Thursday, August 28, 2008

B5 S3 Ep19: Grey 17 Is Missing

"Say hello to my little friend[s]" - Smith & Wesson.

I have to confess, and I'm sure you can all understand, writing doesn't always just happen. I try to channel the flow of creativity with every blog entry, but there are times when, quite frankly, you just ain't feelin' it. It either flows pouring from pen to print or the creative well is dry. There are times I’m writing and I absolutely have to slog and trudge my way through it. It's like I'm at war with my keyboard. So I'm sure y'all have days like that when you probably don't wanna be writing, but you grit through it anyway sometimes with less than satisfactory results. I try to retain a quality entry but I have those grey days from time to time if you will. Speaking of which...

I have to tell you that I was quite anxious by the possibilities of the latest Babylon 5 episode based on the title alone. It held me captive with the promise things could be very interesting indeed. This was a heavily Garibaldi-centric episode and I love Garibaldi, but the man has to have decent material to work with to succeed.

Off we go with Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 19, Grey 17 Is Missing [or A Nightmare On Grey 17] Too bad it wasn't Episode 17 or Grey 19. Sheridan, with new information at his disposal surrounding the success of his Lyta experiment against The Shadows, begins an aggressive recruitment program to formulate a tactical telepathic unit to assist in their mission. Recruitment is clearly difficult as potential candidates tend to bow out once they learn what their pre-determined role will be against the deadly Shadows. Obviously the pay isn't great and they tend to turn tail and run. Zack appears to be in charge of the program.

Sheridan suggests Ivanova contact Franklin for assistance. The doctor had information on underground telepaths. He feels its worth looking into for the next step in their cause.

Down in a manhole on Grey 17 an electrician is swallowed up by something mysterious. Wah-lah, he is now missing as well.

Back on Minbar Homeworld, Delenn is collecting Jeffrey Sinclair’s belongings when her colleagues suggest she become his replacement, the new Ranger One as the position is dubbed in layman's terms.

Zack reports to Garibaldi who is spinning the chamber of a classic Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver that apparently once belonged to his grandmother who was a Boston police officer or “slug thrower.” Cool. I love Boston! [Go Red Sox!] The Earth weapons were phased out and replaced with flesh melting PPGs. Zack informs him of the incident on Grey 17. Garibaldi agrees to check it out personally.

Garibaldi: “I like mysteries, but I hate Grey sector. I swear it’s like the Centauri Triangle in there. There’s always some damn thing goin’ wrong.” WOW! A Centauri Triangle! Is that like the Bermuda Triangle? It sounds cool. I'd like to see an episode in the Centauri Triangle.

Ivanova finds Franklin. He’s still on his walkabout tour, which is now more like a withdrawal-about as he goes on solo detox from the stim use which really came to light in Episode 3, A Day In The Strife. I liked when he told Delenn he thought he had a problem at the end of Episode 11 too, Ceremonies Of Light And Dark [both from Season Three]. Gee, ya think. Franklin has the data Ivanova needs and he agrees to give it to her as long as everyone just leaves him alone. He seemed angrier than normal and clearly irritated. I’m not sure if there was something more to it. I can’t say that it was out of character, but he was clearly agitated in an unusual way. I guess that's drug use and withdrawal for ya.

Garibaldi speaks with a colleague who tells him there are only 29 Grey levels and Garibaldi knows that’s just not correct. He's certain there are 30. Garibaldi does an effective job of implementing good old-fashioned detective work and never takes anything for granted to determine where Grey 17 went. I love when he's standing in the elevator kind of laid back sort of passing the time. The guy is just too damn cool.

Magic is fun when you’re dead.” That creepy little puppet totally reminded me of that 1978 thriller Magic starring Anthony Hopkins. I don't actually remember the movie. I just remember the puppet and those words. In fact I hadn't even realized it was Anthony Hopkins in that film. It just always comes back to the puppet for me. I hate the Chucky films for the same reasons. Terrible, little puppets with freckles are even worse. In fact, I hate puppets. They rank up there with clowns. Still I think I dislike puppets more than clowns even. Puppets are always trouble. Puppets=trouble+death. Now, mind you, I don't mind MUPPETS. They are sooo not puppets in the traditional 'scare-the-shit-out-of-you' sense and completely different, far different, Farscape different. We'll explore this someday when I get to Farscape. So Grey 17 is sooo not missing, it’s just kind of being by-passed. So what gives? And how the hell did someone pull that off?

