Wednesday, May 21, 2008

B5 S3 Ep1: Matters Of Honor

What do ya think? Purple, Green or Dead Drazi?

Straczynski does for science fiction with Babylon 5's Shadows arc what the comedy sitcom does for friends who become sex partners. He just continues to build layer upon layer of tension, sometimes sordid, between characters. It’s like science fiction foreplay and it keeps bringing you back week after week hungrier for more. This is hot stuff!

In Valen’s name!” I really haven’t paid much mind to this Valen fellow that’s always mentioned. The Minbari even make a spot for the leader at their dinner ritual. I believe he had something to do with the founding of the Grey Council, but he is still a bit of a mystery to me. Without further ado, “in Valen’s name,” here we go, Babylon 5 The Complete Third Season: Point Of No Return, Matters Of Honor [Episode 1]. The season opener doesn’t skip a beat and picks up almost immediately following the events of Season Two's finale, The Fall Of Night. We witness repairs being made to the monorail system that blew in the final minutes of the aforementioned episode. Sheridan attempts to thank Ambassador Kosh who saved him after he jumped from the tram. The conversation, as always, is a conundrum. Sheridan begins to almost accept, with a grin, the double-talk of his savior and expresses his frustration with the Vorlon's riddles. "Good," concludes Kosh.

Starkiller & The Boneheads [definitely a great band name]!

The opening credits are new. The opening theme from Christopher Franke is quite frankly darker than ever no doubt establishing the mood of the forthcoming events of the season.

The story begins as a Drazi ship launches an escape vessel just prior to being destroyed by the Centauri. On board is a man of British decent frantic to escape the Centauri blockade of what turns out to be a cordoning of Zagros 7. We are also introduced to new Babylon 5 cast member Marcus Cole. He seems very promising.

I love this next scene. Straczynski always writes those intimate character exchanges with a sure hand and they are always a joy to watch by these seasoned actors. While invisible to the eye, listen for the unsettling sound of The Shadows that surround and accompany Morden.

Ed Wasser is so good, it’s hard to believe he was almost relegated to the role of crewman Guerra as noted in The Gathering.

Meanwhile Earth Force Special Intelligence has dispatched special envoy David Endawi to Babylon 5 to meet with Sheridan, Ivanova and Delenn. Endawi possesses a copy of Keffer’s video footage capturing images of the Shadow vessel and is attempting to learn more about it through the ambassadorships on Babylon 5. Delenn, of course, plays it dumb. She’s the best of the best at playing things dumb. She’s just so damn sweet, soft, gentle. She’s actually the saviest politician in the bunch. Londo is definitely troubled by what he sees and tells Endawi the truth. He has seen images from Keffer's footage fill the sky in his dreams. Further and unofficially, Endawi meets with now citizen G’Kar who has the most to share referencing the knowledge of the great spiritual leader G’Quan.

Later, Lennier and Delenn meet with Marcus in a furtive location. They are followed and hand-to-hand combat ensues. Marcus employs a Minbari staff weapon and the three evade injury to escape. Delenn goes from soft, sweet and gentle to wild attack animal. Marcus is one of the Rangers. It turns out Ivanova somehow knows everything about them. She must make such information her business as second-in-command she states matter-of-factly. Good point. She’s sharp! Equally well handled is the fact that Ivanova is not at all offended about being out of the loop. She is unaffected by the omission of such knowledge as the second-in-command should be. I thought really Straczynski stayed true to character here.

As it turns out a ranger outpost and training ground is located on Zagros 7. The Centauri are barricading the planet. Marcus needs help getting the remaining Rangers off of the planet, but they will need to break the blockade to do so. Sheridan and company hops a jumpgate via shuttle and Minbari flyer to get there. There is a plan.

Meanwhile, Londo meets with Morden a second time to break their ties officially. Londo learns Morden has made a new arrangement with Lord Refa. All is fair in love and war. Morden has required the Centauri to clear from the sector surrounding Zagros 7. His “associates” require the area. Could the Rangers unit be their target? Londo inquires about the kind of vessels Morden utilizes in his work. Morden discards Londo’s question and minimizes his need to know such information.

Enroute to Zagros 7, the group takes a detour to introduce Sheridan to the new ship he will command. The craft is dubbed the White Star [appropriate ‘good guy’ name to counteract those nasty black Shadows]. Those Minbari and Vorlons are steadily working their magic behind the scenes, as sleek new craft is a hybrid of Minbari-Vorlon technology. By the way, that White Star is a sweet looking cruiser with a good bit of getup.

Back on Babylon 5 Garibaldi has been tasked with babysitting Endawi. This is pure classic Garibaldi doubletalk.

