Thursday, October 04, 2007

Babylon 5: Thirdspace (1998)

Babylon 5: Thirdspace (1998)

And yet more Babylon 5! This time it's a standalone TV movie set sometime in the middle of Season 4 that has a horror / alien invasion bent.

The story, which is focused on Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner), Susan Ivonova (Claudia Christian), Zack Allen (Jeff Conaway), and Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) and features a few other regulars as well, revolves around the discovery of a colossal ancient artifact in hyperspace that is brought to B5 for investigation. A team from the organization Interplanetary Expeditions led by a scientist named Dr. Elizabeth Trent (Shari Bellafonte) arrives and negotiates a deal whereby they get access to the artifact as long as they share their findings. As they play around with the object, strange things begin to happen on the station as people start having strange dreams and becoming possessed, and Lyta Alexander finds herself the unwitting carrier of a warning from the Vorlons. It turns out that the object is an ancient jump-gate that opens not into hyperspace but into another type of space, a 'thirdspace', that harbours a deadly evil force.

'Babylon 5: Thirdspace' is a fairly entertaining addition to the B5 mythology. It feels a lot like an elaborate standalone episode that's part mystery and part horror. It's certainly larger in scale than a typical episode, and there are some impressive effects and visuals. There's a genuine sense of awe created by the discovery of the artifact, something sci-fi movies and TV quite often seems to lack so it's nice to see that aspect emphasized. The movie adds to the depth of the universe of B5, despite appearing to have very little impact on it. It's fun to see these familiar characters in this sort of scenario, but ultimately the whole thing feels a little bit hollow. It builds up like an epic alien invasion movie that feels, stylistically, like it doesn't quite fit in with the B5 universe. And some things irked me no end, like how the B5 security forces end up brawling repetitively with the 'possessed' hordes; don't they have Tazers in the 23rd century? Or any kind of effective riot control? The final solution to the problem also seemed mind bogglingly uninspired (hint: use nukes), especially since it was apparently one thought up by the Vorlons.

As a story in its own right 'Thirdspace' isn't worthy movie material, but it is cool seeing these characters in this kind of narrative. Though it isn't essential viewing it's still a worthwhile 90 minutes for a B5 fan. Non fans, however, will probably see it as just another cliched sci-fi flick.

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