In the The Lost Tales, we examine a battle between Heaven and Hell, and Sheridan questions the morality of a mission. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Okay, so, once again, I have no idea what this was supposed to be. A single film? Two separate stories? A pilot of sorts for a new show? I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know if that matters all that much, as I viewed this as two interconnected stories, but separate stories all on their own. AND BOY, ARE THEY WEIRD. I am just gonna jump right into this because I am desperate to discuss the first one. DESPERATE.
HI, WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH. I kept waiting for there to be a reveal that would suggest something other than the obvious, but that doesn’t happen, and I kinda love how bold that is? It is now canonically possible that God (or some entity/being like that) exists in the Babylon 5 universe, and God planted fallen angels on Earth because Earth is ACTUALLY Hell??? Hello??? This is a real plot that I just experienced? There is genuinely so much here that I did not expect, and I certainly wasn’t anticipating for Babylon 5 to wade into Christian theology.
But lemme back up a bit, as I do want to talk about the production of The Lost Tales as a whole. This must have been produced sometime in the last fifteen years, I’m guessing, as there is a marked improvement in the quality of the CGI and the film used for the entire… episode? Film? Not quite sure what to call this. Anyway, both of these “stories” are gorgeous, crisp, and exist within a visual tone that’s slightly different than the television series itself. Even the camera work itself feels new, and I’m thinking particularly of the many intimate close-ups we get in Lochley’s story.
I understand the logic for that, too, since this first story is so much more personal and contained than Sheridan’s is. Most of it takes place in a single room in the brig, even if it has a scope that is far, far outside that room. Dialogue is the bulk of the script, and I get that, too. This is a story that required the verbal battle between Lochley/Father Cassidy and Simon Burke. And lord, these actors looked like they had a blast playing these characters, especially Bruce Ramsay, who got to play a fallen angel who possessed a random person in order to escape Earth. WHICH IS HELL??? That’s an actual reveal in this episode!!! Well, Earth is Hell for these creatures, but I admit I’m so fascinated by the idea that this script is rooted in. Even if this demon lied, there’s something compelling in the notion that God knew that people would fall out of faith as soon as humanity traveled to the stars, so He seeded Fallen Angels in space in order to draw humans back to God? THAT’S SO METAL, Y’ALL.
So, this mostly unfolded like a play, and I say that because the delivery of most of this story—the emotional beats, the reveals, the exposition—came through the discussion that these three characters had. Oh, there are other scenes outside of that room, but they’re brief, and they’re also not as consequential. Again, it’s a bold choice: the story is deeply confined to one space, and it addresses a topic that is probably blasphemous to some more religious people. At the same time, it’s not like Babylon 5 has shied away from talking about religion; it’s a deep thread throughout the entire show! So, I don’t think it’s that off-the-mark for the show to also talk a religion that’s huge on Earth and how it changed in the many years since humans left the solar system.
As a whole story, though, it’s more like… a really intense prologue? I don’t know that this feels like a complete script, and I felt like I needed so much more once Lochley figured out what the demon was actually up to. Like, how you gonna reveal that EARTH IS HELL and then… not explore it? Whatever happened to Simon Burke? Did Father Cassidy actually conduct an exorcism and free him from control of this entity? Were we going to later get a story of how these entities got revenge on Lochley? (It does tell her that they’ll remember her.) I don’t know. I had a blast watching this because it was so strange, but I’m not sure it holds up that well.
Ah, it was so nice to see Sheridan again, and Galen was a wonderful surprise, too. I wish that this didn’t seem like a repeat of A Call to Arms. And I get that this deliberately calls attention to the fact that Galen seems to show up only to give REAL TERRIBLE VISIONS to Sheridan. In this case, the technomages have determined that the rise of Prince Vintari, third in line to the Centauri throne, will eventually lead to the destruction of Earth. That path is not really spelled out to Sheridan, but, as Galen put it, there are few people who will believe the technomages more than Sheridan. Hell, he demonstrated that in A Call to Arms, and we’ve seen it throughout the show, too.
What ended up being interesting to me was the moral struggle. Here, the time travel trope of killing Hitler if you could is brought to life in this scenario. I don’t think there’s a point where Sheridan doesn’t believe that the destruction of Earth is a possible scenario. Thus, his struggle is based on what he’ll do in the present. Can he actually kill the Prince, knowing what he’ll do in the future? And JMS does not make this easy. The Prince is, at times, rather charming, but there are these HORRIBLE glimpses of the person he might become. And it’s so viscerally uncomfortable! Each time, I swear you can witness Sheridan’s soul detaching from his body and nearly ascending up into the ether. It’s magical, in a really disturbing way.
But like Lochley’s story, this is more of a prelude to something else. Sheridan is unable to pull the trigger, so to speak, because Galen said there were ways to stop this future. And Sheridan is very much into the solution that doesn’t involve him assassinating a teenager. Apparently, Galen was into that option, too, but orchestrated this whole scenario as a means of manipulating Sheridan into taking the Prince under his wing. That felt unnecessarily elaborate, didn’t it? This episode openly states that Sheridan is more likely to believe the technomages, and so Galen didn’t outright tell him that the non-murder approach would be harder but still possible??? I don’t get it, y’all, MAKE IT MAKE SENSE. Just tell Sheridan that! Why make him go through this nightmare of a moral struggle? He’s a reasonable man, he would clearly be on board for this option!
There’s another weird angle to this episode that was first pointed out in the comments earlier (I’m thinking about the time of “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”) regarding the show and reporters. And now I can’t ignore just how hostile this show can be towards journalists. This episode in particular treats ISN reporter Ms. Chambers as a villain who deserves the fate she gets because she annoyed Sheridan. And the more I think about it, this is such a strange choice for Sheridan, who is ever the diplomat, who understands having to compromise to get things done. I get that he might be wary about the ISN after President Clark’s smear campaign, but I don’t know that this is ever explicitly stated, you know? We might be left with that assumption, but otherwise, it’s still a conclusion we’d have to come to on our own.
Anyway: These were just okay. I loved the new HD look, but much like Crusade, they were a glimpse of what could be, not fantastic stories on their own.
The video for “The Lost Tales” can be downloaded here for $1.99.
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