Archive for July 2010

Babylon 5–Z’ha’dum (1996)   1 comment

There is a Shadow behind Captain Sheridan.

(FIFTIETH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

It was two years ago, in series time, that G’Kar issued the first warnings that the Shadows had returned to Z’ha’dum.  The Vorlons had known before that.  The forces of Light have moved cautiously, gathering their forces, until recent episodes.  Now the Shadows strike back against Sheridan in a personal way–via his wife, presumed dead for years.

Sheridan’s First Reaction to Anna’s Return

About a year prior (in In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum), Delenn and Kosh had told Sheridan that Anna had died on Z’ha’dum.  The Shadows, they said, had killed those who refused to cooperate.  This was obviously not true, so why is Anna alive now?  And why is she speaking cheerfully in support of the Shadows?

Recall also Kosh’s warning to Sheridan from In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum:  “If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die.”

Not the Anna Sheridan John Sheridan Knew; Not the Woman He Married

Perhaps the most terrifying horror movie is the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  To recognize a person outwardly as someone known yet to realize that the soul is absent is scary.  That is what the Shadows did to those among the Icarus crew who did not cooperate with their ultra-Social Darwinian plans for war and genocide; they stuck them inside ships and converted them into CPUs, in the style of what they were planning to do to the rogue telepaths in Ship of Tears.  Dr. Franklin realizes this when he finds scars consistent with implants, such as those on the rogue telepaths in coolers aboard Babylon 5 until technology enables someone to remove the implants.

Sheridan, realizing the truth but not telling Anna what he knows, agrees to go with her to Z’ha’dum, to meet with the Shadows.  They travel aboard the original White Star, which makes Anna uneasy because the ship is based partially on Vorlon technology, and the Shadows despise the Vorlons.

John Sheridan, Justin, and Anna Sheridan

On Z’ha’dum, Anna introduces John Sheridan to Justin, a middle man (“the man in-between” who is seeking Sheridan, according a Kosh-induced dream from the second season).  Justin, along with Anna and Mr. Morden, explains the Shadows’ agenda:  to promote progress via bloodshed.  Then Captain Sheridan tells them that he knows what the Shadows did to Anna.

Shadow Vessels Outside Babylon 5

With Captain Sheridan on Z’ha’dum, the Shadows send ships to Babylon 5.  Oddly enough, they do not destroy it.  They are waiting for something.  Commander Ivanova scrambles fighters to protect the station, and Security Chief Michael Garibaldi is in one of them.

Delenn Weeping

Aboard Babylon 5, Delenn opens a message from Captain Sheridan.  It ends with, “I love you, Delenn.  Goodbye.”

Captain Sheridan, with Nowhere to Run

Captain Sheridan, pursued by the Shadows and his body snatcher wife, flees to a balcony overlooking a vast underground city (covered by a dome) and a very deep hole.  He knows that the Shadows do not; he has just sent the White Star, with two thermonuclear weapons aboard, flying toward his position.

The White Star breaks through the city dome, and the weapons detonate as Captain Sheridan falls into the very deep hole.

Back at Babylon 5, the Shadow vessels break off.  One picks up the starfury fighter piloted by Security Chief Garibaldi, and Commander Ivanova realizes telepathically that Captain Sheridan is dead.

The Shadow War pauses as the Shadows lick their wounds.

The episode ends with G’Kar’s narration:

It was the end of the Earth year 2260, and the war had paused, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath. Waiting… All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both….G’Quon wrote, ‘There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

Thus ends the third season of Babylon 5.  The fourth season is the most intense of the series.  That season features the resurrection of Captain Sheridan, the end of the Shadow War, a Minbari civil war, the resolution of the Earth Civil War, and the creation of a new galactic order.  Stay tuned and keep reading!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 30, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Shadow Dancing (1996)   4 comments

Commander Ivanova:  “Well, who wants to live forever?”

(FORTY-NINTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Shadow Dancing resolves Dr. Stephen Franklin’s walkabout while advancing the Susan Ivanova-Marcus Cole relationship  and building momentum toward the creation of the Interstellar Alliance, which culminates at the end of the fourth season.  The episode does all this breathlessly and with many wonderful character moments.  Follow along with me.

The Shadow War heats up.  Sheridan knows that the Shadows will attack soon in a specified sector of space.  So he sends Commander Ivanova and Marcus Cole aboard a White Star ship as advance scouts.  When they send the signal, the gathered multi-species forces (formerly quarreling among themselves) will emerge from hyperspace and attack the Shadows.  This is to be the opposite of the Shadows’ divide-and-conquer strategy.

Aboard their ship, Marcus speaks Minbari to Susan Ivanova:

He tells her that it actually means, “My words are inadequate for the burden of my heart.”  That is true, in a way.  Marcus loves Susan, but tells her that only once–at the end of the fourth season.  His love is deep, taking the form of selfless devotion–perhaps as close to agape as a human can get.

