Saturday, 30 September 2017

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 2, Episodes 11-12

B11: All Alone in the Night
Airdates: 15 February 1995 (US), 18 April 1995 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Mario DiLeo
Cast: Lt. Ramirez (Nick Corri), Narn (Marshall Teague), Satai Hedronn (Robin Sachs), Satai Neroon (John Vickery), General William Hague (Robert Foxworth), Ambassador Kosh (Ardwight Chamberlain), Station One (Joshua Cox)

Date: Late June or early July 2259.

Plot:    General William Hague, one of the Earthforce Joint Chiefs of Staff and the officer who informed Sheridan and Ivanova of the change in command six months ago (B1), is paying a visit to the station to see how things are going. It will be several hours before he arrives, however, and Sheridan decides to get in some more flight-time. After hearing of strange occurrences in Sector 92, including several ship disappearances, he takes out a patrol of Starfuries to investigate. An alien vessel appears, wipes out most of the patrol and cripples two of the Starfuries. Sheridan manages to bail out in his Starfury’s escape pod and is promptly taken prisoner. The other pilot, Lt. Ramirez, manages to effect repairs to his ship and heads back to Babylon 5. Unfortunately, he has been subjected to a massive, lethal amount of radiation and dies in Medlab shortly afterwards. Ivanova analyses the sensor logs from his Starfury and discovers what has happened to Sheridan. General Hague arrives and decides to call in some heavy support in their search for Sheridan.

Meanwhile, Delenn is summoned before the Grey Council. Before she leaves Lennier decides to join her. They rendezvous with the Minbari flagship and Delenn is confronted by Hedronn (from B1). He tells her that the Grey Council have decided she is no longer worthy to sit in a place prepared by Valen himself. She disobeyed their direct order (in A20) not to pursue the prophecy instead of just waiting for it to unfold. She has been removed from the Grey Council and been replaced. Delenn demands to address the Grey Council as is her right and her request is granted. The Council agrees that she can retain her position as Ambassador to Babylon 5 but Delenn is horrified that her place on the Council has been taken by Neroon (A17), a member of the warrior caste when her replacement should have come from the religious caste. This gives the warrior caste unprecedented power in the Grey Council. Neroon tells her that if a great darkness is coming, then the warrior caste must lead the war against it. Delenn and Lennier leave for Babylon 5.

Sheridan recovers on the alien ship and finds himself pitted against a Drazi in combat. He kills him and notes that he has some sort of cybernetic implant in his head. A similarly mind-controlled Narn attacks, but Sheridan manages to knock him out and remove the implant. When he recovers the Narn suggests that they work together to escape. The aliens have captured representatives from many species to see which ones are weak enough for conquest. Sheridan and the Narn attempt to lever open the door, but cannot find a crack to get enough leverage.

The EAS Agamemnon, Sheridan’s old command, arrives at Babylon 5. Ivanova takes out Delta Wing and the cruiser and fighters wait for any word from their search parties. Delenn contacts Babylon 5 ahead of her arrival to clear the way for docking and learns about Sheridan’s capture. Analysing the design of the alien ship, Delenn reveals the aliens are called Streibs. They attempted to invade Minbari space centuries ago and were taught a humiliating lesson. She rendezvouses with the B5 forces and leads them to the Streib homeworld.

Whilst on the Streib ship, Sheirdan has an odd dream. He sees Ivanova with a raven on her shoulder. He then sees Garibaldi with a dove on his shoulder saying “The man in between is searching for you.” Ivanova, dressed as if for a funeral, says “You are the hand.” Sheridan is then confronted by himself, dressed as a Psi Cop. Kosh appears and Sheridan asks him why he is there. Kosh tells him, “We were never away. For the first time your mind is quiet enough to hear me.” Sheridan asks, “Why am I here?” and is told, “You have always been here.” Sheridan wakes up as the cell door opens slightly, apparently due to a malfunction. He manages to open the door and he and the wounded Narn escape.

