Last update on 26 December 2010. Last episode commented on: fifth season’s “Day of the Dead”.
As I have mentioned here before, I am watching Babylon 5. From the first season I have kept notes on it, but only recently has it occurred to me that other viewers might like food for thought in the same fashion as I always read the Lurker’s Guide immediately after viewing each episode. (Speaking of which, if I make an observation when viewing an episode but then find it addressed in the Guide, I do not bother to write it (which would only make me redundant).)
From second season’s “There All the Honor Lies”, I have written my notes in English and made them available online, so the casual googler may find them of his/her interest. Here are my notes so far.
These comments are very centred on the episodes and their full understanding depends on the Reader having watched the whole show up to the point of each. In fact, a very few of my notes assume that the Reader has already read the Guide’s corresponding entry, so I heartily recommend perusing it, which anyway is a wonderful resource for better comprehension of the series. Therefore, dear Reader, may I strongly warn you of spoilers. Also, you may want to drop by occasionally: as I progress in watching the show, I intend to add further and further paragraphs at the bottom of the page. That is until I find a better way to edit the entries, ‘cause WordPress’s windows seem not to have originally been made for this kind of long archiving.
I hope you enjoy these notes.
“There All the Honor Lies”
This episode is a succession of disasters for Sheridan. Edition is therefore nervous, with innumerable short scenes and cameras zooming from side to side, giving the viewer the same uneasiness as Sheridan should be feeling.
02:47 — Now that we see where the passageway led, we can also see that, if Sheridan had ran forwards instead of backwards, he would very easily have cut the thief’s path, without the need of climbing to the level where he had been before. Of course, then there would be no episode to begin with.
13:30 — This is obviously one of the latex masks that production crew routinely uses for the Drazi.
13:40 — You can easily trace the latex prosthetics that Mark Hendrickson is wearing: its upper border runs from right in front of his ear, down through his cheek, to the front of a falsely bulbous neck. When he starts to pull it, you actually see all that there is to it, with the added utility of it passing in front of his mouth and thereby muffling his voice as if in a mask. A smart edit completes the motion in the mirror, convincing you of a full-head mask. Quite a clever job, actually.
14:00 — Universe Today: “Vorlons to make (…)” Can anyone please help me out with this?
17:56 — “Fear running out of questions” — This is really not what a warrior (such as Sheridan) would be expected to say. As a rule, the military do not encourage the habit of making questions.
18:03-04 — Watch for the break between takes: when Ivanova is shown only from the breast up, you see she is holding back her left arm. When she is shown fullbody, both arms are just hanging at her sides.
23:13 — As you watch this scene, pay attention to the intense repetition of extras walking by in the background. The same actors repeat their strolls over and over again.
23:16 — Now the human in a colored shirt (HCS) sets down his glass and rises.
23:19 — Now HCS leaves to the left.
23:24 — Is that the waistcoat Kirk was wearing near the end of Generations?
23:25 — Now Purple-head Alien (PHA) walks to the left, followed by man wearing African cap (MWAC) and Drazi in beige robe (DBR).
23:31 — Now PHA walks to the right.
23:37 — Now MWAC walks to the right.
23:45 — Is that Mark Hendrickson walking at the back?
23:52 — Now HCS walks to the right.
23:54 — … And now PHBR walks to the right.
23:57-58 — Large robed alien (LRA) walks slowly, right to left.
23:59 — And here is Kirk in waistcoat (KWC) again.
24:03 — Here comes DBR again.
24:05 — Hendrickson walking towards you decidedly.
24:08 — There goes KWC.
24:09 — MWAC just passed again.
24:10 — And here comes DBR again; LRA is talking to someone.
24:13 — Short, grey-haired woman (SGHW) in the distance.
24:15 — Long-face alien was reading Universe Today at 14:00.
24:18 — Hendrickson, right to left.
24:19 — KWC just passed.
24:19-21 — Hendrickson like he’s waiting for someone.
24:28 — I think that was Hendrickson again.
24:33 — … and again.
24:35 — Second man with African cap (SMAC).
24:38 — Hendrickson again.
24:45 — DBR again, now at a quicker pace.
24:51 — Now DBR, talking to PHA.
24:53 — That Centauri walking — he’s appeared at least twice in the past 100 seconds (eg at 23:52-53).
24:54 — SGHW walking towards us.
25:03 — There goes the Centauri again.
25:05 — LRA just appeared in the distance.
25:07 — KWC passed again.
25:08 — SGHW walking at the back.
25:17 — LRA walking right to left.
25:20 — Was that not Hendrickson?
25:24 — SMAC walking left to right.
25:29 — There is that Centauri again at the back.
25:31 — SGHW.
25:41 — After SGHW again, the Ranger comes again, followed by Hendrickson.
25:51 — KWC just walked by, looking down.
25:56 — Look who’s here! SMAC, DBR and PHA.
26:03 — Now the Ranger again.
26:11 — KWC just walked right to left.
And many other examples appear. These were just the more obvious of the lot.
23:25 — Now who is lecturing whom on drowning trouble in alcohol?
27:19 — Now who might Chester be? I can only think of Fran Fine’s dog.
28:02 — Allan did not make it much of a subtle job following Ashan…
28:06 — I believe I should take this as Lennier’s attempt at an FSNP.
31:38 — The order of delivering Ashan to Minbar came from the Minbari embassy on Earth, rather than from the Minbari embassy on B5 (i.e. Delenn). The latter would be both much more legitimate and much more practical. Now why is that?
34:59 — “I will retain honor” — now hold on there. This is not the same “honor” as they had been speaking of just seconds ago. There are two honors here, or two levels of honor. Once the setup attempt on Sheridan is revealed, the clan is going to lose honor before all Minbari, which includes Lennier — let us call this “clan honor”, which is extensive to everyone in the clan and pertains to the outer world’s perception of a clan and of its specific individuals. Now, Lennier is going to retain his own “personal honor”, but this is a sliver of honor which an individual wields before the rest of the clan — and only before the rest of the clan. There is no such “personal honor” before the rest of the world.
35:17 — Here we are, at the end of the episode, and we see someone privately confessing and explaining an elaborate plot to a (supposedly trustworthy) kinsman. Isn’t it obvious that the confession is being recorded?
