Thursday, May 28, 2009

B5 S5 Ep5: Learning Curve

Ah yes, the infamous cold shoulder. Delenn looks awfully familiar strikingly close to The One To Be Pitied there.

I wonder what possibilities might exist for a reimagined, rebooted, Babylon 5? With Battlestar Galactica over and Star Trek a success you can't help but be curious about the potential with today's state-of-the-art effects.
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This season has been a bit of a slow down over Season Four. Let's face it, this series has always been a literary type work, but Season Five has not had the strongest writing out of the gate.

Here we go with Babylon 5, Season Five, Episode 5 [that's a lot of Fives], Learning Curve. We begin with Ranger training by a Minbari religious master named Turval. The training is provided by the religious caste. There is a friendly exchange of differing ideas by a representative of the warrior caste to the religious caste teacher. "My inner voice was smiling," says one of the Ranger students called Tannier. "No one has an inner voice that smiles," replies the warrior caste Minbari called Durhan. The religious caste Minbari student tells him "I do." The warrior member indicates he would expect that from the religious caste. The warrior caste is comprised of some fairly sizable dickheads!
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Meanwhile on Babylon 5 a thug-like fellow is positioning himself as a power player on Babylon 5. As the entry begins Durhan, Turval, Tannier and Restenn all report to Babylon 5 to meet Delenn. In the food court Lochley, Zack and Garibaldi break bread together. What begins as a pleasant exchange clearly spirals into a heated one. Garibaldi broaches the subject of taking sides and implies she was on the "other" side during the civil war. Lochley believes there are more than two sides.

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She's good. She's real good. You can't help but feel Garibaldi has met his match in her. She hops into one of the elevators with a deep breath and bumps into President Sheridan whom she discusses the incident with regarding Garibaldi. Perhaps Lochley has met her match as she indicates here.

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So, folks are turning up dead around the station by PPG blasts, three to date. The thug gives instructions to his henchmen to take out Zack because he's sniffing too close to their digs. A fellow from the Down Below approaches the scumbag thug to back off Zack. It may bring unwanted attention.
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Durhan and Turval discuss the An'la'shok with Delenn and the vast, growing membership from the various races. The Pak'ma'ra are somewhat problematic with their penchant for eating the dead. Delenn suggests using the shunned Pak'ma'ra as couriers. Their presence is often discarded by other races. They could serve the function well with an almost stealth-like service given the disdain many races apparently harbor for them. Later, Turval speaks of Lennier's reckless nature as a Ranger trainee. His actions are almost atonement-like as they were for the late Marcus.
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Garibaldi meets with some of the station guests that are our resident telepaths. He indicates to them they would be used for information gathering when needed. As the telepaths depart they have said not a single word and Garibaldi levels a quick dig. "Next time, try to contain your enthusiasm for the job." Garibaldi wants Zack to pull a security jacket on Lochley. The man never relents.
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This is a great line and reply after Garibaldi asks for info on Lochley.
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Zack: "You really got a bug up your butt about her, don't you? I mean, did it ever occcur to you that just because someone doesn't agree with you that doesn't mean they're the enemy."
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Garibaldi: "No."
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Zack heads to Brown level to get a tip from a tipster [makes sense]. Apparently the tipster has setup Zack so our thug friends can kill him. The woman doesn't like the plan as she learns Zack will be killed. A struggle ensues and our two rookie Ranger boys hear the scream. Tannier says they must go. Rastenn does not want to get involved. Tannier heads off. Tannier saves the woman but the thugs give him a slight beating. Nice of Rastenn to back up his partner. The Ranger boys head off to perform a Minbari/ Ranger practice dubbed "the application of terror." Sounds effective enough.
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Delenn meets with Captain Lochley. Delenn informs Lochley the jurisdiction over this issue will be handled by The Rangers. Lochley objects. She tells Delenn she is pulling rank. Lochley calls the usurpation of her authority an act of revenge. Delenn says that is not the case. It is about "terror." Delenn tells Lochley Tannier must face those that hurt him. He must face down those who have power over him. He will stand alone. "In the end Captain, we all stand alone." So we are hoping for a good old Tannier fistfest. It's a bit like coming-of-age for the Minbari and a rite of passage. It reminds me of those elementary to high school rituals of survival we've all had to face or endure.
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In sick bay, Tannier heals. Rastenn speaks of his cowardice to Turval. Turval tells him he needs to heal but that the truth is good. "You were afraid of dying without reason." Turval gives him a good talking to. There is significance in "doing each right thing." He tells him, "We create the meaning in our lives. It does not exist independently." "Living each moment as if it were your last," - yes I like this Minbari's philosophy.
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Security is cleared from Brown level and the power is cut. One by one the men are picked off by Tannier. They have screwed with the wrong Minbari. He's like a stealth assassin as the men go down. The quick edits of Tannier essentially appearing from out of nowhere and wacking the wackers one by one is kind of laughable. It looks a little silly. I mean come on really. Everyone is literally taken out, something like 8 guys with the one head thug remaining. The thug is surrounded by the Minbari [what happened to standing alone?]. He is going to be taught a very severe lesson. It's a duel to the death. While the battle rages, Turval is off on the sidelines heckling the pathetic fellow. It's hysterical. He's calling him a coward, brainless and a bully. It's great. Wouldn't we all like to have our own support group during tough times. He's even compared to a Pak'ma'ra. So much for embracing diversity. Tannier just out of medlab is still triumphant. Tannier is a quality Ranger, a class act. Nevertheless, he may have been given big kudos for handling his enemy, but the enemy wasn't really a significant factor. He wasn't impressive as an adversary. He was, after all, a mere thug. Where's a decent baddie when you need one? Anyway, the key is not giving into the terror.
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It's nice to see Durhan and Turval getting along so well despite being from different castes. Things appear to be going well between the groups. You know you're going to have problems getting the Minbari to work with other races when they don't even care for one another at times.
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Zack tells Garibaldi he's like the Minbari, relentless.