The Streib ship comes out of hyperspace and approaches their homeworld, but comes under fire from the Agamemnon. The Streib ship is crippled and Delen orders them to surrender their prisoners at the risk of reprisals by the Minbari. The Streib instead dump the alien prisoners into space, killing them. Enraged, Ivanova orders the Agamemnon to destroy the Streib vessel. She picks up an SOS and confirms that Sheridan and his Narn associate managed to escape in a lifepod. The pod is recovered and they return to Babylon 5. The Agamemnon heads back to Earth space and Sheridan recovers from his experiences.

Later General Hague comes to see Sheridan and asks what he has to report. Sheridan confirms that over the past six months he has come to trust Franklin, Ivanova and Garibaldi and their loyalty to Earth is beyond reproach. Hague updates Sheridan on what he has learned about events on Earth. He is certain that President Clark arranged the murder of Santiago so he could ascend to power. He is also certain that Psi Corps and at least some high-ranking Earthforce personnel were involved. Hague orders Sheridan to expose Clark’s betrayal by any means necessary. Clark seems to think that Sheridan is a patriot who will put his loyalty to Earth above any doubts about Santiago’s death, so Sheridan won’t be watched as closely as some other officers. Sheridan agrees to do his best. Hague leaves the station and Sheridan brings Garibaldi, Ivanova and Franklin into the counter-conspiracy and they agree to help. Sheridan then sees Ambassador Kosh passing in the corridor, who says, “You have always been here,” just as in his dream.


Dating the Episode: Sheridan says he’s been on Babylon 5 for six months.

The Arc: We learn that there was more to Hague’s conversation with Sheridan in episode B1 than met the eye. When Hague told him that there was “one more thing” he could do for him, he wasn’t just talking about the transfer to Babylon 5, he meant he wanted Sheridan to help expose Clark’s involvement in Santiago’s death. This storyline continues in episodes B13, B19 and C5 before being fully addressed in episodes C8-C10.

Delenn is finally removed from the Grey Council following her transformation. Her disobedience of the Grey Council’s orders in episode A20 is the reason given for her dismissal. Her replacement is Neroon (from A17), a member of the warrior caste. This unbalances the Grey Council so that it now has four warriors, three workers and two religious members.

Sheridan’s dream is fully of symbiology and images that even after the end of the series aren’t fully explained. It is mentioned again in episodes B13, B19 and C21, when some of the images are explained. The events of episodes B19 and C14 seem to be prefigured in some ways by this dream.

Sheridan’s Narn comrade turns up again in episodes C3 and C9, when we learn his name is Ta’Lon.

The Agamemnon last appeared in episode B1. It next appears in episode C8.

We learn in NOV16 that the Streibs, or at least some of them, are allied to the Shadows.

Background: According to Straczynski, the Streibs are an off-shoot of the Vree civilisation. They angered the Minbari some generations ago and the Minbari taught them a “lesson” (almost certainly involving the overwhelming use of military force).

Hedronn is acting as the chairperson of the Grey Council. Normally the Minbari leader fulfils this role but, for reasons explained in NOV9, he is instead serving on Minbar rather than with the Council, a surprising shift in policy.

Earthforce personnel must put in a certain number of space hours every six months or they risk losing their flight pay.

Sheridan has picked up bits of both the Drazi and Narn languages.

References: Sheridan’s declaration that he will “move the world” with a lever big enough is a mistranslation from Archimedes.

The Streibs are a nod to horror author Whitley Streiber, who claimed in his novels Communion (1987) and Transformation (1988) that he had been abducted by aliens.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) was an American author, political activist and lecturer. At age 19 months she was struck by an illness which left her both blind and deaf. She learned to communicate with family members through sign language and touch. Despite her disabilities, she had a full and active life. Her life was brought to widespread prominence by the play and film The Miracle Worker. Franklin’s suggestion that Helen Keller could play baseball better than the Martian team seems to be a step too far even for the politically incorrect Garibaldi, who gets an apology from Franklin.

