Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Babylon 5: The River Of Souls

The immense talent of actor Ian McShane.

Hold onto your souls brothers and sisters. We're not done with Babylon 5 just yet!
I begin writing by announcing that I have hereby created a new category dubbed Ian McShane. YES, a category entirely devoted to the actor Ian McShane will now be just a mouse click away. We all have our favorites and Ian McShane is one of mine, thus he will now have his very own category here at Musings of a SCI-FI Fanatic. He deserves it. Don't you think? Honestly, I'm just shy of creating a small alter surrounded by candles and incense as a private place of worship to the god that is Ian McShane [small 'g' of course]. In its place I shall create a virtual shrine for all to enjoy the work of one of the world's greatest actors, my good friend Ian McShane. No, we're not actually friends.

Ian McShane is simply a gifted, charismatic, brilliant, genius of an actor. His career weaves with depth from important parts in small films and little known gems to critical roles in major series. All of his work should be sought out and discovered. Stay tuned and I will help you understand the error of your ignorant ways if you are not versed in all things McShane. Ian McShane won a Golden Globe Award [2005] for his role as one of the lead characters, Al Swearengen, in the HBO series Deadwood [2004-2006], which concluded prematurely after just three seasons under the weight of its own production costs. Deadwood is a masterpiece. It's ashame the series was run out of town and into the sunset. It may be his greatest moment, a crowning achievement, but I can only hope there is much more to come. His starring role as King Silas Benjamin was sure to be the next big thing, but it was not to be. His role as the aforementioned king was never fully realized in the short-lived series Kings [2009], another gem of a performance that never had a chance, but the entire series is worthy television. The sole thirteen episode series is still worth watching for his acting chops alone. The Kings DVD set should be resting next to your Deadwood set. Ian McShane also made quite a lengthy career in the title role for a BBC series called Lovejoy [1986-1994]. I'm embarrassed to say I have not seen a single episode. I suspect someday I will. If anyone would like to set me straight about it, please let me know. He's appeared in a number of film classics since his role on Babylon 5: The River Of Souls [1999] including the terrific and smart Sexy Beast [2001] opposite Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley. He'll be appearing in the follow-up to Writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto's Sexy Beast, in 44 Inch Chest [2009]. He's thrown his hat into some fun and guilty pleasure outings like Death Race [2008]. His distinct voice has graced a number of other notable works including Kung Fu Panda [2008] and The Golden Compass [2007] to name a few. He's really hit his stride as of this writing and appears to be in demand more than ever. Other recent notable film appearances include Scoop [2006] and We Are Marshall [2006]. Yet, his career dates back to the 1960s. His earliest start in television began with his generous contribution to an episode of my personal favorite Space:1999, Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life [1975]. Believe it or not, he appeared in the historical television event Roots [1977], an American classic, and played Judas Iscariot in Jesus Of Nazareth [1977]. How about these for a laugh? Magnum .P.I. [1982], Miami Vice [1987], Dallas [1989] and Spongebob Squarepants as Gordon [2008]. His career runs even deeper but I believe this fanatic has said quite enough on the subject. So, kudos to J. Michael Straczynski for landing my good friend Ian McShane. Okay, friends in spirit.

A terrific CGI shot and unique angle of the Babylon 5 station.
Well, lo an behold, just when I thought I had seen it all with Babylon 5, I discover my boy Ian McShane is a featured guest in the fourth Babylon 5 film installment, The River Of Souls. This was a revelation to me people. I had no idea. I stumbled upon it during my voracious search for all things Ian McShane. Here was Babylon 5: The River Of Souls right under my very nose just waiting to be discovered. The DVD box on the mantle collecting dust featured Ian McShane and I never even knew it. I had last watched Thirdspace and The River Of Souls was fortunately next in line. Little did I know one of my favorite actors appeared in this beloved series I had been writing about for so long. Life is funny. So naturally, with that, I launch headlong returning to the epic saga that is Babylon 5, with The River Of Souls.

