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Channe Takes On "To Live And Die In Starlight" (SPOILERS)



Quotes from B5 Newbies who watched with me:
"That man - oh, that's not a man? Na'Feel? That's a woman?"
"Holy shit, did he tie a bomb to the alien? They don't do that in Star Trek!"
"If I hear 'we live for the one, we die for the one' one more time, I'm going to throw my coffee at your television." (A sentiment which I seconded, actually...)

Disclaimer: I’m a firm believer in the view that the only way you’re going to get an unbiased opinion out of a reviewer is if you kidnap that reviewer, plop him or her down in the chair, and show him or her a movie of which s/he knows absolutely nothing – and even that’s a high margin for error. So, I can’t be unbiased (as I’m a rabid, rabid Babylon 5 fan), but I can be brutally honest about what I thought of B5LR. After all, Dylan told me to, and I can’t exactly say no to the Captain, can I? FLAME NOT - LEST YE BE FLAMED.

And, yes, this is meant to be casually written. Those of you who are new to my reviews should know that.

Well, I saw the telemovie.

It was a lot of fun. It wasn't Shakespeare. It wasn't even some of the best B5 out there.

Like all B5, "when it was good, it was really, really good, and when it was bad, it was horrid."

TLADIS had its horrid parts; and I'll discuss them as well as discussing what I thought worked very well. Read on.


Unlike other reviewers, I was really taken in by the performances of the actors – when they were given lines that allowed them to work their mojo (rather than some, which I'll discuss later). There were some really priceless scenes traded between Martel and Cantrell, and they seemed quite comfortable near each other – lending more credence, in my eyes, to the interview’s insinuation that they might be more than just friends. Something that could be explored in the series? (No! I am not a shipper! I just thought it was interesting!)

You should all watch the ISA interviews after you see B5LR...

Similarly, I would have liked to see a bit more about the characters' backstory. It's obvious they know each other - why, four of them offered to get kicked out of the Anla'shok with him. That's loyalty engendered. And I would really have liked to see more about how David did engender that loyalty - all we hear is bits and pieces... this is slightly off, I think.

The characterization. That’s what matters, that’s what counts, that’s what I was hoping for.

So, going through the characters:

David Martel: Impressive. I can see immediately why Dylan Neal was cast in this role. Although my B5-newbie friend muttered something about him being in “soap mode” towards the beginning of the film (it definitely had something to do with the expository dialogue), it was quickly dropped. Very convincing, and I think he had some of the best material to work with.

Sarah Cantrell: Well, hell. I said I’d like Sarah months ago, and I’m glad to say that I still do. Tough, competent, and I’m glad to say that I absolutely loved the gunnery pod sequences (except for the video-game yell in the mine-field - sorry Myriam, that really made me wince!). Sarah had a good number of my favorite lines (and, unfortunately, a good number of the really bad ones too), she had attitude to spare, and I don’t think I agree with the reviewer who said she was “overacting.” Again, she did well with what she was given (see my comments about the script below). It would be nice to see her character evolve in the series.

Dulann: Well, here’s a character I definitely also want to see more of. One of the things I like about B5 is that the aliens have always been distinct personalities; Dulann is definitely par for that course. Dulann was interesting, fleshed-out as much as he could be for such a short time, and – Alex Zahara played the ghost sequences pretty darn convincingly. Which is a credit to the actor. I’ve seen too many bad ghost scenes in my life.

Firell and Kitaro Sasaki: One of the great tragedies of TlaDiS is that we didn’t see much of Firell, or of Kitaro. They didn’t get much character development (although watching Kitaro work was a lot of fun.) I want to see more of Firell, just because I felt cheated. All we know about her is that her heart speaks quietly and infrequently…

G’Kar: Oh. My. Valen. I swear. Andreas never left G’Kar, and G’Kar never left Andreas. That’s all I have to say about that.

