Babylon 5–The River of Souls (1998)   1 comment

The Captain and Her Take-Out Meal:  A Scene the Likes of Which I Have Never Detected in Star Trek


Turner Network Television (TNT) rescued the Babylon 5 series and granted it the fifth and final season.  TNT also gave the green light to four telefilms:  Thirdspace (Let us ignore it; I try to do so.), In the Beginning (a prequel, with the present day set in 2278 and Emperor Mollari II telling the story of the Earth-Minbari War), The River of Souls, and A Call to Arms (which will be the topic of the next post in this series).  Three of these films are exceptional.

The River of Souls is both a comedy and ghost story of sorts.  There is much reason for the characters to be concerned, for the space station almost explodes.  The Babylon 5 series, no matter how grim it became, never abandoned humor.  A grim series can find and maintain an audience and be excellent television; witness the Ronald D. Moore version of Battlestar Galactica.  (I have every episode and watch new Caprica episodes.)  But J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) is not Ronald D. Moore, and Ronald D. Moore is not J. Michael Straczynski.

Martin Sheen Portraying a Soul Hunter

The River of Souls reaches back to one of the earliest Babylon 5 episodes, Soul Hunter.  (A URL for that post:  Soul Hunters are long-lived beings; one who is 4,000 years old is relatively young and considered naive.  Soul Hunters do not believe in an afterlife, so they seek to preserve the souls of important individuals.  This, the Soul Hunters think, is a service.  They preserve the souls in orbs and speak to the souls, as well as set up spaces where souls may speak to each other.  The Soul Hunters are humble with regard to themselves, thinking themselves unworthy of such preservation.  Not surprisingly, they are outcasts.

Sometimes Soul Hunters “preserve” entire species.  Approximately 10,000 years before The River of Souls (which is set in June 2263), they “preserved” the billion inhabitants of the planet Ralga.  The Soul Hunters perceived that the Ralgans were about to die en masse.  The Ralgans were a species of artists and philosophers, and the Soul Hunters decided to preserve these accomplishments.  So they did.

In 2263, on Ralga, Dr. Robert Bryson, an archaeologist, and his team, enter a Soul Hunter chamber filled with soul orbs.  Bryson takes an orb and leaves the chamber as Soul Hunter vessels attack.  Only he escapes, after which he departs for Babylon 5.

Captain Lochley, Shopping

Meanwhile, on Babylon 5, Captain Elizabeth Lochley tells Lt. Joshua Corwin how enjoyable the relatively quiet last six months have been.  Ever since Michael Garibaldi left for Mars and President John Sheridan departed for Minbar, there has been almost no trouble on the space station.  The thinks that they attract trouble; this is the Sheridan-Garibaldi Effect, akin to the Pauli Effect, named after the Twentieth-Century physicist Wolfgang Pauli, whose presence allegedly caused experiments to go awry and expensive lab equipment to break or explode.  Corwin has news to ruin Lochley’s calm:  Mr. Garibaldi just arrived.  At that moment, a fight breaks out on the Zocalo, the marketplace where Lochley is shopping.

At the Holo-Brothel (Human Nature Is Constant.)

A short, balding man enters the holo-brothel in Down Below.  This is a shady business which exists on the station by a technicality in a business license.  Jacob Mayhew (the owner), who has a tacky wardrobe, offers his “services” via full-body suits with sensors embedded in them.  A client can bring in a picture of his or desired partner (with or without that person’s consent–Mayhew even uses Lochley’s image).  The balding man’s suit malfunctions (out of sight of the camera, of course) causing him to scream.

Mayhew is proof that the baser (if not humorless) aspects of human nature are constant.  Not only does he profit from the loneliness of his clients, but he tells a bad pun:  “Another day, another holo;” holo, not dollar.  When his female employee rolls her eyes, he threatens to make it the company logo, so she will have repeat it every time someone calls.  On the basis of this attempted witticism, Mayhew fancies himself a “literary kind of guy.”

On a more serious note, Garibaldi meets with Lochley in her office.  She asks him if he still sober; he is.  Garibaldi is on the station for business.  He is sorting through projects the late William Edgars had funded and deciding whether to continue financing them.  Garibaldi has a scheduled meeting with Dr. Bryson, who is trying to find a way to extend human life spans.

Dr. Bryson arrives and finds Garibaldi and Lochley.  Bryson and Lochley talk shop, leaving Garibaldi confused.  Besides, he will speak with Bryson in private, to learn if the 2 million credits William Edgars had appropriated was money well spent.  Bryson evades Garibaldi’s questions, saying that he is close to achieving his goal, but wants more time.  Garibaldi grants Bryson an extension until the next day, at which point he wants Bryson’s notes.  (Garibaldi does control the funding.)

Mr. Clute and Lt. Corwin

Lt. Corwin introduces Mr. Clute, the holo-brothel customer who had a bad experience with a full-body suit, to Captain Lochley.  The Captain is unaware of the presence of such an establishment on the station.  She sends Security Chief Zack Allan to investigate this situation.  Allan, while in the holo-brothel, makes comments about how dangerous the full-body suits are, and would-be customers leave.

