Tuesday, October 7, 2008

B5 S4 Ep3: The Summoning

They are completely messing with my boy G'Kar. This just isn't right. Someone write me into this script right now! I'm packin' a PPG, Smith & Wesson, Minbari Fighting Pike, Electro-Whip and a handy Vorlon feeder and there's gonna' be hell to pay!

Ivanova requests a White Star to seek out additional First Ones in Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 3, The Summoning. She has apparently been brushing up on her Minbari language skills in her spare time to allow her the ability to communicate with the all-Minbari posse aboard. Her fluency is apparently imperfect thus far failing on various translations and butchering phrases that roughly translate into the likes of "hatrack ratcatcher" and "brickbat lingerie." These phrases are sprinkled in between the more traditional command and control orders. Delenn has requested Marcus to assist in her language education despite Ivanova’s protests.

Down on Centauri Prime the ridicule and torture of G’Kar has begun. He has been dressed and transformed into a kind of metallic court jester complete with a metal crown of thorns, but he is clearly the butt of the jokes and physical brutality. It is a disturbing sight to behold. The whole thing feels a bit like an allusion to the persecution of Jesus. It doesn't have to be taken as such, but there is an element of reminder about to such persecution in G'Kar's trials. It is a seemingly troubling site to both Vir and Londo as well.

It’s been two weeks of adjustment to life without both Sheridan and Garibaldi and the sadness still lingers. The White Star launches for destination Sector 87. Meanwhile, Zack reports to Delenn he has a lead on Garibaldi’s whereabouts and now discovering G’Kar is missing too.

This is a good shot of Londo & Vir superimposed on G'Kar. The accidental shot looked pretty cool.
Vir, and to some extent Londo, are quite upset concerning the treatment of G’Kar. Vir’s concerns are quite empathetic while Londo offers a kind of troubled detachment as only Londo can so matter-of-factly. Vir and Londo discuss the predicament whilst in the garden on Centauri Prime when Emperor Cartagia suddenly emerges from around a corner. Wortham Krimmer returns yet again and continues to deliver as the emperor. His purposefully over-the-top performance is positively delicious. What an addition to this fine cast. He has really brought to life the character and created such a unique recurring role. He is clearly one of the more memorable guests to date to enter the Babylon 5 verse.

I love Londo's expression here. It's like "What's the hell is wrong with you buddy? You're not right."
The emperor hilariously describes an annoying change in job description for his “torturer” to “pain technician.” It would appear they have their own union organizers on Centauri Prime. Londo and Vir are aghast at the site of Emperor Cartagia’s bloody hands. In fact, Krimmer is so overdramatic I was unsure if he truly believed what he was saying or if he was baiting Londo into some kind of admission of disloyalty. At times it would appear he is taunting Londo testing him for betrayal. There is an obviously uneasy alliance between these two.

Back on Babylon 5, Delenn visits Lyta in her quarters only to find the room empty with the exception of a single mattress. About the only thing New Kosh endorses for Lyta is her required sleep. The Vorlon knows she needs her rest if he’s going to use the shit out of her. Ambassador New Kosh is a son of a Vorlon bitch! Lyta informs Delenn The Vorlons have their own plans. Delenn has been curious about the silence of The Vorlons. Are their intentions altruistic or selfish? Prior to New Kosh they seemed to be a bit of both. As of this writing I am uncertain but certainly the jig is up.