Later before bed, Delenn asks Sheridan why Lochley said "it's not like him" regarding Sheridan's decision to handle the Rangers. Delenn is troubled by this. It didn't really strike me as much of anything at the time it was mentioned, but apparently there was more to it. Delenn certainly read more into it. In fact, I think it was shoehorned into the entry a bit at that moment and really didn't flow well enough for me to pick up on it. Obviously it was meant to be more of a revelation than I felt it was. She gives Sheridan the cold shoulder. Looks like he's in the doghouse for not having told Delenn of his previous relationship with Lochley, at least that's how I took it. It would appear Anna may not have been the only "other woman." Still, why is Delenn so damned offended by Sheridan's omission. She is the master of deceit and concealment. She rarely tells the full story on anything. She is quick to omit on a host of issues often. Can you say hypocrite? Ah, wedded bliss.
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Learning Curve: C+

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

B5 S5 Ep4: A View From The Gallery

These two thoughtful chuckleheads are terrific!

A satellite is destroyed as Babylon 5, Season 5, Episode 4, A View From The Gallery begins. Captain Lochley's hair is pulled back and tight. She is tough and in charge here as she prepares her station crew for an oncoming attack by hostile alien forces. Defenses are launched in preparation for the attack. As things hit a red alert status the cameras draw in on two unsung, behind-the-scenes, hero-like, maintenance crew repairmen. The two carry on with their duties unaffected by the drama or commotions swirling about them. They simply get their jobs done.


Lochley recommends Sheridan and Delenn vacate the station, but Sheridan won't budge. Our two unlikely stars are Mack and Bo whose day-to-day activities appear to be in the background like flies on the wall as they witness the unfolding of politics, conversations and the comings and goings across Babylon 5 with hardly a notice. Their commentaries are amusing.

Would you not just want to drink with this guy?

As the credits roll it was interesting to note this was the first entry credited as "teleplay by J. Michael Straczynski" while the story was penned by him along with Harlan Ellison. I imagine the idea and comedy might have something to do with Ellison's input. As it moves along I get the sneaking suspicion this one will be focused on the two crewman. I'm reminded of Stargate SG-1, Season 6, Episode 6, The Other Guys starring John Billingsley [aka Dr. Phlox of Star Trek: Enterprise] and Patrick McKenna [Canadian actor best known for The Red Green Show] as the episode centered on the antics of those two unlikely heroes. I wonder if they got the idea from this episode? Granted TV has typically gone on diversions with secondary characters within TV shows for ages. There is often the hope of a spin-off, which is clearly not the intention here.
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I was immediately drawn in by these two characters. I kept imagining what life must be like for these two working stiffs on the station. I mean they get up and go to work on a cylindrical tube and probably never leave. Are they best friends outside of work? Do they hang out in the Zocalo? Do they have family? It made me thing about station life on a more day to day, humdrum level as the men swapped sandwiches and stories. I was really digging it.
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I was kind of laughing as a couple of the CGI shots made me realize how often the show reused shots due to budgetary restrictions. It reminded me of the classic, original Battlestar Galactica's use of shots over and over. The shots are certainly more sophisticated here. Then of course the new Battlestar Galactica's effects are just off the charts. Amazing quickly technology moves in the span of a decade.

