Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time: Crusade, Episodes 9-10

You’ve got some dirt on your nose. Right… there.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

9: Racing the Night

JMS sure likes the phrase “The Last, Best Hope,” doesn’t he? I appreciated this dream/flashback sequences that lets us get filled in on the extreme importance of Excalibur’s mission. Also I gotta say as cheesy as it is, I was delighted by the CG scene of Gideon flying through this abandoned city. It’s campy and insanely fun. But oh no! Not much time to think about that as some dude gets cut to pieces by a laser!?

And now we get space archaeology, too? As I said in the first-ish episode, this is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi tropes. I just love the sense of the vastness of space and time that happens when we get space archaeology. Someone having their internal organs pulled out seems like a bad sign on a planet that has no signs of living things despite clear evidence of massive civilization.

I loved our resident technomage’s one liner: “I thought you don’t hold a grudge…” “I don’t. I have no surviving enemies.”

This episode is full of cheesy stuff that somehow works because it’s hilarious and tongue in cheek. It’s also got some ominous parts, which it somehow manages to sell despite the silliness of some aspects of the episode. The big reveal here, that these aliens are dissecting everyone who shows up to try to find a cure, wasn’t terribly surprising, but it absolutely matches the theme of the whole thing. I loved it, to be honest.

10: The Memory of War

News from Earth is universally bad. Riots, food shortages, quarantines everywhere–it’s a disaster that just continues forever, apparently. Meanwhile, on Excalibur, they’ve found a planet that appears to have been ravaged by the Drakh plague or something similar. The crew thinks that it might show a way to fight the plague, but Galen warns them against touching down.

On the surface of the planet, they encounter no one, but some startling possibilities about degradation of materials that they dropped down to the surface are immediately encountered in the form of their probes surviving but crumbling to pieces. Dureena uses her parkour abilities to nab a data crystal, and Eilerson decodes it to see a message from the former inhabitants of the planet apparently saying something about a death that comes at night. Then, the crap starts to hit the fan as a few of the security detail die mysteriously.

Then, the revelation: it was a techno-mage who created the “obscene” (using Galen’s word) thing that is causing so much destruction on the planet’s surface. Galen races to the planet to beat Nightfall and work against the techno-mage’s powers on the surface. Galen encounters a kind of AI techno-mage fragment from one who went against the order because he had a “price.” He developed the virus for one side in a war, which ultimately destroyed all of the people on the planet by having them all kill each other. The AI confronts Galen saying that he, too, has a price. Galen manages to find its power core and destroy it with his staff, but it looks as though the staff is lost in the aftermath.

On Excalibur, Galen reveals the importance of the staff to him and his deep disappointment with its loss. Dureena, however, went on one last shuttle trip and managed to miraculously get through millions of tons of dirt and stone and recover his staff. Because she’s awesome. Meanwhile, Dr. Chambers takes the inert nanovirus and reprograms it to be used to essentially become immune to the virus for limited time periods without contamination. I’m hoping this or something else will give us some resolution for the main plot of the show, but I don’t have huge hope to hold out for that. There’s only a few episodes left and we need to wrap up a lot of threads, and since it was cancelled I don’t think we’ll get it. But still, I think in my head I can just think they adapted this tech to eventually provide a cure.

This was an okay episode, but the core plot was a bit too thin to carry the entire episode. Without any real B-plot, it meant that the action scenes had to make up for the time gaps, and so it dragged occasionally. Overall, though, it gave us some more respect for Dureena and a little bit of flair from Dr. Chambers.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Crusade: Episodes 7-8

Now hold on a second…

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

7: The Rules of the Game

We get to see Babylon 5! And it doesn’t bring much happiness for Gideon, as he demands passage to Lorka VII from their ambassador. But they deny passage, despite being part of the treaty that should give them such passage. Lochley, however, finds a workaround to get Gideon a different avenue of approach.

