Note: If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here. 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 use the “spoiler” functionality in the comment box (thanks to CK for that feature!) Any plot point from any episode prior to this one, as well as (obviously) this episode itself, will not be considered a spoiler (so beware!).
This week, it’s Season 3, Episode 19: “Grey 17 Is Missing,” recapped by Katherine.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
A little like the previous episode, the plotline this episode is named for is a weak one, but the arc plotline is strong. I have a sense that B5’s episode naming pattern is mainly designed to avoid spoilers, so often the episode’s title doesn’t reflect its events. Sometimes that means naming it after a subplot, sometimes it means extreme vagueness, à la “Interludes and Examinations”.
We start with a hilarious scene where Zack is trying to recruit telepaths, and rebuffing a guy who’s clearly not one. Ivanova’s not comfortable about publicly recruiting them, but they’re short of options as they need as many people as possible, and there aren’t many who are willing to fight Shadows. Sheridan suggests that Franklin might be able to get them in touch with some of the rogue telepaths he helped escape from the Corps (back in Season 2, Episode 8, “A Race Through Dark Places”).
A maintenance guy is working on an electrical issue in Grey 16 when something grabs him.
Delenn is at the Ranger base on Minbar, dealing with the fallout from Sheridan’s departure. He has left behind little, only a few small items including a medal from the Battle of the Line (the last battle of the Earth-Minbari War). The Rangers need a new leader, and wish her to lead them, even if it means the Rangers moving to Babylon 5.
Garibaldi has an old-style gun, and he and Zack have a bout of antiquarian enthusiasm with it. He takes the bullets with him when he goes to investigate what happened in Grey 16 – a very literal and none too subtle Chekhov’s Gun.
Ivanova finds Franklin in Downbelow, going through withdrawal from stims – it takes a while to kick in, but is hitting him now. Ivanova tells him they need his help contacting the telepaths, and he tells her where to find the information, but demands they not come looking for him again: he needs to deal with things alone.
Garibaldi, while investigating, finds that Grey sector has 29 levels instead of the 30 that it should have.
Sheridan is fully supportive of Delenn becoming head of the Rangers; Delenn is concerned there will be controversy over it. Delenn will become their leader in a public ceremony on Babylon 5, bringing the Rangers out of hiding and into the light. Between this and the telepath recruitment, the Vorlon strike and Kosh’s death seem to have been a decisive event in turning the Shadow War from a covert operation into an open conflict.
As Sheridan leaves, Neroon confronts Delenn, accusing her, and the religious caste generally, of seeking personal power. He argues that tradition dictates the warrior caste should command the Rangers. By breaking the Grey Council and now becoming leader of the Rangers, she gives the impression of trying to seize too much power among the Minbari. If she refuses to step down, he threatens to stop her by any means necessary.
Lennier fears that Neroon means to kill Delenn, and urges her to tell Sheridan, but she flatly refuses and forbids him to do so either.
Since Delenn told him he could not inform Sheridan of Neroon’s threat, Lennier tells Marcus of his concerns instead. A serious fight between two Minbari of different castes could set off a civil war, so Marcus, as a human Ranger, is ideally placed to be the one to protect Delenn. All Marcus needs to do is delay Neroon until the ceremony is over.
Garibaldi is checking out the elevators in Grey sector, counting the time between floors. Between Grey 16 and 17 there is a 6-second gap rather than the usual three-second gap, so he goes down three seconds and then stops the elevator and pries the doors open. to find the real Grey 17. He gets out to explore and a creepy doll shoots him with a tranquilizer dart.
Garibaldi wakes up to find himself being watched by a group of people, with some kind of crazy philosophical leader. Some of the stuff he says echoes Minbari ideas about the universe as a living thing, but this guy’s just a kook. Garibaldi is ignoring him and just trying to get out, and becoming very annoyed. Garibaldi’s exasperated faces are probably the best thing about this arc. He fakes sickness in order to get away, but finds the bloody jacket of the maintenance worker. Jeremiah says that the only way out is to find purity of mind, and then for the body to die, destroyed by a perfect predator, a zarg. The zarg attacks, and Garibaldi hits it with a steam pipe, but only injures it a little. He finds the bullets in his pocket and uses the steam pipe to kill the zarg.
Before the ceremony, Delenn talks with Sheridan about her family. When she was young, her mother entered a religious order, the Sisters of Valeria, and Delenn has barely seen her since. Her father died ten years ago, during the Earth-Minbari War; Delenn says that the war broke his heart. V qba’g erzrzore guvf orvat zragvbarq ntnva va gur fubj, ohg vg zhfg nqq pbafvqrenoyl gb Qryraa’f srryvatf bs thvyg nobhg ure ebyr va fgnegvat gur jne.
Marcus finds Neroon preparing to gatecrash the ceremony, and invokes denn’shah, apparently a Minbari fight to the death. Neroon claims to have killed fifty thousand humans during the Earth-Minbari War… presumably he was on a ship because the logistics of killing that many people hand-to-hand seem vanishingly unlikely. Marcus takes a beating and but stays on his feet and defies Neroon’s suggestion that he walk away from the fight, reciting the Ranger Code. “We stand on the bridge and no one may pass!” (JMS, you stole that from The Lord of the Rings!) “We live for the One! We die for the One!” Neroon defeats him and asks why he fought, when he knew he couldn’t win. “For her,” Marcus says. “We live for the One, we die for the One. In Valen’s name.”
As Delenn is about to be proclaimed Ranger One, Neroon walks into the ceremony with a bloody staff. “There is now blood between us, and there is blood between the warrior caste and the humans. I do not think that they would die for me, but they would die for you – Entil-zha,” he says, giving her the title of Ranger One. Lennier runs off to look for Marcus, and finds him alive, if barely. We can see a parallel to the Earth-Minbari war in this, where the Minbari defeats his opponent but chooses to stop fighting.
In Medlab, Delenn is displeased with the idea that Marcus could have died to protect her, but Lennier says that everyone knows they will die; what matters is how, and for what. He says that for all to live, some will have to die; that is part of fighting a war. Neroon arrives, wishing to speak to Marcus, even if Marcus cannot hear him. “Denn’shah,” he says. “A fight to the death…and the death was mine. To see a human invoke the name of Valen, to see a human willing to die for one of my kind when I was intent on killing her…the rightness of my cause disappeared. That a human in his last moments should be more of a Minbari than I.” He is willing to accept that Delenn may be right that humans and Minbari are akin: “If we are not of the same blood, then we are of the same heart.” As he is leaving, Marcus wakes. “The next time you want a revelation, could you possibly find a way that isn’t quite so uncomfortable?” Neroon cracks up.
We end with Garibaldi telling Sheridan about his terrible day.
It’s pretty clear that Garibaldi’s misadventure was mainly just to keep him away from the Ranger ceremony so that the Neroon plotline could unfold the way it did. It’s a good plotline, and really brings into focus that for all the Minbari are most technologically advanced species on B5 (aside from the Vorlons and Shadows), and for all that they’re often presented as the most socially advanced, their society is incredibly fragile, to the point where something as comparatively small as a fight between two opposing caste members could ignite civil war. We see that the centuries-long rule that “Minbari do not kill Minbari” is breaking down. And yet they’re still honourable enough that Neroon, who’s opposed Delenn at every step thus far, is willing to back off from a fight to the death when he becomes convinced that he’s in the wrong. It adds new dimensions to the picture of Minbari society we’ve had thus far. It also reinforces that Marcus, for all his sarcastic wit, is a deeply idealistic person.