Babylonia!

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, then “A Spider in the Web” and finally last time we hit “Soul Mates”.

Next episode is “The Coming of the Shadows”, KatherineMW is taking that one. After that are “Gropos” and “All Alone in the Night”.

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 8: “A Race Through Dark Places”

Open to Ivanova and Sheridan discussing recent revenue loss on the station. Lots of Earthforce ships have been coming through, re-routing commercial traffic (odd that the base doesn’t charge the military, at least to keep accounts in order). Revenue loss is bringing out the marginal-savings guys, and the newest source of revenue is… station employees! They can move to smaller quarters so that Earthforce can rent out their current palatial estates, or they can pay rent. Specifically, this applies to only two station employees, namely… Ivanova and Sheridan. Ivanova sounds like she’s willing to move to smaller quarters, Sheridan’s Outrage Machine goes straight to 11. Cut!

Hey, Mars Colony! After the recent showing of San Diego, I was expecting it to look a lot worse, with all the recent rebellion and all. Oh, it’s Bester time. Some sort of enhanced interrogation, Bester is putting some PsiCorp guy through the wringer, apparently there’s an Underground Railroad getting unregistered telepaths out from under the thumb of the Corp, and this guy is involved. Bester wants to know who is in charge, the guy doesn’t know. Bester wants to know where the Railroad ends, the guy refuses to say (side bet: Babylon5, anybody?) Bester cracks his mind shield and gets the info that he wants, killing his suspect in the process. Yep, it’s B5. I guess we’ll be seeing Bester on station this episode… cut to credits.

Back from cut, Sheridan is griping with the doctor over his rent. The doctor is sympathetic, but notes that Sheridan is likely doomed. He’s not going to go down without a fight, though. They bump into Delenn, who wants to talk to Sheridan in private. Delenn is looking for human-coaching. Since her recent hairstylist effort worked out well, she’s branching out and enlisting the rest of the command crew. What does she suggest? She’s asking Sheridan out to dinner. For non-business, non-diplomatic chit chat. Dinner tonight is booked.  This sounds suspiciously like a date.

Cut to PsiCorp arriving and demanding immediate attention, because they’re PsiCorp and throwing their weight around is a functional requirement. Bester arrives and there’s an instant meeting with Sheridan, Ivanova, Garibaldi, and Talia. Bester tells them about the Underground Railroad, getting telepaths away from the core planets and out on the Rim (now we’re starting to sound kinda like Firefly’s universe). This is a security problem, and Bester would “appreciate your cooperation, Captain.” Talia and Bester leave so the three musketeers can powwow. Garibaldi points out that Earth law puts them in a position to do little else but cooperate. Ivanova predictably is more on board with helping people get out from under the thumb of PsiCorp. Sheridan doesn’t like PsiCorp any more than Garibaldi or Ivanova, but agrees with Garibaldi that Security has to help PsiCorp out with this. Meeting adjourned, but not before Ivanova tells Sheridan to look at the Ironheart/Bester incident in the logs, so that he can get to know Bester’s methods a bit.

Cut to Talia and Bester, strolling around. Ah, we get some plot exposition about how mind scanning works. Talia asks if Bester scanned her, he says “you’d notice” and she replies “not if it was only a surface scan”. Sounds like the mind shields only engage when you get past surface thoughts, unless the power difference between Bester and Talia is part of it (he’s clearly very much stronger than her, remember). Somebody is thinking murder thoughts so loudly at Bester that Bester picks them up. No indication yet who, but it confirms to Bester that there are things afoot on B5. Cut to a Shadowy Meeting Place, and Obvious Conspirators. Guy arrives and says Bester is back on the station, they need to cut and run. But Bester will try to stop them, so they have no choice, they’re going to have to kill him. Dun dun dun! Commercial break.

Back from break and we’re at non-diplomatic, non-work related fancy dinner. Dizam, Delenn pulled out the little black dress, and she rocks it, there are lots of extra-long glances from the men here and there in the restaurant, in the background. Sheridan is a tad nonplussed. She apologies for her late arrival, she took longer getting ready than she expected, trying to dress the human part. Sheridan compliments. Delenn is positively Audrey Hepburnian. They bend heads over the menu.

Cut to Garibalid, Doing Security Things. He needs to talk to Ivanova. Garibaldi wants a contact in the Underground Railroad, and he’s thinking Ivanova might know something about that. She is amused, but denies it. Garibaldi is then vexed, because an operation like this wouldn’t work without somebody in the inside of station operations, and if it isn’t Ivanova, he’s got to start at square one.