But I get ahead of myself.  Back to our regularly scheduled program.

The multi-species attack against the Shadows succeeds, ending with Shadow vessels retreating.  Yet the Shadows are not done yet.  Shortly afterward, a Shadow vessel launches a ship with one passenger on board.  That vessel heads for Babylon 5.

While on walkabout, Dr. Stephen Franklin nears death after attempting to stop an assault and battery on another person.  Bleeding and injured, he meets himself at last, or so he imagines.  Imaginary Dr. Franklin lectures real Dr. Franklin about not running away from his troubles anymore.  So our good doctor crawls to the safety of security personnel, who notify medical personnel.

Later, the recuperating Dr. Franklin accepts his old job back.  He tells Captain Sheridan that he (Franklin) had defined himself by what he was not.  So he had missed many moments, which was all he had.  Now Franklin had come to define himself by what he was–alive; “everything else is negotiable.”  These are wise words indeed.

Now, back to that person from the Shadows-dispatched vessel.

When Minbari become close, the female watches the male sleep for a few nights.  If she likes what she sees, the two become closer.  If not, the relationship ends there.  So it is that Delenn is watching Captain Sheridan sleep when the door opens and Sheridan’s wife, Anna, presumed dead for years, enters.

Anna Sheridan, Not Really Dead

This is a delicate situation–and a perilous one.  The Shadows sent her.

Roll to end credits.

The next episode is the third season finale, which has haunted my memory since I watched it the first time in 1996.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 30, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996)   6 comments

Captain Sheridan Thinking Logically about Illogical Things While Delenn Looks On

(FORTY-EIGHTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Series Creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) is a lapsed Roman Catholic turned Atheist–not a militant Fundamentalist Atheist in the style of Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, or Richard Dawkins–just an Atheist.  Yet, in Babylon 5, JMS gave religion its due, for better and worse.  This pattern continues in And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place.

Z MINUS 14 DAYS

Captain Sheridan is spending too much time in the War Room, becoming cranky while analyzing battle strategies of the Shadows.  There don’t seem to be any actual strategies, just random attacks.  This, Sheridan says, is enough to make one’s hair stand on end.  That, Delenn jokes, explains the Centauri.  Delenn convinces Sheridan to leave the War Room long enough to join her and some guests for dinner.

The guests are four religious figures from Earth:  a Buddhist monk, an Islamic cleric, a rabbi, and the Rev. Will Dexter, a Baptist minister.  These men are agents of the Resistance against President Clark’s administration.  They believe that change is not optional; it will come.  The real question is who will change the world, and they want to do that.  They reveal that the Resistance is alive and well back home, although many people accept Clark’s dictatorship passively, and others embrace it actively.

Lord Refa and Minister Drigo on Babylon 5

The struggle between Ambassador Londo Mollari and Lord Refa plays out on Babylon 5.  Refa brings Minister Drigo from Centauri Prime to demonstrate what “Londo has become,” and Londo tries to persuade Drigo that Refa is not trustworthy.  Drigo is not impressed with either man.

Londo uses Vir Cotto, his long-suffering aide, to advance his own position within the Centauri Republic.  Londo orders Vir to deliver a false message to G’Kar, to lure the former ambassador back to Narn, where the Centauri forces can capture him.  Vir is unwilling, but he has no choice.

Lord Refa has Vir abducted and scanned by a Centauri telepath.  Armed with Vir’s memories of Londo’s orders, Refa departs for Narn.

Reverend Dexter Counseling Captain Sheridan

Late at night, Reverend Dexter wanders past Captain Sheridan’s office and finds Sheridan still working.  Dexter asks with whom Sheridan shares his burdens.  The answer is no one.  Dexter then says that Delenn loves Sheridan; that much is obvious.  Also, Dexter states, Sheridan needs to empty his “worry tank” regularly in order to be a good officer and commander.  And, Dexter advises, Sheridan should share his burdens with Delenn.

Z MINUS 13 DAYS

G’Kar returns to Narn, which suffers from the environmental damage the Centauri war has wrought.  Refa, accompanied by contingent of security guards, has arrived, also.

Back on Babylon 5, Sheridan finally understands the Shadows’ strategy.  They are herding war refugees into a “safe zone,” which they will strike in time.  Such an attack will induce great terror among the enemies of the Shadows.

Speaking of terror…

Back on Narn, Refa meets G’Kar face-to-face.  G’Kar, Refa says, has taken his last steps as a free Narn.  Yet G’Kar knows something Refa does not.  Londo has made arrangements with G’Kar for the release of 2000 Narns from captivity in exchange for G’Kar’s help.  1000 have their freedom already.  Londo has informed G’Kar of Refa’s role in the Narn-Centauri War and the subsequent genocide.  Also, the Centauri guards, who are loyal to House Mollari, desert Refa.  This leaves Lord Refa to meet his fate at the hands vengeful Narns, just as, back on Babylon 5, a Gospel singer belts out a jaunty Hellfire song, “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place.”

