Sunday, 6 March 2011

Legions of Fire

In the days of VHS, I used to only own - I suspect like a lot of people - only the best episodes of a TV show on video (apart from DS9 which I had all of, but other than that...).  When I watched something, I'd watch the 2 episodes that were on the video and that would be it. Bite-size chunk done with.

In these days of DVD, of course, in the space of an old video box you can fit an entire season of a show. Actually, with the way they cram in discs, you can probably fit two or three seasons. It's almost impossible to buy just your favourite episodes.

What this has led to is instead of watching a couple of episodes at a time, I now watch a season at a time. Usually a series at a time.

Recently the series was Babylon 5. From The Gathering to Sleeping in Light (I did In the Beginning too, but the rest of the TV movies were skipped). My thoughts on the series is for another post, but I will say that I found it incredibly annoying that a whole bunch of plot lines were never resolved, despite the series achieving its full desired length.

Mostly this has to do with the Centauri.

Luckily, there are a number of 'official' novels which fill in the gaps. The Centauri stuff is dealt with in a trilogy of novels by Peter David titled Legions of Fire (individual titles: The Long Night of Centauri Prime, Armies of Light and Dark, and Out of the Darkness). Since I tend to like the stuff Peter David does, I was hopeful that in addition to giving those much-desired answers, it would also be an entertaining read.

I'm now about 20 or 30 pages from the end. I could have left writing this until tomorrow and done a 'proper' account of the books but, well, I didn't. Live with it.

Book 1 takes begins around about 1/2 way through season 5 of B5. It may just have been me, but I found the timeline to be a bit muddled. Too many things (in the book) were crammed into what should have only been a few months (according to the show). The only way I could resolve this in my mind was if season 5 actually took place in more than a year, which doesn't seem right, but it's the best explanation I could think of. Things get easier once B5 is 'finished' and the book moves into 'new' time.

The book wasn't great, but it was readable enough. There are a few nods to Crusade along the way. The ending was...  Well, it wasn't an ending.  The book just stopped.

Yes, this isn't really a 'trilogy', more one book split into three. Book 2 begins immediately after Book 1. Things continue in Book 2 much as they did in Book 1, ever now and again dropping in events that were mentioned in the TV series. It's worth noting that the events mentioned in the blurb on the back of Book 1 don't happen until Book 2. False advertising?

I guess the whole purpose of the novels is in turning Vir into a bumbling fool to Emperor (this isn't a spoiler, I think it was first prophesied in a season 1 episode). In this the books work very well. It's a gradual process and while Vir remains Vir he becomes more scheming and more confident.

Book 3 is really where the shit hits the fan, where the future seen in the episodes War Without End and In the Beginning is finally reached (I guessed who Senna was around the end of Book 1, did you?). This is the exciting part and it's well worth sitting through the earlier stuff to get here. David opens his urn, Sheridan babbles about his time stabiliser, and G'Kar loses an eye (again).

The interesting thing to note is that earlier references to the series were made off-hand, and probably only spotted by the hard core fans. However, plot points here are made very clear that they are references to earlier episodes.

These books are now out of print and whilst two are dirt cheap to pick up second hand, the third (likely the last one) is a bit more pricey. I think I paid a couple of pounds for the first two and over £20 for the last. Average the cost out, however, and the price isn't too bad and definitely worth paying if you've sat through the series.

It's a shame really that this story couldn't have been done in a TV movie instead of the ones they actually did make. I think the movies would have been much more successful if they had.

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