Dr. Franklin grabs Bo for some repairs. I love how this particular entry points to the guys behind the scenes that kind of get things done. They rarely get any of the glory. These are guys I can relate to. I love this moment between Bo and Dr. Franklin. It makes you ask the questions, right and wrong, and what side you're on. I'm with Bo, but damn it Jim! I'm not a doctor! Straczynski makes a great case for preserving life here nevertheless.

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Now that is one heck of a costume job!

Meanwhile Mack is doing his part in Command & Control during the heat of battle. Mack manages to pull a bug from the works and brings the primary weapons systems back on line. I don't believe we've had the pleasure of seeing those powerful green laser systems before. It may also be the first time I've ever had the pleasure of seeing a cockroach [a.k.a. B15] in costume for film. That little critter had quite the get up.

Mack and Bo discuss the new captain and Mack likes what he sees. The two talk about the "scuttlebutt" on Lochley and which side she was on. Mack tells Bo not to feed into the rumors, but these guys hear them all. Mack and Bo head to Brown 9 when Gariabldi and Lochley get into the elevator in the midst of a major blowout. I get the feeling the rumors may actually start with the repair crew. They witness and see and hear everything. Ha! Granted if they are getting just bits and pieces this could be a problem for the rumor mill. As the fight rages and Lochley exits one can't help but figure these two people, Garibaldi and Lochley, really don't like each other. Next topic of concern for the boys, getting good pizza. Those are the kinds of heady concerns I like to handle myself. I'm a big pizza guy. It has to be great pizza and it's hard to find. It has been a kind of mission of mine to try different pizza whenever I can. Yes, I like these guys.

Mack and Bo give some good insights into the workings of the jumpgate technology in their casual discussions. I remember casual discussions ages ago with a midnight crew stocking grocery shelves in a supermarket when I was younger. Those were some weird dudes to work along side. One of them always had the freezer section and he always wore one of those hats where the flaps come down and cover the ears like Snoopy's Red Baron cap. I think the cold air was getting to that dude's head to boot. I'm glad I didn't have to handle the frozen TV dinners section.

The attack on the station is ON by these very opportunistic aliens.

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Some alien breaching pods connect to the station and civilians are asked to take to the shelters. Aliens board as our "other guys" are caught in the heat of battle. Zack and friends are kicking ass and getting some ass kicked of their own. Mack and Bo add a little of their own fight to the mix and then begin crawling on the floor to make their way out of the firing range. Wow! There is working through rain, sleet or snow, but firefights ain't in the job description. Whoa!
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Mack and Bo run into the friendly neighborhood telepathic weirdos of Brown sector and Byron tells them to rest with them. A recitation on death ensues by Byron. Mack tells them they'd be safer in a shelter when an alien appears. Byron and friends pull the old Jedi Mind Trick and the alien lowers its weapon and walks away. Those are some handy skills to have in a gun battle when you don't have a gun. Bo wishes he could be out there flying when Byron does a mind trick on him giving him the allusion he is in the fight. These are powerful telepaths with powers we have not encountered in the telepaths to date.
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G'Kar and Londo are sheltered and give us one of the rare, special moments by the two characters in quite some time.

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I thought it was interesting to see G'Kar speak honestly with Londo and for Londo to listen, digest handle, and take it like a man rather than avoid it. These men continue to grow and their relationship continues to change.

Throughout the battle, Babylon 5 is incurring substantial damage and fires are raging as robots are doing their best to put out fires and make repairs. Mack and Bo's shelter time comes to an end as they are needed in Red sector.

