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BABYLON 5: THE LOST TALES
Synthesised sci-fi music will be a boon for fans of the show, a drag for others
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
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Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Babylon 5 was one of the finest science fiction shows of recent years - at least in its middle three series - with its executive producer J. Michael Straczynski cleverly working within the enormous budget constraints and using the age-old method of fine storytelling to disguise the fact that some of it did look rather cheap; and it worked, with an enormously-complex and rich story revealed over the course of the show and being so much the better for being obviously preconceived as a grand plan from the outset, rather than made up as it went along which is the case with most shows on tv.
One of the consequences of the constraints was the synthesised music. It has its fans, but I always found it to be one of the weakest elements of the show - Christopher Franke did his best, and being an electronic music expert meant he was perhaps able to work within the constraints better than some composers would have been, but it still sounded a bit small and cheap when something grand and epic was more in keeping with what the show deserved. He couldn't help the budget, though - and he has returned to the Babylon 5 universe for the latest sequel, the direct-to-video The Lost Tales. Two of the original castmembers have died since the show aired, but Straczynski managed to work around that tragedy to produce something of a backstory showing what's happened in the decade since the end of the original show.
The music is very much in keeping with Franke's previous work on the series - it's credited to "The Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra" but sounds like it's played by one man and a synthesiser - and once again that's the problem. It's a synthesised approximation of orchestral music - yes, there are unique sounds provided by the electronics, but it would sound so much better if they were accompanying an orchestra playing the music.
What it doesn't have which some of Franke's music for the series had is much in the way of real energy. Only occasionally does it rise above rather bland suspense music - "Energy" (the eighth track) being the first example - and it's no coincidence that the "orchestra" seems to be playing rather than just the keyboard. I'm sure that the huge fans of Babylon 5 who bought all the albums of the series music when they came out on Sonic Images will be absolutely delighted to hear Franke returning to the franchise and some of his music being released for the first time in years - and they are of course the target audience here. For everyone else, there's probably little of interest.