Back to Sheridan and Delenn at dinner, they’re at coffee and the rest of the restaurant is conspicuously vacant of customers. Looks like dinner-as-experiencing-more-human-interactions kinda has definitely turned into a date, to this watcher. Sheridan has a Funny Cat story. Chitchat, Minbari and humans have more in common than they thought.

Cut to Talia getting a com call from Bester. Bester wants to take her out to breakfast to make up for being Bester during the Ironheart incident. He comes across about as genuine as Bester can, which isn’t very genuine unless he’s trying to murder somebody. Flashbacks from Mind War, Talia uses TK to move a penny fast enough to embed itself in the wall, if we missed the earlier episode and didn’t know what happened. But it’s been on her mind today, and Bester hasn’t seen it, which confuses Talia… how did Bester not know? When Ironheart mucked with her abilities, what else did he do?

Cut to Sheridan getting back to his quarters after dinner. Boy’s got a spring in his step. The door lock won’t open. Ivanova is there and tells him that they’ve been locked out until they pay rent or move. Oh, this will go well. Sheridan is sticking to Outrage Machine. Ivanova chuckles and asks him what does he suggest? Cut!

We’re at the Shadowy Meeting Place, and the Underground Railroad folk (there are a dozen of them, turns out) are breaking out the small arms. They can’t be scanned if they’re not caught. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on repeat is apparently part of the training on protecting yourself from mental assault.

Cut to Ivanova, on a couch, and Sheridan trying to get comfortable sleeping in his office chair. Good plan, Captain. We’ll see how it works out.

It’s morning, and Bester and Talia are having breakfast. Bester wants Talia to keep an eye on the command crew. Before he can specify as to why, precisely, Loud Thoughts of the conspirators invade. Bester spots a pair, they pull guns, but they’re not very good shots and Bester is. Bang, bang, you had better send more skilled assassins that *that*, fellas. Talia rabbits, she’s nabbed by some of the Conspirators. Oh, that’s a good way to get Garibaldi on the side of the Corps, folks. Cut!

Bester is in meeting with the command triad again. He figures they must be getting desperate to try this. Sheridan asks what happened to Talia, Bester replies she must have got out, but he hasn’t heard from her since the attack. Oh, but they were after him, he thinks, so why would they grab her? Uh, duh? Garibaldi gets grumpy, Bester suggests that he start with the two bodies and do his detective thing.

Cut to Talia, walking up with Ominous Thoughts of Conspirators echoing in her head. She wakes all the way up, she’s surrounded by the Conspirators. The Leader says, “We don’t want to hurt you”, she responds with, “You’re only hurting yourselves, the Corp is here to protect you” which, yeah. I get that you’re conflicted about the whole Corp thing, Talia, but your character presentation is either “pro-Corp” or “anti-Corp” without much of the actual conflict playing out. I’ll blame the writing on this one. She should definitely be more unsure, anyway. The Leader wants her to understand. Cut!

The doctor is reporting to Sheridan that he just heard from people inside the Underground Railroad that they have Talia. AH, the doc is the one involved. Well, that’s not really surprising, if you think about it. The Leader wants to meet with Sheridan. The doc insists that this isn’t a hostage situation. Yeah, doc, your idealism might be blinding you a tad as to how desperate these folk are not to get caught and brainscanned into jelly by Bester. Sheridan agrees to the meet.

Back to Talia, she’s getting Corp Horror Stories from the Conspirators. She doesn’t believe them (why not, Talia?) Cut to Bester, meeting with Garibaldi. Bester talks about home and family, he’s not a monster. Garibaldi believes him not, but Talia’s missing, and that puts Garibaldi temporarily on the team. He’s got some info on the two bodies, they were housed on the same level down below, so the others might be there too. Garibaldi will have a team ready to go in one hour, he wants Bester to go in with them, not go cowboy. Of course, says Bester.  Yeah, right.

Back to Talia getting more Corp Horror Stories, oh it’s a Brood Mare story, she was raped by another P11 trying to get a P12 (Talia, this was almost you). The Leader points out that the Corp might have served a purpose long ago, but it’s perverted. What do you want me to do, asks Talia, and why me? Ah, the Leader was a friend of Ironheart, too, and he knows that Talia is Special. He was also experimented on, and they made him a P12, maybe a P13… but Ironheart was more than that. The Leader escaped with Ironheart, and he knows Ironheart did something to her. She can help them.  There’s Destiny talk.

