Composed by Christopher Franke
Performed by Christopher Franke and the Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra
Conducted by Alan Wagner
Recorded and produced by Edgar Rothermich
Mastered by Chas Ferry
Music supervisor Rudy Panke
Art direction, Design Doerte Lau
Design Wolfgang Fenchel
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Douglas Netter, J. Michael Straczynski, John Copeland, Dick Robertson, Barry Meyer, Bruce Rosenblum
Gregg Maday, Eric Frankel, David Goodman, Ed Blier, Ken Parks, Jason Netter, Vasili Vangelos, Skip Robinson
Jeffrey Willerth, Michael Hoover, Susan Norkin, Tracy Yates, Betsy Vargas, Robin Esterhammer
This eerie score to a TV movie is quite varied and shows a good deal of inventiveness, with a
memorable recurring main theme. The CD is arranged in 5 slowly developed suites: "Battle to
Survive" (7:22); "The Monstrous Artifact Arrives" (10:47); "Bots Destroyed" (13:57);
"Activated Artifact" (12:00); and "Mobilization" (longest suite - 15:12). These suites are further
broken down into shorter cues, which are listed on the CD box, but not separated on the 5 tracks.
Many of these cues are quite short lasting less than a minute, but since they flow seamlessly
together in each suite, this is not a problem. One of the highlights of the soundtrack is the subtle use
of the Theremin, which is first heard in the first suite at about 4 minutes ("Telepathic Mindflash").
Executive Producer J. Michael Straczynski writes in his notes that when he asked for a Theremin,
his sound design team replied - "A what?" Fortunately, composer Christopher Franke was able to
obtain one of these magical instruments and he uses it quite effectively in his score. There are
other eerie effects created electronically, but the orchestral sounds are also well utilized. The 12
page color booklet has a montage of film shots and the description about the Theremin by
Straczynski. Too bad there wasn't more about Christopher Franke's atmospheric score. In any
case, fans of the the popular BABYLON 5 television series will want to get this CD, and other sci-fi
fans should enjoy it as well. Very good sound quality. Rating: ***1/2
FILM MUSIC REVIEW
This is the first release in the newest set of B5 CDs from Sonic Images. This is a TV movie score,
like In The Beginning. The only real difference is length. These are an hour versus the half-hour
episodiscs - otherwise, the music is very similar, because of the way Franke works. (the other
releases are mainly season 5, meaning more chances at that wonderful "Voices of Authority" title
music, and includes the series' final normal episode)
However, there is one very unique feature to this CD, which may give it some value to music
historians as well as B5 fans. It uses a Theremin. J. Michael Straczynski has a very amusing story
in the liner notes where he relates how he first asked the music staff to include one in the movie,
and the looks he received, from incredulity to outright blank stares. For anyone who happens to not
know what a Theremin is, it was one of the very first musical-sounding electronic instruments,
invented back in the 40s or 50s by a (I believe) Russian scientist. They were extremely popular in
sci-fi films of the 50s, most notably in Bernard Herrmann's classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.
(I've gotta pick that up one day) They're hardly ever heard today, having been overshadowed by
newer electronic instruments like the Moog and Ondes Martenot and, more recently synths, but
they have an EXTREMELY eerie, little-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising quality that's never
So, this B5 has a Theremin. And it's used to good effect. My only complaint is that, if anything,
Franke was a little too reserved with it. The Theremin is definately the star of this show, but it
only surfaces now and again. (But perhaps overkill would have ruined the effect)
The rest of the music is actually quite good, for B5. I wouldn't exactly call it thematic, but there's
more little snippets of things that sound like themes. Like a recurring harp bit, and the main
Theremin sound. However, they don't reoccur that often - just little melodies that drift in briefly,
and then drift back out, never to be heard again. It actually works pretty well, and this is probably
the closest B5 has come to being melodic.
As usual, there's quite a bit of ambient filler, but it's more interesting than usual. The exciting bits
work well, and they aren't as noisy as a lot of his efforts, a lot better contained. It also has several
brief passages of rather etherial music, and on I don't have any idea what that represents.
Basically, after nearly 6 years working on B5, Franke is becoming really, really good at writing
B5 music. At times, he also introduces some rather interesting percussive\rhythmic passages that
I haven't heard from him before.
One very interesting little note. At the beginning of Track 3, he borrows Goldsmith's little 3-note
muted-trumpet tension ditty from First Contact. (best heard in "The Dish") That one REALLY took
me by surprise, Franke usually doesn't borrow, but it's not just "like" that ditty, it IS it. Exactly.
However, given the fact it only appears once and the overall tone it seems the show has, I feel
fairly safe in deciding that's an intentional homage, not a accident or (gasp) stealing. I could believe
this episode is about some kinda Borgy aliens.
What this disc is missing is a really strong, thematic track, something most of his major discs
have. In the Beginning, for example, is made worthwhile just by the inclusion of that "The War"
track with its beautiful, haunting tragic theme. It has lots of good music, some nice motifs, and
some wonderful combinations of the orchestra and Theremin, but nothing that truly reaches out
and grabs you. Overall, it IS a lot more interesting to listen to than In the Beginning, however.
In the end, I do like it, quite a bit. I can forgive the lack of a thematic track, because it is fairly
strong all the way through. (the final battle is really cool) This would be a pretty good place for
B5 newbies to start, and fans of the show and its music should definately check it out.
SCORELAND SOUNDTRACK REVIEWS
March 1, 1999
The second Babylon 5 movie gave Christopher Franke a different turn on the B5 saga with a strange
relic appearing from the depths of hyperspace and nearly destroying the station and all of humanity
with it. Franke gives a very different sound to this movie employing the use of a therimin, coupled
with proud strings and synth in the 3-note main theme he uses for the Artifact itself 1F: ‘The
Bizarre Object.' This is expanded upon further in 2A: ‘The Monstrous Artifact Arrives' with
powerful strings and the therimin ever present describing something alien and most certainly
dangerous arriving at your doorstep.
The mood turns ever darker and more oppressive in 2C: ‘There is Danger' and 2E: ‘Lyta's
Nightmare' with synth chimes and blasts through it's not all horror with 3C: ‘Lyta's History' given
a nice melodic base, though the later tracks such as 3E: ‘It Could Change Everything' and 3F: ‘The
Black Tower' soon reinstate the terror as b5 gets gripped with a telepathic force.
The real highlights, though, come in the final main suites with the power of the Artifact unleashed in
4A: ‘Activated Artifact' with brass led statements waking the relic, the story behind its origins
unveiled in 4D: ‘The Vorlon Legacy' on a repeating melodic dreamy synth backing coupled with strong
chords for the Vorlon's misguided experiments into Thirdspace itself. The best bits for me come in
Track 5 with B: ‘Start the Attack,' D: ‘Inside the Artifact' as the orchestra and synth get a full
workout as Sheridan attempts to shut the gateway, as we know it, down.
The booklet, as one now expects from Sonic Images, is superb and the running time more than
acceptable at 59 minutes, and as such this release is well worth the money. While some of the
episodic releases have been a little hit or miss, thos one certainly hits the mark, as did the movie!
Russell C. Thewlis
LEGEND Magazine, Issue 28