Monday, August 11, 2008

B5 S3 Ep16: War Without End Part One

This is the first time we see these two leaders in the same frame, Sinclair and Sheridan together. Also, no scar remaining from the encounter with Kosh in Interludes And Examinations.

OK. It’s going to be tough to top the stirring drama of Interludes And Examinations but we’ll see what happens here. Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 16, War Without End Part One [or WAR! What Is It Good For? Maybe Saving A Little Thing Called The Future!] is suppose to be a doozie, in fact, a two-part doozie no less. We’ll soon see. One big upside is Director Michael Vejar is on the case for both, always a good sign. For some reason, when I was writing my thoughts down about this installment I wound up drafting roughly 6 pages. I generally write about 4 pages so this one was fairly lengthy and clearly packed with loads of information, so off we go.

Those semi-cheesy computer animated environments, in this case Minbar, are always tough to really love and get excited about, but they serve to open up the Babylon 5 universe to be sure.

Susan "Hot Lips" Ivanova.
As far as our guest list goes, most notable here is the fact the late Tim Choate returns as Zathras and more importantly the much beloved/ maligned character of Jeffrey Sinclair now an ambassador played with always convincing, wooden passion by Michael O’Hare.

I love maps. I especially love REALLY BIG maps!
Lt. Corwin picks up a distress call from Sector 14, the site of Babylon 4’s disappearance. Oddly, the transmission signal being received by Corwin and conveyed to Ivanova is the voice of one desperate Susan Ivanova. Huh? That’ll freak you out especially if you’re Susan. Garibaldi says it best about Sector 14, “Time doesn’t work right in there.” That's pretty succinct enough.

So Garibaldi launches via starfury to Sector 14 to investigate what the hell is going on, while Sinclair is coming aboard Babylon 5 unannounced. I thought it was interesting here that these two old friends were physically missing each other and essentially not crossing paths at all.

Damn! My eyes were closed can you take another picture?
Back on Minbar, earlier, there was a letter presented to Sinclair with his name on it. On Babylon 5 Delenn receives a similar letter in her quarters. Lennier insists, “it must be done, or the dream will die” referring to a kind of prophecy in motion. Delenn has been here to see it through and she knows, as she always knows more than she lets on, what is about to transpire. Delenn arrives in the War Room and is quite urgent with Sheridan that they must report to the White Star with Marcus and Sinclair. Both have also arrived at the War Room. It’s strange but cool to see both Sheridan and Sinclair in the same episode for the first time.

Time to visit the dentist big guy.
Garibaldi reports from Sector 14 that the temporal field is twice as large. The source is a tachyon energy field transmitting from Epsilon 3 controlled by Draal. He is widening it for a reason. Down on that planet below, enter Zathras. It’s good to see him again, but not those teeth.
Delenn knows they must head to Sector 14. Sheridan is reluctant, but she is acting on prophecy, so off goes the White Star.

Garibaldi continues picking up Ivanova’s voice. “They’re killing us.” Additionally he is receiving a visual. She is calling out in bloodied, battered desperation. She indicates the Captain is dead and the Shadows are coming. They are locked on, a bright light ensues from behind Ivanova and then the signal terminates. This is troubling, good stuff.

Now that's what I call a powerpoint presentation!
Delenn recaps for the War Council, via a visual presentation, long past events never before seen outside of the Grey Council of archival footage from the last Great War. These events also surround that of the White Star. Delenn asks Sheridan, “do you trust me John?” “With my life,” he answers. The footage presented to the team is of an allied base that was destroyed long ago. Here’s the catch, Babylon 4 was essentially stolen and brought into the distant past to aid in the war effort against The Shadows as a replacement base of operations. Without Babylon 4 the war would have been lost. Delenn references Season One’s Babylon Squared and how, then, Commander Sinclair saved Babylon 4’s crew. Delenn informs her friends that The Shadows sought to destroy Babylon 4, and surprisingly the footage indicates the White Star was involved in saving Babylon 4. Yes, the White Star will travel back in time six years, through the enlarged temporal field, to save the fledgling Babylon 4. A stunned Sheridan engages Delenn, the question of “who stole Babylon 4 is the biggest mystery of the last decade. Now you’re telling me, it was me, is me, is going to be me?” It’s not all about you John. Just kidding. That’s a great scene. At the time no one knew where Babylon 4 came from just that it helped win the first Great War explains Delenn. Delenn indicates saving Babylon 4 will save Babylon 5, if not in eight days Ivanova’s desperate transmission will become a reality. I imagine, too, Babylon 5 will be critical to winning the next Great War as it is already serving as a base of operations. Umm, I'll take an aspirin please, make that two.

