flashes of who their characters might come to be. It’s a great idea for a pilot, but for a standalone film? It’s unfortunate because we don’t truly get to know anyone outside of David and Dulann.
As for the story itself, we sort of have the same problem. Again, this felt planned. The film introduced a new antagonist to the Babylon 5 universe, and as mysterious as they are, there’s little to no resolution offered up by the film. There’s the temporary relief of survival, and that part at least was entertaining. I loved the idea that we could get a sense for how the crew would work together based on how they responded to this ongoing disaster. It’s a solid formula, too, since each character gets a chance to do something meaningful to demonstrate their talents. And from a character perspective, it worked to explore what David’s role was in the Rangers after he had made a decision that violated the core principles of the group. Can you still uphold the values of the Anla’shok when forced into an impossible situation? It’s a good question!
So that part of “The Legend of the Rangers” worked well for me. It was satisfying to see them cope with their morals in the face of almost certain mortality. Look, I thought David made the right choice during the opening of the film! There’s no point in dying foolishly when you can live to do good another day. G’Kar got that spot on. So, as the Hand’s ships decimate the Valen, and the Valen barges another ship to buy the Liandra time, the options left to David and his crew shrink. Over and over again! So, do you hold on to your morals right up to the end, or is it more practical to give them up and survive? They basically manage to do both, and I could see how this would be a compelling framework for the show. The Rangers are helping those who were harmed by the Shadow War, and the Alliance only seems to get bigger. There’d be so much more traveling on this “show,” you know? So many cultures to help and people to rescue! Would that moral basis to the Anla’shok help or hinder on this journey?
In the end, though, there’s too much mystery for me to find this all that satisfying. It’s a neat introduction, but it doesn’t stand too well on its own. I could easily come to perceive this differently, though, by a later film or by Crusade, but as it stands, this was entertaining but not much else. Ugh, I wish we got to know more about who The Hand are! How can they be that old and still mysterious? WHAT DID THEY DO???
The video for “The Legend of the Rangers” can be downloaded here for $1.99.
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