Wednesday, August 6, 2008

B5 S3 Ep15: Interludes And Examinations

This photo hands down captures one of the highlights of Babylon 5 Season Three for me and perhaps the series as a whole. The verbal battle between these two powerful figures has never been more exciting. Holy Encounter Suit!

The introduction is perfect featuring narration by Susan Ivanova voiced over ongoing operations in the War Room. August 3rd, 2260. Personal diary. I was wondering how the hell Morden managed to keep slipping by screening and security to set even a foot on Babylon 5, but Ivanova's narration lends some understanding to it. Morden has his share of moles within security personnel who are clearly in his back pocket. Background checks are allowing for lapses in obtaining quality people and riff raff like Morden are gaining entry.

Anyway, Ivanova's serious, matter-of-fact tone reminded me of classic Original Series Star Trek when Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner, voiced over the opening minutes of an episode in the same style. Ivanova brings us up to speed on the Shadows maneuvering. They have been attacking in the open, on the outer rim, for ten days.

Adira [one of the hottest Centauri bald chicks to grace the program in Season One] is returning and Londo is over the moon preparing for her arrival.

By God, he is one Dirty Rotten Scoundrel.
The devil himself, the evil Morden [always played deliciously by Ed Wasser], is back and more treacherous than ever. When we first see Mr. Morden he is meeting with some kind of informant and the snitch is left for dead in his wake. He’s already up to no good before the credits even roll. Would we want it any other way? Oh and those nasty Shadow spiders with their crickety sound effects are hanging all around him unseen but protective at all times. It’s always a pleasure to see Wasser in his recurring role for Babylon 5. Welcome to Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 15, Interludes And Examinations [or The Kosh & Sheridan Showdown] and hands down one of my favorite episodes of the season.

Folks! I have had an affection/ love affair for this space pilot-looking, gas mask-breathing, apparatus-affixed alien creature right along throughout the series. This race has always been milling about in the background whether it be in the bars or coming on board the station. Glimpses of the race have held me enraptured and desiring to know more teasing me with just a simple moment here and there. It is definitely one of the coolest alien designs of any science fiction series out there. Maybe it’s because the thing reminds of an extra from the Cantina scenes on Tatooine from Star Wars. It definitely has that look for me. It even talks all weird with its electronica-laced vocals. I imagined it would have a more robust-sounding voice. Well, finally, Straczynski brings his [and his team’s] creation to the fore and I’m thankful for it because there was no indication that would necessarily happen. This is Ambassador Shilaq [the spelling of which I am uncertain] and Sheridan is attempting to bring her/ it on board the newly forged alliance. Still, they won’t budge since they haven't been attacked and there's nothing to indicate that they will be attacked. Sheridan knows better. I like when the ambassador asks Sheridan to show her some power. Show me The Power! This is great.

Sheridan [referring to The Shadows]: "They are going to come for you sooner or later."
Alien pilot [in strange electronic girl voice]: "You do not know that. The enemy is powerful. Show us you have equal power then we will consider. If not we will stay quiet." Ah yes, pacifists awaiting the slaughter.

Elsewhere, Dr. Franklin, who admitted "I think I have a problem" during the rebirth ceremony in Episode Eleven, Ceremonies Of Light And Dark, now knows he definitely has a problem. [Isn't it funny how many episodes at this point inform past episodes and future episodes? It's enough to make your head spin.] Actually, it takes Franklin a little time to come to that realization but he's definitely a stark ravin' lunatic of a mess thanks to all the stim use. Here’s a good luck at his frayed temper and once again the many wonderful moments Straczynski writes for his actors.

The up close and personal exchanges are absolutely a thrill every time for me! Here’s another between Londo and Morden. Do you remember when Jerry Seinfeld would greet Newman in the show Seinfeld? Don't you just want to say “Hellllo Morden.” Vir always comes closest to doing it. Like Season Two, Episode 12, Acts of Sacrifice, and a whole host of others, the character exchanges make for some of the most riveting in the Babylon 5 cannon. The red lighting really highlights this sinister moment between two very strong-willed, agenda-driven personalities. It’s like they're meeting in Hell. Londo should never have made that deal with the devil.