Marcus begs the question that I found myself asking, “I still don’t understand how taking Babylon 4 will prevent the destruction of Babylon 5.” Good question Marcus my man. If Babylon 4 didn’t exist, The Shadows would never have been driven from Z’Ha’Dum, but rather would have dug in, waited it out, strengthened their forces. It was instrumental in stopping them then. Today, the strength of The Shadows war machine would have been much greater and Babylon 5 would already be destroyed. Good Lord folks, my head is spinning.

Sheridan checks in with Garibaldi who has now witnessed, via the Ivanova transmissions, Babylon 5’s destruction over and over. Time stamp on the message is eight days away. If they don’t save Babylon 4, the end of Babylon 5 will be assured. It was interesting to see the disintegration of Babylon 5 because there is a ship exiting the station’s docking bay just moments before it blows [see picture]. Who could that be? Granted this shouldn't come to pass, but it would have been cool to know who escaped on that ship just moments before the station went BOOM! Sheridan sends Garibaldi back to Babylon 5.

Sinclair turns to Sheridan and tells him, "You're a bastard for taking my job on this show!" Just joking. Sinclair thinks they’ll work well together like “Butch and Sundance…Lucy and Ethel.” Buddy, you’re no Butch and Sundance. I’m sorry but O’Hare just isn’t funny. I mean to say; he doesn’t even deliver funny with that odd little smile of his. Sorry pal, we don’t miss you. Perhaps I'm being hard on him but my head hurts.
The return of Zathras and some very bad hygiene.
Meanwhile, cargo has arrived at the White Star from Epsilon 3 to aid in their effort. Zathras, too, is part of that cargo. Sinclair directs Zathras not to mention anything that could change the past. Either Tim Choate’s make-up was a bit off or he aged a bit in two years, like any of us, but he just looked a tad different than I remember him.

Sinclair tells Sheridan he will need a favor. Sheridan ensures Garibaldi is dispatched home to Babylon 5 at the behest of Sinclair. Why? Is he saving Garibaldi’s life? Is he ensuring Garibaldi is there to play his part in this elaborate puzzle? I thought it was interesting at the outset that their paths did not cross. Surely it wasn’t manufactured, but it worked out well for Sinclair.

Sheridan: “Why the secrecy? Didn’t you wanna talk to him?”
Sinclair: “More than you’ll ever know.” [I thought that was pretty moving]
There goes Garibaldi & Sinclair, like two ships passing in the night [literally].
Still, those two names, ugh! Why couldn’t Straczynski have gone with Sinclair and Rogers? [Something, anything to get away from another ‘S’ name]. So, Sinclair watches through a window into space as the two ships pass and Garibaldi recedes into the distance. “Goodbye old friend.” Sinclair flashes forward to an image of Babylon 5 being boarded and inevitably disintegrating. These are scenes you’ll recall from Season One’s Babylon Squared. How could we forget? That was a very powerful singular episode indeed within that season. Sinclair assures himself, “No it won’t happen. I won’t let it happen.” And with that the White Star plunges into the temporal rift.

Interestingly, when Garibaldi returns to Babylon 5 Zack unwittingly alerts him with the news that Sinclair was aboard earlier but left with Sheridan. Garibaldi is stunned. “You’re kidding right? Did he leave any kinda message?” Yeah, the message is he wants to save your ass big guy. The message, Mr. Garibaldi, is- LIVE! Sinclair has left a message for Garibaldi, but the vid screen flashes “Password Required.” I love when Garibaldi starts throwing words out like "Fasten-Zip." "Hello old friend" does the trick, yet that was more like Pass words or a Passphrase.
Special Effects with a VHS Camcorder and 99 cents. Horrible.
White Star scanners pick up Shadows vessels inside the temporal field as well as a little old, highly radioactive fusion bomb. As the Shadows fighters attack, Lennier enlightens us with new information concerning the Vorlon-Minbari hybrid ship that is the White Star. “The White Star is based on Vorlon organic technology. It learns from experience, changes, evolves. The skin of the ship now uses the Vorlon defense system. Most of the energy is reflected away leaving only the physical impact.” As Sheridan puts it, “cool.” Can you imagine that kind of technology? That is ridiculously off the charts cool. By the way, Bill Mumy sure knows how to deliver scientific analysis better than anyone, granted he hasn't had the meatiest of roles. So the Shadows attack craft continues firing upon the White Star with little success. The White Star moves into position on its primary target. Ivanova fires upon the bomb and destroys it. One problem. Each crewmember was given one of those time stabilizers mentioned way back in Babylon Squared to keep everyone ‘stuck’ in time. Unfortunately the impact of the explosion somehow damages Sheridan’s device and he disappears, or if you recall how Kent Broadhurst yelled it back in Babylon Squared, “we’ve become unstuck in time!” I’ll never get that out of my head. Speaking of heads I'll take another aspirin.