Meanwhile, Zack and friends are closing in on their potential target alleged to be carrying one Michael Garibaldi. Zack requests the ship’s surrender but is not given the courtesy of a reply. So, in what would appear to be a fairly risky move, several shots are taken at the vessel to disable its engines. I mean you better damn well be confident of your ship's precision on that decision or people could, ummm, DIE. An escape lifepod jettisons with Garibaldi aboard as the ship explodes. Zack, with a pained expression, is slightly concerned he may have enabled the ship’s premature explosion and second-guesses his decision. Yeah, exactly, maybe it’s a little late for that bucko. He's thinking, 'Gee, maybe I just killed the chief.' Cut to the lifepod and Garibaldi lying on a table lifeless. An onboard computer activates with the following message: “Contact confirmed. Initiating program.” Garibaldi’s eyes open in almost programmed robotic response. WOW! It's a major new development to that our man Garibaldi has clearly been monkeyed with and altered. Is he now a new mole for the Psi Corps? Flashback, ironically, to Talia Winters [played by his real life wife Andrea Thompson] waaaaay back in Season One and how she had a deeply programmed personality. The lovely, pleasant Ms. Talia persona was supplanted with an ornery, nasty, vicious, bitch of an artificial personality looking to KILL in Season Two, Episode 19, Divided Loyalties. You'll remember this was the episode we were reintroduced to Lyta. Is Garibaldi now a sleeper unit for Psi Corps without being a telepath? Will he be activated to return home for dinner and make supper and do the dishes like a good husband for his wife? I’m sorry that really is science fiction. Seriously, is this a second attempt to do what Ms. Winters couldn't finish? It will be interesting to see.

Returning to Babylon 5 Zack looks upon Garibaldi who is in a lethargic, sleepy state. His face exhibits concern for him. He will no doubt recall the odd events in space that led to Garibaldi’s arrival and keep a close watch on his behavior. By the way, it would appear to be standard operating procedure for Garibaldi to miss the ocassional season opener or at least begin injured, comatose or incapacitated in some form or another. He loves spending time in medlab to be sure. A pattern is developing here for him to actually start a season physically strong.

Poor Lyta, she look like she gets the shit kicked out of her by the Vorlon.
Down in the alien sector the attractive Lyta [okay maybe she could lose the gills] is being sucked bone dry of her own life force by the vampiric like Vorlon, New Kosh, so that she may "carry" him. Poor thing. She looks absolutely drained, pale and a little whiter whenever she is finished with this life-giving process to the Vorlon. She jerks back violently at its conclusion too. There is nothing sensitive or gradual about this New Kosh and his relationship with Lyta. Dare I say, on a bit of a limb, but when New Kosh is finished and essentially exits her body there appears to be an overtly sexual tone about the writing and one hinting of sexual abuse? There is a process in place whereby there is seemingly no benefit to Lyta. It’s like a physical, psychic kind of Vorlon rape. “You didn’t have to pull out of me so fast. You hurt me. While I was carrying you, you felt cold, hard.” It’s interesting when she mentions the word “carrying.” Is this what the process is called? It is undeniably what the humans do for The Vorlons. They carry them. They sustain them. Without them, then what? What is the purpose of carrying the Vorlons? Does it allow them strength and nourishment? Let’s take a look at this disturbing sequence.

When it’s over all the Vorlon wants her to do is be a good, little girl and go sleep so that he may recharge the old Vorlon batteries by getting inside her again later. There is clearly no concern for her mental health or state. Joy doesn’t enter the equation and it doesn’t go well as Lyta lashes out and pays the price. There's something about Lyta. She's quite a sympathetic figure not unlike G'Kar.

Down on Centauri Prime, Londo visits G’Kar and we get more from the intimate exchanges between these two gifted actors. Despite their agendas, there is something about their affection for one another, perhaps a kind of grudging respect. I think maybe even more so for Londo toward G’Kar. These two do understand one another on many levels.

You know what? You can take all of the very best in state-of-the-art computer animation applied to the show for its time and you can drop kick it into next week and keep em’. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans without the story and without these splendid character performances. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nice to have to open up the Babylon 5 universe and needed, but this is where it’s at for me. You give me a small room with Londo & G’Kar locked into dialogue together and that’s all the pleasure in the world. These two mammoth talents just engage and this sci-fi fanatic is simply in awe. These two are a big part of why I am excited about each installment of the series. At this point, given how strong this series is, it does feel as though Babylon 5 Season One truly is a liability to the first time viewer, because they simply have no idea, based upon the evidence of those first few episodes, where this thing is going to end up. It’s a shame that some don’t get passed those first several entries. Patience is required. I know, as many have pointed out here, that I will return to that first season someday with a whole new and different appreciation. I’m also looking forward to just blowing through it and being entertained without having to think about it or overanalyze it for a blog. It'll be a blast.