Meanwhile, Max’s ex-wife is being threatened by nefarious forces due to her debts. He offers to pay some amount of the debt, but no more, and she is… a bit upset with him for that. “Make sure that’s engraved on my tombstone!” she yells after him. Yep, but my immediate thought is that Max Eilerson has something else up his sleeve. He’s going to give them whatever amount he wants and then use some corporate bigshot thing or some weird alien technology he found to bludgeon the loan sharks into acquiescence! There’s my prediction at this point in the episode. …That didn’t take long. He meets with Rolf Muller, the loan shark and then, when asked if he’s threatening him, he says “I never threaten…” “take the 50 and go home.” Muller responds by asking for a line back home because he’s apparently going to do, well, something. That something is apparently stealing her cat? I mean, pets are family but I did not expect that to be the counter-move. And then Max just leaves? What!?

Gideon and Lochley continue to try to get permission to get to Lorka VII, which does not seem to be going well. Meanwhile, the relationship between Gideon and Lochley is weird. They each hint at interest in the other. Then they fight about who is more “in a bubble” about not knowing things and people. Gideon convinces Lochley to go out in plainclothes to see if she actually knows what’s happening on the station. The Lorkans, looking on, have their own plans for Lochley, which don’t seem to be good.

Lochley totally schools Gideon on his condescending attempt at, well, explaining to Lochley what her job was. It’s a great moment quickly overshadowed by the Lorkans following them. As they sit to discuss things on and off station, they’re attacked by the Lorkans. Meanwhile, Cynthia–Max’s ex–and Dr. Chambers meet up and talk about Max. It’s unclear why Max sent in the doctor, but seems somewhat clear that’s what’s going on. Their discussion is interrupted by Muller, who pulls a gun to make further threats before Dr. Chambers beats him into fleeing.

Max has the Drazi apprehend Muller as Lochley and Gideon ambush the Lorkans. Also, I was right! Max does use some alien technology that he uses to enforce a rather permanent restraining order on Muller. He also orders Muller to bathe and groom the cat before returning it. It’s a funny moment and a somewhat plausible solution if you don’t think too hard about it. Back with Lochley and Gideon, they go to take a hot shower together after their life threatening situation. Max ends up re-confessing his love to Cynthia (and the cat, and his job!). It’s a character piece I didn’t really expect from him as he reveals additional layers.

The Lorkans reveal that Lorka VII is, instead, a place where the two Lorkan emissaries had been using resources to make huge profits. A third Lorkan is most displeased with them and they say Gideon can come to the planet as a kind of moral temptation for their people and a test of faith.

Honestly, this was just a fun episode all around. Truly, it felt like the best Babylon 5 can have to offer, and it makes me sad the series won’t be continuing for much longer. But, we can enjoy what we do have, and this is just a great episode. It may have just a few too many acts in it, but it’s enjoyable all the way through.

8: Appearances and Other Deceits

A creepy alien is watching the Excalibur, which itself has some people on board to help change its image. Gideon is… not impressed with them. The ship quickly finds some derelict ship full of aliens that apparently killed each other, but they find a tube with a single live alien left. They bring it on board and, somewhat predictably, things go wrong. It looks like the alien dies, but only after it grabs “Janey…” who appears to have been taken over by the alien. She then starts to take over other members of the crew, which does not bode well.

It doesn’t take long before the crew starts to completely get taken over, and it appears as though Eilerson and the alien are in a race to figure out what’s happening. It quickly gets violent, right as Eilerson manages to translate some of the alien languages.

It’s interesting that they seem to bring back the drone-type camera in this episode. I remember it being a thing in the pilot movie for Babylon 5 before basically falling off the map. The special effects budget for this one appears to be much higher than some of the other episodes. The character development continues to ramp up some, as Eilerson realizes a security member sacrificed their life for his. The tension ramps up as the aliens demand a planet to take over in exchange for the crew. Gideon is displeased, to say the least. Once they resolve the crisis, he launches the alien out the airlock and blows it away.

