Thursday, 25 January 2018

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 4, Episodes 13-14

D13: Rumours, Bargains and Lies
Airdates: 12 May 1997 (US), 16 October 1997 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Michael Vejar
Cast: Neroon (John Vickery), Drazi Ambassador (Ron Campbell), Religious Caste #1 (Guy Siner), Religious Caste #2 (Chard Haywood), Brakiri Ambassador (Jonathan Chapman)

Plot: Delenn rendezvouses with the Minbari warcruiser Tukari, a ship controlled by the religious caste. Shai Alyt Neroon of the warrior caste has arrived on board as well. Delenn and Neroon discuss the growing crisis on Minbar – which has now broken out into full civil war – and agree to work together to stop the growing chaos. Some of the religious caste on board, however, believe that Delenn means to surrender to the warrior caste and decide to use poison gas to wipe out all occupants of the ship, including themselves, so the religious caste will keep fighting. When they learn that Delenn and Neroon plan to stop the civil war by cooperating, they panic and try to stop the gas spreading, only to find that Lennier has already dealt with the situation, despite taking some injuries in the process.

Back on Babylon 5 Sheridan sets a series of deceptions in motion, having Marcus and the White Star fleet attack barren asteroids in one sector, having Voice of the Resistance report that nothing of interest happened in that sector and having Londo vehemently deny that White Stars are protecting the borders of Centauri space. Confused, the League ambassadors begin wondering if their borders are under attack by some kind of new, invisible alien force and that Sheridan knows that something is going on and has sent the White Stars to defend Centauri space. They call a meeting of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council (the first in some time) and demand that Sheridan send the White Stars to protect their borders as well. Sheridan agrees, that of course being his plan all along: to get the alien governments to continue their mutual cooperation that began during the Shadow War.

Despite his earlier agreement with Delenn, Neroon leaves the warcruiser in secret at night and flies ahead to Minbar, sending a message to Shai Alyt Shakiri, head of the warrior caste, that the religious caste has fallen for the trap. He now has full access to all of the religious caste plans to defend themselves on Minbar.


Dating the Episode: Three days after Delenn leaves B5 for Minbar (but see inconsistencies below).

The Arc: Delenn meets with Neroon (last seen in C19) who agrees to help her stop the civil war on Minbar, but he then betrays her and flies off to rejoin his caste. This plot strand continues in D14.

Getting the Narn and Centauri to agree to let the White Stars protect their space in D12 is all part of Sheridan’s master plan to get the League worlds to agree to the same. They do so in this episode.

This episode marks the first reference to Rebo and Zooty, a fictional (within the show) comedic double act. We get to meet them in episode E8.

Background: Delenn notes this is the second time she’s seen Lennier near death; the previous occasion was episode C2 when he saved Londo from a bomb.

This episode inverts the traditional Lennier/Delenn dynamic, where Delenn tries to protect Lennier’s “innocence” (B12, D9). In this episode Lennier keeps news of the betrayal by the religious caste members from Delenn to not undermine her faith in the cause.

Straczynski noted that by this point Delenn had fulfilled or helped fulfil a large number of prophecies related to Valen, the breaking of the Grey Council and helping defeat the Shadows, after already being the chosen successor of Dukhat and helping end the war against Earth. The cumulative effect of all this has been to make her a figure of awe and respect to the Minbari, particularly the religious caste.

Lennier has had a small part of his lung permanently removed. He lies, several times, to protect the honour of his caste, which is permissible by Minbari custom (as noted in A21 and B14).

Three-quarters of President Clark’s cabinet resigned when he declared martial law, a fact that has not been reported on Earth.

References: Ivanova notes that Marcus is waiting to speak to Sheridan on “Channel 4.” This was a reference to the channel that Babylon 5 aired on in the UK.

Unanswered Questions: How did Lennier learn of his fellow religious caste Minbari’s plan?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: This episode and the next make several references to events “since the war,” particularly by warrior caste members. From context, these are references to the Earth-Minbari War. This suggests that the Minbari do not consider the much more recent Shadow War to have been a major conflict. It appears that the religious caste part of the Minbari fleet undertook the bulk of the fighting and the warrior caste largely stayed out of it.

Delenn has been gone from Babylon 5 for three days (the length of a flight from B5 to Minbar). However, this does not quite fit with the timescale of the previous two episodes, given the length of time it takes Marcus and Franklin to infiltrate and then exfiltrate from Mars.

