Today we have a duo of DVDs that both deal with issues of honor and knighthood of sorts, but in different ways and with different approaches.
First, we have Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers, the movie-length pilot for the ill-fated B5 spin-off show of the same name. Written by beloved B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, the film tells us more about the Rangers, those warriors dedicated to protection of the One and the Minbari ethical system. Now, in the aftermath of the Shadow War, one of the Shadows’ allies has stepped up and is making a play for “new worst villain of the galaxy.” While the plot and world are endlessly appealing, especially to we die-hard B5 fans, even the appearance of beloved character G’Kar, masterfully played by the late Andreas Katsulas, couldn’t save this show. Pilots are often a bit weak in several areas, as the writers, actors, and producers get a real feel for the promise of the show, and this “movie” is no exception. There is a lot of promise here, but very little of it is fulfilled. The idea of the Rangers itself could have been explored in interesting ways, in this movie and perhaps even more had the series done better. If you’re looking for an average space fantasy with intriguing promise, then you’ll be happy, but if you’re looking for the continued adventures of beloved characters or the gritty, yet often funny and always interesting, world of the Babylon space station itself, then you’re likely to be disappointed. To add to the disappointment, there are zero features on this releaseâ€”no interviews, no commentary, no words from JMS, nada.
Fans will still want to pick this one up, because while it’s not bad, bear in mind it’s just not exactly good either. However, if you’re new to the B5 franchise, then there’s not much here to appeal to you, unless you, like me, are a sucker for science fiction that has aliens and humans bonding together against a greater common foe, like Enemy Mine or even The Last Starfighter.
Next is a documentary from Acorn Media, King Arthur’s Britain. Narrated by popular UK author and archaeologist Francis Pryor, this three-part series is worth watching by anyone interested in history, narratology, or just Arthuriana. The program covers many aspects of the King Arthur legend, especially focusing upon aspects of the culture that existed in Britain at the time Arthur is said to have ruled, circa 410 CE. Pryor also investigates important sites associated with the era or the legend. He also makes rather clever use of models and other visual aides. However, the main focus is upon the era itself, and not specifically just the elements of the legend. If you’re expecting something that deals only with Arthur and his Knights, then you’re likely to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re sick and tired of the early middle ages being referred to as the “Dark Ages,” then you’ll be thrilled with how Pryor covers the flourishing culture, art, literature, and other rich and varied aspects of this exciting historical period.
Alas, the only feature on this list is a biography of Pryor, and while he is an interesting and skilled academic, that’s a little bare for a subject such as this; literally a thousand possible features spring to mind, from a graphic timeline to interviews with other scholars to perhaps an interactive map feature or a bibliography. Why not a slideshow of sites or Camelot-related art? Ah, well. You can’t have it all. This one is already educational and interesting.
In short, fans of documentaries in general, the period, or the legend will want to have this one. Schools will need to have it also, along with anyone with kids–use this one to stimulate intellectual curiosity and perhaps pry your kids away from the video game console.