Thursday, June 5, 2008

B5 S3 Ep6: Dust to Dust

"Ahhh! Is that my hand!?" Now that is significantly F***ed up!
The Babylon 5 locomotive steams along with the latest installment, Season 3, Episode 6, Dust To Dust [or Londo Receives His Much Deserved Ass-Kicking]. Now I don't normally condone violence but Londo is lucky he made it this far. Off we go.
The nefarious Nightwatch unit continues to step it up a notch with their Babylon 5 surveillance program. There is an almost Nazi-like oversight being cultivated among security troops on the station. Shopkeepers are getting harassed for the sale of ‘Indict Clarke’ merchandise. The unit is clearly becoming more militant in its methods as freedoms begin to get trampled. Thankfully Captain Sheridan is clearly in charge and he lets one fellow know it.

Walter Koenig’s Bester returns. There were a few moments where I asked myself what if Bester was actually a good guy? Bester’s re-arrival and scanning presence places everyone on edge on the Sheridan War Council potentially worried he could potentially uncover key information on a host of issues [The Shadows, Santiago, et.] that might further aid an already corrupt Earth Alliance. There are a variety of options considered before allowing him aboard.

Garibaldi: “We kill him before he has a chance to tell anybody.”
Ivanova: “Can we wound him just a little? We could blow up his ship.”

I enjoy Ivanova’s nasty little KGB streak. This is a powerful sequence with Ivanova taking actions outside her purview [or perhaps not; she is the Lt Commander]. When she makes a decision, she makes a decision and sticks with it. This is stunning stuff. I think it’s one of Ivanova’s many powerful moments to date. Her move is ultimately extreme, but an argument could be made justifying its within character as she is keenly aware Bester might discover her own telepathic power and might attempt apprehension essentially taking everything she's ever worked for away from her. Ivanova is extremely sensitive in this area and has always been throughout the series. She reacts often in self-defense and self-preservation of herself and her colleagues trumping the law when necessary. She is extremely loyal to her friends and her mission/ passion for justice [at times willing to bend the means to justify the ends]. Then of course there is the whole bit with her mother's fate to boot. This is a pretty moving sequence from Christian. Those eyes and those lips are a killer! I love pouty Ivanova!

By the way, how about those seemingly innocuous comments like “the defense grid is acting up.” What? Well, that can’t be good.

Sheridan + Delenn + Garibaldi + Ivanova + Dr. Franklin + Psi Corps suppressant drug + 4 Minbari telepaths = 100% Bester proof. In other words, "don't screw with us!"
Delenn’s plan to counteract Bester involves having four Minbari telepaths in their presence while in Bester's company to nullify his scanning powers. He agrees to take the drug that will properly and temporarily suppress his abilities while on Babylon 5. This is a tasty little sequence with the cast and Koenig. Koenig plays the part with smug nastiness and a cocky little swagger.

Vir, the anti-Centauri, returns. Vir is a cultured fellow with a good heart and seems to be quite satisfied in his new role working amongst the religious caste of the Minbari on Minbar. He is a very trusting and honorable fellow.

Delenn, with Lennier aid, mediates between the Centauri [Londo & Vir] and the Drazi [another exceptional turn from Kim Strauss, the world’s greatest, most underappreciated alien actor]. Londo increases his Centauri colony demands from a previous offer and the Drazi are outraged. With little concern, Londo storms from the meeting. The exchange between Lennier and Vir about Londo is telling.

Lennier: “A darkness carried in the heart cannot be cured by moving the body from one place to another. I don’t think there is anything that can be done for him now.”
Vir: “That’s because you don’t know him. Someday he’ll surprise you.”

This is clearly a hint of things to come for Londo. If anyone knows how troubled Londo is and how lost yet salvageable he might be it would be Vir and his faith in Londo remains. The hope of some form of vindication down his fated path still remains. The moment reminds me that despite the Jeckyll and Hyde persona that Londo has walked, deep down there were many moments where he knew what he was doing was wrong and despite his adoration for the Centauri as its conquistador of alien races he didn't truly believe he was doing the right thing.

Are drugs really the key to enlightenment?
"Dust is the drug I'm thinkin' of, can't ya see dust is the drug for me" [riff on Roxy Music's Love Is The Drug]. Psi Corps puts a political spin on their presence giving the impression they’ve been trying to shut down the manufacturer of the powerful narcotic Dust. It’s a big problem for telepaths, or is it? Apparently, powers are heightened to a state of psychic rape for telepaths. Telepaths can die, but the power that results is of significant interest to Psi Corps as we come to determine.

