Thursday, 15 February 2018

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 4, Episodes 19-20

D19: Between the Darkness and the Light
Airdates: 6 October 1997 (US), 27 November 1997 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by David J. Eagle
Cast: Lt. Eisensen (Marc Gomes), Interrogator (Bruce Gray), Number One (Marjorie Monaghan), Captain James (David Purdham), Felicia (Musetta Vander), Guard (Greg Poland), Evan (J.P. Hubbel), First Guard (James Laing), Assistant (Anneliza Scott)

Date: Approximately 30-31 October 2261.

Plot:    Garibaldi, anxious to rescue Sheridan and start paying back for some the things he did whilst under Psi Corps’ control, attempts to contact the Mars Resistance. He is captured and brought before Number One, who offers Franklin the chance to kill him. Franklin almost agrees, but lets Lyta scan Garibaldi to learn the truth. They discover that he was used by Psi Corps, but is now free of their influence. After convincing Number One into helping them, Lyta, Garibaldi and Franklin set out for the Earthforce prison complex.

On Babylon 5 Delenn and Lennier discover that Londo has called a meeting of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council without informing them. They arrive just as the Narn, Centauri and League worlds unanimously vote to send ships to support Ivanova’s fleet.

The liberation fleet is moving towards the Solar system and successfully defeats the Earthforce destroyers Damocles and Orion in combat. In return for leniency at the war crimes tribunal, one of the captured crewmen reports that some of the ships that have joined Ivanova’s fleet are really still working for Clark and are providing intelligence to Earthforce on their movements. Clark is setting a trap involving some new-model destroyers employing lethal technology. Clark wants to destroy the rebel Earthforce vessels in Ivanova’s fleet to make it look like the liberators are really alien invaders. Ivanova decides to take the White Stars by themselves to intercept and destroy the new vessels before they can attack the Earth ships in the fleet.

Garibaldi, Lyta and Franklin arrive at the prison complex and Garibaldi manages to use his well-publicised face as Sheridan’s captor to get past the outer guards. Lyta uses her telepathic powers to overwhelm the inner guards and they rescue Sheridan from his cell. However, they then have to fight their way back out. With the help of the Resistance, Sheridan is put on a shuttle headed for the liberation fleet.

The White Star forces arrive at the ambush coordinates and encounter a large number of Earthforce destroyers fitted with Shadow technology, namely much improved hull armour and superior weaponry. Full-scale battle erupts and, despite heavy losses, the White Stars emerge triumphant. However, when the last enemy vessel explodes the White Star 2 is crippled and Ivanova severely injured. She and Marcus bail out in a lifepod and the ship explodes.

Sheridan’s shuttle reaches the liberation fleet shortly after Minbari, Narn, Centauri and League warships arrive to support them. He assumes command of the Agamemnon and orders a course set for the Mars colony.


Dating the Episode: This episode ends a day or two before the next one begins. Sheridan has been in custody for about a week.

The Arc: Sheridan is rescued from Mars and returns to take command of the fleet. Their next target is Mars itself. We discover what happens there in D20.

The machine used to interrogate Sheridan is similar to the virtual reality cybernet used on Sinclair in episode A8.

Ivanova refers to a conversation she had with Marcus almost a year earlier, in C21.

Ivanova is badly wounded during the battle against the Shadow-enhanced destroyers. We discover her fate in D20 and D21.

Earthforce got its hands on some Shadow technology eight years ago (DC5-8) and some more last year, as we discovered in C8.

The Mars Resistance is organising itself for a mass uprising against Clark’s forces. We see this in episode D20.

Background: Psi Corps telepaths can put mental blocks into a human mind to prevent scanning. Level 12 blocks, put in place by a Psi Cop, are almost impossible to break without causing permanent brain trauma. Lyta, post her Vorlon “enhancements”, is powerful enough now to overcome the blocks.

Beta IX is a major Earth Alliance colony world.

There is an Earthforce military base and prison complex on Solis Planum.

The Resistance, White Star Fleet and anti-Clark forces are mustering for the final attack on Mars and Earth in Sector 300.

At least two White Stars are lost in the Battle of Sector 300. More may have been destroyed off-screen.

The jump beacon for Mars is coded M99-15-Alpha.

Ivanova has an eidetic memory (photographic memory or perfect recall). It feels like this should have come up before.