Na’Feel: I have a mixed reaction to Na’Feel. I didn’t see much of her, so my opinion is colored with the very same trepidation I feel when discussing Firell and Kitaro. A bit Zen for a Narn, but then – this is B5, not Star Trek, and not every Narn has to be a revenge-filled international freedom fighter. I'm grateful for that.

Malcolm: Another underused character. We could not stop laughing after his encounter with G’Kar. What a hilarious scene! As my B5 newbies said: “Hey! I like him! The guy with the – with the suit!”

Tafeek: Ok, we saw him once. I think he had one line. What happened to Tafeek? Did I miss something?

Tirk: Spot-on. I had originally asked Gus on the messageboard if Tirk spoke in macros like the rest of the Drazi. How true! I loved Tirk, his pushing match with the Ambassador, and most of all, his truth. He had one of the best screen presences of the entire cast, and it'll be great to see this character's development.

One of my FAVORITE PARTS of the entire telemovie – the one thing that validated it all – was Martel’s decision to stuff grenades into Kafta’s escape pod. That was real, visceral, and necessary. None of this Trek moralistic nonsense. A war tactic.

Likewise, my other favorite thing about the movie was excellent cinematography - the Minbari vessel looked like it was constantly changing, and although the requisite smoke was venting, it wasn't as annoying as it could have been. I read an interview where Mike Vejar had discussed his photographic techniques, and they worked.

Similarly, the sets and effects worked for me. Although some of the effects betrayed B5LR's low budget, the sets were fine.

And I liked the roundtable setup on the Liandra bridge. Now, whenever I see people shouting at one another on Star Trek, their heads turned, their eyes not on the monitor, etc., etc., I'll laugh. Having the monitor in the center of the bridge and the command staff around it is very smart - not only can you catch eyes with one another and communicate rapidly, you're not pulling a Data or a Wesley and responding to your Captain entirely out of the blue ('cause you can't take your eyes off your console to turn around and talk to him in a battle situation.) Eye contact is worth a lot. I'm glad B5LR acknowledged that.


They deserve a section all their own. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I heard a lot of the same language used for Babylon 5 in Kafta’s words, and in G’Kar’s. “We have no name for them,” “billions of years old,” etc.

I don’t agree with the criticism saying that it was too easy for Martel and Company to destroy the Hand ships. No, I found that believable. This is B5. There are no shields. It’s entirely possible for a blast to go right through the hull of another vessel – not only is it good physics, it’s what would happen.

Unlike in B5, there was no time for this telemovie to give us a rundown on the equipment of the Hand, find out that they have a certain kind of armor. For all we know, those weren’t even Hand ships, and were the ships of Kafta’s race, in which case it would be perfectly plausible for all the grenades from the armory to blow shrapnel through the hull. After all, that’s how the Blackstar was destroyed by In The Beginning.


The script, flawed and blunt, is heartbreakingly silly in more than a few places, with dialogue that is often clunky and obvious, expository lines that I would never in my life dream of giving an actor. I anticipated, three times, retorts that I actually said aloud directly before the actor – in scenes I had never heard before. At times, theatrical dialogue that normally worked quite well in Babylon 5 was grimaceworthy to the point of groaning – take, for example, Martel’s monologue near the beginning of the telemovie, which is a prime example of the “tell, not show” fallacy that any scriptwriter attempts to avoid like the plague. And that’s not the only expository dialogue in this movie, either – attempting to summarize the history of the Rangers, the character doing so sounds like a walking history lesson. People don’t talk like that in real life – it’s the Babylon 5 equivalent of “As you know, Jeremiah, fifteen years ago a plague killed off every adult over puberty, and we were forced to fend for ourselves in the burning remains of cities.” I just don’t think the script, on the whole, cut it. At least for me.

But then, I've been spending at least a year trying to fine-tune my ear for dialogue.

