Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Babylon 5 Re-Watch: Episodes 13-16 Give Us One Important Story Arc Entry, But Then a Lot of Treading Water

The Babylon 5 re-watch is on!  These are my thoughts on the episodes as I work my way through the full five seasons (plus the movies).

I got derailed from this because I end up watching a lot more Fall sci fi TV than I expected.  But I will keep pushing forward and I still get more enjoyment re-watching B5 than tuning in for a lot of the currently airing shows.

S1 Ep 13: “Signs and Portents”

Increased Raider activity starts to threaten the traffic coming in and out of Babylon 5.  Meanwhile, Londo hosts some important guests from his homeworld as the mysterious man named Mr. Morden approaches the ambassadors asking cryptic questions.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

Essential Viewing: Yes. This episode represents the entry of the Shadows, if just briefly, into the story arc.

Comments:  While the episode itself may not be one of the better B5 entries, “Signs and Portents” definitely starts moving things forward.  We get our first introduction to Mr. Morden who appears much more of a bothersome nuisance here and much less of the sinister presence he will later become.  We also get our first glimpse of the shadows as well as prophecies of the dark times to come. Plus, Sinclair attempts to find out more about what happened during that 24 hours when he blacked out at the Battle of the Line.  All of that is interesting and has important ties to later events.  But the pivotal moment of the episode (and actually a major turning point for the show) comes when Londo finally answers Mr. Morden’s question “what do you want?”  The answer that the Centauri ambassador gives is both moving and chilling, even if we don’t quite understand its significance at this point.  This episode really gets the ball rolling with some major developments and is essential to the overall story.

S1 Ep 14: “TKO”

On old friend of Mr. Garibaldi’s arrives on Babylon 5 with plans of competing in an alien fighting circuit.  Meanwhile, Ivanova receives a visit from her former Rabbi who wants her to make peace with her father’s death.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

Essential Viewing: No. It has some nice character development, but it’s not a must-watch episode.

Comments:  This is another mostly stand-alone episode, though it focuses on two of the best human characters, Mr. Garibaldi and Susan Ivanova.  With the latter, we get a good look at Susan’s past and why she has issues with her family.  And we get a further look at Mr. Garibaldi’s past as well.  It’s a decent enough episode and doesn’t feel too much like treading water, but you won’t be missing much if you skip it.

S1 Ep 15: “Grail”

A man arrives on Babylon 5 in search of the Holy Grail and is given a special reception by Delenn.  Meanwhile, a down-on-his-luck inhabitant of “Down Below” is being black-mailed to provide information that he knows about the station.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

Essential Viewing: No. It’s an okay stand-alone episode, but not a must-watch.

Comments:  The best part of this episode is David Warner’s performance as the grail-seeker Aldous Gajic.  So often Warner has had roles as the heavy, so it is nice to see him play a more sympathetic character.  Apart from that, the episode gives us a little bit more background on the previous Babylon stations and we also learn that the Minbarri religious and warrior castes do not get along.  Plus we get a glimpse of the internal workings of the station and some of the seedier sections that it contains.  It’s worth watching the episode mostly for Warner’s performance, but if you skip it you won’t miss much of significance to the ongoing arc.

S1 Ep 16: “Eyes”

The Babylon 5 command staff find themselves under investigation by Earth Force.  You can read the full synopsis at this link.

Essential Viewing:  Not Really.  We learn more about the internal conflicts within the Earth government and it gives some more character development, but it can be skipped.

Comments:  With 22 episodes per season, JMS had the time to really explore some of the background to his story, and this episode pads that out further.  The key work there, though, is padding.  We learn more about Ivanova’s aversion to the Psi Corp and some more about the main human characters, but there is a sense of treading water by this point.  And sadly, the human antagonist--Colonel Ben Zayn--is all too cartoonish once again (like “By Any Means Necessary”, more on that at this link), though the Psi Corp officer is at least played somewhat sympathetic.   You do get some good background from this episode, but it either has been or will be covered better in other episodes, so this one is skippable.

General Thoughts:  None of these four episodes are really standouts, and even though “Signs and Portents” is important to the overall story, that is not fully apparent at this early point in the series.  That episode plays much better on re-watch because you appreciate how well JMS was setting up the story arc to come.  And all of these episodes have some development points, however minor, but not enough to really grab the audience.  The dialog remains stilted (especially among the human characters) which is further hampered by the stiff directing, so I can understand where someone who has watched Babylon 5 up to this point (and does not quite understand what is coming) might not be overly impressed with the show.  But things will start to kick into gear later in the first season and then really start rolling in the show’s second year.  

Interesting Fact: The tentacle used for the Na'ka'leen Feeder was re-used in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer because both shows had the same make-up effects company.

Babylon 5 on DVD from

No comments:

Post a Comment