Mack and Bo happen upon one of those many day-to-day events on Babylon 5 with a squabbling Delenn and Sheridan as Sheridan tries to place Delenn in a lifepod. Sheridan tasks Bo and Mack with getting Delenn to a lifepod safely. Do visions of R2D2 and C3PO come to mind? How can you not think of that original Star Wars movie when it comes to lifepod escape sequences? The two men witness a big smoocheroo before escorting her there. Delenn asks for their names and compares the two men to her own worker caste. True. Good point. These are the people that make things go. Delenn convinces them both that she will not be leaving and that she will stay on the station where she calls home.

The violence is quelled quickly as the White Star fleet arrives to save the day.
The station is in complete disarray and in some disrepair. In the end, Mack and Bo witness Dr. Franklin tending to the dead. "They get all the glory, we get all the mess....well, maybe not all the mess," as they notice with heavy hearts. It's a sobering moment to see all of the dead lying still under the blue neon lights of WELCOME TO BABYLON 5.

This was clearly an episode in the experimental category of Straczynski's wish list. I really enjoyed the interactions between Mack and Bo, played by actors Raymond O'Connor [a character actor I've seen many times] and Lawrence LeJohn respectively. They play those parts perfectly and on the whole it was good. I liked its off the beaten path stroll through Babylon 5. It was an interesting character study.
Still, what I liked most about this episode was the writing centered on the friendship and life of these two station hands. Whether it was sharing a tale or small talk over "tastes like chicken." This is special stuff. This is the stuff of real life. Surprising I would be so excited over real life when I completely immerse myself in sci-fi escape. Still, you need the real in science fiction for it to work.

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The final moment is sweet when Mack calls out Lochley's name to tell her "I know you're new here and all and uh, I just wanted to say, you're okay in my book ma'am." He almost speaks for us with his welcoming words. This is followed by Delenn saying hello to Mack in the hallways. Sweet stuff.

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A View From The Gallery: B

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Maisie

This little Scottish Terrier's name is Maisie.

She is the new addition to our family and she has thrown my free time for a bit of a loop. She's a smart little one, but we are doing our best to train her quickly. I'll get us on track shortly. I forgot what it was like to have a puppy. We went to purchase snails and came home with a Scottie.

I wanted to call her Spock because of her ears but I was quickly overruled.

She's a sweet dog. I'm going into sci-fi withdrawl though. I can't get to the TV because you can't let her roam areas without keeping a close watch. Argh!

Anyway, I'm doing my best to stay with it.

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.

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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.

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That went well.
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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.

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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.

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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-

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dom DeLuise 1933-2009

Big Dom Deluise passed away today. I must confess I was never a big fan of Dom DeLuise. He seemed like a household name at one point when I was young. He even seemed to be everywhere I turned at the movies at one point. He was seemingly attached to Burt Reynolds hip as well. It was like they were brothers. I remember Fatso [1980] and Hot Stuff [1979] and The End [1978] with Burt. I remember being pretty moved by Fatso as a kid. Anyway, those were the high points for me when it comes to Dom. I know he influenced alot of people and was certainly beloved by many.

One of Dom's greatest gifts, he would no doubt agree with a smile, were his kids. My kids love David DeLuise who happens to be the father in Wizards Of Waverly Place. I laughed when I saw him take his regular spot on that kids' series after seeing him as Samantha Carter's love interest in Stargate SG-1. He played the part of unlucky Pete Shanahan. He was another victim in sexy Sam Carter's love wake.

Peter DeLuise, another of Dom's yunguns was also a significant player in the success of Stargate SG-1 and for bringing us Peter Dom - we thank you. Peter directed many wonderful episodes of Stargate SG-1. One of those episodes, Season Three, Episode 16, Urgo, happens to be one of my least favorite. It tries a little too hard to be funny [imho], and is a bit of a snooze on the whole. Peter enlisted his father Dom to guest for the episode as Urgo. In honor of the big Dom I selected one of my favorite moments from Urgo. He was an eternally loveable man. I think the scene really pays tribute to him.

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On a side note, who knew Richard Dean Anderson would be the good luck charm to power a franchise? He's really funny throughout Stargate SG-1 and one of the primary reasons I hold that original series so dear. He's a joy to watch. It ranks in my top five.

B5 S5 Ep2: The Very Long Night Of Londo Mollari

I've always enjoyed the blue and reddish hues in Babylon 5.