According to Straczynski, off-the-books interrogations would not be videotaped in case the material was later used against the interrogators.

References: Solis Planum is a real region on Mars. It is located to the south-east of Syria Planum, where the Psi Corps base on Mars is located in the series.

The title is a reference to the Minbari Grey Council mantra: “We stand between the candle and the star, between the darkness and the light.”

The EAS Damocles is named after a courtier in Greek mythology. According to tradition, Damocles was a servant of Dionysius of Syracuse, who had risen to power through backstabbing and war. Damocles imagined that Dionysius’s life was now one of pampered ease, so Dionysius offered to show him what his life was like. Damocles sat down at a dinner, seated in Dionysius’s normal spot, only to realise there was a sword above him, pointed down, suspended by a single human hair.

The EAS Orion is named after the Greek mythological hunter and the famous constellation named after him (which was also sacred to the Egyptians).

Unanswered Questions: Why does Mars have a jump beacon if the Solar system’s jump gate is in orbit around Io? Doesn’t that just make it easier for enemies to attack?

What happened to the infiltrators in the rebel fleet? When Ivanova took out the advanced destroyers, Sheridan was rescued and the alien reinforcements showed up, did they just give up?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: For some reason this episode repeatedly refers to the Babylon 5 Advisory Council as the League of Non-aligned Worlds. The League has just one vote on the Council and the Centauri and Narns are not members of the League, so why this conflation takes place is unclear.

Early in the episode the characters say that Sheridan has been a prisoner for less than a week, and then moments later they say it’s been more than a week.

Behind the Scenes: The scene where Garibaldi is interrogated and nearly killed before Lyta scans him was filmed for the previous episode and moved over to this one when D18 ran long.

Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs, Patricia Tallman and Marjorie Monaghan got together to privately rehearse the interrogation scene, as they realised it was very important to get it right and make it convincing.

The interrogation scene was filmed before and after lunch. Jerry Doyle was aware that after lunch, an actor’s energy levels can dip so he took a power nap instead and got back into the zone very quickly. Director John Lafia (who shot that scene for D18) congratulated Doyle for nailing the scene, and agreed with Doyle’s decision not to do another take as his energy levels had gone. Richard Biggs also congratulated Doyle on-set for his performance in the scene.

During the scene in the tunnels, Garibaldi was originally supposed to take down the two security guards by himself. Richard Biggs wanted Franklin to get into the fight personally. Director David Eagle knew they couldn’t improvise too much and called the producers. John Copeland gave his permission for them to change the scene and get Franklin into the fight. Unfortunately, Richard Biggs got a little too carried away and punched out one of the security guards, rendering him unconscious for real. As they couldn’t do reshoots, that shot is in the episode: you can see Franklin knock the guy out and immediately kneel over to check he’s okay. Fortunately, the actor was fine (after a quick trip to hospital) and Biggs apologised to him.

Straczynski toyed with the idea of actually just killing Ivanova to raise the stakes for the finale, but concluded that he had more story to tell for the character. Of course, events unfolded that could have changed that decision, had they happened earlier.

Familiar Faces: Marc Gomes (Lt. Eisensen) is best-known for playing regular character Darryl Albrecht on The Crow: Stairway to Heaven and Dimitrius Gans on Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye.

Musetta Vander (Felicia) is a South African actress. She played Sindel in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Lady Elara in Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle for Dune. Her best-known genre role might be playing the “Mantis Lady” in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (whose close encounter with Xander traumatises him for most of the rest of the series). She continues to act, having recently appeared in Hawaii Five-O and Criminal Minds.

Review: Given the season-long setup for Sheridan’s capture, he is freed here rather easily. There’s a lot of drama and action in this episode, but there’s also a lot of really cheesy lines, overwrought acting and badly-choreographed CGI, which makes following the action unnecessarily confusing. The result is an important episode which does some major pipe-laying for the following one, but it’s all executed rather mediocrely. ***

Security Guard: “I don’t watch TV. It’s a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of live created by the liberal media elite.”

Ivanova: “I am Death Incarnate and the last living thing you will ever see.”

Ivanova: “There were more of them than us and they fought like hell, but we got them.”

Ivanova: “We cleared the way for you, John. All the way to Mars.”