Delenn visits Sheridan in the War Room. I feel for Sheridan. His frustration in attempting to unite the races to fight the Shadows is slow and at times feels futile, but he's getting there. It's a great lesson that things don't always come easy. They need to move quicker and he knows it. There are so many great scenes I damn near wanted to record this whole episode. Delenn suggests a show of force by making a victory happen against The Shadows to illustrate for the alien groups 'hope' that fighting back is indeed a viable solution to this growing threat.

Meanwhile Garibaldi meets with the beautiful Dr. Lillian Hobbs to try and obtain information on Dr. Franklin’s blood work. Garibaldi's is often willing to break with protocol or ethics to get to the truth. Dr. Franklin witnesses the exchange. Elsewhere, Morden makes a point of bumping into a frantic and busy Vir who is readying for Adira’s arrival. Vir is classic.

Morden: “Anything I can do to help?”
Vir: “Um, short of dying, no.”

Getting nowhere with Vir he makes a point of obtaining any information he can from the vendor Vir had just met with in order to weave his tangled web. He is certainly up to no good and appears to be planning to upset the apple cart as only Morden can.

Franklin comes clean about his addiction to Garibaldi just shy of Garibaldi finding out about it himself. Garibaldi inevitably finds the invasion of privacy concerning his friend uncomfortable and refrains. Babylon 5 just keeps heaping on pile upon pile of drama and tension and it is palpable. Straczynski never seems to waste a moment of his airtime with fluff of any kind.

Now, the next sequence is amazing. This episode contains quite possibly one of the single most powerful moments in the series, at least for me. This is that sequence and it is gut wrenchingly powerful made all the more so by the final minutes of this installment and the fate of Kosh.

You feel so much for Sheridan’s position and what he is trying to achieve. Still, astoundingly, there is just as much emotion and feeling that comes out of that encounter suit thanks to Ardwight Chamberlain. His ability to make that happen is worth mentioning. Sheridan is clearly feeling the strain placed upon him by The Shadows and like a desperate animal cornered he really lashes out to get some movement in the war against them. Sheridan calls Kosh on the carpet big time! Holy Toledo! The movements, the close ups are intimately perfect. It is an outstanding verbal and mental joust between two powerful allies with competing strategies. Fascinating stuff! It is one of the most gripping sequences in all of Season Three [maybe the entire series, so far] as Kosh goes all Darth Vader on Sheridan’s ass at the end. The Vorlons are critical in this war and appear omniscient on so many levels with tremendous power so why are they so damn neutral? They happily use humans as pawns and manipulate strategy but reluctantly join the fold. It's interesting. Still, I like Kosh.

Not to mention, I absolutely love the writing in this section and the pace and speed of the verbal match. The sharp barbs and quick retorts by Sheridan juxtaposed with the commanding simplicity of Kosh is simply a marvel. I had such empathy for both players here. I was completely and utterly wiped out watching it unfold. I was like “yeah, you tell him Sheridan.” “Good point Kosh.” “That’s right Sheridan.” “That away Kosh.” “Don’t take that Sheridan.” “Unacceptable behavior Sheridan.” “You let him know who's boss Kosh.” “Okay, maybe you have a point there Sheridan.” Good Lord. Whew!

Classic exchange:
Sheridan: "Don't turn your back on me. Don't you even try to walk away from me. Just who the hell do you think you are?...For three years now you've been pulling everyone's strings getting us to do all the work and you haven't done a damn thing but stand there and look cryptic! Well, it's about time you started pulling your own wait around here. I understand you have a saying-'understanding is a three edged sword'. Well, we've got a saying too-'put your money where your mouth is!'" [hysterical!]
Kosh: "Impudent."
Sheridan: "You said you wanted to teach me to fight legends, well you're a legend too, and I am not going away until you agree."
Kosh: "Incorrect. Leave now." [Vorlon shock applied]
Sheridan: "No."
Kosh: "Disobedient." [You see. It's like humans are the children of these gods.]
Sheridan: "Up yours....unless your people get up off their encounter-suited butts and do something I've got nothing to lose. Hell, my own government wants to kill me and if we lose this war I'm just as dead."