Moving along, the White Star is cruising along on autopilot and Marcus and Ivanova share one of those terrific character-driven sequences Straczynski is a genius at writing. I love those quiet moments where the characters get to spread their wings and stretch out their feelings without the chaos of war to keep them from letting their hair down. We know war is right around every corner and we savor the lull in the action. I definitely love these kinds of interactions. They make the show.

We really get some fine insights into the hearts of these two characters. So, is Marcus speaking of Ivanova here? I wonder. Is this a possible future he envisions for himself. Clearly Ivanova isn’t a virgin. But Marcus? He’s a bloody virgin! Shocking! I’m thinking there were a few female fans out there that would happily have stepped in to tame that pony boy by now.

The White Star picks up some kind of time distortion in hyperspace. A ripple effect washes over the White Star as they enter the area. Marcus and Ivanova see the appearance of a massive fleet of Vorlons.

Back on Babylon 5, Garibaldi awakens from a nightmare. Zack informs Garibaldi that Sheridan is dead. Meanwhile, a representative visits Delenn from the League Of Non-Aligned Worlds. There is a hope expressed that those who have aligned themselves with Babylon 5 will withdraw support. Here we have the brutality of politics as chess in play. It is an ugly thing to witness when the fate of the living hangs in the balance.

Down on Centauri Prime, Londo and Vir pay a visit to G’Kar. They enter his darkened cell only to find a spotlight shining down upon Emperor Cartagia. He sits in wait as a spotlight burns upon G’Kar who awaits torture via electro-whip. The emperor demands a scream from his prisoner. This sequence is not for the squeamish and without being graphic you get the picture crystal clear. It is just cringe-worthy and awful to witness. Straczynski delivers it perfectly.

This sequence reminds me of just how measured Straczynski’s use of special effects are within the series. Nothing is ever overdone or gratuitous. A whirr of PPG here, a Vorlon eye blast there, a sliding pike, a bit of electro-whip snap or electrical cane and we get the picture. It is a verse filled with technological gadgetry and weaponry and they offer nice touches to a whole host of scenes without becoming the scene. Certainly budgetary limitations were in play, but the use of the money at their disposal is always applied with just the right touch.

Ivanova and company return to Babylon 5. Meanwhile, another small craft has docked at the station. You know who it is, but exactly how did Sheridan & Lorien actually manage getting off the rock that is Z’Ha’Dum? Lennier is warning Delenn of a gathering of races. The self-appointed Drazi representative stands upon a bridgewalk and shouts to the gathered crowd of Delenn’s plans to attack Z’Ha”Dum. Sheridan steps out from the vessel and makes his way to the crowd taking his place next to the Drazi. Sheridan absolutely captures the attention of all like an impassioned politician. He stirs their imagination like a sermon from a pastor. Rumors of his demise have clearly been greatly exaggerated. His rousing speech assists in keeping the groups united like a statesman, a true leader. Delenn goes to his side and they…they...they snuggle. Snuggle-age I say. Awww swell, isn't that sweet. Okay, now let’s go kick some Shadows’ ass!
A snuggle I say!
Elsewhere, Ivanova visits Lyta who is in a weary heap upon her floor. “You know don’t you. It’s started.” Ivanova nods in agreement with great trepidation.

