Monday, May 11, 2009

B5 S5 Ep3: The Paragon Of Animals

Raiders or vintage Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raiders? You decide.

Here we are in the happy days of Babylon 5, Season Five, Episode 3, The Paragon Of Animals. It would appear the natives are getting restless as they say. There is a desire by President Sheridan and the command structure to sign a Declaration of Principles [penned by worthy hands of G'Kar], but the allied worlds are getting vocal over the lack of technological advances through their alliance and partnership among other issues. The Drazi are up to something forging their own voting block.

An alien world is being carpet bombed by what looks like raiders. A Ranger arrives at said planet and gives the alien people under seige there, the Enphele, some hope.

G'Kar is channeling his muse to attempt a rewrite on segments of the declaration to gain Drazi support. He is definitely in the zone and ultra focused. Garibaldi mentions the possibility of utilizing the telepaths as part of intelligence gathering as payment for their residence on the station. Sheridan permits a conversation to happen, but no committments are made at this time.

Garibaldi heads to Brown sector to find Byron. Disturbingly, they have a nice, cozy, little cult developing there. It was slightly unsettling to see them already setting up the old telepath shop and clinging for protection to cult leader Byron. Strange stuff. Garidbaldi is great though in his handling of them until the British-accented Byron runs through his every thought with a fine tooth comb. He is indeed the charismatic Brit of this season as the show's serviceable replacement for the beloved Marcus. He's got the long hair, accent, but a more radical agenda. This is a good sequence.

That went well.
The Ranger returns through the jumpgate with a damaged White Star and he's rushed to medlab. The Ranger was lucky to make it back, but he slips into a coma and will die in hours. Delenn and Dr. Franklin discuss the who and what but have no real answers. Lyta Alexander is called upon for help. She does not have religious reservations regarding the use of her powers. Byron and crew share a different philosophy. It will be interesting to see how their meeting goes when they eventually come face to face and where Lyta goes with her character this season. I really like her and she is one heck of a red haired babe.

Lyta probes the Ranger's mind to draw information from the dying man. Apparently it was the Raiders that were attacking the alien race the Ranger arrived to help. An alien inside the Ranger's mind speaks for his people wishing to join the alliance. If the alliance does not assist his race within twelve days they will perish forever. The Ranger's final moments are to plead with Lyta to help this race so that he does not die in vain. The man reaches to the light and disappears.

Over dinner Sheridan and Delenn discuss the situation. All agree, with reservation, that this race needs help. Sheridan's Londo impersonation is nearly spot on. Sheridan's observation was not lost on me when that damaged White Star came through the jumpgate. He is concerned that whatever it is they will be facing managed to "trash" a White Star. Now, it was certainly fighting the good fight alone, but trashing a White Star is no easy task. I was surprised as well. Delenn recollects the teachings of Dukhat. "If you can create sufficient fear in your enemies you may not have to fight them. Always remember that terror is also a form of communication." Sheridan orders C & C to organize the White Stars. He tells them the White Stars are going to go find "the neighborhood bully and pick a fight," and that's about the size of it.

Kim Strauss returns to play the role of the Drazi ambassador. He has always been a solid recurring presence in a number of roles throughout the series. As Sheridan and the Drazi depart from their meeting we are graced with the presence of Byron. I think it is safe to say he is a menace to normal relations. I don't like the silver tongued devil. He may have good reasons, but his agenda is one of protecting his own kind and his own kind only. That will be an obstruction to any kind of mutual alliance.

Garibaldi meets with Lyta and fails to exchange any of the normal pleasantries and Lyta calls him on it. I feel for her. She certainly is used and abused by a number of forces in play. I understand that is what Byron is looking to prevent. Still, Lyta has been a solid ally and should be treated with some care and respect by these normals. It's unfortunate her telepathic power places her in a different class whereby people are quick to judge and fail to treat her as a unique person with feelings. Thus the normals/ mundanes/ telepath conflict I'm sure. Patricia Tallman is a fine actress and has really played the part with some genuine feeling throughout the series.

