Monday, June 9, 2008

B5 S3 Ep7: Exogenesis

"Excuse me, did you say you want me to come to your bedroom?"

I was quite excited about this one. You just take one good look at that nasty back-burrowing space bug and you can't help but consider the possibilities that this one might well be a terrific, Alien-esque creepfest. Well, it was not to be. By the way, I thought the Straczynski concept was a good one on the whole and certainly anything but straightfroward. Part of the problem I think might have been that I was looking for unoriginal, exciting even disgusting and just didn't get the fan service. I know I shouldn't be lowering my expectations for such a heady series. If I wanted something that straightforward I should have hit the archive classics like John Carpenter's The Thing.

Here we have Babylon 5, Season 3, Episode 7, Exogenesis [or Nasty Little-Legged Space Critters]. The whole slimy, centipede-like creature burrowing into the back concept really had gi-normous potential. The promise of it never quite satisfied my expectations. It was interesting science-fiction just the same but just didn't quite send it for me.

So it's official for one Lt. J.G. David Corwin [Joshua Cox]. A party is thrown in honor of his promotion or is it in the honor of receiving an actual character name with a speaking part?

I love the fact J. Michael Straczynski takes 'time outs' in his episodes to assemble our favorite cast of characters together so they can unwind over small talk and a cocktail. Sometimes the talk isn't small at all. Sometimes it’s actually big talk. I love those light, intimate moments between characters at the bar or at the table over dinner. Straczynski has a way of relaxing us with a fine meal for a few minutes before rattling our brains with the next intense shoe drops. He delivers those like a sharp shot to the family jewels at times. All is quiet before the storm as they say. I am forever humbled every time those credits roll with ‘Written by J. Michael Straczynski’ and I wonder how on Earth he manages to keep the quality up week after week at such a high level. This entry may not be among his best but it has its moments.

I’m not sure why Ivanova passed on inviting Marcus to the social. Was it her fear of her own attraction or caution of the unknown? Let's face it, you need to work hard to earn Ivanova's trust and loyalty as it should be. But I agree with Sheridan on playing it cool. Better to keep their relationship with Marcus and their new alliance under the radar for the time being.

The one thread I did enjoy in this entry was the whole concept of the “new” employee. Sheridan questions Ivanova about the 'new guy'; in essence, can Lt. Corwin be trusted within the inner circle? Under orders from Sheridan Ivanova must probe Corwin. Funny enough, he is invited to her quarters for a little intercourse. Not that kind silly rabbit! Of course that's what Corwin thinks. He misleads himself into thinking it might just be a hot date. A guy can dream can't he? Of course I'm sure there are a few ladies out there who might find Corwin a tasty after dinner cordial themselves.

Corwin’s eyes bug out [as he imagines the big nasty] at the potential for the request of his presence in her quarters! Great moment! Still, it’s comical because Corwin’s behavior is so very Boy Scout and ‘chain of command.’ He is goody two shoes honest! He's the kind of fellow that follows Earth law down to the letter without question. It's his inability to ask questions that make his colleagues nervous. He sees things black and white, while Sheridan, Garibaldi and Ivanova are forced very clearly to navigate their sticky universe in the grey. It is uncertain he would be able to comprehend the rule-bending nature of the politics in play that are required to violate Earth law in order to protect Earth. So, Lt. “I think I have a date” Corwin picks up flowers en route to Ivanova’s accomodations to engage in another terrific Claudia moment. She has such a tough-as-nails affect that Corwin nervously tells her the flowers were sitting outside her door unable to tell her that he bought them. She sticks the proverbial knife in the heart and tells him 'anyone who would pay for expensive synthetic flowers must be dumb.' Ouch! She knows how to hurt a guy.

