So here I am, another episode of B5 wiser, wondering how to respond to it. I have only seen it once, and that a few days ago, yet I dare analyze it, hoping that my memory is good, the other comments about this episode online are rare, and that the fans keeping me honest are in a tolerant mood.
I’ll start with the aliens this time, Delenn being my favorite (mostly for the hair). I was really starting to get nervous about how close to her cocoon Lennier was putting all those oil lamps, especially considering that he kept walking away from it for long periods of time. I get that they showed reverence to someone who has given up part of herself for the benefit of her people, and I get that he couldn’t maintain a constant vigil having her duties and his own to fulfill, and I assume that each suite on the space station is firewalled (in the literal sense), so the danger to others is minimal. But I’ve seen videos of butterflies busting out of cocoons and it’s a pretty violent act that takes up a lot of space. Had Delenn come bursting out of her shell like this little guy…
…she would have been in a world of hurt. Fortunately, she was able to discreetly crack open her shell like Dana and Lewis in Ghostbusters and crawl into a heavy, gray hooded cloak that Lennier had left lying around (unless she went and got it out of the closet before returning to the floor to huddle) and did not get burned or tip over any lamps.
I admit, the suspense of what was going to happen to Delenn and the nagging question of whether or not she would ever grow beautiful hair or if she was going to be crusty for the rest of the series was undermined by her rosy-skinned glory in the opening credits from the very first episode. It’s nice that she transformed into some Human/Minbari hybrid as a show of good faith for Captain Sinclair coming to live on her planet; it makes me wonder if he is going to be similarly transformed the next time we see him (and I’m sure we’re going to have to see him, what with the time travel stuff and this genetic or spiritual connection between the races that exists). He has part of a Minbari soul, after all.
The G’Kar trip to the edges of space, or galaxy, or sector (I forget which) to discover a dark planet waking up was definitely the most interesting part of the show, and should prove to be a major plot development that carries across seasons in a way. In the first place, the reawakening of malevolence is always a good tale, as is the story of ancient legends and documents that depict current events (like in Battlestar Galactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a ton of books that I have recently read). It is an interesting conflict to see if two enemies can unite in the face of a third, more powerful force, as well as if the individual representatives of two races can overcome their personal egos and hangups in order to tackle larger problems. This is the first episode in which I’ve really seen G’Kar as a character and not an attitude or the “face of the Narn.” I found the character of Na’Toth many, many episodes ago, but he was just a stand-in. This time, though, seeing him on the ship investigating this anomaly, and interacting with the ship that knew it was doomed, and pleading with Londo back at B5… I am very interested in him, now. I think his story is my new favorite. Just the idea that ten years ago these people were mostly agrarian (if I am remembering right) and had to forcefully evolve their culture or die is amazing. These sorts of achievements change destinies–which makes it even more interesting that these prophecies and lore are coming true. (I begrudgingly acknowledge a tiny bit of the cliche about people who live “natural” lives in “harmony” with the universe are the keepers of ancient truths and wisdoms, but I qualify it by saying that’s such a generic cliche so loosely applied that it’s probably a coincidence and not an artifact of some technological bias on Straczynski’s part.)
I liked how the psychic saw the face of the villain in a mirror in Garibaldi’s memory. I absolutely knew the minute the new president asked for the villain that he was in on it–and why oh why did they send the original documents without making copies? Wouldn’t they need to keep their own records of incidents that had happened on the ship? I liked Londo’s fear and compliance–he’s impulsive and kind of stuck on himself (which is why he agreed to shady dealings) but he will play along rather than have the extinction of the Narn on his conscience… that’s going to be major. I thought Kosh’s appearance added little to the episode, but we do need reminding that he’s around. I’m sure he’s going to play a greater role eventually but for an ambassador with the status and responsibilities of the other ambassadors, he seems to do jack. You don’t have to build episodes around him if you want to preserve his mystery, but he really should be better integrated into the drama than he is. I found his presence kind of startling, actually, which makes me wonder if he was trotted out in the same episode that this malevolent planet thing started because he’s connected somehow. That way, viewers rewatching the series (surely even in the 1990s producers were thinking ahead to video cassette box sets) and armed with knowledge about future events would find significance in him walking out of the conference room.
My biggest complaint this episode is Sheridan’s storyline. It was all exposition for the sake of revealing plot. Important stuff, sure, but hard to finagle gracefully. It was a lot of talking in a way that real people wouldn’t be talking. I mean, his wife died two years ago and he and his sister would have hashed out most of these feelings one way or the other and would not be stating them so clinically and clearly over dinner. (Side note: Why did they give that actress chopsticks? She obviously cannot use them and couldn’t even hold them properly; it was distracting. Surely they have forks.) Yeah, yeah, I know the writers threw in the line about how they hadn’t seen each other for a while, but I didn’t buy it. Regardless, here is a list of important things we needed to learn somehow:
1. There is an archaeological site out there so dangerous to someone that people had to be killed for it.
2. Sheridan is the kind of captain who will put himself at risk for his crew, even when he hasn’t met some of them (and nice callback to the alien technology that sucks your energy to make sick people better!).
3. Sheridan is a widow who was a loving husband and is available as a single gentleman character to make a deserving woman happy.
I’m positive that Dr. Chang, the archaeologist whose ship exploded, is going to tie into G’Kar’s malevolent planet and historical documents. I went searching online to see if he was the same archaeologist in that episode in which that guy caught some virus that turned him into a weapon, but he wasn’t. I was tickled, though, to find this comprehensive fan site. It looks very old and not new at all, but it’s awesome: The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5
We were talking about the Internet the other night at dinner, trying to remember when it first became ordinary. I remember being wowed by modems in Wargames, but by Weird Science modems were specialized equipment that some regular people had. By Sneakers everyone knew about hacking to the point where you didn’t really have to explain what it was. My first experience with the Internet was in college, on those old Unix machines with green and amber displays, sending email and IRC chat and finding lists of users online at other universities. It wasn’t until I was at teacher school in 1996 that I ever really pointed and clicked anything, and Netscape confused me. I especially didn’t understand what revealing a page’s source code could show me.
Despite its age, this Lurker’s Guide is exactly what a fan site should be. I am so impressed with its layout. I don’t want to call it a forerunner to all fan sites that have come since (because I don’t really frequent fan site), but I think we should all give shouts out to Steven Grimm, who hosts the page.
W00t, Steven Grimm. You are a 733t website hoster. I salute you and your Lurker’s Guide and the other items in your Cavalcade of Whimsy.
())-| (turn 90 degrees clockwise and raise it to the sky)