Zathras was definitely less intriguing to me this time out and a little more annoying than I found Choate to play him way back in Season One, but I may have been in one of those less forgiving moods. I thought Sinclair’s return was okay, but, well, I’ll leave it at that. Sinclair’s line probably best-conveyed Straczynski’s overarching aim of the show concerning telling a story at all costs. The actors are secondary. “Sheridan knew the risks the same as we did. All of us are expendable. What counts is the mission. He’d want us to continue.” Amen! I think he’s talking about Straczynski there and himself as expendable. Tell that story damn it! Of course, Boxleitner’s not going anywhere. Sinclair takes over the Captain’s chair. That was a little weird to see. Get outta' that chair dude!

We cut to Sheridan [now unstuck in time on Centauri Prime- nice rhyme] being kicked in the gut before an aged, future version of what appears to be Emperor Londo. He looks also to be Sheridan’s executioner as he tells him he will finally put him out of his misery. Sheridan drove away the Shadows, but the remnants of the war have come home to roost on Centauri Prime, a victimized homeworld of unrest. He unveils the chaos, “the legacy of your war” as he peers out across his city of flames from on high. "Your war"! What the hell are you talking about Londo? I think it could clearly rest upon your shoulders if you really wanted to get right down to it. "Your war" my ass pal. Granted, we all know The Shadows were going to instigate a full blown conflict one way or another and Londo just happened to be an instrument or tool in getting to that point.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey “I’m like the arrow that springs from the bow” Sinclair is clearly ready to die as he speaks with Delenn. The White Star lands aboard Babylon 4. It’s a pretty decent effects moment [better than that overexposed shot above]. Zathras is really quite pathetic and no one seems to give two shits about the poor fellow. No one cares about him. It’s sad. He delivers rambling little ‘poor Zathras’ speeches and everyone rolls their eyes like 'oh, that’s just Zathras being Zathras for ya. Who cares about him unless we need him.' Damn! That is cold.

Sinclair [to Delenn]: “Ready?”
Delenn: “Why do your people always ask if someone is ready right before you’re going to do something massively unwise?”
Sinclair [with his trademark smirk, smile-grin]: “Tradition.”

TO BE CONTINUED…stay tuned for War Without End Part Two, same Babylon time, same Babylon channel... That would be channel 5 for newcomers. Now where is that aspirin?
War Without End Part One: B+


Anonymous said...

Save some of your Aspirin for the second part :))

About "tell that story at all costs", I've actually read rumours that JMS had contingency plans how to continue the show in case he dies.


Anonymous said...

Better save MOST of your Aspirin for the second part! :o)

Well, if you feel part I is a mind-twister, fasten your seatbelts for part II, it will blow a hole into your brain.

I personally liked Michael O'Hare as Sinclare alot, even more than Boxleitner als Sheridan, but I got used to Boxleitner/Sheridan.


Anonymous said...

*grml* Sinclair, not Sinclare...

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey all
Yeah, don't mind me. I think it would be interesting to see who likes Sinclair versus Sheridan. Don't mind me at all. Obviously my preference for Sheridan is completely subjective and to each his/ her own. I'll put up a quick poll and see if anyone cares to register their opinion on Sinclair versus Sheridan. Babylon 5 fans are definitely some of the best!

By the way, how bout that info from M. That is so Twilight Zone....

Anonymous said...

Well, JMS apparently worships Rod Serling and was a writer/story editor for the "New Twilight Zone". :)


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

You see now it's all making sense... : )

Anonymous said...

PS: I voted for Sheridan. Though I'm not quite sure what you mean by "Who would you choose" - choose for what? As a commander/captain of B5, I don't think Sinclair/O'Hare could've carried the show as Sheridan/Boxleitner did. But as a person, I liked the thoughtfull, introverted Sinclair better. Though many fans agree with you, I didn't think O'Hare's portrayal was wooden. It's more like the character is a restrained, introverted person who was well aware that he wasn't the best candidate for running the station and thus never comfortable with his position. I thought that O'Hare conveyed that trait very well. OTOH, he never convinced me when it comes to the action scenes.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Well, I think you're making the point. In general. Who would you prefer? I thought the way you perceived Sinclair's personality was interesting looking at it from that vantage point. It would seem like Ly and others would have similiar feelings about O'Hare that way. You sounded a bit torn yourself liking them both for different reasons.

