Babylon 5: The Ragged Edge

Babylon 5 ArtworkI was delighted to be back in the series without the distraction of the telepaths that had vexed so much of this season.  I far prefer the political intrigue and drama of the situation on Centauri Prime.  Maybe Michael Garibaldi was right when he said people like to watch big things fall apart because I’m guilty.  I didn’t feel the telepaths were a big thing.  The telepath problem was never held together for me.  But the stuff going on with the attacks on the Alliance and everything happening on Londo’s homeworld… now that is something to sink ones teeth into.  And lets face it, it gives us more time with Londo and G’Kar – how can that be a bad thing?

The two-plot formula is in place as we have so often seen with Babylon 5 episodes, but these two stories need not dovetail; they work remarkably well on their own.  One centers on Garibaldi heading to the Drazi homeworld to pick up an asset who might be able to shed some light on the recent attacks.  The other features G’Kar’s rise as a religious figure.  Both are incredibly entertaining.  The G’Kar story is a bit easier to review.  First off, it’s funny.  G’Kar explains that perhaps Londo is “not meant to be happy…” and it’s G’Kar’s role to make sure he knows it.  Londo, on the other hand, antagonizes G’Kar with jibes about his absence: “nothing improves your company like the lack of it!”  The two are a fantastic double act and going back to the beginning of the series, it seems impossible to ever imagine these two being where they are now.  Even as G’Kar provides guidance to the Alliance, he’s actually on Londo’s side, protecting him.  Speaking of G’Kar’s guidance, I love the religious commentary about the Book of G’Kar.  Perhaps it’s as much a commentary on fandom as it is on blind faith!  In any event, the lessons he imparts are received.  Also wonderful was seeing Ta’lon again.  I’ve come to realize his name most likely translates into “he who likes cutting his own hand with a sword”.  Though it’s repeated, I still love the lesson that Ta’lon carries his sword in his hand but G’Kar carries his in his heart.  Most important and always timely is the message that it’s time to learn new ways of behaving and thinking.  The G’Kar storyline never fails to impress.   “Now you’re a religious icon!”

What’s happening with the Alliance is a darker problem, coupled by the heartbreak of seeing Michael falling back into the bottle.  Bester has a lot to answer for but perhaps the worst is seeing the impact it has on Michael when he can’t exact his revenge.  (Not that I necessarily wanted to see one of the main heroes of the epic commit murder, but I do feel he was entitled to a bit of retribution!)  Michael’s problem causes him to sleep while is friend is murdered right outside his room.  He loses a potential asset during the scuffle and only makes it out with his life by the skin of his teeth.  It’s hard to watch because one wonders if he had not been drinking, would any of this have happened?  I do appreciate the symmetry where Stephen, knowing something is up with Michael, makes him the same offer Michael proposed when Stephen was hitting the stims.  (This actually make the last five minutes of the episode hard to take too because Stephen announces his planned departure at the end of the year.  He’s replacing Dr. Kyle… again!)  But the one good thing that comes from this is that Michael gets a button off a guard.  One simple clue, but it may be enough.  I did wonder why the alliance kept the news from Londo, but G’Kar very rationally explains it.  The plan both protects Londo, while not showing their hand.  (And besides, GKar can keep an eye on Londo in the meantime.  “An eye is all I have these days!”)

It sure was neat seeing other planets.  The thought that goes into the B5 universe still makes this a high contender for best developed series I’ve ever seen.  Are there better shows?  Possibly.  But I still love the way this show was designed and how much comes together.  I also love the way the series unfolds seemingly in “real time” with years passing with a season.  Franklin’s announcement really is a harbinger of the end of the show.  We’ve got 10 proper episodes before the end.  There’s a lot to cover if Londo is still destined to become Emperor and they need to wrap up the problems on his homeworld.  Surely there’s no more time for distraction episodes!  Right?   ML

The view from across the pond:

We are into the second half of the final season of Babylon 5 and it feels like we are getting ready for the end, and starting to find out where these people are going to end up. Frankin is off to a high-powered job, once again following in the footsteps of Dr Benjamin Kyle. He was the doctor on B5 in the pilot episode, so that’s rather a neat bit of continuity. The way things are going, G’Kar’s future is going to be as a religious leader. Here he finds out that his book has been borrowed without his consent (was it even finished?), copied and printed, and now looks like being the best selling book on Narn ever, turning him into a religious icon. Being as he refers to Londo as the “prideful windcatcher”, that’s understandable. It sounds like a fun book to read.