Um, he kinda, like, saved your ass in Season Two, Episode 22, The Fall Of Night. Easy does it there big guy, how soon we forget. Seriously, it must be trying to move an enigma like Kosh to direct action.

So in the end Kosh relents and dispatches the Vorlon forces to wreak havoc on The Shadows. The attack is potent and easily as forceful as their Shadows counterpart. Caught unawares, The Shadows get a little taste of the Vorlon flyswatters. Impressive. It is reported to the War Room that the Vorlons are winning. Finally, there is something to celebrate at last.

Meanwhile, Londo is choked with emotion eager with anticipation to reunite with the one woman that he has truly loved. I think Adira kind of does it for him. Unfortunately, when we finally see Adira we see her in a body bag. I was so looking forward to her arrival myself in the hopes of seeing the same actress return. Sadly for me, and for Londo, that was not to be. Londo stands before her covered body literally a broken man. His heartache points to the work of Lord Refa as her potential assassin. I was immediately thinking Morden myself. Of course we’re not certain, but I believe it was indeed Morden. Londo always pulls us back in by proving to us he can care, he can love and that he does indeed have heart.

Morden learns of the Vorlon attack. As a result, various races are lining up behind Sheridan in support of his plan as he had hoped. Sheridan plans to thank Kosh only he won’t be able to do so. Morden, complete with breathing mask and his spidery companions, gets to Kosh first in the alien sector. His associates are there to assasinate him for his use of power against The Shadows. As he is brutally destroyed, Kosh, in essence, channels himself before Sheridan in the form of Sheridan’s father. The loving image of his father is someone Sheridan identifies with and the words that come from the mouth of David Sheridan [played touchingly by Rance Howard] are clearly the words of Kosh in his final moments. He reassures him he did the right thing and that it was indeed time for him to do things his way. His demise is not his fault. “As long as you’re here, I’ll always be here” are his final words to Sheridan. It is yet another moving moment that brings some closure to the earlier conflict between the two characters before his life is extinguished. Is there something to The Shadows and The Vorlons' relationship? It's as if The Vorlons are intentionally staying out of the conflict for now for a reason. When Kosh finally does make a move utilizing the strength of the Vorlons, Morden and his associates quickly move specifically against Kosh to make some kind of statement. It is very interesting indeed.

Kosh won’t be able to save him on Z’Ha’Dum and he knew that during their argument, because he knew if he relented and gave Sheridan what he needed he would most certainly be killed. So, why did he know that? Kosh wasn’t withholding friendship [if you want to call his ambiguous support such a thing] from Sheridan he simply knew he wouldn’t be there to help him because he would be dead. It is a powerful scene as Kosh turns to his attackers expecting their inevitable arrival following what he had ordered against The Shadows. Hats off again to Chamberlain for his performance. He does wonders in that clunky suit managing to eek out every ounce of emotion from the singular opening and closing of that green eye. Director Jesus Trevino also deserves a tip of the cap as well for getting those cameras right in there on the faces of these amazing characters [Morden, Kosh & Sheridan].
Random shot of Susan "Hot Lips" Ivanova because why not.
Sheridan is aware of the fate of Kosh and now understands what Kosh meant, just as Kosh had indicated during their fight that he did not understand the greater implications of the move by The Vorlons. Delenn assures Sheridan The Vorlons will send another replacement to Babylon 5. But I’m not sure if anyone can replace him. As mysterious a figure as Kosh was I was really beginning to enjoy the big lug and I kind of related to him and his modus operandi. I have to agree with Sheridan who makes a great observation. You never envisioned Kosh experiencing fear, but in this episode he definitely exhibited signs of that emotion as he lashed out at Sheridan. He was clearly fearful of dying. In hindsight Sheridan sees him differently, as a mortal being seeking self-preservation too.

Adira was indeed poisoned. Here's ANOTHER terrific sequence between Londo and Morden as he runs right back to his loving arms. NO!