The final scene showing Gideon having to read off a bunch of condolensces even as GIdeon and Chambers talk about the burdens he faces is pretty excellent. It makes me sad that the show only goes on for 5 more episodes after this.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Blood Oath” by John Vornholt

Having finally watched Babylon 5 for the first time (check out my posts for that series at my Babylon 5 Hub), I decided to dive into the novels. I’ll be reading them largely in publication order and reviewing them individually as we go along. Please do not spoil later books for me. There will be SPOILERS for the book reviewed going forward.

Blood Oath by John Vornholt

Blood Oath is a novel that would have made a stellar short story. It fits the series better than the first two novels, and it doesn’t suffer from the out of character moments those novels had, either. The whole novel is a kind of addendum to the episode from the first season, “The Parliament of Dreams.” This ties it in to the series in a fun way, but it also makes it seem overlong since its plot really is just an extension of that episode.

What happens here is that the daughter of Du’Rog, whose name was allegedly besmirched by G’Kar, takes out a Shon’Kar against G’Kar, swearing to kill him. G’Kar sees the threat as imminent and fakes his death in order to escape. He then makes his way to the Narn Homeworld, independently pursued by Na’Toth, Garibaldi, and Ivanova.

We saw the backstory for this novel, again, in “The Parliament of Dreams.” Vornholt ties this novel quite well into that episode, though some of the timeline is ambiguous. The action moves along well, though the book does ultimately run into some serious pacing issues in the middle section. That section basically has G’Kar running into people (or not) who recognize him (or don’t) while Ivanova and Garibaldi haplessly look for him across the homeworld. There are only so many close misses and chase scenes one can take before it starts to feel like padding, and this novel is definitely padded for length. Some judicious editing would have made it a fantastic short story though, especially with its strong ties to the plot of the show.

The conclusion is great, and we witness a wonderfully fun moment between G’Kar and Mollari right at the end which left me with a sweet taste after the occasional slog.

Fun fact from The Babylon File: The Definitive Unauthorised Guide to J Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 by Andy Lane about Vornholt’s research for the book–which he was given only 2 months to write! Lane quotes Vornholt: “I asked [JMS] for information on the Narn homeworld for Blood Oath, but he told me to make it up. I thought this was very cavalier of him, until I realised he was going to destroy the planet in a war” (388).

Another fun fact, though I’m not sure if it’s intentional: the name “Mi’Ra” for G’Kar’s rival, is quite similar to “Mira,” the first name of Mira Furlan, who plays Delenn in the series. Again, I don’t have a source saying if it was intentional, but it seemed a fun Easter egg at the time I noticed.

Blood Oath is the best of the first 3 Babylon 5 novels, though it still has its issues with pacing. It ties in well to the series, and Vornholt captures the characters believably. Vornholt gives readers more fun character scenes than expected, and so I give it a reserved recommendation for fans of the series.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Babylon 5 Related Work: “Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski

There is no question that J. Michael Straczynski is the one who made Babylon 5 happen. He wrote it, he came up with the concept, he helped steer the story even in all the related works. Becoming Superman is his autobiography, telling the awful story of his childhood, his dreams, and his accomplishments, all of which intertwine in a compelling tale. I am going to post SPOILERS from the book in this review.

Straczynski is ever the storyteller, and it’s clear even reading his autobiography that he intentionally frames it in a way that engages the reader more than a simple A-B-C progression. Throughout most of the book, Straczynski teases readers with revelations about his family background. His family was stuck behind German lines in Russia until the end of World War II. His father and grandmother, though, apparently were much more collaborators than they liked to portray. Though Straczynski only confirmed this much later in his life, it is clear that his father’s obsession with Nazi ideology and awful abuse of all around him deeply influenced Straczynski’s writing career.