Unanswered Questions: Why does Sheridan’s cell door spontaneously open, allowing him to escape? This was before the Streib ship was attacked. Was it a fortuitous coincidence or – given the timing - did Kosh somehow influence events all the way from Babylon 5?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: Given that Helen Keller is a – relatively – obscure historical figure today, it may be unlikely that someone would spontaneously know who she is in 2259. However, Franklin’s medical background may have made him interested in how someone without the ability to see or hear not only lived but thrived and survived to an old age.

Ivanova says that she’d heard about Ramirez’s death literally seconds after it happened (unless she was referring to hearing that he was ill, but the writing is a little clumsy).

When Ramirez’s Starfury returns to Bablyon 5, it emerges from an orange “in” vortex rather than a blue “out” one.

Behind the Scenes: Bruce Boxleitner made a decision during his torture scenes that he wanted to show Sheridan as resolute and brave, but also vulnerable and scared. He also wanted the fight scene with the Narn to be slow, awkward and stumbling as both were tortured and tired. Marshall Teague was a superb screen swordsman and the director originally wanted something more flamboyant, but agreed with Boxleitner to go for a more realistic approach.

The metal pipes used in the fight scene were real metal pipes. Boxleitner went home incredibly tired from swinging them around all day.

Early in Season 2, Bill Mumy went to Straczynski and suggested that Lennier was in love with Delenn. Straczynski was dubious about the idea and went away to think about it. He came back and told Mumy to play that, but subtly and not to go too far with it. This set in motion a major storyline for Lennier in Season 5.

The raven which sat on Claudia Christian’s shoulder was nervous and unhappy with the filming, so the actress stood perfectly still so as not to spook the animal.

Conversely, Jerry Doyle enjoyed acting with the dove and its handler. He played a trick on the handler by getting some fake dove feathers and throwing them everywhere to make the handler think something had happened to the bird. The handler was apparently unimpressed with the joke.

Straczynski’s motivation for this episode wasn’t just giving Boxleitner an action story, but also to blindside the audience and also present the audience with a different perspective on Sheridan. He’d made Sheridan a much lighter character than Sinclair, less haunted, but this was the start of a process of making Sheridan a more proactive and determined character (after hints to that effect in episode B6).

Familiar Faces: Marshall Teague had previously played Nelson Drake in episode A4 and the Iconian war machine he transformed into. As the role of the Narn prisoner required someone comfortable with both action and heavy prosthetics, he was brought back for this episode. His performance impressed Straczynski, who both gave him a name (Ta’Lon) and brought him back in Season 3.

Review: A satisfying action story, although the Streibs’ motivations are never fully explained. The episode, given its stand-alone storyline, is laced with surprising plot revelations and no less than two major story shocks (Delenn’s dismissal from the Council and the revelation that Sheridan has been spying on his colleagues for the last six months). The episode is pivotal in kicking the Earth storyline into gear and forcing Sheridan, Garibaldi, Ivanova and Franklin to make a stand, albeit in private, against President Clark. ****

Delenn: “You do not have to go with me.”
Lennier: “That is also correct. None the less, I will accompany you.”

Delenn: “Have I mentioned recently how much I appreciate you, Lennier?”
Lennier: “Not really. But it will give us something to discuss on our trip.”

Ramirez: “How long until the radiation reaches terminal levels?”
Computer: “Radiation leak already at terminal level.”

Lennier: “Where you walk, I will walk. I have sworn myself to your side.”

Hague: “It’s time we stopped reacting and started acting.”

B12: Acts of Sacrifice
Airdates: 22 February 1995 (US), 25 April 1995 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Jim Johnston
Cast: Taq (Paul Williams), Ambassador Correlilmurzon (Ian Abecrombie), Franke (Glenn Morshower), Security Aide Zack Allan (Jeff Conaway), Narn 1 (Christopher Darga), Centauri 1 (Paul Ainsley), Bartender (Kathryn Cressida), Narn Captain (Sandey Grinn), Narn Officer (Jennifer Anglin), Centauri Merchant (David Sage), Station One (Joshua Cox)

Plot:    A Narn colony comes under massive assault from the Centauri. A Narn heavy cruiser opens a jump point and defends it long enough for the last evacuation convoy to escape to hyperspace. Unfortunately, it is unable to make the jump itself and is destroyed by four Centauri light warships. On Babylon 5 G’Kar is enraged that the Centauri have violated their oath not to target civilian vessels but Londo retorts that the ‘evacuation’ transports were carrying weapons of mass destruction, not civilians. G’Kar hopes that this latest incident will convince Earth or Minbar to get involved, but neither think it is any of their business, despite pleas for help from both Sheridan and Delenn.