35:40 — The trap was perfectly licit. If the Black Star had been crewed by honorable Minbari, they would never have thought of attacking a disabled ship and therefore never fallen for the ruse. It was their lack of honor that brought about their own undoing.
36:37 — Lennier is religious caste. Lavell was warrior caste. Surely they could not belong to the same clan?
Only now have I noticed that the Centauri speak Italian. Immediately after the opening, notice the dialogue between Londo and Urza. This is certainly intentional: the Centauri are baroque, romantic, operatic, exaggerated and given to grandiose gestures, grandiose speech, banquets and elaborated clothing.
The creature stalked Sheridan in Janos 7. What a coincidence. Star Trek’s “demon in the dark” stalked miners in Janos VI.
“In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum”
Here we have two officers, Franklin and Sheridan, whose obsessions prevent them from taking a healthy sleep. One is obsessed with the dying, the other with the dead; one is obsessed with saving lives, the other with revenge; one sees God in the eyes of the dying, the other sees Churchill’s eyes dark and haunted and then sees Shadows; one finds out we are never alone in the presence of God; the other finds out Morden is never alone in the presence of the Shadows.
Now, hold on a minute. In “Believers”, was Dr. Franklin not an atheist? Yet it is possible to reconcile these two episodes if we understand that he does not believe in a God-figure as Westerners often do (i.e. as a being distinct from all other beings and perceived from us from outside Him), but more in a pantheistic or panentheistic approach whereby God would pervade the substance of the universe or even be the universe itself. Such a belief would be compatible with Franklin believing that God never interferes in creatures’ affairs and, in particular, with his rejection of prayers and rituals in “Believers”.
As Talia met Morden, she did not really see the Shadows. She did not see anything with her eyes beyond what normal vision shows. However, as a P5, she is sensitive to strong emanations (as reported by “Mind War”). I think it safe to assume that, in that moment, Talia was subject to the strong, evil impressions surrounding Morden’s psyche, the same that give some people the creeps when he is around. From this psychological, rather than visual, perception, she saw whatever it was that Morden saw or otherwise perceived, as if she had access to his subjective point of view. Hence she seemed to see the Shadows as diffuse, shapeless shadows around Morden, while Morden himself was suddenly engulfed by dark.
The First Ones, always the First Ones who were ancient when the Ancients were young… Conan has that, Tolkien has that, Star Trek has that. Always “they walked among the stars like giants”, always there was a major celestial war, always the victory was incomplete, and the ancient, wise race has taught the younger and then disappeared beyond the stars or into thin air — go check “Who Mourns for Adonais?”. Always this appears as a more complete explanation of Zoroastrism, which in turn has led to Judaism and to Christianism.
Delenn’s speech distinguishes between the First Ones and later “Ancients”. Later on, she mixes them up again as if they were the same, and not two distinct groups. Straczynski says that the writer used an excess of pronouns, thereby making the text more difficult to understand.
The Vorlons are the King Under the Mountain, sleeping until he is needed to fight the universal menace.
In “The War Prayer”, Kosh is seen studying human History while, at the same time, stating a disinterest of the Vorlons in the affairs of others. It can be argued that he was studying History not out of an interest in humans, who would be beside the point at that moment, but in an investigation of possible interference by Shadows or of human qualities and weaknesses that might be useful to know in the war against the Shadows.
Z’ha’dum is Mordor and the Shadows are Sauron, returning to their places of power a thousand years ago and stretching forth their hands since. They even have spider eyes, like Shelob’s.
Kosh fears he will be recognised, in the same fashion as Karellen fears the Overlords will be recognised from mythology in Childhood’s End. This is in line with Kosh’s statement to Sheridan in “Hunter, Prey” that Sheridan must be prepared “to fight legends”, i.e. to fight deep-rooted, preconceived notions.
Regarding Kosh possibly being recognised like the Overlords were in Childhood’s End, is it possible that the Vorlons are the angels of Western mythology? In case they are, this would lead to a very mundane explanation of the Bible’s Leitmotiv of a struggle between Heaven and Hell. Picture this: there is an ages-long war between two major sides in the universal scheme of things. One defeats but does not destroy the other, leading to a long-term cold war, or stalemate. To the primitive humans of the 7th century BC, the victors would appear as gods, or maybe as angels, which would allow for a hypothesis on Kosh’s arching suit in fact making room for wings.
This would also explain why Kosh speaks cryptically. From this point of view, in fact he does not. Remember that the voice we hear is a synthetic translation for his actual form of expression, which sounds as a “shimmering” background noise. It can be postulated that Kosh does not actually “speak” with sound as other species do, but with psychological impressions in a fashion similar to the telepaths’. That would be why, in “Deathwalker”, he tells Talia to “listen to the music, not the song” and, in “Hunter, Prey”, he tells Sheridan that he was listening to the song. What we hear as his voice are just the sound effects from such impressions. Now, if one attempts to translate such impressions to words, the result is bound to be extremely limited, in fact only a fraction of the intended message, as sound can convey only a subset of the whole contents — and there you have the so-called Koshisms. This would mirror both the Bible’s accounts of the angels’ songs and its sometimes cryptic, sometimes allegoric translations of God’s speeches.
Kosh’s confirmation that he is avert to recognition could also serve as a confirmation of Ivanova’s hypothesis from “The War Prayer”: that the encounter suit is in fact unnecessary as a protection and no more than a disguise. For all we know, if Kosh is from such an evolved race to the point of appearing supernatural to the more primitive, then he may well be above physical needs such as breathing. His reclusive adherence to the station’s Alien Sector could be just an additional barrier to keep people away. This would also allow for him to have extended his hand out of the suit in The Gathering, although it would not yet explain why he did it.
“Confessions and Lamentations”
Sheridan has been going without sleep for too many episodes now.
Not coincidentally, the Markab doctor’s candles are seven, held Menorah-like.
Everything is a test, not of survivability, but of character — much like Star Trek II’s Kobayashi Maru. To Franklin, everything is a test and a challenge, because of his history with his father.
“Drafa” sounds biblical.
The Markab ambassador’s costumes resemble those of a clergyman. This was certainly intentional.
The Markab ambassador accuses Sheridan of making “an absolute implication”. This line is interesting in that it helps reveal how our prejudices steal our perspective away: the implication is far from absolute. In fact, it would only apply to the Markab that held the bigotry in their own heads. The Narn or the Centauri would not think any of it, because they have no cultural labelling for the Markab plague.