She has not had the easiest of times. There is also an interesting theory there about Bester's behavior reported by Lyta. Interesting. Garibaldi pleads with Lyta to speak with the other "teeps" [short for telepaths] despite her less than enthusiastic support. Garibaldi promises to never ask her for anything else again "until the next time." That's a classic! She agrees to do it. I can only imagine they will call her some kind of mundane sympathizer and not loyal to her people unless she conforms, but we shall see.

Meanwhile, G'Kar is burning the midnight oil in his attempts to work on the Declaration Of Independence, I mean Principles. Sheridan cannot sleep and gets up just in time for G'Kar to swing by. He leaves the scroll of the declaration gift tied at his door. G'Kar is indeed a Narn who believes. Delenn awakens. Sheridan reads to Delenn as it fades to G'Kar voice, a beautiful poetic voice as recited by Andreas Katsulas. I think he could recite food from a well-lit McDonalds menu and make it sound like the Gettysburg Address. Yes, this is one alien who believes in the cause and throws his entire weight and heart into that belief. I feel Sheridan may be right when he admits he cannot read like G'Kar, but he does a fine job too.

Lyta arrives in Brown sector to be greeted by the evil Lord Byron. Lyta does have one advantage in that she is a VERY VERY strong telepath and lets no one enter her mind. Byron doesn't need to be a telepath to know Garibaldi sent her. Here we go.

I suspected the possibility. And so it goes, just as Lyta has been pushed and pulled like a puppet by the normals, here we have the telepath leader manipulating her and pulling her strings accordingly for his own purposes. She just can't catch a break. She has always been a puppet, to the Vorlons, to Bester, to Sheridan and now to Byron. She is also partly to blame because she has been there to make these choices. That is a solid sequence and I would have to give it to Robin Atkins Downe for playing the part of Byron so convincingly. He is very good in the role here. He talks of 6,000 years of slavery and subjugation. He wishes her to see that she is not an animal. He asks if it matters that he help her "friend." She tells him "it matters." He agrees to give Garibaldi the aid of two. Byron's interest in accomdating a fellow telepath speaks to the interest or prejudice or bias he has of aiding his own "kind" and speaks volumes about his agenda in gaining Lyta's trust. He appears interested in fortifying a telepathic power base unbeholden to any interest outside of telepaths. Byron tells Lyta that the Drazi were broadcasting their thoughts quite "loudly." He informs her to tell Sheridan the White Stars are headed into a trap. He is a clever boy.

Lyta reports to Sheridan indicating the Drazi are supplying the Raiders. The Drazi will be leading the White Stars into a trap. Sheridan wisely alters the plan for safety reasons. Garibaldi will notify the fleet NOT to wait for the Drazi. So the question is who is manipulating who? Is Byron being forthright? Could the Drazi actually be that calculating after all these years? I thought they were a good, decent people [remember Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 18, Intersections In Real Time]. Hmmm. Ahh, such is the life of a Babylon 5 viewer. So I'm about to really lay into my thoughts on Sheridan as he walks around the room thinking he will NOT thank Lyta, but then he does thank her. He should have given her a big fat kiss and hug too, but that's me. Seriously, she deserves some credit from this guy. She was definitely taken aback when he thanked her. She has not heard those words often and she should. Anyway, Straczynski is definitely playing with her head now that she has a new connection with Byron forming, the writer makes her think about her loyalties to Sheridan and company.

The Raiders are enroute to the Enphele homeworld. The White Stars arrive and take out the Raiders. In a meeting at the council chambers Sheridan fills in the Drazi and other races that the White Stars have been successful and have taken up a defensive posture much to the Drazi ambassador's surprise. But why? It would appear the other shoe is about to drop indicating the Drazi were not in cahoots but we are about to find out if that is so. The Drazi asks if the Raiders sent out any kind of distress signal, but Londo indicates it was not possible. The Drazi ambassador is jumpy and impatient desiring to contact his government. Sheridan asks if it is the Drazi ship fleet coming to attack the Enphele. The Drazi race is the problem and Byron was indeed correct. The Drazi plays both sides and the race has been terrorizing the Enphele for a decade. The Drazi ambassador wants to call off the Drazi because he knows they will be annhilated by the White Stars by racing into a hot bed of fury. Bad call Drazi. In a desperate move he indicates he is on the side of the alliance, but Sheridan asks the other allies to decide. He begs to save his people from destruction and Sheridan allows him that plea. Wow. I thought he might let it play out. I suspected a different outcome. I also thought perhaps Byron did not have all the facts, but everything is playing out as it appeared. You see, you never can guess with Straczynski because he keeps you so damn uncertain most of the time that when he finally stays the course on something logical you can't actually believe it to be true.

