"Faith is good. But sometimes faith is blind."
REVIEW: So the night before the season finale (Objects at Rest; let's call Sleeping in Light the SERIES finale), they broadcast THIS piece of crap that takes place 6 months later. Bizarre, until you realize how anti-climactic it would have felt AFTER it. Essentially, we're seeing what the show would be like after everyone of note has left. It's just Lochley, Zack and Corwyn, with a special guest appearance by Garibaldi sporting the worst goatee in the series (and that's saying something), with a Doc Franklin cameo. Not that I mind Lochley getting a little more play, and Zack has really grown on me, I admit. To give the TV movie its due, it's definitely director Janet Greek's best effort. I've often felt that seeing her name attached to an episode meant it would be a poor one, flatly directed, but I'm reassessing that. In The River of Souls, you won't see much of a "river" EXCEPT in her direction, as the camera (and CG camera) will often be involved in smooth, long, single takes, flowing and following the action. We also get some quality guest-stars like Ian McShane (of later Deadwood fame) and Martin freaking Sheen (although I think he's wasted doing alien intonations and wearing a prosthetic that limits his expressions).
Whether or not the Soul Hunters really were as popular as the production says they were, it seems a bit late to follow up on the thread at this point. It's another alien artifact story, like Thirdspace, but much more contained. Interesting to see the ancient mausoleums the Soul Hunters keep the taken souls in, and the idea of a whole world taken just as it was about to transcend the physical - as we know can happen in the B5 universe - is an interesting one, even if it's used to do a "haunted station" story. The holo-brothel (more on this below) element is obviously there to give escaped souls a physical presence, at least for a while. Sheen's Soul Hunter is unique in that he's ready to accept the possibility his people made a mistake and comes off as sympathetic, and his sacrifice is unsurprising. Ultimately though, the episode hinges on a lot of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, and debates we've heard before.
The real irritation is the holo-brothel subplot. Not only does Joel Brooks dish out another of his supposedly-funny-but-annoying characters (I blame the scripts, not him), but we spend too much time in his company as girls in negligés walk around the set. When the souls take over the holograms, it turns into a peep show, one that hardly makes sense if the holograms have no actual substance. And then it's revealed the brothel has been illegally using Lochley's image (calling it public domain) as one of its "holo-hos" (the production's word, not mine) forcing Scoggins to get undressed (come on, Joe, try to keep it in your pants). To the CHARACTER'S credit, she's got too thick a skin to really let it get to her, and only arches an eyebrow when she finds out it's mostly been used by women. On the WRITER'S level, a writer who has allowed it to be suggested (by Gaiman in Day of the Dead) that Lochley might have been involved in prostitution as a young adult (done things she's "not proud of" to survive), it seems like this should have been more disturbing to her. Lochley has some good scenes with the brothel's over-tanned lawyer (I think B5 had some real make-up problems when it came to covering those up), but the pay-off is also the pay-off to an absurd and unfunny scene (which, according to the commentary track, JMS found EXTREMELY funny... this guy) in which Corwyn gives Lochley a "love-bat" that spouts feel-good psychobabble when you hit something or yourself with it. It's dumb and makes me think Corwyn is a real creep, which I'm sure wasn't the intent. Just embarrassing. But we need the scene, see, because at the end, Lochley has reprogrammed it to tell the lawyer he's an idiot. Oh, ow, my sides hurt. Groan.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Looks like Quark has started a holosuite franchise in the B5 universe (and getting Lochley's image was a lot easier than getting Kira's). Its operator, Jacob Mayhew, is played by Joel Brooks who played an equally annoying producer of illusory entertainment on Deep Space Nine's Move Along Home.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - While I'm glad for the spotlight to be on Lochley, a normally disposable story with admittedly strong guest stars is sunk by the writer indulging his baser impulses, i.e. creepy voyeurism and bad jokes only thinks are funny.