Now back on Babylon 5, Delenn informs Sheridan of the good news. She is preparing a ceremony on the station to become the new Ranger Smith, er Rick, I mean Ranger One and Sheridan gives his full backing. She is worried some will not agree with her as the selection to lead. ENTER Neroon of the warrior caste. You remember good ol’ Neroon. Happy-go-lucky, my life-is-just-terrific Neroon. I wanna’ party with you Neroon. Yeah, that Neroon. He doesn’t like it one bit. He’s very unhappy [shocker] that a religious caste member is engaging in overseeing military actions without the input of the warrior caste. So he has a bone to pick with her- his bone. Delenn justifiably reminds him that the Grey Council of Nine opted not to act when given the chance. Neroon is a purist. He’s a kind of Aryan-type Minbari and wasn’t a big fan of Sinclair at the helm given he was human. Neroon is a true believer in Minbari code. He asserts the warrior caste should lead the Rangers. Oh and he starts name dropping guys like Valen [so funny, little does he know about Valen and Sinclair- quite amusing]. He says Valen would want it. It’s the law. Just a reminder: Worker, Religious, Warrior Castes. Delenn rightfully tells him he violated the law by rejecting the balance of the nine on Grey Council. Neroon counters with the fact Grey Council was disbanded. Man! You got an answer for everything boy [even if you’re arguments are a tad bit Neroon-spin]! He calls Delenn’s desire to lead, the act of a religious zealot. Hell, that’s the pot calling the kettle black. Neroon should be in the religious caste; ironically he’s more of a zealot than anyone. Neroon tells her to walk away or he will stop her “by any and all means necessary.” The phrase reference reminded me of the title to Season One, Episode 12, By Any Means Necessary.

White Star engineer and frequent party organizer Lennier.
So Delenn informs Lennier of her meeting with the hawkish, uncompromising Neroon. Lennier does not take it lightly. I was wondering if he might go all warrior caste-like on Neroon’s ass to protect Delenn. If Neroon would make a great religious fanatic, Lennier, too, would be a kick ass warrior. Apparently there has been no Minbari-on-Minbari murders in 1,000 years. Sheesh! What the hell was wrong with the guy 1,000 years ago who decided to murder someone and end the no-hitter? That’s a pretty good freakin’ record. He must have been a real marrow head to pull a boner like that! Anyway, the rules have changed with the council disassembled. She makes Lennier promise not to inform Sheridan about Neroon. Clever little Lennier promised not to tell Sheridan, but never promised he wouldn't turn to his old buddy Marcus. Clearly there is a real trust there. Lennier makes a great point. Apart from his personal concern for Delenn, should murder occur, it might spark a Minbari civil war between the three castes. It would be caste warfare! Get it class warfare - caste warfare! The One To Be Pitied didn't think it was funny. Okay. Lennier simply wants Neroon delayed so the ceremony can be completed, but warns Marcus that Neroon is a fierce adversary and lethal warrior [but, in other words, I'm willing to sacrifice you for the greater cause just the same]. The brave and noble Marcus is fearless, but as we find out not fierce enough for Neroon.
I friggin' hate puppets! This could be one of the freakiest I've ever seen!
Garibaldi awakens after being knocked unconscious by the poison puppet dart. Now at this point I’m thinking Robert “Freddie Krueger” Englund should be making an appearance here some time soon. He does. He’s even got creepy old A Nightmare On Elm Street-like fingerless gloves to boot. It figures this guy would be hanging out with loons and a puppet. He plays Jeremiah and quite frankly it’s a pretty weak part with not a lot to work with in the dialogue department. He speaks all kinds of cultist gobbeldy-gook about the end of the world and going out pure and Stardust or something like that [referencing Delenn and Minbari beliefs] to Garibaldi while all of his Charles Mansun-like followers look on as if they're thinking, "when are we rolling out the Kool Aid?". I completely checked out of this scene. It was pointless or it felt that way.

Sheridan asks Delenn about her parents and she gives us a touch of her backstory here. She had strong parents whom she loved, but was separated from them at a very young age.

Meanwhile, the charismatic Jeremiah is holding Garibaldi captive in front of his captivated cult audience. I didn’t find him to be charismatic or captivating myself, but his followers are clearly intoxicated with him. I can’t tell you how closely Jerry Doyle reminds me of Bruce Willis. I know I’ve said it before and many feel the same and it’s no revelation, but there are moments when I swear you couldn’t tell the two actors apart. They say we all have a twin out there and Doyle and Willis are pretty damn close. So as his name suggests, Jeremiah is a slightly radical religious wacko in the vein of Marshall Applewhite, leader of the Heaven's Gate Hale-Bopp Comet cult group, who died in a mass suicide in 1997. If you recall, that group believed Jesus was in a spacecraft behind the Hale Bopp Comet. They needed to die so their souls could join the craft when it passed by Earth taking them to another galaxy called Heaven. Yeah, right, pour me that Kool Aid and sign me up! I'm surprised Jeremiah and his friends aren't in favor of wearing black Nike sneakers when they sprint off to the next life. Jeremiah's group is a certifiable cult of looney toons. Actually these guys do it right [more on that in a moment].

