Sunday, April 13, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 13-15: Hunter Prey, There All The Honor Lies & And Now For A Word

Johnny Storm, Susan Storm, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. The Fantastic 4?
I'm not really sure why folks would take pleasure in ripping Babylon 5 as "a knockoff of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." I can only assume there was some penis-envy there. I mean, it's like comparing apples to oranges. Dare I even say Star Trek fans [and I am a fan] were jealous. Okay, sure the stories center upon space stations but that's about where comparisons should end. This is a uniquely developed series and one that resides very much in its own orbit separate and apart from the aforementioned Star Trek universe. Anyone deriding Babylon 5 has certainly not watched it past the first few episodes or given it a chance at all. You need to be giving it a look.

By the way, the very sight of Jeff [“Kenickie”] Conaway as Zack Allan is difficult to reconcile within the genre of science fiction. Of all the actors, how did he get cast as Garibaldi's backup?

Thanks, but I was really hoping for a Captain Kirk doll. The B5 store selection is sorely lacking.
So here we are Episode 13-15 of Babylon 5 Season 2: The Coming Of Shadows. Hunter, Prey [Episode 13] is solid in building the continued political backdrop and intrigue to Babylon 5. A woman arrives on the station sent by General Hague to notify Sheridan he’s in danger. A man named Dr. Everett Jacobs is hiding on the station from Earth Special Intelligence. He is, shall we say, a ‘loose end’ in the midst of attempting to escape the long arm of sitting Earth President Clark. Jacobs has information that could finger him as an accomplice to former President Santiago’s death. Clark faked ill and left Santiago's side one day prior to his explosive murder. Jacobs was Clark’s personal physician and let’s just say he knows a little too much. Conveniently Clark assumed the Presidency. Sheridan, while appearing to assist Earth Special Intelligence, must find Jacobs before they do. Jacobs is relocated to Bay 13 where a Vorlon ship is docked for the mysterious Ambassador Kosh.

The Kosh subplot is the most intriguing, as we know little about him/it. We learn a couple of things in this entry. The Ambassador’s Vorlon ship is alive. Its skin moves. We see the appearance of what might be Vorlon symbols/script on the side of the squid-like vessel. The code/living craft appears to be giving directives to Kosh as he nods. It looks like Straczynski predates Moya of Farscape. The slick lime-green designed ship first appears on B5 entry in Season 1's Signs And Portents [Did George Lucas take note for Star Wars in developing a ship for Count Dooku complete with expanding flair-like umbrella design?]. Kosh clearly speaks in riddles and poetic allusion seemingly offering more questions than answers or at least information that isn't quite as revealing as it might be in due time. His mysterious nature keeps things interesting. While it would appear Kosh double-talks and influences the mind of Sheridan, the commander is bound and determined to learn more about the ambassador.
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Classic exchange:
Sheridan: “What do you want?” [of course, Morden asked that very question as envoy to the Shadows in Season 1's Signs And Portents]
Kosh: “Never ask that question.”
Sheridan: “So what’ll it be ambassador?
Kosh: “I will teach you.
Sheridan: “About yourself?
Kosh: “About you until you are ready.
Sheridan: “For what?
Kosh: “To fight legends.

Yup. Head-scratching, thought-provoking Kosh dialogue that is simply brilliant.

There All The Honor Lies [Episode 14] delves into the Minbari culture directly through an attempt at framing Sheridan by one of their own. Sheridan is attacked and kills a Minbari in self-defense with a PPG [gun]. Julie Caitlin Brown [formerly Na’Toth] returns sans Narn make-up as Sheridan’s counsel Guinevere Corey [the actress is simply wasted in this new role- a shame]. Delenn calls it a “shocking incident” and given the difficult relations between the Earthers and the Minbari [compliments of the Earth-Minbari War] decides representing her own people via her own investigation, with Lennier, would be in the best interests of the Minbari. Garibaldi conducts his own separately, but has difficulty completing it with the Minbari one step ahead of his every move. The subject of honor [or more importantly 'saving face'] is at the heart of Minbari culture, but lying to achieve it doesn’t appear to enter into their equation or be a problem [remember Lennier lied for Londo to Sinclair way back in Season 1's The Quality Of Mercy]. So, in other words, we’re keeping up appearances then. Nice. Actually, sounds alot like Earthers.