There is no hiding place for Lord Refa.

Londo springs Vir from captivity on Babylon 5.  Vir is understandably angry about how Londo has used him, but what can the diplomatic aide do?  Londo has accomplished his goal:  House Mollari is ascendant, and House Refa is disgraced.

Reverend Dexter’s sermon during the service aboard Babylon 5 is very good.  Who is the enemy?   The enemy is not the one who disagrees with us or who is different from us.  The enemy is not the alien, for we are all alien to one another.  No, the enemy is the one who tells we that we ought to fear and hate the aliens and those who are different from us and who disagree with us.  The enemy is hate itself, and that hate will destroy the person who harbors it.

Later, aboard the White Star, Delenn shows Captain Sheridan the newly completed White Star fleet, built to fight the Shadows.  Then they kiss for the first time.

There are two more remarkable episodes left in the third season.  Hang on; you are in for an emotional roller coaster.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Walkabout (1996)   1 comment

Captain Sheridan Witnesses the Arrival of the New Vorlon Ambassador, Ulkesh

(FORTY-SEVENTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Season 3 is spiraling toward its stunning conclusion, the best season finale in the history of television.  So follow me on this journey.

Walkabout begins with humor.  G’Kar dines with Na’Kal, who is fighting the good fight against the Centuari occupation of their homeworld.  Na’Kal is impressed with the fresh breen G’Kar is serving him.  Actually, G’Kar, says, the food is Swedish Meatballs, not breen.  Every civilization he has encountered has a dish just like the one the Humans call Swedish Meatballs.  It is a galactic mystery.

Remember that the next time you enjoy Swedish Meatballs.

Captain Sheridan, Ulkesh, and Commander Ivanova

Ulkesh, the new Vorlon Ambassador, arrives on Babylon 5.  He is a very different Vorlon than Kosh, who cared about people.  Ulkesh, in contrast, is a very cold and angry fish.  Lyta was off-station on a mission for Kosh when the Shadows killed Kosh.  She is upset about Kosh’s death, but that pales in comparison to how Ulkesh and the other Vorlons feel.

Ulkesh assaults and frightens Lyta Alexander (pictured above) before discovering that she knows nothing firsthand about Kosh’s death.

HINT:  The Vorlons are about to become villains.

Now, back to the show.

Lyta joins a White Star mission and exacts her revenge on the Shadows, but not before she says, “Burn, you bastards!”  She uses her Vorlon-enhanced telepathic powers to neutralize Shadow vessels so that the White Star can destroy some Shadows.

Along the way Lyta learns that there is a piece of Kosh hiding within Captain Sheridan.  This, too, is an important detail for the series arc.

Dr. Franklin on Walkabout

You might wonder why this episode’s title is Walkabout.  Here is the answer:  Dr. Stephen Franklin, aware of his “stim” addiction, is on walkabout around Babylon 5.   He is trying to find himself.  (He does find himself, but not in this episode.)  Dr. Franklin does find a bar Down Below, where Cailyn, a singer, entertains the denizens.

Below:  Cailyn

Dr. Franklin becomes romantically involved with Cailyn, who, he learns, has just six months to live.  Singing gives he great joy while helping others.  If one is going to live, one might as well live, and Cailyn does this to the full.

Walkabout is a combination of wonderful character development, food humor,  and story arc advancement.  It is worth many viewings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–War Without End, Parts I and II (1996)   5 comments

Centauri Emperor Mollari II in the Earth Year 2278

(FORTY-SIXTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

The Earth Alliance Station Babylon 4 in 2254

Do you recall Babylon 4?  It was the immediate predecessor to Babylon 5Babylon 4 became operational in 2254, and disappeared 24 hours later.   The first season episode Babylon Squared tells the tale of B4‘s reappearance in 2258, when the crew of B5 rescued the crew and civilians trapped aboard B4 before it disappeared again.  Babylon 4 was destined to become a base of operations for the forces of light in a great war–but when?

War Without End, Parts I and II, answers that question–and a few more.  This is a pivotal two-parter within the series arc of Babylon 5.   So follow the proverbial bouncing ball with me.

Former Commander/Ambassador Jeffrey David Sinclair on Minbar

It is the Earth year 2260.  Jeffrey David Sinclair, commanding officer of Babylon 5 (2257-2259) and Earth Alliance Ambassador to the Minbari Federation (2259-2260), is on Minbar, where he is now full-time head of the Anla-shok, or the Rangers, who are dedicated to fighting the Shadows.  Sinclair receives a 1000-year-old letter addressed to himself.  The author of the letter is Valen, the now-revered Minbari war leader from the previous Shadow War.  Valen is so revered that many Minbari react to difficult situations by saying, “In Valen’s Name.”

Shortly thereafter Sinclair departs for Babylon 5, where Delenn has received a letter in the same handwriting.

