Babylon 5–Season 2, Episode 15: And Now for a Word

Like I said yesterday, I really disliked this episode. I thought it moved the plot forward in interesting ways, but investigative journalism is annoying, especially in the hyperdramaticized, scandal-mongering way it is frequently presented–which this episode was overtly satirizing. I could only sit through about twenty minutes of it before I had to take a break. I went back to it while writing the previous episode blog post (Hulu, how I love your resizable pop-out viewing window!) and I took notes on it so I never have to go back to it again.

I’m not actually copying and pasting them–I’m jazzing it up with commas and verbs and articles and stuff. And adding sentences; my notes started halfway through, because it did pick up in the middle, when the interview segments got longer and the characters were able to speak for themselves better. Actually, the talking heads (as they like to call the interview segments of The Office, and everywhere else, I suppose) were quite interesting. It was the scenes of the interviewer adding commentary and the outside filming of the conference room and battlestations. Those were kind of artificial and stagey.

One of the first things I liked was the dock worker’s reference to the union strike and its resolution; that was a nice callback to the previous season, and the previous station captain, Sinclair. I was impressed with his solution to the problem, although I don’t remember right now what it was, and I think that even though the end-viewer of the journalism piece will have no idea what he is referring to, every television viewer did. I also liked the lurking presence of Ivanova during the interview with her subordinate, who was talking about how much he enjoyed working at the station. I’m not saying that she told anyone to lie, and that guy probably does like his job, but guy was definitely minding his tone. It made the later description of her as “sunny” and “bubbly” (or whatever insipid adjectives the reporter applied to her) even funnier. First of all, even the fictional end-viewers of the report were going to know that it wasn’t true, which gives them a good reason to be skeptical of everything presented, should this investigative piece become an issue later. Second, though, the television viewers know her, and can have a laugh at the obnoxious reporter’s expense.

I am at this moment coming up with an idea!

So later in the episode, the Earth representative guy whose name I didn’t catch complimented the reporter on being “one of the good ones.” I don’t generally like hearing politicians judge reporters as good or bad, because they usually don’t mean it in terms of story construction or artistry–they are judging the favorability of a journalist’s spin. That this politician liked this reporter suggests that she was sent out to Babylon 5 (or allowed to go after thinking up the idea) because she would come back with the correct version of events. Remember–these are the people we think tried to discredit Sheridan and undermine the Babylon 5 mission just one episode ago. Perhaps the journalist specifically planted clues that all was not what she said it was; her concluding speech was quite favorable of the staff and goals of the station. It’s a little conspiracy theoryish of me, and I really did just now think it up, but why not? There are established conspiracies in the show.

The journalist was awfully mean to Delenn, though, and made her cry, which is further proof that Delenn is trustworthy (see my previous post, which is from one day ago, for more on Delenn). So even if the journalist is cleverly collecting data that helps Babylon 5 that the Earth politicians are missing, she’s still a cold-hearted snake like the lot of them.

The background of the Narn/Centauri original war was fleshed out a little, although I don’t think that the personal details provided by G’Kar are more than poignant. Hearing the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” more than once (Sheridan says it and G’Kar says it) stuck out because it’s an excuse for a war that we’ve heard a lot of lately, but I don’t remember exactly what was going on in world politics in 1995. Perhaps it was a callback to the first war against Iraq–Operation Desert Storm. I’m sure Straczynski had it in mind when he was drafting the plot for his story. Overall, the way G’Kar explained his side of the story made the Narn seem a little bit like Ewoks; the way they filmed Londo at the last interview made him (and by proxy the Centauri) a little like vampires–I seriously never noticed his fanged teeth before this episode. It’s pretty clear to me who the Earth audience is supposed to see as victims/perpetrators, but I don’t think that the investigative journalist was presenting a very different side of the story than Straczynski has presented to us.

Delenn’s wrap-up of why she thinks Humans are so special reminded me of that scene in Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact, when the aliens were talking to Ellie about how Humans are so special. They referred in the book to Human dreams whereas Delenn admires Humans’ ability to form communities, but it’s just another contribution to the long list of science fiction scenarios in which some older, supposedly more enlightened alien race discovered that these brash upstarts (and I’m looking at you, David Brin, and you too, Spock) have this raw enthusiasm and energy that other races have forgotten how to tap into. It’s sort of an infantilized view of people, but we do love children, and it’s nice to be reminded that people are good, too. I guess it’s a fictional solution to the problem of how to make the playing field equal among the races when Humans are so far behind technologically and historically. I appreciate the cliche, but I’ll call it a tradition and bask in the warm cuddlies.

Something that Really Annoyed Me
I know we’re supposed to believe that Ivanova is competent and ruthless and a good leader, but easily half the time we see her she is not making decisions. Yeah, yeah, she’s not in charge, but even when she’s with her captain does she have to stand there and repeat the computer? Sheridan announces his plan of action, and Ivanova works it out aloud why that’s a good one, instead of getting to judge whether it’s a good one, or add to it, or participate.

It’s a stupid job, but someone has to do it, and the task once again falls on the woman. Poor Susan Ivanova! At least she’s in very good company.

PsiCorps
I had sort of forgotten about them. If the slightly unpleasant vibe you got off of the Earth politician wasn’t enough to remind you of the large conspiracies, then this PsiCorps commercial should have done the trick. It was hard to watch without laughing, and I’m sure that the selection of a perfectly Aryan boy for the role of misunderstood and extremely talented wasn’t an accident. The subliminal message–“PsiCorps is your friend. Trust the PsiCorp”–probably wasn’t subliminal enough if I saw it flash by, but I’m sure no one watching the commercial during the investigative report would have been able to see it and thus distrust it, because no one had pausable, rewindable, digital live TV. Of course, I don’t have pausable, rewindable, digital live TV either, so I shouldn’t poke fun; I had to go look up the message online. I’d caught PsiCorps and Friend, at least. I didn’t feel so bad. I’m guessing that we see Talia next episode if they went this far out of their way to remind us of her.

Maintbots
I just need one. Considering that a fleet of about thirty seemed to cover that gigantic surface area of the space station, one ought to keep my entire building clean. The cats would love it!

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