Babylon 5: No Compromises

Babylon 5 ArtworkSeason 5.  I can’t believe how much fun it’s been writing about this series.  But of all the seasons, I love this opening the most.  The quotes from all 4 previous seasons conjure images of all that has gone before as we launch into the final season.  And No Compromises has a lot to do to get us started.

Most importantly, we have to get an introduction to the new commander of B5, Elizabeth Lochley.  She seems a bit rigid to me, too by-the-book, even being convinced she knows how to run a space station that is a port of call for many different races.  But throughout the episode, she proves to be quite adept at making decisions and appears to be a good leader.  When she goes up against Garibaldi around Sheridan’s safety, I can’t disagree with her.  Garibaldi abandoned his post and is now in violation of standard operating procedures.  When he confronts her again later, he’s being showy but she keeps a cool head, even when asked what side she fought on during the civil war.  She says evenly, “I was on the side of Earth, Mr. Garibaldi.  Weren’t we all?”  While I can’t say this was a resounding victory for her introduction, I do find myself drawn to her leadership abilities.

We are also introduced to creepy Byron, who skulks in shadows, sneaks messages around instead of asking for a meeting like a normal person and most of all, is such a strong telepath that he failed to read the minds of the security force Lockley brought with her for their clandestine meeting.  He just wants a home for his people though, so is it a bad idea to help him?  Then, when Sheridan does offer him a place, he seems about as grateful as a kid whose lunch money was just stolen.  I don’t know about that guy…

Meanwhile Garibaldi’s new role as head of covert intelligence is telling; namely in that Sheridan seems to be willing to put their past differences aside, understanding that Michael was under someone else’s influence.  (I’m sure it helped that Michael risked his life to save Sheridan, going out in a Starfury without protection!)  Londo has very little to do in this episode, but he does appear to be a happier man again.  He’s come a long way.  G’Kar is asked to write the declaration for the new Alliance because, by G’Quan, that man can speak!  The comedy is that this time we never hear his eloquence.  Instead, after one interruption too many we have this:

G’Kar: “Do you want to be president?”
Sheridan: “Yes.”
G’Kar: “Then put your hand on the book and say ‘I do’”.
Sheridan: “I do!”
G’Kar:  “Fine.  Done.  Let’s eat!”

Then there’s Sheridan.  His commentary on leadership is a good one; leaders need to walk with their supporters, not be swaddled in a protected place high above them.  His stance on terrorism, not to be intimidated, is also a good one.  But what really surprised me was the day I was writing this: Tuesday, election day, 2020.  I’ve seen the parallel between this show and our real world for some weeks now, but how strange to deal with the signing in of a president on our election day.  Maybe taking a page out of Sheridan’s leadership book could do our real life incumbent some good.  One can hope!  But I fear no compromises may be the order of the day!

It’s a surprisingly fast paced episode for having to be an introduction on many levels.  But I do have some minor things squirming at the back of my mind.  The assassin says of the ranger he kills that he is “the right person in the right place at the right time”.  This was Sebastian’s comment of John and Delenn during Comes the Inquisitor.  Does the assassin know about the events of that episode?   What about the dead Gaim (they look awesome under their helmets, by the way); will there be any impact from his/her death?  And in Grey 17 is Missing, we learned that PPG’s (the guns on the station) don’t shoot through bulkheads, yet that doesn’t stop the assassin from gunning down Simon while he’s inside the ventilation ducts.  (And how creepy is it that Simon was spending his free time passing through the vents anyway?)  Yes, this sets some of the stage, but it also made me wonder why it was called No Compromises.  Sheridan has the ceremony against the wishes of his friends.  The Telepaths are allowed to setup a colony even after they were told no by the new station commander.  Lockley was given full command, and already, Sheridan overrides it.  Michael is told he can’t participate in meetings, so Sheridan makes him head of covert ops.  I guess it’s true: these were no compromises; they were forced decisions.  And I don’t think that’s a good way to start a relationship.   ML

The view from across the pond:

They can’t leave that theme tune alone, can they. The new one is very military, almost medieval, and a lot happier sounding. Whether that’s any kind of a reflection of a different tone to the series remains to be seen. Last season we lost two main characters, Ivanova and Marcus, and we have just one replacement: Tracy Scoggins as Elizabeth Lochley, the new captain of Babylon 5. Naturally the episode focusses on her quite strongly, but doesn’t do a huge amount to establish her character beyond the fact that she is a bit grumpy and has lots of opinions about things. We don’t even get to see her reaction to being undermined by Sheridan at the end, which is a bit of an oversight.

