Saturday, December 20, 2008

B5 S4 Ep15: No Surrender, No Retreat

The White Stars are pretty cool.

Enough is enough!” The captain has spoken via captain’s log. Sheridan narrates from his log file as Babylon 5 prepares itself for war against Earth Forces. In the previous episode ten thousand civilians were killed in an instant thanks to the order of President Clark. Sheridan and Ivanova approach the alien races to fall in line behind their revolution to free Earth from his stranglehold. Sheridan informs the races that all mutual defense treaties with Earth shall be declared “null and void."

The races are requested to donate one destroyer class ship to the cause, but will not be required to do much more so they may stay as neutral as possible and Babylon 5 can avoid perception problems. From now on Earth stands alone. “We’re taking back Promixa 3. We’re taking back Mars. Then, we’re gonna’ take back our home or die trying.” He means it. This is war! Nothing is ever easy when it comes to fighting the good fight on Babylon 5. Welcome to Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 15, No Surrender, No Retreat [formerly titled Londo & G'Kar Steal The Show Again Amidst Wicked Cool Space Battles].

Marcus checks in with Sheridan. Clark has six Omega class destroyers between the jumpgate and Proxima 3. Meanwhile Sheridan informs Franklin to make every effort to safely defrost the telepaths. They need to be reawakened “soon.” But Franklin needs to get them off mind control safely. Defrosting the Popsicle people won’t be a problem given those refrigeration units are in dicey way. Granted their condition is another story.

I knew almost immediately Michael Vejar directed this installment. He has such a unique style with the camera including those nice, tight close-ups. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. His work has a trademark stamp to it offering an especially consistent quality.

Sheridan is heading to Proxima 3 basing his hopes on the fact that some of the 6 vessels set up around that planet will join his cause. “No surrender, no retreat,” declares Sheridan to his second-in-command.

Vir is in the midst of a nightmare when Garibaldi visits him. Vir informs Garibaldi, clearly the last to know, of the station’s plan to take back Earth and the colonies. The mole is now in the know.

I love Vir’s hair in that sequence. Hysterical. He is such a loyal soldier. I admire and love him for that. By the way at first I didn’t pay it much mind, but after a thought, could he have been visited by the Keepers? It would appear they are getting around and folks are waking from nightmares and dreams as a result only to find something attached to their neck. I wonder if he too has been visited. He didn't reach for his neck though.

As Ivanova prepares the starfury squadron she informs them to use operational codes only.

Lt. Corwin: “So from now on I guess the operational phase is trust no one.”
Ivanova: “No. Trust Ivanova. Trust yourself. Anybody else shoot ‘em.”

Sheridan has a plan. He is placing one White Star by Earth and two by Mars in the hopes of triggering a response by Earth to mobilize forces away from Proxima 3. It will make it all the more viable to liberate the planet. Marcus is headed to Proxima 3 with a unit of White Stars.

Meanwhile on Babylon 5, Londo visits G’Kar in his quarters. I am speechless and humbled by the sheer strength of these two talents. What a powerful, intimate portion of this episode that must be revisited. Here it is in two parts. I could watch these two actors all day long.

G’Kar’s response to Londo’s toast was not what I had hoped for, but I wasn’t surprised by it either. In hindsight with everything Londo has put G’Kar and his people through I certainly understand G’Kar’s reasons. The fan in me was hoping for a greater reconciliation more quickly, but that is entirely unrealistic and it just wouldn’t make sense. You just can't expect G'Kar to throw his arms around Londo. He hasn't done a thing to earn it despite G'Kar largely big and forgiving heart. Londo refers back to this crucial, powerful moment in Season Two, Episode 9, The Coming Of Shadows. Straczynski has allowed for tremendous, real, character growth and change throughout the series for his cast.

Elsewhere on the station Sheridan prepares his pilots for combat. “The job of a soldier is to destroy the enemy and come home alive… to that end, do what you have to do.”

How about the fancy Babylon 5 logo on the White Star? Cool. The intention is to identify the craft as belonging to that of Captain Sheridan.

This war machine has a nifty design. It's one of my preferred warships in the series. It's Cool.
A unit of White Stars appears in orbit on the other side of Proxima 3. Sheridan was banking that the more aggressive, hostile Heracles would investigate, but it does not. A second unit of White Stars arrives. A tense game of chess proceeds forward. The third and final unit led by Sheridan joins the mix.