G’Kar manages to purchase Dust from the seller of a shipment that has slipped aboard Babylon 5 that Bester is hunting down with Garibaldi. G’Kar believes he can use Dust on the Centauri. There is a great deal of history opened here as well. The Dust pusher indicates the drug has not been tested on the Narn as there are no known Narn telepaths. G’Kar indicates that isn't exactly true. He sheds light on the tragic past of the Narn and how Narn telepaths were wiped out by the Centauri ages ago during the first Centauri occupation and Narn extermination. Any known telepaths and their families were eliminated, but they did exist. G’Kar decides to test the drug on himself despite having never been tested.

Able to lift Ambassadorial Assistants with a single hand! Hey listen, it's Vir people! That's no easy feat!
So G’Kar takes the Dust plunge and utters “Mollari.” In a state of ecstasy complete with blackened eyes he makes his way to Londo’s quarters. The results are at once horrific, but also enlightening to G’Kar as he learns the truth behind the current fate of the Narn at the hands of Londo and his “associates.” Based on his absolutely off-the-charts head-trip, I’m thinking never again if he can help it. Addiction to this government-manufactured drud will not be in his future.

Bester is a creepy little guy, but he knows how to make a strong case for his questionable mission and is always amusing thanks to Mr. Chekov, I mean Koenig. Still, never trust the Psi Corps! Garibaldi and Bester bring in a stool pigeon from the Down-Below. Despite his abilities being suppressed, Bester plays the idiot informer like a fiddle using his badge and uniform to get him to sing like a canary. He pretends he is reading his mind eventhough he is unable to do so. I was a little surprised Garibaldi fell for it. I expected a little sharper reaction from him on that. It seemed a little out of character for Garibaldi to be surprised into thinking Bester was actually scanning. I like to think Garibaldi has been in a few interrogations in his day and is alot sharper. Anyway, they continue working together and their temporary partnership is an entertaining one. The whole “piñata” metaphor was classic and once again Bester comes up with a great comeback. "So you think of me as something bright and cheerful full of toys and candy for young children. Thank you. That makes me feel much better about our relationship."

If I were Garibaldi my return volley would have been, “actually, I was referring to the fact I'd like to string you up like a candy-filled donkey and beat the snot out of you.” In the end the Dust is confiscated.

Later at Londo’s room, G’Kar knocks Vir unconscious.
A gruesome site and a potential new Centauri doll variant for the Babylon 5 shop!
A bloodied Londo grovels before G’Kar thanks to a punishing beating suffered at his hands. The Dust allows G’Kar to begin scanning Londo as we learn Londo was selected for the ambassadorship aboard Babylon 5 because no one wanted the job. Much begins to be shared with G’Kar as he invades his mind to learn about more about his connection to Mr. Morden.

G’Kar sees visions of his father hung from the tree of which he spoke in Season Two's And Now For A Word [I cannot recall the tree type] reminiscing back to the days of Centauri occupation when he was but a mere pouchling. I particularly like the set pieces here replete with pink. The haunting colors and artificial vibe give it an otherworldly dream-like quality. You know it's not quite right or real and that's why it works.

A Narn elder appears to G'Kar and makes an emotional, powerful plea for him to take a higher path to stop the bloodshed and save not only his people but others. Death is not the answer, but rather honor. G’Kar must be greater, nobler.

I am who I have always been.” “I have always been here.” We hear these phrases often and sure enough you know the Vorlon is close. Kosh stands nearby as G'Kar awakens from his Dust binge. Kosh consistently reaffirms to the players involved within the Shadows war of destiny, fate and predestination. These things are seemingly pre-determined and inescapable. G’Kar awakens in pain over what he has done and what he has seen.

G’Kar is brought before the court of Babylon 5's judicial arm and sentenced to 60 days in the station brig. Sheridan speaks on his behalf and Garibaldi attempts to offer solace with the G’Quan. G’Kar accepts his punishment standing on his own two feet and tells Garibaldi he is closer to the source than ever before.

Elsewhere Vir and Londo are pretty banged up and licking their wounds. Londo is happy Vir is enjoying his new assignment and expresses his own strong belief and confidence in him. “It should never be a joke to them Vir.” We know now what has shaped Londo's world view [or galactic view] including the fact his assignment was perceived as but a joke once upon a time. Who wanted to work on Babylon 5? After all, the other stations had met their own doomed fates. It illustrates why Londo is so sensitive and overly ambitious at being taken seriously. He'd be like Joe Pesci in Good Fellas if he were an Earther. He’s like an abused school child out for revenge; a chip on his shoulder with something to prove. He’s out to shape a legacy based upon his own prior treatment. He angles to make a name for himself among those who took him lightly at the expense of any race standing in his way. This is at the heart of Londo’s journey, but at what cost?