After the Markab ambassador’s speech on the angel of death passing and leaving them untouched, the ghetto’s airlock bears inscriptions much like the Jews’ houses in Egypt.
There were at least two non-Markab in their ghetto — a shortage of masks at the production site? When the actors wear Markab masks, they never close their mouths; and the child keeps moisting her lips. Pay attention to her pronunciation of “Mama”. All this goes to show that the actors do indeed breathe through their mouths in those masks.
Delenn got separated from her parents at an early age, as did Jesus Christ. This is consistent with her self-perception of a saviour and martyr that goes unheeded by her own people, as can be reinforced by the episode “Comes the Inquisitor”.
The Markab doctor’s death bears some resemblance to Spock’s in ST II.
The episode gave us a lecture on neurotransmitters — uselessly. If someone does not understand their function, the lecture was insufficient. If they do, the lecture was unnecessary.
As Franklin enters the ghetto, of course the effect, and his full-impact impression, is that everyone is dead. But he is a scientist. Should he not test them instead of asking Lennier?
The great Markab death reminds me of Koresh’s ranch, where people closed themselves out from the world but only they died in the end.
Straczynski’s team has no further use for the Markab masks. Well, they were infected anyway…
The episode does not only deal with AIDS. At its time (~1995), TV series no longer dealt with AIDS’s simpler moral issues. Instead, there was increasing concern about AIDS spreading on to stay-at-home housewives through the hypocrisy of their husbands. The disease spread fast in the shadows, out of silence and of a blind confidence on purity as immunity.
“Comes the Inquisitor”
Straczynski has said that the episode helps blur the Vorlons against an impression that they were fundamentally good. I disagree. I never had the impression that the Vorlons were one-side-only, uncompromisingly good. As I see them, they are a major force on the side of light, yes, but the sides in the war are mostly arbitrary. They are opposing sides, but this does not make either “good” or “evil”. We happen to align ourselves with the Light, but we might as well have joined the Shadows, and then the Light would seem evil to us. Overall, we tend to ally with the Vorlons, because the alternative would be to succumb to the much worse Shadows. Still, the Vorlons are not in it for Justice, for the universal good or for the universe’s sake. They have their own reasons and their own convenience. Their part in the war is not justified by noble principles, but by these ultimate goals of theirs. Therefore they will do what needs to be done to advance not a “cause” as much as victory, and they are willing to sacrifice lives to such victory. This has a precedent in “Deathwalker”, where they blew up her ship in cold blood, all because of convenience in the overall scheme. There was nothing to be “blurred” in the first place.
“Messages from Earth”
The episode did not draw your attention to this, neither did Straczynski or Usenet: because of the Book of G’Quan, Garibaldi is learning Narn. Indirectly, it is very likely that this knowledge will become useful in the future.
Vaughn Armstrong has brown hair, but his character is blond and wears the same hairstyle of Germans from the 1930s and 40s. The reference to Nazism must not be a coincidence.
The Clarkstown is the same CGI model as the Hyperion‘s: it is as little detailed as the CGI were at the series’s beginning. It even has the same markings (a large “21” on the hull).
When active, the Alexander‘s engines remind me of the Yamato‘s.
You could say that the Narn who took on the Marines were suicidal, but this is because they are not trained soldiers. Think of it: these are just the civilian Narn who lived on the station until a short while ago. Their incorporation into security was an improvisation. Their notion of combat is simplistic, on the basis of just going on running and shooting, brute force only, without planning or self-defense. Thus they fell, one by one, while they advanced almost in single file against the rifles.
He who fights alongside the Japanese cannot count on them for sustained defense: the Japanese can only fight while they are in perfect shape. The slightest scratch activates their suicidal mode, and they go into a kamikaze attack.
“Ceremonies of Light and Dark”
The first thing I thought when Londo offered Refa a drink: two old foxes aspiring to the throne. Londo was waiting for Refa with the drink ready on the table, without you able to see whether Londo himself is drinking from the same or if his was made separately… I would never take it! Yet Refa did! Utterly unbelievable and falling outside what I would expect of Refa.
Poison, the political assassination method of choice… As in Rome.
“Necessary room for expansion” (Lebensraum), the folly of war in two fronts, … III Reich.
Franklin’s statement was that he “thought he had a problem”. That is in no way the revelation of a secret. Everyone thinks they have a problem and he got nowhere near what his might be. He revealed nothing. There was no hinting at his dependency on stims.
“A Late Delivery From Avalon”
So “Arthur” recognized Bashir’s, I mean, Marcus’s accent as that of a true Briton? I would rather think not. Marcus speaks with a strong English accent, which means he is a cultural descendant of the Saxons. The Saxons were the invaders who overran and displaced the Britons and, therefore, were King Arthur’s main enemy.
It is quite fitting that the Prometheus was the ship to start the war. In Greek mythology, Prometheus brought fire to Man. In Babylon 5, the Prometheus brought the Minbari’s rage (i.e. fire, lots of it) unto Man.
“Arthur” had a final mental breakdown and went catatonic. It is interesting to note that, in the Medlab, his stance was that of the Briton kings of old as they were laid in their burial tombs: swords upon their chests pointing at their feet, arms folded and hands holding the swords’ hilts.
The original Kosh’s appearance was made to resemble an angel’s, what with room for large wings in the encounter suit. The new Kosh also has room for wings, but the edges are somewhat curved more like in a bat’s wings, and his helmet clearly has horns. Think Overlords, as in Clarke’s Childhood’s End. No doubt this was a deliberate contribution into the Vorlons’ ambiguity as well as into the new Kosh’s edgier, rougher personality.
Many interpretations are possible for the new Vorlon arrival’s statement that “we are all Kosh”. Five of them come to mind:
1. Katra. As in the so-called sexual reproduction of bacteria. All Vorlons are individuals. As each Vorlon dies, pieces of him/her/it are passed along and incorporated into other Vorlons’ minds, so his/her/its personality and soul is forever gone, but his/her/its knowledge and wisdom are not altogether lost, instead adding to a common shared source of enlightenment.
2. Continuous minds. As with DS9’s Founders, Vorlons are all derived from one common soul source. Upon being born, a Vorlon can be identified as one core of personality, knowledge and wisdom. However, the boundaries between individuals are not as well-defined as in humans, neither do they stop at the body’s edge. Rather, each Vorlon is in permanent contact with all the other Vorlons, and the boundaries are blurry, so all, more or less, feel and see through all the others, all the way through to the other side. This could be compared to the minds’ state upon first establishing a mindmeld (before full, fused contact is completed).