We open with the classic early generation, digitized CGI that became synonymous with Babylon 5. Sorry folks, it's just really hard to watch that stuff. More importantly, Babylon 5 has always been about character and J. Michael Straczynski has landed some heavyweight talent in Ian McShane and perhaps more notably to some, Martin Sheen. Sheen can be fairly liberal in his politics to the point of crazy, but never quite as nutso as his son Charlie Sheen who believes the US government actually blew up the twin towers on 9/11. Yeah, that kinda crazy. The Rosie O'Donnell lunatic fringe-type. Still, Martin Sheen has supported a number of fine causes and he's a terrific actor. I have loved many of his performances over the years. His role in The Dead Zone [1983] opposite Christopher Walken is chilling perfection as political candidate Greg Stillson. I finally got around to seeing Director Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now [1979] not too long ago and it's an epic war film with a transcendent role Sheen fully embraces and makes his own. He's amazing and it's recommended. Still, his choices in film and television have also leaned left and his career is loaded with as many misses as he has hits. He's never been quite as selective as Ian McShane and therefore you must be pretty selective when seeking out Sheen material. I digress a bit, but I'm really jazzed to watch this film that sports two powerhouse performers. I'm hoping for big things here despite my possibly overblown and unrealistic expectations.

The Babylon 5 film begins with Ian McShane as Dr. Robert Bryson and a group of research miners attempting to break into a vault of some kind. The Bryson character uncovers a symbol of life and death or as he puts it, "life in death," a symbol of life eternal. The men chip away breaking inside the sealed vault that has been sealed off for some time. Bryson is seeking immortality. He's like a modern day Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer searching for the fabled Fountain Of Youth during the 16th Century. The whole thing feels like a heist. The vault is filled with glowing orbs. The whizzing sound of alien vessels fly overhead. The men get anxious, unnerved and decide to leave. Bryson pleads with them to stay and explore further. Initially, they appear to be nothing more than treasure hunters or modern day grave robbers. Working quickly, Bryson wraps up one of the orbs. As Bryson attempts to leave with his newly discovered treasure trove, he watches from high atop the mount where he witnesses his fleeing men below cut down by alien laser fire. Staying behind seems like a wise descision now. Bryson heads back into the tomb to hide. The orb glows and he talks to it telling the orb he will never let it go and that he will find a way. Bryson will find a way to do what? Having seen promo shots of this film over the years and judging from the title of the Babylon 5 film I can only conclude this has something to do with the Soul Hunters and the capturing of souls. Is this the Soul Hunter homeworld? I believe so. The only real substance discussed concerning this race, if I recall, can be found in Babylon 5, Season One, Episode 2, Soul Hunter.

On Babylon 5, the credits roll and the first regular cast member we see is Lochley. I was definitely looking forward to Ivanova, but it looks to be post-Ivanova. I suspect this fourth film was produced sometime during the fifth season of Babylon 5 specifically following the events of Season Five, Episode 21, Objects At Rest. My deduction is the result of Sheridan and Delenn's absence. Garibaldi, too, is also on Mars as Lochley indicates she misses them to Corwin. The credits note Martin Sheen will be the Soul Hunter. Soul Hunters are kind of cool, kind of intriguing, but I can't see his part being all that juicy. We'll see. Hopefully, McShane has the more interesting, beefy role.

A man leaves the lounge and heads to a Virtual Excitement room. An electrical incident occurs, but we don't know much more at this point. Garibaldi has arrived on the station for business. He has an appointment with a researcher who is doing work for him on the books. The researcher is Bryson. He is a doctor of archaeology and anthropology. Garibaldi pipes into Lochley, as only he can, "he digs stuff up." It's fun to watch Ian McShane perform. He is brilliant within his craft. I'm stating the obvious here, but he looks younger. His performance in Deadwood is a masterstroke of performance art genius and his wisdom of years has infused such works to his advantage. He is a truly assured, mature actor today. As Bryson departs, Lochley asks him if he's found anything of interest lately. Bryson confirms, "most definitely." Elsewhere, in Bryson's room, the stolen orb glows pulsating with light. I wonder how he ever managed to get off that planet alive. Surely 'a crafty son of a bitch,' as McShane's Deadwood character might say.

