Archive for June 2010

Babylon 5–Chrysalis (1994)   1 comment

January 1, 2259: Earth Force One Explodes at Io, Killing Earth Alliance President Luis Santiago

(THIRTEENTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Chrysalis, the first season finale, takes the series arc into darker territory than before.  It is sufficed to say that the Shadows are on the move after a thousand years.

There is a plot to assassinate Earth Alliance President Luis Santiago, reelected in the first episode of the series.  Some of the conspirators are aboard Babylon 5.  Among these are Security Chief Michael Garibaldi’s chief deputy.  Garibaldi and the rest of the command staff of the space station try to warn Santiago before it is too late, but they fail.  And Garibaldi’s chief deputy shoots him in the back.

Below:  Mr. Morden

Meanwhile, the Narn and Centauri governments are disputing Sector 37, which is either neutral or Narn space.  There is a Narn presence there, and the Centauri want it removed.  Enter Mr. Morden, agent of the Shadows, who promises that his “associates” will handle the Sector 37 problem for the Centauri and that Londo will receive the credit.  So the Shadows attack the Narns in Sector 37 and Londo’s profile with his government becomes more prominent.  Morden’s “associates,” the Shadows, do this favor for Londo.  But such favors come with high price tags, as subsequent episodes reveal.

Below:  Kosh’s Encounter Suit Opens

Kosh, the Vorlon Ambassador, knows that the Shadows have returned.  Indeed, he tangled with Morden’s “associates” in Signs and Portents, half way through the season.  After Kosh reveals his Vorlon form to Minbari Ambassador Delenn, she (Delenn) knows what she must do:  She must use the triluminary, a thousand-year-old device she received during Babylon Squared, to enter into a chrysalis stage.  She must change her form in order to fulfill her part of prophecy.  In Babylon Squared one Grey Council member had stated that prophecy will attend to itself.  This is not Delenn’s philosophy.

Above:  Delenn Preparing for Chrysalis

Delenn sends an urgent message to Commander Sinclair.  She needs to speak to him very shortly.  Yet Sinclair is distracted.  Not only is he trying to save President Santiago’s life, but he has just become engaged to Catherine Sakai.

Below:  Catherine Sakai and Commander Jeffrey Sinclair

When Kosh reminds Sinclair to meet with Delenn, it is too late.  She has entered her cocoon.  See below:

Narn Ambassador Kosh, aware that the Centauri could not have destroyed the Narn presence in Sector 37 alone, leaves the station to investigate the darkness he knows is ascendant.

And Security Chief Garibaldi is in surgery, his survival not guaranteed.

As Sinclair tells Catherine Sakai, “Nothing is the same anymore.”  He is correct; it is worse.

So ends the first season of Babylon 5.  Season One set the stage well, introducing characters and establishing the show’s universe.  The first season holds up very well over time and in the context of subsequent seasons.  Most of the episodes are excellent.  Okay, the less one says about TKO and Grail, which I chose not to review, the better.  Yet the excellent planning of series creator J. Michael Straczynski becomes apparent when one begins to watch Babylon 5 through the second time around.

Season One is very good.  The second season is even better.  Stay tuned.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

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Posted June 30, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5

Babylon 5–The Quality of Mercy (1994)   1 comment

Above:  Dr. Stephen Franklin and Laura Rosen with the Alien Healing Device

(TWELFTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Access to affordable health care remains a problem in the year 2258, at least in the Babylon 5 universe.  Among the inhabitants of the space station are civilians who came to Babylon 5 searching for opportunity, but who found themselves trapped without money to return home.  These are the Lurkers, and they live in Down Below, the slums in which criminals have great influence.

Dr. Stephen Franklin, the highest ranking medical officer on Babylon 5, runs a free clinic for the Lurkers.  This violation of rules is no secret, for even Executive Officer Susan Ivanova volunteers at the illegal clinic.  Recently, though, Dr. Franklin has noticed less business than usual.  He discovers that the cause for this is a rival clinic, run by one Laura Rosen (played by June Lockhart, late of Lost in Space), who has no medical license.  Yet her treatments work well.  She uses a device of alien origin.  This piece of technology transfers life energy from one person to another.  This fact explains the success of her treatments.

Such a device is dangerous, especially if one uses it unattended.  What if one loses consciousness while attached to it?  The technology was originally a means of execution, but it can heal, too.  The function depends on how one uses it.