There were, however, brilliant moments within the script: the beginning scenes between Sindell and G’Kar, for example, were vintage B5, and I was completely convinced. Other scenes were similarly noteworthy: Malcolm’s scene with G’Kar, for example, had everyone in the room tied in hysterics. We giggled over Martel’s status as a waterboy (that was funny). There were other moments, too, that really struck me as great – Martel’s scene with G’Kar had all the tension and tautness of a typical B5 conversation, and although I was getting flashbacks to the conversations beginning the Shadow War with Martel’s scene with Kafta, that was another scene that stood out. Mackenzie Grey, although horribly underused, acted straight through that prosthetic. Neat stuff.

I just wish the script had been a little better, that's all.

(Author’s note: please do not take this section as a criticism of all of JMS’ work. I have a great respect for the man and his writing. Everyone has their off-days, and I certainly expect him to keep on blowing us away, especially once the series starts and everything gels a bit further. I don't want anyone to take this as JMS bashing, because I've been hanging around fandom long enough that I know someone will. Sigh. This is not JMS bashing. Thank you.)


Number one, flawed and failing as some parts of this telefilm are, they’re far outweighted with the potential this has for a series. If this were simply a standalone movie, I’d be much more negative; as it is, I’m psyched, stoked, and ready to rock and roll for five years of fun.

After all, you'll recall: G'Kar is still attending a security council, ostensibly to deal with the threat the Hand proposes. The Hand is still out there. And so is Kafta's race. There's a story arc here just waiting to be unfolded.

I think Rangers would work as a series, and work very well. The quality of this flick is very much around the quality The Gathering boasted in the early nineties. As a pilot, this works very well, introducing us to the world, the story, the universe, the characters – and what’s more, it leaves a number of things open. It’s not Trek; it could tackle a lot more than Trek, get off-planet, show us wonders. I think it could be fun. Just… oh, just fix up the script…

Here's to hoping.

channe@[url="http://cryoterrace.tripod.com"]cryoterrace[/url] | "I wonder," said Frodo, "but I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale."

[This message has been edited by channe (edited January 20, 2002).]
First...I think you were being a bit kind with the acting portion of the movie...it ranged from pretty good to pretty damn bad. I did like that drazi and uhh..the first in command minbari dude were the most believable.

Second...it sounds like you missed the part with the explanation of the origins of those ships.

Thanks for the review, Channe. It certainly sounds fair.

I feel I got some idea of the movie out of your review - a better idea than of most of the "professional" reviews that we have seen (some of which seemed to concentrate on retelling and ridiculing the plot).

And yes, I still want to see the damn thing. I just hope, hope, hope that the ratings are good. And that the beginning didn't turn too many (Nielsen) viewers off and force them to switch to another channel.

From all I have read this morning (heh, believe me, I've done a lot of reading this morning!), it sounds like it has great potential for a series, for character development etc.

Not to mention that good ratings and go-ahead for a series would probably increase the chance of us non-Americans seeing it at some point...

"Isn't the universe an amazing place? I wouldn't live anywhere else." - G'Kar, B5: Rangers
Kribu's Lounge | kribu@ranger.b5lr.com
Sven - some of the lines the actors were given were, in my own not-so-humble opinion, ludicrous, and I found that whenever an actor came off as being a bit over-the-top or off-the-mark within the movie, it was the fault of a clunky line or bad repartee, of which there was a lot. That's where I'm coming from.

channe@[url="http://cryoterrace.tripod.com"]cryoterrace[/url] | "I wonder," said Frodo, "but I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale."
i can agree with that assessment....

AND...how many damn times did they all say "I LIVE FOR THE ONE DIE FOR THE ONE"!!!

Oh right...one guy said " I LIVE FOR THE ONE I....uggh...."

so wearing on the nerves....

Spoiler warnings, spoiler warnings. Doesn't anyone read my headers? I didn't have the heart to delete this topic, but have prepped Dev to delete stuff. So consider youself saved on this one, as I've added a spoiler warning.

MPAA: Rated R for bad language, crude humor,
language, sexuality/nudity and drug content.
Thanks Channe for your honesty!!

Seeing it again gave me goose bumps. Potential up the wazoo I'd think.

