Babylonia!

PREVIOUSLY ON BABYLON 5: Sheridan destroyed a Shadow ship using Jupiter’s gravity well and President Clark declared martial law.

This is a guest post from our very own Katherine!

On Babylon 5, Londo is critiquing another one of Vir’s reports for being too positive about Minbar. “A report that will be circulated at the royal court needs to be phrased carefully, to ensure they appear less civilized than we are!” This scene does a great job of getting at a key point of Londo’s character: while he’s very good at appearing to believe his people’s propaganda (and his own propaganda, particularly as regards their treatment of the Narn), he’s perfectly aware that it is propaganda, not reality.

Londo is very excited to learn that Lady Morella, the third wife of former emperor Turhan, has agreed to meet with him on Babylon 5.

Sheridan and Ivanova get a report from Earth: Clark has dissolved the Senate and arrested many of its members, many others are on the run, and the Senate is under attack. Nobody has heard from Sheridan’s friend General Hague.

Sheridan tells the Babylon 5 command staff that Clark has ordered Mars and Io to declare martial law, and will soon order Babylon 5 to do the same. There is a communications blackout with Earth aside from the top channel. Garibaldi report rumours that General Hague may be trying to organize a rebellion against Earth; if he’s captured, Earth will learn of Babylon 5’s actions. Zack is called to a Nightwatch meeting and told to bring extra ammo.

G’Kar is still in jail, and singing. Garibaldi releases him three weeks before his sentence is up because the security staff are more needed elsewhere, and G’Kar offers his condolences on events on Earth.

Londo went to great lengths to arrange his meeting with Lady Morella because she is a seer, and he wishes to know his future – he hopes that it is not what he has seen. Lady Morella speaks in the third person, but it is more than the general “royal we”: she is considered to speak for Emperor Turhan after his death. This may also be the first time we’ve heard the name of the new Centauri emperor: Cartagia.

Sheridan is contacted by General Smitts of Earthforce and told to disregard his own opinions and “follow orders from the commander-in-chief and respect the chain of command”. The political office has ordered that Nightwatch is to be given exclusive control over Babylon 5 security. Sheridan is highly opposed to this. “Captain, didn’t you hear me a moment ago? I told you where this comes from. Now, if you’ve got a problem, I suggest you look upon this as an opportunity, not a burden.” Zack Allan is told of the same change at the Nightwatch meeting, and is clearly uncomfortable with it.

G’Kar returns to his quarters and finds that Ta’Lon has been waiting outside his quarters since he was imprisoned. G’Kar is clearly planning something relating to events on Earth.

Nightwatch is going through B5’s security personnel, requiring them to join or resign. Garibaldi is furious; Sheridan needs him to keep his temper, but Garibaldi refuses to accept Nightwatch firing his people.

Londo asks Lady Morella to see his future for him. “I believe that I have been touched…that I am meant for something greater. A greater darkness or a greater good, I can no longer say.” When he questions whether he still has any choice about whether to shun his destiny or embrace it, Lady Morella’s words call back to the theme of choice in “The Coming of Shadows” in Season 2, when Londo started the Centauri-Narn War and thwarted Morella’s husband’s desire for peace. There, both Turhan and Londo claimed they had lacked choice. Now, Morella says: “There is always choice. We say there is no choice only to comfort ourselves with the decision we have already made. If you understand that, there is hope.” In other words, Londo needs to take responsibility for the decisions he has made, is making, and will make. She agrees to see his future.

Garibaldi gives Zack a furious telling-off, storms into the room where Nightwatch is reviewing security personnel, turns over the table, gives them a speech, and tells them to stop this, take off the Nightwatch badges, and be the team he trained them to be. “If anything I’ve ever said or done has meant a damn to you, then stop this.” The top Nightwatch man relieves him of duty and puts Zack in command. Zack looks even more unhappy.