It was nice to see Ta’Lon back again, and the scene where he persuaded G’Kar to accept his calling in life was a masterpiece of beautiful and meaningful dialogue, delivered by two great actors. G’Kar’s fears proved not only to be unfounded, but the opposite of the problem he started to face when he met his followers for the first time. G’Kar’s fear was that he would end up as a sort of celebrity, overshadowing the book and its importance. Instead, the book is starting to overshadow G’Kar, with one follower running with the argument that it is a manifestation of divine wisdom, channelled through G’Kar, and therefore is infallible as a whole and of greater importance than anything G’Kar can say. That was in danger of placing G’Kar in the position of being unable to contradict his own words, even though his opinions have changed over time and he has learnt from his mistakes, like everyone does (or should do). The way he taught his follower a lesson about that was magnificent:

“Put your face in the book.”

Slam.

If we’re working towards finding out where our heroes are ultimately going to end up, with Franklin heading to Earthdome and G’Kar becoming a religious leader, what about Garibaldi, our other main focus of this episode? Well, unfortunately it looks like he’s heading for rehab. A lot of the episode was given over to his (mis)adventures on the Drazi homeworld. The ongoing storyline about the mysterious enemy of the Alliance is moving along at a snail’s pace, and Garibaldi’s Drazi adventure taught us little that we didn’t already know, apart from the existence of a “leak” on B5. There were really only three points to the whole exercise:

  1. To move things a long just a little bit, to the extent that Sheridan, Delenn, Garibaldi and G’Kar are now aware that the enemy’s power base is on Centauri Prime, based on scant evidence; it has already been established that the enemy is planting evidence, so it seems odd that everybody would be so keen to accept one button, which is easy to come by according to Londo, as evidence that the pilot’s killers were palace guards. OK, they got it right, but it was slightly clumsy writing, and the problem could have easily been fixed by having Londo say instead that the buttons are impossible to come by and hugely valuable and the loss of one is punishable by death or something of that nature. It would have fitted in perfectly with what we know about the fanatical and slightly crazy Centauri monarchy, and functioned as some actual compelling evidence that a guard was really there, rather than making everyone look a bit gullible. And all that aside, would a palace guard go on a mission to another planet wearing his fancy threads?
  2. To illustrate the depths to which Garibaldi has sunk. His drunken stupor was almost certainly the direct cause of the failure of his mission. If he hadn’t been drinking he would have been alert and ready to deal with the situation so much better. He still isn’t ‘fessing up, either.
  3. To give us a nugget of architectural information about the Drazi homeworld: they have the wobbliest balconies in the universe.

A silly little detail, but sometimes the course of people’s lives can change because of one small detail. It looks like one insignificant button might change the course of a war.

In Memory of Mira Furlan.  When I wrote my half of this article I had no idea I would have to go back in and edit it to add this note at the end, but I feel it is right to mention here today the sad news that Mira Furlan, who played Delenn, passed away earlier this month.  Regrettably I have been a latecomer to the world of Babylon 5, but over the past couple of years I have enjoyed catching up with this remarkable series, better late than never.  I have developed a great respect for the character of Delenn, who was played with such gentle courageousness by Mira.  In a quiet corner of the Junkyard there is a shrine to our departed heroes.  A new candle has been lit today, and beside it the following words are written: “All life is transitory, a dream.  We all come together in the same place, at the end of time.  If I don’t see you here again, I will see you in a little while, in a place where no shadows fall.”  Rest in peace, Mira Furlan.   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: The Ragged Edge

  1. scifimike70 says:

    I will always remember Mira for Delenn and John Sheridan because they were the best human/ET love story in science-fiction television. Thank you, RP, for your tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

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