Commander Ivanova from a Parallel Timeline

Meanwhile, the great machine on Epsilon 3 is expending great energy open a hole through time and space near where Babylon 4 used to be.  From this gateway comes a transmission from a parallel timeline:  Commander Ivanova is sending a distress signal from Babylon 5, which is under attack from the Shadows.  The time stamp indicates that the message is from the near future, too.  How weird is that?

Delenn’s Surprise History Lesson

Sinclair arrives on Babylon 5, but does not stay long.  He, Sheridan, Delenn, Ivanova, and Marcus Cole board the White Star and head back in time to 2254, thanks to the great machine at the heart of Epsilon 3.   En route, and still in 2260, Delenn reveals historical records she has received from Epsilon 3 recently.  Babylon 4 became the Minbari base of operations 1000 years ago, during the previous Shadow War.  Allies of the Shadows, recognizing B4 in 2254, tried to destroy it, but the White Star prevented them from doing so.  Now the intrepid crew of the White Star needs to do this, so that history will remain unchanged.  They succeed, of course.

Zathras

On the way to accomplish this goal the White Star receives a new helper:  Zathras, from Epsilon 3.  Zathras brings time stabilizing devices, so that people will not become unstuck in time.  The best laid plans of mice and men….

The White Star arrives in 2254, saves Babylon 4 from the Shadows, and attaches itself to the hull of the space station.  Then the adventures aboard Babylon 4 begin, and we, the viewers, see the rest of the story Babylon Squared began.

You can find my entry for Babylon Squared here:  https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/babylon-5-babylon-squared-1994/

Jeffrey Sinclair, Aged Prematurely

Due to a technological difficulty, Sinclair’s time stabilizer malfunctions and he ages greatly when Babylon 4 shifts from 2254 to 2258.  This explains his appearance at the end of Babylon Squared, when his younger self returned to Babylon 5.

Below:  2260-Delenn and 2260-Sinclair aboard Babylon 4 in 2258

John Sheridan and Delenn on Centauri Prime in 2278

Captain Sheridan has adventures in time and space.  He jumps forward to 2278, on Centauri Prime, where Londo Mollari is the Emperor and the planet is in ruins.  Londo blames Sheridan and Delenn for the fate of his planet and promises to kill them shortly.  Then he sends them away to a cell.  Delenn, remembering that John had told her years ago of this time jump to 2278, encourages him not to go to Z’ha’dum.

Londo, drunk yet surprisingly lucid,  summons Sheridan and Delenn.  The Centauri Emperor has a Keeper attached to his body and plugged into his central nervous system:

Londo is not his own master most of the time.  The Keeper, which is under telepathic control by aliens and usually invisible (except when it is asleep), controls the emperor.  But the keeper falls asleep when Londo drinks, and then Londo can be free.  The emperor had put on a good show for the Keeper and his masters previously, but now that the Keeper is asleep, Londo frees Sheridan and Delenn.  He wants them to free the Centauri people from the alien oppression.

The Death of G’Kar and Londo Mollari

The Keeper will awaken soon, and when it does it will force Londo to betray Sheridan and Delenn.  So Londo summons his old friend G’Kar, who, at Londo’s request, strangles the emperor as the Keeper awakens.  The Keeper forces Londo to strangle G’Kar, too.  So the prophecy from the first episode of the first season is fulfilled, but does not mean what one might have expected.  G’Kar and Londo do not die as enemies; they die saving Centauri Prime.

Vir Cotto becomes the next emperor, and Sheridan’s forces liberate Centauri Prime.

And 2260-Sheridan jumps back in time to 2258, aboard Babylon 4.

The events of Babylon Squared unfold, and Sheridan, Delenn, Ivanova, and Marcus return to the White Star and travel back to 2260 and Babylon 5.  Sinclair and Zathras ride B4 back to 1260, when Minbari warriors board the station and find Zathras and Valen.

Below:  Valen

Back in 2258-2259 Delenn had used alien technology to transform herself into a Minbari-Human hybrid–to set right the balance of the transfer of Minbari souls into Human bodies.  For nearly a 1000 years Minbari souls had found new homes in Human bodies.  The event that started this transfer was Jeffrey Sinclair’s use of the same alien technology to make himself a Minbari.

Valen was the greatest of the Minbari–a Minbari not born of Minbari.  He came out of nowhere, defeated the Shadows, created the Anla-shok, and created the Grey Council.  For a thousand years Minbari quoted Valen’s prophecies, actually the memories of Jeffrey David Sinclair.

Thus the first commanding officer of Babylon 5 fulfilled his destiny–a millennium before he was born.

War Without End is staggering.  Watching it is the best way to enjoy and understand it.  So I encourage you to do exactly that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Interludes and Examinations (1996)   1 comment

ALWAYS Be Very Afraid When Mr. Morden Visits

(FORTY-FIFTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

We all have problems, but how do we deal with them?  Do we make foolish decisions, or wise ones?  Do we attempt to handle them by ourselves, even when they are greater than we are, or do we seek help?