A representative of the Lumati arrives at the station. The Lumati are a highly advanced species who are largely uninvolved in galactic affairs, but the Earth Alliance is keen to secure an alliance with them. Sheridan is caught up in the Narn-Centauri situation so Ivanova is given the task of negotiations. Ivanova finds the Lumati ambassador, Correlilmurzon, arrogant and superior-feeling, refusing even to speak directly to her, instead using his aide Taq. Ivanova feels the negotiations have failed until she takes the Lumati on a tour of the station and they suddenly become interested in Downbelow. The Lumati believe in the genetic purity of their species and approve of the way the humans have shepherded all their wastrels and underachievers into this out-of-the-way location. It displays an impressive desire not to contaminate themselves with their own failings. Correlilmurzon deigns to speak to Ivanova directly and tells her he is impressed with the humans’ methods of cultural cleansing. He will recommend that a similar method by implemented on the Lumati homeworld immediatly and agrees to sign an alliance with Earth at once. A rather stunned Ivanova can only just agree.

A brawl takes place in a B5 corridor between Centauri and Narn. Garibaldi’s second-in-command, Zack Allan, tries to break up the fight but is forced to shoot and kill a Narn in defence. In retribution a Narn revenge squad kills the Centauri who began the fight. The Narn begin arming for a full-scale riot but G’Kar manages to stop the growing trouble before it gets out of hand. Sheridan and Delenn contact him and tell him that, although military aid is out of the question, humanitarian aid can be supplied to the Narn and, in some cases, civilian refugees can be shuttled in human or Minbari ships to safehavens. It isn’t as much as G’Kar wanted but he accepts. Later, shamed at what his race are becoming reduced to, he breaks down.

Londo discovers that more and more former friends on the station are avoiding him, believing that he has become a sinister figure. Garibaldi agrees to have a drink with him, but Londo realises it may be the last time he can call the security chief a friend.

Ivanova is horrified to discover that the Lumati seal their bargains with a mating ritual and she is expected to mate with Correlilmurzon to secure the alliance with the Lumati. At Franklin’s suggestion she lies about what human mating rituals entail, does a little dance, and waltzes off. But the alliance is secured.

The Arc: The Narn-Centauri War is escalating from when it started in episode B9. The war is next featured as a major plot point in episode B15. Delenn and Sheridan discuss the Earth-Minbari agreement to supply humanitarian aid to the Narn again in episode B19.

This episode marks the last appearance of Na’Toth until Season 5. We learn in episode E10 that following the events of this episode she returns to the Narn homeworld and was presumed dead following the events of episode B20. She is mentioned again in episode C20.

G’Kar successfully restraining the Narn populace in this episode and being a good ally to Sheridan pays off in episode C9.

Delenn was personally present at the start of the Earth-Minbari War. We see this in episodes D9 and TVM1.

Background: We learn that the Minbari are also considering signing a trade agreement with the Lumati in episode B19.

Narn transports can carry up to 700 refugees at a time.

Kat is serving drinks in the Casino, her third bar job on the station having been previously seen in Earharts (B7) and the Eclipse (A18). It’s possible that the three establishments share staff and cooperate, and may be owned by the same company.

The Drazi put poison on their blades.

Londo was given a new coat in this episode, more formal, military and darker. He wears it regularly from now on (apart from episode D1, due to a continuity issue).