I must say Joshua Cox clearly feels more natural in the cute guy role for the show then Warren Keffer ever did. Cox has also eased into it more gradually. He was brought to the fore of 'recurring' without it being forced down our throats. We weren’t beat over the head with him in the credits [LOOK AT OUR NEW GUY ISN'T HE HUNKALICIOUS!] and saddled with huge expectations, but rather slowly introduced to him. After awhile, the more we saw him, the more we wondered does that guy have a story to tell? I feel like his role as part of the story could work out much better and be more interesting. I certainly don't know Straczynski’s long term plans for him. Hell, he could wind up Drazi roadkill for all I know. Perhaps he's simply the Gary Jones [Stargate SG-1] of the series never to stray too far.

Whenever I hear Marcus speak with that delightful English-accented dialogue, I often wonder if he wasn’t a creation for Straczynski to indulge himself with a poetic style reminiscent of Shakespeare. It all seems to roll off the tongue and is alot of fun to hear. He can make nonsense sound terrific! Marcus is alerted that Ranger 1 on Minbar has recommended a heightened state of alert and should pull back from the Earth base of operations. Shadow vessels are being spotted in Sector 800. They are gathering, creating a border on the edge of Centauri space. How these things actually move around and still believe they are undetected in their operations is beyond me. It’s like a 900 pound gorilla with tentacles in the middle of the room, but instead it's a damn space spider the size of the Sydney Opera House. Marcus requests the Rangers drop a long range scanner in Sector 800 and get the ‘F’ out fast! Marcus’ liaison, Samuel, is missing. And now, Marcus himself, is being tailed. Marcus finds Samuel, but something isn’t right. His behavior has changed. His body has clearly been snatched! Samuel was dedicated to Marcus’ cause but now stares blankly with a kind of empty affect. Marcus looks for a man named Duncan [a nice turn by Aubrey Morris] who is also missing. Criminey! It’s like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers!

Marcus approaches Garibaldi in typically colorful style.
Marcus: “An increasingly large number of people in Down-Below aren’t acting normally.”
Garibaldi: “If they were normal they wouldn’t be in Down-Below.”
Marcus: “Well thank you Mr. Garibaldi, one of the leading minds of the 14th Century!”
Garibaldi: “Ivanova’s right- you are a pain in the ass!” [Hey, throw Ivanova under the bus why dontchya!] It’s funny how Garibaldi gets engaged in station problems based upon his own perception of what is serious and what isn’t. He’s a funny fellow. He cracks me up. I like his character alot.

Elsewhere, Dr. Franklin notes an anomaly on a man’s x-ray in medlab. He pulls snot slime from the dead man’s back and the slime wiggles. Damn! That space booger's alive! Marcus comes along and convinces Dr. Franklin to tag along throughout the station to investigate and play I Spy. Anything to get out of medlab and have Richard Biggs earn his keep. What they find in Duncan’s quarters is quite unpleasant and they are surrounded by those alien-human, backbitten folks and held hostage. I do like the idea of an alien race of nasty little space critters being of a higher intelligence than my earlier expectations would lead you to believe. You certainly wouldn't expect a centipede to be smart.

Some of the entry tips the cap to standard science-fiction fare with a touch of the classic coupled with original ideas. There's a bit of homage to in there. So, Franklin and Marcus are held in the Down-Below by those inserted with the alien parasite [Vendrizi if I have that right]. Marcus asks Franklin about Ivanova [always a good time to ponder your sex life when in peril] confirming any suspicions there might be an interest in her for him. He feels she has “a key as yet unturned.” I bet she does buddy and wouldn’t you like to turn it. I'm sure it would be “fascinating to find out,” as he puts it. Anyway, start thinking of a way to get the hell out of there.

Granted, I know the writers will pursue a love connection for these characters from time to time, but I definitely felt a lesbian groove for the voluptuous Ivanova in her dalliance with Talia in Divided Loyalties. Perhaps she’s a switch hitter, but there is a masculine quality to Ivanova's personality that I felt drew her to the softer feminine aspects of her same sex as if to fill a void in her life. She logically has that space in her life since her mother died for whom she was clearly close. Given the male-driven galaxy for which she works it kind of made sense to me which is why Marcus just really doesn't or at least feels a bit contrived. Whoa! I was starting to get deep there I think.

