On Top of the World

The River of Souls is the new, eagerly-awaited Babylon 5 TV movie. Joe Nazzaro was on set to meet the key figures behind the scenes.

Lochley and the Soul HunterBabylon 5 has explored a number of weighty issues in its five-year history, but the latest B5 television movie tackles a subject no less significant than life after death. In The River of Souls archaeologist Robert Bryson (Ian Mcshane) tracks down a globe containing the souls of an ancient civilization, but when he brings his discovery to Babylon 5, he’s followed by the alien Soul Hunters (led by Martin Sheen) who want their property back.

Like previous B5 television movies, The River of Souls continues to push the envelope. According to B5 producer John Copeland, “We’re always trying to push. This time, we’re looking at the events that shaped the world of Babylon 5 and the characters that play integral roles in different situations and in a different light. River of Souls looks at events that start on a different world and come to Babylon 5 bringing calamity on their heels.” To take on the daunting task of shooting J Michael Straczynski’s ambitious script within a relatively modest (15-day) shooting schedule, the producers enlisted director Janet Greek, who had previously helmed many of the series biggest ‘arc’ episodes. “The first thing I said after reading the script,” recalls Greek, “was, ‘I’m never going to be able to shoot this in 15 days!’”

In sharp contrast to the previous B5 movies, The River of Souls only features a few members of the regular cast, a decision that would prove controversial to long-time viewers. “I try not to worry about what people are going to think about it in that respect,” claims Straczynski. “If I was going to be worried about that, I never would have done A View From the Gallery or The Corps Is Mother, The Corps is Father, which takes the format and stands it on its end by using minor characters. We’ve done one or two shows in which the major characters aren’t seen, so that doesn’t concern me; it never has and never will...

All Babylon 5 images copyright TNT
See the full feature in Starburst 243 - including Martin Sheen's make-up transformation
Starburst footer