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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

Babylon 5 Tele-Movie: "A Call to Arms" (***)
by J. Michael Straczynski
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Ratings
Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Babylon 5 Five years have passed since the end of the Shadows war, the death of President Clark, and John Sheridan's appointment as president of the Alliance. Sheridan receives a mysterious warning that allies of the Shadows are plotting the destruction of earth. We are still fifteen years away from the events shown in the concluding episode of Babylon 5, "Sleeping in Light" (****), so this final Babylon 5 movie is not so much a conclusion to Babylon 5 as it is a prequel to the new series, Crusade.

The most striking thing about this film is the music, which is a mix of African and Asian themes in a matrix somewhere between cool jazz and soft rock. It's different. Different is good. Only sometimes not. I assume the intent is to wake the audience up. Where we expect a crescendo, give silence. When we get used to silence, jolt us with something jangly. In short, do in modern terms what Bernard Herrmann's music did for so many SF movies in the fifties. I admire the concept. But I found the music distracting and sometimes annoying. Maybe it wasn't a grand experiment after all. Maybe it was just a low budget and a tight schedule.

It is good to see Sheridan and Garibaldi in action together one last time (though there is plenty of opportunity for them to guest star on Crusade). There is what I take to be a conscious effort to once again raise the special effects stakes another notch, which gives us some very satisfying space battles. Of the guest stars: I could wish for more charisma on the part of the technomage. The starship captain is fine. The Xena clone -- well, they try to make an excuse for having a Xena clone aboard, but I didn't buy it.

Oddly, there is no mention of John and Delenn's son, who must be about four years old. All in all: good fun. Hail and farewell!

Star Trek: Insurrection (***)
by Michael Pilar and Rick Berman

Star Trek Data and Picard sing Gilbert and Sullivan. Worf gets a zit. Riker takes a bath. While that is a perfectly fair plot summery of the new Star Trek movie, there is also some hugger mugger about the Enterprise crew protecting the good aliens, who have discovered the planet of immortality, from the bad aliens, who want to grind up the planet and bottle it for private use by themselves and their friends. There is a hint, if we are to take the word of one rather untrustworthy Federation admiral at face value, that the leaders of the United Federation of Planets might be willing to look the other way if they get some bottled immortality of their own. But the moral dilemma is just an device to give some conflict to what would otherwise be a jolly outing with some old friends.

There is the briefest of nods to Deep Space Nine when the Dominion is mentioned, which means this movie presumably takes place after the end of the final season of DS9. I haven't checked the Stardates to see if they agree.

All in all, Insurrection is a notch below First Contact (***), and a little disappointing. But I enjoyed it. It reminded me of an average episode of what was, after all, a very fine television program, with the added attraction of movie quality special effects.

And there is some magic. For me, the most memorable scene is the brief and unexplained moment when, for Picard, time stands still.

Copyright © 1999 by Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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