And do we understand what others say when they speak to us?

Keep these questions in mind as you read the rest of this post.

Vir Cotto Making Romantic Arrangements for Londo Mollari, Awkwardly

I.

Lord Refa is no longer returning Mr. Morden’s calls.  (Refa wants to avoid the second half of Londo’s poison.)  And Londo is expecting a visit by Adira, his girlfriend from Born to the Purple, from early in the first season.

Vir Cotto had been the Centauri Ambassador to Minbar, briefly.  Then he got caught helping Narns escape to freedom.  This happened a few episodes ago in Sic Transit Vir, which I did not summarize or review.  (I preferred to get on with the main series arc.)  Now Vir is back on Babylon 5 as Londo’s aide, under Mollari’s watchful eye.  Morden witnesses Vir making arrangements for Adira’s visit and stumbling over questions about garters and such matters.  Then Morden hatches a plot to arrange for Adira’s poisoning and death, which he blames on Lord Refa.  Londo, heartbroken, turns to Morden for help in taking revenge.  Londo resumes his dance with the Devil.

This can lead only to bad results.

Dr. Stephen Franklin Has a Major Problem

II.

Dr. Stephen Franklin has struggled with his addiction to stimulants, or “stims,” during the third season.  They keep him alert during long work hours, but at what cost?  Finally, in Interludes and Examinations, Dr. Franklin hits the proverbial wall.  Security Chief Michael Garibaldi, a recovering alcoholic, recognizes all the signs of trouble and tries to help Dr. Franklin, who rebuffs him.  Then Dr. Franklin realizes that Garibaldi is correct, yet admits his addiction.  Yet the good doctor takes matters into his own hands; he resigns his position aboard Babylon 5.  He decides to go on Walkabout, whereby he walks until he finds himself, which he does a few episodes later.

I pause that part of the story now, before I get ahead of myself.

The Vorlons Attack the Shadows for the First Time

III.

Captain John Sheridan cannot persuade member species of the League of Non-Alligned Worlds to join his cause without a victory against the Shadows.  Only the Vorlons can provide that victory, and they have held back until now.  So Sheridan asks Kosh to convince his fellow Vorlons to attack the Vorlons.  Kosh agrees ultimately, but with a caveat:  He (Kosh) will not be around to help Sheridan any longer.  Sheridan mistakes this for a threat, but it is merely a statement of fact.

The Vorlons attack the Shadows, and Sheridan gets his new allies.  But the Shadows kill Kosh in revenge.  Kosh, dying, appears to Captain Sheridan in the form of Sheridan’s father David.  Kosh says:

“It’s too late for me. I’m sorry for what I did before. I knew what was ahead. I guess… I guess I was afraid. When you’ve lived as long as I have, you… you kind of get used to it. I wish I could have done more for you. There’s so much I should have said… And now it’s too late. You’re right. It’s time you begin this war your way.” He wrenches in pain again. “I’ve got to go now, John.”

Below:  Kosh as David Sheridan

What will the Vorlons do now, that Kosh is dead?  Stay tuned and keep reading.

One of the themes of Interludes and Examinations is that one should name make big decisions out of anger or fear.  Most of us know this when we are calm, but not when we are in the moment.  And we reap the harvest we sow.  Some things never change.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Ship of Tears (1996)   1 comment

The New ISN, or the FOX News Channel on Speed

(FORTY-FOURTH IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

If you thought that Babylon 5 had become dark, wait…it isn’t pitch black yet.  Yet, the show improves as it darkens.  Much of the best science fiction borrows from ancient and modern history then projects it into the future.  In Star Wars, for example, the transformation of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire has parallels to ancient Rome.  And the Clark Administration in Babylon 5 echoes Stalinism, Nazism, McCarthyism, and George Orwell’s 1984.  Series creator J. Michael Straczynski has said so in public, on the Internet, and in DVD commentary tracks.

A few episodes ago, in Severed Dreams, President Clark’s forces had stormed the broadcast headquarters of the Interstellar News Network (ISN), which was broadcasting accurate information inconvenient to Clark, who had just declared martial law and dissolved the Senate.  As Ship of Tears opens, ISN resumes broadcasting–as a cheerful propaganda tool under Clark’s control.  ISN now reflects Clark’s priorities–agreeing with him at all times, promoting xenophobia, and condemning all dissent–while ignoring inconvenient facts.  Damn objective reality, just read the script from the Ministry of Truth, which Clark’s administration created.   Yes, that is another homage to 1984.

