Babylon 5: Movements of Fire and Shadow

Babylon 5 ArtworkIt’s almost impossible to believe that so much happens here and it’s still just a regular length episode.  How can that be?  Delenn is sent on a mission to ask for a new ship.  Londo and G’Kar are knocked out and something is done to (at least) Londo.  The jumpgates are attacked and Lochley has to give the order to protect them at all costs.  Stephen and Lyta meet with Vir and go on an errand of mercy, then later, on the Drazi homeworld, they are attacked and make a major discovery about the war.  Garibaldi tells Sheridan that the whole plan seems to be to make everyone mad and Sheridan has to bolt off in the hopes of saving Centauri Prime.  Delenn and Lennier are attacked and set adrift in hyperspace.  And the Regent leaves Centauri Prime defenseless as enemies arrive at the gates.  WHOA!  Did I even blink?

The episode moves at a lightning pace and I find myself on the edge of my seat.  Again.  You’d think after all these times watching this series, I’d be ready for what’s coming.  But I don’t think I can be blamed.  This is war-time drama in space and that’s compelling viewing.  It’s attention-grabbing because interplanetary battles are fun to watch and safe enough because it’s pretty far removed from the travesties that real war commits.  This is fiction but it acts like it’s real.  Everything that happens plays like a real war.  Intelligence and negotiations, treaties and alliances, war councils and ministers of peace, attacks on civilian targets and strategic weak points… everything fits.  The irony is that the one thing that doesn’t is exactly what we discover to be the truth.  Sheridan said you don’t just start a war to annoy your enemies, and while that may be a strategically sound assessment, there’s more going on here than meets the (cycloptic) eye.  It is exactly what is happening and I’m reminded of Morden’s last words to Molari.  He said the Shadows had allies and they would come looking for revenge back when Londo finally did the right things in Season 4.  It feels like we are given a major piece of the Centauri puzzle connecting dots to what happened then and what is coming sometime in the future.  (Whether or not this is the cause of the future state of Centauri Prime, as seen in War Without End, remains to be seen.  That is 17 years away after all!)  The scene of Londo’s slow-motion run at the realization of what’s coming is spine tingling!  The entire episode is compelling viewing!

There’s little light in all of these movements of fire and shadow.  The moments we get come from some of the standard fare: Lyta and Stephen, specifically with his steadfast refusal to ask for directions.  Or better, the dialogue between Londo and G’Kar, most spectacularly when G’Kar causes himself to vomit up the previous night’s food.  And if you’re paying close attention, when John asks Delenn for something, she implies that she will wear that “little” thing but we are left to giggle sophomorically at what that can mean. But this isn’t an episode that needs humor, much as I appreciate the effort.  This is an episode that doesn’t give us a chance to breath.  Lyta is becoming more mercenary as she forces Vir to give her a very large sum of money to be used for a homeworld for telepaths.  Later, she uses her considerable powers to make an enemy Drazi to shoot himself in the head.  The discovery on the Drazi homeworld helps the alliance as it indicates that Shadow tech is being used again.  (How awesome it was to hear that Shadow-scream again!)  And whatever is done to Londo by those strange, long-fingered alien surgeons (seen in previous episodes, equally enigmatically) remains a question.   But the biggest questions in my mind are: can Delenn and Lennier survive the attack that has left them crippled and floating in hyperspace?  And was Sheridan able to arrive before the attach on Centauri Prime began?  (The evidence implies otherwise as the fade to black at the end of the episode shows ships firing as jump points open over Centauri Prime, but it could be a visual ruse!  We can but hope!)

As if all of this isn’t enough, the first seeds of something really big have been planted.  The mission to Minbar is to work on a joint Earth Minbari warship using Vorlon tech.  Will this be the turning point in the war?  Considering Delenn never makes it home, I wouldn’t bet on it.  Consider: there are four episodes left, then the finale.  Can she get the message to home by next episode and get the resources together to have it built before the end of the series?  If the timing of the show works in anything like real time, I’d think it highly unlikely.  But that can’t have been just a throwaway line, right?  It’s very hard to imagine that, when this show first aired, we’d have to wait each week to see where this would go.  I’m repeatedly amazed at how far ahead this series was, creating binge-drama 30 years before such a thing existed!  But for our site, persevere we must.  Those movements of fire and shadow continue…  ML

The view from across the pond:

Sheridan spends most of this episode looking haunted, and so he should. He just started a war unnecessarily. Whether he will shoulder any of the blame now that he has found out that he escalated things before sufficient investigation remains to be seen, but at last he knows the truth: the Centauri have been set up, and the attacking ships are empty. As I said last week, proving who made the gun isn’t the same as proving who pulled the trigger.

