Babylon 5: Shadow Dancing

b5Z minus 7 days and we are busy Shadow Dancing! 

This weeks A plot has Sheridan and the Army of Light going on a Shadow offensive.  In the B plot, Franklin is finally going to meet himself and come to terms with his life choices.  And in a minor C plot, Delenn is planning to cement the relationship with John by spending the night together.

Considering how mad I was with Franklin for leaving his post, I found I couldn’t be upset with him when crunch time came.  He attempts to help someone from being beaten up and ends up stabbed and fighting for his own life.  In his delirium, he sees himself, dressed in uniform and has a conversation with himself.  Franklin faces the fact that he’s always run away and evaluated himself on what he wasn’t, rather than what he was.  His delirium-self calls him out on the foolishness of his actions which just spurs Stephen on.  He is determined to live.  “Don’t just walk away because it’s easier!”  And he does choose the hard path; he struggles in search of help and eventually finds it.  At the end of the episode, he and Sheridan have a conversation that I found both moving and meaningful.  We have to appreciate the moments and remember that it’s not about what we are not, but what we are.  Sheridan asks Franklin, “And what are you?”  Franklin answers “Alive.  Everything else is negotiable!”  And I suddenly respect Stephen again.  The station has its doctor back just in time, because Z is coming in just a few days.

But what is Z?  Well, we are one episode from the season finale.  Is Z, the last letter of the alphabet, also the last episode of the season?  Or is it something more?  I mean, Sheridan’s forces did just win a big victory against the Shadows.  It’s a great moment when Delenn walks in the room to see if the council has completed deliberations about offering help, and finds only one representative.  The immediate thought is that they are not going to help, but the Drazi that remains says she will have all the ships she needs.  Then, Sheridan tells Marcus and Susan that he needs them on what is sure to be a suicide mission as advanced scouts.  (Now is as good a time as any for Marcus to admit to Susan that he finds her beautiful, but just in case they survive, he does it in Minbari!  A lovely scene, by the way!)  To orchestrate the entire battle, Delenn brings John to a big dark room thankfully devoid of furniture, because there could be many a bruised shin otherwise.  It’s actually a tactical center which uses drop down screens to provide John a complete view of the battle.  Here he is able to offer battle commands, doing what he does best, as built up over several episodes: he uses his tactical and strategic skills to overpower and beat the Shadows.  Still, for every ship the Shadows lose, Delenn says the Army of Light lost 2.  Not good odds.  Garibaldi realizes that sooner or later, they are going to strike back.  And shortly after that, a shuttle leaves a Shadow vessel in hyperspace…

Let me pause.  There are a number of things worth mentioning at this point.  Marcus’s discussion with Susan offers two real-life pieces of wisdom.  When you want to learn something new, “it’ll take too long” is not an excuse.  As he says to her objection that it will take a year, “how old will you be in a year if you don’t learn…?”  Her realization is that she will be a year older in either event.  The point is something I carried with me to finish a degree I started some 20 years earlier: the time is going to go by one way or the other.  Whether you opt to make something of it or not is completely up to each of us.  The second bit of wisdom is when Susan says she thought rather than learning language, the Minbari would have been teaching combat skills.  Marcus says it’s much the same thing.  Yes, language can be used for combat just as much as love, humor, sadness… Knowing how to use words is a skill that can bridge the gap between enemies, woo a potential partner, win business meetings, and make people laugh.  Yes, don’t mock the wisdom of Marcus!  But he’s not the only one showing some degree of wisdom.  Garibaldi says something that stuck in my mind for a long time too.  “Sometimes people walk away because they want to be alone, sometimes they walk away because they want to see if you care enough to follow them into hell.”  I don’t always know if I have the wisdom to know which is which, but I never forgot that sometimes, the latter is a very real possibility.

After the victory, Sheridan remembers the dream he had during All Alone in the Night.  We are given clarity to Susan’s comment “do you know who I am?” relating to her being a latent telepath (though I was shocked that he said that so freely in front of Delenn, unless Susan was aware that Delenn already knew!)  Why Sheridan was wearing a Psi-Corp uniform in the dream could be because they joined forces with Bester to fight the Shadows.  But who is the man in between?  And the hand…?  The hand reminded me of the image Elric has of Londo’s hand reaching out to the stars.  But why would Sheridan be that?  John dismisses most of this in the end.  He realizes he’s putting too much weight in dreams and fears they will start reading tea leaves soon too.  Then he goes to spend the night with Delenn.  “Not like that!”  Delenn explains the Minbari belief that the woman stays awake for 3 nights to watch the man’s face to see his “true face”, not the one he wears around everyone else.  This will help her determine if he’s worthy to spend more time with… potentially in marriage.  He sleeps and she watches.  And periodically plays with a nearby snow globe.

It’s always a shame when they break.  But do we blame her for dropping it while John is sleeping?  His dead wife just walked in the room…  “I’m Anna Sheridan; John’s wife.”  I don’t know if it was the slow motion or the realization of what that flashforward represented from War Without End but whatever it was, I couldn’t control the chills that went down my spine. Z Minus 2 days…   ML

The view from across the pond:

Z Minus 7 Days, Z Minus 6 Days, Z Minus 4 Days, Z Minus 2 Days

OK, now I’m thinking the Z stands for Z’ha’dum, and feeling a little silly for not thinking of that last week. Mind you, this was a bit of a silly episode, so I was in good company. With only one episode to go, it felt odd to have so much time wasted with trivialities: Marcus trying to chat up Ivanova, those annoying sloping beds again (click, click, click), Franklin lurking around, a bigoted tourist going around with a tourist guide. All a bit light weight for this stage of the game. Tourists arriving with guide books didn’t sit well with what’s going on at the moment anyway. People don’t generally do much of that when there’s a war going on, especially at arguably the focal point of the war zone.

Even sillier was Delenn’s Minbari Tradition of the Week™. She seems to have an inexhaustible supply of those, and always previously unmentioned.

“When we’ve finished this, we will spend the night together.”

Aha!

“Not like that.”

Oh. As part of her commitment to Sheridan, she decided to watch him sleeping for three nights.

“What if she doesn’t like what she sees?”
“Then they go their separate ways.”

That would break up many a relationship before it gets started. Sheridan had better not have a curry the night before.

It also seemed a bit late in the game to be doing such a formulaic A plot / B plot episode. The B plot was Franklin finally realising that he should get on with his life and stop running away from his problems. It took a stabbing for him to “find himself”, and enough blood to make the point that this is not a show for children. They really need to carry mobile phones with them in the future. Failing that, maybe he should have taken a friend on walkabout with him. Instead he had to talk to himself, quite literally. My heart sank. One Franklin is enough for anyone, let alone two, especially with the now all-too-familiar blurry picture that seems to blight every special effects shot in Babylon 5. His fight for survival was impressive though.

The main story was a big battle with the Shadows, which almost felt like the season finale come early. In story terms there wasn’t much going on other than a lot of fancy effects shots, but it was all quite exciting. I was most interested by the question of why the Shadows have been avoiding B5, and my guess is that Ivanova doesn’t realise the extent of her psychic abilities and they are staying away from her.

Despite the end of the season looming, JMS seems intent on focusing on the personal interactions as much as the big dramatic stuff, especially with Sheridan’s wife turning up to put the cat among the pigeons. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.   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: Shadow Dancing

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Babylon 5 could dimensionally dramatize space wars in ways that Star Wars couldn’t. Particularly when it has a cat-among-the-pigeons surprise to keep its audience.

    Liked by 1 person

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