In Becoming Superman, we see how Straczynski discovered Superman and used the facade of the Man of Steel to get past the trauma in his own life. The toughness of this adopted persona impacts how Straczynski writes about trauma, as well. His comments about being a “victim” are particularly strong:

To be a victim is to be forever frozen in amber by that person’s actions at that moment. Victimization only looks backward, never forward, which is why my family was incapable of moving on or redefining themselves. If I allowed myself to be defined by what my father did to me, it would put him at the center of my identity. (110)

These comments about victimhood are intensely personal to Straczynski, but as a reader I wondered if this is his commentary on victimization in general, given the generalized way he comments that it “looks backward, never forward…” If so, I disagree fairly strongly with this assessment. One aspect of declaring oneself a victim is acknowledgement that wrong has occurred which demands justice and rehabilitation. To be a victim does not necessitate redefining oneself in those terms, but it does define the actions of the other–the aggressor–towards oneself. I am not an expert in the psychology of this topic, so I don’t feel comfortable making stronger comments, but I do think we should read Straczynski’s words here as a personal comment that helped him through a particularly difficult time, rather than normative for all who have been abused. 

The fascinating story of Straczynski’s time in the television, comic, and film industry is detailed over most of the book, and it is an incredible journey. I haven’t read much from writers in this field, but this seems one of the more honest and perceptive looks at the industry. Intermingled with this are such details as Angela Lansbury’s appreciation for his writing on Murder, She Wrote. That’s one of my all-time favorite shows, and I was shocked to see the maker of Babylon 5 was involved on one of its best seasons, as well. Sporadic details about Babylon 5, background story about how Star Trek: Deep Space 9 may have stolen from its concept, and more are found throughout this chapter of his life. Having only recently discovered Babylon 5 (see my journey through the series here), it was wonderful having these details from the show reported. 

Becoming Superman is a great read, as one would expect from a writer as talented as Straczynski. For readers interested in learning more about the brain behind Babylon 5, it’s a must-read. It’s clear that so many elements of Straczynski’s life appear in the show. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Accusations” by Lois Tilton

Having finally watched Babylon 5 for the first time (check out my posts for that series at my Babylon 5 Hub), I decided to dive into the novels. I’ll be reading them largely in publication order and reviewing them individually as we go along. Please do not spoil later books for me. There will be SPOILERS for the book reviewed going forward.

Accusations by Lois Tilton

Accusations is the second Babylon 5 novel, and, like the first, it’s an imperfect experience. The core plot here is about Ivanova and Garibaldi solving a murder mystery on Babylon 5. That’s certainly a plot that one would expect to be within their purview, and Lois Tilton does a good job integrating enough twists and turns to let this be the central plot for the whole novel.

The writing isn’t half bad, either. Tilton captures Ivanova’s role fairly early on, and I enjoyed the tie-in at the very end of the book that basically bookends the novel with standard Babylon 5 operations. There’s a complexity to Ivanova’s portrayal here that makes it engaging. However, the problems with the book begin with Ivanova as well. She ends up at one point letting Talia Winters scan her, something that would never have happened with the Ivanova we know from the show, especially from later seasons. Accusations was published in 1995, so sometime during Season 2. But that makes it difficult to look back on with the knowledge from later seasons that negate this somewhat key scene.

If you’re willing to ignore such problems reconciling this book with the later series–something a reader could probably do by assuming the scan happened and Ivanova somehow convinced/coerced Winters to not tell too much afterwords–you’re going to get good mileage out of this novel. Tilton’s prose sometimes captures the conversational style punctuated with humor that the show does so well. At other times, it can fall flat. But for a tie-in novel, her writing does the job.

I do have to ask: Why is G’Kar even on the cover? He barely even appears in the book–so little that I’m questioning if I even remember him showing up or if I’m conflating it with the first book in my head. I was hoping he’d have a role in some of the plotting happening on the station. But he doesn’t, and neither do any other alien characters. This is a story almost entirely about Ivanova, Winters, and Garibaldi, with a cast of other humans thrown along for the ride. That doesn’t necessarily make this a bad novel, but it does take away some of the feel of Babylon 5. On the other hand, this hyper-focus on humans means that we get some insights into how far force, human corporations, and some workings of the politicking happening behind the scenes. It’s not a lot, but it is interesting to get just a glimpse into some background there.

