So, we (almost) began our B5 journey with a tale of this alien species, the Soul Hunters. And we (almost) end the journey with another tale, this one including an alien played by Martin Sheen. Here you can talk about any other previous references to them and other things that affected the action we have in this B5 movie for TNT.
5 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-Free Discussion of “The River of Souls””
There’s a lot wrong with this, as everyone knows. It falls solidly under, “JMS, don’t write about *anything* to do with sex. Just don’t. Especially if you’re trying to be funny.”
But I don’t completely hate The River of Souls, because there’s something so improbable about Martin Sheen being in it. He had not at the time started his second act in his career but still had that whole golden-age-of-seventies-cinema vibe about him. I think it’s fair to say that he’s the single most “starry” guest actor in the entirety of Babylon 5. And he’s in *this*? A completely throwaway TV movie, shown (not sure about made) at a time when TNT had given up on B5 as a property.
Plus, I think you see enough to suggest what an episode of a notional second Babylon 5 series with Lochley and Corwin and some other characters might have been like. This might have been one of the less good season 1 episodes that “you just have to get through to get to the good stuff when…” But the show itself looks like it would have been good.
I don’t know Martin Sheen’s work, though I feel the same way about Ian McShane, post-Lovejoy pre-Deadwood. His turn in the latter showed a likable actor in a formidable role; my memories of Lovejoy are cuddly-bland beeb gimmickry, which might well have consigned him to my history bin. RoS confirms that with McShane’s boring script. He does okay with what he has, but there’s no detection that he would ascend to the powerful Al Swearengen six year later. And of course, Mr. Wednesday.
I will say that I think our hosts maybe slightly exaggerated the eclipse in Martin Sheen’s career. It was only about half a decade after he had the leading role in Gettysburg, for instance, and he had other high-profile roles (such as in The American President). Despite claiming to be an activist first and an actor second (IIRC), the man just doesn’t seem to like to turn down work.
Apparently, Sheen played the Soul Hunter mostly because he wanted to. When he was approached, it was for the Ian McShane role. But he read the script and thought that the Soul Hunter seemed like the more interesting part. He was doing a lot of weird TV stuff at the time (e.g. appearing on The Simpsons), while at the same time seeming to have no trouble, judging by his filmography, in getting decent enough film roles.
As with Andy above, for me the oddness came from Ian McS bring in this. I didn’t know at the time about his established track record of acting in film & TV on both sides of the pond; to people of my generation he was just Lovejoy, the antiques dealer in a BBC TV show. This was before Deadwood and American Gods and that one ep of GoT and managing to be almost scarier than Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast.
I never realised this aired before SiL. I think I had to buy it on video – unseen – to watch sometime in ‘99…
Galen: Well, how about if you go down there, the odds are that none of you will return alive? – Clear me for docking. Put away the breakables. Turn on the landing lights. I’m coming in.
Crusade Audioguide 2020!