Babylon 5: Acts of Sacrifice

b5“The first casualty of war is always the truth!”  

I wonder how long America has been at war in my lifetime.

Acts of Sacrifice is written by JMS, and it has the story arc that I’ve been craving.  There are the two arcs that make up the episode but it truly does push the story along.  Plot A is the escalating tensions between Narn and Centauri.  This makes up the larger part of the episode.  To ease the tension, which is ratcheted up to 11, Plot B has Susan trying to convince a new race to be part of the Earth Alliance.  This gives Claudia a chance to do more comedy like she had with the Drazi and their two scarves.  Frankly, this one is completely nuts and I don’t know how much I like it because I’m of two minds with it, but if there’s one thing I can’t argue: it is funny.  So let’s go in reverse with Plot B first…

“Governments deal in matters of convenience, not conscience.”

Sheridan is busy and asks Susan to meet with the Lumati to learn about them.  They are a binary race.  The leader does not speak to “inferior species,” he allows a minion to do that for him.  Together they ask for a tour of the station and after seeing the seedier side of the station, their leader deigns to speak to Ivanova.  He decides they can be friends but they have to seal the deal with sex.  So as a guy who is sharing the series with his wife and child, I’m watching the show with my family man cap on.  It’s awkward when you have a younger kid watching with you, especially if the question comes up.  For the love of Kosh, this is not the time to have that discussion.  But it’s a funny scene and one can’t help but laugh, and this is an episode that needs it.  So Ivanova asks Sheridan for suggestions without telling him specifics.  Ultimately she decides to “go through with it” but, as the Lumati have no idea what customs Earth people have for sex, she’s able to improvise.  And this leads to a dance that is just hilarious.  Not only is the dance crazy, the things she’s saying (“Hey there, hey there, three bags full.  You come here often?  Yes, I do!… Tell me about your portfolio…”) is priceless.  In the end, totally befuddled, the ambassador leaves no wiser to the situation and believing he has “sealed the deal”.  I can just imagine the laughs on set.  How does an actor or actress film such a scene without crying with laughter!?!?

“It’s good to have friends. Even if only for a little while…”

For all the humor that aspect of the show brings, the main thrust is an attack that yet again pits the Narn and Centauri at each other’s throats.  G’Kar turns to Sheridan for help but Sheridan stings G’Kar by asking if he’s able to control his own people.  Andreas Katsulas, layered in more prosthetics than one can imagine, still conveys all the emotion imaginable with a look.  What a master!  The pain at hearing Sheridan say these things is palpable, but there’s wisdom in his words and G’Kar is not unaware of that.  Londo, by contrast, is becoming a monster, but we’re reminded that there’s something about him that we did like.  From the start, this character was the comic relief and he is rapidly becoming more tragic by the episode.  The scene where he’s in the bar with Garibaldi breaks my heart every time I’ve watched this.  Jurasik is equally skilled at conveying emotion as he tries to have a drink while being horribly sad at his “good luck”.  Garibaldi is angry, maybe even a little afraid of Londo.  Londo basically begs Garibaldi to stay, calling him his “good and close friend”.  He reminisces about how everyone else but Micheal felt he was a joke and Michael was the only one who was good to him.  This mellows Garibaldi a little bit and he offers to finish his rounds and stop back for a drink, which is kind, but as the episode goes on, we wonder if there will be anything coming from it.  Then another Centauri is killed at the hands of a Narn.  This time it’s Londo who makes things easier.  He does ask for some justice to be done, but he accepts the death was provoked by the Centauri.  As the audience, we see what’s going on.  So do Garibaldi and Sheridan.  As the final minute of the episode winds down, we see Londo in the bar, waiting.  Garibaldi walks in and they have a drink together.  And I feel my heart ache for Londo.  He is falling down a well and he has no idea what he can do to stop it.

Susan sacrifices her pride and comes out on top.  (Ahem…  Right…)  G’Kar also sacrifices pride, for the greater good and Sheridan gains more respect for him and is able to help him more as a result.  Londo sacrifices his need for revenge and gets a friend out of it “even if only for a little while.”  It’s one of those episodes that move the overall story along, but it’s a hard one to talk about on its own because we need to know where it goes from here.  Because right now, I just want to cry for Londo as that “great hand reaches out among the stars…”   ML

The view from across the pond:

“He’s dead.”

Yes, that would be because you just killed him. Are we looking at a devolution of the human race here? No stun settings? If this fabulous future world of high tech can’t manage that, give the security grunts a damn stick instead.

If I sound angry then that’s because this episode really got on my nerves. Partly it’s this cycle we’re stuck in. We are getting some stand-alone episodes that are generally solid, and then ones like this that focus on the ongoing arc to the detriment of the individual episode. But it’s not just that. Everyone on this station is starting to annoy me. If it’s not the drunken Centauri idiots trying to start something in the bar (I’ll go out for the evening instead of watching television if I want to see people doing that), then it’s Captain Blockhead blaming G’Kar for not controlling his own people (who are being taunted and bullied by the people who are trying to wipe out their race). And the thought of anyone in the future wasting a minute of their time on somebody who says this is sickening:

“Why go through all this to save the lives of potentially inferior species?”

It comes to something when Franklin comes across as the most likeable character, the only one who is willing to speak up for himself… sort of.

Then we had an attempt to make us feel sorry for Londo, who just wants a friend. It’s melancholy and it almost works, but I can’t care about the character any more, in the way the script is trying to make me. He’s searching for a genuine friendship and can’t find one. Well yes, committing acts of atrocity will tend to do that to a person.

So again I found my mind wandering on to happier things, such as exactly what G’Kar might mean by this:

“I was fighting the Centauri when you were still a pouchling.”

At least he didn’t say “egg”. I honestly don’t think Andreas Katsulas would have been able to keep a straight face. Speaking of which, when G’Kar doesn’t get what he wants from Delenn and Sheridan, he ends up in tears. Or is he laughing – it’s a bit difficult to tell? It sort of undermines a powerful moment, which is a shame.

I was happily distracted for a while by the vision of a cleaner apparently doing his end of the day metal detecting in the bar, and for another happy moment spotted the basketball coach from The Secret World of Alex Mack on the screen. An obscure reference, I know, but hey, it’s what I’m watching at the moment when I need some quality entertainment as a break from B5.

And this was anything but quality entertainment. The Ivanova B plot was rotten to the core, and a damning indictment of the bleakness of the future we are being sold here. I know I have praised the realism of a non-Trek utopia, but things are swinging too far in the opposite direction by a mile now. When the hideously xenophobic and classist alien decides the humans are worth talking to after seeing how they treat their underclass, that says it all. This is fast becoming a story of a future without hope. Throw us a bone!

After the obligatory fight scene to pad things out (I did like the Narn swimming/dance move/fighting), we get down to the nitty gritty:

“We will conclude this deal in our traditional manner. We will have sex.”

Yeah, that’s a line. He wouldn’t have said that to Sheridan, would he. Why not “send her superior” to seal the deal? Maybe find the ugliest bloke she can. But instead of that, we get Ivanova’s orgasmic dancing.

I can’t watch this.

Seriously this is the worst thing I’ve ever had to sit through. 34 episode in. Thirty-four. About a third of the whole thing. Why does Mike or anyone for that matter like this series? I’m just completely baffled at this point. We trudge onwards, in the hope that things surely must improve soon. Like G’Kar, I’m not quite sure whether to laugh or cry.   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.

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