3. Collective mind. As with the Borg, there are countless “voices”, all speaking in unison. The acts of one Vorlon are the result of decisions taken by the collective mind, for which each Vorlon was a contributor. The collective mind is made up of the sum of numerous minds, but no Vorlon acts as an individual.
4. Nirvana and back. As with the Minbari, when a Vorlon dies, he/she/it rejoins into a single amorphous sea of soul-soup such as an additional gas dissolving into a gaseous mixture. Should a Vorlon be born anew, he/she/it would be made up of a portion from the soup, such that it would be impossible to pinpoint which Vorlons contributed to the new individual. Rather, all deceased Vorlons would have contributed. Infinite recycling.
5. Single mind. There are not many individual Vorlons. There is only one, multibody Vorlon, one single collective mind, and the bodies are spokespeople for the mind. One Vorlon body dies, but nothing is lost: the mind will have fewer bodies to speak through while, on the other hand, it will be able to concentrate on the coordination of fewer resources. This is not the same as with the Borg. Here I make mention of one voice only, speaking through the Vorlon bodies, not of countless “voices”.
The three Minbari telepaths, lying together, are reminiscent of the single-minded, multibodied alien in Battle Beyond the Stars.
“Grey 17 Is Missing”
When I first saw the episode’s name, I was led to believe that “Grey 17” was perhaps a Starfury. Later on, I realized that the expression fit the station’s level naming and I deduced that it referred to one level, which it did. Then I imagined that one of the floors really had gone missing, such as removed out to space or into some bizarre space anomaly. Little did I know it could have been something as prosaic as what it turned out to be. Oh well.
This is the umpteenth time that we see a religious sect made up of lunatics dressed in rags, lurking in one of the station’s cluttered, underlighted, underused areas. What’s with Babylon 5 that it attracts them as honey does flies?
A “Zarg”? Come on! This is taken straight from the adventures of Spaceman Spiff!
Jeremiah says that the Zarg is the pure, perfect predator, with no thought save for the hunt. That pretty much matches Ash’s description of the Alien.
On second thought, the Zarg is probably derived from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.
By the way, what a sloppy characterization for such a supposedly deadly predator. Biped, slow-walking as a menacing monster from Captain Proton’s 50s serials, arms extended forward as a mummy’s, it looks more like the end result of a low budget than anything to be seriously taken as a threat.
Garibaldi’s improvised firearm is taken straight from Star Trek’s “Arena”. However, two flaws would prevent it from being any useful: (1) its caliber is significantly greater than the ammunition’s that Garibaldi could frontload it, which would allow the propellant gases to just run around the cartridges and not push them out with enough pressure. (2) Presumably, Garibaldi counted on cookoff to ignite the capsules. However, that would ignite the bottom-most capsule first, making it push the others outward and never allowing them to be detonated in their turn. Furthermore, the enlarged mass of many cartridges thrown out at once (as opposed to that of just one bullet) would greatly reduce the weapon’s effectiveness.
If the Zarg is such a perfect predator, how come it died with just the one shot to the chest?
So the Shadow ship had been buried and, when unearthed, signaled its home planet. This seems drawn directly from Clarke’s The Sentinel and 2001. Then the Icarus followed the signal and found Z’ha’dum — just like the Discovery.
The self-assigned rôle of the Shadows and Vorlons as shepherds is pretty much the same as self-assigned by the Monolith’s creators in chapter 51 of Clarke’s 2010.
So the Vorlons are the Lords of Order. DC Comics toyed a lot with the idea from the mid-70s to the late 80s, the most prominent such being Nabu (of Doctor Fate fame).
The Shadows’ question is one of boldness, of objective people driving at change: “what do you want?” The Vorlons’ is one of reservation, of stable people resisting change, anchoring themselves on respecting their essence as revealed by past history: “who are you?”
Z’ha’dum’s underground pit looks a lot like The Forbidden Planet’s and Star Wars’s Episode IV’s.
“The Hour of the Wolf”
Ivanova drinking wodka like that, that’s a very unlikely scene on TV. Certainly unprecedented in Star Trek. (Of course, Babylon 5 had a precedent in the first season’s “Survivors”.)
After Lyta releases Kosh, her makeup is edgier, darker, pale, tired, destroyed.
With its sideburns, scarf, tailcoat, boots, sash, handkerchief and exaggerated makeup, Cartagia’s looks fit the stereotype of a melodramatic Italian opera character. No wonder the Centauri have Italian names such as Londo Mollari, Cartagia, Vir Cotto, Morella, Urza and Ladira.
When Cartagia says that the emperor is always right and asks for Londo’s confirmation, none comes: Londo merely replies that “it is our tradition”, which might even be construed as a criticism of the emperor’s folly.
What does Straczynski mean, he has not drawn from LotR? You have the Eye of Mordor, you have a character called Lorien (with, BTW, Elvish attributes), you have a big fall with a Balrog and a rebirth…
“Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?”
When Londo is late and Cartagia threatens to kill him, he does not ask Cartagia for mercy, neither does he ask Cartagia not to kill him. He only argues against it and states his opposition. Londo defies the emperor. It is as if he were saying, you are powerful and can kill me, but I do not fear you, neither will you boss me around.
The Vorlons’ planet-killer reminds me a lot of Vader’s giant purple destroyer.
“The Long Night”
Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the sinister similarity between the Shadows’ planet-blower syringes and Vir’s execution method? Both inoculate death.
“Into the Fire”
The Minister of Intelligence is called Durano and the island of Celini looks like Sicily, both of which confirm that the Centauri are Italian.
The Minister of Intelligence dresses exactly as you would expect of his position. His job shuns the limelight and the courtly disputes for attention, so his coat is black and mostly lacks the insignia that other high-ranking Centauri are so fond of. It is also buttoned to the side, leaving the front without an opening, which is symbolic of his job and markedly different from other Centauri’s open-fronted clothes (compare the coat with Londo’s). At the same time, the side-opening makes the coat look and maybe even feel like a one-piece shield (also symbolic of his job). The minister’s manners are discreet, his speech low, thoughtful and clearly pronounced.
