Babylon 5: Moments of Transition

b5Zathras always made me laugh but one thing that resonated outside of the confines of Babylon 5 was his simple comment, “at least there is symmetry!”  Moments of Transition, a title that echoes G’Kar’s final words in season 3, shows us the symmetry between Sheridan and Delenn.  We are seeing the transition of two major stories: Sheridan, represented by the Earth conflict, and Delenn, represented by the Minbari civil war.  We’re also given two smaller transitions which will likely have greater reaching implications: Michael Garibaldi and Lyta Alexander.  This is truly a transition episode, and works as a lead in to everything for the rest of the series.  As Delenn brings about peace for Minbar, Sheridan is going to war.   The symmetry is sort of poetic, if not for the bloodshed that is bound to come of it.  Garibaldi is being pushed further away from the command staff while Lyta is being pulled closer to Psi-corp.  What G’Kar said is that the future is born of these moments of transition, and he seems to be as prophetic as ever.

While the Minbari stuff gets a bit tedious, I really like the conflict between the two castes.  Notice that Delenn employs one of Sheridan’s axioms.  He said his father taught him to never start a fight, but always finish it.  Delenn says the Warrior caste started the fight, but the Religious caste will finish it.  But I get a little tired of Delenn’s sacrificial lamb complex.  Yes, she does have great line when Shakiri says there might have been other ways: “you should have explored them before you tore our people apart,” but as accurate as it is, her willingness to die is losing its potency and making her seem like she needs medication.  Even Neroon is surprised that she doesn’t step out of the Wheel of Fire.  Now, I’m all for making a point, but isn’t she getting married to John?  Doesn’t she want to see him again, rather then be reduced to ash while he’s stuck dealing with problems of his own?  While I agree she needed to make that point, she’s not the attraction in this part of the story; that falls to Neroon.  I was delighted by what happened here, because I always liked Neroon and was bothered at the end of the last episode when he seemed to turn on Delenn.  But when his leader, Shakiri, started showing he was not fit for command, Neroon questioned him openly.  Shakiri’s disdain for the value of life drives Neroon to question things and they only exacerbate when Shakiri becomes too self-important.  Why Neroon had to die, I honestly blame on Delenn, but to a certain extent, it may be what she planned all along.  Part of me credits that, part of me hates the idea.  When Neroon dies, he dies as a religious caste member and a warrior caste.  So I’m torn about crediting Delenn; did she know that would happen?  Was that the plan all along?  And beyond that, I am left wondering, in forming a new government, who does she mean by “the one who is to come”?  Is this one of the standard Minbari hocus-pocus statements, or does she just mean it like “whoever comes to rule next”?  I’d prefer the latter, but I suspect the former.  The best possible outcome to this would be her own son, who we know will be born based on War without End.  This child will end up being the offspring of Delenn and Sheridan, and Delenn herself is an offspring of Valen/Sinclair.  So he would have claim to the throne, so to speak.  Thus, the hocus-pocus might simply be genetics and it’s not uncommon even in our own world to have a family line dictate who rules next.

Meanwhile, Lyta is being squeezed out of her quarters and is running out of money.  Something always bothered me about this and I really believe I figured something out this time around.  Zack interacts with Bester before he goes to see Lyta. Zack tells Lyta that “station resources” wants her to move out of her quarters.  Do they?  Or did Bester plant that in Zack’s mind?  Is Zack playing right into Bester’s hands, thus sending Lyta right into Bester’s as well?  For what it’s worth, I really like that Zack and Lyta are getting closer because her reaction to him when asking about dinner  some episodes back was rude but now she is inviting him to stay for a bite at her place.  Back to Bester, though, Lyta agrees to a very unpleasant option in order to have an income: she agrees to give her body to PsiCorp when she dies of natural causes.  I can’t help but wonder if there’s more to this than meets the eye!

Michael’s involvement with Edgars is questionable to me too.  The episode starts with Edgars asking Michael to get something through customs.  If he’s so valuable for that sort of  role, why does Edgars invite him to come to Mars?  I do love the conflict between Zack and Michael though but it’s enhanced by Michael’s quick reply to what it means to be honest.  I don’t agree with Michael but that’s not the point; he believes it and sees it as justification to bend the rules.  If Sheridan can, why can’t he?  Michael’s path has become an unfortunate one that doesn’t seem to be showing signs of improvement.

Finally, Ivanova comes in to see Sheridan raging about the death of 10,000 civilians.  Sheridan decides it’s time to bring the war to Clark and I love it; I had been waiting for this all along.  The season was tidying up some loose ends after the end of the Shadow War and it’s about time we get to this problem.  When Ivanova says she thought Sheridan wanted to find another way, I love how defined his sense of right and wrong is: “Any crew that executes an order like that is guilty of war crimes.”  There are no shades of grey for him; ironic considering who his wife is.  Based on the title and G’Kar’s words, we can see what’s coming: “the future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born…in pain.”  I don’t expect this to be easy on any of them…  ML

The view from across the pond:

There are two storylines of reasonably equal importance this week, and both of them require the viewer to switch off the brain to some extent. Think about them too much and they will unravel.

