"You're asking the impossible." "Then I am asking the right person."
REVIEW: The most relevant of the B5 movies (unless you count The Gathering), A Call to Arms manages to give us a full adventure set 4 years after Season 5 that's really meant to set up the Crusade spin-off. It will introduce several members of the its cast, the new breed of ship it will use, and by the end, the quest that ship will be on. But I don't want to judge any of that - at least, not in that context - until I get to Crusade (which is just tomorrow, folks, not much waiting). In the context of this film, the Excalibur has an interesting design and characters like Galen and Dureena do their jobs well enough. It all comes across as the start of a D&D campaign as well, and I'm less enthusiastic about that. Beyond the ship's Arthurian name, the techno-mages have returned, and Dureena belongs to something called the Thieves' Guild, and various characters are brought together "magically" so they can go on a quest together. Magically and not, obviously. The visions Sheridan gets are dumped into his head via the Intersect (any Chuck fans in the crowd?), but same difference.
None of the movies beyond In the Beginning used all the main characters, but this one seems particularly bare. Sheridan's the hero, but there's not even a glimpse of Delenn; Garibaldi is forced to trail a rogue Sheridan for most of it (though it's fun how little he empathizes with his cowardly employee); and Zack and Lochley man the station, no one else required. I'm not complaining about a guest-star like Tony Todd, he's always great, and he's someone who's final sacrifice you can feel. Not a star at the time, but interesting to see him here is Carlos Bernard who would play Tony Almeda on 24 (he's the guy with the glasses; didn't recognize him at first because he doesn't speak in a constant whisper). But Dureena the super-thief (she of the weapons gag), and Todd's Captain Anderson and his crew are scarcely replacements for tried and true B5 characters we actually want to see. So is it up to the villains to sustain interest? The Drakh will probably never be more than bargain basement Shadows, but so long as they're using Shadow technology, they're a credible threat. We revisit the devastating planet weapons from the Shadow War, in particular a death cloud that destroys all life on a planet. Cue big battle in Earth orbit, etc.
So why didn't I feel the excitement of the Shadow War or the Earth Civil War, which this battle tries to combine? Familiarity breeds contempt, perhaps, but I don't think that's it. The sound design certainly has something to do with it. The atonal, discordant music used throughout the telefilm is distracting and irritating, but takes the air out of the space battle completely. There's something about the new ships that makes fight choreography a little hard to understand - I got lost in all those horizontal lines - and a murky null-field as a backdrop is, necessarily, murky. It's not bad exactly, but it's nowhere near the level of Thirdspace's final battle, and there's a relative lack of urgency when everyone stands around while a WMD bears down on Earth and lets Dureena talk and talk. Some good moments, certainly, but my attention wandered (to things like the tantalizing mention of the "telepathic crisis", which surely refers to Lyta's revenge on the PsiCorps).
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: A Call to Arms is also a Deep Space Nine episode title. Tony Todd has, of course, played several roles in Trek, including that of Worf's brother and of the grown-up Jake Sisko. Babylon 5 contributor Peter David created adventures for a Starfleet crew on a ship named Excalibur in the New Frontier novels (which, come to think of it, is more B5 than Trek in approach). As for taking an untested and unready ship out of spacedock, that's really Captain Kirk's jam.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I'll concede it's a Medium-High if you're going to watch Crusade, but it all left me a little cold, to be honest.