Welcome back to the Babylon 5 Season Two Book Club!
The first episode can be found here, Tod covered “Revelations” here, and then we hit The Geometry of Shadows back in early December before I fell off the Earth. Then we had “A Distant Star”, followed by “The Long Dark, and last time “A Spider in the Web”.
Next episodes are “A Race Through Dark Places” and “The Coming of the Shadows”, but they’re both covered. After that are “Gropos” and “All Alone in the Night”. If we have an ex-footsoldier to review “Gropos” that might be interesting. Anybody?
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 onward!
Season Two, Episode 7: “Soul Mates”
Vir is practicing “It’s a pleasure to meet you”. Up saunters Garibaldi. Vir is at the dock to pick up some women. Garibaldi jokes, Vir clarifies: Ambassador Mollari’s three wives. Garibaldi says something about fortunate canines (the rest of us remember Londo’s various descriptions of his wives, and chuckle). Enter Timov, Daughter of Al-Ghul(?) Take me to my husband! Vir tries to interject that there are supposed to be three women there for him to meet, Timov gives The Dowager Dutchess from Downton Abbey and marches off looking for Londo, Vir being Vir he scurries after her. Garibaldi chuckles.
Off to one side we’ve got a random person rudely accosting what looks like another new arrival. New arrival appears to pull a Jedi Mind Trick on random person, defusing him, and walks off. Garibaldi follows, but the guy disappears around a corner. Cut to Sheridan’s office, the new arrival’s name is “Stoner”. Garibaldi’s innate suspicion of anything not readily explicable has led him to investigate this guy, and everything looks normal, which just feeds Garibaldi’s innate suspicion. Garibaldi can’t put his finger on what bugs him about this guy, but it bugs him. Enter Talia, hey, two episodes in a row with our resident telepath! She offers Sheridan belated congrats on his taking over the station. Sheridan has heard some rumors from the Psi Corp net upon which he thinks Talia might be able to shed some light, and he tells Garibaldi that they’ll talk about Stoner later. Talia recognizes the name, “Matt Stoner?” You know him? “Only in the most unpleasant sense… I was married to him.”
Cut to open credit reel!
Back from credits, Londo is cracking up a crowd in the bar, buying drinks for everybody. Londo’s buying drinks for everybody? What the hell? Cut to Vir and Timov in Londo’s quarters. She wants to know where Londo is, Vir is nervous, there is byplay. Timov seems delightful. Enter another Centauri woman, this must be Londo Wife Number Two… she’s introduced as Daggair. Timov is cutting (Dowager Duchess again), Daggair is amused and tolerant.
(Hmmm… Londo has asked all of his wives, each of whom he despises, to B5… and he’s partying over it? Ah, lightbulb.)
Cut to Talia, she’s in what looks like a museum room, looking at a Fender Stratocaster. Enter Sheridan, curious as to why Talia left his office so quickly. She’d rather not talk about it. Sheridan presses lightly. Talia gives “bother me not about this.” Sheridan plays his nice guy card, hey, here’s a friend here, you can talk to me about it.
Cut to Ivanova, at the door to Delenn’s quarters. Delenn called for her, Ivanova is reporting as requested. Delenn wants to make sure she’s alone. Ivanova reports to the affirmative. “Come in quickly!” Ivanova enters and her face falls into amused dismay. Delenn is apparently having a stupendously bad hair day, which – for a formerly bald Minbari – is comically distressing. With the hindsight of 20 years, this could appear rather traditional gender-role annoying to women viewers, I’m interested in the commentariat’s take (honestly, I can see it that way, and I can see it as legitimately amusing from an alien-human context standpoint). Delenn is apparently not used to the idea of washing her hair, and she’s been screwing it up. Delenn needs a hairdresser. Ivanova decides to play diplomat.
Cut to Talia and Sheridan, strolling through the station. Talia has apparently accepted Sheridan’s invitation to vent, she’s telling woes of marriage stories. Another insight into PsiCorp: apparently they arrange couplings inside PsiCorp to further the bloodlines for strong telepaths. That’s not super creepy at all. Do they have guys that walk around in pairs wearing blue gloves? Stoner is no longer part of PsiCorp, when he left, their marriage was annulled. Sheridan thought the only way people left PsiCorp was feet first. Talia says she doesn’t know how he got out.
Cut to Sheridan and G’Kar. Well, we’ve got the trifecta of the ambassadorial folks in this episode, nice to see everybody. Sheridan feels like everyone is treating him like a short-timer. G’Kar wryly observes that the last guy to hold Sheridan’s position disappeared basically overnight. G’Kar is suspicious. Ah, enter Londo! He’s positively giddy. He even greets G’Kar warmly. Seriously… something is up with Londo!
