Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 1: Points of Departure

So season 2 begins with a new opening sequence, a new voice over, and some secondary characters bumped up to opening credit status. I don’t know if I like the voice over particularly; it’s probably a matter of being used to the old one, but with so many words and phrases exactly the same but in a different order, I don’t see the point of changing it. Changing the voice, sure. The pictures behind changing don’t bother me at all. In fact, I appreciate when shows use shots from the current season to introduce characters instead of shots from the first season, especially when people are going to look so different (like Delenn and her tresses). I’ll have to listen closer next time to the opening credits to see if there’s a difference in meaning or significance the way they are played in the new season. It’s probably just a move to freshen up the show and create interest.

I suppose the goal of a season opener is to establish changes that have occurred since the last season ended and lay the foundation for plot and character developments. Fans who have seen all the shows more than once may not like my saying this, but this episode was kind of thin on plot. It’s mostly backstory through character speeches, with one big reveal (the Minbari souls thing). We learn a few more things about their universe, like hologram mail and that rule that the Minbari have about not harming each other (which I don’t remember from season 1; I think that’s new), and there is a battle scene that probably goes too long, with other scenes extended further than they might have been. I am not criticizing the episode–I really did like it–but it would be pretty easy to summarize. The character and story parts, however, I can find plenty to say about.

The episode opens with Ivanova firmly in charge. She seems frazzled, true, but not overly so. In fact, she presents quite a confident and assured air, and certainly seems to have established a presence of being in control. If things are hectic and crazy, well, it has nothing to do with any lack on her part–it’s totally the circumstances of Sinclair missing and the president dying and Garibaldi being sick. Yet the way the officers above her (General Hague?) were treating her seemed to be an attempt to put her in a flustered role, and the scene where she waxes somewhat nostalgic for her days beneath the command of Sheridan undermine her position of authority to the audience, I think. Maybe it’s because I watched the finale not that long ago (as opposed to waiting an entire summer between seasons) but I remember distinctly that scene where Sinclair tells Garibaldi to look after Ivanova because she has her whole career ahead of her. Because I had forgotten all about Sinclair’s involvement with Catherine, at the time I read it as a protective, love-interest kind of request between friends. But now, with this I’m-so-happy-to-have-my-mentor stuff, it really seems like the writers are going out of their way to juvenilize (I know that’s not the right word but I can’t think of a better one right now) Ivanova. She’s all business and competence, but then she’s all vulnerable and unsure. This could be an example of the actress portraying a different interpretation of the character than the script is calling for, but more likely I can blame it in an indignant way on men running Hollywood etc etc and being unaware of the presentation of the politics of power and gender etc etc. It’s probably really just a matter of needing a way to give some backstory for Sheridan via lines from Ivanova that provide locations and dates. Still, I didn’t buy it. I’ll chalk it up to plot inconsistencies.

But I do have a new story arc to predict! I am getting a whiff of some sweetness and light between Garibaldi and Ivanova that could grow into a romance, if this turns out to be the kind of show that must pair single women with someone. In this context, Sinclair’s request to Garibaldi to look after her could be interpreted as the commander granting his permission/blessing/encouragement for Garibaldi to pursue some unspoken interest they’ve both (Sinclair and Garibaldi) been aware of. Garibaldi and Ivanova were dates for New Year’s Eve. Ivanova has been visiting Garibaldi daily at 2:45 PM without fail. I think it would be a little icky if they hooked up, as kids these days like to say, mostly because of the purported age difference, but because she seems much older than other people have been treating her, it wouldn’t bother me so much, I guess. Maybe Garibaldi is young but aging badly.

We got nothing from Doctor, Londo, G’Kar, Kosh, the psychic, or their associates. Lennier seemed awfully forthcoming with Sheridan and Ivanova, but the writers needed him to be so whatever. Of course, like Ivanova has been running the ship, he has been running Delenn’s diplomatic station while she’s in her cocoon, so perhaps he has settled into his authority. He was certainly a lot less dorky and naive than in the motorcycle and the barhopping episodes.

