I’m getting bummed about the non-JMS episodes at this point. I didn’t notice it when watching the show, but for these write-ups, I want to get into the big story arc but I feel like we’re spinning around the main stuff. On the plus side, we’re getting all the lesser stories out of the way. For this entry, well-known scifi author Peter David brings us a story that is largely character driven and does very little for the for the main plot. What we get is another B5 2-plot story, one focusing on Talia (why?) and one focusing on Londo and his wives (fun!). But this is one of those where the twain meet.
Londo’s wives, formerly identified as Pestilence, Famine, and Death, are introduced. Timov (I just noticed as I typed this, her name is vomit backwards!) is by far the most annoying, but it’s Mariel that is the most intriguing. She’s “death” and rather apt considering she gives Londo the gift that nearly kills him. The question is, was the whole thing planned? Talia’s ex-lover Stoner did bring the artifact onto the station and claims it was safe. Maybe that is true, but he’s so slimy, it’s hard to know if he’s telling the truth. Then there’s the issue of G’kar, who has some history with Mariel. How?? Moreover, I didn’t notice it during my first viewing but I had read an interesting debate about this episode and I’d never forgotten it: what did G’kar throw to Mariel? I assumed it was a grape because he was eating them at the time, but is it possible that he threw her the poison darts to use with the statue?
Consider that: G’kar knows something is up with the shadows, even if the exact nature is not known to him. He can see war is coming, and as I’ve alluded to before, if his wives are Pestilence, Famine and Death, doesn’t that make Londo War? So G’kar could be responsible for it. But considering he seems to be genuinely puzzled, claiming to get headaches from puzzles, I never thought that during my 1st (or second, or possibly even 3rd) viewing. But I did wonder about it this time around. And look, perhaps G’kar and Mariel met at some previous diplomatic function. We just don’t know but the clandestine nature of the meeting does make one wonder. It seems like something more than just a casual rendezvous.
The Stoner storyline is only good because of Garibaldi’s reaction. Fact is, I wanted to cast him out of an airlock too. I’m not surprised that he and Talia got along because both of them have a quality I really don’t like. I wish Talia would develop a personality and not be all throaty seductress in the way she talks and acts, and Stoner is … a jerk. There’s nothing else to say for it.
So the only other thing that needs to be addressed in this otherwise simple episode is a throwaway line. Delenn asks about pain she’s having now that she is part human. In other words, she gets cramps. You know, cramps! As in, menstrual. What does this mean about her ability to have a child? Can she have a kid with a human parent? In my notes, this was the one thing I underlined repeatedly about this episode. Or is it just a chance to add a little humor to a Talia-heavy episode? ML
The view from across the pond:
It’s a bit unfortunate to say the least to have to suffer two Talia episodes in a row. This episode even got my hopes up that she might be leaving, but alas ’twas not to be. She did put something into perspective though, accidentally shining a light on why I think the character doesn’t work:
If you take away my talents I don’t know what would be left.
All the other characters in B5, with the exception of the irritating doctor, give us some reason to enjoy watching them. That might be that they are interesting characters, well acted, or both. Not so with Talia. She is just there because she’s the telepath on the station, and that’s it. There’s nothing to enjoy, no reason to want to watch her, no personality as such beyond slightly-stroppy-telepath. So that quote was actually rather profound for all the wrong reasons. If taking away a character’s ability means they would be devoid of all interest or likeability, then they are a plot device rather than a person, and that’s shoddy characterisation.
Fortunately there are a couple of factors making things a lot better than the prospect of a Talia episode would normally offer. Her ex is really, really creepy, in a great bit of villain acting from Keith Szarabajka. Also, we’re right back in the story-of-the-week variety of B5, with an A plot and a B plot (there’s even a very thin C plot with Delenn’s bad hair day).
The B plot is much more interesting and fun. Playing on the theme of the week (bad marriages), Londo invites his three wives to a party and drops a bombshell that he has permission to divorce two of them. The minute two of them starting sucking up to him and the other just kept being her honest, combative self, it became blindingly obvious who he was going to pick. A bit of basic maths solves that one. But it was still amusing seeing the inevitable conclusion play out, with some whodunit Agrippina-ish shenanigans along the way. Even without needing to find out who had saved his life, Londo was smart enough to figure out who he can trust:
Because with you I will always know where I stand.
So this was a parable episode. Honesty pays off. Scheming and faking affection doesn’t. In a neat parallel, Stoner’s manipulation and dishonesty didn’t pay off either.
One final thought. I’m all for episodes ending on a light-hearted joke or whatever (although American television has a rather annoying history of ending episodes of shows with somebody making a wisecrack and everyone laughing for a bit of enforced merriment, which always looks horribly staged), but did B5 really need to sink so low as to end an episode with a joke about periods? Maybe try something about shampoo or conditioner next time? RP