Londo’s lines are outstandingly well written in the scene where he orders Morden to have the Shadows withdraw from Celini.
The shots where Sheridan and Ivanova talk to the Vorlons and the Shadows, respectively, have certainly cost nearly nothing to film. No special resource was used. The dark rooms, the center-drawn lights, the block of ice, all are exceptionally easy to put together for filming. Budget for this scene must have been remarkably low.
As the Shadows speak to Ivanova, the scene is very much reminiscent of the Prophets talking to Sisko in “Emissary” and other moments of DS9.
Sheridan and Delenn’s explanation that the younger races can stand on their own seems very much taken from Star Trek. They could have been spoken by Captain Kirk to much any near-omnipotent being (Organians, Trelane) or by Picard to Q or any such.
In the scene where Sheridan tells the Shadows and Vorlons to leave the galaxy, this can only be said in Portuguese: Sheridan tá cheio de moral!
As the Shadow speaks to Lorien, its voice is Morden’s, which is fitting. His has so far been the most frequent human voice they have spoken through.
It has been said that Londo is continuously building his road to damnation. However, it should be noted that Londo is “creating” his future only in the very basic, literal sense that all his future comes from his actions, as with anybody else. Otherwise, what we see is that, in any course of action, his first decisions tend to start a process that then drags him along. Later he is forced into deciding between two catastrophes, and he has consistently taken the decision that brings on the least evil, which might thus be called the “best” decision were it not ultimately tragic anyway. Therefore the decision is his, and evils then come in succession, but they can hardly be blamed on him — and yet they can only be blamed on him. One could say that Londo has been earmarked to doom from the start and that there is no true chance for redemption if all his options had been tainted from the start. At any rate, Londo always takes the most patriotic decision in order to do what is best for the Centauri Republic, to save the State. As a consequence, the decision is always the one that brings him to greater personal damnation, a choice he consciously embraces as a fair price for saving greater values. One good example is his plot against Cartagia. From this point of view, Londo can even be considered heroic. He is much like Machiavelli’s ideal prince, putting the State first and foremost, even if he needs to become a crook, even if he needs to become the emperor to bring the State’s welfare into fruition. Anyway, always there is only one possible decision for him, and he takes it, and it really could never have been any other way. So is it really his fault in the end? Should he ever be punished for doing what he believes to be right despite knowing that it dooms him? And yet this is him building his future, tragically becoming more corrupted and more doomed every step of the way.
“The Illusion of Truth”
ISN says that Psi Corps was founded in 2161. Of all years, Straczynski had to choose the year the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet Academy were founded in Star Trek according to the Okudas’ Chronology.
“Conflicts of Interest”
Would Garibaldi openly state that he had had a relationship with Lise for no obvious reason? Definitely not!
Would the vial’s smugglers openly explain its contents? Definitely not!
And a final question: why did Garibaldi and the telepath not exchange shots when within the air duct?
“Rumors, Bargains and Lies”
Most every relevant sentence in this episode had a double meaning, or a possible double meaning. I realized this when I heard Delenn and Lennier speaking as he lay in bed.
“Moments of Transition”
At one point, Lyta tells Zack that Garibaldi was the first person she met upon arriving at the station. True. At the very beginning of the pilot episode, Garibaldi greets her and indicates Sinclair’s arrival, whereupon the latter takes over.
Near the end of the episode, you see footage of an Earth Alliance ship firing on refugee ships, which outrages Ivanova and Sheridan. The captain is willing to fire on EA ships, and justifies it from the fact that they would carry out such blatantly illegal, immoral orders, which amounts to a war crime. But — what if the ships’ crews are being told lies by Clark? What if they have been told that the so-called refugee ships are, in effect, smuggling weapons for the resistance? They would therefore not incur any guilt.
“The Exercise of Vital Powers”
Lyta states that scanning a crime suspect would be a violation of due process and later agrees to scanning a crime victim. But is not even scanning the victim a violation of due process too? The telepath might always lie upon the lineup. Anyway the telepath is an outside intervention that goes beyond the mere questioning of an investigator, boosting the victim’s memories or learning something that would forever have been committed to oblivion. It is tampering with a natural process.
Then again, it might be argued that (1) a telepath is a natural process much the same as forgetfulness; (2) the telepath might be seen as compensation for a victim’s trauma, inflicted by the perpetrator; sort of an affirmative action to restore balance.
For all Sheridan’s wisdom, he has been away from Earth for too long, too many years (remember he was in space before commanding Babylon 5). If Edgars is to be believed when he explains the Clark-Psi Corps arrangement, then Sheridan lacks an updated perception of Clark’s manoeuvering. He is coming in without the subtlety of having inside forces backing him up on Earth and is acting without any political consideration to forces other than Clark himself. This would be almost childish.
It is also naïve of Garibaldi not to assume that the corporations and their discreet shareholders have been running the show for centuries. It has been them practically since the beginning of capitalism. And it is not about money or ideology: it is about power. As cynic as this may be, they have no interest in the political circumstances or in who has to die, or how many, as long as they can have their business undisturbed.
At one point, Edgars mentions that it was “not the Nazis in 1939”. Well, it was not, but the statement missed its point: the year should have been 1933, when the Nazis rose to legitimate power by the German people’s own vote. It would have been unrealistic to assume the Nazis to have only attained power in the same year when they unleashed the war. In fact, six years of preparation were needed, in which time they staged the Olympic games, took the Sudetenland and had the Anschluss. Here Straczynski missed an opportunity to teach his audience: everyone knows of 1939, but history was made at a more critical level in 1933, which is less known and could have captured the viewers’ attention more effectively about the dangers of fueling up power-hungry leaders.
“The Face of the Enemy”
You definitely have to love Bester/Koenig. Of course he is proud, of course he sees himself as superior, and he belittles and mocks his enemies and he is smug and full of himself. This comes with the psi powers and the rôles he has been called to perform. In effect, he is a Machiavellian prince. When we have had time and enough proximity to examine and come to understand him, we see that he is in fact unconcerned with fame or glory. On the contrary! Fame and glory will attract unwanted attention, one that will hinder his performance. At heart, his core motivation is the Psi Corps’s welfare. He is really foremost concerned with the telepaths and will stop at nothing to ensure their safety. Everything and everyone else is expendable to his ultimate goals. And yet you have no reason to just purely hate him: in his own eyes, he acts according to what he believes to be right and justifiable. Not an evil person in essence, and not cruel, as he has said to Garibaldi; but full of a notion of what must be done, and definitely motivated. If he maneuvers and plots, that comes from his cynical view of the world and from a perceived need to exploit his talents as a tradeoff to not being strong or socially acceptable (for being a telepath). In fact, he could be quite a likeable person if he had been allowed to from childhood. I believe this is part of Straczynski’s scheme, so to show that the limits are always blurred, that no hero or villain is that well cut and dried, that no one is really only what s/he seems, that everyone has their legitimate motives, and that reality is always in complex shades of gray. Quite effective, subtle and slow to dawn on you.
