Tuesday, July 15, 2008

B5 S3 Ep13: A Late Delivery From Avalon

Yet another fine orb-like ship design compliments of the Babylon 5 science fiction project.

So my friends, I took a little time out to coordinate the menu system on the blog. I felt as though things were getting a bit unruly with all of the entries. By simply placing all of the Babylon 5 entries under one header I thought it might make it tough for anyone who came along to read and get caught up. So, I have created separate Babylon 5 season headers for easier access. I hope that helps.
Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 13, A Late Delivery From Avalon [or Arthur & His Nights On A Round-like Station] opens with a slice of station life inside the Earth Force Postal Service. It just so happens my father worked for the Earth Force Postal Service. Of course back in the day it was called the US Post Office. Anyway, my father was a genuinely nice guy. He passed away a few years back. I have a fond memory of this little lady from his delivery route coming up to me at the calling hours to tell me how she just loved my father. My Dad smoked you see. Apparently, the woman had ordered a book [long before Amazon] and while he was taking his lunch in the mail truck he lit up a ciggie while reading the paper. Little did he know that his cigarette had landed next to the book and caught the book on fire to the left of his mail tray. Anyway, if you knew him you would know he felt just horrible and he brought the burnt up book to the lady and told her how sorry he was. He would happily pay for a new book and would certainly take care of it. She insisted it wasn’t necessary and not to worry. She knew it was an accident. Can you imagine? You see a little understanding goes a long way. Yeah, you don’t see too many situations like that nowadays. It’s kind of a sad commentary. I’m glad she came that day to share that story. I'd have never known.

Well, here we are with A Late Delivery From Avalon. It opens as Mr. Garibaldi attempts to retrieve his package from the Earth Force Postal Service. Unfortunately, the now independent station suffers from a now tumultuous relationship with Earth and rates are quite exorbitant. This was a salient point for me. I had been wondering how the break was going to affect Babylon 5 operations. The station’s declaration of independence had to have an impact. It seemed a matter of time before ill effects might result. Here we get those hardships in play as Garibaldi tries desperately to pick up a simple package. No credits, no vittles for you buddy. Here is one of the entry’s finer moments.

A funny thing dawned on me about the world of Babylon 5, I’m surprised there are NO robots. I could easily see that postal guy being replaced by a robot. But so far apparently, robots really never took off within this sci-fi reality. No R2 units or C3POs to aid in the work force. Perhaps given the limited confines of Straczynski's budget robots were cast aside from his potential vision of the future or not.

Marcus proves himself time and again to be very much a product of his Minbari experience. Here he explains to Fr. Franklin the influence of that alien culture on his life.

Delight. Respect. Compassion. That for your actions to be pure, they must proceed from direction, determination, patience and strength. I’m afraid I’m still working on patience. They taught me how to live, how to breath, how to fight and how to die. And they taught me terror. How to use it and how to face it.” Granted that philosophy isn’t all that alien or at least it shouldn’t be. Marcus has a terrific British accent. I think he could describe the process of using a latrine and it might sound impressive.

Michael York [Logan's Run, The Island Of Dr. Moreau] guests as he takes on a new island in the form of a floating space station filled with more icky monsters of a sort. He also deals with a doctor. It all feels a bit like The Island Of Dr. Franklin. Terrible. But seriously he just can’t escape that H. G. Wells classic, and really, does the man ever age? Logan's Run was released in 1976 and The Island Of Dr. Moreau in 1977 [I loved this film]. He's been around. It must have been a fairly big coup for the series' creators to land his support for the series. York plays a character that believes himself to be King Arthur. As he boards Babylon 5 scanners indicate he is carrying a weapon, not just any weapon, just a little friend called Excalibur. He is held at PPG point. Marcus to the rescue! Marcus plays along and kneels before the excellence of Arthur to ease his anxiety. Nothing like a fellow Brit to calm tensions.
Babylon 5 has some of the most colorful, exciting consoles.
I love the moment when Dr. Franklin tells security, “We’ll take it from here. I assume full responsibility.” WHAT!? Bloody Hell! He’s a doctor Jim! NOT a Security Chief! I mean who the hell does he think he is to assume control of a situation that includes a strange, giant, sword-wielding madman that believes he’s King Arthur. It’s like, hey, you’ve had one too many hits with the stims there doc. I know the plausible explanation might be that he was of a poor mental state and needed medical review. He took the man in as a patient. I got it. I just found it amusing and I’m not so sure I relinquish the nut over to the doctor if I'm with security. Sorry. Perhaps this REALLY is The Island Of Dr. Franklin as he attempts to determine whom Arthur, King of the Britons, really is.