Baseball is killing me on any free time I thought I might have. I've heard good things about this particular installment of the final season. I suspect J. Michael Straczynski will look to this final season to experiment a little, tie up some loose ends and continue to weave the multi-layered intricacies of his intended story.
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We've all had a few long nights in our day let's see where Londo's night takes him in Babylon 5, Season Five, Episode 2, The Very Long Night Of Londo Mollari. It begins with a call from Minbar. A Minbari informs Delenn of a message received on the homeworld of Lennier's intended return home- for good. It is surprising news that is delivered to Delenn.

Londo Mollari is outraged to learn all incoming food shipments are to be quarantined for health inspections for three days due to infestations. Vir makes an attempt to smooth things over with Zack while Londo takes a swig of the 'very delicate' Brevari, a special Centauri cocktail. He is overcome by toxins falls to the floor while medlab is contacted for help. Londo/ Peter Jurasik is extremely funny here and delivers one of his many note perfect scenes.

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Delenn visits Lennier. "Why?," she asks. I suspect working for the wife of Sheridan must be heartbreaking for Lennier to some extent at this point. He definitely does not feel needed or his services required. A union between a man and a woman kind of puts a damper on those things. Lennier will be joining the Rangers. It is "the calling of my heart" [a concept covered extensively in Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 9, Atonement]. I do believe his previous combat experience makes him a terrific candidate. We have seen some impressive moves by Lennier over the years from his protection of Londo in Season One to his confrontation with Marcus later. I now suspect the calling of his heart is his love for Delenn despite her heart being with another. Nevertheless he must squash and crush those feelings in order to move forward. It's a pretty touching moment between them. Still, is he truly following his calling by leaving? No, but he is saving face as they say on Minbar.

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Ah, the ol' fully redundant heart system compliments of the Centauri. You gotta love that.
Clearly Lennier is moving on because he must. It is for the good of his heart. Speaking of hearts, Garibaldi reports to Vir that Londo is in critical condition. He has had a heart attack, just one though, "the left one." You'll recall Londo has the "bi-pulmonary" system. The right heart is the easiest to repair of the two. The right is the big muscle. The left is finer and more complex. Centauri Prime is sending an artificial heart system but it will arrive at Babylon 5 in three days, two days too late. It could be a very long night indeed or a permanant night's rest to be precise.

Delenn and Sheridan look over Londo and recall how he has made them laugh, made them feel angry and annoyed, but never sorry for him until this time. They would miss him if he was to depart. As Delenn leaves she wishes him "good luck."

The camera zooms into Londo's mind where he searches for Delenn. Perhaps this is one of those Straczynski experiments, an effort to try something a little different. He finds her as they sit together at a table to look to his past. She tells Londo he is dying, but he knows this. He seems resigned to his fate. She asks him "do you want to live?" He wonders if it matters, but he tells her "Yes, I want to live." "That is not enough," she returns. She tells him there is a "word," but she will not give him the answer. He walks to a metal grate where a heart pulses. He touches the beating heart, but does not understand. We see G'Kar in the Shadows before returning to the reality of his medlab bedside. The Sci-Fi Fanatic has a confession. I get all freaked out by hearts, beating hearts whatever. The sound of a heart beating will have me grabbing my chest and feeling all mortal. Yeah, I don't like talking about hearts especially when life is on the line. At night, when I am resting, and beginning to slip into a relaxed mode of sleep, The One To Be Pitied will sometimes torture me by simply saying things like "monkey heart" or "heart surgery." That will get me all wound up and she does this to me on purpose with great pleasure.

Lennier visits old friend Vir. This is obviously very cute and sweet as these two friends lick their proverbial wounds together.

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I cannot recall which episode it was these two characters sat together at the bar, but I was reminded of that moment they spent together last. I got off my lazy buttocks and checked it out. It was Season Two, Episode 22, The Fall Of Night. Still there may have been another moment along the way.

Some cool camera work.
I loved the funky Londo cam. That's always brilliant. Londo visits one of his favorite watering holes in the Zocalo as he clearly grapples with the possibility of dying. He visits Sheridan there as they discuss the reality of death. "We're all dying Londo, 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, doesn't matter, what matters is what we do while we're waiting around, how we live out the seconds in between." Such a wonderful truth and one of the many Straczynski seems to have such a sharp eye for capturing in his series. Londo acknowledges he has not done well in that regard. Sheridan asks Londo to turn around. G'Kar is behind him, but Londo cannot turn. Sheridan tells him he will die then. Londo must force himself outside of his paralysis. He must free himself or he will be doomed.

