Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers

A cautionary review

What happens when a beloved series is picked up by the Sci-fi channel and quickly becomes a fan favorite amongst people who watch the channel? They make a TV/B movie and this being the Scifi channel, it's a stinker.

With Legend of the Rangers they stick to tradition as well as they can. For many fans of the series it is the crushing nadir that convinced many of the need to stop pushing for continuation. As one of those fans it hurts to think about, I mean just LOOK at my username. So how did Scifi do this?

I shall summarize in a snazzy bulleted list:

  • An untraditional ranger who retreats in battle instead of dying bravely. A man capable of great things even if it means flying in the face of all he believes. David Martel, " a man with something to prove" after whining about domestic drama on Dawson's Creek.
  • A motley crew of misfit rangers: A token Narn, token Drazi, token vulc-er-Minbari, token black secret agent, token asian.
  • An old broken down space ship that has to beat the odds.(also haunted)
  • An ancient evil plaguing the new Interstellar Alliance, even more powerful and more ancient than previously dealt with ancient evils.
  • A dangerous race against time to save a group of alien delegates.

Sound like any movies you've seen? It's somewhere between Down Periscope and a hole in the head as far as screen writing goes. But I digress, I should be more descriptive.

The Plot

The movie opens with a Ranger ship doing battle with raider ships and losing. Its captain dead and its weapons destroyed, the first officer David Martel decides to play possum instead of ramming the enemy in a blaze of glory.

This decision is viewed as cowardly and his superiors decide to demote him. But "fan favorite" G'kar steps in and gets a word in with Sheridan and manages to get a reprieve for Martel and the command of a broken down old ship named "Liandra." At the same time Martel's long time bully gets command of a wonderful new ship called the "Valen" and together they are sent on an important mission to oversee the investigation of attacks on the outer edge of interstellar commerce.

Suddenly they are set upon by large, strange alien ships which quickly destroy the Valen and cripple the Liandra which escapes with the delegates who survived thanks to the sacrifice of that selfsame bully. They determine that one of the delegates is nothing more than an enemy plant who nearly destroys them all. But in a shrewd move, Martel manages to kill the offending aliens by outsmarting them, while his weapons officer helps them escape in a dazzling Goku impression.

After a harrowing navigation of a comet's tail they finally reach the hypergate only to find one of the evil alien ships waiting for them. But no fear, Martel uses the same trick all over again and it works!

JMS is a pretty good writer, he can create a stable continuity in which the important events in an intricate political television series take place. He wrote a five year epic and it generated a not insignificant fanbase, who rallied and demanded further continuation of the series. And when Crusade, the followup to B5, was not going as planned he cut the series short. He has the ability to write complex and interesting television and with Babylon 5 he proved that he could write long story arcs.

Legend of the Rangers is marred by clichéd plot design, a cast of token characters, a design team with too much control over the budget, second rate thought processes, and third rate acting. The truth is I don't know who to blame for it all. JMS might have found the money too good to be true or Scifi may have just hired its usual team of know nothing movie producers. New Babylon 5 fans, don't see this movie; watch the series, the TNT TV movies, the first season of Crusade, but don't watch this movie.

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