Ultimately, Accusations is a decent read for fans of Babylon 5. It captures Ivanova’s character well–apart from the major flub discussed above–and mostly captivates readers with an interesting mystery plot at its core. There are also revelations about human forces shaping into potential for later conflict in the TV series, as we saw in later seasons. The book is an imperfect but satisfying read for fans, especially if they’re inclined to be forgiving when reading tie-in novels.

(All links to Amazon are Affiliates.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Crusade: Episodes 5-6

Best side character so far. I don’t know if she shows up again but I love her so much.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

5: Patterns of the Soul

New worries abound as there is fear that the Drakh Plague is spreading. The Excalibur is dispatched to investigate and given a totally flawless defense against the plague–a nanoshield that will slough of anything that comes in contact with the lungs for 48 hours. Surely nothing could go wrong.

The colonists are infected, but there is also indigenous life on the planet. They believe the human colonists may have brought their destruction. When Dureena encounters the first people of the planet, they tell her about their arrival on the planet and we see a scene with the Shadows destroying their colony ship. For Dureena, this signifies a, as she puts it, “lost tribe.” The people here are a lost tribe from Dureena’s own people, and she is willing to put up quite a fight to ensure their safety.

The colonists capture Dr. Chambers and take off from the planet, quickly putting the Earthforce foolishness about not establishing a quarantine into perspective. Also, it seems there’s something seriously wrong with the apparent leader of these rebellious colonists. I don’t know if it’s just how he’s acting the character, but there’s a kind of stilted nature of how he’s speaking that seems to suggest an unhinged person.

Earthforce themselves, of course, are deeply involved in the plight of the colonists, and when Gideon uncovers it, he is… displeased. He helps the colonists have another chance to get back to the planet and not be removed. Dureena , in a conversation after this, notes that Gideon hides the truth and gambles with lives. Gideon seems to take it as the compliment is probably intended to be.

On Excalibur, our corporate interlocutor/archaeologist Max Eilerson attempts to sway Dr. Chambers to let him announce the discovery of Dureena’s people, an apparently profitable venture. Chamber upbraids him and he apparently feels enough a twinge of conscience that he covers up the knowledge of her people in his report to his company back home.

This episode was interesting but seems to have a lot of new stuff happening–the discovery of Dureena’s entire remaining people would seem to be a shocking development that requires more reaction than it gets.

6: Ruling from the Tomb

Lochley! Mars! Lochley gets absolutely wrecked by a Mars cop in a debate over how many people she needs to protect something on Mars. Kind of an epic conversation. Anyway, Gideon shows up and he’s at a conference of doctors trying to figure out a cure for the plague. But killings start to happen and we get some major religious underpinnings to those killings in the background.

There is apparently some kind of doomsday cult named Sacred Omega that is behind the killing. Alain LeBecque is hearing a voice that purports to be telling him the will of God as he continues down the violent path following the voice–of Joan D’Arc? Babylon 5’s broad obsession with the Medieval era continues. The strong casting for Lieutenant Carr meant she stole every scene she was in. I mean that in the best way–Juanita Jennings owned that character.

This episode was a mix of ideas and feelings, blending nostalgia for the original B5 series with flashes of brilliance. But overall, the central plot–a deranged religious killer endangering a conference about the plague–isn’t very strong. The mystery is never allowed to be a mystery because we essentially know what’s happening from the get-go. Moreover, though steeped in religious language, the episode doesn’t cash in on the subtle looks at religion Babylon 5 had throughout the entire series. Instead, we just have the death of LeBecque as he sees himself being, by God’s grace, in paradise. The lengthy discussions at the end with Gideon, for example, saying he conditions his belief in God on whether the plague is cured and the other main characters sitting around talking about the difficulty with interpreting religion do add some thoughtfulness to the mix. It just seems like not enough payoff–or perhaps not enough buy-in–for the episode to carry.