But Laura Rosen will die in three years or less because she has Lake’s Syndrome, so she does not care if she transfers her life force to others.  She is also an idealist committed to helping others, not exploiting the alien technology to become wealthy.  Laura and her daughter, Janice, succeed in time in making Dr. Franklin an ally.

Meanwhile, in the judicial system, Karl Edward Mueller, who has killed at least three people on the station, faces his day in court.  Convicted of murder, his sentence is the death of personality.  The body will survive, but Karl Edward Mueller will cease to exist.  A telepath will supervise the process of cataloging the Mueller personality, wiping the mind, and reprogramming the offender to serve society.  Talia Winters, the station’s resident telepath, catches this difficult assignment.

Below:  Karl Edward Mueller Threatening Janice Rosen’s Life

Mueller never gets as far as the mind wipe phase, for he escapes to Down Below, where he finds Laura and Janice Rosen.  Under duress, Laura treats Mueller with the alien device before using it to kill Mueller by giving him Lake’s Syndrome.

The court declares that Laura Rosen committed no crime, but that she must turn the alien device over to Dr. Franklin.  (Foreshadowing:  Look for the alien device to reappear in future episodes.)  Laura, ridden with guilt for having taken a life.  It was necessary, she says, but not morally correct. (Aside:  The distinction between necessity and moral correctness runs through the series, also.)

Below:  Londo Mollari and Lennier Embarking on a Great Adventure

In the comic part of this episode Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, a boisterous individual, introduces Lennier, the diplomatic aide to Minbari Ambassador Delenn, to the seedier side of Babylon 5.  Lennier is a quiet, well-behaved person, unaccustomed to bar fights and poker games.  But those are what he gets in the company of Londo.  At a poker game Londo lends Lennier a helping hand with a little-known (to non-Centauris) part of Centauri anatomy:  one of six torso tentacles.  See below:

FYI, torso tentacles are sexual organs.  (That is all I am saying.)

The portrayal of Londo Mollari as a comic character becomes less frequent after this episode.  The Quality of Mercy is the twenty-first episode aired.  In Chrysalis, the following episode and the season finale, he is a darker individual early on his path to destruction for himself and his civilization.  Yet neither villains or heroes are simple characters in Babylon 5.  At the end of the fifth season Londo is pathetic and Lennier is troubled.  People change.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted June 30, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5

Babylon 5–Babylon Squared (1994)   2 comments

Above:  Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) is Not a Morning Person.

(ELEVENTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

The great series Babylon 5 plays out over five years, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.  The first season is the series’ introduction, establishing characters and the universe.  Many of these threads seem disconnected at first, but the connectivity of the show becomes apparent with time and patience.  Babylon Squared, the twentieth episode aired, is a case in point.  The importance of much of its contents remains unclear until half way through the third season.  Yet the payoff at that time is wonderful.

Babylon Squared begins with humor.  Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova, the Executive Officer, is having breakfast with Commander Jeffrey Sinclair and Security Chief Michael Garibaldi.  She is drowsy because the night shift at Command and Control woke her up an hour early.  They had detected odd tachyon emissions from Sector 14, three hours away, the location of space station Babylon 4 before it disappeared a few years ago.  Ivanova authorized a pilot to investigate.

Sinclair and Garibaldi play a practical joke of Ivanova, convincing her momentarily that she has slept through breakfast and is late for her shift.  As the Lt. Commander rushes off to Command and Control, Commander Sinclair tells his Security Chief, “I’ll notify your next of kin.”  Then Garibaldi counts down from five and, from a distance, Ivanova shouts, “Garibaldi, you’re a dead man!”

The pilot’s Starfury craft returns from Sector 14, on automatic pilot.  He died of old age, although he was only 30 years old.  Something is going wrong with time in Sector 14.  Even more confusing, Babylon 5 receives a distress signal from Babylon 4.

Below: Babylon 4

Meanwhile, Minbari Ambassador Delenn answers a summons to meet with her peers on the Grey Council, the ruling body of the Minbari Federation.  She receives and rejects an invitation to leave her post on Babylon 5 and to become the Minbari leader.  Delenn believes in prophecy, a major theme in the series, and concludes that her work on the space station is not done yet.  Her decision carries a stiff penalty:  the possibility of becoming an outcast among her own people.

Below:  The Grey Council Assembles

Commander Sinclair and Security Chief Garibaldi travel to Babylon 4, where they reveal when and where they are from the Major Krantz, the commanding officer of Babylon 4.  Krantz explains that mysterious circumstances have befallen his station.  B4 is unstuck in time, and Zathras, an alien of uncertain origin, has appeared out of thin air.  Krantz, Sinclair, and Garibaldi speak to Zathras, who speaks of “the One” who needs Babylon 4 as a base for a great galactic war against evil forces and who seems to know Sinclair, although the Commander has not met Zathras previously.  And someone in a space suit keeps appearing and disappearing.  Zathras calls this person “the One.”