Delenn Tells G’Kar the Difficult Truth

G’Kar finally gains admission to the Conspiracy of Light.  First, however, Delenn tells him the hard truth tearfully.  She and others knew of the return of the Shadows long before they admitted it publicly, but remained silent.  They felt the need to avoid tipping off the Shadows and their allies prematurely, before the Conspiracy of Light was ready to fight back effectively.  This delay cost the Narns dearly.  G’Kar, now on the road to Enlightenment, understands–now.  Once he would have committed violence after learning such information, but that was then.

Alfred Bester is Back

Alfred Bester, an evil Psi-Cop, is back.  He has become concerned about how the Shadows have infiltrated his beloved Psi Corps.  Bester has information that Shadow vessels are transporting “weapons systems” through hyperspace, and he needs Sheridan to intercept them.  Bester’s information is correct, and the “weapons systems” are rogue telepaths with cranial implants.  The Shadows were planning to use these telepaths as CPUs for their ships.

Carolyn, Alfred Bester’s Lover

Among these telepaths is Carolyn, Alfred Bester’s lover.  Marriage within the Psi Corps is based on genetic compatibility, not love.  So Bester is trapped in a loveless marriage.  But he loves Carolyn, a rogue telepath.  As it turns out, blood, not ice water, runs through Bester’s veins and arteries.  Carolyn and her fellow unfortunate telepaths have implants which human technology cannot bypass or remove and which compels them to become one with machines.

Simply put, these Shadows are soulless bastards.

Ship of Tears reveals the Achilles Heel of the seemingly invincible Shadow vessels:  Telepaths can jam them.  Bester’s presence on the White Star creates a situation which hints at this fact.  And Security Chief Michael Garibaldi discovers confirmation in the ancient Narn text, the Book of G’Quan.  Our heroes have another weapon now.

Hint:  Remember these rogue telepaths.  They play a crucial part in the story arc of Babylon 5.

This episode reveals a fun fact:  To thump a Narn sacred text is to demonstrate disrespect for that text.  Living as a self-identified heretic in the Southern U.S. Bible Belt, I enjoy that detail greatly.

Thanks for reading!

O, and watch the episodes, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Ceremonies of Light and Dark (1996)   1 comment

The Reborn

(FORTY-THIRD IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Babylon 5 broke away from the Earth Alliance in the previous episode.  The Earth government, now a dictatorship, is not taking this development blithely.  There are still plain clothes Night Watch personnel on board the space station, and they have their orders.

Minbari ships are guarding Babylon 5.  Fleet Captain Lenann comes aboard the station to take a tour of the place he helped save.  Night Watch personnel abduct Lenann and Ambassador Delenn.

Below:  Lenann and Delenn in Captivity

Captain Sheridan and Security Chief Garibaldi begin their search for the captive Minbari, in order to save their lives.  They succeed, of course, but not without Sheridan realizing how emotionally attached he has become to Delenn.

Prior to this abduction Delenn had been planning a Minbari rebirth ceremony.  Each guest needs to give up something valuable and admit a secret, so that he or she can progress less burdened into the future.   Londo Mollari sees no point in the ceremony.  G’Kar is too busy.  Marcus Cole clings to his guilt related to the death of his brother and his grief over having lost everything to the Shadows.  Lennier fulfills his part of the ceremony by telling Marcus that he loves Delenn with a love he knows will always be unrequited.

Londo and Refa

In a separate story thread, Ambassador Londo Mollari continues to try to back away from the Shadows.  He tells former ally Lord Refa that the Centauri Republic is fighting wars on too many fronts–12, to be exact–simultaneously.  To fight a war on two fronts is foolish, but 12 fronts?  Out of patriotism, Londo tries to get his nation out of this trouble.  He introduces half a two-part poison into Lord Refa’s system and tells Refa to stop dealing with Mr. Morden and to advise Emperor Cartagia to end the needless wars–OR ELSE.

In a humorous story thread, Security Chief Garibaldi reboots the station’s computer, only to discover the grumpy AI, Sparky.  The scene in which Garibaldi, fed up, shoots out a speaker to quiet Sparky is quite satisfying.

Lennier with Delenn after Her Rescue

Sheridan, Ivanova, Franklin, and Garibaldi bring the rebirth ceremony to the recuperating Delenn.  Each surrenders his or her Earth Force duty uniform.  Sheridan reveals that he was willing to kill the Night Watch gunman to save Delenn’s life.  Garibaldi is afraid to let go, Franklin has a problem (an addiction), and Ivanova thinks that she loved Talia Winters.  Delenn left a gift for each of the four:  they have new uniforms, as shown at the top of this post.

Now, with our intrepid heroes separated from Earth Force, they are free to fight the Shadows and the Clark Administration (in that order) without anyone looking over their shoulders.

When I teach World History II I begin with the Bubonic Plague.  My reason is simple:  The modern world exists in the shadow of the Renaissance, or Rebirth, which followed the Bubonic Plague.  Resurrection, I tell my students, entails returning in an altered form.  Yet the resurrected one is not entirely new; much of the former self remains.   Our reborn heroes in Babylon 5 carry much–good and bad–into their reborn forms.  Don’t we all?