"I don't want to die. Please great maker. I don't want to die. Not like this," cries Londo. Vir tells him, "then don't die." Vir tells him he must turnaround to face his conscience. He must come to terms with what he has done to G'Kar. But Londo is stubborn and refuses to turn. Vir warns that he is out of time. G'Kar stands behind his willingness to face his mistakes. Vir tells him he must let go of the pain. Vir tells him his dying would not be for the best and that he would indeed be missed. It's kind of like a dark, science fiction version of It's A Wonderful Life. Seriously, how hard is it for us as individuals to face our fears, to stand and right wrongs or face the truth. It is a difficult thing and I imagine even more arduous when you have done as much damage as Londo.

G'Kar visits Londo. "Now Mollari, now we end this." G'Kar and Londo visit Centauri Prime, the site of the infamous death he has dreamed so many times of his destiny. G'Kar revisits those fateful days of Centauri's attack on the Narn homeworld by Lord Refa and friends detailed in Babylon 5, Season Two, Episode 20, The Long, Twilight Struggle [another long night as you've noted]. Londo wanted no part of it and to some extent that is true, but as G'Kar points out "You said nothing." Straczynski makes a great point here about the guilty and those who would stand by and do nothing remaining silent as people die. How often do you see people refuse to get involved out of fear of something. It happens everyday. People have disconnected and Straczynski's argument is a classic. It is also brilliant how Straczynski goes back to G'Kar's torture to turn the tables and offer us another perspective.

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G'Kar takes Londo back to the place where G'Kar was badly whipped in Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 3, The Summoning. He tells Londo "You were there and you said nothing." Ouch. I thought it was great to see Straczynski revisit this and the depth of pain that was forced upon G'Kar. It was good to see Londo's character have to face up to these atrocities because it was the one area I had a hard time with getting past. It seemed a little too tidy just a tad too quick in the interest of time for Season Four, but here we see it manifesting itself in the festering within Londo's character. This was important. G'Kar tells Londo, "one word was all that was required of you." Delenn had mentioned this earlier. What word is it? "Sorry," "Enough" or "Stop?" Londo tells G'Kar it wouldn't have mattered. I have gone on long enough. Londo nearly relents. You must witness this crucial exchange.

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The scene of that fateful electro-whipping is inverted and Londo is now chained to the pillar as G'Kar requests "one word- I want to hear it." As Londo goes into cardiac arrest they pull back his clothes so we can see his infamous sex organs.....wicked cool! Thirty-nine whips later and Londo screams. He is still hanging on. "I don't want to die." G'Kar is clearly Londo's conscience in this battle for life. G'Kar tells him "just a word Mollari that's all it takes." The lightbulb clicks on and Londo realizes, "I've never apologized for anything in my life." Grovelling Londo pleads "I'm sorry." If there is one thing about Londo, when he says something he is sincere in his words. I think more than just a word, it is also the sincerity with which those words are spoke. I hear alot of words from our elected leaders and not much sincerity inside them.

This is the moment the entire entry builds too. I literally choked up at this point and I had been fairly detached from the proceedings until this very moment. G'Kar is standing near him and is overcome by emotion himself in witnessing Londo's catharsis.

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Londo is back and in good humor. Vir and Londo discuss an old Centauri tale about a struggle of the spirit between good and evil. Vir implies Londo had undergone such a struggle unintentionally. Londo was never told of the tale as a child like Vir was told. What I did think was interesting was Vir's ability to go back to answering Londo's question in that scene. After fumbling for words, as only Vir can at times, he was able to refocus, compose himself and answer the question. There was real strength there for him. Once again, courage and facing up shines for our man Vir. Both are very different men and we see how such trials face us all big and small.

And so with a heavy heart Lennier says farewell to Delenn.

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It's very hard to say goodbye. His heart is broken. Is hers? Lennier is a truly sad little fellow.

So we have a real turning point here for Londo. With his ability to turn the corner and change and his willingness to apologize and forgive himself has he in fact changed the course of his future? One would assume he has done precisely that. I thought there were some tremendous moments in this one that made for a fairly emotional entry. Let's face it, if there's hope for Londo there is hope for all of us.

The Very Long Night Of Londo Mollari: B