Babylon 5: Walkabout

b5I’ll tell you what I can’t do: I can’t go to Ikea and see Swedish Meatballs and not think of G’Kar.  If there is one long term takeaway from this series, it’s that every sentient race in the galaxy has some form of Swedish meatballs.  And I think that’s marvelous!

But surely there’s more to this story than that!  This follows a massive two-parter so by the pattern we’ve seen, we should be in for a lighter episode now.  But the season is drawing to a close, so we don’t have much time for levity.  So what do we get?  We have one plot which barely warrants discussion so let’s get that out of way: Franklin is on walkabout finding himself and that means finding a singer who can’t look him in the eyes; she has to look at him through a warped glass to “see his soul”.  It’s supposed to be poetic, I guess, but she ends up being addicted to narcotics too, not unlike Franklin.  Maybe it’s designed to give him a mirror into his own issues but at this point, I’m still irked by the fact that he left his post when he was needed most, so I have little time for this plot thread.  The episode even ends on his story, so I guess it was supposed to have greater impact… but it failed to capture my interest.

By contrast, Sheridan has some plans and that entails putting telepaths to the test to see if they can really stop a Shadow vessel.  And as luck would have it, Lyta returns to mourn the passing of Kosh.  (I’m sure Roger was not happy when a replacement Vorlon arrives.  “We are all Kosh”.  I was delighted, but this Kosh is very different from the last.)  For Sheridan’s mission, he’s asked G’Kar’s people for aid.  Sadly, they are not ready to lay down their lives for the humans.  Now here’s the thing: the battle that happens should be the best part of the episode and due to the culmination of the battle, it is.  But the moment that shines for me is when Garibaldi has a strongly opinionated discussion with G’Kar about getting that help.  And I’m torn because, yes, I agree with Garibaldi: Sheridan put himself at risk when he defended G’Kar and the other Narn.  He made a judgement call to do the right thing, and I think that’s what Garibaldi was trying to convince G’Kar.  But he hit G’Kar instead with “people follow orders”.  Now that’s a real double-edged sword, because with all the WWII references all season long, following orders can get pretty messy.   The moral argument had to hinge on being there for people who were there for you, following what you believe is right, and being stronger together than apart.  A unified front is stronger than a divided attack… etc.  Thankfully, G’Kar (the Wise) understands the meaning even if he had to weed through the words to get there.  When the White Star is about to be destroyed by a Shadow vessel and the Narn Heavy Cruiser arrives, it’s a moment where we collectively punch the air.  But when G’Kar shows up with a dozen more ships on top if it, G’Kar once again takes the lead as the best character in the universe.  The telepath experiment was a success… with a little help from some friends!

Through this ordeal, the new Kosh is looking for something.  He is convinced a piece of (old) Kosh was left behind.  He goes to the original Kosh’s quarters to see what happened and we see what is pretty clearly the outline of a human and two Shadows.  Then he tries to find Kosh with Lyta.  It takes Lyta the bulk of the episode to work out that the piece of Kosh might be with another.

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This ties in nicely with the message Kosh leaves John with before he dies: As long as you’re here, I will always be here.  But that begs a different question.  Kosh had said he would not be there for John if he goes to Z’Ha’Dum.  Are these contradictory statements?  Speaking of quotes from Kosh, when the telepath experiment succeeds, Lyta hears Kosh say “And so it begins”.  While this is an old quote, does it mean more than meets the ear?  Perhaps the tide has changed.

I find myself in a weird place with this episode.  There is something I want to talk about from another series, but to do so spoils something for the future for Roger.  I’ll say this: Doctor Who and Star Trek are still the giants of televised Science Fiction and JMS may have been inspired by things he saw in those series.  I do find there is a distinct connection between this episode and something in Star Trek, and one day I might come back and revise this article to cover that.  For those who know, it’s worth a think… for now, let’s just say even the great JMS is allowed to admire the giants of the genre.

So with that, the Army of Light is ready for the next steps, but what they are, entails waiting for the next episode.  In the meantime, I’ve got to give it to the CGI of the time: the scene of Sheridan on the front of the station was amazing.  The image of Kosh’s ship coming up to see him was even more awe inspiring.  But what did it say when it posted some form of writing on the side?  Will we ever know?  Like everything else with the Vorlon, it might remain a mystery!  ML

The view from across the pond:

I do not believe it. You have got to be kidding me.

“We are all Kosh.”

Somehow I knew we couldn’t be lucky enough to get rid of Mr Riddles for good. A couple of episodes later, and along comes Kosh 2.0. I like the new costume, but that’s about all I like. Kosh 2.0 definitely isn’t as nice as his predecessor, choking Lyta. But what does he mean by that “we are all Kosh” comment? He’s clearly not the same person, and he’s in search of “a piece of Kosh”. I wonder which bit he wants. A toe? A bone? His little book of riddles? So what are they? Clones? A hive mind? Twins? Is Kosh a caste, or class, or title? Is he just trying to be annoying?

“Well, he’s a Vorlon alright.”

And Franklin’s a doctor alright, even though he’s trying to escape that for a while. I liked the idea of his walkabout. I’m sure many of us at one point of another have fancied the idea of leaving work behind and going for a ramble instead, but Franklin is also trying to find out who he is, beyond his job.

“You’re a doctor, a scientist.”
“And?”
“And what?”
“Exactly.”

This episode doesn’t have any answers for him, except perhaps (and a little cruelly) that he really is just a doctor and nothing else. Maybe that’s the point. Cailyn’s singing is her life, and that’s fine. Perhaps it’s OK for Franklin’s work to be his life too, when that work involves saving people. Maybe that’s all he needs. At first she appeared to be an addict, which was a clever bit of misdirection, and went a long way towards justifying what seemed to be an annoying distraction of a B plot. By and large, I can do without seeing Franklin’s love life, or anyone’s for that matter in B5. I was also a bit puzzled to see that bland 90s music has made a comeback in the 23rd Century. And the head flick dance move. Oh, and did we really need to hear the whole song? With the other exciting stuff going on, I just wanted JMS to get on with telling the story. I didn’t come here expecting to see The X Factor. And nothing could prepare me for the strange incongruity of this:

“You’re gonna be Steve.”

He doesn’t look like a Steve. Thinking about it, JMS tends not to give his characters very good names to shorten, does he. Sheridan…Sher? Do you believe in life after B5? Garibaldi… Baldi? Well, he’s getting there. Delenn…Len? Lennier… Len? A bit confusing.

Cailyn’s joke about looking for a doctor with the right equipment was amusing though, as was (unintentionally) Sheridan’s conversation with a very small hologram… which brings us to the main plot this week, and the first big victory against Shadow ships. Again, there was some clever misdirection. I was just thinking how foolish it was of Sheridan to attempt the telepathy attack with Lyta instead of bringing Bester along for the ride or something, when the death of Kosh 1.0 motivated her. The bleeding from the eye was a bit much, especially with the camera revelling in the moment in a close-up shot.

Predictably G’Kar showed up to save the day, thanks to Garibaldi’s fabulous rant earlier in the episode, and less predictably he brought a bunch of other ships with him. I’m never going to complain about G’Kar playing the hero anyway. Did I mention how much I love G’Kar?

“I can make a difference.
“Until you die.”

Tell it like it is, doctor. But this was an episode about individuals making a huge difference, by using what they’ve got. Sheridan, Garibaldi, G’Kar, Lyta, the Minbari telepaths… they were all essential to the victory in their own way. Cailyn is dying, but uses her talent to give others hope. And Steve is a doctor. Maybe that’s all he needs to be. 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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