Below:  Zathras

Babylon 4 is unstable and about to disappear into another year, so Sinclair and Garibaldi evacuate it in 2258, their year.  Left on board, trapped under a heavy object, is Zathras, who recognizes someone in a space suit.  He knows individual as “the One.”  “The One” is an older Sinclair, who speaks to a woman whose voice sounds like that of Ambassador Delenn.  “I tried.  I tried to warn them.  But it all happened…just the way I remember it,” future Sinclair says.  Future Delenn replies, “I know.  It’s time.  We have to go.  They’re waiting for us.”

Above:  Future Sinclair and Future Delenn

I was confused when I watched this episode on first run.  Perspective tells me, however, that the Delenn-Grey Council, prophecy, and Babylon 4 threads in this episode tie together neatly within the tapestry that is the Babylon 5 series.  The third season two-parter War Without End answers many of the questions this episode leaves open.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted June 30, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5

Babylon 5–A Voice in the Wilderness, Parts I and II (1994)   1 comment

Above:  Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari After Seven Days of Attempting to Discover Meaning in the Hokey Pokey (That would make my hair stand on end, too.  Hah!)

(TENTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

This is the two-parter in which an alien ambassador discovers that the Hokey Pokey does not mean anything.  (Indeed, the Hokey Pokey is among the most ridiculous inventions of Homo sapiens. I recall an alleged staff meeting at the Turner Job Corps Center, Albany, Georgia, U.S.A., in 2000.  The leader of said gathering led the other attendees in the Hokey Pokey, claiming that we adults take ourselves too seriously.  I observed; I refused to Hokey Pokey, for I was profoundly self-conscious.)

This is also the two-parter which reveals a vital element of the series arc:  Epsilon 3, the dead world Babylon 5 orbits, is not as dead as it once seemed.  Seismic activity is becoming severe and someone or something is firing missiles at space crafts from the station.  There is insufficient time to evacuate everyone from the station if the planet explodes.

Below:  Delenn and Her Mentor, Draal

Meanwhile, Delenn is entertaining her guest and mentor, Draal, who has dropped in on her as a pleasant surprise.  Draal is seeking a new direction in life, and he thinks that it will take him to the stars.  So this is goodbye.  He greets her in the corridor with an old academic question:  “What is the third principle of sentience?”  The answer, vital to this two-parter and the series as a whole, is the capacity for self-sacrifice, to override the evolutionary pull toward self-preservation, for the benefit of others.

Sentient beings of various species aboard Babylon 5 see a hologram of an alien who pleads, “Help me!”  This is a projection of Varn, the dying individual at the heart of the great machine deep inside Epsilon 3.  Somebody needs to take his place soon to prevent the planet from exploding .  Someone needs to commit self-sacrifice.

Below:  Varn

The great machine at the heart of Epsilon 3 extends the life of the individual at its heart.  This vast mechanism, based on the Krell machine from Forbidden Planet, permits the person in the humanoid-shaped space to probe the mysteries of the galaxy.  It is a wondrous piece of technology, one located in neutral territory.  Earth Force sends a warship to establish Earth’s claim to the planet, and outcast members of Varn’s species return to stake their claim.  This situation can lead to war.

Below:  Part of the Great Machine in Epsilon 3

Draal finds his new mission in life at the heart of the great machine and becomes a great ally to the crew of Babylon 5 in later episodes.  Immediately after becoming the new custodian of the machine he declares that the planet belongs to nobody, and that he will destroy any ship approaching the surface of Epsilon 3 unless he invited it.  His message is simple:  Stay away–OR ELSE.

Below:  Draal at the Heart of the Great Machine

Another thread running throughout the series debuts here.  Security Chief Michael Garibaldi realizes that his former girlfriend, Lise, is on Mars and close to independence struggle-related violence.  He succeeds finally in establishing contact with her, only to discover that she has married and expecting a child.  Garibaldi had permitted his career path to take him away from the woman he loved.  (Yet Lise reappears in the series into the fifth season.  Take that as a hint.)