Sheridan: “You are ordered to stand down or leave the Proxima System at once. You are in violation of the Proxima treaty. And your attacks on civilian transports are illegal under the rules of engagement and the Articles of War. You can leave peacefully if that is your choice. But we are prepared to use deadly force if necessary.” Cool captain speak. I'm saying 'cool' way too much at the moment and that's not cool.

It’s kind of hard to argue against Sheridan. He does have the moral high ground.

MacDougan, commander of the Vester, breaks radio silence and engages his old friend Sheridan.

Sheridan: “Any action you take in support of an illegal order makes you an an accomplice of that order.”

Sheridan appeals to his old friend's conscience for justice. MacDougan actually trained Sheridan on issues of moral authority. There is an image of Sheridan peering into space from the bridge of his White Star and it’s one of the coolest I’ve seen [darn, I used the root word cool again]. The Heracles opens fire first. The captain of the Heracles, now taking heavy damage, demands support from the Vester. MacDougan won’t support “illegal orders.” One of the men on the Vester, under orders by the Heracles, relieves MacDougan of duty at gunpoint, but not for long. Sheridan begins testing the positions of those destroyers with an unknown record regarding their stance or position with Earth gov.

MacDougan reclaims authority of the Vester bringing it back to the fold and non-aggressor status. The Juno has left the system, two are non-hostile, but the Pollux is hammering away at the White Stars. The Pollux is hit back by a flagging White Star. The White Star loses control and crashes into the Pollux as it too explodes in a ball of fire. The Nemesis surrenders. There is lots of coo.... refreshing action in this entry.

Sheridan informs the Heracles to surrender. Scrawney Commander Sandra Levitt takes control of the ship placing Captain Hall under arrest. Good decision commander otherwise you would all be space dust in about 60 seconds! So the mission objective is complete.
You have to love the element of surprise. It is a definitive part of a winning strategy. I've mentioned the element of surprise previously in some entries and here again. Certainly this is nothing new in the war strategy playbook and I'm not shedding light on anything Earth-shattering [no pun intended for this entry]. I happened upon this terrific quote from To Dream In The City Of Sorrows that says alot. It's interesting because it's from the defensive posture of expecting surprise and says alot about why surprises aren't good. This is from a segment in the book when Catherine Sakai thinks about her lover, Commander Sinclair. "He always said he didn't like surprises- the result of a life spent in the military. She remembered him lecturing at the Academy: Surprises in the military could cause disaster or death. That's why one trained and prepared over and over to eliminate as much of the element of surprise as humanly possible. ...there were always going to be surprises... that no amount of training and preparation could eliminate." There you have it from the man himself. Precise reasoning on why surprises are NOT good. Surprise parties Good. Surprise battles not so good. Sheridan must determine friend or foe next.

Sheridan: “Our mandate is to defend Earth against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Sheridan tells Commander Levitt he wanted it to be a “clean fight” opting to exclude involvement by the alien races. ISN will indubitably create its own smear campaign. I can see it now. SHERIDAN: A PUPPET TO ALIEN INFLUENCE. The surrendered parties now discuss their options aboard the White Star.

Later, in yet another special moment for the episode, G’Kar visits the bar in the Zocalo and sits next to Londo much to Londo’s surprise. With a cooler head prevailing G’Kar drinks. This is a big humungo step for G’Kar and a huge tip of the hat to a leader who has been completely trounced for a very long period by the Centauri. I'm not so sure I could do it.

There’s such hope and beauty in that scene. It must have been very hard for G’Kar, a big swallow of the Narn pride, to return to speak with Londo. Fortunately Londo, as only Londo can, didn’t blow it. G’Kar continues to prove why I have loved him from almost the very beginning and never wavered from my support of him. He is my favorite and he is indeed an important part of the relationships on the station.
The NO CLARK photo in the Voice Of The Resistance logo is pretty good. “Proxima 3 is free.” Garibaldi is heading to Mars with no plans to return to Babylon 5. Garibaldi is surely a big question mark for me right now.
No Surrender, No Retreat: B+


Anonymous said...