Transplanetary alien reincarnation is just about one of the most creative things I’ve ever heard of, and I dig this storyline. The idea of a splintered, declining race is interesting as well. It would be very comforting to develop a mythology that enabled the belief that your people were just as strong as they’ve always been, but they are getting born somewhere else. I wonder if we’ll ever learn that the lack of association between the priestly caste and the warrior caste is a relatively new phenomenon. If so, that could explain the dwindling population. I’m also guessing the hole in Sinclair’s head could indicate that he was born only with a part of a Minbari soul, or that they took a piece of his soul during the scan–that could be where his memories went.

Death, honor, rogue warships, Klingons, suicide, whatever. There were a few parts of the episode that seemed completely cliched and downright Red Octobery, but it was a necessary element to get the soul talk started. It was our second interaction with the warrior caste, and I wonder if they’ll ever be developed as their own line of characters or if they’ll always just show up as plot devices. Right now I think it could go either way. One part of that story did make me laugh out loud, though–the tooth with poison in it. As I admitted before, I sometimes watch this show while I am occupied with chores so when I saw this on the screen…

I did a double take. Remember that gum that had a brightly colored liquidy center?

Honest to god I thought he was chewing gum in the interrogation room until Sheridan got back. But my second thought was that he was taking poison. There’s no way they didn’t use that gum as a prop, though. It was exactly that bright blue color. I remember the pink stuff, too. That, and Big League Shredded Gum and Hubba Bubba Grape. Good times. Oh, and he died.

Final Thoughts
The twice-interrupted speech was the episode’s version of introducing a gun in the first act of a play, I suppose. I don’t see how that could possibly have been a thirty-minute speech, especially to your crew on your first day, when you show up in the middle of work eight days after a galactic crisis. I was nervous by how close to the cocoon Lennier was putting the oil lamps, but nothing bad seemed to come of it. I was not surprised at all that Delenn 2.0 would be poking her fingers out of the cocoon at the end of the episode, although that reminded me of Dana breaking herself out of the demon dog in Ghostbusters, which also made me laugh. I am very glad that Garibaldi did not also wake up this episode, and I wonder if that speech the doctor made about comas and the brain will have later significance, like if Garibaldi has visions. I don’t think so–I think it was just to add suspense–but I wasn’t paying that close attention. The vibe showers that most of the people on the station undergo made me think of a novel I read as a child about a girl who goes to live with her parents on a moon colony. The primary drama was about the school play of “Our Town,” I think, but she complained at one point how she missed real showers with water and didn’t find the vibration showers that satisfying. I’m not joking when I say I read this at least twenty-five years ago. It’s made me want to track it down. I hate to predict a pattern from two instances, but could vibe showers just be one of those scifi things that scifi writers all know about and scifi audiences understand? I personally can’t understand how it would work. Wouldn’t the frequency of a vibration that can bounce dirt and oil off of you also disrupt other particles inside your body? Hopefully they won’t build an episode around the vibe shower so I won’t have to fret about it.

Perhaps one of you skeevy pervs will write some fan fic about Ivanova and Delenn and explain it all.

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Comments

  • nevermore  On August 5, 2008 at 2:50 am

    They change the season opener with every new season, music, voice-over and pictures – like a new volume of a book series has a new cover.

    Straczynski has said that the five seasons of B5 are structured according to classical five act drama: introduction, rising action, complication, climax and denouement. Season 1 is the first act, introduction, and Sinclair merely established what B5 is supposed to be. The key change in Season 2, I think, is “the dawn of the first age of mankind, the year the great war came upon us all.” The introduction is now finished and the “rising action” part begins. One might add that there is also a prologue, the pilot “The Gathering” you probably haven’t seen yet – in this case Londo Mollari does the voice-over, and establishes the background a bit more. It also has an epilogue I’m not adressing for spoiler reasons.

    Susan, at this stage of her character development, is unsure, and certainly not yet quite ready for a leading position of authority. Her “all business and competence” attitude is partly a facade. She is only 28 years old and she has a lot of emotional issues to adress (Sinclair is 41 and Sheridan is 43). Like everyone else, she will grow and change. As for Sinclair’s hole in the mind, I think they explained in “The Sky full of Stars”, he was simply mindwiped of those memories.

  • nevermore  On August 5, 2008 at 7:27 am

    I meant they change the opening sequence each season, of course. And it’s “the third age of mankind” ;)

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