Cut to Londo’s quarters, Vir is trying to placate the Dowager Duchess and she’s getting in grand testy form. Daggair critiques Timov’s understanding of her wifely position. Metaphorical talons come out, Londo comes in, still giddy. “What’s all this about?” questions Timov. Londo wants to know where Mariel is (wife #3). Vir is called to the carpet. He’s flustering as Vir does. Londo wants to wait for everyone to arrive. Timov demands to know what’s going on. Londo decides to come clean. Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of his Ascension Day (Bar Mitzvah?), and the Emperor has given him a congratulatory note. The Emperor has offered Londo a gift, due to his recent services to the Empire (yay, getting a bunch of Narn killed!). The gift is any one wish in the Emperor’s power to grant. Londo’s wish… tah, dah! A divorce from his arranged marriages. Daggair is shocked. Londo continues, “but the Emperor has requested that I keep one wife, to help guide my affairs”, so by tomorrow, two of Londo’s wives are out. No alimony, it’s the street, baby, no title, no privileges, and no money, except that which you’ve already stolen from me! Hah! Chuckles.
Timov and Daggair start to argue about whether or not Daggair knew about this, they’re interrupted by the arrival of Londo’s last wife. Cut!
Out on the station, Matt Stoner is trying to pawn something to a shopkeeper who looks like Lurch. Ah, he’s got some interesting Centauri artifacts in his bag. A rare piece. Garibaldi walks up and wonders where Stoner got it. Checking provenance on art pieces, Garibaldi? Truly the multifacted security chief. Stoner cracks wise. Garibaldi gives Stonefaced. Stoner has the paperwork, beat it, flatfoot. Garibaldi wants to have a chat. In private. Cut!
Lennier is entering Delenn’s quarters. Ivanova has Delenn in curls. Lennier recovers gracefully, Londo has invited Delenn to the celebration of his Ascension. She tells him to send along thanks, and she’ll be there. Lennier exits.
Back to Garibaldi, giving Stoner the Tough Cop Routine. Stoner wants to know if Garibaldi has some sort of gripe, Garibaldi mentions Talia. Stoner gives more wiseacre to Garibaldi, almost making the Security Chief lose his temper. Get out of this room, ya smarmy bastard, I’m keeping my eye on you. Stoner gives Garibaldi Unimpressed.
Cut to Sheridan bumping into Londo’s third wife, Mariel, lost and alone. Sheridan gives Charming, and Londo appears with the other two wives and interrupts, hauling Sheridan off to talk to him in private. The wives get catty with each other. Londo tells Sheridan to watch himself around Mariel, she’s a classic golddigger, going after men in power. We’ll talk later, says Londo. Cut!
Stoner bumps into Talia. Coincidence? Hell, no. We had something once, says Matthew. Talia isn’t interested. Stoner mentions that Talia wanted to get out of PsiCorp (really? That’s kinda news, she overly-loyal to PsiCorp, we thought, especially after last episode?) You want to know how I got out? She does. Simple, anybody can get out, all you need to do is give up your telepathic abilities. Oh, is that all, says Talia. I did it, says Matthew. You could do it too, and we could be together. Cut to Talia getting on an elevator, Garibaldi runs up to tell her that he told Stoner off and Talia tells him to butt out. Good for her.
Over to Londo in his quarters. In comes Mariel, trying to put the moves on Londo. Daggair is behind a curtain, she comes out and suggests a menage a trois. Getting spicy here in the contest for Londo’s sole surviving wedding spot. Sorta like The Bachelor in reverse. Timov is there as well and she’s disgusted by the whole suggestion, she slaps Londo. “You haven’t changed” mutters Londo. “You have… you’ve devolved” she says scathingly, and glides out. Cut!
Garibaldi’s in his quarters, Talia drops by. She apologizes for being rude yesterday, he accepts. Really? I think he was kinda out of line, gallant motivations and all that but clearly not his job to tell off someone’s ex-husband unless they ask for that sort of help. Oh, she’s probably leaving B5 and wants to have clean edges. With Matthew… ah, she’s going to take him up on his offer to ditch the telepathy. So is she leaving because she wants to be with him, or because she wants to ditch the telepathy? She says she’s tired of being a freak, and she’s tired of being part of PsiCorp because it scares the hell out of her. This storyline really doesn’t jibe together with the last episode to me, anyone else confused? I mean, I get that you might have your illusions about PsiCorp cracked a little because of last episode, but then why not confide in Sheridan and Garibaldi about the PsiCop being there at Abel Horn’s cyberzombification? I could get that somebody else might worry about who they could confide in, but a telepath? Shouldn’t she be able to know whether or not she can trust them? Cut!