Cut, Sheridan is walking to the meeting set up by the doctor. And, there’s the doctor. He’s not just a contact for the Underground, he’s running it! Sheridan hopes he has a damn good explanation, and Talia walks out and says he does, and Sheridan needs to hear it. Fade!

Back from commercial, the doctor tells Sheridan all of the bad things the Corp has been doing. In principle, Sheridan agrees with what the Underground is doing, but he’s still a soldier. What should Sheridan do, turn them in? That would make B5 look bad back home. Not turn them in? He’s an accomplice. Talia says he has a third option. Before she can say what it is, The Leader says “He’s coming”.

Oh, Bester, you’re so predictable, not listening to Garibaldi. Bester walks in, and the Leader and Conspirators are there to confront him (Talia, the doctor, and Sheridan aren’t there). Bester recognizes the Leader. Bester tells them all to come back to Psi Corp. Talia comes out and stands with the Conspirators. Scannerfight! The Conspirators link up and fight Bester. But the link isn’t working, someone is fighting it. It’s Talia! She says, “NOW!” and Bester shoots The Leader. Talia grabs a loose pistola and she and Bester kill everybody. Whoa, didn’t see that coming. Bester is a bit surprised, he thought he misjudged Talia, but she appears to be a Good Child of the Corp. He’s going back up now, Security will be down in twenty minutes to clean up, he didn’t want any of them asking questions of the Conspirators. He suggests Talia rabbit upstairs and they both deny any involvement. Bester leaves, the camera follows him out.

Back in the room, the Conspirators are still linked up and hands joined, out comes Franklin and Sheridan, and Sheridan wants to know what the hell just happened. Ah, enough linking telepaths pulled some serious mojo on Bester. They faked the whole fight in his mind. As far as Bester is concerned, the Underground Railroad is dead, and since he doesn’t want to have to answer questions about bodies, he’ll leave immediately. All Sheridan has to do is let him go, and not meet with him so he can’t be scanned by Bester. The Railroad will have to relocate, B5 is too hot. Well, if nothing illegal is going on (any more) and Bester isn’t making any demands, Sheridan can just let the Railroaders go find a new base of operations and it’s no skin off his nose (Pat note: at least, not until he meets up with Bester some time in the future?)

Franklin and Sheridan need a drink.

Talia is invited to go along with the Conspirators. She thinks she can keep Bester out of her head, leaving the Corp isn’t an option for her. The Leader says she has more power than she knows (Ironheart really put a whammy on her, I guess we’ll find out more about Talia’s new abilities as the plot requires them…)

Cut to Ivanova and Sheridan. Ivanova wants to give in. Earth Central won’t ever give up money, and Sheridan snores. He tells her she can go back to her quarters. Turns out Earth Central didn’t give in, but Sheridan didn’t exactly give in, either. Sheridan has decided to deduct the rent from a combat readiness account on the justification that neither of them will be up for fighting without a decent night’s sleep. Sheridan is playing the “move money around in different pots” game, it’s good to see he’s learned it. Ivanova retires to her quarters.

Bester is leaving the station, Talia is with him. He thinks she’s in the bag for the Corp, and he feels better about the situation on B5 with the Corp-averse command crew now that he has a reliable agent on board who can keep an eye on things. Dang, Bester, you came out worse in this episode than Denver did yesterday in the Superbowl. Leaving, Bester apparently tries to scan Talia and gets nothing. What that means, well, we’ll find out.

Back to Ivanova getting into her own bed for the first time in too long. Predictably, there’s a ring at the door as soon as her head hits the pillow. It’s Talia, with a bottle of wine and two glasses. She wants to say that Ivanova was right and she was wrong about the Corp. Talia needs a buddy. Ivanova and her have a drink.

Alliances are building, on B5. Sheridan and Delenn, Delenn and Ivanova, Ivanova and Talia, Talia and Sheridan…

Patrick

Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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22 Responses

  1. Glyph says:

    I see a familiar wisage on this post.

  2. James K says:

    Talia’s attitude toward the Corps has significant whiplash, relative to last week’s. I think they needed to lay out these episodes differently.

    • Pinky says:

      I’m ok with it. It makes sense that Talia would be guarded about her emotions toward the Corps.

