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”… then we got to “Soul Mates” then “A Race Through Dark Places”.

Last week was The Coming of Shadows.

Next two episodes are “All Alone in the Night”, which will be handled by Tod, then “Acts of Sacrifice” and “Hunter, Prey”. Anybody want either of those two, drop me a line in comments.

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 Ten: “GROPOS”

All’s quiet on the bridge, something Ivanova is quite happy about, when the jump gate goes live and six ships come through. Earthforce ships, requesting ultraviolet access to the docking bay. This calls for the commander.

Down at the loading dock, Captain Sheridan meets General Richard Franklin, of the 356th Infantry Division. Sheridan apologizes for not being prepared for them, but the General tells him the mission was classified and no advanced notice wasn’t Sheridan’s fault. He’ll brief the Captain in the morning, in the meantime he needs billets for himself and his people. How many people?

Twenty-five thousand.

Sheridan isn’t quite prepared to suddenly house 25,000 new people, but the General is unimpressed with the difficulty. He doesn’t want his troops spending a couple of days stuck on transports. Sheridan tries to make small talk and mentions that there’s a “Franklin” on board B5, to which the General responds, “He’s my son”. Sheridan offers to let the doctor know pops is in town, but the General would like to let him know himself. Huh. Family troubles? Franklin takes his leave, and Sheridan mutters, “Twenty-five thousand…” and we cut to commercial.

Back from commercial we get to see oodles and oodles of troops disembarking transports. Stereotypically Brusque (Probably Marine) (Probably Sergeant) Grayhaired Guy is ushering troops around, calling them “Space Grunts”. Four up and three down on the sleeve, that doesn’t match current U.S. foot troops (Sergeant Major is 3-up and 3-down). Ah, well, thus is the Space Army. Troops stick their hands into a reader, which spits out names and serial numbers, this is our introduction to some of the 25k. Ivanova and Garibaldi are Working Flusteredly. Garibaldi needs to seal off the area so the civilians don’t see the troops, I guess? Classified ops and all. Shunting 25,000 troops through B5 is probably not the best way to keep things on the QT; on the other hand, where else can you shunt 25,000 troops?

The Command Triad is walking the corridor, Sheridan is getting updates. Ivanova says they quadrupled up the troops and they’re still 400 billets short, not to mention the docking schedule is screwed to hell. Garibaldi muses that things will get worse once the “ground pounders” get out into the rec areas. Sheridan tells Garibaldi to keep the troops out of the colorful (read: sleazier) areas of B5 to help prevent trouble. Garibaldi’s already ahead of him, but doesn’t think it will help much. They enter Debriefing Meeting area with Gen. Franklin, Sheridan introduces his sidekicks. Franklin knew a Garibaldi under his command during the Dilgar invasion, “he was an excellent soldier”… Garibaldi grins, “That was my dad”, Franklin returns, “So much for genetics” which elicits a chuckle from Ivanova and we’re off to an awesome relationship (note to the General: you may outrank Sheridan by a couple of pay grades, but pissing off the security chief on the station where 25,000 of your foot troopers are going to stay for a couple of days when they’re all hyped up right before a military operation might not be the greatest move). Time for the Meeting.

Meeting starts with a computer graphic of planet Akdor. It’s the third planet in the Sh’lassen Triumvirate, and undergoing a bloody civil war. The Triumvirate has asked for aid, and Earth has agreed to provide it. Sheridan is confused, the Sh’lassen ambassador asked him for aid a week ago, and Earth ordered him to turn them down. The General notes that until the Senate vote confirms otherwise, those are still his orders. Ivanova is curious about the mission; Franklin replies “Operation Sudden Death”, a surgical strike on the rebel stronghold. B5 was chosen because it’s the closest jump gate to the sector. As soon as the Senate makes an announcement, Franklin pops over and Shock & Awezomes ’em. Sheridan notes that he spent some time at the stronghold (called Matok (sp?[/efn_note] during the Karani Expedition, and he thinks it’s not so much a stronghold as a death trap. Franklin notes that this was another reason for choosing B5, he wants to enlist Sheridan’s knowledge of the place to help prepare the assault. Garibaldi wants to know how he’s planning on keeping 25,000 troops on B5 a secret, Franklin says they have a cover story and even his own troops think they’re relief troops for Io. Hm, not sure failing to let your troops know you’re going into heavy combat when they’re expecting relief duty is a great idea, either. How long until the announcement? Franklin mentions a couple of days, long enough to deliver some “gifts”, new upgrades for B5’s defense grid, straight from R&D, making B5 capable of taking on a warship. That might have come in handy a while back. Sheridan is a little dubious that stacking huge armaments on B5, whose mission is peace, is really a good idea, but the General points out that the Galaxy is changing and B5 is going to have to change with it.

Gotta say, Sheridan, this peacenik right here thinks packing more firepower might be a good idea when random ships pop out of hyperspace and blow up entire Narn colonies in a couple of minutes.

Wrapping up the meeting, the General wants Sheridan back at 11 to discuss the plan, he wants Ivanova to liaison with his men to get the new weaponry installed, and mostly he doesn’t want anybody to talk about this meeting. Command Triad understoods, they’re dismissed.