“Intersections in Real Time”
At first I thought that this episode had very much been drawn from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Straczynski, however, tells us that he took it from the overall procedure that has been practised for decades on this planet and depicted by countless works of literature, theatre and cinema. Could be. But the similarities are striking. It is noteworthy that the interrogator does not simply repeat his version of truth until the point when he convinces Sheridan. Rather, he starts by questioning the very concept of reality. He inoculates Sheridan with the notion that one’s own perception is flawed and that truth can be redefined. From that point, over time he aims at making Sheridan question his own beliefs, becoming unsure of that which he had been sure of at the start. With the lack of external reassurance, Sheridan would become convinced that his former frame of reference had been a delusion. Then the field would be open for whatever message they wanted him to believe him, so as to fulfill the mind’s vacuum. He would effectively have cooperated with his captors.
The interrogator’s alleged friendliness, the room with the small bits of uncomfortable furniture and of torture, the need for a sincere confession, the goal of sincere cooperation (ultimately achieved more often than not), the usage of the captive’s own words under distorted meanings in order to convince him that he had said something different (thereby making him unsure even of himself and leading him to accept the possibility that he could be wrong after all and that therefore he should surrender his mind to the State’s care), the seeming captive for Sheridan to sympathise with who is in fact a collaborator, all of this is reminiscent of Winston Smith’s processing in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The reference is too much there.
The slow-building poison is in fact a metaphor. At first Sheridan resists. However, the interrogator slowly extracts bits of cooperation: he has Sheridan sit on the chair of his own will; he has Sheridan reply to innocent questions. He feeds Sheridan with small lies which are readily accepted, such as about his father sending regards. In time, he could be made to agree to anything.
“Between the Darkness and the Light”
The rescue team’s job of extracting Sheridan was unbelievably easy. How come there were only five people in the way? Granted they had reached the area by way of backward ventilation tunnels and such, but still you would expect a lot more resistance from a “high security” facility. More equipment, codes and cameras to begin with.
Sheridan was undernourished, dehydrated and drugged when he was rescued. Granted that some time passed until he boarded the Agamemnon at the end, but how come he recovered so quickly to lead the fleet into battle?!
Granted that Marcus’s leaving the fleet was intentional character development and stuff, but still it was inconsistent with the character. He IS a Ranger, which means he is stoic and all. He knows the meaning and importance of the impending battle, the culmination of all they have been fighting ever since early in the second season. It is not coherent that he should put Ivanova before the fleet.
Sheridan should have ordered the destruction of Earth’s orbital stations even before jumping to Mars to begin with. It should be a crucial part of his tactical plans. It was inconsistent and plain stupid to only order destruction of the stations after they started shooting at him. After all, they are trouble enough for him to also have to worry about dozens of missiles flying towards him.
… And it was very lucky for Sheridan that those missiles were not nuclear. Speaking of which, how come they were not?!
It is very strange that Clark should give it up and shoot himself so easily. Come on! Has any dictator fallen apart even before the first shot was fired? That was too quick and too easy.
So the Agamemnon was the closest ship to the orbital station and therefore the only one that could take it out. No, wait… wasn’t that supposed to be the Enterprise?
Marcus’s death is very predictable in the face of his overall behaviour for the past two years. Indeed he has always been looking for an opportunity to become a martyr, to trade in a life that he deems no longer worth living (his own) for some other, regarded as one of greater value. His effort has always been one of giving meaning and purpose to a life that had lost both, and he knew that he could only do so by giving it up. His life would then have been lived for the sole end of saving someone else’s — someone he could care about, even if not a dearly loved opposite-sex person. He had lost all candidates for object-of-love-to-die-for, so he was always looking for another. When he found the dying Ivanova, he jumped at the chance. Only then could he find happiness, so his sacrifice was one he met with open heart and, finally, with glee instead of ever-accompanying grief.
Claudia Christian’s depiction of a sad Ivanova, weeping over Marcus’s death, is really moving. To me, it appeared very realistic about a real person’s reaction and, at the same time, what you could specifically expect from Ivanova after all the emotions she has been put through and her history with Marcus.
When Sheridan agreed to Luchenko’s terms, you could very well say that he had an ace up his sleeve.
… And what could the president, or the general, be complaining about? They demanded his resignation, and he gave it to them! By any fair and square terms, it can very easily be seen that they generated the situation whereby he would be president of the Alliance. We know otherwise, but we also know that they forced him into that corner. Is it not ironic? They could control him as an Earthforce member. When they expelled him (and yet allowed him to get away with his full rights as a retired serviceman), they effectively allowed him full freedom — he left their control and was very much free to do as he pleased. In the event, he did so with full, unvolatile backup from a force that, in interplanetary politics chess, was stronger than Earth, or at least in even terms with her.
In the shot when we see Sheridan and Delenn in bed, I noticed that the camera was overall looking from above the bed. As a consequence, you cannot tell whether it is a flat human bed or an inclined Minbari bed. I think this was intentional.
Overall appreciation: this episode is basically the long-awaited moment when the audience is an accomplice in the characters’ celebration. Merryment to go round and patting ourselves on our backs. And, as we have seen for the past two years, Sheridan is da man.
By the way, Sheridan has just been elected the first president of the United Federation of Planets, and in 2261 — exactly one hundred years to the foundation of Star Trek’s. Seeing as that he is Da Man, and that Sisko himself managed to bring the Romulans in, I would bet that, somewhere in the Galaxy, the two of them will meet at some bar, drinking Saurian brandy and trading war stories.