Marcus updates Sheridan on the situation and the always-steady Captain assumes Arthur is essentially a complete nutjob. Marcus makes the point about the possibility of the Vorlons being involved in this conundrum given their travels to Earth and their ability to preserve life [ie Comes The Inquisitor]. While the boys are busy attempting to figure out why this man claims to be Arthur hailing from 17,000 years ago he has slipped out of medlab and made his way to the Down-Below. I love Security Chief Franklin’s methods of containment- Absolutely top notch!

A man is being assaulted while G’Kar is purchasing Narn information Down-Below from his own back channels. During the exchange Arthur takes on the hoodlums while wielding Excalibur and wearing his knightly garb. The edits here are amusing for those of you who enjoy looking for this stuff, because there are some continuity problems. At the close of battle the stuntman’s garb winds up literally on his face following the skirmish, while in the first close up of York's face his uniform is just fine and you can see his face.

If you squint, you might think of G'Kar as an extra who escaped from The Island Of Dr. Moreau.
Cut to The One To Be Pitied: “Oh for cryin’ out loud, what crap are you watching now?” “Be gone with you,” I command with my best definitive Arthurian accent.

His knightly armor is now perfectly affixed to his head in this shot.
G’Kar sees the Briton in peril and leaps to his aid. How about when G’Kar gives that whole, cat growl-hiss thing to scare off the attackers in the melee. That was a little bizarre.

In celebration we will drink, we will be merry and we shall keel over!

One of the things I love about G’Kar is he has this kind of regal, quirky gay side coupled with this strong guy ferocity. It’s a strange combination but somehow Andreas Katsulas is brilliant at pulling it off. These two were like long lost friends. Who knew G’Kar had a soft spot for the mentally imbalanced. Obviously he was drawn to his strength at standing up for the powerless. By the way I love that alien character dude that makes appearances in the Down-Below or Zocalo. He's the one you see with the black, pilot-like, breathing mask/ apparatus.

Later, Garibaldi, clearly abusing his authority, breaks into the Earth Force Postal Service office. WHAT! What the hell are you thinking BOY!? You can’t steal mail! That’s a federal intergalactic crime! I understand you’re dying for good food, but the ends clearly don’t justify the means my friend. No matter the postal worker is laying in wait, apparently spending his nights sleeping in the office to protect that mail I guess. Now that’s dedication. “That’ll be another 20 credits for the lock and I am reporting this to the Post Master General. Oh Yeah!” Getting those Italian goodies is looking less and less likely for Garibaldi. Still, he is killing me with his laissez-faire attitude and willingness to bend the rules for his purposes.

Meanwhile, Arthur is having visions [in black & white] of spacefighters and Minbari cruisers. At the same time he somehow feels responsible for the deaths of his knights. What is this link?

From The Island Of Dr. Moreau to The Island Of Babylon 5 Michael York is like a fish out of water once again.
Elsewhere, Sheridan and Ivanova have brokered a treaty between a host of respective alien races to gain their cooperation in protecting Babylon 5. The team wants the station insulated from all warring factions and for those same factions to contribute to its defense. Remarkably, they manage to achieve enough signatures for the Mutual Defense Agreement.

Back in medlab Franklin has analyzed the DNA of Arthur and uncovers new information. It turns out he was with Earth Force during the Earth-Minbari War. Arthur is actually living an illusion that is preventing him from coming to terms and learning the truth about who he really is. Poor Arthur is caught between the moon and New York City crazy with confusion. Franklin confronts him with a computer file and a very image of himself. “It’s you,” he tells Arthur. Arthur is actually David McIntyre, age 52, Earth Force Silver Star for valor, Battle Of The Line, Prometheus Gunnery Sergeant. Two thousand died on the line. Two hundred lived. We obviously now know two of them [including Jeffrey Sinclair]. Prometheus was the first ship to encounter the Minbari fifteen years ago. As the Minbari approached their guns were open, a sign of respect within their culture, fairly stupid within ours, and McIntyre opened fire. It seems reasonable to assume it to be an aggressive act if one were unaware of the Minbari. Did the Earthers know this about the Minbari? Did they know anything about the Minbari going into the war? Regardless, McIntyre essentially ignited the war fire and the souls of the dead are on his conscience. Depression has clearly affected him. Deep within his subconscious Arthur is killed and McIntyre lays catatonic in medlab where he is visited by Delenn, who represents, according to the Arthurian world of legend, the Lady Of The Lake who saves Arthur. It is she, of the Minbari, who takes his pain away. As a representative of the Minbari she graces his presence and acts as a symbol of the healing and forgiveness he so desperately requires.

In the end, Garibaldi finally pays for the package and then turns the tables and screws up on the Earth Force Postal Service. It would seem the service will require security now beholden to Babylon 5 thanks to their severed relationship with Earth. Garibaldi establishes a payment amount for coverage while under his care. Ouch. Touché! Those tactics.....hmmmm? Granted, postal rates are getting a bit crazy of late.