Lurch is being visited again, Mariel is buying the Centauri artifact that Matthew sold to him earlier in the episode. it’s a quick cut, but it has to be important somehow.
Over to Ivanova and Sheridan. Have to say, Ivanova is wearing her hair down a lot this season. Londo’s Ascension party requires bare feet. Another quick cut.
And now we’re at the Party. G’Kar is paying his respects to Londo, wearing his boots. Nice little dig, Ambassador. Londo plays it off. Delenn runs into Garibaldi. Side note: it’s amazing how much more human her expressions track with hair. What’s the deal with me having all these hair observations this episode? She observes that he doesn’t look well. Garibaldi spills his guts about carrying a torch for Talia. Delenn gives Minbari reincarnation theory, this is some sort of destiny. Garibaldi mutters something to the effect of hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. Londo is opening gifts. Lennier gives Londo a deck of cards, “I marked them just as you requested”, heh, nice allusion to earlier card playing shenanigans. Londo picks up the Centauri artifact that Mariel gave him. It’s booby trapped, a couple of darts nail Londo in the head and he collapses. Woah, didn’t see that coming. Was it Stoner? Lurch? Mariel? One of the other wives trying to frame up Mariel? Sheridan calls the emergency medical team. Cut!
We’re in medlab. The doctor reports some sort of hyper-metabolism boosting toxin, Londo is burning up. An antitoxin can’t be synthesized before he dies. A transfusion might work, but they don’t have enough of Londo’s blood type and they can’t synthesize Centauri blood, either. Hm, that might be a technology you might want to have on B5 if you’re going to have an Ambassador, Centauri folks. Sheridan says keep me posted and goes off to Get On The Case. Mariel insists she didn’t know about the booby trap, and storms out. Daggair points out to Timov that the divorce wasn’t official yet, so if Londo dies, they get his stuff. Not sure why this scene is in here at all except for audience mystery fodder, everyone is acting not like people but like objects in a play. Timov acts digusted. Starting to really, really like her.
Cut to Stoner being interrogated by Garibaldi. He claims he didn’t know anything about the artifact being dangerous. Sheridan enters, wants to know about the artifact. Stoner says he just dug it up at an abandoned Centauri colony. I know it’s not just me, they’re really playing this guy to be as unlikeable as possible… I want to space him myself and all he’s done so far is be a smarmy ass, as far as we know. Sheridan muses that the Centauri might have abandoned it during the Centauri-Narn conflict, which means it might be a Narn booby trap. Garibaldi says he’ll go talk to G’Kar. Stoner gives more “rebellious teenaged idiot snark to the cop”. Sheridan and Garibaldi exit to the hallway. Sheridan observes that Stoner is remarkably unconcerned for someone who could easily be charged with any number of things. Garibaldi’s suspicious nature kicks in, nobody is that calm under this kind of pressure unless they have some sort of ace up their sleeve. Sheridan tells him to find out what it is. I dunno, if I’m the sort of guy who has access to aces, I probably got there not by being a deliberate jackass to cops, the writing and/or directing in this episode is subpar on the small plot level.
Back to medlab, Londo is starting to look pretty pale. Enter Timov, she wants to know how he’s doing. No change, says the doctor. It may interest the doctor to know that Timov is Londo’s blood type. Aw, she actually likes the old rogue? Why didn’t she say so before? She explains that she was deciding what to do; being married to the old bastard hasn’t been a cupcake, but she decided she has principles, after all. I’m predicting a win for Timov here as the Last Wife Standing, and not just because she’s going to pull his bacon out of the fire, which Londo will probably dismiss to someone’s surprise… but because Londo is going to realize that she’s the only one who can be trusted with his affairs. Ah, Timov has a condition to her participation, Londo can’t know where the transfusion came from because she wants to avoid false gratitude. I’m onboard Team Timov, lead conductor here.
Over to Garibaldi’s office, security report, Stoner’s story checks out at every level. Garibaldi doesn’t buy it, he wants to talk to Stoner again. Stoner’s eating. Wait a second, prisoners don’t get meals for another hour, how’d he get chow? Well, non-spoiler considering we got implications of this in the first scene with him, maybe Matthew’s telepathic abilities aren’t so eradicated after all. Again, generally the guy who gets access to aces to put up his sleeve isn’t downright arrogantly stupid… well, now, hm. PsiCorp folks go arrogantly stupid, and with some reason, as they’re basically immune to everything except PsiCorp discipline and there’s a decidedly anti-Muggle vibe there, so maybe that explains it. That was our excuse for Bester. But that would mean…
Cut to Londo, waking up in Medlab. He’s okay, his usual snarky self. Daggair and Mariel are obsequious, Timov is haughty. Londo isn’t impressed. The wives leave, Londo complains about them, especially Timov and her lack of false concern, the doctor tells him to go stuff himself. Me too, she’s too good for you, you dumbass. Liking Londo being a dumbass anyway, what the hell, he’s Londo. How has Peter Jurasik not gotten more work? He’s really good at making me like him even when he’s being unlikable.
