Wednesday, 6 December 2017

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 3, Episodes 11-12

C11: Ceremonies of Light and Dark
Airdates: 8 April 1996 (US), 23 June 1996 (UK)
Working Title: Ceremonies
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by John C. Flinn III
Cast: Lord Refa (William Forward), Boggs (Don Stroud), Sniper (Paul Perri), Lenann (Kim Strauss), Lt. David Corwin (Joshua Cox), Sparky (Harlan Ellison), Morden (Ed Wasser), Maintenance Man (Vincent Bilancio), Guard (Doug McCoy), Thug #1 (Jim Cody Williams), Thug #2 (Ron Royce), Thug #3 (Kristian Sorensen)

Date: Mid-to-late April 2260.

Plot:    Following Babylon 5’s declaration of independence, most Nightwatch and other Earth loyalist personnel have been thrown off the station. One group of Nightwatch extremists remains in hiding. The group’s leader, Boggs, comes up with a plan to capture Delenn and blackmail the Minbari cruisers guarding the station into leaving, allowing Earthforce troops to occupy the station.

Meanwhile, Lord Refa arrives on Babylon 5 to meet with Londo. He is rather startled when Londo informs him that he has poisoned Refa and will spare him (by not having a second poison given to him that will trigger the first and kill him). In return for this Refa will arrange for all Centauri warships and battlecruisers to be withdrawn from their campaign against the League of Non-aligned Worlds. The Centauri fleet is spread too thinly and is making Centauri Prime a tempting target for attack. In addition, Refa will stop all relations between himself and Mr. Morden and, furthermore, ensure that Morden has no contact with any official in the Centauri government. Refa is utterly outraged but also totally impotent to do anything about it. He reluctantly agrees to Londo’s idea and leaves the station, shocked at his former associate’s ruthlessness.

Boggs and his group capture Delenn and Lenann, one of the Minbari captains. Marcus and Lennier work together to discover their location. During this manhunt, Lennier confesses that he is in love with Delenn but knows that she is “fated for another”. Their intelligence allows Sheridan, Garibaldi and Zack to rescue the captives, although Delenn is slightly injured during the altercation. Delenn gives a gift of new uniforms to the Babylon 5 command staff, but is regretful they cannot carry out the Minbari ceremony of renewal they were planning (due to her injury). The others decide to bring the ceremony to her and make several startling confessions: Sheridan that he has come to care for Delenn, Garibaldi that he is scared of what will happen if he loses control, Ivanova that she was in love with Talia Winters and Franklin that he has “a problem”.


Dating the Episode: It is several days after the events of episode C10 but no firm date is given.

The Arc: This episode marks the exact halfway point of Babylon 5’s five-year story arc.

We learn in this episode that Lennier is in love with Delenn. This paves the way for the events in episode E21.

The Minbari prophecy that Minbari and humans will join forces against the Shadows was first referenced in episode B1 (although it was talked about, more obliquely, in episode A20). The unfolding of the prophecy will dominate much of the rest of the series (particularly the rest of Season 3 and the start of Season 4).

The effectiveness of Londo’s blackmailing of Refa is revealed in episodes C15 and C20.

The Centauri Republic is currently engaged on twelve fronts around the borders of Centauri space, including (as established in episode C6) a foothold in Drazi space.

During the Minbari ceremony we discover that Ivanova was in love with Talia Winters (as hinted at in episode B19), Sheridan has feelings for Delenn (as hinted at in episode B18 and expanded upon in C12 and C20 and pretty much the rest of the series), Garibaldi has difficulty controlling himself (referring to his alcoholism and the events of A11 as well as setting up events from E11 onwards), and Franklin thinks he might have a problem (referring to his addiction to stims, hinted at in B17, B18 and C3 and resolved in C15).

The Minbari rebirth ceremony is the same one performed by Delenn and Lennier in episode A5, although the two episodes concentrate on different aspects of the ceremony.

Marcus mentions a woman he was “quite fond of” on Arisia III. This is Hasina Mandisa, whom we meet in NOV9.

Babylon 5’s logo has changed with this episode: it used to be a stylised “5” over a pair of crossed olive branches. The “5” is now over a sword on a shield, suggesting that the station is taking a more combative stance.

Background: Poison was the weapon of choice in the old days of the Centauri Republic.

This episode confirms that Garibaldi’s formal rank is “Chief Warrant Officer”.

Sheridan’s authorisation code is “obsidian”, Ivanova’s is “griffin” and Garibaldi’s is “peek-a-boo” (as previously mentioned in A16).

12 Babylon 5 pilots – the equivalent of a full squadron – were killed during the battle for Babylon 5 in C10. This confirms Sheridan’s statement that about a third of B5’s fighters were destroyed during the battle. Most or all of these losses were made good by the addition of Starfuries and Thunderbolts from the EAS Churchill to B5.

