Babylon 5: Point of No Return

b5Well, there it is!  Majel Barrett Roddenberry makes an appearance on B5 and the circle is complete.  What more could you want?  I was never really a fan of the characters Majel played in Trek but I still respect her role in Science Fiction history and she is one of the legends. To see her in Babylon 5 was wonderful for me, and I actually really liked her character here.  Plus, as wife of Gene Roddenberry, it sort of said: Trek and B5 are not rivals. They are both intelligent science fiction.  One isn’t necessarily “better” than the other.  They can coexist.  I feel like I had a vision and Kosh gave me a revelation…

Anyway, prophesy in science fiction may be a gimmick when you consider the writer already knows all the things discovered therein, but it sure is fun working out what it all means.  And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  It’s a mini-game in the middle of a show or series.  Lady Morella comes aboard and has a vision to share with Londo and Vir.  One will become Emperor after the other dies.  Then we get the prophesy for Londo: if he’s to avoid the future he fears, he has to “save the eye that does not see” or “not kill the one who is already dead” or last but not least “he must surrender himself to his greatest fear, knowing that it will destroy him.”  So now we have to figure it out.  In season one, Londo uses Morden to help recover The Eye.  Clearly not a real eye, is that the one that does not see?  Or is there another?  (The only other clue we have at this point goes back to the first episode when Londo’s dream shows G’Kar wearing an eyepatch.)  As for the one who is already dead… I’ve got nothing. The future of the show is known to me but realistically this could mean a few things: someone who is believed dead?  Someone dead to him?  As for what he fears most, I think we’ve established that being seen as a joke was a big thing to him but it could also be the fall of his people.  The main point is that, whatever the answers, it will be fun figuring it out.

Now as much as I love all that prophesy stuff, what’s going on since Martial Law was declared last week is far more interesting.  General Hague is on the run.  The Senate has been dissolved and their facility has been attacked.  Nightwatch has been given exclusive authority over security on the station and as if that wasn’t enough, Babylon 5 has also been put under Martial Law.  The message reaches Sheridan with an ominous closing: “God help us all; you’re on your own.”  But when General Smits sends John his “marching orders”, he’s saying more than he’s saying.  He’s emphasizing what he can in order to get John’s attention and it’s only because of something Franklin says that John makes the connection.  They create a ruse and, with Zack’s help, they get the Nightwatch into a secure area where Sheridan traps them.  This is one of my favorite moments in the entire series.  John tells the Nightwatch that they are under arrest for “conspiracy to mutiny and failure to obey the chain of command.”  He explains that “the political office is a civilian agency outside the chain of command…  Orders affecting military personnel must come from within the military hierarchy.”  This means a senator or a governor cannot issue orders over military personnel.  As he so beautifully puts it, “Make no mistake: this is an illegal order!”  While Susan may be right, that it is a temporary measure, it is a marvelous victory.  I punched the air when it happened.

While all this is going, G’Kar is let out of jail three weeks early and he promises he might have something for Michael.  As he goes to his room, he finds Ta’lon standing there.  He tells Ta’lon that they are at a moment of transition and G’Kar needs his help.  (I know I should wait to the end of the season, but I don’t want to forget: season 3’s closing monologue speaks of moments of transition and moments of revelation.  It’s an important point and G’Kar identifies this as the former!)  He goes on to explain to Ta’lon that as a race they must be ready to die by the millions if they have to in order to save themselves.  G’Kar has changed and one wonders about saving the one who is already dead: could it be G’Kar?  He has certainly become a very different man than he was prior to Dust to Dust?  G’Kar also offers a bit of humor when he goes to see Susan with “an idea!”  But in the end, after getting his people together to help the humans, he asks Sheridan to be allowed entry into their little Army of Light.  Will they have him?  (They’d be foolish to say no!)