Back to walking in the corridor and musing about what the hell Earth Central is up to. Ivanvoa has a bad feeling about this. Sheridan is a bit inclined to think of this as the rattling of sabers. Cut!

Hey, it’s Warren Keffer! Haven’t seen him in a few episodes. Prognostication points to “fighter jock gets into a tussle with some of the grunts” story line. Ah, he’s walking into his quarters and there’s two guys in greens smoking and informing him that they’re sharing his quarters. Yes, this will definitely go over well. Big Huge Marine guy gives “You got a problem with us?” attitude, Keffer says, “Hell yeah, just lemme get a ladder so we can go face to face” and this elicits hearty guffaws and backslaps and a stogie for Keffer. Okay, called that one wrong. Cut!

Franklin and Franklin are sharing family news. Mom got a promotion, sister is working on her third PhD, or maybe that’s vice-versa. The General gives the doc hell for not calling Mom more often. Some awkward “refreshing slightly estranged family relations”. General Franklin downplays the danger of his current mission. The Doc was expecting Dad to retire, “current circumstances don’t allow that”. The doc is happy on B5, the General thinks he should transfer to Bethesda. Franklin reminds him that he didn’t like that work during the last war. Ah, Bethesda must be the bioweapons facility? General Franklin is a bit of a xenophobe. Doc being something of a xenophile, this results in conversation death, the General (politely) leaves before anybody gets too harsh.

Cut to medlab. Enter Ivanova and a half-dozen troopers, looking for a place to sleep. The doc refuses to allow medlab to be turned into a billet. Ivanova reminds him that he himself put in the log that there’s empty beds. Franklin starts complaining about Father General and how he just pisses Doctor Franklin off. Ivanova can relate, but there’s work to be done. They agree to have a drink tonight, Franklin grudgingly agrees to play hotel for a couple of days.

Cut to the bar, Franklin is explaining his father issues. Dad was a Corps-first, everything else second guy. Childhood stories. Sorta like Captain Von Trapp before Fraulein Maria showed up, plus the waiting for bad news when he was at the front. Ivanova channels her troubles dealing with her own father and tells Franklin to talk to his Dad and get it off his chest, she didn’t and she lost the chance. Franklin’s confused, these troops are bound for Io, right? Ivanova declines to answer, she has to get back on duty. Franklin looks worried. Ivanova, that’s close enough to spilling the beans to piss somebody off!

Cut to Garibaldi and Delenn, surrounded by troops. Ah, anyone want to guess if Garibaldi will let something slip, too? Delenn observes that there’s an awful lot of ground troops around. Garibaldi gives the cover story. Delenn appears to buy it, and notes that it would be bad for B5 to become an armed camp with the way things are going lately, and there needs to be a place to discuss peace. Eeeeesh. The two commiserate over the current state of Narn-Centauri relations. There’s a minor uproar off elsewhere, Garibaldi scoots to prevent possible shenanigans, and three green-fatigued folk accost Delenn. The leader snarls something about losing buddies to the Minbari on the Line, and they’re gonna teach Delenn a lesson. Fade to commercial!

Back from commercial, a woman troooper in green fatigues jumps in-between the leader guy and Delenn and tells him to back off. He’s aggressive. She tells Delenn to take off, because leader guy is drunk, and Delenn rabbits while a fight breaks out. She then starts kicking the three guys’ collective asses. Meanwhile, Delenn runs into Garibaldi and reports. Back at the fight, Sgt. Major (oh, he *is* a Sgt. Major) breaks up the fight. Private Durman (the woman who rescued Delenn) is quizzed as to who started the fight. She gives the “No one, Sgt. Major”. He’s all set to throw all four of them in the brig, and Garibaldi comes up and there’s a whispered conversation. Sgt. Major says Garibaldi asked him to forget this incident, so they get one free pass, but next time he’s gonna do unmentionables. The crowd disperses.

Private Durman runs after Garibaldi to say thanks. Badass redhead is a better fit for you than Talia, Garibaldi? She gives him eyes and grins, and he heads off to head off more trouble. She watches him go with an admiring, “nice butt!” Hey, I kinda like her! (gur plavp va zr vzzrqvngryl fnlf, “bu, fur’f qrnq.”) Cut!

We’re in the strategic meeting. Sheridan is warning Franklin about approaches and exposure to fire. Mines. No approach is safe, you’re going to take heavy losses. The General says, “The Sh’lassen assured us this could be done with minimal losses,” to which Sheridan replies grimly, “They lied.” and suggests the General call the whole thing off. The General admits that this is a tradeoff; they keep the Sh’lassen in power, and Earthforce gets a presence in their sector, a sector strategically close to the Narn and Centauri. Sooner or later, the Narn-Centauri conflict will spill over the rest of the galaxy, and when it does, Earth is going to have to choose sides, so for better or worse, he’s got to follow through.