References: Or rather not a reference. The term “Old Republic” simply refers to the old days of the Centauri Republic and is not a Star Wars reference.

The crazy sniper singing “Dem Bones” was inspired by Straczynski hearing a cover version of the song by the Red Clay Ramblers. He later remembered it was used in the final episode of The Prisoner but it was not deliberately a homage to that show (unlike other episodes).

The Starfuries escorting the coffins towards the sun and one of them peeling off is a nod to the US military’s “Missing Man” formation and ritual for honouring falling soldiers.

Unanswered Questions: What was Delenn going to confess during the ceremony?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: This is a recurring problem for much the rest of the series: several of the new establishing shots featuring Minbari warcruisers in the background seem to show them way out of scale with Babylon 5.

Boggs seems very well-informed about the internal workings of the Minbari political system for a low-level security officer.

Londo’s recording of Morden’s conversation in episode C1 has Morden standing, when he was sitting in that episode. In fact, Ed Wasser had to specially re-record the scene.

The new Babylon 5 logo introduced for this episode was added to existing to sets in a slightly ad hoc fashion, resulting in it appearing and disappearing between scenes. This is most notable in the final C&C scene, where it is visible in some shots and missing in others.

In addition, given it’s only been a few days since B5 broke away from Earth, you’d assume people would have higher priorities than setting up a new logo. It’d make more sense for them to be introduced in the next episode (which is set two months later).

Ivanova says that she loved Talia, but in that case why has she done nothing to discover Talia’s fate back on Earth, or followed up on Garibaldi’s lead on a possible “cure” for her (A9 and B19)? She seems to have written her off pretty easily.

Why do Boggs and Sniper agree to give Sheridan six hours to consider his options? Why not get him to stand down immediately?

Although B5 is still shut down for civilian traffic at this moment, it’s still highly implausible that there would be no security escort for the Minbari captain and his aides coming on board.

Behind the Scenes: Jerry Doyle broke his arm whilst filming episode C10, but only after he’d filmed scenes confirming that Garibaldi had injured his ankle during the fight. This episode was rewritten slightly to confirm that it was his arm that was injured.

The cast and crew gave J. Michael Straczynski, Doug Netter and John Copeland leather script books with their initials inland in silver, to mark the exact halfway point of the series.

Peter Jurasik enjoyed working with William Forward and found their scenes in this episode particularly enjoyable.

John Flinn was prepared for the big fight scene to be laborious and complex, but to his amazement it fell together and they didn’t need too many takes to nail everything in just a couple of hours.

Straczynski offered Claudia Christian the choice of walking onto C&C naked or in a dressing gown. She chose naked, with some judicious use of underwear and tape to make it appear she really was naked.

The new uniforms were introduced out of necessity – as the crew are not part of Earth any more – and also because the cast wanted uniforms that were cooler and easier to wear under the studio lights.

Three more “Sparky the Computer” scenes were filmed but – mercifully – cut for time.

Familiar Faces: Don Stroud (Boggs) previously appeared in episode A14 as Caliban. The actor has a distinctive scar, which he apparently got by defending a woman from being assaulted by a man with a knife. Some fans complained to Straczynski that Stroud’s “scar makeup” was really unconvincing, when of course the scare was real.

Harlan Ellison (Sparky the Computer) is, of course, Babylon 5’s creative consultant, friend of J. Michael Straczynski and the co-writer of episode E4.

Review: This is a disappointing episode as it removes all of the nuance from the Nightwatch and turns them into obvious villains and monsters. The “Sparky the Computer” subplot bombs as hard as most of Straczynski’s efforts at comedy do and overall this episode falters. However, it redeems itself with some much-needed and well-played character development for both Marcus and Lennier, and for touching on upcoming plot points for most of the rest of the cast. ***

Refa: “You are a fool. You walked away from the greatest power that I have ever seen and now you expect me to do the same?”

Delenn: “What are you afraid of?”
Marcus: “Nothing. Well, spiders.”

Lennier: “What matters is everything leading up to that point. Leaving behind the old and preparing to be reborn.”
G’Kar: “I’ve already been born once and quite sufficiently, I think.”

Marcus: “They said I was carrying around a lot of repressed anger.”
Lennier: “And?”
Marcus: “I’m not repressed any more.”

C12: Sic Transit Vir
Airdates: 15 April 1996 (US), 7 July 1996 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Jésus Treviño
Cast: Lyndisty (Carmen Thomas), Minister Virini (Damien London), Narn #1 (James Jude Courtney)

Date: 3 July 2260.

Plot:    Vir returns to Babylon 5 to rendezvous with a Centauri noble lady who his uncle has arranged for him to marry. Lyndisty turns out to be beautiful and charming, but has an almost pathological hatred for the Narn. Narn assassins arrive on the station to kill her, but one is shot dead by Zack Allan and the other is taken alive. Vir learns that Lyndisty’s father was an executioner on the Narn homeworld and that Lyndisty herself has killed Narns with her bare hands. He hurriedly makes his excuses and has her sent back to Centauri Prime.