We have an A plot and a B plot this week, which eventually intersect quite nicely (JMS is learning!). Now that Sheridan is a President he faces the same problem as presidents everywhere: security. Unlucky presidents past are given as examples, with the troubling and creepy idea of a “lone gunman” hiding in the shadows. The debate about how Sheridan should live his life is an interesting one, with Garibaldi trying to protect him from what he sees as a martyr complex, while Sheridan refuses to live his life in fear.

While this is going on, Lochley is contacted by a telepath, rather eerily indicated by the background chatter going silent at his approach. I suspect Byron’s request to set up a colony of telepaths who refuse to join Psi Corps is building up towards a telepath war later in the series. After all, Psi Corps aren’t going to like that much. Byron’s friends are a motley bunch. There’s another long-haired guy who looks just like him, two women who are “closer than sisters” (were they afraid to say “lesbians” in the 90s, and why does Byron feel the need to define them by their sexuality anyway?), and then we have the person who ends up connecting the A and B plots together: “Special Simon”. I’m not sure about that nickname. The word “special” had some pejorative overtones at the time. At least we suffix it with “educational needs” nowadays.

So one of Lochley’s first acts as captain is to go wandering around a dangerous part of the station, but then the twist is that she didn’t come alone to see Byron. So we do at least learn something about her: she’s no idiot.

All of this is solid, watchable stuff, but not exactly the most exciting episode in the world, although the assassin facing off against Sheridan from outside the station certainly grabbed my attention. Luckily there is also some great humour. G’Kar gets incredibly excited about being asked to write an oath and declaration of principles for Sheridan, and after a couple of interruptions at the ceremony just tells Sheridan to put his hand on the book and say “I do”.

“Fine. Done. Let’s eat.”

Did I mention how much I love G’Kar? Best line of the episode:

“When I loaned it to Mr Garibaldi it came back with coffee stains.”

Then we have Sheridan and Delenn getting all domestic, with Delenn complaining about wet socks in the shower. These are the silly little moments that make B5 feel like a real place with real people living there. I liked the advice that Sheridan lives by:

“I never leave the barracks unless I know I’ve got something to do when I get back.”

…motivating him to stay alive because he has something he needs to do later. That’s not a bad idea, although sock washing might be a bit unambitious. Try writing reviews instead. I never leave the house without knowing there’s yet another episode of B5 to review when I get back. Some days that’s a happier prospect than others. Today? One of the happy ones. A good start to the final season.   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, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Babylon 5: No Compromises

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The most interesting thing about Babylon 5 now mirroring all that’s happening in our world is that it makes our galactic neighbors in the B5 universe all the more identifiable as people. Not that Star Trek had never achieved that, which of course it always did. But because B5’s futuristic universe is openly more conflicted, despite how much our moral maturity has naturally improved, it does now feel all the more realistic and, from what I’ve recently seen in Star Trek: Discovery, the powers that be feel like its now an even better route for Trek to reawaken its own SF magic.

    Conflict gives the audience stories and therefore the most recognizable conflicts can give us all the more recognizable stories. So I’m all in favour of futuristic SF having more conflict for the sake of opening our hearts and minds. Pandora is also taking this to heart. So B5’s influences continue to thrive.

    Thank you both for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ShiraDest says:

    “I was on the side of Earth, Mr. Garibaldi. Weren’t we all?”
    Feels like this year’s election question…

    Liked by 1 person

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