Also what the hell is with the credit music in this one?

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, “Crusade”: Episodes 3-4

You are in pain.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

3: The Well of Forever

The crystal with coordinates built into it was an awesome idea. Galen shows it off, an artifact that can lead the Excalibur to the Well of Forever. Meanwhile, a telepath is coming aboard to do a deep scan of Lieutenant Matheson–himself a telepath–to check out his security clearance or… something.

The deep scan itself reveals to the telepath that the ship is on the way to the Well of Forever, and he reacts somewhat poorly to the news. As the Excalibur gets closer to the Well of Forever, it encounters some gigantic jellyfish looking creatures which Galen assures them are “barely sentient.” As they try to drift through, one of the creatures grabs the ship and begins, well, mating with it. It’s a moment of some levity during a rather tense situation.

Galen also has apparently taken control of the ship, and he’s unwilling to allow Gideon to turn around once they discover there’s nothing in the space where the Well should be. Ultimately, they do find it and it turns out to be a huge amount of valuable materials. But the Well is apparently a kind of Mausoleum for Technomages and others. And Galen’s insistence on going there was to say goodbye to his love.

Gideon then sets up the adversarial telepath to illegally probe Dureena. He then blackmails the telepath into not blocking Matheson’s promotion. It’s a pretty hardcore moment for Gideon.

The whole episode feels a bit strange to me. Apparently Galen was willing to hijack the Excalibur to say goodbye to his love, and Gideon’s conversation with Galen at the end is surprising. Gideon chooses not to put the offense on the record because he values Galen’s skills. But does that mean the whole trip is off the record? That’s a lot of data to expunge or cover up for a big crew.

4: The Path of Sorrows

Gideon and others find a kind of stasis sphere in some ancient archaeological site. After it appears to interact with Gideon, the Captain insists on bringing it aboard the Excalibur. I had a strong sense of foreboding about this, which was certainly reinforced by the music and lighting surrounding the object in the opening scenes.

This episode has quite a bit of character development, which is great. So far, they’d pretty much all seemed fairly thin characters. We especially got more about Gideon’s background, as we see that he witnessed the destruction of his ship. Then, as he floated in EVA, he watched the ships belonging to the technomages fly past and ignore his distress call… until one came back for him. That one was, of course, Galen.

Later, Gideon wins an “Apocalypse Box” while gambling. It’s a rather ominous scene, as the man he won it from immediately “frees” himself by stepping in front of an air car.

Matheson also gets some flashbacks, letting us see into the heart of the telepath’s compound as he is assigned to help control a rogue telepath, but in the process, he gets used as a dupe to destroy the Psi Corps base. Only this alien in the stasis capsule is able to tell him, and then mysteriously tell Matheson “I FORGIVE YOU.” Right as Matheson leaves, Galen approaches and ominously tells the creature that “I know you.”

Galen reveals that he has done research and believes the creature feeds of the emotions of others because it has none of its own. But the creatre responds to Galen’s accusation arguing that it exists on forgiveness, and then launches Galen into a flashback of his own. His flashback is of his love dying, and as hecomes out of it he says “Damn you” to the alien, then asks “You want me to forgive God?” He doesn’t believe whatsoever in a beyond or an afterlife. His rage leads him to almost kill the alien, but he’s interrupted by Matheson and Gideon.

The incident, however, convinces Gideon to send it back to where it was housed. A haunting shot of Galen riding alone through the Excalibur as Gideon’s voice over says “No way out… no way to go” is one of the best moments so far in the series. After they drop the alien back on its planet, another approaches, being told “YOU ARE IN PAIN” as the alien said to all the others. We’re left with a closing as Galen gets a message that seems to reflect his lover’s words that there is a beyond, and that she’ll send him a message to let him know she was right. But Galen throws the message to the floor before walking away.

