Babylon 5: All Alone in the Night

b5We’re going to be looking at three plots in All Alone in the Night, a title that comes poetically from the opening of the series.  A brief aside: I think this is a beautiful title.  It captures the feel of being out in space rather nicely.  Anyway… some time appears to have passed between the last episode and this one.  This has given us a chance to see things develop for Delenn who has been replaced on the Grey Council with a member of the warrior caste.  Also going on, Sheridan’s true role has been revealed: he was selected by Santiago specifically because he was known to be a patriot.  He was also someone who went by the book so Clark would appreciate him.  But Santiago was clever, knowing a patriot would never go by the book if it meant hurting his home.  General Hague knew this and makes the most of it.  His suspicions with PsiCorp run deep and he figures Sheridan could help uncover what is going on.  This ties in with the third plot, the conspiracy back home.

The irony is that the biggest element of this story is Sheridan’s abduction but it is a one-off event that coincides with everything else.  Before we get to that, though, we should look at a few other things.  First, this is the first episode where it’s become clear that Lennier has feelings for Delenn.  How this will effect the future is anyone’s guess.  If he’s truly loyal, he won’t get in the way of her plans; he’s effectively a monk after all.  While we’re talking about the Minbari, with 4 of the 9 members of the Grey Council being members of the warrior caste, this gives more power to the one caste and that can truly harm their society.  Especially if they are not aware of the discovery of the religious caste – that humans and Minbari souls are one.  Now, putting the idea of a soul out there is all hocus pocus, sure, but since episode 2, Soul Hunter, we’ve seen that there is something that moves on after death, whatever we may call it.  If it truly is a soul, there must be some reason for the migration.

Then there’s Sheridan, who recently (A Distant Star) commented that he wanted more flight time.  So he gets some; maybe more than he bargained for.  He’s abducted by the Streib (named for Whitley Streiber, the writer of Communion, which featured aliens who looked suspiciously like these guys!)   Most of the episode is a battle to escape their clutches, but it’s the dream that Sheridan has that is probably the most interesting part of the story.  (I wonder how Roger will feel with the dream as he’s not a fan of “cryptic”.  I also wonder what I thought of it when I first watched the show nearly 20 years ago!)  Let’s look it over….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm3y0zw25y0

It starts with Sheridan in the dark.  He turns to see Ivanova, who is putting her finger to her mouth to say “be quiet”.  Considering later in this same dream, Kosh says “For the first time, your mind was quiet enough to hear me” it makes sense that she should be telling him “be quiet”.  Of course, it could be something else.  Seeing what’s going on with Clark, it could be her way of telling him that things have to be kept secret.  Then Ivanova has a raven on her shoulder and says “Do you know who I am?”  Whether the raven is significant (possibly as a harbinger of doom) is unclear, but her question is interesting considering she’s got a secret that she doesn’t want anyone to know.  (This is the advantage and disadvantage of foresight; I know what’s coming, but it does make for an interesting part of the dream, because it could mean that on some level, Sheridan has picked up on it!)  Next, suddenly on B5, he looks up and sees another version of himself, looking stern and wearing a dark uniform.  (This scene reminded me of the scene in the “Matrix” with Knight 2 in And the Sky Full of Stars.)  The question is: why does he see another version of himself, one that appears colder than his current self?

Looking over, Garibaldi is also on the level with the other Sheridan.  He says “the man in between is searching for you”.  (We’ll meet a “middle man” a full season from now.  Is it this Middle Man that he speaks of?)  Or is it a middle ground between the stern Sheridan and the current one?  And why does Ivanova have a raven while Garibaldi has a dove?  One often represents danger or death while the other is the sign of peace.  The raven might indicate why she is wearing a veil and dressed in funereal black when Sheridan next sees her.  He too is in different clothing.  In fact, when he turns, he’s wearing a Psi-Corp badge and uniform.  This could have a lot to do with his apparent help that he provided some rogue telepaths a few episodes ago, or it could mean he’s a pawn.  If the latter, his place on the station and working with General Hague could be a bad thing.  Then Ivanova says “you are the hand”.  The very first thing I thought was of Elric, when he tells Londo “I see a great hand reaching out among the stars”.  He doesn’t say “I see your hand”, which makes me wonder: is Sheridan’s the hand that destroys?  Or is “the hand” simply a reference to being a “mover and shaker” so to speak?  Then we get to my favorite bit…