Below:  Lise

The best science fiction storytelling is simply good storytelling set in a science fiction environment.  Babylon 5 exemplifies the best of the genre:  dynamic characters struggling with each other and themselves while shaping the future.  This is a quintessentially human tale, only set in deep space in a few hundred years.  And it is a wonderful way to spend time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted June 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5

Babylon 5–Eyes (1994)   1 comment

Above:  Space Station Babylon 5, In Orbit of Epsilon 3

(NINTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the Babylon 5 series, conceived of a show in which the characters face the consequences of their actions.  In the previous fifteen episodes Commander Sinclair made powerful enemies in the Earth government.  They strike back in Eyes.

Earth Force Internal Affairs Colonel Ari Ben Zayd and his aide, Psi Corps member Harriman Gray, arrive on the station incognito as civilians and with pseudonyms.  Yet they attract the attention of Security Chief Michael Garibaldi, to whom they reveal their actual identities.  Ben Zayd, a truly unpleasant person, is there to do the bidding of all those in Earth Gov whom Sinclair has alienated, and Gray’s role is to verify truthfulness of answers and to conduct mental scans as ordered.  Ben Zayd, who ignores and manipulates regulations at will, has another agenda, however.  He was one of the officers who had applied to command Babylon 5 but whom the Minbari had vetoed.  He wants revenge on Sinclair.

Below:  Colonel Ari Ben Zayd

Fortunately, our heroes find room within the regulations to win their battle with Ben Zayd, who appears in this episode only.  This does not mean, however, that Sinclair no longer has to watch his back.

This episode contains the beginning of the story thread concerning the pro-independence movement on the Mars colony.  Some partisans have begun to resort to terrorist tactics.  Keep this in mind for other episodes, including the next two.

On a lighter note, Lennier (played by Bill Mumy of Lost in Space fame), Minbari Ambassador Delenn’s aide, becomes fascinated with the role of the motorcycle in human culture after he sees Security Chief Michael Garibaldi deep in the process of constructing a vintage (1992) bike.  In the final scene, just as Commander Sinclair and Lt. Commander Ivanova are glad to have everything restored to normal, Garibaldi and Lennier ride by on the motorcycle.

Below:  Garibaldi, Lennier, and the Kawasaki Motorcycle

Although Eyes is not a major arc episode, it helps establish the background to major arc episodes.  The first season (1994) contains many stand-alone elements and other aspects which seem unrelated to anything else until later episodes and seasons.  Watching it again reveals how connected and well-planned the series (all five seasons) is.  That is a beautiful thing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted June 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5

Babylon 5–Signs and Portents (1994)   1 comment

Above:  The Shadows Have Returned

(EIGHTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Central to the Babylon 5 series is the Shadow War.  This episode, the thirteenth aired and first to advance the story arc in a major way, begins the build up to that epic conflict.

Signs and Portents opens with humor.  Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova, not a morning person, wakes up at 4:30 A.M. and insults her cheerful computer alarm clock, telling it to “store it and shove it.”  The computer alarm clock does not comprehend this command.  Slightly later, when Ivanova walks into the Command and Control Room, she encounters Commander Sinclair, who wishes her a good morning.  Recognizing that Ivanova is dragging, Sinclair asks if she is having difficulty sleeping.  The Lt. Commander informs her superior that sleeping is not the problem; waking up is.  She has always had difficulty waking up when it is dark outside.  Sinclair reminds Ivanova that it is always dark in outer space.  Ivanova responds, “I know.”

Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari greets his guests, Lord Kiro (a dishonest political official) and his aunt, Lady Ladira.  Londo and Kiro are vexed about the declining fortunes of the Centauri Republic.  It was once a major power with hundreds of colony worlds, but has lost almost all of them.  (Think of the British Empire in outer space.)  Recently Londo has procured a long-lost artifact, the Eye, once property of the first Centauri emperor.  The Eye’s value is purely political; it grants its holder prominence.  Londo has it, and, as the story reveals, Kiro wants it.

Below:  Lord Kiro Holding the Eye as Londo Mollari Looks On

Meanwhile, another important person has arrived at the station.  Mr. Morden (played creepily with a smirk by Ed Wasser) is a well-coiffed, smooth-talking man who works for the Shadows, a sinister species.  He visits ambassadors on Babylon 5, asking them one question:  “What do you want?”  When Mr. Morden asks this question, know that the fulfillment of one’s wishes carries a high price for one in time.