This episode has me fired up. So far, I have to admit, I wasn’t fully sold on the series. But with this episode, we have the characterization and wonder that I’ve loved about Babylon 5. There’s depth here far beyond the previous 3 episodes, which were each fine. This episode, however, is something special.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, “Crusade”: Episodes 1-2

Space Archaeology: Even Cooler than Archaeology

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

1: War Zone

It’s always exciting starting a new TV series, and I was doubly excited going into this series as a newly minted Babylon 5 fan. Nothing like having more Babylon 5! It quickly becomes apparent in this first episode that special effects is being more heavily utilized. We see a bunch of different locales fairly swiftly, including one of my favorite sci-fi tropes, the future archaeological dig. I was also excited to apparently have a technomage on board from the beginning? They were one of the intriguing side adventures left largely unexplored after the end of Babylon 5’s run.

The stories in this episode seem to open into a bunch of potential paths. There’s the archaeological team of questionable legal status trying to figure out what to do about a crashed alien ship. I enjoyed this little plot. then, there’s Captain Matthew Gideon and his newly assembled crew, including Dureena Nafeel–a thief, Dr. Sarah Chambers, the science nerd (I think? we don’t get a great picture of her yet), and Lieutenant John Matheson, a telepath.

The ship they help crew, the Excalibur, is almost comically huge (more than a mile long, I believe they say). I always wonder about obscenely huge ships in science fiction like this. Where do the resources come from? What makes such huge ships worth the investment when they can’t cover nearly as much space as many smaller ships? It’s a complaint I have a lot, but I’ll bury it for now.

I thought the aliens on the planet where the archaeologists were at were a bit silly looking. Also, the acting seemed more forced than it did on the main Babylon 5 series.

Since watching this first episode I learned that the continuity is strange and the viewing order is all messed up. Oh well, I think I’ll just keep going in the order they have on DVD. I thought this was a decent series opener. I’m interested in watching more, for sure.

2: The Long Road

So there’s a dragon… in SPAAAAACE! I gotta say, I love the idea of a dragon in space. My first impression, though, was that this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever in the universe of Babylon 5. Anyway, the dragon appears to only be the, er, biggest of the problems on the planet. There’s any number of other prank-like efforts to thwart mining the planet. That’s a problem, because the planet has some mineral that potentially helps humans fight the Drakh plague.

Anyway, Galen, the technomage, is highly amused by Captain Gideon’s attempts to blend in with the local populace, who are apparently… somewhat displeased by the efforts to strip mine their planet as well. After a mob comes to tell them to get out of town, Alwyn, a local technomage (?) intercedes and saves them. Galen seems even more amused by this, which is interesting to me.

Alwyn is the cause of all the troubles for the mining operation, and he is extremely displeased by how the planet he is trying to serve is being destroyed by the need to be efficient and speedy. (As an aside, Alwyn is also unhappy with the “cowardice” of the technomages for leaving just as the Shadow War was breaking out.)

After the situation escalates into a hostage crisis, the technomages show up. They’re a tad put out. The Earthforce people who try to stop the situation beleive the technomages are only able to create “smoke and mirrors,” and after they fly straight through the Dragon, this seems to be true. But then Galen and Alwyn show up and wreak havoc with some holo-demons Alwyn designed which apparently can interact physically with people. But the situation continues to escalate, until Alwyn decides to take it upon himself to end it all. His preparation of a devastating spell prompts Captain Gideon to use his main gun to stop him. Alwyn appears dead, but he is alive–apparently using himself as a distraction to force Gideon to destroy the mining operation with the Excalibur. It’s a poignant moment when he talks to Galen after this. He sees the “glassed over monument” of the mining pit as a good reminder and warning.

I think this episode has me buying in to the series a lot more than the first episode did. The technomages are awesome. I actually thought about the show Firefly quite a bit during this episode. It felt like an episode of that show, with all the wheeling and dealing and balancing the interests of a big military power with the interests of the locals. It’s a fine episode of television.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- “A Call to Arms”

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

A Call to Arms

The story of this movie is fairly straightforward: Sheridan is sent to stop a threat from the Drakh against Earth, even while he and others experience baffling visions to do so. Ultimately, they manage to stop the Drakh planet-killer only to have some Drakh escape and release a plague on Earth.

