Babylon 5: Strange Relations

Babylon 5 ArtworkStrange Relations is the 6th episode of the final season of Babylon 5 and it does one thing very effectively: it starts giving us signs that the end is coming.  As Londo says, “the end of the line.”  This is both a happy thing for me, because I think the series ends fantastically well, and a sad thing for me, because I don’t want to be done with the B5 universe!  But look at what we get: Londo is heading to Centauri Prime to become emperor.  G’Kar is going to be his bodyguard.  Franklin is going to become the Interstellar Alliance infectious disease specialist.  It’s all very telling and all starts the dissolution of the cast.

However, the big thrust of the episode is around Bester coming for the rogue telepaths.  Firstly, it should be noted that Lyta is joining the Creepy Cult of Byron.  These kumbaya singers, hiding out in the dark, really bother me.  Maybe it’s because Zack rightly sums him up as a martyr.  He’s not quite like Lorien; he’s not looking for something worth living for, but rather something worth dying for.  Or maybe it’s that Lyta is stealing from medlab for him, taking medicine that was going to “charity” anyway.  Does that make it better?  Steal from people who can’t afford it and it’s ok…?  I also take issue with what I consider some inconsistent writing around Lyta.  Lyta effectively blew up Z’Ha’Dum mentally, but she gets winded after mentally smacking two of Bester’s men?  Something doesn’t mesh! And I really have a hard time seeing Lyta join Byron’s cause, but it does make me wonder, if she does, will her contract with Bester be null and void?  Is her end coming too?  Especially as we continue to get references to “the telepath problem.”

On the other hand, the side stories are all interesting to me.  The conflict with Sheridan and Lochley really does paint her as a good and capable leader, defending what is right regardless of what her ex-husband says.  Oh yeah, about that: fun revelation!  Garibaldi and Delenn now know about Sheridan’s first wife too!.  I appreciate how both handle this information: Delenn approaches the captain directly while Michael has to be locked up before Lochley shares the information with him. (And he thought he had to hide in hallways to find out…)  Lochley joins a line of very strong captains: Sinclair was great and Sheridan was even better.

Then there’s Bester: I wanted Garibaldi to shove him out an airlock, but alas, it wasn’t to be… not now.  Maybe later.  (I did wonder however, when Sheridan called the PsiCorp Fascists R’ Us, how many more years will that reference work now that the greatest toy store there is, gee whiz, is gone?)  Once again, Londo and G’Kar steal every scene but it’s G’Kar becoming Londo’s bodyguard that seems to be the most telling part of the episode; definitely the “strangest relation”.  I want to know where that goes.  (Though I’m a bit like Londo here: I have the gift of “four”sight, … you know, having seen the series 4 times!)  Speaking of, I did wonder why Londo said “I don’t know why, or how, or where” in relation to his end.  We’ve seen it.  The why is the only real question. He can tell it’s the future and at the hands of G’Kar…

Yet with all that, my favorite moment comes from Zack Allen who says of the PsiCops, their “noses are so clean you could eat off them”.  Beyond being a strange yet funny line, it’s Franklin’s reaction, subtly displayed in the background and Lochley’s surprise by the line that really sells it.

This episode is all primer.  The telepath problem continues and someone wanted Londo dead; enough to detonate a ship they thought he’d be on.  I think the rest of the series will be quite interesting indeed!   ML

The view from across the pond:

The fifth series of Babylon 5 continues to be the most consistently high quality so far, without having to resort to the big interplanetary battles that have previously been the only path to success. This week Bester turns up to arrest long-haired Byron and his merry band of long-haired rogue telepaths, but Byron has a powerful ally: Lyta.

A couple of episodes back I was speculating on whether Lyta genuinely believes in Byron’s cause or if she is keeping an eye on him for Sheridan. This episode makes it clear that she does care about him and believe in him, and is willing to put her neck on the line to help him. Stealing medical supplies in broad daylight while other people are wandering around in the background doesn’t exactly make her a criminal mastermind, but what she lacks in cunning she makes up for in determination and telepathic talents.

Also far from being a criminal mastermind is Garibaldi, who bursts in on Lochley and Bester and gets himself arrested. Garibaldi really made me laugh this week, right from the start of the episode when Lochley and Delenn were talking, Lochley said “I don’t think anyone else really needs to know”, and then Garibaldi stepped out from behind a pillar where he had been eavesdropping. Does he routinely stand behind pillars round the station, just in case he picks up on a bit of gossip?

The stunt he pulls with Bester puts him out of the picture, allowing Lochley to deal with the problem of the Psi Corps in her own way. This felt like a pivotal episode for Lochley, firstly dispelling our fears about her dark secret (she’s just another of Sheridan’s wives), and then showing how she is keen to do the right thing but will only do that within the confines of the law. She will find a loophole if she can, but she won’t break the rules. Although I really like her as a character, I think it’s important to remember that she does still stand for everything Sheridan fought against: the “just following orders” jobsworth brigade. The loophole she finds is a last minute reprieve, and she was minutes away from sending a lot of innocent victims to be lobotomised or killed, just because they are different. JMS’s WW2 allegory continues. But Babylon 5 as always is about shades of grey, and I loved Lochley’s philosophy about tackling problems:

“You don’t have to solve every problem at once. Problems are solved in pieces.”

That’s great advice. In the end, Lochley won another 60 days for Byron, giving him ample time to get in some off-key singing in a room full of candles. It was a cheesy moment, but when Lyta joined him at the end I must admit it gave me shivers: a gentle moment of triumph for the good guys… probably.

And I haven’t even touched upon so many of the great moments this episode had to offer: Byron’s wonderful speech about the “deceptively strong” willow tree, the old smooth-talker; Bester’s nasty little smile when he sees victim Garibaldi again; Bester using that line from The Prisoner again, “be seeing you”; Zack hanging his head in shame when he sees Lyta, knowing whose side he is being forced to take; the hint from Bester that Byron might have been a Psi Cop and turned traitor (“Sooner or later they will turn on you. You know all about that, don’t you Byron.”); G’Kar chuckling at the thought of being Londo’s bodyguard in the royal court on Centauri Prime, and then squabbling with him over who is going to get the aisle seat, like an old married couple.

A thought occurred to me after watching this episode. I really love these characters, every one of them, and I don’t think I could have said that before this season. We’re in the final season, and for the first time I don’t want it to end.   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.

1 Response to Babylon 5: Strange Relations

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The end of the line for a show like Babylon 5, a show about the galaxy’s last best hope for peace as the titular setting signified, is sad when it implies that there can no continuations. Aside from the failed spinoff attempts with Crusade and Legend Of The Rangers. It makes us consider how many SF franchises for their similar circumstances may not be as enduring as Star Trek or Dr. Who. It’s therefore an honor for B5 fans to appreciate the show for how it so pivotally succeeded without a demandingly lengthy lifespan. It was inspired by the success of Star Trek as so many shows were and still are today. So as a show that reminds us all how influences are important, via both all its fictional dramas of the future and all its behind-the-scenes motivations, it was one of many great shows that loyal SF fans were born for. Thank you both for your reaffirming reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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