Babylon 5: Ceremonies of Light and Dark

b5Let’s take a look at the art of planning: this is the 11th episode.  In a series where 22 episodes compose a season, and the show itself only has 5 seasons, this is the exact middle point!  Or more accurately, since I guess you can’t have a middle in an even number, this is the end of the first half.  Now this is only relevant at the end of the episode but before I get there, I should discuss the episode itself.

This episode is timely for me personally.  It comes right after Sheridan has decided to no longer wear his Earthforce uniform.  It’s pertinent because for my job, I wear a “uniform” shirt.  But the Corona Virus has made going into the office something that we can’t do right now.  So my shirt remains off “until this is over” and we can go back to work.  So I feel like I’m in good company at least.  Meanwhile Delenn and Lennier do not know about the Corona Virus, as they refuse to practice social distancing.

OK, but all kidding aside, we’ve had a three-episode arc of super episodes, so I shouldn’t be surprised that this one would be a bit slower.  There’s a trigger happy killer on board and he’s working with a man with a scar.  Clearly these will be our villains.  Somehow Nightwatch still has people on board and they will do something to hurt Sheridan.  While that’s happening in our A plot, the B plot has Londo try to exert some control over Refa.  And if you want some lighthearted humor, Harlan Ellison provides the voice for the computer pretending to be a bit of a mobster.  (It felt forced, but at least I give JMS credit for trying.)

In the B plot, Londo is holding his knowledge of Morden over Refa.  Somewhere along the line, Londo has been rebuilding his conscience.  He tries to tell Refa how to handle things but Refa, naturally, ignores him. But here’s what I kept thinking: back in The Gathering, Sinclair tells G’Kar that he was poisoned too.  But as he later tells Michael, there is no poison.  G’Kar doesn’t know it, but it was ultimately a way to control his actions.  Might Refa not be on that same path to a lot of tests that lead to nothing?  Londo is, above all, concerned for his own people, his home; he’s a patriot through and through.  Londo wants his people safe: is he really likely to kill a man?  What happens if Refa unknowingly ingests the very “second half” unwittingly?  And wouldn’t the Centauri know something about such a poison?  No, like the spoon, I’m fairly secure that there is no poison!

The A plot is really where the episode comes together.  First I’ll share an observation: when our resident villain sings “Dem Bones”, I had to laugh because I know we are revisiting The Prisoner on our Wednesday posts and the final episode features my favorite version of that song.  This episode features it too, but possibly the least liked version I’ve ever heard.

Over to the villain: he’s a sadist.  He wants to kill for the sake of it.  He’s a terrible individual but Delenn puts that into perspective: he’s alone.  It’s a biting realization and that is ultimately at the heart of bullies, isn’t it?  They don’t relate to others well.  Like many episodes of B5, there are moments that rise the episode above.  While the realization about the bully was good, we were still on course for a mediocre episode, but something turns the tide of the story.  It starts with Marcus going on a rampage. He tells Lennier, “They always told me I had a lot of repressed anger,” Lennier asks, “And?”  Marcus delivers a great line: “It’s not repressed anymore!”  But the scene then gets stolen by Lennier who first reminds Marcus that they are not as alike as they may appear, before sharing that he loves Delenn.  (Saw that coming; all that personal space invaded whenever he’s near Delenn!)  So at this point, some great moments have occurred that nearly changed the tide but not quite enough.  There needed to be just a little more…

After tricking the bad guys out of hiding, we get that moment.  As Delenn tries to protect John (although in a rather odd choice of running past the guy with the knife rather than jumping on his back and destabilizing him), she gets that knife herself.  Talk about unexpected.  But it’s Sheridan’s handling of the scene which once again makes me a fan.  It’s frankly John’s unadulterated rage that gets me.  This was the first time I heard “no more” used with such ferocity.  (Another John, Hurt, to be exact, would use it years later to convey power only a Time Lord could appreciate!)  Through the whole beat down, our would-be assassin doesn’t get one hit on John.  “Not on my station!  Not on my watch!  NO MORE!”  For the love of Kosh, this was a great moment.  It turned the episode around for me.  It wasn’t a bad episode, it was just too weak after so many strong ones… until this moment.

