Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 9-12

The best relationship on the show… maybe.

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. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

9: In the Kingdom of the Blind

The opening reveals that there are apparently some highly trained attacks being perpetuated against the allied worlds. Then, we get to travel with Mollari and G’Kar back to the Centauri homeworld as G’Kar checks on the situation back home. It’s clear there’s a huge amount of political intrigue coming here, as we witness the murder of an advisor of Mollari fairly early in the episode. Meanwhile, the sanity of the regent is in question. Later, an assassination attempt on Mollari is foiled by both G’Kar’s work as a bodyguard and a mysterious bug-like alien. 

Back on station, Byron continues to press his case for a homeworld for telepaths. I’m honestly surprised by how vehemently Sheridan opposes the idea. But Byron plays the trump card: the telepaths have essentially gathered all the secrets from all the major players on station and plan to reveal them if their demands are not acceded to. But the situation quickly escalates as some violence erupts against the telepaths, and some telepaths fight back. Byron continues to preach non-violent resistance and meets even more opposition.

The end of this episode is full of unresolved threads, which makes me want to jump into the next episode immediately! The telepaths’ nonresistance is met with threats of violent force. The regent gets attacked by an unknown force. Freighters continue to get destroyed. 

10: A Tragedy of Telepaths

The title of this alone has me going in pretty worried about how the rest of this showdown with the telepaths is going to play out. The ominous voice over from Lochley didn’t exactly assuage my fears, either. This is especially true when she calls Bester. 

G’Kar and Mollari discover that at least some Narn have remained imprisoned. G’Kar’s reaction is so in character. He demands the release of the Narn, and threatens Mollari if he doesn’t do something. Mollari’s protests that he can’t because he’s not emperor yet may hold water for the Centauri, but G’Kar was having none of it and I wouldn’t have either. However, Mollari comes up with a plan and sneaks the Narn off of Centauri. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rogue telepaths and Byron’s demands. When Lochley comes and speaks with Byron, he notes that the telepaths were created to combat the Shadows and now that the war is over, they deserve compensation. It makes me think about reparations, a hot button topic if ever there was one. But to me, it doesn’t seem like the telepaths are entirely or obviously wrong here. If it’s true that they were created in order to fight the Shadows, the fact that they essentially helped win the war through (in some sense) forced circumstances suggest that there is a debt that should be paid to them. And if that reasoning follows, then it seems like real-world applications of that same reasoning could apply. 

Anyway, Bester continues to only care about telepaths, and he brings his own people on board Babylon 5 to try to settle the standoff, and it’s all kinds of ominous. 

11: Phoenix Rising

We finally get more of the backstory between Byron and Bester! And it’s a riveting, if somewhat predictable plotline. Byron committed an atrocity at Bester’s orders. Then, he left. He dedicated himself to pacifism from then on. Bester and Garibaldi also have a showdown, but it just leads to Garibaldi discovering that he has a mental block–cleverly named an “Asimov” after Asimov’s rules of robotics–against harming Bester. But just as Garibaldi seeks Dr. Franklin’s aid on the psychic block, the splinter group of telepaths takes over the sick bay, capturing Franklin, Garibaldi, and others. This splinter group of rogue telepaths threatens to execute hostages–very much against Byron’s wishes.

The situation prompts Byron to action, and he intervenes just in time to save Garibaldi’s life. But he does so only by killing one of the rogue telepaths. He then contacts Lochley with a way to end the standoff. However, when it comes to the transfer of those who caused violence, Bester jumps in and tries to take all the telepaths for himself. Byron refuses to go, leading to another shootout, and Byron decides he is done. He urges Lyta to leave, and then immolates himself and other other rogue telepaths in a chemical spill and flame. 

I honestly found myself thinking like Bester here! “I don’t understand at all” (or something to that effect). Why did Byron decide that it was better to kill himself than to continue a standoff or try to let the B5 personnel and Bester fight over jurisdiction longer? I don’t understand. 

Byron apparently telepathically sent Lyta numerous contacts, safe houses, etc. before he died. So it’s not a totally hopeless end. The episode ends with Garibaldi staring into a drink. I wonder what will happen to him next. And that’s worth considering–because Garibaldi, the man in consummate control of his life–has been in a spiral of having things happen to him rather than because of him. It’s certainly a fertile place for more plot, and I hope we get some closure between him and Bester, or at least for him. 

12: The Ragged Edge

“I have always said this about you [G’Kar]: Nothing improves your company like the lack of it.” – Mollari 

These two are one of the best dynamic duos in television. I don’t care about your wrong opinions; this is a fact. Whether it’s their early rivalry which causes hilarity, the later, deep emotional catastrophe of their relationship, or their period now as they work together, it’s all excellent. Now, G’Kar finds that the book he’s been writing for the whole series (and presumably before) has been disseminated into the general population of the Narn, and they have essentially turned it into a new holy text, with him as a new saint. Honestly, not a surprising direction. He initialyl resists, until a warrior friend of him convinces him to be the leader he doesn’t want to be. 

Garibaldi, meanwhile, goes on a secret mission to the Drazi world to investigate the attacks on freighters. He runs into an old friend, Tafiq, whom I liked almost immediately. But… it was nice knowing Tafiq for about two seconds. I hope he shows up in the novels at some point! I honestly have to laugh a little because I thought Tafiq was truly awesome and then he just gets blown away. Garibaldi gets caught flat-footed multiple times in this episode, too, which is unusual. Back on Babylon 5, Garibaldi is convinced that the attacks on the freighters go well beyond the Drazi and others. Then we have Mollari pop in on the briefing and reveal that these others were apparently some kind of Centauri, but Sheridan et al. hide this information from Mollari. 

G’Kar is almost immediately embroiled in a controversy of interpreting his words. He notes that his words about distrusting Centauri were written when he was at a different stage, but his followers insist that because the book was inspired by “the universe,” it must be holy and therefore without error. G’Kar then humorously corrects the student. Yet it is important to note that he doesn’t dispute it being inspired. Here I want to point out a tangent again which is that though J. Michael Straczynski, the writer of Babylon 5, is an atheist, he has remarkable depth when it comes to discussing religion. I’m certain that the care with which this scene was conveyed was on purpose. Straczynski deftly notes the difficulty with divergent interpretations and even apparent contradictions in a supposed holy book, but he doesn’t insist that there can be no resolution of these difficulties. 

The episode ends with Dr. Franklin telling Sheridan that he’s leaving the station due to a major promotion, and Garibaldi apparently drinking himself into a stupor. The clear intent seems to be that Garibaldi may be relapsing into alcoholism, and it’s a tough scene as he sleeps through Franklin calling him to tell him about his decision to leave. 


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