Behind the Scenes: This was a powerful episode for Mira Furlan, who drew on her experiences growing up in Soviet-occupied Yugoslavia and the outbreak of war. She drew a comparison between Delenn remembering the city she grew up in with her experiences of seeing Sarajevo in peacetime and later destroyed by war.

Delenn views scenes from the Minbari capital city, Yedor; these are actually establishing shots previously used in episodes C16, C19 and D9.

Lennier did the scene where he climbs through the vent and grabs the gas canister about a dozen times. Every time he did it, the canister failed to go off as it should have done. Bill Mumy notes this was an incredibly hard day and one of the longest on set he ever did (about 16 hours in total).

Claudia Christian used a teleprompter to make the news scenes more realistic. She enjoyed the change of pace, but ultimately was not a huge fan of Ivanova getting stuck behind a desk reading messages for several episodes.

Straczynski notes that Sheridan learns from his adversaries as well as his friends: the manipulative side of him in this episode was something he learned from Londo.

Familiar Faces: Guy Siner (Religious Caste #1) is an American-born British actor. He is best-known for playing the role of Lt. Hubert Gruber on the long-running British WWII sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo! He is also well-known as a voice artist, particularly on the Star Wars video games where he played the Imperial Briefing Officer who gives the player their orders on the classic video game TIE Fighter. He also played General Veers (played by Julian Grover in The Empire Strikes Back) in Force Commander and Galactic Battlegrounds, as well as providing various voices for Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. He also played Ravon in the classic Doctor Who serial Genesis of the Daleks and the Harbourmaster in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. His numerous other credits include You Rang, M’Lord?, Seinfeld, I, Claudius and Star Trek: Enterprise. He is just about the only actor to have credits in the Doctor Who, Star Trek¸ Star Wars and Babylon 5 franchises.

Chard Haywood (Religious Caste #2) is a Welsh actor noted for his roles on both American and Australian television. His biggest role was playing Dudley Butterfield on 1970s American soap opera Number 96.

Review: Another interesting episode with some great performances, particularly from the ever-reliable John Vickery. However, the other Minbari religious caste come across as a bit thick. Sheridan’s plan to get the League to agree to his plan is also a little too clever for its own good and almost certainly wouldn’t work if put to the test, relying as it does on the intelligence of the League ambassadors who, as we’ve seen previously, are often dumber than a box of frogs. ***

Neroon: “Was that a compliment?”
Delenn: “After a fashion.”

Lennier: “In her world, we are better than we are, we care more than we care, we act towards each other with compassion. I much prefer her world to that of my own.”

Neroon: “Victory will be ours within the week.”

D14: Moments of Transition
Airdates: 19 May 1997 (US), 23 October 1997 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Tony Dow
Cast: Bester (Walter Koenig), Neroon (John Vickey), Shakiri (Bart McCarthy), Businesswoman (Christy Noonan), Mr. Adams (Scott Adams), Guard (Carl J. Pfeifer), William Edgars (Efrem Zimbalist Jr – uncredited)

Date: 2-3 August 2261.

Plot:    Delenn arrives on Minbar to find the capital city, Yedor, in flames. The warrior caste has surrounded Yedor and is threatening to level it unless the religious caste surrenders. Delenn agrees and Neroon convinces Shakiri, leader of the warrior caste, that the surrender should take place in the ancient Temple of Varenni as a symbolic act of peace. However, once in the temple Delenn invokes the rite of the Starfire Wheel, which was used in the days before Valen to solve caste disputes. A column of intense, searing light blasts down from the ceiling and Delenn steps in. Shakiri does the same, but cannot endure the pain and retreats out of it. Delenn remains inside, planning to martyr herself for the cause, but Neroon carries her out and stays inside himself, announcing his renunciation of the warrior caste and his embrace of the religious caste. Neroon dies for his new caste and the religious caste is acknowledged victorious in the civil war, the warriors shamed by Shakiri’s cowardice.

On Babylon 5 Lyta Alexander is finding it difficult to get work due to her departure from Psi Corps. Bester arrives on the station with an offer for her: if she agrees to let Psi Corps dissect her body after her natural death, she can rejoin the Corps and enjoy all the privileges that entails. He will also ensure that she is not recalled to Earth or otherwise made to answer for her two years on the run. Lyta refuses. Garibaldi offers her a job working for him, but when William Edgars finds out, he contacts Garibaldi and orders him to fire Lyta. Edgars does not trust telepaths and will not have them working for him. Lyta is forced to accept Bester’s offer and rejoins Psi Corps. Garibaldi helps smuggle pharmaceutical supplies through B5 Customs for Edgars’ company. Zack spots him doing something dodgy but cannot prove that he is doing anything illegal.