Fans asked Straczynski about the comparative strengths of the Narn and Centauri. He pointed out that the Centauri are centuries more advanced than the Narn with a larger population and space fleet (twelve worlds to the Narns’ considerably less). The Narn stole most of their technology from the Centauri so it can be effective against them (we see several Centauri fighters destroyed during the opening battle), but the Centauri are simply too powerful overall for the Narns to prevail against in open warfare. Their previous success was down to the Centauri reluctance to waste lives needlessly, the Narn choosing their strategy carefully and knowing that the peaceful Emperor Turhan was unlikely to respond too strongly.

References: Franke, the arms-trader in Downbelow, was named for the show’s composer, Christopher Franke.

The Lumati’s brutally laissez-faire attitude to evolution and other species may be a satire on Star Trek’s Prime Directive of non-interference in the internal affairs of other worlds.

Unanswered Questions: What does Earth get out of its trade alliance with the Lumati?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: The Narn captain refers to a Centauri attack ship as a “warcruiser”, a term usually reserved for Minbari capital ships.

The Earthforce officer Sheridan liaises with is sitting in front of a massive bank of industrial fans for no apparent reason. Straczynski didn’t put this in the script and was mystified by it when he saw it in the edit, but it was too late to reshoot it.

Na’Toth disappears without an explanation after this episode for three years: Straczynski meant to include dialogue that she’d volunteered to return to Narn around episode B20, but it was either cut or forgotten about, and Na’Toth’s fate is not alluded to until episode C20.

Behind the Scenes: Claudia Christian asked Straczynski to show Ivanova’s funny side more often. She felt the character was carrying too much dark baggage from her mother, brother and father being dead and one of her defining traits being her hatred of Psi Corps. Straczynski asked her if she was sure she wanted to ask this, because he was going to deliver in spades.

Andreas Katsulas felt that Straczynski put G’Kar in a cruel position, not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the small help the Minbari and humans were able to offer, and relished the material he had to work with.

Some fans wondered if the Lumati really do ask for sex to seal deals or if this alien was taking advantage of Ivanova’s ignorance of their customs. According to Straczynski, the custom was part of Lumati tradition, and they would have even made the same offer to Sheridan if he’d negotiated the deal instead.

Straczynski was extremely dissatisfied with actress Mary Kay Adams’ portrayal of Na’Toth in this episode. He felt she was too passive, giving in to Na’Toth rather than fighting against him and showing her strength. He decided to remove her from the series. He only brought Na’Toth back in Season 5 when the original actress, Julie Caitlin Brown, was available again.

Familiar Faces: Paul Williams (Taq) is a noted singer and writer as well as an actor. His songs were recorded by, among others, David Bowie and the Carpenters in the 1970s. He also starred in Phantom of the Paradise, earning an Oscar nomination for his contributons to the score. Straczynski was a fan and even got him to sign his CDs of the Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack during filming. Williams also appeared in films like Smokey and the Bandit and, most recently, as “The Butcher” in Baby Driver.

Ian Abercrombie (Correlilmurzon) was an English actor noted for his roles in Hollywood. He played the Wise Man in the movie Army of Darkness and Elaine’s boss Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld, among many other guest roles. In his later years be moved into animation and became famous for playing the role of Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars animated series, The Clone Wars. He passed away in 2012, with Tim Curry helping finish the episodes he hadn’t completed before his death. The Clone Wars episode The Lawless is dedicated to his memory.

David Sage (Centauri merchant) is an American actor best-known for appearing as John Van Dyke in The West Wing and as Jerry’s father’s doctor in Seinfeld who has to put up with his hypochondriac ways. Sage previously appeared in PM, The Gathering, playing a human merchant trying to pull off a scam but is stopped by Lyta Alexander.

Review: The story about G’Kar securing control of the Narn population, swallowing his pride and learning to reach with his head rather than his heart is all vital character development, as is Londo’s contrasting realisation that he is losing his friends and allies. Unfortunately, the Lumati storyline is a little too silly and the tonal variation between the tragedy of one story and the comedy of the other is not handled well. ***

Correlilmurzon: “We will conclude this deal in the traditional manner: we will have sex.”

Franklin: “You could put a bag over his head and do it for Babylon 5! …maybe not.”

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