Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Babylon 5: Thirdspace

Going into Thirdspace, I wasn’t expecting too much. The world wasn’t crying out for the lost standalone episode of season four, but after watching it, I was pleasantly surprised. The movie has a different, more cinematic feel, than your average B5 episode, and the story tied nicely into the mythology.

One of the major issues I have watching these movies is that nothing particularly major can happen to the characters. Particularly with this one, we know what happened in the fourth season, if a huge event did happen, it would feel strange that they never mentioned it. So, we’re left in an odd narrative place, telling a story that has to fit into our pre-existing knowledge of the series, perhaps deepen it, but not fundamentally alter it. That’s why ‘In the Beginning’ was the ideal use of the TV movie format, doing something that would feel out of place in the series, but fit well into the series mythology. This movie was made while the show was still on, so they were constrained by having to slip into the existing continuity. I was pleasantly surprised by the way this fills in some additional backstory and gives us some nice character payoffs.

The most notable example of this was the stuff with Lyta. I always wanted more of her on the series, and here we get the backstory of her journey to Vorlon space, previously unexplained territory. We also get the great scene with her and Zack in the elevator. He always seemed to have feelings for her, but he never acted on them, this scene is great because it gives us some payoff on that, and fits well into the continuity. It’s tough to watch him squirm like that, but it’s also really funny in an Office kind of way. That scene was the highlight of the movie for me, and perhaps the most important scene in the whole piece for overall character development.

The other thing I really liked was the general surreal, dreamy atmosphere. Particularly during the middle section of the movie, we drifted from Lyta’s madness, to Ivanova’s dream, and that great moment with Vir. There was a lot of atmosphere here, aided by the music. B5 doesn’t usually stand out for its visual style, but this movie did a great job of creating weird environments and moods for the characters to move through. The CG was also generally solid, the city was great, though the creature at the end didn’t quite work.

Much of the last two seasons are spent dealing with the legacy of the Shadows and Vorlons, so this fits right in thematically. This gate is the same kind of threat as the Drakh or the telepaths, an example of the hubris of the old ones haunting our characters in the future.

The ending was pretty exciting, particularly Sheridan’s flight into the artifact. But, it felt more like empty flash than the typical B5 battle. Not since the first season have we seen this much fighting for the sake of fighting. Not only was there the big battle outside, there was all the random violence within the station. It was justified by the narrative, but having all the characters attacking each other just didn’t work. I don’t get in that many fistfights, but apparently it happens all the time to the B5 characters. That makes it feel more like a show, less real.

But, I enjoyed the movie on the whole. There were some cool bits that tie into the overall continuity, but mainly it’s just a fun standalone story. If the fourth season wasn’t compressed, I could easily see this being thrown in as a standalone. I think it works better this way though, as a bonus for viewers who’ve watched the series. Then, I would have just been waiting to get to the more significant stuff, here’s it’s a treat, a chance to return and see the characters as they were. Even if it didn’t have much overall impact, it was good to see Lyta and Ivanova one last time.


Chris Patterson said...

Excellent summary, Patrick.

If it weren't for that elevator scene, I would probably never rewatch this movie. But that scene alone is worth the price of admission for me. Gotta love Lyta, and how many times have you been in Zack's situation -- trying to approach a person you really like, not quite sure how to go about it, fumbling through, and all the while having no f'ing clue what they are thinking! A great sci-fi spin on a classic human dilemma...


Colin Blair said...

These B5 movies (except for In The Beginning) always felt too much like first season episodes to me

Patrick said...

Yeah, that elevator scene is easily the highlight, and I'd argue that's what seperates it from a first season episode. Like a lot of the first season stuff this one doesn't have any direct consequences, it's a story that resolves itself fairly simply. In general, I think it was something of a mistake to do movies that could make essentially no impact on the overall storyline, trapped as they are in the existing continuity. But, the strength of the story in this one salvaged it for me. I'll have to see if the others can do the same. said...

This can't work in reality, that is exactly what I suppose.