Over a meal, Bryson expresses his sadness over the passing of William Edgars. He calls him a "visionary" and "a good man," especially as a funding source for his own research. Garibaldi calls him a "nut" and a "control freak." Garibaldi glazes over the subject disinterested in discussing his wife's former husband and the previous head of Edgars Industries.

Garibaldi is getting to the bottom of this particular research project dubbed in the Edgars' ledgers as "LE" or as Bryson refers to the pet project as "life eternal." Bryson discusses his search for immortality. I find McShane captivating as an actor. Is it me? It could be. Call it a man crush as The One To Be Pitied likes to say. Whatever. How 'bout you? I'm sure you have your favorite actors. The guy is brilliant.

By the way, Doyle's performance opposite McShane is nothing to sneeze at here either. In the Captain's quarters, Corwin arrives with Mr. Klute, the man who visited Virtual Excitement [I'll call it that for lack of a better business name]. He reports of a problem in the Down Below with Virtual Excitement's Holo Brothel. Now there's a classic. This may point to some of the electrical discharges, among other discharges [ewww], going on in the Down Below. Lochley is unaware of the Holo Brothel and wants it checked out. It's not sanctioned by the station. Following the brief meeting, Corwin gives Lochley a "lovebat." It's a stress reliever. It's like a baseball bat covered in foam material. It's a rather bizarre gift as Corwin demonstrates rather goofily here. It's pure Corwin.

Corwin is like the geek Lieutenant. He's pretty funny. Tracey Scoggins is definitely looser in this film than some of her performances found in Season Five, but she can't hold a candle to the likes of Ian McShane. She's still wooden in comparison to the natural gifts of an actor like McShane. Did I mention I love Ian McShane? No matter how good the talent in any show or film, the performance rests almost entirely on the material with which they are given. We can only hope Straczynski is in rare form here. It's a testament to the partnership of all involved in either film or TV.

In his quarters, Bryson is working with the stolen orb. Of course, how stolen can it really be? Isn't it already stolen? I remember the nightmare that was the Soul Hunter in Season One, Episode 2, Soul Hunter and the soul-hunting creature that attempted to take Delenn's life. If I remember correctly, the race of Soul Hunters typically show up to claim a soul when someone is about to die, but things went slightly awry in that episode. It will be interesting to see where this film takes the story. The equipment Bryson has stolen allows him to link with the imprisoned lifeform's soul within the orb. Bryson records his contact in his journal.

Elsewhere, Zack is checking things down low in the Down Below over at the Virtual Excitement establishment. Zack tells him to pack up and catch the next ship out. The establishment's proprietor indicates there was nothing specific stipulated in the contract concerning his use of the rented location. He bought and paid for the next six months. His contract indicates an "unspecified entertainment business." Hmm, sounds grey enough. The man indicates he can create old flames and girlfriends who got away in the old Holographic Brothel. The man's name is Jacob Mahew and he does a heck of a nice job trying to convince Zack that he should enjoy his place of business. I suspect Zack will not bite. He never does. Zack is a 'right and wrong' man. Zack will be back. Mahew gets a guy named Reilly on the line.

Bryson continues his quest to make contact. He increases the power link to the orb and frees an alien entity for a holographic discussion. If you didn't notice, the alien's voice is the work of regular recurring guest mainstay, Wayne Alexander [Come The Inqusitor's Jack and the ongoing Lorien character throughout Season Four]. "They came for us. They took us away. They had no right. Let me go back to sleep. Let me die." The creature is clearly in pain, trapped, but clearly a victim of the Soul Hunters. These Soul Hunters are a dodgy lot. "LEAVE US ALONE," screaming as it returns to the orb. Bryson is fascinated. While recording in his journal Bryson falls asleep and his pen rolls into the orb, which rolls the orb in direct contact with the metallic linking arms Bryson used to communicate with the creature. Energy sparks and something is happening.

Zack walks through the corridors and hears a woman weeping, "where are my children." Zack sees the woman sitting on the stairs and pulls out a flashlight shining it upon her. Her image is translucent. She is like a ghost, a lost soul perhaps. She jumps and leaps straight through Zack.