“The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”
Straczynski has noted that he wrote this episode under the influence of his readings about early Medieval England, a time when the monasteries were guardians of lost knowledge, a time now immersed in legend for lack of historical registries, a time of savagery, illiteracy and ignorance when barbarians ran over the remnants of a lost classical age. It is no wonder, then, that the chief monk is called Alwyn. That is a very Early Middle Ages Saxon name.
Speaking of which, it must be no coincidence that Straczynski chose to have the Catholic Church deny recognition of an order that strives to preserve Science and Technology. It is no secret that Straczynski views the Church for what it has so frequently been: promoters of ignorance and superstition, enemies of Science and of advancement. The Church would naturally look upon Brother Alwyn’s abbey with distrust.
Brother Alwyn’s sequence set me thinking. I have often considered the hypothesis (not uncommon in scifi, it seems) that the Bible and similar old books contain historical accounts of a technological age that has long been lost. Simpler peasant minds of a later, ignorant time period would lack the knowledge and the language to understand or register the heroes’ exploits for what they were and would chalk them up under formulations of magic, myth, mystery and wonder. Cases in point: the Prophet Ezekiel’s wheel of fire in the sky and Elijah’s ascent unto Heaven.
In the Beginning
Worthy of note: Theodore Bikel plays Lenonn. The same actor was Nikolai Rozhenko in ST:TNG “Family” and the Rabbi in B5 “TKO”.
If the warrior caste does not go to Z’ha’dum, then Dukhat decides that the Grey Council will. This is the very mark of a leader, throwing himself into the fire before anyone else, just as Kirk would.
According to Dukhat, when you are in doubt, it is enough to look at the face of a Vorlon. This explains why Delenn looked for Kosh and had a revelation from him late in the first season, before undergoing the transformation into half-human.
It surprises me that the Grey Council should be made up of so many young members. I assume they should be inexperienced (Delenn was), eager and hot-headed (as they should not be, but anyway). Mayhap this explains why they so easily voted for the war.
Considering that fourth season’s G’Kar is so much different from what he had been in the first season and before, it must have been quite an effort for Andreas Katsulas to impersonate G’Kar as he had been before the pilot. In my view, he came out quite well, which is an achievement.
The general says that the blood of every dying human was in Franklin’s hands, but I disagree. If no human ship could as much as come near the Minbari without being blown out to kingdom come, there is scarcely anything that his notes could be useful for.
The first attempt at peace between humans and Minbari was to take place in the Epsilon Sector. Quite appropriate that B5 was to be built there later on.
The listening outpost at the Epsilon Sector looked a lot like Garibaldi’s cell early in the fourth season, as does the Mars facility overrun by rebels late in the fourth season.
Of course, we all know that Lennon, another peace advocate, was killed in a hit and run attack, like Lenonn.
The president’s speech before the Battle of the Line is very moving. What if you had suddenly become aware that the whole of the human race was to become extinct in a matter of months?
By the way, Tricia McNeill (the president) should be used to desperate last stands in space. She was Captain Garrett in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, at a time when the Federation was despairingly taking a beating from the Klingons and her ship was a shambles.
As we can see now from what we already know at this point, it is not that humans have Minbari blood, or are being reborn with Minbari souls. It’s just that chance had the Minbari capture the only human that had Valen’s blood, and that because he was Valen himself.
“The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari”
Lennier says that he is following the call of his heart. Of course he is not. The call of his heart is to remain with Delenn. He is just following the rational course as necessary to run away from her, i.e. joining the Foreign Legion.
At one point, Londo speculates that he would be dying such that his prophecy dream would not come true of dying in the throne room. He even says that this would be his way of spiting fate. Except that maybe, maybe what we have seen before was not literal! We know that he has once dreamed of dying in the throne room. Now imagine: that was not the literal throne room, but just the scenery that he was supposed to be seeing as he died. That was the scenery he would be living in at the moment when he died, and his vision of a choking G’Kar was not one of the literal G’Kar, but of a dream G’Kar. He was in fact dreaming of the dream he would be having as he lay dying… In the event, it was not so, and he did not die when having that dream. But it could have come to pass this way…
“A View from the Gallery”
FINALLY an episode from the point of view of the common man, of the everyday underdog, of the invisible O’Briens that make up most of the people that man a station and are never acknowledged. By the way, Delenn was the only one to treat them as people, and that is probably because she is an alien and her society works differently. Note that, near the end, Lochley was only aware that Mack had called her because she was not looking at him and heard her name called from behind her back.
When Bo asks what those hitech brooms do, that is certainly a joke on all the generic, mysterious and silent gadgetry that we have seen on Star Trek, Babylon 5 itself and most any film set in hitech futures. We never know what they do, neither have the actors got a clue. It is all pretending and hoping no one will ask. Well, this one did. This has since been imitated by Galaxy Quest, where they had a room with quick-closing, man-sized hammers that no one knew what were there for — and which effectively did nothing but had been there just for the sake of some past episode’s story.
Granted that Bo and Mack are part of the station’s high-clearance personnel. Yet Lochley should never ever have discussed intelligence matters with Garibaldi in front of them. This is not something to discuss in a corridor anyway. The only explanation for her complete disregard of their presence would be that the maintenance guys are always invisible (which could have been a part of the meaning of that scene anyway, though it was not if we are to judge by Straczynski’s later comments). Even then it would have been unforgivable: as an exemplary officer, she would always be alert against the proximity of people.
According to one comment I have read, Lochley’s statement that she would rather let the invaders attack some other planet could be considered cynic and inhumane. I say it is not. Her mission is to the station, which makes the station her first and foremost priority. Her mission is not to rid the galaxy of its threats. If she would run around trying to make the galaxy a safer place, she would outstretch the station’s resources to the detriment of the station’s security. Anyway it is not her mission, either, to impose the Alliance’s values on aliens from far away.
There is a predating Star Trek: Voyager episode with that name, but let this pass. The expression is inviting and free to use anyway.
From the first line delivered by Turval, I think that the actor spoke too much and too fast. An old, wise man — especially from a warrior monk group such as the Rangers — would never speak so much or so fast. He would never speak with so little delay from his apprentice’s remarks. He would take at least a few seconds to reflect, and he would speak little and slow. This is a bit that remained unchanged until the end of the episode and which affected my willingness to believe.
