Babylon 5: A Voice in the Wilderness

b5A lot happens in this two-part story.  It’s mostly a setup; Straczynski gives us a lot of buildup through the seasons and when we see those things come to fruition, you realize the payoff is impressive.  This is done for small jokes to large scale arcs.  For several episodes, we’ve heard about tensions on Mars and that finally pays off as a full scale revolt is going on.  Garibaldi’s past is explored with him searching for news on the woman he loves.  And on the planet Epsilon 3, things are shaking.  Literally.

The Mars subplot has been building and we’re not at a point that it’s over; in fact, I’d say things are just getting started.  One thing about the B5 universe is that it’s big and real, so things that happen, happen for a reason.  The first part of this story is all prologue.  The story needs to be viewed as one whole or you get a lot of setup and little story.  Overall, in the standard format, there appear to be two story arcs going on: Delen’s visitor and the events on Epsilon 3.  (The Mars story is a backplot that will feature later.)  Once we get our first view of the planet, we know more has to happen.  Why is this equipment down there?  What’s its function?  Is it something the Vorlon need to worry about or don’t they take an interest because it’s meant to be off limits?

The story is a big one in terms of CGI and it’s a heck of a good sci-fi adventure to boot, but the real meat of the story is something I’ve ridiculed Doctor Who for: this is about ramifications.  We discover that Londo lead a raid in his youth, so Delenn is able to convince him to help with what is sure to be a dangerous mission.  Great.  But what is the impact of that?  We’ve already seen Londo’s involvement with Mr. Morden, so will an action like this embolden him to other “heights”?  He’s already taken some big steps in the hopes of leading his people to greatness again, but how will this action affect him? The thing about B5, as I’ve said before, is that seldom do things just happen; there’s usually a reason.  When Draal decides to take the place of the dying keeper, is he just something to be forgotten?  Probably not.   Knowing he’s a friend of Delenn’s, one might hope that he can be called on in the future.

A Voice in the Wilderness is an adventure and a lot of fun, exploring a strange new world and finding new inhabitants, new tech, and new potential, but it’s all about impact.  Garibaldi has the most heartbreaking impact of the episode when he does get in touch with ex-girlfriend Lise Hampton, only to find out she’s married and expecting a child.  Like Londo’s sudden burst of bravery and Draal’s decision to stay on Epsilon 3, everything has a price.  And the advantage of watching Babylon 5 now (as opposed to waiting week to week like it was originally aired) means you have more time to get to know the characters, the events, and the fallout.  This is just the beginning.  ML

The view from across the pond:

Those were the days, when we thought the future of communication would be speaking into a watch. Now people walk along the streets apparently talking to themselves, with something plugged into their ear, but that would have been too out-there an idea for the 1990s. I mean, people would look like they were crazy, if they did that (I don’t do that, as you might have guessed).

If that seems like a random observation that could have gone with any episode, the reason I noticed it this week probably has a lot to do with how much the first of these two episodes made my mind wander.  Here are some more examples of my wandering mind during the first episode:

  • “We’re just getting a late breaking story.” (touches right ear). It’s good to know some things never change – the old ear-touch for breaking news, to indicate the newsreader isn’t just crazy. You know, like walking down the street talking to yourself would look.
  • Oo, the guy who was the model for Edvard Munch’s The Scream just showed up as a hologram.
  • “I have lived my Lentire life on Minbar.” (Draal)  No time to do another take on that fluffed line?
  • Louis Turenne (Draal) is From The Over Enunciation School of Acting. Very clipped.
  • Boooooooooring.

I typed that last one into my notes around the 30 minute mark of the first episode.  Fortunately, things did get better, building up to an exciting cliffhanger, and a very good one it was too, for this first ever two-parter.  Having said that, a cliffhanger with something coming through the jump gate and Garibaldi saying “what the hell”, is great, but it’s a bit of an anticlimax if you wait a week only to find out that he’s saying “what the hell” to an Earth ship (meh), so the second episode started on a bit of a low for me, then got stuck in the rut of political/jurisdiction shenanigans, with Garibaldi answering xenophobia with violence thrown in for good measure.

It all felt very high stakes this one, which is good, but the plot played out very predictably.  As soon as Munch’s scream guy said to Draal that the planet would explode “without a heart, without another” it was pretty obvious where Draal was going to end up and how things were going to be resolved.  Having figured that out, I was then left to watch all the predicted pieces fall into their predicted places. And when I say predicted, I mean this kind of well worn stuff:

“Is there any way to stop it?”

Typical.  I would rather be surprised by some twists and turns, but at least these episodes offered us predictability with a modicum of style.  For the time this must all have looked very impressive.  But I need more than that, particularly from a big, exciting two-parter.  Oh, and I need B5 to actually feature G’Kar.  Where’s he disappeared off to, again?  Wasn’t he interested in what the planet had to offer?  I really don’t think anyone making this realised the strengths and weaknesses of what they were making, or maybe they did and lessons were learnt for the second season.  We’ll find out soon.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in Babylon 5, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s