You don't know how bad most of us actors would like to go to series and flush out what JMS has begun. Potential indeed.

I'm so glad the show's creating dialogue. I knew there'd be a zillion opinions and we've tried to keep a healthy perspective with the hope that this would truely just be the beginning of that something that could be special if it was given a chance. I believe this is a little engine that can.

That's Boom Boom's two cents,


<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Dean Marshall:
You don't know how bad most of us actors would like to go to series and flush out what JMS has begun. Potential indeed.

"Flush out what JMS has begun?"

I hope that was a typo. It brought a very disturbing picture to mind.

My first thoughts:

I thought it was a little slow getting off the ground. Like channe said, the exposition weighed the movie down, especially in the beginning. But when things things were happening, it worked and darn well.

Performances from the main cast were good. The effects looked just fine to me. Sarah's gunnery scenes worked for me.

Overall I found a lot to like, and just a few script related bumps in the road.

Looking forward to finding out more about these characters (and the new enemy).

A series sounds great to me.

"We are (not) all Kosh."
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> "If I hear 'we live for the one, we die for the one' one more time, I'm going to throw my coffee at your television." <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It's a good think I wasn't drinking coffee, or my TV would have gotten a splash over that line too.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> I was really taken in by the performances of the actors <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I agree. They seemed very natural in their roles. I believed that they *were* their characters instead of just people acting the scene. Several times, I had to intentionally remind myself that they were real people who have even posted on this board. I think JMS's casting was right on.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> why, four of them offered to get kicked out of the Anla'shok with him. That's loyalty engendered. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

You said this movie worked better as a pilot episode than as a movie, and this is just one of many elements that support that. I think the aspect of loyalty was a just a hint of what we'll see more of in the characters when it goes to series (you think it's safe to say "when" instead of "if"

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> loved the gunnery pod sequences (except for the video-game yell in the mine-field - sorry Myriam, that really made me wince!) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yeah, the yelling felt a little overdone and close to being silly. However, I had to remind myself that on that ship running the weapons ain't button-pushin', it's downright physical. I guess she just kind of got into it, and she didn't freak out like that every time, just when she had to blow several dozen targets in the span of a few seconds. I guess I would have gotten a little vocal too.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> Dulann: <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I liked him. It would have been easy for him to be a photocopy of Delenn, Lennier, or Neroon, but Dulann was his own Minbari. Standing up for Martel when everyone else condemned his actions showed that Dulann is an open-minded Minbari. He also has a more interesting since of humor than Minbari's we've seen in the past. It's too bad that for most of the movie he was either lying on a bed or seeing ghosts.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> G’Kar: Oh. My. Valen. I swear. Andreas never left G’Kar, and G’Kar never left Andreas. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

To be almost equally cryptic, I think G'Kar is even more G'Kar now than he was before.
My favorite character in all of TV hasn't gotten older; he's gotten better, funnier, more distinguished. Also, did you notice that when on the ship, he still wore the "coat of many patches", but when on Minbar, he wore the shiny green ambassadorial regalia he wore in the first two seasons of B5.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> Na’Feel: <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Did you catch that look she gave G'Kar as he climbed the ramp to leave the bridge at the end? She was wide-eyed with admiration. You could tell that his religioug figure status hadn't completely gone away yet.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> Tafeek: Ok, we saw him once. I think he had one line. What happened to Tafeek? Did I miss something? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Tafeek was also the one trying to calm down the diplomats when they first boarded. I think his entire character is another series-potential element. He had barely anything to do in the movie, but his role may become crucial if--oops, sorry--*when* the show goes to series. I also would like to have seen more of Tirk. I loved Tirk's dialogue--and pushing match--with the Drazi ambassador.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> excellent cinematography...effects worked...sets were fine <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yeah, I think the entire production quality of the show was very high for TV. You could tell the improvements that have been made in computer graphics since B5, but the show still looks classy instead of gaudy and flashy like Andromeda or on the dull gray side llike Star Trek shows. I was blown away by the new look of Minbar (of course, we always saw the night view, and that may not have been the capital city we're used to seeing). The bridge layout felt a little weird to me, everyone sitting so close. But you're right, the layout is very logical and practical, so it's hard to criticize.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>The script, flawed and blunt, is heartbreakingly silly in more than a few places, with dialogue that is often clunky and obvious, expository lines that I would never in my life dream of giving an actor. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Although I found a few lines to be a little below par too; overall, I'm not as critical of the script. The balcony scenes were a little wordy, and I do remember one predictable--yet good--line in the movie. But, it will take the show going to a series for the character's voices and personalities to get fine-tuned. For a movie, I thought the dialogue still showed hints of classic JMS style.

