Babylon 5: Eyes

b5Most season one episodes have a main plot and a subplot, but Eyes is so focused on the investigation into Jeffrey Sinclair, any subplot is lost. Besides, it’s basic anyway: Lennier helps Garibaldi build a motorcycle.  (In fairness, it leads to a fun payoff at the end, but little else throughout – and that’s ok because Eyes has a very strong main plot.)   Eyes … ahem… sees a member of Internal Affairs from Earth Gov, one Colonel ben-Zayn, trying to understand why Sinclair was given command of Babylon 5 and he’s determined to make the interrogation as awkward as possible for all concerned.  What makes Babylon 5 special is largely the sheer amount of continuity the writers go for.  This is all a result of events that have happened over the season.  The recent trouble with the workers strike and Oren Zento hasn’t helped Sinclair’s reputation back home either and many people are gunning for him.  Bester and the Psi-cops aren’t happy with how things went with Mind War, and Deathwalker is not just referenced, but we see the image on-screen of the Vorlon cruiser destroying Deathwalker’s transport.

Ben-Zayn is a formidable opponent and his deep voice makes him a fun opponent to mock.  (I love bellowing MisTER in that same deep fashion!)  From demanding Garibaldi’s loyalty to threatening to scan Ivanova, he wants to break the morale of all those associated with Sinclair.  He is accompanied by veteran genre actor Jeffrey Coombs as Harriman Grey, a psi-corp operative.  Always good seeing Coombs in our favorite shows.  (DS:9 fans would remember him as Weyoun, and appeared in over 30 episodes, but he’s also notable Dr. Herbert West from Reanimator.)  More than anything, it’s painful watching ben-Zayn getting the upper hand but it’s utterly inspiring watching Sinclair turn the tables on him for the victory!  For the most part, the story is a straight up good guy vs bad guy story and that’s one of the things that stands out about non-JMS episodes: they don’t push the arc along, but can still give us a good story.  However this doesn’t fail to push the arc, it just does so very subtlely.

This two key elements that we can follow from this episode are: Sinclair’s command was the result of the Minbari and there’s no clear understanding of why.  This episode makes that very clear.  Second, Psi-corp has a far greater influence as we have been lead to believe.  To allocate ben-Zayn means they have resources and a desire to take Sinclair out of the equation.  There’s also an interesting subtext though to Susan’s reluctance to being scanned.  Is she hiding something?  This may be a non-issue, but one has to wonder.  The fact that B5 takes place in a cohesive universe is nice because not many shows go out of their way to do that.  For instance, I’m sure the tensions on Mars, mentioned here, will also have an impact in the future.  But that’s just the good writing and what I’ve come to expect from this show.  ML

The view from across the pond:

“Mr Lennier, I’m too busy for this right now.”  That’s a bit rude.  The guy’s just offered to help.

“If you enter my mind for any reason I will twist your head off and use it for a chamber pot.”  Now that’s fair.  Eyes really plays on building up a couple of villains and making you really, really, not like them.  Gregory Martin achieves that by chewing up all the scenery.  Jeffrey Combs achieves that by being in possession of Jeffrey Combs’s voice and Jeffrey Combs’s eyes.  I mean that in a good way, he’s got to be in the top five actors for playing villains of all time.  That guy does scary well.  I was impressed to see that subverted a little.  We would probably expect the character played by Combs to be the really frightening, irredeemable villain, but in the end he’s just a very efficient civil servant, to give the story its contemporary parallel, but Zayn is an obsessive villain through and through, eaten up by jealousy from losing out on the top job.  Despite that, he outranks Sinclair, and the whole story reminds me of those endless Star Trek: TNG episodes where an admiral who outranks Picard turns out to be a total jerk.  Nearly all admirals in TNG are jerks, and it seems like B5 is following the same path.  There is a clear dividing line.  Up to the rank of Commander we’re all good, but Colonel and above are either morons or villains.  Maybe there’s some truth in that, in the way it reflects real life.  I have just been reading Snuff, by Terry Pratchett, and was amused to read Sam Vimes’s retort to the old adage of the cream rising to the top: so does the scum.

“Embark on a journey to your quarters so I can get some sleep.”  That was a bit rude.  The guy’s just been working all day on his bike.

So Zayn was a big hammy villain, very conveniently throwing all his bricks out of the pram when Sinclair pushed the right buttons.  Harriman Gray was therefore a much more interesting character, in particular his conversations with Ivanova, whose anti-mind-reading stance seemed to genuinely trouble him.  Combs did a great job of allowing the viewer to join the dots: was Gray attracted to her, or was he just upset about her perceived prejudice against a procedure he believed strongly in, and felt was completely harmless?

“I said you could work on it a little, not finish it.”  That was a bit rude.

I thought I liked Garibaldi, but now I’m thinking he’s not my favourite biscuit after all.  The motorbike stuff was barely a subplot and there was not much point to it at all, beyond padding out the episode, but at least it gave Billy Mumy a bit more screen time at last.  He must have had, what, five minutes now in the last 16 episodes?  Maybe even six.  And he spent four of those fixing a bike.   But this was a much better episode than most recent ones, all in all.  We’re heading in the right direction, and apparently we’re heading there on a Kawasaki.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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