D20: Endgame
Airdates: 13 October 1997 (US), 4 December 1997 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by John Copeland
Cast: General Lefcourt (J. Patrick McCormack), President Clark (Gary McGurk), Senator Crosby (Carolyn Seymour), Number One (Marjorie Monaghan), Captain James (David Purdham), Captain Mitchell (Julian Stone), Earthforce NCO (Ungela Brockman), Kelley (Karen Fineman), Earthforce Officer (Rick Cramer), Telepath (Kenneth Cortland), ISN Reporter (Maggie Egan)

Date: 1-3 November 2261.

Plot:    The EAS Apollo and more than thirty other Omega-class destroyers assemble in Mars orbit, ready to engage Sheridan’s fleet when it arrives. The fleet’s commander, General Lefcourt, is unhappy about having to kill Sheridan, since he was the man who trained him, but is willing to follow orders if that’s what it takes.

On Mars the Resistance smuggles the telepaths in cryo-freeze into the cargo depots where supplies are being shipped up to the orbiting destroyer group. Lyta, Franklin and Number One prepare to make their move, whilst Garibaldi scouts out an Earthforce base nearby. The Resistance storms the Earthforce base and Lyta goes outside to begin transmitting instructions to the telepaths on board the Earthforce vessels. Garibaldi sends a homing beacon to the liberation fleet.

Ivanova is shipped back to Babylon 5. Her condition is deteriorating and is almost certainly fatal. Marcus tries to find a way of healing her and discovers that Lennier has had an idea, but it is too dangerous to share. His White Star is given the go-signal to begin the attack on Mars. They open a jump point inside Mars’ atmosphere and begin bombarding the Earthforce ground installations. Franklin tells the Resistance members that the telepaths they smuggled onto the destroyers were altered by the Shadows to take control of their ships. They plan to have these telepaths bond with the destroyers they are on and disrupt their systems, disabling the ships without destroying them. Some of the rebels balk at the way the telepaths are being used like weapons, but, as Franklin says, it’s the thirty telepaths’ lives against the 30,000 crewing the Earthforce fleet.

Sheridan’s fleet jumps out at Mars and most of the Earthforce destroyers are disabled by the on-board telepaths. The few that are unaffected are disabled by White Star ships. Sheridan orders a course set for Earth itself and they re-enter hyperspace. Marcus checks the library computer and learns about an alien healing device discovered on Babylon 5 three years ago that can heal one person at the expense of another’s lifeforce. He decides to use this to heal Ivanova. He tricks Lennier into leaving the ship and sets course for Babylon 5. The liberation fleet cannot pursue since they are committed to arriving at Earth. Meanwhile, General Lefcourt and his crew have worked out what has disabled their ships and kill the telepath on board, although they are unable to warn the other ships of what the problem is. They set about repairs to the jump engines.

The liberation fleet jumps out into Earth orbit and Sheridan calls for the Earth Alliance Senate to overthrow Clark. Senator Crosby takes him up on his offer and heads for Clark’s office. Meanwhile, President Clark activates the planetary defence net and missiles start raining down on the fleet, which returns fire and begins knocking out the strategic defence platforms. Crosby and her supporters knock down Clark’s door to find him dead: he has shot himself rather than be taken prisoner. They also discover that the planetary defence net has been ordered to fire upon Earth itself. Sheridan calls in the Minbari, Narn, Centauri and League ships and they engage the defence platforms before they can fire at Earth. The Agamemnon takes heavy damage as it heads for the last defence platform and its main guns are destroyed. Sheridan orders them to ram the platform, but before they can do so the Apollo jumps in and destroys it first.

The liberation fleet assembles in Earth orbit and Sheridan is told he is wanted in Earthdome as soon as possible to answer for taking up arms against his own government. A White Star is sent to Mars to pick up Franklin and head back to Babylon 5, but it is too late. On B5 Marcus uses the alien healing device to restore Ivanova at the cost of his own life.

Dating the Episode: The date is given in dialogue. The episode ends on Babylon 5, after a two-day jump from the Solar system.

The Arc: The Earth Alliance Civil War which began in episode C9 comes to an end with the suicide of President Clark and the destruction or surrender of all forces loyal to him. However, as we learn in D21, there is a price to pay for Sheridan.