Overall, I'd have to say I really the movie. Granted, it almost would have to have sucked and blown at the same time for me to not appreciate a fresh dose of B5 content, especially since G'Kar was in it. But, being objective, I still genuinely liked it. There wasn't too terribly much substance too it. In the end, it was just a one-mission, ship-to-fleet battle movie, but as a pilot episode of a series, it has a lot of potential. It was fun to watch and not diappointing in any way I can think of yet.

Bring on the series.

Good review, Channe.

An Old Egyptian Blessing: May God stand between you and harm in all the empty places that you must walk.

Thoughts & prayers to soldiers fighting overseas and to their families.

[This message has been edited by Ninja_Squirrel (edited January 20, 2002).]
I think you're dead on, channe. I chalk it up to the fact that jms had a very limited amount of time to develop a concept and hand in a script - otherwise, a lot of the clunky dialogue and awkward scenes would have been cut/revised methinks.

Though you have to give him credit for that naming names ceremony thing -- shameless exposition, but effective

I pretty much agree with Channe; and in deference to Antony, I'll use a spoiler box.

<table bgcolor=black><tr><td bgcolor=black><font size=1 color=white>Spoiler:</font></td></tr><tr><td><font size=2 color=black>
The first 30-45 minutes was rather uneven, pretty much due to spotty dialogue. The spotty, stilted dialogue did raise its ugly head throughout the movie.

I also thought that Sarah's prolonged screech in the final battle scene was counterproductive. I didn't mind her other grunts and growls, but that long screech seemed unnatural -- and lifted me out of my suspension of disbelief.

As far as the special effects and sets... We have all seen several reviews panning the computer generated images. Maybe those reviews lowered my expectations, but I was very pleasantly surprised at their quality. I liked the effects. While it was obvious that Trek spends a lot more money, nothing in this movie screamed out "fake" to me.

One thing I kept asking myself was "where are the White Stars?" I accept and understand that the Rangers are using other ships, but no White Stars at all? Also, as war ships go, 20 years is not that old at all. If someone has the energy, find out how long B-52s have been flying for the U.S. Air Force.

Regarding the cast, I thought Dulann reminded me of Lennier; and NaFeel reminded me of Belanna Torres. Other than that and the stilted dialogue mentioned above, I'd like to see these characters develop.

If you rent a lot of cars, you'll know it's common to walk around the car and list all the dings and scratches before you take possession, and after you bring it back. That's what I've done here.

Of course, a roster of superficial boo-boos doesn't talk about what kind of car you're renting. So, let's talk about the good stuff.

I thought the story was good, even if the script needed work. Given that the story is the most important element here, I would say the "pilot" was a substantial success. I wanted to know more.

I enjoyed G'Kar a whole lot. The cast should improve and be able to carry easily a series. As Channe mentioned, blowing up the bad guys with grenades was pretty nifty, and completely un-Trek.

I really liked the Liandra sets a whole lot. It seemed much bigger than I expected.

I apologize for focusing more on the superficial dings and scratches more than on the story -- but even with the spoiler boxes, I don't want to spoil it too much for those of you who've yet to see it.

My grade for the movie would fall in the "B- to B" range. I think that with a budget and a realistic schedule, a series would do just fine.