In the Zocalo, Lochley eats her breakfast when she is approached by Attorney James Reilly who represents Mahew and his New Way Holosystems Corporation. He lays down a restraining order on the Captain and a subpoena. Something tells me Lochley won't take this lightly. Reilly is suing for harassment among other charges that are clearly trumped up and exaggerated beyond anything that transpired between Zack and Mahew. So clearly as the film progresses there are two stories in play.

Elsewhere, Garibaldi pays Bryson a visit. He wants to see his notes. Bryson indicates it's not a good time. Garibaldi is allowed to enter only to find the place is in shambles. Computers are smashed and notes are burned. McShane serves up a terrific turn.

I'm not sure if there could be a better choice than Ian McShane to play the part of Bryson. It's a treat. Granted he could probably play the tooth fairy and I'd enjoy the performance. "He's out of his fraggin' mind" declares Zack regarding Mayhew to Lochley. Is it me or is "fraggin'" pretty damn close to "frakkin'?" [a term coined repeatedly in Battlestar Galactica]. Lochley knows Mahew is simply buying time to tie Babylon 5 up in a legal battle so he can keep his operation open. Lochley keeps a cool head but wants maintenance to check Mahew's equipment. Zack tells Lochley about the apparition he saw on the stairs. He thinks it was the handiwork of Mahew from his holographic equipment. Lochley knows such a reality would require a great energy source and it just can't be. Garibaldi arrives and the trio is notified of the arrival of a Soul Hunter through the jumpgate. Garibaldi recaps the Soul Hunter backdrop for newbies. They capture "the souls of important people right at the moment of death." Garibaldi knows they are real and they only come when "someone's about to die." Zacks coughs and Garibaldi looks at him. It's pretty funny. Zack must be suffering from the ghost. Perhaps the apparition is inside of him. I'm not certain. Garibaldi busts Zack. "You are looking kind of pale." Pretty funny, but not. Security forces, Zack, Garibaldi and Lochley greet the arrival of Martin Sheen as a very serious Soul Hunter with very serious business.

It's kind of hard to believe this is the same Martin Sheen from Apocalypse Now. It's quite odd. The Soul Hunter has an embedded crystal within his forehead. It begins to light as he holds an orb and tells the staff of Babylon 5 something was stolen from him. The Soul Hunter educates Lochley, Garibaldi, Zack and company that he strictly claims the souls of the rarest of the rare, the artists, the poets etc.. The Soul Hunter tells of a distant world called Rowgo [sp?]. It was populated by an advanced people that had all but been forgotten except by the Soul Hunters. That race chose not to leave and go beyond the stars. They were poets, philosophers and dreamers. "We are drawn to the smell of death." A billion lives would die. The Soul Hunters responded with a fleet of seemingly endless ships with the sole mission to save them all. Martin Sheen is almost philosophical in the role. He gives the mythology of the Soul Hunters a greater depth than previously witnessed. The Soul Hunters brought that race to one of their Whisper Galleries where they might speak with one another. The Soul Hunters believed no one knew of their location. They were wrong.

Zack raises the moral questions Straczynski loves to weave into his stories. It's almost like the death penalty question? What gives us the right to put another to death despite that person's crime? I happen to be in favor of the death penalty, but what if mistakes are made? Innocent people can surely die if the case isn't rock solid. Zack begs the question what gives Soul Hunters the right to take custody of this race? Would the alien race have chosen to be imprisoned in a Whisper Gallery? The Soul Hunter states the facts, and the alternative is death. Zack disagrees and offers another option, "heaven." It's a terrific morality play, because it speaks to the heart of one's belief system. What if these creatures were meant to die? What if they believed they were supposed to die? What if the Soul Hunters, by their sheer singular focus and mission, are somehow misguided, imposing their will on a system of beliefs radically separate from their own? These are the questions and there are many.

Bryson is on the move and has an orb with one billion souls in his grasp. The Soul Hunter indicates the strength in that orb could alter the landscape of the universe. Really? One soul has the power and potential to do it. One billion atempting to escape could be another matter entirely. Lochley wonders, what if they are seeking revenge? The Soul Hunter suspects they could find a physical being to channel their influence and affect that individual as an instrument of their power. Bryson? Bryson is their man.

