Installment 15 of the Babylon 5 Viewing Club! Legacies!
The introductory post was here, The Soul Hunter was covered here, and Born to the Purple was covered right here. After that was Infection. Then came The Parliament of Dreams. Following on its heels was Mind War. Then, RTod covered War Prayer. After that, Sky Full of Stars, then Dman recapped Death Walker! Jaybird hit The Believers. Followed by Survivors, then Dman recapped By Any Means Necessary. Then Signs and Portents, followed by TKO, followed by Grail. After that, Eyes.
This week, Legacies. You can watch it here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this show without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot; if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Let’s get to the recap!
We start with a very neatly managed bit of exposition in the form of a conversation between Sinclair and Garibaldi. The greatest of the Minbari war leaders has died, and the Minbari are exhibiting his body on a grand tour to honour him, which Garibaldi considers to be “war drums”. The body is now being brought to Babylon 5. A flashback when the Minbari war cruiser arrives reminds us that Sinclair fought and lost friends in the Earth-Minbari War. “They’re still big and ugly”, Garibaldi says in reference to the cruiser; presumably this opinion comes from experiences in the war, since aesthetically the ship is gorgeous.
Sinclair and Garibaldi are startled to see the Minbari ship come in with its gunports open; the Minbari captain insists their mission is peaceful but refuses to explain. Delenn smooths things over by explaining that the weapons are not armed and that the gunports are only open as a symbol of respect for a fallen leader. Guvf frrzf qvssrerag sebz jung jr yngre yrnea: gung gur Zvaonev nyjnlf nccebnpu jvgu gurve thacbegf bcra, naq gung vg jnf guvf phfgbz juvpu frg bss gur Rnegu-Zvaonev Jne jura na Rnegusbepr pncgnva vagrecergrq gur npgvba nf ntterffvba naq sverq hcba n Zvaonev fuvc. Tvira gung vg jnf guvf irel phfgbz gung fgnegrq gur jne, lbh’q guvax gung Rnegu bssvpvnyf jbhyq unir orra gbyq nobhg vg orsber abj, ohg nccneragyl abg.
Meanwhile, Ivanova and Talia meet a young thief who’s just manifested telepathic powers; apparently some people get them at birth and some at puberty, and this is the latter case. (Actually the girl look too old for that, but good young actors can be hard to find.) Talia and Ivanova start their tug-of-war over her, Talia wanting to take her to Psi Corps and Ivanova insisting that she has to stay on the station until her theft is dealt with – given Ivanova’s opinion of Psi Corps, her goal is clearly to protect the girl.
Garibaldi and Sinclair continue discussing the war, showing more ambivalence about the Minbari than they or the show have previously displayed – a nice change of pace given that you’d expect some bad feelings to remain after a pretty serious war. Despite his feelings, Sinclair believes in peacebuilding and is determined to be diplomatic. Garibaldi, true to form, is cynical.
A rather medieval-looking Minbari procession enters the station and diplomatic formalities are exchanged with Alit Neroon, in the course of which we learn that the war leader Branmer has the title of Shai’alit (I’m guessing at the spelling). Delenn explains that this display of a leader’s body is unusual and was insisted on by his clan (the Starriders), and clearly shows that she’s not happy with the decision.
The telepath girl wakes up and Talia teaches her how to construct a mental wall to keep other people’s thoughts out. It’s hard to know how to represent telepathic communication on a show; B5 chooses to do so with echoing, which works fairly well. Ivanova and Talia get the background on the girl, Alisa – she’s 14 and an orphan since her father died a year ago. She’s been stealing to stay alive. She inadvertently reads Ivanova’s thoughts about her mother – at which Ivanova gets angry, but a lot less angry than she could have given that last episode she was willing to leave Starfleet if necessary to avoid such a thing – and Talia explains this is Not Okay. Given that Talia’s being sympathetic and helpful while Ivanova wants to charge her with crimes (albeit with the best of motives), Talia’s probably winning the race for the girl’s trust right now.
Neroon demands that no non-Minbari come near the Shai’alit’s body until the viewing ceremony, and that he be guarded only by Minbari. Sinclair says it’s his station, a response that Neroon calls “impetuous” even though it’s no such thing, and the two are about to get into an argument when Delenn steps in. Neroon’s comment (in response to Sinclair’s “This is not the Line”) of “No. We were in control there,” indicates he’s less than happy about the surrender.
At the viewing ceremony, Branmer’s body is found to be gone! Delenn is extremely displeased, and Neroon threatens war, revealing that the last war started with the death of another Minbari leader, Dukat. Delenn holds Neroon off for the moment. Nobody mentions the obvious – that since the Minbari were the ones guarding their leader’s corpse since its arrival on the station and station security was specifically barred from being involved, it’s unreasonable to blame the station for the body being missing. Indeed, nobody mentions this for the rest of the episode, even as Neroon gets increasingly angry that Garibaldi hasn’t found the body despite going to great lengths (even pumping the stomachs of all the members of the Pak’Ma’Ra, a species of carrion eaters, after a piece of Branmer’s garments are found outside their quarters.) There also don’t seem to have been any security cameras in the room where the body was being held.