Classic exchange:
Sheridan: “Find that Minbari witness I mentioned in my report. He will back me up. I am absolutely sure.
Garibadi: “Alright. Description?
Sheridan: “Bald with a bone on his head!
Garibaldi: “We’re gonna’ need a real big lineup.

Meanwhile, Sheridan ‘Starkiller’ [as he’s been dubbed by the Minbari] defends his honor and Kosh begins the education of Sheridan. He takes him to the bowels of the Down Below in B5 where he witnesses what Kosh dubs “one moment of perfect beauty.” The Minbari enlighten us further on the title they have bestowed upon Sheridan by referencing the Black Star event of the Earth-Minbari War [I'd like to see that].

Stephen Furst as Vir Cotto really gets to shine in this one. What a fine turn as Londo’s loyal assistant & foil. Isn't there a bit of Vir in us all?

And Now For A Word brings ISN News on board B5 for a full 36 hour expose. The setup is good for learning more and establishing elements concerning the Minbari, Narn and Centauri or even more specifically about aspects of our favorite characters, but it doesn't succeed completely in my opinion. ISN’s arrival coincides with the Narn-Centauri conflict heating up in B5 airspace. Central to the story, is whether or not B5 is still a necessary or viable station worthy of funding now that the Earth-Minbari War has long been concluded.

This G’Kar segment sheds light on Narn servitude under the Centauri occupation for the once peaceful Narn. Katsulas knows how to deliver genuine emotion that brings all that latex and make-up to life. G-Kar was also an adorable “pouchling” don'tchya know!

It is troubling to see just how convenient it appears to be for Londo to reshape history and current events to suit his political agenda as well as what is in the best interests of the Centauri Empire despite being nothing more than a pack of lies. It's as frustrating as watching current events. I keep trying to understand Londo as human, but it helps to remember this is very much a Centauri, with a very different political upbringing. I mean, heck, the guy has 6 penis-like appendages! It's possible he has a lot of balls to boot!
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"I told you boys to ease up on the steroid injections!"
The final third of this episode is the most climatic and gripping. Sheridan has apprehended Centauri and Narn for the skirmishes they've brought upon B5 airspace. Londo has summoned a Centauri Cruiser to enforce a blockade of B5 until all Centauri are released. Londo is prepared to utilize deadly force upon B5 itself. Sheridan sends out a transport ship to call Londo’s bluff. It goes swimmingly until another jumppoint opens to allow for the arrival of a Narn Cruiser. Face to face, B5 witnesses the Mexican standoff turn violent. The firefight destroys the Centauri warship and the Narn is so damaged it explodes.

So the question is put: is B5 worth it? All agree for different reasons, except for G’Kar who is frustrated by the inaction of all parties concerning what he perceives to be the ‘right thing’ to do.

Interesting facts:
The alien sector of B5 allows for atmospheric change for 14 different species including the Vorlons. Three expeditions into Vorlon space have never returned. The species, including Ambassador Kosh, remains a mystery.

Sheridan from And Now For A Word: “The job of Babylon 5 is not to enforce the peace. It’s to create the peace.
*
Hunter, Prey: C+
There All The Honor Lies: C+
And Now For A Word: C+
*
I'd say I thought these episodes averaged a C+. Still, there are some major high points!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Re DS9 vs. B5: There was quite a bit of bad blood in the mid1990s, as Straczynski tried to sell B5 to Paramount in 1989 and was rejected, but Paramount was left the B5 outline, the script for the pilot as well as artwork and outlines for about 20 episodes – 2 years later they did DS9 which, let’s say, in the beginning exhibited certain similarities to the B5 setup. In addition, apparently they went out of their way trying to give B5 a hard time with networks and advertisers, at times nearly killing the show. JMS didn’t exactly keep his mouth shut about what he thought of all this, which in turn had Trek fans pissed – so there you are.