Sheridan fills the inner circle in on the history surrounding The Vorlons and The Shadows. While together, Garibaldi inquires cautiously with who exactly Lorien is. Sheridan tells him his name and that’s all he needs to know. He essentially says, ‘leave him alone he’s with me.’ Garibaldi is skeptical and doesn’t like it. It’s not out of character for Garibaldi to be suspicious at all, but there was such uneasiness about the meeting here. They were all together for the first time and there were still questions surrounding many in the room and where they stood. It felt as though the dynamic had changed between them all. Everyone seemed changed a bit. I can’t put my finger on it, but it definitely didn’t feel like a tight group of friends. There was a sense of mistrust about it. It definitely wasn't as friendly as one might think it to be after being apart so long. Zack clearly has questions regarding Garibaldi. Garibaldi has doubts about Lorien and Sheridan. The circle of trust seems on shaky ground at best.

If that's not the look of relief than I don't know it. This is a little more like it.
Ivanova finally engages in her first reunion with Sheridan and enters the meeting with Lyta and Marcus by her side. She embraces Sheridan with great relief and is deeply affected by seeing him again and knowing he is still very much alive. You can see it in her face. How happy is she to see this man? Ivanova breaks to the bad news to them about The Vorlons. It appears The Vorlons are getting protective and proactive. They are on the move, but are they going it alone? They will destroy any race infected or touched by The Shadows. The war just got bigger and it feels like the humans and other races are caught in the middle and on their own.

Straczynski shakes it up yet again and ups the ante. Garibaldi is off. The Vorlons are an enigma more than ever. The stakes just got a little higher as the galaxy seems teetering on the edge of chaos or complete destruction. It’s always interesting in the verse that is Babylon 5.

Odd random thought: [actually more as a result of all of the Ivanova talk] Could Ivanova's attraction to Talia been kind of a result of fulfilling that maternal void more than a lesbian attraction? Hmmm.
The Summoning: B


Anonymous said...

The 4th season definitely isn't for the squeamish and depending on how old your kids are, I suggest you should watch the episodes first before showing them to them.

As for Lyta. Sexual overtones were there in her relationship to Kosh from the beginning, they just weren't abusive. They turned abusive when Kosh was replaced by Ulkesh. I still maintain the Vorlons don't need the humans; they're just a convenient vehicle to carry them.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey M
Hope all is well. Now I must say I don't believe there has been any official reference to the Kosh replacement as Ulkesh. Am I correct in thinking that or did I miss something?

Also, I'm a bit slow to the sexual undercurrents apparently. : ) But they were definitely quite pronounced here.

Havremunken said...


I don't think Ulkesh has been named as such in the series. But it is no spoiler so I guess it is useful to refer to it as such, along with other useful names such as 'Evil Kosh', 'New Kosh' and 'Cowboy Kosh'. :)

Ulkesh is not using Lyta for sexual pleasure, she is just carrying him around to places he couldn't otherwise go, at least not without being detected. But you are of course right in that the whole nature of their relationship is very much represented by the sexual undertones. Real Kosh was nice and caring, Ulkesh sees us more as ants to be used for his own purposes. Poor Lyta.

The whipping scene is one of the most memorable in all of B5 for me. Not because I'm squemish, but because you so rarely see something like that executed on television. It was brutal, it was evil, it was painful, and that's the way it is supposed to be. That's why we get to follow along all the way to 39 - no cutaways to something else. It's brutally effective. One of the political parties here in Norway (we have several, not just the two-party system that you have in the US, making fun political chaos for all to enjoy) actually spoke out against B5 in a national newspaper because of this scene. Of course, the fact that this political party is based on christian values and Babylon 5 being shown early Sunday afternoon didn't help - but they didn't really get any support for the idea of taking it off the air. And if they had tried that (in the age before downloading TV-shows was commonplace), us militant B5 fans would have picked up our PPGs and stormed something. :)

The Garibaldi themes in this episode have consequences far beyond the current plot and is a very interesting one from several angles. He himself does not know what is going on - and knowing our Garibaldi, this causes him no small amount of frustration. :)

Apart from the whipping, as mentioned in the comments for an earlier episode, the current G'Kar and Londo stuff is so strong that you can't help but feel for the both of them. Londo's respect for G'Kar is probably growing larger than he'd like to admit, while G'Kar gets to live out the sacrifice ideology he cooked up when Kosh showed him the nature of things. Believe me, after you've watched the series, you'll love going back to early episodes and see their hatred with a weird kind of joy. And perhaps with a little sadness.