So when the White Star arrives in Zagros 7 airspace it begins efficiently clearing the mines surrounding the planet so the Rangers can escape. All is going swimmingly until the arrival of a Shadows vessel locks on to the White Star. Sheridan informs the crew they will not show their hand by opening a jumppoint, but rather allow it to pursue them into the jumpgate. The element of surprise is essential at beating the Shadows. The Shadows will not expect a ship the size of the White Star as capable of opening a jumppoint of its own creation [not relying on a positioned jumpgate].

Sheridan: “Tell me commander, have you ever wondered what would happen if you opened a jumppoint while inside a jumpgate?"

Ivanova: “No neither should you. Earth Force experimented with the idea during the Minbari War. They called it the bonehead maneuver. [looking at Lennier] No offense."

Lennier: “None taken.”

That was great. I loved that exchange, because I started making my own ‘bonehead’ and 'boner' jokes earlier. It just seemed so ripe for the picking. I was so glad to see Straczynski’s humor shine in that sequence. Hysterical.

So long sucker!
Sheridan maneuvers the White Star to escape the Shadows vessel and he does it again. The unstoppable Starkiller returns this time working WITH the Minbari! Go figure.

This is a splendid opener to Season Three.

In the frightening final moments of the epilogue Endawi returns to Earthdome Earth Alliance Central Government in Geneva, Switzerland with his findings. After he exits the room, an official greets Morden [to our surprise]. Morden is informed, incorrectly of course, that no one on Babylon 5 has a clue about The Shadows, except the Narn. A pleased Morden replies, “but I think we’ve neutralized that problem.” Yeah, wiping out a population has a tendency to do that. Ever since G’Kar escaped The Shadows in Revelations he’s been a kind of fly in the ointment so to speak. I kept wondering why The Shadows weren’t too worried about his escape, but clearly it was all part of their master plan to use Londo through Morden to de-teeth G’Kar. They silenced him politically and decimated his race and I think that sentiment is reflected here at the end. I suppose they really didn’t let that go really. I do think Morden and his associates display an arrogance that may be their undoing. The more we see the unconscionable hand of Morden and his unflinching work I cannot help but wonder what brought him to this position with The Shadows. I certainly hope we learn more about how his role came to pass and the fate of Sheridan's wife and the Icarus. There are many fascinating questions.

The news footage of the Shadows’ ship is “a complete mystery to all of them,” the official announces. “There’s no need to rush things.” A man [Psi Corps] sitting by Morden chimes in, “there’s something about this idea of a threat to planetary security I find very appealing. As long as we keep the real truth to ourselves, there’s no reason we can’t use this situation to speed up the program here at home.” Ick! What program? I had all these visions of people being incubated a la the original Battlestar Galactica film. Okay now this is getting scarier. Straczynski clearly ups the ante as they say.

The final moments also see Sheridan establish an official War Council. Members include: Sheridan, Garibaldi, Delenn, Dr. Franklin, Ivanova and the Rangers' station representative.

Delenn: “…the oldest of The Ancients are The Shadows, we have no other name for them.”

Season Three cast includes:

Bruce Boxleitner [Captain John Sheridan]
Claudia Christian [Commander Susan Ivanova]
Jerry Doyle [Security Chief Michael Garibaldi]
Mira Furlan [Delenn]
Richard Biggs [Dr. Stephen Franklin]
Bill Mumy [Lennier]
Jason Carter [Marcus Cole]
Stephen Furst [Vir]
Jeff Conaway [Zack Allan]
Peter Jurasik [Londo]
Andreas Katsulas [G’Kar]

Matters Of Honor: A-


Anonymous said...

It is also an interesting juxtoposition that Sheridan is commanding the White Star as he destroyed the Black Star, the Minbari Flagship, during the Earth-Minbari War. The White Star was also built by the Religious caste -- not the Warrior Caste.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Of course, I just let that fly over my head. The White Star is the antithesis to the Black Star and interesting you mention the caste component. The Minbari on board the White Star are clearly not the bellicose kind. I would love to see an episode looking back at the Black Star event. Funny how much the series reflects the reality of our political allies/ enemies and how quickly those tables can turn.

Nathan Koren said...

The B5 Movie In the Beginning covers the destruction of the Black Star, and the whole Minbari war in general. It's also probably B5 at the peak of its storytelling and production-values prowess -- although it contains a few spoilers for things that you haven't seen, so don't watch it yet.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey Nathan! Great to hear. I look forward to that one then. Thanks for not giving anything away. I know M was saying to hold off on some of these films at least until after Season 4. Stoaked to see that one then!

Anonymous said...

You'll learn more about that mysterious Valen fellow eventually :)

Marcus is an interesting character, quite complex, no Warren Keffer here.

And so Londo seems to think that Mordon and his "associates" will just "go away" as he doesn't want them around any longer. At least he finally suspects something about the identity of these "associates".


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Yes M! I agree that Marcus is definitely a nice addition so far.
I think you make a great point about Londo. So funny, how he was so willing to ride that wave, ask no questions and just keep taking full advantage of these mystery associates to meet his ends.