Bryson is communicating with those he has released. He is now the embodiment of those souls. He is undergound and they are channeling their desire and rage through him. They would prefer to "destroy the station, embrace the darkness" than go back to the Whisper Gallery. Lochley plans on finding Bryson before she is interrupted by Attorney Reilly. Down below in the Down Below, Bryson is making a further connection with the orb. He looks seriously deranged. Meanwhile, a client is about to try out the old Holographic Brothel. I'm beginning to see where these two stories may collide. The holographic hottie stands before the client, but then her eyes light up and a young stud appears and begins speaking with her. The client indicates, "I didn't program in a threesome." Boy that blonde sure is hot though. The chubby client studders as he watches. He quickly exits somewhat embarrassed. The holographic young hot couple morphs into two aliens from the planet Rowgo. A little alien love is ignited. Moments later... HOLY TOLEDO! Great fun! A nearly naked Captain Lochley passes by the man and she is as hot as can be. I bet she had a bit of fun with this portion of her filming. Well, it was fun for us. Here it is.

Is that funny? I believe that someone in Virtual Excitement was looking to get it on with the Captain in their dreams. Elsewhere, a man attempts to make a phone call. The power dips. Electrical sparks give way to another of the alien souls. This one bears an alien scicle of some sort and kills the man. The river of lost souls is rising and clearly materializing.

In Lochley's quarters the Soul Hunter waits. The Soul Hunter is surely a powerful being. We learn a bit more about the Soul Hunters in this sequence. They feed by way of their ship and can remain free of their ship and feeding for several days before needing to recharge. Lochley digs into a barbecue beef burger made in the Down Below. She doesn't actually believe it to be beef, but it tastes so damn good. She tells the Soul Hunter most of her compatriots won't go own Down Below for it. The scene is interesting because it tells us a little more about the Lochley character. She's not afraid to get dirty. She's not above the fray. She's kind of one of the people. Lochley tries to delve a little deeper with the Soul Hunter as to what it is they do with their captured souls. He tells her they are preserved in the great halls for the ages. You have to admit, it's almost like lives are lost in limbo or in some kind of purgatory. Lochley kind of agrees. She equates what the Soul Hunter describes as a kind of hell. The Soul Hunter believes "the soul is pure, the soul needs only to continue, to be." Lochley tackles the philosophical and spiritual. Lochley believes it was these lives' gifts that made the soul special. The souls were the result of what they did. She tells him if there is a heaven the Soul Hunter race may be committing "a crime beyond description by taking these souls instead of allowing them to move on." The Soul Hunter asks another question as the two continue their debate about life or life after death. He asks, if there is no heaven would you not want to continue? She answers no.

The power goes out. The Soul Hunter senses "rage unleashed" and tells Lochley to get behind him. Lochley leaps into action as an energy field forms behind the Soul Hunter. Lochley sacrifices herself to save the Soul Hunter and knocks him down as the energy surges through her body and knocks her back against the wall. She is whisked away on a guerney in a nifty dramatic sequence.

Another nifty CGI shot. It's like early computer game graphics. Give me a hand-painted matte anyday.
So the alien entity somehow commandeers Lochley's lifeforce utilizing her as a communication channel. The real Lochley essentially expires. Lochley's new lifeforce jets away to Rowgo where she finds a lifeforce appearing as a representation of Dr. Franklin. The alien speaks of Rowgo's past forever memorialized in thought and memory. The alien force has stopped Lochley's heartbeat long enough for it to speak with her. The Soul Hunter was the intended recipient of this conversation, but Lochley is the vessel as a result of her unexpected intervention. The entity tells Lochley's lifeforce of the 'mad ones'. In this purgatory there is a dark place that has been created and more and more of these alien forces go there. The image is very Lord Of The Rings with a kind of Mordor aspect to it all. The entity spirit believes there will be nothing left of its race and all will be lost. Lochley wonders why Bryson doesn't just destroy the orb. The entity indicates the 'mad ones' will do anything to destroy the orb. It was believed the aliens of Rowgo were dying. The spirit, in Franklin's image, emphatically denies its race was dying. It tells Lochley it was a mistake. They were not dying, but before he can finish Lochley returns to her body in a flash. The entity screams one last breath that his people were "evolving." Armed with new information it could get interesting for Lochley.