Now, to wrap up, Sheridan and the crew honor Delenn’s wish to go ahead with the rebirth ceremony (of light and dark).  It’s a great moment because it shows how everyone has bonded.  When we watch our other shows here in the Junkyard, like the Haruhi series, friendship often comes up as a vital subject.   But take a step back and remember, the humans of B5 were at war with the Minbari 10 years earlier.  They are now together, in more ways than one.  “I can no longer imagine my world without you in it.”  Sometimes, an episode rises above for the most unexpected of reasons.  In this case, it was the love two people share and how that love drove John to a moment of rage. Yes, Garibaldi’s revelation is intense, Susan’s was perhaps expected and Steven’s is the first step to healing, but it was that moment for me!  And then Delenn gives them a gift…

And with that, we come back to where I started: we are at the end of the exact half way point in the series.  Sheridan’s final line mirrors that of Laurel Takashima in The Gathering: “We’re open for business”.  But there’s a difference now.  The Ceremony has left the army of Light in the colors of Darkness.  Ah, symmetry…   ML

The view from across the pond:

I said last time that what remained would be a mopping up exercise. This was a very enjoyable mopping up episode. The main thrust of the episode was the rebirth ceremony, interrupted by Delenn’s kidnapping by criminals working for the Night Watch and trying to undermine Sheridan’s power base by removing the Minbari from the equation. The chief kidnapper was a man named Boggs, who clearly wasn’t destined for heroism with a name like that.

Like a lot of people on the station, I initially thought Delenn’s ceremony was a waste of time, and in the end I was a little ashamed by that thought process, placing me in the same camp as Londo and G’Kar. They rejected the opportunity for different reasons. Londo is not ready for redemption, if he ever will be, while G’Kar doesn’t need a rebirth.

“I’ve already been born once, and quite sufficiently I think.”

In the end we did get a ceremony of sorts despite the kidnapping, and I was pleased to be wrong about my assumption that it would be a waste of time. It achieved two very important things. Firstly, everyone had to make a confession, and we had some gems among those. Lennier and Sheridan both confessed their love for Delenn (but Lennier confessed it second hand), which came as no surprise from either of them. The only surprise was that Lennier was prepared to vocalise those feelings.

“It is not romantic love as you consider it. It is something higher and nobler.”

I’m calling that as nonsense. However he chooses to describe it, Lennier is a man in love. Then we had this from Garibaldi:

“No one knows, but I’m afraid all the time of what I might do if I ever let go.”

The question is what? If he ever lets go of what? My guess is his devotion to his work, and his fear is a return to alcoholism. Speaking of which, this came as no surprise, but was still a useful development because Franklin is admitting it:

“I think I have a problem.”

And that has to be his drug addiction, surely. Oh, and by the way, Ivanova is a lesbian.

“I think I loved Talia.”

That one came out of the blue a bit, didn’t it! I mean, there were maybe the tiniest of hints. It’s a bit of a dodgy one this, because Talia is long gone, so in story terms it’s not a revelation that can lead to anything, like the others. So it really is about her sexuality rather than the object of her affections, which is a little sensationalist and in a right-thinking society should be a little bit of a “so what?” moment. It doesn’t really sit comfortably with the other confessions.

The other point to the ceremony was giving something up, which resolved Sheridan’s issue with wearing the uniform. Delenn provided him and his team with some smart new ones, so they could move on without the slight awkwardness of commanding troops while not wearing any uniform. I felt a bit sorry for the others though. Imagine how the ordinary Joes feel to be still wearing the uniform that represents their oppressors, while seeing their superiors get swanky new ones. Delenn had better get sewing soon, or that’s a prime candidate for a them-and-us situation. It’s the sort of thing to create divisions, not loyalty.

While all this was going on we had another couple of bits of business. The only part of the episode that felt like we were moving on to the second half of the series rather than mopping up was Londo half-poisoning Lord Refa, in an attempt to separate him from Morden. He still doesn’t get it, does he. The man’s stupidity is overwhelming. He severed ties with Morden, completely failing to predict the very obvious result that Morden would simply move on to another Centauri. What makes him think that won’t happen again, and Morden will move on from Refa to another again? There are two possible outcomes to his actions. Either Morden will choose somebody else, or the Centauri will become his target rather than his allies. Londo is a fool. There’s no getting out of the hole he’s dug for himself, unless JMS abandons all logic in his writing.

We also had Marcus not wanting to go to the party, because he felt that he had nothing left to give, and then showing us another side to his character by going beserk. It actually put into perspective Lennier’s strength, easily overpowering Marcus, who had just himself knocked out a room full of criminals. The whole situation taught us something new about both of them.

There was an attempt at some light relief, like there often is, but the humour completely misfired this week. The artificial intelligence computer was the one part of the episode that really didn’t work at all. It was supposed to be funny but was just incredibly silly and annoying. Oh, and hacking passwords is not about “guessing” and the passwords used to gain access to the most vital systems on the station were not even case sensitive; peekaboo is not a “strong” password.

But the main point of the episode was the ceremony, and in the end I thought it was a wonderful idea. In fact, I might try it myself. So I need to give something up, and then confess a truth. OK, here goes.

  • Giving something up: I will give up writing about Babylon 5 and this will be my last review.
  • Confession: the last sentence was a lie.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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