On Minbar Delenn announces the reforming of the Grey Council, but gives the worker caste a controlling interest in the Council. From now on, the soldiers and priests will advise the people, as it should be.

Ivanova shows Sheridan some vid footage smuggled onto the station recently, showing the EAS Pollux destroying five transports trying to get refugees away from the beleaguered Proxima III colony, under siege from Earthforce since it tried to break away from Earth last year at the same time as Babylon 5. Ten thousand unarmed civilians are now dead. Enraged, Sheridan orders the White Star fleet to converge at Babylon 5. The time for waiting is over: it’s time to take the offensive against Clark’s forces.

Dating the Episode: The episode ends on 3 August 2261, as Bester’s personal log entry shows.

The Arc: The civil war on Minbar comes to an end after Neroon sacrifices himself for the religious caste, despite being born and spending his entire life in the warrior caste. Delenn refounds the Grey Council she abolished in episode C10, but gives the worker caste five members and the warrior and religious castes two members each, meaning the workers can keep either of the other two castes from causing havoc by themselves, but the religious and warriors can together block decisions by the worker caste if they disagree with them and can get support from one worker representative. The place of the leader will be reserved for a future figure who can restore the balance to the Minbari race.

Neroon’s conversion from warrior to religious caste echoes the transition of his mentor and leader, Branmer, from religious to warrior during the war with Earth, as noted in A17.

Edgars is paranoid and distrustful when it comes to telepaths, despite the fact he is trying to help them by working on the cure for a potential telepath virus. We find out more about his plans in D16-D17.

Proxima III broke away from the Earth Alliance, along with Babylon 5 and Orion VII in episode C10. Orion VII has presumably been retaken in the interim, but Proxima III remains defiant of Clark’s forces. The destruction of five refugee ships each carrying two thousand civilians is what convinces Sheridan to go on the offensive. This sets in motion the chain of events seen in episodes D15-D20.

Background: This episode takes place exactly three years after Morden recruited Londo to his cause (in A13) and one year after Kosh’s death (in C13).

There is a seven-hour time difference between Babylon 5 and Mars.

Since Babylon 5 broke away from Earth, Sheridan, Ivanova and the rest of the Earthforce staff have been drawing their salaries from the docking fees.

In the days before Valen, Minbari caste disputes could be solved by warfare, but as noted in NOV9 the Minbari came to hold the spilling of blood in mass slaughter as anathema. After that point they used the Starfire Wheel in the Temple of Varenni as a test of righteousness, with the victory being the one to stand in the light of the fire for the longest. True Seekers, true believers in the righteousness of their cause, would martyr themselves as a ultimate show of dedication to their cause.

Shakiri is of the family or clan of Kort.

From 2247 to 2257 Lyta worked for Xenocorp. She spent a year interned with Psi Corps before leaving for the commercial wing, as we learned in B19. Lyta was frustrated with the lack of promotion prospects in Psi Corps: as a P5, she’d never have been more than a functionary and paper-pusher.

A P5 telepath can sense things up to 25 metres away. Lyta’s range is much greater since her “enhancements” by the Vorlons.

The Pak’ma’ra homeworld is known as Pak’ma. The Official Guide to Babylon 5 CD-ROM states that is called “Melat”, so later reference books use Melat as an alternate name.

William Edgars is one of the ten richest men in the Earth Alliance but no pictures of him have ever been published.

An Earthforce Starfury squadron supporting the blockade of Proxima III has defected to the Resistance. Multiple Earthforce ships and squadrons have recently defected to the rebels.

There is a large medical facility on Beta Durani.

Thanks to the power provided by the Great Machine on Epsilon III, the Voice of the Resistance broadcasts are punching through the jammers to reach Earth: Bester has seen them.

The new Grey Council consists of Dhaliri and Bhurlee of the religious caste, Maztech and Shakat of the warrior caste, and Durlan, Katz, Zakat, Nur and Varenn of the worker caste. According to Straczynski, some of the old Grey Council members are on the new one, but none of those we’ve previously met such as Hedronn or Morann (or Delenn herself).

References: The EAS Pollux is probably named for the star of the same name (also called Beta Gem or Beta Geminorum). Pollux is located 34 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Gemini. It is an orange giant and is circled by at least one planet, a gas giant named Pollux b or Thestias. The star, in turn, is named for the Greek mythological figure Polydeuces. Polydeuces joined the crew of the Argo along with his twin brother, Castor (or Kastor), and fought alongside Jason.