Lyta is struggling to get a job because she is not a member of Psi Corps, so Bester turns up to offer her a way back in to the Corps. He wants custody of her body after death, and that’s all he wants. On the surface that sounds like a good deal, but give it a moment’s thought and it’s clearly not. Firstly the contract will stipulate that he only gets her body if she dies of natural causes, but we don’t have to think back too far to realise there’s a telepath-specific disease out there. It’s not going to be too difficult for a man like Bester to engineer “natural causes”. Also, taking the deal will require her to abandon her principles, and put those gloves back on. So I never expected for one second that Lyta would actually agree, and yet by the end of the episode she is in tears, putting on the gloves. It’s a great performance, but I don’t buy it. What’s her motivation? She’s short of money? Nobody’s kicking her off the station, and she’s just being asked to move to smaller quarters. She doesn’t even think to ask Sheridan for his help? Surely he would do anything to stop her falling back into the hands of the Corps, especially as making her downgrade quarters while he previously had a hissy fit about being asked to do the same thing makes him something of a hypocrite. Of course, it’s perfectly possible he isn’t a hypocrite at all; the bad news Zack delivers is surely likely to have been engineered by Bester somehow. Not bothering to at least have a chat with Sheridan about what’s going on makes Lyta look foolish to say the least. It is also puzzling that Sheridan even allows Bester on the station at all. Surely being a “free port” doesn’t have to extend to the leader of the future’s answer to the Gestapo, and even after scanning Garibaldi he is still free to roam around.

Another leap of logic is required for the other storyline: the Minbari civil war. We are expected to buy into the idea that they are having a war between the religious caste and the warrior caste, but that’s a nonsense, isn’t it. The lines are very clearly delineated here. Heaven forbid, if an army turns up at the door of a church, it’s not going to take them long to get in. The whole war would be entirely one-sided and would be over before it even started. To be fair, it is quick, and the absurdity of it does get lampshaded by Delenn in her big speech, but it’s still a highly contrived situation for the sake of some relatively unengaging drama. I did like the philosophical questions raised though.

“Life and death are simply two possible consequences, both equal, neither valued or feared about more than the other. For a warrior, death is simply a release from our obligation.”

The problem with such a cast iron belief in reincarnation is that it runs the risk of devaluing life to such an extent that people dying in war doesn’t seem to matter. Given that problem, I was delighted when Delenn used his words against him, challenging him to die for his caste if death means nothing. Religion itself can of course be a great force for good in the world, but fanatical zealotry is harmful to others, and that is a worthwhile and brave theme for B5 to tackle.

“Religion and war must act in the service of the people, not the other way round.”

For my money that’s the most important line spoken in the whole of Babylon 5.

As I pointed out some time ago, there is another absurd war going on: the cold war between Earth and the station. Sheridan is the man who beat the Shadows, and Earth should have been begging him for a truce. He could have easily marshalled a force of loyal aliens who view him as a messiah and taken back the Earth for the good guys in no time at all. Instead the Earth forces have done nothing but antagonise him, and finally they have pushed him too far by killing civilians.

“Starting now we fight back and we fight back hard.”

About time too. And if it’s anything other than a piece of cake for the great hero of the Shadow War, the universe of B5 makes no sense at all…   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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2 Responses to Babylon 5: Moments of Transition

  1. valandhir says:

    I think you got some part really wrong here. Bester did not engineer anything. What happens to Lyta is simple negligence by Sheridan and his crew. They used her in the war, when she was paid by the Vorlorns, but they don’t give a damn how she is to support herself now, that the Vorlons are gone. Sheridan certainly did not pay her for her work. It shows the way telepaths are treated throughout the series: they are used when needed, but no one cares for them otherwise. It is quite clear throughout the entire series, be it statements like “I trust her, as much as I trust any telepath”, or using Lyta to fight the Shadow Vessels, but not really caring for her wellbeing. It will go on. In a way we can clearly see how Earth (and all the main protagonists) helped to create the monster named Psi Corps.

    Liked by 3 people

    • DrAcrossthePond says:

      Thanks for sharing Valandhir. And yes I completely agree with that. The direction that JMS went with that is unfortunate, but I think it’s closer to accurate than, say, the Trek universe of a utopian earth. I think the likelihood is that we would condemn those who are different and the telepaths are exactly that; the next step in a series of “looks who’s different” for the populace at large to attack. I would have been delighted to have Lyta as a friend, not because she could read my mind, but because she only comes off as mercenary in the final few episodes after the whole Byron fiasco. Prior to that, she always struck me as very likeable and often quite playful. (Plus I loved when her eyes would go all black!) ML

      Liked by 1 person

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