"What's up, Drakh?"

Michael Garibaldi
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> and I’m glad to say that I absolutely loved the gunnery pod sequences <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It didn't make sense for me. When a ship drops out of hyperspace and finds itself facing some raiders, the weapons officer has to jump down a tube first and bring up a tactical scanning program for her eyes and body extremities? By the time that is done, the Shadows used to have a ship already wasted. (Remember the first Narn ship going to Z'ha'dum?) And in between, the Weapons Officer is standing around on the bridge to give comment? It's inefficient, and it's slow. Likewise for targeting with the eyes (targeting in direction of view only) and firing with motions of the body extremities (slow, low number of guns able to fire simultaneously, unnecessarily exhausting for the weapons officer)

It allowed a bunch of beautiful shots, but it looked very much as invented for that purpose and to give Sarah a bit more time for herself.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR> They deserve a section all their own. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I heard a lot of the same language used for Babylon 5 in Kafta’s words, and in G’Kar’s. “We have no name for them,” “billions of years old,” etc. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It annoyed me a bit. It sounds a lot like an "alien of the week" scheme. 'The all new species: Even older, even meaner'
I trust JMS that there is more to this than meets the eye, but he will have to come up with a very good explanation why we didn't hear of them in the flashes forward into the future that we had in B5.

That being said, I think the cast did very well within the means given to them. I fully agree with your assessment of G'Kar (though I wonder what he did with any Minbari guards to consider the council's door 'open'
) and hope to see more of the regular crew. When's the start for the series?

If I tell you my name is Lorien, what good is that?

(Whatever happened to Mr. Garibaldi?)
If I hear that frelling phrase, "I live for the one I die for the one" one more time I'll scream. Weapons officer? What kind of crap was that? The dialog was forced and sometimes non-sensical. The 'badies' looked like the offspring of Shadow and Narn vessels. Color me GONE! Over and out....forever.

Very good review Channe.

I watched the movie both times it was on Scifi last night and I enjoyed it. I can't give a review as thorough as Channe did, but I can say that I liked the movie and was glad that I got to see it.

With a salad fork and a couple of purple wombats I could rule the galaxy.
Channe, I can take criticism of the movie from you, since you are obviously not a troll!

Actually, the only problem I had with Rangers was the overuse of "We Live For the One, We Die For the One". Otherwise, I cut them a lot of slack because it's a pilot. Because of that, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.



"We're in here! Can anyone hear us?"
"I hear you." [giggle, laugh]
"In here!"
"We are here." [giggle, laugh]
-- Londo and G'Kar in Babylon 5:"Convictions"

Tammy's Station
But they're Rangers. You gotta expect a "We live for the One. We die for the One." here and there!

With a salad fork and a couple of purple wombats I could rule the galaxy.
I'll just jump in and agree with pretty much everything Channe said above. (There. Saved myself a lot of time.

The dialogue was typical JMS - uneven. There were some absolutely brilliant lines, particularly the cutting, sarcastic lines - JMS writes sarcastic as well as anyone, I think - but I spent a great deal of time cringing. And if anyone had uttered "We live for the one; we die for the one" even one more time, I would've thrown something heavy at the TV.

One other thing I don't think anybody else has mentioned: If this does go to series (and I hope it will, based on the pilot), I'm concerned about this holosuit thing. It seems too powerful. I'm concerned that it might become a fix-everything plot device, much like ST's transporters.

The production was good. The acting was, on the whole, good, though there were a couple of scattered wooden moments.

And I'm wondering whether Dulann is being set up to replace that John Edward guy...

-- Marty
"Always do what you're good at," they tell me.
So I go around annoying people.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by gkarfan:
"Crossing Over With Dulann"...or how about "Crossing Over With Dulann Edward"? LOL!



Pretty funny Tammy! You should be a commediene!

Dulann: You don't solve your problems by hitting them.
David Martel: Yeah, well, it made me feel better.

[This message has been edited by RW7427 (edited January 20, 2002).]

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