Stay tuned and keep reading!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Severed Dreams (1996)   1 comment

Part of the Aftermath of the Battle of Babylon 5

(FORTY-SECOND IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

Severed Dreams is a powerful and moving episode about the high cost freedom carries sometimes.  It is also the episode for which Babylon 5 won its second Hugo Award.  The title goes back to the first season opening titles narration:  “Babylon 5 was a dream given form.”  The original purpose of Babylon 5 was to create and maintain peace in the wake of the Earth-Minbari War of 2245-2248, which almost resulted in the destruction of Earth and the near extinction of the human race.  Yet, as Commander Ivanova’s voiceover in the second season finale, The Fall of Night, and the third season opening credits narration indicate, Babylon 5 failed to become the last, best chance for peace.  Now it has become something greater–our last, best chance for victory.

Major Ryan Ponders the Costs of War Aboard the E.A.S. Alexander

It is five days after the previous episode.  The E.A.S. Alexander is fighting the E.A.S. Clarkstown, which is loyal to President Clark.  The Clarkstown‘s attack has just killed General Hague, so Major Ryan is now in command on the Alexander.  Ryan gives the order to destroy the Clarkstown.  Then, speaking to his Executive Officer, Ryan says that he knew the captain of the Clarkstown–that he had a wife, young children, and an Abyssynian cat named Max.  In this war, Ryan says, “we know everyone we kill.”  Ryan then gives the command to head to Babylon 5, for repairs.

The Final Broadcast of ISN Before the Military Shuts It Down

Reaction to the declaration of martial law has been mixed during the five days since President Clark declared it.  Many people support it, for it restores order and reduces crime rates to almost zero.  Many others, however, have chosen to resist.  The colony on Proxima III has seceded from the Earth Alliance over martial law.  And the governor of the Mars colony has refused to institute martial law, so Clark has ordered the bombing of civilian targets on Mars.  Furthermore, just as the Interstellar News Network (ISN) reports all this, military forces loyal to Clark cease the channel’s transmissions.

Be afraid.   Be very afraid.

Captain Sheridan, Major Ryan, and Captain Hiroshi

Not only does the Alexander, under Major Ryan’s command, arrive at Babylon 5.  So does the Churchill, under the command of Captain Sandra Hiroshi.  President Clark knows where the ships are, and the destroyers Agrippa and Roanoke are en route to seize control of Babylon 5 and place all rebellious officers under arrest.  It is time to fight.

Delenn Confronts the Grey Council

The Shadows have been encouraging minor powers to fight each other.  This is what the Shadows do:  they sow chaos.  Minor powers think that they are invincible with the backing of the Shadows, but that they cannot win if the Shadows back other minor powers.  So they fight each other, and many sentients die needlessly.  The Grey Council, the Minbari ruling body, has heard of this and stated that this does not concern them.  So Delenn, once a member of the Grey Council, confronts them and dissolves that body, taking with her those who will resist the forces of darkness.

David Sheridan, John Sheridan’s Father

Before John Sheridan does what he must do, he calls his father, David.  David Sheridan says that he knows John will do the right thing, which is not to start a fight but to finish it.  This might be the last conversation they have in a while, but John needs to make some difficult decisions, so David lets his son make them and follow up on them.  “I will talk to you when I talk to you,” David Sheridan says.

Then John Sheridan makes a public declaration:  Babylon 5 is seceding from the Earth Alliance.

The Agrippa and the Roanoke arrive and begin their assault on Babylon 5, the Alexander, and the Churchill.  Forces loyal to President Clark enter the station via a breaching pod, so human and Narn security personnel fight Earth Force soldiers on the lower decks, too.   Babylon 5 and the Alexander survive the first assault, but the Churchill does not:

Captain Hiroshi’s last act is to ram the Churchill into the Agrippa, destroying both vessels.  And the Roanoke explodes under the barrage from the Alexander and Babylon 5.

Then Clark’s second armada arrives.  Babylon 5 and the Alexander are in no condition to fight back.  All seems lost until three Minbari vessels and the White Star, under Delenn’s command, arrive.

In a thrilling moment for a Babylon 5 fan, for the following exchange occurs:

Delenn:  This is Ambassador Delenn of the Minbari. Babylon 5 is under our protection. Withdraw or be destroyed!

Earth Force Captain:  Negative! We have authority here. Do not force us to engage your ship.

Delenn:  Why not? Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Minbari Fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else!

The Earth Force vessels leave.

It is helpful to be on Delenn’s good side.

Back on Babylon 5, station personnel take prisoners, prepare to deport the Night Watch personnel who are not incognito, and gather the wounded and the killed.  Major Ryan and Captain Sheridan augment their diminished supply of Starfury fighters and pilots with survivors from the Churchill, and Sheridan vows not to wear his Earth Force duty uniform for a while.