Eventually Marcus escapes while Franklin is in Brown 87 attempting to save a dying host at the Vendrizi's behest. Marcus rescues Franklin but discovers the hosts are merging with the Vendrizi voluntarily. Those whose lives are in jeopardy, at an end or simply directionless are joining with the creatures to extend life and aid the creature's own desire for survival. The alien legacy is to preserve memories in effect preserving the past, present and future from the coming dark age. I love those Shadows allusions. Even when you have a standalone story like this one, elements of the larger arc remind you that the Shadows are there waiting in the wings.

This a really sweet sequence between Marcus and Duncan as Duncan bids farewell. Marcus is beginning to win me over with his unusual mix of quirky, heroic and romantic. I genuinely thought this was a really sweet moment between the two.

Now, the dialogue for Duncan really hit a nerve for me. I've seen Blade Runner maybe 20 times and I own a copy of the Vangelis Blade Runner Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [I love the score!]. Speaking of homage earlier, the script provided for Duncan, while not precisely the same, immediately reminded me of this terrific moment extracted from Blade Runner. You can also hear the dialogue in the audio track on the CD itself which is in heavy rotation in my car. The Duncan goodbye felt very much like a nod to this scene and at least captured the spirit of what Ridley Scott was conveying in his film classic through always underrated actor Rutger Hauer [one of his best ever performances hands down alongside Night Hawks]. The whole idea of how life is fleeting and how we all want to make the most of this short thing called life and how it is essentially a gift. I don't mean to be cheesy, and don't get me wrong, I love Babylon 5, but this segment from Blade Runner is stunning, moving cinematic poetry and is certainly on a level all its own. While it's like comparing apples to oranges it says alot about the quality of Babylon 5's science fiction. If it wasn't intentional it's a funny coincidence. Scott's scene is considerably darker but both are powerful in their own rights.

In the end, Ivanova alerts Sheridan of her Corwin probe and sadly affirms, for now, she cannot be certain of his loyalty. Oh and Franklin tells Ivanova to give Marcus a chance and immediately she deduces those roses given to her from Corwin allegedly found outside her door were actually from Marcus. She seeks Marcus out on the station and plops the roses down in front of him in the Zocalo. “Keep ‘em,” she storms off. Are you sure you want to turn that key pal? Of course, Marcus looks to be open to a good challenge. Happy-go-lucky Marcus is tickled pink by the roses and merely smiles with thanks. Ha! Just like a fellow-clueless.

Londo and G’Kar are noticeably absent in this one and their lack of presence is clearly felt. Given last episode’s events I imagine the plan was to a: allow Londo to heal and b: G’Kar to serve some time for that sentence.

Duncan: “Maybe we all need to wake-up, become special before it’s too late.”

Exogenesis: C


Anonymous said...

JMS dislikes this episode a lot; said something along the lines that it started out solid but deteriorated in the second half. Apparently he was interrupted and distracted in writing by a strike on the set, and as he never writes outlines he sort of lost track of where he'd wanted to take the episode after that.

I'm with you, I also like the scenes with Marcus, Franklin and Duncan, as well as the intermezzo with Ivanova, Corwin and the roses. Also the twist with the Vindrizi as the preservers of wisdom in the end. I understand why JMS doesn't like it, but I don't think it's quite as bad.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M! Hope all is well. I love those behind the scenes insights. It sounds like we're all in agreement more or less on this one. It just kinda didn't quite have it. I did like the Corwin/ Ivanova bit. Too bad he didn't have his outline handy this one scurried away like that little critter. : )

bytehead said...

I definitely felt a lesbian groove for the voluptuous Ivanova in her dalliance with Talia in Divided Loyalties

ZOMG! Snort!

Oh, um, you haven't finished the show yet.

Oh, and JMS tells us what happens to Babylon 5 in the first season. LOL