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.

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.