Of course, Delenn’s comments about the Pak’ma’ra can have another, bigger meaning than simply that within the show. Science fiction’s rôle is to assess and comment on the present day’s social status and trends. We can understand her speech as Straczynski pointing his finger at the way society treats the “untouchables” that perform our dirty jobs. In all societies, there have always been the slaves, whom no one wants any dealings with. The plumbers, the undertakers, the janitors, the garbage collectors — we need them so we can have our comfortable amenities, which will crumble without them. An extreme case is the lowest caste in India, who cleans up the sewers so the higher castes can defecate with peace of mind. People do not know their names, do not take them into account, do not remember they exist, or even see them. They are just part of the landscape. Yet they remain useful and unthanked.
As in all movies and series when the protagonists engage in hand combat, again we see the villains taking a choreographed beating. What I find absurd is that, as in all cases, they never hit back while they are hit themselves: instead they just stand there, facing the onslaught, without so much as raising an arm to protect their heads. Again, we see the villain attempting to knock the Minbari hero, missing, taking a counter-offensive blow (OK so far), but then just standing there, taking blow after blow without a reaction, until eventually falling unconscious. This cannot be believed.
OK, so I obviously have to ask this: whatever secret is this between Sheridan and Lochley that Delenn learns from an anguished Sheridan? Have I missed something? Should it be obvious?
So the Pak’ma’ra are the elected people and are not allowed to eat food that has not been through ritual cleansing. Neither are they allowed to eat fish. I wonder if there has ever been any people who thought of themselves as elected by God and forbidden from eating pork or shellfish, only being allowed to eat Kosher. I wonder.
Now I am convinced: Byron’s telepaths are hippies that fancy themselves as Twilight‘s vampires. No, seriously. Look at their long hairs and huggy-huggy smiles. Look at their matt black clothes, black curtains, Victorian tassels and hanging threads, lots of candles, scarlet furnishings and trimmings… Vampire hippies, that’s what they are.
The Hyach and the Hyach-Doh were two sentient species fought for survival while there was interbreeding. One comment to be made is about the futility of forbidding people from intermarriage. We all know that it is pointless: people will always succumb to their passions, even more so if you forbid them! So they had to go for a ‘final solution’ of killing off those who they wanted to identify as their enemy. Of course we know that the enemy was not the Hyach-Doh: these were just a people whom to direct the hatred at, as has been done so frequently. You have to identify a common enemy to provide union, even if this common enemy has to be fabricated, as has so frequently been the case on Earth (think of the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Muslim today).
The other comment is — at the time when this episode was written, it had not yet surfaced that we have Neanderthal DNA. Yes, we do. Before one species was wiped by competition with the other, there was intermarriage. It can thus be argued that there is no pure Homo sapiens and that we are all crossblood. Where to the Nazis stand now, eh?
Let us take a look at this Peter character. He looks shy and submissive. He does not face you when talking to you, he lowers his eyes, he curls himself protectively, he stammers in an evident display of uncertainty. It looks like he lacks self-esteem and is constant doubt and need of self-assurance. Maybe he feels guilt. Let us not mistake ourselves. Peter brings all the hallmarks of an ego that suppresses the true nature of his self. When he is unconscious, he shows an enormous power, which indicates that, while awake, he hides this power from the world and even from himself. He has built a wall of appearances, probably out of fear of what he would be capable of doing if he let himself loose. When he has no control (e.g. when unconscious in Medlab), he does terrible, aggressive things, as if he harboured a monster deep in his mind. He is possibly a victim of child abuse and feels a searing hatred that requires constant leashing, hence his subdued attitude. The self-reppression (“I cannot use my powers to hurt anyone”) leads to the stammering, to the shyness and to an appearance of weak powers (e.g. his short lifting of a light ball). It can be argued that Byron has detected the truth about Peter and is helping him out of his shell, helping him deploy his powers gradually to his own benefit. Presumably, this way he sees that he need not fear himself and, at the same time, he does not actually endanger the people around him. It seems to be a question of Peter accepting himself under Byron’s guidance and thus bringing his full power into blossom, realising his potential (which is not really a potential, but something that is already there).
“The Ragged Edge”
When Garibaldi fights the Drazi thug in the hotel, we see the balcony’s rim tremble more than once. Building materials at the shooting site do not seem sturdy enough!
“Day of the Dead”
In Rebo & Zooty’s first take, we see Rebo throw his bag onto the customs table. Then a man passes right in front of the camera, completely hiding Rebo & Zooty. The next take appears to still be the first, but take a closer look at the bag. You can see it is bigger and shaped differently than before. This second bag transforms into Zooty, but it is not the one that had been thrown forcefully before, though I will admit that Rebo had thrown the first one as if it had been heavy, i.e. with Zooty inside.
The idea of the Brakiri buying a piece of the station for just the duration of one night is very much akin to the Brazilian Law’s concept of “soluble property”. It is not a usual concept for one to see implemented, but it does provide for a property to revert to its previous owner upon the coming of a certain event (in this case, sunrise), even without the reversion of payment if such is the case.
As usual, Ed Wasser is perfect as Morden — even dead.
Dodger was naked in the shower. Then Garibaldi hands her something for her to wear temporarily. So how come she is wearing her jumpsuit later on?
Very good, Mr. President. You remove a piece of safety equipment from the wall, you throw it and let it bounce, and you do not put it back. Thereby you (1) contribute to the station’s disarray, leaving equipment scattered around; (2) contribute to the station’s unsafety, by removing a fire extinguisher from its assigned place and not putting it back. Shame on you.
I would prefer it if Babylon 5 had chosen never to show us Rebo & Zooty, keeping them a joking reference or a mystery, much like Morn’s talkative moods in DS9 or the Anselmo case in Moonlighting. Now the series leaves little (if anything) to the imagination.
Hold on there. A GROPO such as Dodger reciting 19th-century poems? Is this plausible? Would she even have read ANY literature at all when alive?
This episode did not have enough substance to warrant a 45-minute duration. The whole returning-dead plot was very interesting and full of potential, but (1) it did not get enough development and (2) distractions ate time from it but did not add anything of their own. For example, Lochley’s attempts at contacting Sheridan led nowhere: there was nothing she could say usefully (or so had to say), neither did anyone on the station contribute to solving what was not, after all, a problem. In fact, the section’s absence was barely taken as one. So the series just took a lot of episode time just goofing around, without anything really happening. I would assume that a half-hour episode could be made from the day of the dead concept, without the irrelevant bits and with more content than what we got to see this time.