Below:  Mr. Morden (Ed Wasser)

Mr. Morden, a recurring character in the series, begins with Narn Ambassasor G’Kar, who wants revenge for the ecological devastation the Centauri committed on the Narn homeworld.  Beyond that, he does not know what he wants.  Next Mr. Morden visits Delenn, the Minbari ambassador.  Recognizing Mr. Morden’s employers, she commands him to leave her quarters.  Then Mr. Morden speaks to Londo Mollari, who says that he wants the restoration of Centauri glory.  “I want it all back!” Londo says.  Mr. Morden has found his pawn.

Below:  Vorlon Ambassador Ambassador Kosh in His Encounter Suit

One of the great mysteries during the first two seasons of Babylon 5 is the true appearance of the Vorlons, a secretive and ancient race which observes the younger races, such as the Narns, Centauri, and Humans.  Nobody may visit the Vorlon homeworld, and Vorlons travel in encounter suits.  Kosh is the only ambassador Mr. Morden does not ask what he wants.  In fact, Morden (and his Shadow bosses) confront Kosh, to commands them to leave.  The Shadows and Vorlons are ancient foes.

Raiders, who are space pirates, abduct Lord Kiro and take the Eye.  This is all a ruse, however, for Kiro and the raiders are partners in crime–until the Raiders betray Kiro aboard their ship.  Then we, the viewers, see the following vessel for the first time:

It is a Shadow ship, and it destroys the Raider vessel effortlessly.  Ships like this one reappear frequently later in the series.

Later Mr. Morden returns the Eye to Londo and states that there is no charge for this service; they (the Shadows) will find him later.  This is like asking Don Corleone for a favor; he charges nothing, but will ask for a favor down the road.  Be wary of Don Corleone or of the Shadows when they do you a favor.

Below:  The Possible Future Destruction of Babylon 5

Lady Ladira, Lord Kiro’s aunt, is a seer and prophetess.  She foresees the destruction of Babylon 5.  Ladira shares this vision with Commander Sinclair, who asks if this is a fixed future.  She replies that the future is not fixed, and that people create the future with their words, deeds, and thoughts.  This is one of the major themes of the series:  The future will be what we make it.  Change is not an option; it will occur.  But who is making the changes?  In brief, one person can change the course of history for good or for ill.  This understanding appeals to my Great Men and Women approach to history.

Below: Babylon 5 Intact

Signs and Portents advances the story arc further.  Commander Sinclair asks Chief of Security Michael Garibaldi to investigate why the Minbari are so interested in him (Sinclair), and to do this discretely.  Garibaldi discovers that Sinclair was the only candidate to command Babylon 5 the Minbari found acceptable.  So the conspiracy thickens.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted June 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5

Babylon 5–By Any Means Necessary (1994)   1 comment

Above:  The Dock Workers of Babylon 5 are Mad as Hell, and They Won’t Take It Anymore! (They Have Nothing to Lose Except Their Chains.)

(SEVENTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

In large-scale operations there are the people high on the totem pole and there are those at the base.  This episode, the twelfth aired, tells the story of those “invisible” workers at the bottom of the totem pole.  By Any Means Necessary begins with a dock accident which destroys precious Narn cargo and kills a dock worker.

Below:  The Dead Dock Worker

The workers know that all of this was preventable.  If the equipment were better, wages were higher, and more people were working, this might not have happened.  The Earth government had promised all this last year, but had reneged.

The workers send their guild representative, Neeoma Connally, to negotiate with Commander Sinclair, who is stuck between his sympathies for the workers and his orders from his superiors.  Ms. Connally has no such difficulty, however.  She is a combination of Mother Jones, Eugene Victor Debs, and Cesar Chavez.

Below:  Neeoma Connally

The Earth government (EarthGov for short) sends their man, Orin Zento, a smooth talker who makes empty promises.  Recognizing BS when hear it, the workers strike.  Unfortunately, the only way they can strike is illegally, but they do it anyway.

At this point the Earth Senate invokes the Rush Act, which empowers Commander Sinclair to end the strike “by any means necessary.”  (Aside:  Show creator J. Michael Straczynski confirms that his wife, who wrote the episode, named the Rush Act after radio personality Rush Limbaugh, whom he and his wife regard as “the leading American proctologist.”  No argument here.)  Sinclair uses this new authority to resolve the strike in the workers’ favor, much to Mr. Zento’s dismay.

Below:  Orin Zento, Enemy of the Working Man

In the Babylon 5 universe we humans take the best and worst of our nature into outer space.  Apparently we take union-busting disregard for workers out there–certainly part of the worst of our nature.  This an excellent episode to watch on Labor Day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2010 COMMON ERA

These images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit said images.

Posted June 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5