  3. KatherineMW says:

    It’s pretty clear that the show-writers were trying to set up an arc for Talia re: her opinion of the Corps over the last three episodes, but they didn’t do the smoothest job of it. In general there’s a progression from trust to mistrust, but it’s too fast (either she should have been shown having doubts about the Corps earlier, or the answer to Sheridan’s Episode 6 question about her loyalties shouldn’t have been “she’s very loyal to the Corps”, or this episode and the previous one’s subplot should have been moved to later in the season, with at least one short scene in another episode illustrating Talia’s having doubts).

    But as an episode in itself, I like how this one is done, especially the illusion fake-out – it’s a smart resolution. And running an underground railroad for telepaths is something that’s very in line with Franklin’s character (kudos the the episode for, IIRC, not once referencing Franklin is black in connection with the use of the term “underground railroad”. In the 2300s, it wouldn’t be something people other than specialist historians thought about much any more).

    And we also get the start of apparent romance between Sheridan and Delenn, which I am not so much a fan of. It seems unprofessional; something that would compromise his neutrality. There’s not a precise real-world metaphor, but think of the Secretary-General of the UN having a relationships with some country’s ambassador to the UN. Not. Appropriate.

    • James K says:

      @katherinemw

      I didn’t even know the historical significance of the term “underground railroad” until years after I first saw this episode. I remember thinking it was an odd name for the operation.

    • daveNYC says:

      B5 was kind of clumsy with some of the character arcs it tried to do. Something like GoT, where you can hop around to four or five different characters per episode and do gradual updates is nice. Pretty sure that makes for tougher writing and probably impossible to do with 45 minutes of actual show time and trying to sell yourself in sindication.

      • James K says:

        Part of it is that this was 1994 and this kind of long character arc was still very unusual. Game of Thrones has had 20 years of learning to build on since then.

      • Kim says:

        DaveNYC,
        Four lines all waiting is not nice.
        James,
        Four lines all waiting is a very, very old trope.

      • Tod Kelly says:

        They didn’t have character arcs back in 1994?

      • Glyph says:

        @tod-kelly – at that time and prior, the TV model was much more “hit the reset button to restore status quo”, particularly for anything non-straight-drama with a whiff of “genre” about it, like SF. The idea being that all-standalone eps, in which the characters act pretty much the same no matter where they are in the show’s run, play better out of order in syndication, and to viewers who dip in and out unpredictably.

        X-Files only started in 1993 (and took a couple years to become cultural phenomenon), and was unusual at the time for its incorporation of an overarching story, in which Scully and Mulder could act differently because the show “remembered” what they’d been through.

      • James K says:

        @tod-kelly @glyph

        It’s remarkable how much TV has matured in two decades.

      • Glyph says:

        @james-k – and the ‘disreputable’ genre shows kinda led the way. B5 is seen as groundbreaking for this, and X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer preceded the prestigious Sopranos by a long shot.

      • LeeEsq says:

        Japanese television including anime have been treating TV shows as serials for much longer than American television. A lot of it still tends towards the episodic but even in that there times to be some idea of continuity.

      • Kim says:

        Lee,
        I somehow think most folks around here haven’t seen soap operas.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Life_to_Live
        Granted, that is 44 years, which is a long time to have a static show…
        (but, for the most part, Sesame Street has managed to be mostly static).

        Isn’t it just amazing how “girls tv” gets left off of all discussions as if it isn’t there?

      • daveNYC says:

        The thing with B5 wasn’t just that it had long term changes in characters, it was that the whole show actually had a (kinda sorta planned out) multi-season story to tell. That’s why IMO, it’s a better series than (new) BSG/Lost/Heroes even though it tends to come off weaker at the individual episode level.

        That reset button trope had its claws deep into TV writing. Something like ST: Voyager, a show whose very basis was how alone and unsupported the ship was hit that reset button so hard each week that even if the ship had been blown half to hell in the previous episode, it still managed to have a new coat of paint for this weeks adventure. And this was a post-B5 and DS9 series.

  4. Damon says:

    Yep, there are more references to Earth history later as well, not just the “underground railroad” and some Bible ones too. 🙂

    I’ve always liked Walter Koening as Bester. He’s nicely evil.

    • Patrick says:

      He really is a particularly loathsome type of evil.

    • Reformed Republican says:

      Bester was always one of my favorite characters. Few TV characters can elicit a visceral hatred like he does. Considering Koenig’s previous character was largely comic relief, I was impressed by how well he worked out.