I think this is the most off-feeling of any of the major Babylon 5 things I’ve experienced so far. The movie just doesn’t feel like Babylon 5 as much as many of the others do. But even that might be a testament to good writing. As viewers, we are almost forced to question the narrative of the movie as we experience insights through what seem to be compromised narrative perspectives. do we trust Sheridan’s visions or are they misleading? What of the other characters who show up with similar visions? Are the Drakh really the primary threat, or is something bigger happening?

Ultimately, these questions are answered, but only after quite a bit of second-guessing on the part of the viewer. The conclusion of the movie also leaves the story very open-ended, leaving me to wonder what happens next. I think what I struggled with most, though, was the kind of off-feeling I had the whole time, as described above. It was hard to get fully invested in the film when I wasn’t entirely sure I trusted it.

Throughout this whole movie, the music is overwhelming. The music is full of major drum beats, repetitions, and a volume that sometimes threatens to drown out the dialogue. It was the first time in watching anything from Babylon 5 that I thought the music was too much. It’s not bad–though it verges on silly at times–it’s just a combination of factors that starts to make it a distraction from the on-screen action.

The end is clearly a setup for the follow-up series, “Crusade.” As a whole, the movie is worth watching for more Babylon 5 but has an open-ended feel I wasn’t expecting. It does at least provide a direction for an answer to what happens with the Drakh, the infamous allies of the Shadows. I’m curious to dive into Crusade, now, and see what happens next.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- “The River of Souls”

Anyone else get major Star Trek: Insurrection vibes from this poster?

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

The River of Souls

The Soul Hunters are back! I briefly mentioned them in my Season 1 overview and I always hoped they’d show up again in the series. Now we basically get a whole movie dedicated to learning more about the work they do and, more importantly, what mistakes they might make.

The movie has so much going for it that I love. We’ve got sci-fi archaeology. Archaeology is cool enough as it is, but somehow it’s even cooler when we’re in the future, digging up ancient things. And, of course, there’s a kind of cursed object storyline going on, but then it gets tied into the Soul Hunters, one of the more mysterious groups we’ve run into on the whole series. Compound that with some serious twists–a billion angry aliens, for example–and some humor based around a plot regarding a holographic brothel, and this is a recipe for success.

The revelation of the Soul Hunters making a mistake is probably the most important in the whole movie. It’s a major point and theme of the movie, so far as I can tell. At one point, the Martin Sheen Soul Hunter tells Lochley that “We do not make mistakes…” but Captain Lochley was just told that the people of the planet were not dying, “We were evolving!” This is a hugely subversive look at all the plot of the movie that had come before, and it’s a twist that, frankly, is amazing. It’s a horrifying revelation that also penetrates the mystique of the Soul Hunters to the point where they become more believable as a group.

The tension continues to ratchet up, and the holo-brothel somehow looms large in the main part of the plot instead of staying as a kind of comedy generator. After many Soul Hunters show up and demand B5 returns the stolen orb (which is not even in their possession), the aliens get serious about taking revenge upon those who unwittingly imprisoned them for thousands of years. The Martin Sheen Soul Hunter offers himself as a way to prove to the other Soul Hunters–and the aliens–that it was a genuine mistake and that they need to work together to undo it. The move seems to be a success, though we’re left knowing the solution is being worked on rather than being completed. Honestly, this is a good move, because it means the resolution isn’t cheaply gotten.

The River of Souls” is a great Babylon 5 movie. It has the look and feel of the show, with extensions that make sense. Though it doesn’t answer any of my major looming questions from the end of the series, I didn’t mind so much because the plot was so good. It has humor, intensity, the cast nails their roles, and it brings a wonderful conclusion to tie it all together while not putting too neat a bow on it. I loved this movie.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.