Ivanova investigates some odd disappearances from Narn colony worlds and discovers evidence that Vir has been sending them to their deaths. However, closer examination reveals that Vir has used his credentials as Ambassador to Minbar to fake transportation document for thousands of Narns and smuggled them to safety on other worlds. Londo is enraged when he finds out and has his appointment to Minbar cancelled, returning him to Babylon 5 where he can keep an eye on him. Ivanova takes over Vir’s work in secret, allowing more Narns to escape their colonies and homeworld.

Dating the Episode: The date is given in dialogue.

The Arc: Vir’s appointment to Minbar, which began in C3, comes to a rapid end after Londo discovers what he has been up to.

Sheridan cooks dinner for Delenn in return for the dinner she (or at least Lennier) made for him in episode B18. Sheridan’s cooking skills turn out to be abysmal, especially where flarn is concerned.

Delenn prophecised in episode B20 that the Centauri would use the Narns as slave labour. This episode confirms it.

The Narn shon’kar or blood oath previously played a key role in episode A5 (as well as the non-canon NOV3).

Londo uses the sword given to him by Urza Jaddo (B16) to kill an insect in his quarters.

Vir notes he’s been in the wars recently, having been beaten up by G’Kar (C6) and concussed in a riot (C9).

Background: Vir has an interest in Earth history.

The Centauri are “pacifying” Narn by sending Narns to work in forced labour camps and eliminating villages where there is resistance to Narn rule.

References: Vir’s “underground railroad” helping Narns escape from Centauri captivity is a nod at Oskar Schindler. The name he uses, “Abrahamo Linconi”, is of course a nod to American President Abraham Lincoln, who was President during the American Civil War (fought on the basis of ending slavery in the United States).

The title is Latin and means “Thus Passes the Man”.

There are some passing similarities between Vir and the Roman Emperor Claudius, the latter being perceived as a bumbling fool who could never become Emperor. Claudius had an arranged marriage (like Vir in this episode) and was allied to the Lady Drusilla, whilst Lyndisty’s aunt (who arranged the marriage) is called Lady Drusella. This analogue becomes clearer in Season 4, when we discover certain similarities between Emperor Cartagia and Claudius’s predecessor on the Roman throne. Straczynski is known to be a big fan of Robert Graves’s two-volume novel series, I, Claudius (1934) and Claudius the God (1935), and its 1976 BBC television adaptation starring John Hurt, Patrick Stewart, Brian Blessed and Derek Jacobi.

Unanswered Questions: What happened to the bound Narn? Vir presumably freed him, but we don’t see for sure. In addition, the brother had a blood oath to murder Lyndisty. Did Vir force him to drop it or abandon it?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: This episode takes place two months after the previous episode in the series, but everyone seems to be behaving as it’s just a couple of weeks later. In particular, Sheridan seems to leave it a long time after he confessing he has feelings for Delenn before asking her out on a date. However, this was originally due to C13 coming before C12, which would have provided an episode inbetween those dates.

Why are all the Narns in Vir’s room in the Centauri Royal Palace? It doesn’t make any sense. Straczynski admitted it was a bit nonsensical, but he rolled with it as it was a great image for the teaser.

A line cut from the episode (see above) would have revealed that the wounded Narn was recovering in MedLab.

Behind the Scenes: This is the first – of only eight – episodes of Babylon 5 in which Jerry Doyle does not appear as Garibaldi. He required more time to recover from his broken arm, so he was written out of the episode and his material was transferred to Zack Allen (Jeff Conaway) to perform instead.

This episode and C13 were swapped in production order because Straczynski wanted a lighter episode to follow C8-C11.

Familiar Faces: Damien London previously played Minister Virini in episode A21. He will return in Season 4.

Carmen Thomas (Lyndisty) stated off as an actress, appearing in as a series regular in All My Children in the 1980s. After a string of background and supporting roles in series such as Melrose Place, ER doing some voice work on the video game Halo 2, she seems to have retired from the acting business. She also did some work in Hollywood as a Casting Director.

Paul John Perri (Sniper) is a Candian actor best-known for his roles in the TV series Kingdom Hospital and the movies Hellraiser: Bloodline and Manhunter. He also played Royan Jahee in the Battlestar Galactica episode Epiphanies.

Review: On the one hand, this is an amusing episode with a good comedy performance from Stephen Furst. On the other, it raises a whole bunch of issues (such as Lyndisty being, y’know, a fascist monster who has committed war crimes but Vir seems to think he can redeem her) that the episode never really gets to grip with. A disposable filler episode that seems uncertain of where it is going but one that does at least accomplish some good character development for Vir. ***

Vir: “If kisses could kill, that one would have flattened several small towns.”

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