Wednesday, 30 August 2017

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Comic Issues 2-4

DC2-4: Treason, In Harm’s Way, The Price of Peace
Publication Date: November 1994-February 1995
Written by Mark Moretti (from an outline by J. Michael Straczynski)
Artwork by Michael Netzer (pencils), Rob Leigh (inks) & Robbie Busch (colours) (DC2, DC 4)
Artwork by Carlos Garzon (pencils), Rob Leigh (inks) & Robbie Busch (colours) (DC3)

Date: Ivanova is still a Lieutenant Commander and Garibaldi is still off-duty but Delenn is out of her chrysalis, meaning the story is set between the events of B2 and B3.

Plot: Babylon 5 receives a distress call from starliner Chiyoda-Ku and dispatches Zeta Wing to investigate. Lt. Keffer discovers that the ship is adrift and the crew are all dead. Zeta Wing tows the ship back to Babylon 5. The initial investigation shows that the crew and passengers were asphyxiated on purpose. One crewman has survived because he put on a breather unit, but was shot and is now in critical condition.

A terrorist named Jason Colby is working undercover on Babylon 5. Learning of the Chiyoda-Ku’s arrival, he tries to murder the survivor but is unaware that he is a telepath. Colby is overpowered by a mind blast and the survivor escapes into the station. As the station goes on alert, Ivanova confirms that the Chiyoda-Ku was captured by Earthforce in an arms-smuggling operation two years ago.

The survivor from the ship, Dexter Hall, collapses in Talia Winters’ quarters. Winters scans him and discovers that he is Psi Cop working undercover in a pro-Earth group who had blamed President Santiago’s murder on aliens. Hall had uncovered evidence that the group had supplied weapons to help assassinate the new Minbari leader and had been exposed in trying to raise the alarm.

The Minbari warcruiser Solaris, carrying newly-appointed Earth Ambassador Jeffrey Sinclair, rendezvouses with the Minbari flyer carrying an important passenger, a member of the Grey Council. Sinclair suspects the satai might be Delenn, but is prevented from speaking to her. He is allowed to send a message to Babylon 5. He talks to Garibaldi and expresses relief that he is recovering from being shot. Garibaldi confirms that Delenn has left her cocoon and is now on her way to Minbar.

Arriving on Minbar, Sinclair is shown to his new resident, the Earth Alliance Embassy. He is visited by Ambassador Delenn, and is shocked by her transformation. Delenn confirms that the chrysalis has left her transformed into a half-Minbari, half-human hybrid. She expresses regret that Sinclair did not see her before the transformation and learn of the secret of the Battle of the Line that way. Minbari guards burst into the embassy and arrest Sinclair: a sniper rifle and a map of the coronation route for the new leader were found amongst Sinclair’s belongings.

Captain Sheridan contacts Earth and discusses the situation with Senator Hidoshi. Hidoshi tells Sheridan that Dexter Hall is a rogue telepath working outside of Psi Corps or Earthforce authority. Earthforce Colonel Rabock has been diverted to Babylon 5 to take Hall into custody. Sheridan is baffled by this information, which contradicts what Talia found in Hall’s mind. Hidoshi tells Sheridan that there is a possibility that Hall is really “Cypher”, a near-legendary rogue telepath who has operated outside the law for years and is wanted on several worlds for various criminal activities. Sheridan considers this idea dubious.

Jason Colby panics that he could be identified by Talia Winters and plans to assassinate her. He is halted by his superior, Webster, who tells him to stand down. Colby demands that Webster help him get off B5, and Webster assures him that he is on his way.

Hall is dying, so Talia conducts a deep scan. She confirms that he was working for Earthforce and had infiltrated the Chiyoda-Ku to expose a Home Guard-style anti-alien group. The “Homers” were celebrating the death of Luis Santiago, who favoured closer ties with aliens, and one of them boasted he had smuggled a weapon to Minbar to help assassinate the new leader. Hall was exposed and vented the atmosphere into space to kill the other people on board, but he was injured in the process. Hall dies after the scan is complete and just as “Colonel Rabock” – who is clearly Webster – shows up.

Webster is furious, claiming that Talia’s scan killed “Cypher”. Sheridan says he doesn’t believe that Hall was Cypher, or that Cypher even exists. Webster orders Sheridan to have Hall’s body transferred to his ship.

Webster contacts one of his superiors on Earth, who outlines the full plan: Sinclair was to be framed for attempting to kill the Minbari leader on his own initiative, but the assassination was never meant to actually succeed, as that would have started another war. The primary objective was to sever Earth-Minbari relationships and leave Earth more isolated. Webster confirms that he can expose Colby as the guy who put the weapon in Sinclair’s belongings and gain cover that way, but his superior points out this will exonerate Sinclair and also interfere with their cover story that Hall was Cypher. To create maximum confusion, Rabock is ordered to kill Colby. Unbeknown to Webster, Colby has tapped into his communications link and overhead everything, including the news that Webster murdered his wife and blamed it on aliens to recruit Colby to the anti-alien cause.

On Minbar Delenn brings news of the investigation on Babylon 5 to the three-man judicial team, but they are unmoved. Neither is Alyt Neroon, serving as prosecutor. Delenn invokes Grey Council authority to reveal that Sinclair has a Minbari soul and that no Minbari may kill another, so they cannot execute Sinclair, but Neroon outright rejects the claim as superstitious nonsense. To Delenn’s concern, the three judges concur.