The oh-so nontraditional Babylon 5 ending complete with smiles.
In the end, to quote Sheridan, “as interesting a diversion as this might be,” and it really wasn’t that, this episode fails to deliver that package and engage me on the whole. So, in most cases concerning late delivery I'd say better late than never, but this is one delivery I could have done without. Still, J. Michael Straczynski appears to enjoy the undeniable Shakespearean-like tragedy of York’s character despite ending on a more positive note than one might normally expect from Babylon 5.

A Late Delivery From Avalon: C
[not sure I mentioned it, but I kind of liked that film The Island Of Dr. Moreau.]


Anonymous said...

A great episode.
I am sure, you will rewatch the show after you finished all 5 seasons.
And then, coming back to this episode, take a close look on the scene when Delenn takes Excalibur from Arthur. You will see it from a whole new perspective, I promise...

It is wonderful to see, how much you enjoy the show.


Anonymous said...

More interesting notes: JMS nearly got Michael York to play the Sheridan character (then still named John Strider), but the network complained that there were too many Brits leading American SF TV shows. (See: ST:TNG).

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first poster, I thought this was a fantastic episode, and very well acted by Michael York (I meant this one I wrote earlier about another standalone I consider one of the best episodes, but not everyone agrees).

There is a short but interesting review on www.space.com focussing on this version of Arthur and what it means for the idea of the hero: http://www.space.com/sciencefiction/tv/babylon_5_313_001220.html

Marcus' question at the end about who is Merlin and who is Morgana Le Fay is also noteworthy.

I guess it's now about time to recommend getting Aspirin ready for the two-parter War Without End. :)


Havremunken said...

Just a quick comment from me this time. :)

It is mentioned in an episode (and I can't remember which, right now, could be Ceremonies of Light and Dark, but could also be several others) "pre-ban robotics" - i.e. that there was some research done into robot fun, but it was banned for some unknown (to us) reason.

But then again, that could of course just be due to the budget as you say. :)

Anonymous said...

re: Robots - I don't think he likes robots (let alone the idea of people being replaced by them). I know the (in-)famous line was "no kids or *cute* robots, ever", but still... :)

Another thing I forgot to mention, a very telling detail about Marcus' character: notice how he would've kept the truth from McIntyre and let him walk around believing he was King Arthur for the rest of his life.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, Marcus' question, who Morgana could be, is very interesting.
Let's talk about that in a few episodes...


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Greetings to you Ly and thanks to everyone for the input. It's interesting how easily your perspective CAN change on this show based upon further viewing so I'm sure you're probably right about my perception on this one later Ly and M.

Interesting about York as the possible Captain Sheridan. I'm glad they went with Boxleitner, but who knows.

M, you and I have been on the same page overall and I knew you thought highly of this one but I just couldn't love it. Thanks for the links.

It's funny all of the Merlin mythology. Stargate SG-1 took really has alot of fun with the whole Arthurian mythology in Seasons 9 & 10 of that show. I can't say I loved it there either despite loving the acting.

As for the robots, loved the input there though we do know he liked stuffed bears. Kidding. I know there was alot of behind the scenes stuff on the bear from way back when.

You guys have definitely peaked my interest on a few points I shall return some day to this one. It's interesting that point you made about Marcus. I thought it was kind of odd that he would have preferred to see McIntyre live in blissful ignorance if I remember correctly but I didn't think to mention it. You see, I always find that. Sometimes what is seemingly innocuous upon first viewing has much greater meaning later, but I'll often times breeze over it only to find out later. I never had to worry about that with The A-Team. : )

I'll get the aspirin handy gang.

Anonymous said...

Glad my friend Ly finally came out of lurkdom :)

I think this is one of those episodes that gains a lot in hindsight - rewatching it after having seen the first part of season 4 and the movie "In the Beginning" (the latter will answer your questions about the Earth-Minbari war).

It's interesting that McIntyre was "merely" the gunnary officer who carried out the order to fire given by his captain; he still took full responsibility for it all.

Be careful with the other space.com reviews. Most of them are very well done and I highly recommend them, but some of them are spoilerish (not the one on this episode, though).

re: Aspirin - you might even need it for Interludes :)


Anonymous said...

I liked the way, Stargate SG-1 handled the Merlin/Arthur-theme in season 9 & 10, but I was glad that B5 took a different way.
When I first watched the episode my first thought was "Oh no, not another King Arthur Version".
But then I loved the way they resolved it.
It is diffenent, as the whole shoe is different and I like it, that you never know, what you get, although in the beginning you think you know, what you get. *g*


Anonymous said...

gna... show, not shoe *ggg*


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Ly...I agree they did do a splendid job executing the Arthur mythology on SG-1. Really well done, but not my favorite. By the way, I hate making typos. I do it alot in my posts comments but try not to do so in the entries. IT's tough sometimes when your eyes are shutting from lack of sheep though. Sleep that is. ;)