Doc Franklin interrupts just long enough to be summarily dismissed by the General. Sheridan is about to offer some advice, but the General interrupts him with a question: “When you destroyed The Black Star, did you feel like a murderer?” Old battles restless on your soul, General? Sheridan is Grim, “That’s not an easy question to answer. I suppose the Minbari consider me one,” to which the General replies, “… but the Minbari are not your own flesh and blood”. Sheridan does some Warrior Philosophy, to which the General is sympathetic, but notes that his son doesn’t think that way. Sheridan points out that he did a good job raising Franklin, there’s a “You’re a lot like my dad” moment. Lots of dad-relationship musing this episode. Ivanova, Franklin, Sheridan. Meeting breaks, food for thought.

Cut to Security and Garibaldi worried about all the potential shenanigans out in a crowd of gropos. Up strolls Durman looking for an escort around the sights. Garibaldi demurs, but Security guy says he’s got it, g’head, boss, go show the nice lady around. What do you want to see first, asks Garibaldi. “A nice restaurant… then your quarters,” she replies. Cut!

Makeout session in Garibaldi’s quarters. She’s not shy, she’s moving fast, and the destination is apparent. Garibaldi calls time out, “my personal life has been kinda strange lately”. Garibaldi starts telling ex- stories. She gets pissed, she wasn’t looking for a wedding, just a good time in between being in action. “It’s not romance, but it’s all I got time for.” She leaves angrily. Well, that turned out well.

Cut to Sheridan and Ivanova. Docking bays are back on schedule. New defense grid should be in place by tonight. Cut!

General Franklin visits Doctor Franklin. The General vents. Franklin vents. The Doctor admits that the hardest part is not knowing if he’ll see him alive again. Father-Son-Bonding moment. Good scene for both of them, it’s well acted. Cut.

And we’re back with Keffer and his two temporary roomies, Keffer’s still getting war stories. They seem to be getting along really well (gur plavp va zr vzzrqvngryl fnlf, “bu, ur’f qrnq, gbb”) Keffer gives Vetern advice to the newbie of the pair. Garibaldi meets up with Durman. Awkward apologies. She’s got a bad feeling about this tour. She doesn’t believe the General would be picked to head a relief run (well, you got that right, sister). Garibaldi’s face gives away that he knows something, she doesn’t wanna know. Keffer gets into a scuffle with the same guy that accosted Delenn earlier, and we’ve got an instant barfight. Garibaldi calls for backup. We get a classic Western barfight scene, interrupted by the General, the Sgt. Major, and Sheridan, time to go grab your gear and hit launch point, it’s time to go to war. Keffer wishes his two now-ex-roomies good luck. The General offers to throw the instigators in the brig, Sheridan declines, he knows what it was like to be a combat soldier.

The General and the Doctor have their reconciliation talk, the General gives good vibes but reminds him, again, to call his mother. Garibaldi wishes Durman good luck, she gives him some assault-style smooches and goes off to the transport. The gropos transports hit the jump gate. Cut!

What looks like half the station is watching the news, where a reporter is reporting on the surprise announcement that the Senate gave and the fight. We get combat film. It doesn’t look good for the assault. Live report, the General is alive. They did take the fortress, most of the leaders of the rebellion have been killed or captured. Very high cost to the victory. The interview is interrupted by the Sgt. Major, he made it. Casualty report is in. First Garibaldi sees it, then Keffer. Neither looks happy. Cut to a panning camera, Durman is dead, Keffer’s two roomies are dead. Psycho Bob who attacked Delenn is dead. Credits.


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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8 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    For the most part I always enjoyed the “one off” story lines that were outside the main story arc. It seemed to fill in the blank space of the B5 universe. Things are going on in lots of places and B5 isn’t the center of the universe.

    • James K says:

      It also provides more “B5 isn’t Star Trek” colour. The Federation wouldn’t be intervening in a Civil war with troops (they barely admit to having troops), nor are their doctors asked to design bio-weapons.

    • daveNYC says:

      It also is a one-off that slots into the greater activities going on. Earthforce is getting involved because they want to position themselves in advance of whatever spillover happens from the Narn-Centauri war. Not to mentioning upgunning B5 because things seem to be going to crap in general.

      This isn’t just a holodeck hijinks of the week or something.

  2. KatherineMW says:

    It’s a good episode, and works in some good character development for Dr. Franklin while also reminding us of how the Narn-Centauri War affects the rest of the galaxy.

  3. Dman says:

    It is also in many one off that we find out more about some of our other characters. Like Garibaldi and Franklin. I also like this one because it show the ripple affect of a big war. It is like once one person crosses the line, the rest follow in their wake.

  4. Pinky says:

    I never thought about it before, but this episode might be the point where I turned against Franklin. I guess we’re supposed to admire him for his underground railroad and his xenophilia, but both of these things somehow added up to arrogance for me. One thing that Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Ivanova have in common is their awareness of their inadequacy. (Yes, even Ivanova.) Franklin is certain that he’s smart enough and morally advanced enough to deserve a place on the universe’s biggest stage.

    • James K says:

      That’s one of the nice things about Franklin as a character, he has his good and bad qualities, and those qualities are both borne form the same personality traits. His strong commitment to his principles make him a champion of noble causes and also an ass.

    • Dman says:

      Franklin has always been my least favorite character (after Sinclair) because of that ‘moral superiority’ of his.