Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- “The River of Souls”

Anyone else get major Star Trek: Insurrection vibes from this poster?

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

The River of Souls

The Soul Hunters are back! I briefly mentioned them in my Season 1 overview and I always hoped they’d show up again in the series. Now we basically get a whole movie dedicated to learning more about the work they do and, more importantly, what mistakes they might make.

The movie has so much going for it that I love. We’ve got sci-fi archaeology. Archaeology is cool enough as it is, but somehow it’s even cooler when we’re in the future, digging up ancient things. And, of course, there’s a kind of cursed object storyline going on, but then it gets tied into the Soul Hunters, one of the more mysterious groups we’ve run into on the whole series. Compound that with some serious twists–a billion angry aliens, for example–and some humor based around a plot regarding a holographic brothel, and this is a recipe for success.

The revelation of the Soul Hunters making a mistake is probably the most important in the whole movie. It’s a major point and theme of the movie, so far as I can tell. At one point, the Martin Sheen Soul Hunter tells Lochley that “We do not make mistakes…” but Captain Lochley was just told that the people of the planet were not dying, “We were evolving!” This is a hugely subversive look at all the plot of the movie that had come before, and it’s a twist that, frankly, is amazing. It’s a horrifying revelation that also penetrates the mystique of the Soul Hunters to the point where they become more believable as a group.

The tension continues to ratchet up, and the holo-brothel somehow looms large in the main part of the plot instead of staying as a kind of comedy generator. After many Soul Hunters show up and demand B5 returns the stolen orb (which is not even in their possession), the aliens get serious about taking revenge upon those who unwittingly imprisoned them for thousands of years. The Martin Sheen Soul Hunter offers himself as a way to prove to the other Soul Hunters–and the aliens–that it was a genuine mistake and that they need to work together to undo it. The move seems to be a success, though we’re left knowing the solution is being worked on rather than being completed. Honestly, this is a good move, because it means the resolution isn’t cheaply gotten.

The River of Souls” is a great Babylon 5 movie. It has the look and feel of the show, with extensions that make sense. Though it doesn’t answer any of my major looming questions from the end of the series, I didn’t mind so much because the plot was so good. It has humor, intensity, the cast nails their roles, and it brings a wonderful conclusion to tie it all together while not putting too neat a bow on it. I loved this movie.

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Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

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2 thoughts on “Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- “The River of Souls”

  1. Glad that you loved it. For me, the four TV-movies pretty much got worse with each instance. ItB was great, TS really good, RoS however was merely ok. It’s elevated by the appearances of Sheen and McShane, and has some strong moments, but overall… *shrug*. Plus, as forgiving as I am about weak(er) CGI-effects, but they really tried too much here with the budget they got; those yellow glowing soul-entities looked TERRIBLE. However, I really like the revelation about the mistake that the Soul Hunters made, as well as the journey of Michael Sheens character. So there’s at least that.

    ACtA for me had the better story, but was destroyed by the “music”. Looking forward to learn how you liked it.

  2. […] “The River of Souls”– We finally get to learn more about the Soul Hunters! I loved this movie, and I thought it added quite a bit to the lore of Babylon 5.  […]

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