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Last Update on Feb 08 '99
Title: A Call To Arms
Production Number: TNT MoW4
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski    Director: Mike Vejar
Production Date: July 20 1998 (?)
Music: Even Chan
Official Site: TNT's A Call to Arms Site
Contents: [Plot] - [Overview] - [Cast] - [Review]

This is the fourth TNT movie. It leads into the new series and features various members of the Babylon 5 cast who remain on station after the final season.

Sheridan must unite 3 new allies in order to save Earth from certain annihilation. It tells the story of an attack on Earth by the Shadow's allies and the consequences of a biogenetic plague that is unleashed there.

Overview: The two hour Babylon 5 film will start the story for Crusade. Featuring various members of the Babylon 5 cast (Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Tracy Scoggins, and Jeff Conaway.), it tells the story of the failed attack on earth and the consequences of a shadow-tech disease being spread on earth. Much will take place on Babylon 5.
  The InterStellar Alliance (ISA) president, John Sheriden and his friend, Michael Garibaldi, inspect the ISA's newest ships, the Exclaibur and the Victory, whci are based on Human/Minbari/Vorlon technology. Little do they know how important they will be.
  The former Shadow servants, the Drakh, are in a terrible situation. Without their masters, they have little power. So they decide on becoming independent and are in need of a new homeworld. They decide that taking Earth would be a powerfull gesture, since it was a human who had caused them so much grieving (and who destroyed their former homeworld, Z'ha'dum).
  Galen, a young Technomage, knows about the Drakh plan. He has secretly been watching Sheriden and decides to warn him.
  Two other people also had dreams about the planned attack: Dureena Nafel, a thief, comes to Babylon 5. Captain Anderson of the Charon, who commands a destroyer, also sets course for Babylon5.
  With combined forces, the Drakh attack utterly fails, and they are forced to abandon their plans. However, before they retreat, they release a virus onto earth, a leftover of Shadow technology. The doctors of earth say that it will take the virus 5 years to adapt itself to the humans, and then become lethal.

Bruce Boxleitner ... President John Sheridan
Jerry Doyle ... Michael Garibaldi
Tracy Scoggins ... Captain Elizabeth Lochley
Jeff Conaway ... Security Chief Zack Allan
Peter Woodward ... Technomage Galen
Carrie Dobro ... Dureena Nafeel
Wayne Alexander ... Drakh
Tony Todd ... Captain Anderson
Matt Gallini ... Rolf
Review: By Lars Joreteg

Review: "Babylon 5: A Call to Arms"

"When the time comes to pick your target, be sure pick the right one, because you will only get one shot." - Galen

        Let me start out by saying that in my opinion "A Call to Arms" is the best Babylon 5 movie yet. The first movie (not counting the pilot), "In the Beginning", was solid storytelling, but it tried to do too much for a two-hour movie. Also, being aimed at new viewers, it contained few surprises for a regular viewer. The second movie, "Thirdspace", had an interesting setup, but the last hour was very weak, where the plot deteriorated into nonsense. The third one, "River of Souls" was good, but did not elaborate on the overall Babylon 5 story-line, it felt almost like a "filler" episode - a good one, but still a filler. And here comes the latest (and presumably last) Babylon 5 movie, "A Call to Arms". Where the other movies rehashed or strayed from story arc, "A Call to Arms" is the first movie to really continue the story.

        This movies story takes place four years after the events in "Objects at Rest", fifteen years before the Babylon 5 final episode, "Sleeping in Light". While Sheridan and Garibaldi are inspecting the prototypes of the new destroyers that are nearing completion, the Excalibur and Victory, Sheridan starts to have ominous dreams about an imminent attack on Earth. He is drawn to Babylon 5 to meet with others who have had similar dreams, and together they must find out what the Drakh are up to and stop Earth from certain destruction.

        I liked the mystical, quest-like feel the first part of the movie very much. It gave the move an almost mythical atmosphere, and the dreams/visions were very well done. The second hour brings us some exploration and quite a bit of action. The first encounter with the Drakh is particularly well done, and the final battle is set up nicely. The plot stumbles a bit during the final battle, though, when there is a long strategy discussion during the heat of a massive battle. Those scenes should have been played with more urgency, it destroyed the momentum of the previous scenes. It also made Sheridan seem surprisingly indecisive, which seems out of character. The post-battle anti-climax was well done though, but I would have wanted to see more reactions. Personally I would also have replaced Sheridans final discussion/explanation in favor of a ending voice-over/epilogue showing the Excalibur starting her crusade. Overall "A Call to Arms" was very well written, however, and it served its purpose as a bridge between Babylon 5 and Crusade quite well.