The Soul Hunters are taking up position around Babylon 5 completely encircling it. Corwin launches all starfuries and he's barking orders like he's got balls we never knew existed. He's like a young, little grizzly bear. He's matured and definitely finding a way to take charge when needed. Meanwhile, the Soul Hunter visits Lochley with a flower. He tells her thank you. No one has ever moved or acted in such a way because the Soul Hunters are "universally feared and hated," he insists. The Soul Hunter is quite gracious and sincere in his thanks to Lochley. So what happens to Soul Hunters when they die inquires Lochley. They simply die. Their sole purpose is to carry on the mission of perserving the souls of others. Now there's a kick in the pants for you if you're a Soul Hunter. By the way, 'Soul Hunter' is such a plain term that it sounds kind of funny when referring to these fairly tough hombres. They should be referred to as the Fanzzizi or something exotic. He warns the weakened Lochley that the Soul Hunters of his order are prepared to board to find the missing vessel/ orb in Bryson's possession if it is not found soon. Lochley won't let them board, but the Soul Hunter offers her another lovely nugget of good news about the order. Their ships can attach and burn through any hull. Things are really looking up. It was interesting to see Martin Sheen's character reference an example of failure from his united Soul Hunter order. This example points to the intended capture of the soul of Dukhat. Dukhat was a real highlight in Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 9, Atonement. Interestingly, this incident is referenced in Season One, Episode 2, Soul Hunter to Delenn. It is later covered in detail within Atonement. The Minbari stemmed off a Soul Hunter arrival and were successful. Those Minbari are damn good. As one past comment noted on my Atonement entry, there is significant detail given to Straczynski's epic and he rarely forgets the previous references along the way. It's impressive. The Minbari can stop just about anyone. Not to mention, the Minbari leader Valen was slightly influential on both the past and future. A good example of the power of the Minbari would definitely have to be Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 16 & 17, War Without End Part One and Part Two. Those Minbari are something special and always intriguing. Their like onions with layer upon layer revealing more information that stings the eyes. Granted, I prefer parfaits. Parfaits have layers. ;)

The Soul Hunter tells Lochley his order does not make mistakes. "Yes, you do," confirms Lochley. She shares her story with the Soul Hunter. She describes Rowgo as the ringed planet with two moons. It's a lovely planet by the way. Lochley speaks of the Vorlons and other races who evolve beyond their need for physical bodies. The Rowgo race, too, was captured in error at the moment of their evolution. We were witness to the evolved human as demonstrated at the close of Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 22, The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars. "Beings of pure energy." Right. So, the Soul Hunters, obviously, interfered as the aliens of Rowgo were about to forego their physical bodies, shed them and transcend it all. "It should have been their greatest moment." This is a pretty good moment for Lochley, but then it veers off into preachy a bit. I also wasn't quite prepared for the response of the Soul Hunter. Shouldn't they be a little smarter than this? I thought to err his human, apparently it's Soul Hunter too. I guess nobody is perfect after all. Seriously, it feels like a pathetic attempt at help? The Soul Hunter just looks lost. I suppose it is arrogance, but it seems awful convenient in the end.

By the way, Lochley looks pretty good bouncing back from the dead. Scoggins also shines in the role better here than most of Babylon 5, Season Five. She definitely had more material to play with here. Lochley seeks out Zack. Soul Hunter ships are holding their positions. Corwin reports some unusual readings from the reactor, but "that's all." That's all you say?! It's a freakin' nuclear reactor or some kind of energy reactor and you aren't the least bit worried. Okay. If I'm getting unusual read outs from a reactor core I'm worried. That's just me. Garibaldi and Zack are in the Down Below. They find a dead man. Mayhew interrupts Garibaldi and Zack who begin arguing over the fact their's a Holo Brothel on board the station. It's an amusing moment of levity.