Civilians and station personnel give Sheridan, Garibaldi, Ivanova, and Delenn a standing ovation.  Yet on the wall behind our heroes is a poster:  TRAITORS CAN’T HIDE.

The struggle has just begun.  Evil can still win if Good is not very careful.  And greater sacrifices will be necessary for Good to win.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 25, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3

Babylon 5–Point of No Return (1996)   1 comment

A Message from General Hague, Relayed Second-Hand: “Everything’s gone to hell, John. You’re on your own.”

(FORTY-FIRST IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

The overall title of the third season is also the title of this episode.  Point of No Return indicates the point at which our heroes must do what was previously unthinkable.  There is no turning back.  Sometimes the correct choice is the most difficult one.

The episode begins with Captain John Sheridan and Commander Susan Ivanova communicating with one of their allies in Earth Force.  They learn that President William Morgan Clark, who has just declared martial law, has also dissolved the Earth Senate and sent the Elite Guard to open fire on the Senate chamber.  General William Hague, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on the run.  He has sent a final message to Captain Sheridan:  “Everything’s gone to hell, John. You’re on your own.”

The Earth Alliance is now in a state of civil war.

Vir Cotto, Lady Morella, and Londo Mollari

This comes at an inconvenient time for Londo Mollari, Ambassador from the Centauri Republic.  He has called in many favors to secure a visit from Lady Morella, third wife of the late Emperor Turhan.  Londo has provided an official reason for the request, but his actual desire is that Lady Morella, a seer, will tell him that his dreams about his future will not come true.  The Centauri place great stock in dreams and visions, and Lady Morella has a reputation as one who has dreams and visions, and who tells the truth.

Morella is no fool.  She opposes the policies of the current Centauri regime, but her status shields her from retribution.  And she sees through Londo’s false, official reason for the visit to the station:  to see how the new Earth-Centauri alliance benefits the Centauri.  Morella witnesses the rioting aboard Babylon 5 in the wake of martial law and the outbreak of civil war instead.  Before she leaves, she warns Londo that he has three more chances to get off the destructive path he is on, and says that both Vir and Londo will become Emperor–one of them after the other has died.  All of this happens as the series unfolds.

Zack Allen and His Night Watch Superior

General Smits, who sympathizes with Captain Sheridan, calls to give Sheridan his orders from Earthgov.  Speaking very carefully, Smits relays the new orders:  that only Night Watch personnel will constitute the security forces aboard Babylon 5, per the order of the Political Office and the Ministry of Peace.  Sheridan, Smits says, needs to respect and obey the chain of command, and to look upon this new situation as an opportunity, not a burden.

Did you understand the nuances in the general’s message?

Security Chief Michael Garibaldi Confronts Night Watch

Chief Garibaldi gets into Night Watch’s collective face before they relieve him of duty, placing his second in command, Zack Allen, in command of security.  Yet Zack is not as committed to Night Watch as some personnel think he is.  And this is a good thing.

G’Kar and Ta’Lon

G’Kar, sprung from the clink, returns to his quarters to find Ta’Lon standing guard.  Ta’Lon has been loyal to the former ambassador, awaiting his return.  G’Kar, impressed, explains his new thinking to Ta’Lon.  The Narns must be willing to die for each other and for goodness.  They must give up their desire for revenge against the Centauri.  The Narns must be willing to die in large numbers for the sake of righteousness.  Only then will they save themselves.  And the first opportunity to demonstrate this new imperative has arrived.

Sheridan finally understands that General Smits said in coded, nuanced language.  The order for Night Watch came through civilian channels, not the military chain of command.  So the order is illegal.  Sheridan convinces Zack Allen to tell his Night Watch superior a partial lie:  Narns will replace Night Watch security personnel.  A ship carrying Narns is scheduled to dock soon.  Most Night Watch personnel gather to intercept the ship, which does not arrive because there is no such vessel.  Most Night Watch personnel are now trapped in Docking Bay 9, and Sheridan controls their way out.  Zack, no longer Night Watch, has joined the side of the Light.  The trapped Night Watch personnel leave Docking Bay 9, surrender their weapons and combadges, and enter house arrest.  Then G’Kar’s Narns (who have been on station all along) become security guards.

Captain Sheridan and Commander Ivanova Ponder the Future

Later Captain Sheridan and Commander Ivanova discuss new developments.  Earth Force ships loyal to President Clark have shot down some of the destroyers loyal to General Hague, a fugitive.  Both Sheridan and Ivanova know that Clark’s forces will come for them next.  “I never thought it would end like this,” Ivanova says.  “Me either,” Sheridan answers.

This fast-paced episode brings our heroes to the edge of a momentous decision President Clark has forced upon them.  Is it the proper role of the military to decide or to execute policy in all cases?  When is it appropriate to disobey orders?  When is it appropriate to rebel?  And is this treason or loyalty?

This series, already wonderful, is getting much better at this point.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted July 25, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3