The episode is powerful.  There’s no denying that the story has picked up pace and where we go from here is anyone’s guess.  It appears the episode will end on a light note though, with Vir and Londo being nervous around one another, considering the prophesy that one will be Emperor when the other dies.  It’s a great moment to let off a bit of steam.  And then the news comes: 4 of the 5 ships that defected with General Hague have been shot down and they expect Hague to be captured any day now.  As Susan says, “I never thought it would end like this!”  The tension just ramped up again.  ML

The view from across the pond:

“The Earth Alliance just declared martial law!”

Cue much running along corridors. Why do people do that anyway? Where do they think they’re running to? They can’t exactly head for the hills on a space station. Maybe at times like this the fight or flight instinct takes hold, and things really do get bad.

“I’ve never seen it any worse.”

When the Night Watch were talking about rooting out the traitors last time I was reasonably convinced we were heading for a witch hunt scenario. That never quite got off the ground, and instead we had a bit of jack-booted brutality, a rule by military force. This was summed up by a key scene with Sheridan reading out the martial law announcement while the station descended into riotous chaos, triggered by the heavy-handed approach of the Night Watch security force.

This was an episode about loyalty, and we were shown both extremes. On the one end of the scale there was Ta’Lon, who had been waiting patiently outside G’Kar’s door ever since he was incarcerated. This is a race of people who stand by their word. At the other end of the scale we had most of Garibaldi’s security team.

“If everything I’ve ever said has meant a damn to you then stop this.”

His speech was strong and impassioned, so it was very odd that nobody chose to support him in that moment, and a clever subversion of what we would normally expect from a heroic speech like that. Then we had Zack, who I always knew would come good, and it was a punch-the-air moment when he did. He was our viewer perspective character within both groups, so he was always going to be key to the resolution. And talking of keys…

“The humans, they’re the key.”

Did I mention G’Kar is fabulous? We had another punch-the-air moment when he strode in with his Narn friends as the new supplement to the security force. Meanwhile, Lwaxana Troi turned up to give some prophetic words of advice, once again blurring the boundaries between sci-fi and fantasy. Both psychic abilities and visions of the future are shown to be real things in B5, and those generally belong in the realms of the magical. The problem I’ve always had with series that give us visions of the future is that it locks everything into a fatalistic universe. Giving Londo ways to escape the “fire” that awaits him helps to ameliorate that, showing that future events are not set in stone, but a universe that is 95% fatalistic and 5% choice is still pretty rigid in terms of where we’re going with the story. So when she says Londo and Vir are both going to be Emperor, we can be completely certain that is going to happen. My bet is Londo first, then Vir. I’m also guessing that’s not going to happen until Season Five. Don’t tell me if I’m right or wrong though please! I’ve had enough spoilers already from Lwaxana Troi.

Just when I thought B5 was becoming a firmly anti-establishment series, Sheridan gave a rousing speech about how the Night Watch’s actions were illegal because the order didn’t come down the chain of command. You could argue that he’s using a loophole rather than demonstrating that adherence to authority wins the day, but I do think the message here is very strongly one of the establishment functioning well as long as it isn’t hijacked in some way. He is fighting against people who are abusing their power, and that means walking the line between becoming an anti-establishment figure himself, and also showing how playing by the book can still be a useful weapon in his armoury.

“Never thought it would end like this.”

…and I never thought B5 would get this good, after two years of limping along with only the occasional great episode. For the first time, I’m starting each new episode expecting to enjoy it. It shouldn’t have taken nearly 50% of the entire run to get to this point, but I’m delighted that B5 is a series that has finally come good.   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: Point of No Return

  1. scifimike70 says:

    A series that has finally come good is often the most interesting. Because fans would still need a good reason for tuning in enough to finally see it come good. I actually started B5 at a later point when I just happened to find it more interesting. It had a good sense of continuation between the most pivotal episodes and cliffhangers. Plus such a beautifully naturalistic atmosphere for how it portrayed its futuristic universe. At a time when CGI, in the inevitable wakes of both Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park, was the overwhelming breakthrough, B5 is even more reflectively appreciable for showing how CGI and the stories and acting of the cast could work together so harmoniously.

    Amen to that. 🌌

    Liked by 1 person

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