Marcus uses the alien healing device previously seen in episodes A21 and B2 to heal Ivanova, but dies himself through using it.

The White Star leaping straight into Mars’ atmosphere may have been inspired by Sheridan using the original White Star to make an atmospheric jump in Jupiter’s atmosphere in episode C8.

This episode actually uses several  continuity points from previous episodes: the tactics to get the telepaths to sabotage the destroyers was established in episode C14, whilst Lyta’s ability to direct the telepaths was established in D14. The alien healing device previously appeared in A21 and B2.

General Lefcourt also appears in episode TVM1.

One of Franklin’s log entries mentions the death of Cailyn, the singer he met in C21 who was suffering from a terminal illness.

Background: Mass battles between fleets in hyperspace are not possible. The gravity inclines and energy disruptions make combat extremely difficult and formations of ships are more of liability to one another than the enemy.

There are 35 ships in the Earthforce fleet, which seems to account for almost every single Omega-class destroyer that hasn’t been destroyed or defected. As well as the Apollo, we can assume that the Nimrod and Olympic (which were loyal to Clark in C10 and escaped intact) and maybe the Pournelle (which shot down Abel Horn’s ship during the Mars Rebellion in B6) were among the Earth-loyal fleet. The Zeus is also seen amongst the Earthforce fleet.

Accounting for destroyed or disabled ships (Agrippa, Roanoake, Churchill, Heracles, Pollux, Hydra, Cadmus, Cerberus, Delphi, Orion, Damocles) and the ships in Sheridan’s fleet (Alexander, Agamemnon, Nemesis, Vesta, Furies, Theseus, Heraclion), it would appear that Earthforce has built around 60 Omega-class destroyers since the Earth-Minbari War.

Of the Earthforce fleet, 20 ships are disabled by telepaths, 5 are partially disabled (including the Apollo) and 10 are disabled by weapons fire.

Omega-class destroyers have a crew of approximately 1,000 people each (but see the Mistakes section below).

Earth’s jump beacon is coded 11629.

Earth’s defence network consists of hundreds of satellites armed with missiles and particle beam cannons. The cannons are capable of destroying 40% of the planet’s surface.

References: President Clark’s suicide was staged as a homage to Dr. Strangelove by producer John Copeland.

Unanswered Questions: Had Clark really gone mad by the end of the episode? The ease with which Earthforce personnel were defecting by the start of the episode suggest that Clark’s regime was starting to collapse anyway.

Why did the Earthforce fleet consist of just Omegas? Why weren’t there any Novas or Hyperions with them?

As with the last episode and Mars, why does Earth have a jump beacon when the gate is in orbit around Io? Some sources suggest that the first Solar system jump gate was built in Earth orbit and later moved to Io, but it’s unclear if this is canon.

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: This episode suggests that an Earthforce Omega-class destroyer as a crew of about 1,000. However, this contradicts NOV7, which says 180, and D18, which suggests it’s under 600.

Is it plausible that 25 large life-support pods can be slipped simultaneously onto military warships without anyone noticing? According to Straczynski, the quartermaster at the supply depot was supporting the Resistance, but it still seems odd that none of the dozens of people involved in shipping the crates noticed what was going on.

In another log entry, Franklin appears to be referring to the injuries Marcus sustained from his battle with Neroon in C19. However, Franklin was on walkabout at the time and couldn’t have recorded the message. It is possible that he might have been referring to another injury sustained by Marcus on a different, offscreen occasion.

The Nemesis is shown among the Earthforce fleet, despite it defecting to Sheridan’s side in D15. It’s possible that the Nemesis defected back to Earth later on.

A Centauri Vorchan-class light cruiser is shown next to a Narn crusier in hyperspace. It is massively out of scale, appearing several times larger than the previous time we saw the two classes next to one another (in B12). This starts a recurring issue in Season 5 where the Vorchan is constantly shown as larger and more significant a vessel than was previously established.

When the rebel fleet approaches Earth, Asia, Indonesia and Africa are in daylight. Moments later, North America is in clear sunlight, which isn’t possible unless the battle lasts for many hours. Later in the episode we learn that the battle took place at 1.45am GMT (GMT=Earth Standard Time, as confirmed by Straczynski), which would have made it 8.45pm on the eastern seaboard, so the eastern United States should have been in shadow.