The river of lost souls appears to have taken up residence in the Holo Brothel. I suppose there are worse places. Garibaldi is freaking hysterical. And I was right about Lochley. She was definitely a programming request utilized by the client base. The souls have been released via holographic image. The souls are led by a version of Lochley out for revenge. Garibaldi, Zack and the real Lochley notice the power dimming, but the same holographic images are not flickering. She has a theory and so do I. The reactor! Lochley looks her impostor up, down and close. She suspects the souls are prepping to blow the reactor. The holograms were a diversion, a red herring, a decoy. Those souls want vengeance and want to destroy the soul hunters that surround Babylon 5. They're willing to take the station with them. This funny exchange occurs between Garibaldi and Lochley. As you know they have always had a hot/cold relationship. This really speaks to Garibaldi's fondness for her. Okay, maybe after seeing the naked Lochely I might be a little fonder too.

The Soul Hunter reports to Lochley and informs her his order will not heed his words. They said they would have picked up on it in an analysis, but no analysis was ever performed. Man! Wow! How do they pull the trigger on a race without a damn analysis. Come on Soul Hunters! What is wrong with you that you would forego analysis!? Anyway, they didn't do one. They definitely should have and like capital punishment you simply need all of the evidence. You need all of the facts. If the facts aren't there how do you pull the trigger? The Soul Hunters justify their move by adding they never saw any reason for analysis. Yeah, like, nevermind any the bloody tools or the smoking gun either, but that stuff can't be ignored. They felt no investigation was necessary. The Soul Hunter seemingly troubled by this admits, "Faith is good, but sometimes faith is blind." Garibaldi asks the natural reaction question we might ask, "Why don't they believe you? You're one of their own kind." The Soul Hunter reports that his order feels this may be a scheme on the part of Babylon 5 to keep the souls for themselves. We also get a bit more information about the Soul Hunters. This particular Soul Hunter is four thousand years old and is considered quite naive compared to those much older Soul Hunters. How much older can you get? Geesh! No wonder they could care less about dying. They just don't die. The Soul Hunters, young and old alike, will attack in 20 short Earth minutes. That's like one Soul Hunter year. This may speak to why I felt so perplexed by the Soul Hunter's behavior earlier with Lochley in the medlab. Perhaps, this Soul Hunter is less rigid and more open, by comparison, to other Soul Hunters. Perhaps his own soul is more open and willing to accept aid or assistance by the very fact he is, by all accounts, much younger.

Down Below Bryson is encapsulated in a circle of energy while he holds the vessel. Sadly, we're pretty much done with the acting input of Ian McShane at this point. Security takes position around Bryson. Garibaldi suggests trying to make a connection with Bryson before he is killed along with all the souls. A ball of energy flies out at Garibaldi and security quickly opens fire on Bryson to know avail. Martin Sheen's character, in the end, becomes far less rigid than when he was first introduced in the episode. I'm not sure if that's intentional or a slight inconsistency in his character development. I suppose being a younger Soul Hunter with an open heart [and soul] might allow for that kind of change. Somewhat surprisingly he finds the actions of his order unconscionable and despicable. In the final analysis, he sounds near ready to lead a charge/ revolt. Still, the Soul Hunter has a plan. The Soul Hunter reaches out to make ammends with the lost souls through Bryson. This is where I felt the Soul Hunter diverged a little too conveniently for me in the film. The race of Soul Hunters, if as arrogant as suggested, simply wouldn't comply that easily. One might expect this Soul Hunter to do the same with regard to Lochley's discovery. It just seemed a little out of character for a Soul Hunter. It's a minor gripe. Nevertheless, the Soul Hunter attempts to make ammends. The Soul Hunter suggests finding a way to release them from their bondage. Um, if the Soul Hunters find this particular Soul Hunter "naive" what makes him think his order will comply with this suggestion. He seems to believe his people will see the truth once they understand. The Soul Hunter sacrifices himself. Captured, the race might be able to use his soul as a sort of bargaining chip to free their race. He is infinitely guilty over the taking of their lives at the moment of their supreme evolution. He urges them to use the death of his body as a bridge and his soul as the doorway to hope. The Soul Hunter drops, the power vacuum ceases and Bryson falls too.