The epilogue:
Bester and Garibaldi happily part company in the end following their brief collaboration.

Bester: “For what it’s worth Mr. Garibaldi I enjoyed working with you. We made a good team. Perhaps we’ll do it again sometime.”
Garibaldi: “Not a chance.”

In the final moments Bester rejoins a Psi Corps counterpart and their exchange indicates the Dust shipment and its arrival on Babylon 5 was very much a part of a manufactured Psi Corps masterplan to locate a telepath of “acceptable strength.” I'm not sure Bester would need his powers to scope out the candidate which may explain why he was so willing to sacrifice them while aboard Babylon 5. They weren't needed in this particular mission.

G’Kar sits alone in his cell with those words ringing through his mind. “We are fighting to save one another and some of us must be sacrificed if all are to be saved.” Once again, another potent episode complete with moving discourse from the pen of J. Michael Straczynski.

Finally, could the latent gene still exist within the Narn race? Could G’Kar have latent Psi-powers? Hmmm… I don’t think so, but the thought has crossed my mind.
Dust To Dust: B+


Havremunken said...


I'm enjoying your reviews, as someone who has seen all of B5 too many times already (18 and counting).

Just a few comments that you'd figure out eventually anyway;

First of all, G'Kar didn't really say it was the Centauri who wiped out the Narn telepaths. A minor point in this context, but still worth noting.

Also, I believe that Bester and his beloved Psi Corps aren't trying to *locate* a telepath with the dust, they are trying to *produce* one of acceptable strength. This expands on the theme from season 1 where we first met Bester - when he was chasing their failed experiment, Jason Ironheart. They are clearly working to gain telepathic advantages.

Other than that, keep it up! It's very enjoyable to read your reviews, and I can't even begin to say how jealous I am that you get to see it for the first time. Like someone commented during the series' original run, I wish there was a way to get hypnosis or something and erase the memory of B5 from my mind (Mindwipe! Yay!) so I could see it "for the first time" all over again. :)

Enjoy! You're just getting to the good part! :D

Anonymous said...

The poster above is right - dust was developed to *produce* telepaths from normals, or enhance telepathic abilities in teeps (it activates the telepathic gene). Also that G'kar didn't say the extermination of telepaths occurred during the Centauri occupation (which was only about 100 years ago).

re: Garibaldi and Bester's scanning farce in the brig - I think Garibaldi suspected that there might be ways for Bester to somehow override the effect of the drug, ways they hadn't heard of. I think it's a reasonable suspicion, considering how easily Bester gave in.

The three Narn appearing in G'kar's vision were his father, G'Quan, and G'Lan (the leader of the school of thought Na'Toth's father believed in; also the one the Narns saw when Kosh revealed himself in "The Fall of the Night).

Interesting that Ivanova is actually capable of murder. The good guys being "grey" in this show clearly doesn't just mean they have a few unpleasant quirks.

The three episodes following "Exogenesis", "Messages from Earth", "Point of No Return", and "Severed Dreams" are actually a three parter; just FYI.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Great to hear from you Havremunken! And thank you for the kind words. Sometimes you write and you wonder why you're doing it. So it's really great to hear from you as part of the conversation. I really look forward to people's comments because they set me straight on some things and give me insights without giving anything away.

I do know what you mean about seeing things for the first time and being envious. I feel that way about alot of stuff I love whenI hear someone is checking something out for the first time. Season 1 and Season 2 of Lost comes to mind. I definitely look forward to the rest of the series. I will watch it again someday. A mindwipe would be nice for you especially after 18 times. : )

Thanks for the clarification on a few point to both you and M. I must have been tired when I was watching about the Narn telepaths. I appreciate your input on that.

As far as Bester, I probably didn't articulate that point well regarding locate versus produce. Good clarification. Jason Ironheart did enter my mind and I probably should have mentioned it in the entry because I remember in Season One how he was very much a victim of experimentation by Psi Corps. Talia was none too happy. They are definitely a twisted unit.

M, great points on the above in getting me on track as well as your very plausible explanation for the Garibaldi suspicions. Good point. I was definitely thinking along those lines for a moment, but well said.

I knew that was G'Kar's father based on what he mentioned in And Now For A Word when he spilled the jalah [sp?] on one of the Centauri. He was all done. But I didn' know that about G'Lan. I liked his character however brief. He was very wisened and just had a real calming voice.

Thanks you both. I love hearing from you.