Garibaldi discovers security video evidence confirming that Colby was the one who smuggled the assassination weapon onto Delenn’s ship. He confirms that Colby has worked on Babylon 5 for over a year and was previously with Earthforce Special Forces, quitting after his wife was killed in an accident involving a Minbari transport. Webster goes to kill Colby, only to be overpowered. Sheridan and Garibaldi arrive to find Colby with his hostage. They agree to let him go before stopping his ship outside with Starfuries. However, it turns out that Webster is really Cypher. He overpowers Colby with a mind blast, but Colby opens fire with his weapon, puncturing an oxygen tank and blowing the entire ship up…along with most of the evidence that will exonerate Sinclair (since video images can be doctored, they needed Colby alive to be scanned by Minbari telepaths to confirm his guilt).

In the trial, Sinclair is found guilty. He invokes an ancient law, offering his life in a trial by combat to repair relations between the two races. The judges are forced to agree, but the new Minbari leader intervenes. He offers Sinclair a full pardon and withdraws the charges, citing Sinclair as an honourable man and agreeing to let him remain as Ambassador.

Later, Sinclair sees Delenn off as she returns to Babylon 5. Sinclair says that he knew that Neroon and even the judges didn’t believe in the Minbari soul situation, but the Grey Council did, and it was a calculated risk that they would not allow him – and his Minbari soul – to be executed.

On Babylon 5 Garibaldi expresses doubt in the whole Cypher thing, but the crew are surprised when he “real” Colonel Rabock shows up to take over the investigation. She is left very confused as they report what has happened.

On Earth, Webster’s superior begins running a search for a new telepath to take over the role of Cypher.

The Arc: Neroon learns of the reason why the Minbari surrendered during the Battle of the Line and outright rejects it as superstitious nonsense. He follows up on this in episode B11.

The Cypher plot may be related to the Control programme, and his superiors may work for Bureau 13 as seen in B6 and B19.

Background: Minbari flyer Zhalan rendezvouses with the warcruiser Solaris 3.8 parsecs (12.39 light-years) from Babylon 5. This location is two days from Minbar.

The Shi-Ki is the Minbari ceremony where the new leader of the Grey Council is formally installed.

Yedor is the capital city of Minbar.

One of the titles for the Minbari leader is “Chosen One”. The location for his installation on Minbari is the Palatium. Trials are held in the Judicial Court Building.

Babylon 5 has at least 94 docking bays.

References: Minbari warcruiser Solaris is named for Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s iconoic 1961 science fiction novel. It has been filmed three times, by Boris Nirenburg in 1968, by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 (this film won the Grand Prix at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival) and by Steven Soderbergh in 2002, starring George Clooney.

The starliner Chiyoda-ku is named after the Chiyoda-ku or Chiyoda District (sometimes Chiyoda City), a special ward of Tokyo, the capital city of Japan. It consists of the Imperial Palace and the surrounding region out to a distance of a kilometre. Hibiya Park, the National Museum of Modern Art and Yasukuni Shrine are located in this district.

It’s possible, if random, that Jason Colby is named after the patriarch of the Colby family in American prime-time soap opera Dynasty and its spin-off, The Colbys. Jason Colby was played by Charlton Heston.

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: The Solaris left Earth for Minbar around 8 January 2259. Delenn comes out of her chrysalis around 22 January. She catches up with the Solaris a few days later in this issue, which suggests it is a three-week journey from Earth to Minbar. This is shown to be erroneous in later episodes (particularly Season 4) where the journey appears to be just a few days, similar to other trips through hyperspace between B5 and the alien homeworlds.

However, it is possible that the Solaris was taking a circuitous route to Minbar, stopping at many other worlds before heading to Minbar directly. The fact that Delenn’s flyer is able to intercept them at all suggests this might be the case.

Neroon’s account of learning about the Minbari soul situation in episode B11 is somewhat at variance with how he learns about it in this story arc (most notably, there is no indication in B11 that he learned it from Delenn and had discussed it with her previously).

Webster’s ship is routed to Bay 13, but episode B13 confirms that Bay 13 has been reserved for the exclusive use of Ambassador Kosh’s transport ship since PM.

At one point, it is confirmed that Colby served with “Colonel Rabock” in Earthforce, which is where he met Webster, but given that Rabock is later revealed to be a totally different person, this makes no sense. My guess is that that writer meant to expose Rabock as Webster and Webster would have been Colby’s superior, but this got lost in edits.

Episode A20 suggests that the Minbari leader spends his life on the Minbari flagship warcruiser (named in secondary material as the Valen’tha) and is kept far away from Minbar. However, in this comic arc the Minbari leader is shown to be living on Minbar. NOV9 explains the discrepancy, that the Grey Council wanted to keep their leader closer to the people.

Behind the Scenes: Straczynski provided the outline for this story arc, but for complicated legal reasons was not formally credited in the issues themselves.

Familiar Faces: Racine is a member of the Minbari religious caste working as a liaison with Sinclair. Kozorr is a Minbari security officer with responsibility for security for the new Minbari leader’s installation parade.

Although not confirmed in this comic or NOV9, the new Minbari leader Jenimer is likely the acting chairman of the Grey Council who gave the Triluminary to Delenn in episode A20.

Senator Hidoshi (seen several times in Season 1 as the liaison between B5 and the station’s Senate Oversight Committee) contacts Sheridan in this issue. He retires some time between the events of this issue, which likely takes place in late January or early February 2259, and episode B15, which takes place in September.

Review: Well, it’s not great. The stakes and plotting are muddled and rogue telepaths, racist terrorists and shady ex-military special forces agents working undercover are all Babylon 5 tropes that are getting worn by this point (not to mention that episode B6, airing in close proximity to this story arc, does the same thing more concisely and more interestingly). Sinclair’s story on Minbar is more interesting, but relegated to a subplot. It’s all readable, but the artwork is mediocre and the story not really that compelling. Still, it fills in some blanks in the story arc. **½

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