I wonder if Mr. Clute’s name is an homage to Klute, a 1971 Donald Sutherland-Jane Fonda movie.

Lt. Corwin Presents Captain Lochley with a Love Bat

After Mr. Clute leaves, Lt. Corwin gives Captain Lochley a love bat.  It looks like a baseball bat, but it is much softer and it emits affirming messages.  These include “People like me.”  Remember the love bat; Lochley makes good use of it later.

In his quarters the night before the second scheduled meeting with Garibaldi, Bryson studies the soul globe he stole from Ralga.  Unbeknownst to him, it contains a billion souls.  He makes contact.

A figure emerges from the org and hangs in mid-air.  It says, “They came for us.  They took us away. They had no right. Let me go back to sleep. Let me die.”   Bryson says, “Then you’re not dead!” The figure replies, “You don’t understand.  Leave us alone…”   Bryson, confused, asks, “Don’t understand… what?”  The figure yells,  “Leave us alone!” before exploding into tiny shards of light, which then coalesce back to the tendril of light and return to the globe.

Zack, while on patrol, encounters a dark, sobbing figure.  It is a mother asking where her children are.  Then the figure passes through him.  Zack thinks at first that this is a hologram Mayhew has sent to harass him, but it is one of the Ralgan souls.  They are spreading out on the space station.

The next day, Mr. Riley, Mayhew’s attorney, interrupts Captain Lochley’s breakfast.  He is suing her for restraint of trade.  Babylon 5 has survived a Vorlon fleet, an alien probe, the forces of President William Morgan Clark, a Shadow fleet, and malevolent, psychic creatures who live in Thirdspace.  And now, here is a lawyer!

But, as Ron Popeil says, “there’s more.”

A Soul Hunter, portrayed by Martin Sheen, arrives, in pursuit of Bryson.  The Soul Hunter knows that Bryson is on the station, for he has a soul orb containing the essences of Bryson’s former associates.

In his quarters, Bryson has been speaking to Ralgan souls.  They know that a Soul Hunter has arrived.  Bryson assures them that he will protect them from the Soul Hunters.  “Better to destroy the station, embrace the darkness, than go back there,” he says.

Later, the Soul Hunter speaks to Captain Lochley.  She describes being confined to a soul orb as her concept of Hell.  Meanwhile, souls have begun to fan out across the station, occupying even holograms at the holo-brothel.  They want revenge.  Some Ralgan souls attack the Soul Hunter and injure Lochley.  Then the Captain makes contact with a Ralgan, who explains that about half of the Ralgans have gone insane, and that Ralgans are engaged in a power struggle.

The Soul Hunter brings a flower to the recuperating Lochley.  She explains to him that the Ralgans were not dying 10,000 years ago; they were evolving.  The Ralgans were about to shed their bodies and become non-corporeal.  The Soul Hunter realizes that Lochley is telling the truth.  Yet the others will not believe him, for he relatively young (a mere 4,000 years) and they consider him naive.

A fleet of Soul Hunter vessels arrives at Babylon 5.  The ships will destroy the space station if they do not get the orb back.

Lochley investigates Ralgan appearances on the station, discovering their presence at the holo-brothel.  She also discovers Mayhew’s use of her image.  The Captain throws a hand grenade into the holo-brothel, destroying it.

Many Ralgans have control over Bryson, who sits near the station’s fusion reactor.  They are willing to destroy the station and themselves to kill the Soul Hunters outside the station.  They are also willing to kill everyone on board Babylon 5.  And they will do so in 15 minutes, unless somebody does something soon.  The Soul Hunter offers himself willingly in exchange for the lives of others.  He says, “Let my soul be a bridge between us, and let my soul be doorway to hope.”  The Ralgans accept.

Lochley presents the soul orb to another Soul Hunter.  She explains, “I never knew the name of the other one from your order who came here. He never told me. I don’t even know if you have names. All I know is that he gave his promise and his life to protect you and this place, and the billion minds trapped inside this thing. Make sure that the promises he made on your behalf are kept, or I promise you, the Hunters will become the hunted. I will do whatever it takes to make sure his sacrifice was not in vain.”

Garibaldi leaves the station, his business concluded.  One may assume safely that he cuts Bryson’s funding.  But Garibaldi will be back next month.  And a vase in Lochley’s office falls to the floor and shatters.  What will happen then?

Riley confronts Lochley about her destruction of the holo-brothel and threatens her with more charges.  She uses her own technicalities (such as the unauthorized use of her image) to intimidate Riley, who knows that he has lost.  “You don’t expect me to go back to my client with nothing, do you?” Riley asks.  Then Lochley presents the lawyer with a reprogrammed love bat.  This time it says things like, “I’m an idiot,” “Nobody likes me,” and “My mother dresses me funny.”  Riley slinks out of Lochley’s office.

No matter how well written a summary and review of a Babylon 5 episode or telefilm is, it cannot rival watching the video itself.  Thus I encourage people to find a legal source for these productions and to watch them, and to savor them.



All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted October 14, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Movies

One response to “Babylon 5–The River of Souls (1998)

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post: Babylon 5 (2263 and Later) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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