I always like reading your blog entries, they are almost like watching the episodes themselves over again (notice I say almost). You are about two episodes away from my fav episode ever of B5, Intersections in Real Time. I am really looking forward to what you have to say about that particular episode as I feel it is very powerful and psychologically very mind twisting.

SFF said...

Thanks Erin. You know it's funny, but I realize now as I watch Babylon 5 compared to when I started I'm far more invested in it. I definitely dig into the details and I definitely started taking that route with Season Two.

I was much less invested brefore Season Two and kind of slagged it off in the beginning even. As the show continued it just kept building and building like a snowball that rolls in the snow. The episodes are much bigger and meatier to me as I have gone along. That's not to say that the earlier episodes weren't as solid, but I didn't appreciate them in that way. Many fellow B5 fans here have told me I will see the series and certain details with different eyes after I have seen all five seasons and I imagine that is true.

Anyway, as a result, my blog entries do come off as condensed summarized versions of the episodes. Hopefully they're still entertaining enough as computer art with video/ picture clips and original thoughts to make it worth the read. Cheers for your input as always! I'm enjoying checking your site out as well.

Unknown said...

@erin: I love "Intersections" too, even tho I didn't actually think it was great the first time I saw it; It is surrounded by two total kick-ass episodes, so I thought it seemed... lacking or something. However, each time I have seen it since, it has grown on me. And I have seen B5 end-to-end something like 18 times. :) It is so completely different.. well, we'll discuss it once our beloved Fanatic gets there. :)

@Fanatic: I think more or less everyone sees S1 as the weakest of B5. And for several good reasons; It was perhaps struggling a bit to find its form, it was necessary to set stuff up to introduce the arc and everything, and we had no reason to feel for these people from the get-go. As I and others have said here, you'll probably rewatch S1 with something approaching melancholy - it's sad to see people making those early mistakes that have such horrible consequences.. :) You will of course also see some "bugs" (like the number of minbari castes) along the way, but hey, nothing is perfect. :) But S1 is much better once you appreciate the whole story.

This is what makes me bitter about Firefly as well. It actually started off really strong, found its form and was cool from the get-go. Then it was cancelled - I loved Serenety (the movie), but it also made me really bitter about how great this show COULD have been if they had been allowed to continue.

Oh well, on to Christmas preparations. :)

SFF said...

Always sterling input from one Mr. Havremunken! I couldn't agree more with you on Firefly. What a disastrous mistake to let that one burn out. 18 times! Wow! I'll be lucky if I get to three complete times I have so much I want to watch. Never enough time to prepare for Christmas. We do our best to enjoy it I suppose when we can actually stop to enjoy it which isn't often. Life is throwing waaay too much at us nowadays.

Anonymous said...

@havre I agree with you about Intersections being surrounded by two very kick ass episodes. I think because I'm a counselor I find psychologically compelling episodes to be as interesting as action packed ones. My favorite TNG episode (so far as I still need to finish s7 and the movies) has been Frame of Mind (a Riker centric psychological piece). I also enjoy a lot of the camera work in Intersections, being that my undergrad (oh so long ago) was in broadcasting.

Anyways don't want to spoil things to much for you Fanatic. I don't think I have gave anything away to much that you wouldn't get from reading the back of the box set. ;-)

SFF said...

I love your discussions. I'm happy as long as you don't give anything away for me. I've avoided knowing anything about Babylon 5 so I'm quite the newbie going in to each episode. I'm like a blank slate. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've got the same thing going with my Star Trek Project. The hubs occasionally divulges more than he should (he is esp. bad with major character deaths) but he tries not to spoil me to much. It's hard when the series is over and done with. I do sympathize with you. I wish I had the patience and the time to blog about the episodes I have watched. Sadly between college, work and internship I just don't have the time. Maybe after I finish watching everything I'll try and sit down and organize my thoughts about each series into some sort of coherent mass.

SFF said...

That's indeed alot on your plate. I agree with you. This does take some time out of the schedule and sometimes I do it to the detriment of other things. But it definitely can't be the priority. It does tend to become part of your responsibilities but in a completely fun way. But heck, it's my creative outlet and like Ben & Jerrys or something I just gotta have it. : )