Kosh is standing behind Sheridan; you know this is going to be good.  Sheridan says “why are you here?”  Kosh replies “We were never away”.   Though I imagine there could be additional meaning to the question, I assume “here” is in the dream, but as I type this, I guess it could also mean, “why are you even on B5”, considering he doesn’t do a lot and when he does, it’s always cryptic and unhelpful.  The reply could mean that he’s always with Sheridan or he’s always been around waiting for these events.  But that’s when he says “for the first time your mind is quiet enough to hear me” which leads me to believe he means he’s always with Sheridan.  (As I’m rewatching this scene to get the words right, I realize too that he says “WE were never away…. Mind is quiet enough to hear ME”.  Interesting that.  The Vorlon have been there, but Kosh is speaking to Sheridan…  How the hell have I missed that until now?)  Sheridan then says (in the same tone as the first question, as if unrelated) “Why am I here?”  Presumably he means the dream but could mean why was he abducted.  Or it could mean why am I in charge of the station, as he asked in A Distant Star when he was longing to be on a ship again.  Kosh replies “you have always been here.”  Now this last line is repeated when Sheridan encounters Kosh on the station giving greater significance to it.

What I wonder is if Kosh knew where Sheridan was the whole time he was abducted.  Or does Kosh just have a connection with John?  If the latter, why?  What makes him so special?  Since Vorlons seem to see time slightly less linearly than we do, is there something to that, that he knows of Sheridan?  While I love the cryptic nature of this, it does beg one massive question: in the age before binge watching, how were people supposed to keep track of all these little nuances??  I’ve seen the show 4 times and just picked up on the pronoun in Kosh’s words.  What other treasures wait to be found??   We’ll have to push on to see!  ML

The view from across the pond:

This week we have an A plot and a B plot, with a little C plot tacked on to the end. To get the very dull B plot out of the way first, Delenn goes to see her Grey/Gray ex-friends, and get subjected to the spotlight treatment again. She seems to be fighting a losing battle against xenophobia, with the others basically judging her now by her different appearance. It seems a little odd for what had previously appeared to be a relatively enlightened race. There is also now an imbalance on the Gray Council, with 4 members from the “warrior caste”. Whatever the rights and wrongs of a caste-based system of society, it is another indication that people are pigeon-holed into different categories. Delenn is now a category all of her own. The full extent of their racism is made clear by Neroon’s line “I am more than happy to have you remain with the humans.” Just listen to the way he spits out the word “humans”. Then we get another of those unintentionally amusing moments where the lights all switch off (stumble, stumble… where’s the light switch?)

Slightly more interesting than all this fairly obvious xenophobia stuff is Lennier’s relationship with Delenn. Oddly she can’t seem to speak to anyone she likes without making it seem like she’s flirting with them:

“Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate you Lennier?”

But I don’t think that gives Lennier the wrong idea. He’s just a puppy dog:

“Where you walk, I will walk.”

This treads the line between loyalty, and defining himself by servitude. It’s perhaps a reflection of how tied this race of people are to their social status and/or caste. Lennier’s life is all about walking in Delenn’s shadow.

Meanwhile, Sheridan gets captured by B5’s version of Styre (Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment) and is imprisoned in B5’s version of Axos (Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos). It’s a little disappointing that B5 can’t muster a more impressive version of an organic-looking set than a 1971 Doctor Who story, all fabric with lights shone on it, and there was clearly not much of the budget spent on the alien when we get a glimpse of him, but the robot arm thing is quite impressive. As soon as the other prisoner starts attacking Sheridan it’s clear what’s going on here, but our captain is remarkably slow on the uptake. Eventually the Narn has to spell it out for him, and then the penny drops:

“Analyse us?”

You don’t say. After padding things out with a dream sequence where everyone talks in riddles and then Mr Riddle himself, Kosh, crashes the party, it finally dawns on our genius Captain Sheridan that he has been kindly supplied by his captors with an extremely large knife, and maybe he could try doing something with that.

Back on the station, Kosh repeats the exact words that he said in Sheridan’s dream. Does he get a kick out of that stuff? How long has he been lurking outside the door, twiddling his thumbs (does he have thumbs?) waiting to deliver his five words?

Finally we get to the C plot in the last few minutes, which is the bit of the episode that advances the overall arc. It amounts to little more than an acknowledgement of a bond of trust between the four main human characters in the cast, and a vague undertaking to do something about the political situation eventually, but I am happier to see this kind of thing being thrown in at the end than have the season arc used as a focus of entire episodes, when it has tended to be to the detriment of the quality of individual episodes so far. The story-of-the-week format seems to be where B5 is most comfortable at the moment. If it’s going to be the arc-heavy series its reputation would suggest, then that needs to change.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Babylon 5, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Babylon 5: All Alone in the Night

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The cryptic nature of an SF show’s story arc, which is continually appealing today thanks to those seen in Manifest and Dr. Who: S11’s “Timeless Child” for the Doctor, seemed to be quite at home with Babylon 5 and Sheridan’s storyline particularly. At this point in the series, it’s enough for the most loyal SF fans to appreciate how the genre should never answer too much right away and in B5’s case, it can benefit even the story-of-the-week format. Thank you both for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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