        Bruce Boxleitner plays Sheridan very well, as usual. He looks older and wiser, but he is still the old Sheridan, both tongue-in-cheek and serious when he needs to be. He has some great moments; just witness the grin on his face when he first sits down in the Excalibur's captain's char - classic, and don't forget his hilarious answering message. :-) Jerry Doyle is in great form as Garibaldi, he and Sheridan have some great Vorlon-esque dialogue on the Whitestar. Zack and Lochley are also in "A Call to Arms", but they have such little screen-time they might as well have been cut out altogether.

        Tony Todd plays Captain Anderson, a good character that should have had more screen-time to flesh out his personality. But he does have several great moments, and his delivery of the line "Outstanding!" was certainly great. ;-)

        Two new characters are introduced, however, that will be regulars in the upcoming Crusade. Peter Woodward plays Galen, a "technomage" who against the wishes of his peers contacts Sheridan and others to warn them about the Drakh. I was very impressed by Galen, his mysteriousness and playfulness was great fun to watch. Carrie Dobro plays Dureena Nafeel, one of the few surviving members of her race (if not the only one), since her home-world was devastated by a shadow planet-killer during the shadow war. She is a confident woman, able to take care of herself quite well. I found her character to be very likable, sort a mix between Delenn and Ivanova, but still unique. Both Galen and Dureena will make great characters for Crusade, and I'm now really looking forward to seeing the rest of the new cast.

        One area in which "A Call to Arms" is a big improvement over previous movies and episodes, is the production design. They have really done a great job with the Excalibur sets, in comparison the Babylon 5 sets look very cheap. The ships bridge layout is great too, and it makes sense, while not copying from Star Trek too much. In my opinion, the relatively cheap looking sets was always the biggest weakness of Babylon 5, so the future looks good for Crusade.

        The effects are great all around, in particular the new jump-point effect. Wow, very neat! :-) The Excalibur and Victory look wonderful, very cool-looking ships. The battle is great too, but like many recent battles it suffers slightly from confusing editing. It was hard to get a good picture of the strategies involved. The Shadow planet-killer was not realized very well, it was very difficult to get a grasp of its size and structure. Otherwise the effects keep getting better and better. Just as Babylon 5 broke new ground in special effects, Crusade should do the same.

        My biggest complaint with "A Call to Arms", however, is with its soundtrack, which this time is not composed by Babylon 5 regular Christopher Franke. JMS opted for another composer, Evan Chen, to give this movie and Crusade a new and different feel from Babylon 5. He succeeded - but not in a good way. That doesn't mean that I think the score is completely worthless, it worked well as a suspense builder (a good example is the first Drakh encounter), and it also complimented the "downbelow" scenes well in generating an exotic and alien atmosphere. But Evan Chen does not seem up to the task during the dramatic and climactic moments, in scenes that just BEG for a majestic score. Just watch "Endgame", "Z'ha'dum", "And the Sky is Full of Stars" to see how a good scores can elevate a dramatic climax to new emotional heights. The battle for Earth was just as important as the Battle of the Line, the sacrifices in "A Call to Arms" just as heroic as in previous battles. So why didn't I feel anything? Had the score complemented and enhanced the climactic battle properly I would have rated this movie as almost perfect. As it is, it's still a very good movie, but it's depressing to think about how much better it could have and should have been with better music. If JMS keeps Evan Chen as a composer, I'm sure his music will improve, and it will probably grow on me too. But right now I hope that JMS chooses another composer for Crusade.

        Overall, "A Call to Arms" is definitely a very solid movie, and although it is far from flawless, it is a must-see movie that really wets the appetite for Crusade. So bring on the new series!

Rating: 9

- Lars Joreteg

In issue 239 of Starburst Magazine, JMS states that 2 characters from Crusade will debut in the movie, namley Galen (a technomage) and Dureena, whose homeworls was destroyed by the shadows. Furthur more, the Excalibur and her sister ship, the Victory, will be in this movie. Evan Chen will compose the music for the movie.
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