Shakiri is not a reference to Colombian singer and songwriter Shakira Ripoll; although she released her first few albums before this episode of Babylon 5 was written, she did not become well-known in the United States until around 2001.

Bester quotes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Unanswered Questions: Why the hell is everyone treating Lyta so badly? This is never really explained given how many times over she proves herself a friend and ally to the B5 crew.

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: In Voice of the Resistance broadcasts, Beta Durani is noted as having rebelled against Earth and is accepting refugees fleeing the fighting on Proxima III. However, Beta Durani is not liberated until D16. It’s possible that Beta Durani rebelled, accepted refugees, was recaptured, and is then liberated again.

Garibaldi gets from the main docking bay to the Central Corridor on Red 5 (tailed by Zack) very quickly, at least within a minute or two. Although Blue and Red sectors are adjacent, the docking bays are located close to the front of the station whilst Red Sector is located behind the Cobra Bays, where the connecting arm to the docking sphere meets the main body of the carousel. It’s still several hundred metres away.

Lyta being turfed out of her quarters despite providing critical help and support to Sheridan’s cause is strange and hypocritical: Sheridan vehemently rebels against Earthforce for ordering him to do the same in episode B7.

On the original US broadcast, the Earthforce destroyer attacking the transports is shown clearly to be the Agamemnon, Sheridan’s old ship. However, this was a mistake caused by the “default” Omega model having the Agamemnon name on it. The model was replaced with the correct name, Pollux, in reruns, the UK transmission and for DVD.

Lyta is unwilling to scan Garibaldi without his consent in this episode but was perfectly happy to scan the Centauri telepath in episode C4. Straczynski defended the inconsistency, noting that Lyta did not personally know the Centauri telepath and that someone’s life was in immediate jeopardy if she did not act.

Behind the Scenes: Director Tony Dow was disappointed with the temple set. The CG did not make the place seem as huge as it should have, and the light coming down the middle was not as big as it should have been, due to studio space issues preventing a light from being dangled directly overhead. Instead a mirror was used to reflect the light beam onto the set and it was impossible to get this to expand in size.

Straczynski notes a parallel between the Minbari Civil War and the Shadow War: the warriors and priests were the Vorlons and Shadows, telling the Minbari people what was best for them, but the time came for the workers to band together and take a stand for themselves.

Patricia Tallman and Walter Koenig enjoyed their scene at the bar tremendously. Tallman kept cracking up when Koenig said, “I want your body.”

Dow took twice as long on the scene with Scott Adams that he’d planned to, due to intense media interest in the cameo (which got its own press release).

Familiar Faces: Bart McCarthy (Shakiri) previously played Admiral Coburn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “pirate secretary” on Murphy Brown and a cab driver on Seinfeld. He would return to Babylon 5 in episode E17, playing the Drazi fleet commander Daro. His later credits included Beverly Hills 90210, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Angel (playing Nostroyev in Why We Fight), Pretty Little Liars and Sons of Anarchy, where he played the recurring role of Declan Brogan. His most recent roles include Judge Underwood on Silicon Valley and Aldo on the American version of Shameless.

Scott Adams (Mr. Adams) is the creator of Dilbert, a long-running cartoon strips which gained national fame in the United States for its depiction of boring office life and politics. In more recent years he has become a noted public speaker, and gained renewed prominence during the 2016 Presidential Election where he, at different times, endorsed all three candidates before settling on Donald Trump. Adams was a major fan of Babylon 5 at the time it began airing and Straczynski gave him a cameo role to thank him for raising awareness of the series.

Pam Okasaki, Adams’ then-girlfriend, gets a non-speaking cameo as the Minbari waiting to speak to Garibaldi after Mr. Adams finishes.

Review: This episode is rooted in a rapid, but not unconvincing, conclusion to the Minbari Civil War (major props to John Vickery who really sells it), although it could have done with some more development and build-up. There’s also a lot going on back on B5, with Garibaldi, Lyta, Zack and Bester all in the mix. This is a busy, watchable episode which ends on a dramatic as note as Sheridan’s takes the decision to go on the offensive. ****

Bester: “It’s good to see they’re continuing the fine tradition of hiring from the shallow end of the gene pool.”

Garibaldi: “You looking to hire somebody to find out what happened to your personality?”

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