Anonymous said...

What I liked about Sinclair was that he was different from both Kirk and Picard. He clearly was a burdened and troubled person, an intersting choice for a commander. Still, as captain for B5, I'd choose Sheridan; I think he's more the confident and charismatic leader the station needs. But if you'd asked me to choose one of both to get to know, and possibly have as a friend, it would be Sinclair.

I think it was JMS himself who noted on the replacement of Sinclair by Sheridan that Sinclair, in terms of character development, had already arrived at the point he wanted his hero to be in the end, and thus there wasn't much room left for character development. Atheist or not, he wanted a thoughtfull leader with a spiritual focus - and remember the scene in the Zen garden in the pilot? Instead of evolving to that point, Sinclair was already there.

B5 is all about the hero's journey, and you can't have a hero's journey with a character, no matter how troubled, who basically has arrived at its destination. Sheridan was deliberately introduced as the goofy guy who was mainly concerned about orange juice and real honest-to-god hot water showers, and had not much interest in spiritual things. Although he wasn't completely unaccessible, as JMS was careful to point out with Sheridan's visit to the Dalai Lama. But he hadn't put much active thought into it, and that offered a much more interesting dynamic for a relationship with Delenn.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Okay M, how the heck can I top that kind of insight? : ) That is excellent input. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well, I agree with M.
Sinclair is definitly the person I would like to know better, Sheridan is the better man to run the station.
M.'s thoughts about the developement of the character are very true. Sinclair was too much "finished", Sheridan was at the first step of his way.
As M. said, he is thoughtful, introverted and burdened, a person who I personally would like to listen to.
Sheridan is a person I would rather like to dance with, than listen to.
And though I like listening more than dancing (I love to dance, but I would always prefer to talk to someone) Sinclair would be the person I would prefer to have as a friend.
Maybe that is, why I like Sinclair more.
But maybe it is only because I know O'Hare personally and really like him. ;o)

But it is also true, that the show needed a charismatic leader, a character who would be able to make people move in a direction they originally never wanted to move.
Sheridan is the character that can learn things Sinclair already knows, so he is the right person to run the station and lead the show.
And Sinclair is perfect in the place he now is. He has arrived and we can see that clearly in the way he acts now, compared to season 1.

greetings Ly

Anonymous said...

1. Seriously, you haven't seen bad special effects until you've watched reels of Classic Who. Bad bluescreen and claymation, alien hands made out of green bubble wrap... solarize filters and mid-90s CG are THE FUTURE, man.

2. I didn't like Sinclair as much until the second time I watched the show. I think it doesn't help that JMS was learning as a writer during Season 1, and there were so many guest writers with only so much to go on for his dialogue. Now I like him more than Sheridan, who occasionally comes off as far too confrontational and without enough gravitas. Ah well. He is very energetic.

3. Hold on to your hat for Part 2. And then a few nice, character-driven episodes before Shadow Dancing... and then the biggie...

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Well, points well taken Ly. Y'all are going to have me re-evaluating Sinclair on the second go round. I wouldn't for a minute disagree with Ly regarding Sinclair's character or the fact he's likeable. He's definitely all of that. I guess I just haven't warmed up to him, but I will say this, I think your points [as well as M and Aris] are interesting regarding Sinclair's arc being more "complete," whereby Sheridan had a much larger curve to work with. I definitely get that from the characters in a big way. Anyway, no offense to Babylon original O'Hare who I could definitely see argued as having more "gravitas" as Aris-tgd put it.

Regarding Classic Who, I can't say I'll be running out to check on those earlier episodes based on that rousing effects review. I definitely got a huge does of the Tom Baker years and I loved him and Sarah Jane.

Nice hearing from y'all, sounds like I have much to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

*snicker* I think my point is that one should really not watch Classic Who for the SFX, but once you're used to those then anything made in the 90s looks slick by comparison. And Tom Baker is awesome, but Patrick Troughton is always going to be my favorite. OLD SCHOOL!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

ha! I definitely knew what you meant and I was definitely kidding around. Believe me some of my favorite science fiction doesn't have the slickest of effects. It's all about the story and ideas right pal? Glad you like Tom Baker! He rocks!