Man I gotta convince my fiancé to start watching this show. An episode here and there just doesn't cut it. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

As always a thoughtful post from Norway...

Cowboy Kosh - that's funny.

Well put on the whipping scene by the electrical whip. It's hardcore and unflinching in its portrayal. It is amazing they were able to pull that kind of torture off on TV in some respects. Great story regarding politics and B5 shared with us there on its reception overseas. I always find stories like that fascinating.

The Garibaldi stuff is really one of the most intriquing threads in the series for me at this current point. I am very curious how this thing goes. Definitely don't give me any hints. The Ulkesh thing is no biggie at all. I just couldn't remember if I had missed that.

G'Kar/ Londo for President 2008! : )

Anonymous said...

Well, actually Lyta ist not "being sucked bone dry of her own life force by the vampiric like Vorlon, New Kosh, so that she may "carry" him."
Kosh ist taking back the part of himself, that she was carrying around.
Ulkesh is quite rough doing this, wich is - if you look at it in a logical way - not very clever.
As far as we know, Lyta is the only human who can serve him for this special purpose.
She is the only human who was at the Vorlon homeworld and was "changed", so she could serve/worke with Kosh.
If Ulkesh is too careless, he might loose her.
But I do not think, he is considering this point ;o)


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Interesting observation Ly. That means he's not exactly the brightest Vorlon bulb in the bunch. I hope he ensure she had one of those top of the line mattresses at least. : )

Anonymous said...

Being sucked dry from her life force may well be a side effect. And I don't think Ulkesh really cares if Lyta is there or not. She's a convenient means of transportation, but she's also a liability. Now that Sheridan has opened an "unexpected door", the humans aren't that important any longer. Plus Ulkesh isn't Kosh. In "To Dream in the City of Sorrows", which deals with Sinclair's stay on Minbar as an ambassador, Ulkesh is the Vorlon ambassador to Minbar. And I can tell you, He is the supreme annoyance throughout the entire book.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Great segueway M... I've been really interested in picking up one of the B5 books to read at night as I drift into la la land. Which one is SAFE to read at this point. I think I will read the one you mentioned to start. But yes, that Ulkesh is a nasty git.

Anonymous said...

This one is spoiler-safe now, as well as the first two Psi Corps trilogy books, the first two technomage trilogy books, and "The Shadow Within".


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Great M! Thanks. I know you mentioned it once before I believe I just wanted to make sure. Cool.

Anonymous said...

To start with the Drennan book is a good idea. "The Shadow Within" would be a nice follow-up, as it deals with Anna Sheridan's expedition on the Icarus to Z'ha'dum. Alternatively the first two books of the Psi-Corps trilogy.

Not sure what to recommend for the technomage trilogy. The first two books are spoiler-free now, as I said, and the third will be in a couple of weeks (once you've seen ep. "Into the Fire"). The central character, though, is a technomage named Galen - a student of Elric, Londo's menace in the Drazi conflict episode - and he isn't introduced in the B5 series proper. He appears in "A Call to Arms", "Crusade", and "The Lost Tales". He's a great character, easily one of the top five in the B5verse, and the technomage trilogy is kind of his backstory. The trilogy also doesn't spoil anything for Crusade or the movies mentioned, and Cavelos IMO is the best writer of the bunch. But as you haven't met him yet, it might be a bit difficult to relate to him.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Excellent and thorough as always....I will take on the first book then: To Dream In The City Of Sorrows. Looking forward to it.