The Soul Hunters are given back the glowing bowling ball a.k.a. the vessel of souls. Lochley wants to make sure the Soul Hunters honor THE sole Soul Hunter's sacrifice. In the end, the Soul Hunters leave. The future uncertain, but with hope. Bryson is apparently still alive and interested in further 'life eternal' research, but sadly his character was relegated to secondary status by the second half of the film and we never saw much from him again. All ends with a visit from Attorney Reilly in Lochley's quarters as Garibaldi parts. Lochley indicates Reilly did not read the lease for Mahew's brothel carefully. Section 7, Clause 4 indicates Babylon 5 is not responsible for military action on the station. Lochley basically sends him packing threatening a countersuit for use of her image in the brothel. You see, you really need to read the fine print. He offers a parting gift in the form of the lovebat reprogrammed with a number of new voice activated bits.

In more ways than one, it feels like the question of taking a life without necessarily having all of the facts is in question here as only Straczynski could put it. Could this be raising questions of capital punishment? It's certainly likely. On another note, the casting for this entry was really intriguing and worked rather well considering you had no Mira Furlan, Bruce Boxleitner, Peter Jurasik or Andreas Katsulas to pick it up. That's a pretty tall order for Tracey Scoggins. She does an admirable job with the feature backed by Jeff Doyle and two powerhouse guests in Martin Sheen and more importantly, for me, Ian McShane. Sadly, McShane had a fairly small, but meaty role. I would have enjoyed more McShane.
In the end, The River Of Souls was a solid story. I do think the haunted aspects of the film were far more interesting and successful in their execution over and above Babylon 5, Season Five, Episode 8, Day Of The Dead. Director Janet Greek does a nice job with a straightforward, fairly quiet story bolstered by a female lead. It's a thoughtful entry and in that it's worth your attention. The perfomances are also equally solid on the whole. It also has Ian McShane. Do you like Ian McShane? He rules! I love him. I checked out the DVD extras and unfortunately there's not the slightest mention of him. One thing is certain, there was a river of talent that brought this slow churning episode to life. The performances were good. The material was mediocre. In this case, this Season Five era film featured the slightly more fascinating Soul Hunters and that's always a step up from Byron, the Psi-Corps Harlequin romance guy and his crazy group of radicals. Jump into this one for McShane alone, the water's fine.

The River Of Souls: B-


Anonymous said...

AWSOME !!!,thank you,no one ever talks about the movies,well except for "Babylon 5 The Lost Tales,are you going to review,I hope I do value your opinon(??),you know my spelling :)please more movies :)

SFF said...

Thank you. Well, it takes a bit of time to put these together, especially the films because they are longer. Fear not, A Call To Arms, Legend Of The Rangers and The Lost Tales are all in queue. Best to you.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU !!! :)

SFF said...

Thank you. At least I know some folks out there appreciate it. It's good to hear. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

You must check Lovejoy! Ian is simply awesome! You'll love his asides to the audience. I've not watched this yet but am in a process of going through as much of Ian's work as I can get my greedy hands and eyes on. I highly recommend The Last of Sheila as well. Thanks for reviewing this. I read it and all your other reviews on Ian's work with interest and quite a few smiles.

SFF said...

Thanks so much for taking time to leave your kind thoughts.

It's hard to knock an actor of Ian's caliber anyway, but, like you, he's a seasoned pro and just commands the screen time whenever the camera is upon him.

I will definitely look into Lovejoy. I've wanted too for sometime. I will look back into it. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Ian MacShane turned up to work late, hung over or still high, and never knew his lines or hit his marks. Jerry Doyle got physical with him for being so disrespectful to the show, the crew, the actors, and even the genre. I was there. Every day. And get over the Tracy Scoggins meanness. She was great stepping into an uncomfortable position on the 5th Season. She was the nicest of all the actors.

SFF said...

Anonymous. I'd love to know a little more about your role on the set even who you are.

Love Jerry Doyle.

Scoggins may be very nice. I wasn't a huge fan of her performance, but may have been a bit tough on her.

I may have approached my review of B5 quite differently had I done them today.