Hey everyone, remember that Babylon 5 book club we had going? Let’s do some more of that.
If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here.
This week, it’s Season 2, Episode 15: And now for a Word.
It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss 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. Hey, if you use Firefox, there’s a simple plug-in that makes this as easy as highlighting text.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
We open with an ISN “special programme”, a 36-hour report on Babylon 5. Apparently it is standard practice for ISN to interrupt their programming for pre-recorded segments. So we cut to their studio and … wow. Whoever designed that set must have been compensating for something so small it’s invisible to the naked eye.
Apparently Babylon 5 is now Controversial. And because it is Controversial, ISN decided to send a crew over there to get to the bottom of things.
Things got interesting even as the intrepid journalists approached B5. As they were approaching to dock a Narn and Centaui ship have a bit of a to-do, resulting in the Centauri ship being destroyed. During the subsequent emergency, the reporter manages to get in Franklin’s way by asking him questions at what is clearly an inappropriate time.
After bouncing a few questions off Sheridan, we move into an interview with Londo, who is in full charm offensive mode. G’Kar, by contrast, is caught short and looks to be lacking in media savvy.
Next are a few slice-of-life interviews with the Union Guy from last season, Ivanova’s Lt, Sheridan and Franklin. The Union Guy is just doing his thing, the Lieutenant looks absolutely terrified of Ivanova, Sheridan has clearly had some media training, and Franklin talks about how space is trying to murder you and everyone you love.
But enough frivolity, G’Kar has heard back from his government. Apparently the Centauri transport was carrying WMDs for use in the war. The Narn government therefore considers it a legitimate military target. If true, it also means the Centauri were violating B5’s neutrality.
Back at the studio, we get to the heart of why this whole report is happening. President Clark is apparently super awesome because of his Earth-centric focus. So what place does an outfit like B5 have when isolationism is all the rage?
Cut to an Earth Senator who says B5 is a terrible idea without actually saying that. Sheridan has a different view, pointing out that there are any number of races that could curb stomp Earth if it came to war.
Back to slice-of-life stuff, and this time it’s Ivanova. Pro-tip: don’t call Ivanova “perky and energetic”. Also, don’t mispronounce her name. Still, the whole thing was being filmed, so Ivanova doesn’t murder her, instead gaining her revenge by being exceedingly taciturn. Next is Garibaldi, who extols the virtues of boredom.
Now it’s the aliens’ turn. Kosh proves to be unavailable for interviews. Next is Delenn, the interview starts off well, but goes badly quickly. I wonder if the Minbari have anything like the news media. Probably not, if Delenn’s reaction to a reporter is anything to go by.
But the main plot interrupts – it turns out the Centauri were shipping weapons through B5 and the Narn decide to turn this into a firefight. Sheridan tamps things down, but then a Centauri warship arrives and blockades the station.
After a break for a hilarious Psi Corps ad, we get back to the crisis. After negotiations fail, Sheridan issues an ultimatum to the Centauri: Relent or B5 will break the blockade. They then send an automated shuttle out to run the blockade. Everything looks fine, except then the a Narn warships shows up, leading to the ships destroying each other.
The report ends by asking the principals whether the Babylon Project is worth it: Garibaldi (Yes), Mollari (Yes), G’Kar (Unsure), Ivanova (Yes), Delenn (Yes), Senator (Maybe, meaning No), Franklin (Yes), Union Guy (Yes), Sheridan (Yes).
This episode combines a number of interesting elements:
- It seems to capture some of the news media’s quirks quite well, from the self-importance of the journalist to people behind her playing to the camera wherever she goes. I believe JMS worked in news media at some point in the past, so that’s probably how he nails the tropes so well.
- It gives us an outsider’s view of a typical B5 episode. This new perspective lets us see familiar characters from a new angle.
- It gives us some insights into what is going on on Earth. The very pro-government line of the media, a new “Ministry of Public Morale” and an ad for the Psi Corps complete with a frame of subliminal messaging. We had been told that sinister things were afoot on Earth, but this peisode gave a chance to see some of it.
Next week we’re covering Season 2, Episode 16: In the Shadow of Z’ha’Dum. Patrick’s a bit snowed under at the moment, so if anyone would like to recap this episode, please volunteer in the comments section.