Sheridan informs the alliance this is precisely why a Declaration Of Principles must be signed. The Drazi was the perfect illustration for that point. The double agent, back door dealings and hidden agendas must stop. How do the Gaim get their creepy alien insect heads into those helmets? The meeting is going very well and much to everyone's surprise. I believe the signing of the declaration is a big surprise to the likes of Garibaldi and Londo who were dubious at best. Lyta looks in with some satisfaction. She was instrumental in forging this next phase of the alliance. She works behind the scenes and gets none of the glory. Ah, the story of my own life.

I was reallly surprised Captain Lochley never made a single appearance throughout the whole entry. It is not lost on Sheridan or Delenn that both Byron and Lyta were critical in this success and that Garibaldi's belief in them was correct. In a moment of comedic timing, after the document has been signed by all, G'Kar arrives to tell Sheridan they must re-sign because he has made the document better. Arggh! So true. The life of writing. I imagine G'Kar was channeling Straczynski here. Sheridan reads, "it's better." "Some days it's like living in a madhouse." Sheridan's final thought is that Garibaldi is right but that they are standing on the precipice of something catastrophic or disastrous, or as he puts it the edge of a "slippery slope" and that this must be watched carefully.

The epilogue: Lyta visits Byron. Byron is a bit of a self-appointed messiah. It doesn't feel right. Still, Lyta is interested in hearing more from our messianic friend as he takes her hand and they walk away. DANGER WILL ROBINSON- DANGER! I don't like that one bit. This has TROUBLE written all over it. The seeds to the Telepath War continue to germinate. This was a decent episode, but something is different about this season versus the previous three. I know many things are different, but it feels less urgent and less interesting for lack of a better word. We shall see. It's early.

The Paragon Of Animals: B-


aris-tgd said...

This was a decent episode, but something is different about this season versus the previous three. I know many things are different, but it feels less urgent and less interesting for lack of a better word. We shall see. It's early.I usually urge people who are feeling dispirited about the quality of Season 5 to hold on until after Phoenix Rising, at which point it starts to get VERY GOOD again. The first half of the season I have some problems with, even though I've grown to like a lot of it, but the second half has so many moments that make me tear up.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you. That's good to know. We have a ways to go then before getting to the good stuff. Should be interesting. "Dispirited" is a good word. Thanks aris-tgd!

Anonymous said...

The "lack of urgency" is mostly due to JMS finishing up some major arcs in season four because of the threat of cancellation. As a result, about four episodes worth of material were moved from season 5 to season 4. Either Intersections in Real Time or Face of the Enemy were supposed to be the season 4 finale.

Apart from that and Claudia Christian leaving the show, there was the problem that all of JMS's notes for season 5 got lost in a hotel at a convention, and my feeling is that he also suffered from a burnout syndrom.

But somehow I got the feeling that you've started to become "dispirited" with the show quite a bit earlier, somewhere around the middle of season 4.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Gee, I don't think so. I really liked Intersections and a block of entries toward the end of Season Four. I do feel you may be mistaking my own personal burnout from writing [like that of Straczynski's burnout you mentioned] with a lack of interest in the show. I didn't feel the show was losing steam at all.

I was personally, I admit it.

Still, Season Five has been a little off momentum for me. It could be me, but it's not quite there for me. I think some of your thoughts M do lend some reasoning to it. I didn't know some of those things. I do miss Claudia.

I think aris-tgd and others have indicated that Season Five may not have been the strongest. I know its debateable but I know people out there who have indicated this to me. We'll stay with it.