Marcus surprises Neroon and like Gandalf of The Lord Of The Rings he shall not pass! Marcus invokes “denh shah”- to the death! The battle begins. Delenn stands with pride at the ceremony while Neroon barely breaks a sweat. Marcus is bloodied and beaten senseless as he starts quoting Zathras when he loyally proclaims before his victor, “We live for the one. We die for the one.” It is at this moment Neroon understands that humans are willing to die for Delenn. Marcus unfortunately takes it on the chin big time to prove that point.

Back on Grey 17 Garibaldi finds the bloody clothes of the missing technician. He also hears a monstrous voice. There’s a creature loose on Grey 17. How it got there and got on board will forever remain a mystery to me. I’m sure Jeremiah and his rag tag group got it there somehow, but how is another question entirely. Still, this group has plans for a big demise. The creature is a Zarg. It is the cult’s belief they might be devoured and go to the next life pure, like the Minbari, or some such nonsense.

The cool thing for me was the Zarg. I love monsters! I LOVE THEM! The Zarg is also “one of the most dangerous aliens in the sector,” says Garibaldi. Damn! This should be good. So let’s see that Zarg! Ahhh! The Zarg is embarrasingly unimpressive. I mean Garibaldi blasts it in the face with a bit of pipe steam and off it scampers into hiding. COME ON! WTF!? It’s a fucking Zarg! Remember that bit about being one of the most dangerous creatures in the sector. Does that not hold any weight? I’d hate to see what the not-so-threatening monsters had to offer. If it’s dangerous I’d like to think it would take a little more than a blast of pipe steam to send it packing. Geesh Straczynski ya really had me up until this point. Did we run out of time or something? Did the effects department go on strike? Damn it! I was finally going to get a good look at a good old-fashioned, sci-fi monster and it’s a bona fide Babylon 5 dud. It’s a dude dud in a rubber H.R. Giger suit that had its nuts removed on Grey 17. You’re a flippin’ Zarg grow a pair pal. Alright having said all that I liked the name and the Zarg looked pretty cool for a guy in rubber. Still it was a wasted opportunity. perhaps if they had just stayed away from the full lens shot and worked with close-ups alone. I dunno. Maybe we’ll get to see a better monster in the future. Anyway, Garibaldi kills the seething, raging, fierce, beast of Zarg [not!] using the steam pipe and his Smith & Wesson slugs and downs the guy with frighteningly bad teeth in latex rubber. It was kind of Giger-esque, but definitely low budget Giger. I’m not really sure this was a very worthy thread.

Lennier goes to Marcus’ aid. His life was spared by Neroon. Interesting. In the end, Neroon visits Marcus “one warrior to another.” He has respect for him. Delenn and Lennier hear them laughing in medlab together. Neroon’s analysis was spot on. He essentially acknowledges he's been quite the asshole, noting how not right it was that he himself would be so quick to kill one of his own, while a human was perfectly willing to protect his people. Perhaps there is hope for Neroon. I still think it would have been fun if Lennier opened up his own can of whoop ass and I still don't want to hang with Neroon. Speaking of Lennier, there has to be something to that. How can Lennier be so warrior-like and be part of the religious caste? Did he get sent for retraining as punishment or something? By the way, Lennier could have so taken that Zarg with a handful of body shots with the old Lennier fists of steel.

Grey 17 Is Missing: C-
I love Jerry Doyle, but boy was he forced at PPG point to work with some pretty dodgy material.


Havremunken said...

I think that jms once said that he wanted to go door to door across the world and apologize to every viewer for the whole Zarg thing. :)

A weak episode, but I think Marcus' attempt at self sacrifice was very good.

From here on in, buckle up for the ride.

Anonymous said...

"I just have this constant desire to go to everyone's house and personally apologize...." (jms) :)

IIRC, the zarg scenes were supposed to be much darker and jms even told the prostectics guys that the zarg would be in the darkness anyway, but when it come to shooting in his absence, someone decided to turn the lights up. Ah well. :)


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

haha...that explains it. Yeah, wayyy too much lighting on the Zarg as it turned out.

Anonymous said...

You know, I think the whole thing might have worked out better if it had turned out to be some sort of halluzination of Garibaldi, starting after he was arrived there and was first knocked out by the puppet. It would have removed the question how they all got in there (including the Zarg), and how they managed to survive (curious that all the recycling systems seemed to work, even though they didn't show up in the station plans, and where did they get food anyway? Come to think of it, complete with unrealistic plot points, puppets and rubber monsters it looks much a Farscape episode :) ). The idea of the missing floor, as well as exposing the agnostic comic fan Garibaldi to a spiritual experience of that kind aren't bad at all. But the execution is lacking and there are too many plot holes for the end result to be any good.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Good point M! I still can't come to terms with some of those plot holes as you mentioned and I mentioned in the entry. I can see the guy coming through security. "Yes, me and my followers and I have one Zarg." haha. Anyway, you're funny with the Farscape jab. Still, not quite as colorful as Farscape. And if this is like Farscape in any way, I'm in trouble.