The Agamemnon is apparently the only ship capable of taking out the last defence platform, but literally seconds later it was in the middle of a large formation of ships.

A planetary defence network that can be slaved and locked out to just one console would appear to be a massive security hazard. It would be like the American President being able to literally launch a nuclear strike with a red button (unlike the several layers of authorisation in place to stop a lone, insane man doing just that).

Behind the Scenes: This is the first episode of Babylon 5 to be directed by executive producer John Copeland (the “on the set” producer compared to Straczynski’s writing duties and Doug Netter’s money and oversight responsibilities). He returns to direct episodes E13 and E21. Straczynski asked Copeland to do it because of the production requirements for the episode, including explosion, fire and other on-camera effects.

Copeland was always notorious for standing by the set with a watch on his hand to make sure the show didn’t over go into overtime (and over-budget). Mysteriously, whilst filming his episode a lot of these problems disappeared, to his constant ribbing by the crew.

Richard Biggs noted the joys of being a Hollywood actor: donning a Panka, gas mask, gloves, boots and a huge jumpsuit in the middle of March in the Valley, when it was 30 degrees C. Pretending it was absolutely freezing took some doing.

Jason Carter found delivering his heartfelt “I love you” to Ivanova was problematic because Claudia Christian kept goofing around instead of pretending to be unconscious.

Bruce Boxleitner had a great time playing Sheridan flying into the heat of battle on his flagship, drawing inspiration from maverick WWII pilots and Captain Ahab going after his whale.

The sets of the Orion-class destroyers are Babylon 5 corridors with the coloured strip running along the wall replaced by exposed piping.

Familiar Faces: Maggie Egan (ISN Reporter) returns as the regular ISN reporter, Jane, having been MIA since episode C10. It’s assumed she was imprisoned in the meantime for trying to get the real story out about President Clark’s corruption and atrocities.

Ungela Brockman (Earthforce NCO) is a dancer, actress and producer based in Los Angeles. Her other appearances include the movies Showgirls, From Dusk Till Dawn, Mystery Men and Starship Troopers. Her TV roles include Everybody Hates Chris, Boston Legal and Jane the Virgin.

J. Patrick McCormack (General Lefcourt) is a familiar American screen actor. He has appeared in Space: Above and Beyond, Seinfeld, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Ally McBeal, The X-Files, Mad Men and in multiple roles in Star Trek, playing Admiral Bennett on Deep Space Nine, Prax on Voyager and a commander in Star Trek: Nemesis. He has had recurring roles on The District, 24 and The West Wing. He reprises the role of Lefcourt in TVM1.

Carolyn Seymour (Senator Crosby) is a well-known British actress. She got her start in the 1970s on British TV, playing Jenny in Take Three Girls and, most famously, Abby Grant on Survivors. She relocated to the States in the 1980s, getting guest roles on shows such as Magnum, P.I. and Cagney and Lacey. She played three different roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation, appearing in the episodes Face of the Enemy, First Contact and Contagion. She also played Mrs. Templeton in Star Trek: Voyager. She also had a recurring role on Quantum Leap, playing Zoey, the “Al” equivalent to the evil leaper dedicated to making people’s lives go wrong. In recent years she has moved into voice acting, playing Dr. Chakwas in the Mass Effect trilogy and Myrrah in the Gears of War franchise.

Julian Stone (Captain Mitchell, he of the exaggerated English accent) is a British actor best-known for playing Jerry Jacks on General Hospital. His other roles include Columbo, Picket Fences, Baywatch and Castle. He has also moved into voice acting, recently appearing in How to Train Your Dragon 2, Titanfall 2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Star Wars: Battlefront II.

Rick Cramer (Earthforce Officer) had a recurring role as an unnamed military aide on The West Wing.  

Review: The big culmination of the Earth Alliance Civil War is satisfying for its action, its humanity (Sheridan’s plan basically being so elaborate because he wants to minimise casualties) and solid performances right the way through the episode. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of Clark – for a primary villain we barely even saw him through the series – and the frozen telepath plan is implausible, but overall this is a spectacular, ambitious episode that wraps up the Civil War arc reasonably well. ****

Sheridan: “We are here to place President Clark under arrest, to disband Nightwatch and return our government to the hands of her people.”

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for doing this. I look forward to the continuation of this rewatch.