It’s time for the 19th instalment of the Babylon 5 Bookclub. This week: A Voice in the Wilderness (Part Two)
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 and Legacies. Last week’s Episode was Part 1 of A Voice in the Wilderness.
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.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then back to the story!
When we last saw our heroes:
- Sinclair and Ivanova were returning from Epsilon 3 with a dying alien, having removed him from his original packaging.
- Garibaldi is at Ops while a big ship comes through the Jump Gate.
It turns out its an Earth Alliance heavy cruiser (the Hyperion), which has been diverted to B5 to “take control of the situation”.
With the alien (later named as Varn) in Dr Franklin’s hands, Sinclair meets Captain Pierce of the Hyperion. Pierce is looking forward to B5’s amenities (by looking at it I’d say the Hyperion doesn’t even have gravity), and points out that the tech in Epsilon 3, will draw all sorts of alien claimants. The Hyperion is here to protect Earth’s claim over the planet, and Pierce seems determined to do that as aggressively as possible.
Garibaldi’s at the bar trying to drown his sorrows (With water, again. Unsuccessfully, again.) and listens to some of the local yokels getting enthusiastic about Mars being smacked around by Earthforce. Garibaldi takes this as well as you’d expect. Clearly Garibaldi knows how to intimidate too, though he’s still got a long way to go to catch up to Ivanova.
Sinclair has taken umbrage at Pierce’s attempts to take over control of Epsilon 3 and calls up B5’s Senator to argue about jurisdiction, threatening to resign unless Santiago confirms his right to control the sector. After the call is over, Ivanova calls him – there’s trouble on Epsilon 3. Pierce tried to send a squad down, but it gets rebuffed. Sinclair decides to take control of the situation the old fashioned way – cheating. He lies about the need to use a special jamming device to get past the defences, but that it’s under repair. And if all that wasn’t enough, seismic activity is building up within the planet, and at its present rate it will blow the planet up in 48 hours. Apparently the planet has a self-destruct mechanism.
To add chaos to crisis, Londo buttonholes Ivanova demanding to know what is happening. He say ghost-Varn last week, so he knows something weird is going on. Short answer – Boom! As all this is going on, Varn stirs and call out to Draal (telepathically I assume).
Sinclair has a chat to Garibaldi about the incident with the yokels, Garibaldi explains his frustration is borne of impotence (figurative impotence, not literal). Sinclair agrees to call in some favours to get a call through to Mars.
Draal visits Varn, who struggles to consciousness as they arrive. Varn warns them not to land on the planet or it will explode. Unfortunately Pierce has worked out Sinclairs ruse with the “jamming device” and is ready to send an expedition. Sinclair escalates things further by ordering his fighters to blockade the planet.
Suddenly, a large unknown ship turns up and uses some kind of scanner on B5 and Hyperion. Having downloaded Space Google Translate, they call the station – and they’re the same species as Varn. They have been searching for this planet for 500 years, and they heard its distress signal. Pierce and the aliens get into a pissing contests about who’s in charge.
Varn says the newcomers are outcasts, and shouldn’t be allowed to have the planet. He says he’s the last guardian of the machine, but that the planet will destroy itself without a guardian.
Draal, Sinclair and Delenn talk about Varn, and what needs to be done, but Mollari turns up and says they need to talk. Draal says that he suspects Varn appeared to the people with the greatest sense of self-sacrifice. Mollari agrees to help them resolve this problem the only way it can be.
Back at Ops, Garibaldi calls in to report that Varn has been taken by people unknown (to him anyway), just as a departing transport (in Mollari purple) makes a run to Epsilon 3, provoking hostility from the aliens.
The Hyperion and B5 fight the aliens (fun fact, it turns out Ops has blast doors so the command staff don’t get spaced when some), while monitoring the transport. Garibaldi gives chase. Londo lands the shuttle, despite not being entirely sure where the landing thruster controls are. Garibaldi catches up just in time to see them reach the Guardian’s interface. Draal chooses to become the new guardian, Garibaldi demurs but ultimately agrees.
Just as thing were getting hairy in space a Negative Space Wedgie (although, still technically a Negative Planetary Wedgie) shuts all three vessels down. Draal’s image appears to all 3 ships confirms B5’s jurisdiction over the Epsilon sector, and warns that any ship trying to make planet fall will be destroyed. The aliens don’t listen and get severely lasered for their impudence.
With the situation resolved, Pierce leaves. There’s a sense that he has a little more respect for Sinclair’s way of doing things. Garibaldi finally gets a line to Mars – his ex is hurt, but fine. However, she’s also married. Garibaldi picks the shattered pieces of his heart off the floor, and takes a walk to the observation dome. Delenn and Garibaldi talk and she says the reason she didn’t tell Sinclair or Garibaldi what was going on is that if she had Sinclair would be in the machine right now. And he still has another purpose to fulfil…
- Once again, we see the good qualities of Londo Mollari. Rather than dismiss Varn appearance, he was just being subtle about it. His attempts to find out what was happening wasn’t just pomposity, but rather a desire to see how Centauri interests were affected, without showing his hand. This is what one expect from a diplomat. At the other end of the spectrum, he gets to have a Big Damn Heroes moment piloting a shuttle down to Epsilon 3, while ducking fire and Garibaldi.
- Pierce was at first glance the sore pot for me – he come across as extremely hasty and aggressive, and his posturing nearly cause disaster. It made me wonder how he was put in command of anything. But on thinking about it more, it occurred to me that his style may be appropriate for the type of ship the Hyperion is. This is pure speculation on my part, but since the Hyperion doesn’t appear to have gravity, it probably doesn’t spend a lot of time in space. I imagine it as a trouble-shooter – it flies toward trouble, beats it up, and goes home. A blunt instrument like Pierce may be just the person to have in a command like that. As for why they sent him on a mission like this? He was probably just the closest ship not dealing with Mars. Still they shouldn’t have told him to take control, Sinclair was better informed.
- One nice character moment, which I didn’t mention above is that Sinclari told garibaldi to make sure Ivanvo gets evacuated, if it came to that. It speaks of a commander who knows Ivanova well enough to know she would choose a last stand, and who cares enough to make sure she survives.