Now we’re back to Stoner, and Talia’s with him. She’s turning down his offer. He can’t believe she doesn’t want to leave PsiCorp. She doesn’t want to carve out a piece of herself.
You know, I get the whole picture of what they’re trying to cover with “The Plight of the Telepath” in this episode (it’s a common enough trope in speculative fiction that has telepathy as a part of the story), but it’s super-klunky in presentation. The pacing is bad and the timing is bad and it’s just not rolled out well. If I wasn’t a big enough fan of the genre to already know the trope well enough to backfill all the transitions that aren’t in this episode, it would bother me a lot.
She turns Matt down, and he pull the Jedi Mind Trick on her, you’re still coming with me. She says “of course”. Okay, we see this coming, but c’mon, wouldn’t a telepath have a bit more reaction that to fall for this so quickly? No sign of mind shields getting attacked or anything? Remember Ironheart gave her some super-shield bonus power. He Jedi Mind Tricks the guard, too. They exit the cell, and Garibaldi comes out of nowhere and cold-cocks Stoner. Nice timing!
Cut to G’Kar in his quarters. He’s talking to someone about the Mysterious Case of Who Would Poison Londo. It doesn’t make sense, all of these coincidences, unless it’s all a plan, but how can it be a plan when the person who gave Londo the boobytrapped artifact made a point of mentioning that it was from them? Unless…. pan back, and he’s talking to Mariel. G’Kar drinks to her health. They appear to know each other more than just in passing. G’Kar commends her on her scheming but points out that if he can figure it out, so can Londo. Mariel seems unconcered, and leaves. Not sure how Mariel knew that the doll was a booby trap, just a coincidence that Stoner brought it on station? Unclear.
Over to Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Talia… and Stoner. Sheridan is wondering why, when Stoner has apparently quit PsiCorp, Sheridan is getting messages from PsiCorp ordering him to turn Stoner over to them. Sheridan figures that PsiCorp’s experiments on Stoner turned him into a projecting empath with the power of suggestion. Garibaldi points out that PsiCorp wouldn’t want anybody to know they’ve been experimenting on telepaths to increase their abilities. So PsiCorp “let Stoner go”, but only officially. Unofficially, he’s still in the Corp. So now it makes sense that they’d bother to send him to B5, because Talia’s still a good genetic match and thus could possibly turn out more empaths if they had kids… no wait, that doesn’t really make sense, because Talia’s still part of PsiCorp and if Stoner is that interesting to PsiCorp why wouldn’t they just pull Talia out of the field and set her up as a brood mare, which they clearly could do? Oh, well, this is just a klunky episode, I guess.
Stoner starts to put the Jedi Mind Trick on Garibaldi, and Garibaldi mentions that there are five armed guards outside, watching the monitor, and if anybody in the room starts acting all best buddies with Stoner, they’re supposed to bust in shooting. Looks like PsiCorp will get Stoner back, but not anything else they came for. Hm, in addition to my critique about handling the telepath tropes kinda klunkily, add another critique: for a show that has espers in fairly large prominence, they really needed to do a better job of making it clear how the esper powers work in this universe. Centauris have precog, but nothing else? Narns don’t have espers at all, humans have telepathy but not telekinesis except some crazy telepaths who can’t control it but some can be mojo’d into telekinetics, but… gah, it’s all over the place. Settle on the rules, people! Three minutes of explication ought to be enough to square this all away!
Cut to Vir, Londo, and the wives three going to the gate. Nope, it’s the two ex-wives and Timov, who has apparently won Last Wife Standing. Vir has a copy of Londo’s itinerary, and gives it to Timov, so that she can decide which events she might like to attend, “and to which ones he will actually be accompanying you”. Nice, Londo’s still Londo. The other two are Frosty and leave. Timov wants to know why she gets to stay married to him. She rattles off the list of reasons why she finds him annoying as hell. Because with you I will always know where I stand, says Londo. Point Pat.
Back to Delenn, who runs into Ivanova, who suggests that Delenn call her Susan now. Delenn offers thanks for her assistance in dealing with her recent discomfort in acquiring human characteristics. Ivanova offers help anytime, Delenn says now that you mention it, I’m getting odd cramps… Fade out.