The path to finding out that nugget of information is hugely entertaining, and not always for the right reasons. Franklin is oddly willing to put his life at risk and abandon the many patients in need of his help on the station, which is in the midst of an emergency situation, in order to go on a mission for Vir. Strictly speaking that makes him a traitor to his people. Lyta, on the other hand, is there for the money. What happens with Lyta really puts into perspective the value of the Byron storyline earlier in the season, which turned her into the badass we see here. Seeing her make the Drazi attacker kill himself is still a shock though, and another reminder of how far that Byron storyline went astray, with the telepaths fighting their battles with traditional weapons instead of using their telepathic powers. Amusingly, the hotel Franklin and Lyta stay in is the same one that Garibaldi used. So that would be the one where he got attacked and nearly killed then. There’s no way to spin that apart from the makers of the show trying to save money on sets and CGI assets. Same hotel, same CGI view. And naturally they get attacked there.

While Sheridan races to use the information that he should have found out about before he started a war, Garibaldi’s drinking problem is oddly forgotten this week and he seems to be back to being his former capable self. After his alcoholism resulting in untold numbers of deaths last week, you would have thought he would be looking just as haunted as Sheridan, and if it was a trigger for him to get a grip on himself that could have done with being mentioned, although I appreciate that the episode was already a busy one to say the least. Meanwhile, Delenn and Lennier come under fire and find themselves in a sticky situation. How Sheridan could possibly bear to send his wife off on such a dangerous mission in an unescorted vessel I have no idea, but let’s face it the man has completely taken leave of his senses this year.

While all this is going on, Londo and G’Kar are able to achieve absolutely nothing on Centauri Prime, and Londo possibly has one of those creatures attached to him now. His kidnapping was very creepy, with those long-fingered aliens who looked very much like the traditional image of an alien abductor: very Roswell. When he was abducted that huge flash of light made me jump so much that it nearly knocked me out, let alone Londo and G’Kar.

Where Londo and G’Kar are to be found together there will always be great comedy, and this episode was in much need of those occasional moments of light relief. The pick of the comedy this week was G’Kar concentrating on “last night’s supper”, which made me laugh out loud. The episode was quite a rollercoaster of emotions, because I certainly wasn’t laughing by the end, although I would have had some cause to with Londo’s cheesy slow-mo running. The moment was far too dramatic to smile about a clichéd televisual tradition though. I was holding my breath from the Regent’s revelation about sending away all the ships and turning off the planet’s defences, to Londo looking up at the sky as the enemy ships arrived, and then what a way to leave us on a cliffhanger! And then I realised something. Not so long ago the Centauri were the enemy, Londo was a monster of a war criminal, and we would have been cheering at the screen when Narn ships got through to attack Centauri Prime. Now the Centauri coming under attack is a moment for us to shout “Nooooooooooo!” at the screen. We have been taken on a journey, with our loyalties and emotions twisted in all sorts of different directions. That’s clever writing.   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.

5 Responses to Babylon 5: Movements of Fire and Shadow

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Comedic relief between two bickering characters like Londo and G’Kar can find a most appealing home in SF as I originally learned from Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. They will always be one of our most treasured relationships of TV history from the 90s.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ShiraDest says:

    This is one of the epic relationships in science fiction, imho. I’m only on episode 2, thus far, but I shall get there, one Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DrAcrossthePond says:

      It’s such a great relationship and when you watch again from the beginning, it really drives home how much the story really develops over the 5 year arc! ML

      Liked by 2 people

      • ShiraDest says:

        Yes it is, and yes, it really does!!
        🙂
        Neat to just see it starting to develop one way, now, knowing how it will turn later (last Monday’s post and this coming Monday’s post: I never noticed until just now how those two episodes build that relationship right from the start!).
        Stay safe,
        -Shira

        Liked by 1 person

      • scifimike70 says:

        I’m learning to appreciate that perspective in so many shows now.

        Liked by 1 person

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