Back to the show: With all that’s going on with Londo and G’Kar, Delenn’s situation tends to get lost a bit. She’s having a very rough time right now, first she was kicked from the Grey Council, her own people don’t trust her any longer, they even call her a freak and now the human reporter also accuses her of betrayal and tells her the humans don’t want her either. It must be a time of great self-doubts for Delenn.

On a lighter note, I won’t withhold the bear war from you – you’ve seen the teddy bear in Ep „Honor lies“. Well, there’s story behind this. JMS hates cute things. And Peter David, who wrote the episode, knows this. So Peter sends JMS this cute teddy bear with “Bear-ba-lon 5″ on the back and the initials J. S. for Joe Straczynski on the front. As a „revenge“, JMS added a few scenes to Peter David’s script : Sheridan gets hold of the bear and spaces it. Well, that wasn’t the end of it. Peter David told JMS this was a declaration of war. Peter David had a kid’s Sci-Fi show called “Space Cases”. In one of the episodes, they found floating in space the teddy bear. One of the lines on the show was, “What kind of dope would space a perfectly good Earth bear?” Turned out this wasn’t an ordinary bear. It was planted there in space by an evil race called the Straczyn, who wanted to conquer the galaxy but didn’t have the budget. And it was carrying all sorts of viruses and other evil nasty stuff. Apparently JMS swore to get back on him – I don’t know what happened then. :)

mandy

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I have a friend in the UK named Mandy....thank God for people named Mandy. Always a pleasure to read the Mandy commentaries. Interesting backdrop to the DS9. I had a film professor who said exactly what you mentioned. Scripts would be written and dropped but circulate, whereby evildoers would make their own variations on that script [hence Deep Space 9] and sell it. Next thing you knew you had 3 similiar films in theatres. I thought a good example of this was the The Abyss [obviously the best] and knockoffs like Leviathan and Deep Star Six. All underwater beasty movies. Anyway, interesting I'd like to read more up on that B5 battle with Paramount. In honor of Mandy's equally great Teddy story I have made it the blogsite's title page picture. Cheers Mandy!

Anonymous said...

While I don't want to stir up the DS9-war again (which was much less enjoyable than the bear war), if you're interested I can refer you to the following links that should be a starting point for reading up on the DS9-controvery:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine#Controversy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine/Archive_1#The_Deep_Space_Nine_x_Babylon_5_polemic
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/ds9season1.php (scroll down to „the evidence“)
All of this probably wouldn't have escalated as much if it hadn't been for JMS' online presence back then. And, let's say, there's a reason why Ivanova isn't only russian and a morning grouch, but was also ordered to learn "the fine art of diplomacy" ...

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Good stuff I'll check that out and great point about Ivanova! Makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Re Ivanova: When reading up on the show, you'll find B5 is a very autobiographic and personal story. He's writing many personal experiences into the scripts and many of his own quirks into the characters. Garibaldi's a comic fan, Zathras' at daggers with mathematics ... references to what happens with B5 as a station (budget problems, management problems, public perception) often refer to B5, the show.

Two other notes:

1) the Black Star incident you'll see in "In the Beginning" (NOT to watch before episode 4x08)
2) G'kar was a "pouchling" (not pounceling); despite looking like lizards, Narn are actually marsupials. While the females give birth, the males carry them - B5 xenobiology is something else.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Great! Love the info. Yeah, I've been holding back on the movies. I figure I'll watch them later. I don't want to screw that up. I'm a big stickler for correct spelling and reference so I've gone back to make that modification. Also, I do like to read up on my sci-fi thoroughly and I've read more Stargate books than I care to count [well not that many but alot], but I'm fearful of reading a damn thing on B5. I don't want to know anything about it until I finish the series. So friends, please be patient with any mistakes I may make as I have been taking taking on this series very cold. I'm loving it and do look forward to voraciously reading about B5 after it's all said and done. Cheers for the input!