I felt like Morden played Londo like a fiddle by implying Refa was trying to even the score and Adira was that casualty. Morden is a master of deception creating war and chaos at every turn and now he clearly intends to bring it upon the Centauri. Personally I expected Londo to see through the rouge. It seemed like a shameless ploy, but once again Londo has that focused look of determination and it’s hard for him to shake that when he gets something in that head of his. Could Londo’s reunion with Morden be one of those five opportunities suggested earlier that he avoid by Lady Morella in Point Of No Return. The only thing I was uncertain about was whether or not Londo fell for Morden’s shtick completely. It would appear he did unless he is becoming a really good actor [not the actor, but the character]. It’s a complex sequence. Of course Londo is more than willing to use Morden just as Morden will use players as means to achieve his own ends. But when Morden is more than happy to selfishly put forth the needs of the Centauri at the cost of anything and everything else I’m thinking the jig is up.

Dr. Franklin meets with Sheridan to resign due to his all-consuming drug habit and his justifiable fear that he could eventually kill someone. Holding his license to practice medicine, he leaves his position as Chief of Staff of Medlab on a handshake.

The head of Kosh’s encounter suit is battered and sits before Sheridan, Garibaldi and Delenn before the remains of his suit are placed aboard his ship and sent back into space. It’s a moving sequence to say goodbye to the ambassador. The ship will take his remnants into space “to perform its last duty in memory of Kosh,” says Delenn. Hmmmm. She knows an awful lot of information.

I definitely tend to favor the more dramatic episodes heavy in dialogue and between characters. I love the battle of wills or the interludes and examinations most, it makes for engrossing viewing.

Interludes And Examinations: A-


Anonymous said...

Trouble with Morden is, on what grounds would they refuse him entry? There’s still nothing he’s done to justify that. As for Londo, unlike he hasn’t seen Mordon’s encounter with Vir and the conversation with his „associates“. How would he have guessed Morden even knew of Adira? When Morden first came on board, Adira had been gone for some time, and who had a reason to tell him about her? Plus, Londo has every reason to suspect Refa.

And Franklin picked a great time to work out his problems.

The gas-mask alien race is called the Gaim, and they owe their name to Neil Gaiman. I think they are an insectoid species, and IIRC in one episode or movie one of them mentions that they are ruled by a queen.

As for the next two eps: You did get aspirin handy, didn’t you? :)


SFF said...

Hey M! All great points of course.
You're right. Here was my reasoning despire the fact my expectations are flawed.

On Morden. I figured perhaps due to the fact Sheridan had saw those Shadows spiders with him waaaay back there might be a NO ADMITTANCE clause. But he's been back on board since then and hasn't been nailed for any law violations. Besides, I'm sure ID fraud is clearly an option when necessary for the scoundrels out there.

On Londo. I would assume Londo would be savvy enough to pick up on Morden's manipulations by now. I'm giving him too much credit I think assuming he knows all sorts of information. Still, Londo's thoughts clearly turn to Refa as a prime suspect as that makes sense. Of course, the Centauri are all about coup d'etat on an individual level and Londo is clearly always looking over his shoulder.

On the insectoid race. Cool. And aspirin in hand. : )

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it, the Kosh/Sheridan relationship is an unusual hero-mentor relationship. True, Kosh saved Sheridan's life once, but ordinarily in mythology or fantasy mentors are helpful for the hero, and don't just stand around looking cryptic and manipulating them (even Dumbledore was a genuine help for Harry Potter). And while heroes usually question their mentor's methods at some point, I don't recall one to challenge the mentor quite like that.


SFF said...

True. Hey M, I was thinking about it. When Morden is coming aboard Babylon 5, Ivanova was narrating how there were lapses in security right? Would that mean Babylon 5 would suspend entry for someone if they deemed him a security threat? I guess that's why I was thinking perhaps he shouldn't be allowed on board. Maybe I was being led to believe they wouldn't allow him on board. Just curious on your thoughts from that sequence.

Anonymous said...

I understand your point about Susan's journal entry. I just see no justification for refusing him entry, and given Garibaldi's actions when Sheridan held Morden without charge, I'm not sure he'd go along with arbitrary refusing someone entry. But of course, there's happened and changed a lot since then.