Delenn reveals that Branmer was a member of the religious caste, and only became a war leader when hostilities broke out. We learn the religious caste issued the order for surrender at the Battle of the Line, and that some members of the warrior caste, (evidently including Neroon) still resent this. Meanwhile, Garibaldi interrogates Na’Toth. This reminds me that we haven’t seen G’Kar for a few episodes; given that Na’Toth stands in for him in this one, I’m wondering if Andreas Katsulas was ill or busy with something else for the middle of this season.
Sinclair has agreed to back Ivanova on trying to find a way to keep Alisa out of Psi Corps’ grasp, but Alisa seems pretty happy to learn that the Corps is providing her with new clothes. Ivanova tells her mother’s story, and this is effective in convincing Alisa that joining Psi Corps isn’t ideal. (In policy terms, though, it’s easy to see why options are so limited. People – Ivanova included – don’t like having their minds casually read, so the options are to join an organization that regulates how and when you can use telepathy, or to take drugs to suppress the abilities. From Ivanova’s accounts in the first episode and now, the problem seems to be that the drugs have some nasty side effects.)
Alisa gets another offer, from the Narn – who don’t have telepaths and so would greatly value being able to genetically create their own. They’re willing to pay a lot, and Alisa is initially interested, but repelled after reading Na’Toth’s mind and finding it’s “alien”. (Well, of course it is – Na’Toth’s an alien.) Dr. Franklin says, “You might want to remember that when you consider their offer,” which feels…weird. Like he’s saying she shouldn’t trust them because their minds don’t feel human. That’s unlike him. But then, I’m biased – I’ve always like the Narn best.
Neroon, displeased with Garibaldi’s lack of progress, threatens an attack on the station.
Alisa continues to consider the Narn offer. Ivanova points out that their homeworld is barren from the Centauri occupation – which makes me more sympathetic to the Narn, not less. Ivanova claims they’ll try to enslave Alisa (though this seems to have little basis if they can get what they want by paying her), “like Psi Corps does”, and Talia objects to the latter part of this statement. She and Ivanova get and an argument, and Alisa gets sick of being their football and tells them off. She want to know all her options, and Ivanova comes up with the idea of bringing her to ask Delenn about Minbari telepaths.
Delenn says Minbari telepaths provide their services for free, and are greatly respected and provided with food and clothing in return, in a system that reminds me a little of the Levites in the Old Testament. Alisa reads Delenn’s minds (with permission) and sees Minbari somehow stunning the guards around Branmer’s body and opening his casket. She leaves the room in a hurry and tells Ivanova what she saw.
Meanwhile, Sinclair enters his quarters to find they’ve been searched, is attacked by Neroon, and fights him off. Garibaldi cuts off Neroon’s accusation by telling him he had already searched the quarters, with Delenn observing. Points go to Babylon 5. Continuing their winning streak, Alisa tells that Sinclair that Delenn knows who took the body and where it is.
Sinclair catches Delenn trying to ship Branmer’s ashes back to Minbar. She explains that he wanted a simple funeral, and not to be remembered as a monument to war. She claims she could have presented his disappearance as a religious mystery. (I’m sceptical of this given that Neroon seems to want another war. Giving him the pretext for one by stealing the body hardly seems like a wise way to honour a friend who was a “reluctant warrior”.) She reveals that the religious and warrior castes have been divided since the religious caste ordered the surrender at the end of the war, and that revealing her actions would make that worse. She agrees to tell Neroon the truth, “in her own way”, and does so by dressing him down for disobeying Branmer’s explicit wishes, threatening the dishonour of his entire clan, pulling rank on him as a member of the Grey Council, and ordering him to back her statement that the body was “transformed”. To rub it in a bit more, she orders him to apologize to Sinclair. Clearly, she has a great deal of power, which again raises the question of why she’s acting as an ambassador on Babylon 5.
Neroon apologizes, and Sinclair accepts the apology graciously and says he will send a personal testimony honouring Branmer to the Minbari homeworld. He’s a good diplomat. Neroon says, “You talk like a Minbari.” Guvf jvyy or fvtavsvpnag yngre.
Alisa decides to go with Delenn, despite knowing little about her except that she was lying to the station personnel. But it keeps her away from the Psi Corps and provides humanity with an unofficial goodwill ambassador to Minbar, so it’s a good decision. She thanks Ivanova for showing her the options, and Talia wishes her well, taking her ‘defeat’ graciously. Talia and Ivanova, closer for the experience, agree to go for a drink. This is the second episode in a row that’s made a point of showing us that Psi Corps members aren’t all bad people.
Alisa tells Sinclair that she saw one other word in Delenn’s mind: “chrysalis”, a cocoon. Now what would that be about….?
For its combination of developing Delenn’s character, Minbari internal politics, relations between Sinclair and the Minbari, and some backstory on how telepathy is treated among different species, as well as its skill in combining the subplot and the main plot, this is an excellent episode.