G’Kar endeavours to explain to Ta’Lon what he has seen and written. “To save our people, we must sacrifice our people. We must sacrifice ourselves, our pride, our vengeance, be willing to die by the thousands, by the millions, for one another. The more we fight for ourselves, the more we will lose ourselves. We are linked, Ta’Lon. Our fate is like an image caught in a mirror. If we deny the other, we deny ourselves, and we will cease to exist.” Ta’Lon asks, with some anger, “Who or what is this ‘other’?” G’Kar answers that the ‘other’ is, “The universe itself…but the humans, they are the key. And together, you and I and the rest, we will turn that key, because on the other side is salvation for all of us.”

Sheridan tells Ivanova that he has been ordered to declare martial law, and will do soon, “just as soon as I can stomach it”.

Londo guides Morella through the station; she stops to watch the news, which shows General Hague’s ship, the Alexander, fighting other Earthforce ships and calling for others in Earthforce to do the same. The Alexander escapes, the crowd applauds, and Nightwatch personnel break them up, calling it “incitement to riot”. First a few members, then much of the crowd, fight back against Nightwatch personnel and a riot really does start; over the riot, Sheridan gives a statement declaring martial law on the station. “I fee like I need a shower,” he says to Franklin. They just need to buy some time, but can’t do anything while the station is under Nightwatch control. “You can’t fight the chain of command,” Franklin sighs, and Sheridan looks like he’s just had an inspiration. “That’s what he meant! That’s what he was trying to tell me!” He sends Franklin to get Garibaldi, and re-watches Smitts’ message. He replays key parts a couple times, just in case viewers haven’t figured it out yet.

G’Kar walks into the Babylon 5 command centre (how did he just get in there!? Do they have no security around their headquarters at all?!) and tells Ivanova he’s had an idea that could save them all.

Zack walks into his quarters and finds Garibaldi, Ivanova, G’Kar, and Sheridan there.

Lady Morella patches up Vir, who was injured protecting her. When Londo touches her hand, she sees him, old and on the Centauri throne.

Zack tells the other Nightwatch guy about his meeting with the command staff: a ship will dock carrying about 300 Narn from the colonies, who will replace Nightwatch and take over security duties. They wanted Zack to help them, but he can’t. “You did the right thing, Zack,” the Nightwatch guy says, patting him on the shoulder.

G’Kar addresses other Narn on the station and asks for their help.

The B5 command staff and Nightwatch both prepare for the confrontation. But when the Nightwatch personnel get to the hangar bay to intercept the Narn ship, there’s no ship, and all the Nightwatch personnel are locked inside, while Zack slips out under the closing door. “You did the right thing, Zack,” Garibaldi tells him. “You know, everybody always says that,” Zack replies. “I don’t know who means it anymore. But yeah, this time maybe I did.” Everybody means it, Zach. They always mean, ‘You did what I wanted you to.’

Sheridan tells the Nightwatch personnel that they are all under arrest for “conspiracy to mutiny and failure to obey the chain of command”. The political office is outside the chain of command, and has no right to give orders to Babylon 5 that affect military personnel. He’s contacted Earthforce for confirmation of the order through proper channels, but they’re having communication problems (i.e., the technological equivalent of “La la la, I can’t hear you”) and Earth may be out of touch for several days. Nightwatch personnel can leave the docking bay one at a time, surrendering their weapons and badges, and will be confined to quarters until revised orders arrive. Sheridan looks almost impossibly smug.

Sheridan’s just buying time, hoping things on Earth will work out, “or Hague pulls off a coup”. It’s a weird situation when you’re relying on a military coup to restore democracy. To replace the Nightwatch personnel, the Narn on the station really are going to act as part of the station security forces.

Lady Morella tells Londo his future. “You have a chance few others will ever have, Mollari. You still have three opportunities to avoid the fire that waits for you at the end of your journey.” Well, that’s a …frightening…way to begin a conversation about one’s future. “You have already wasted two others. You must save the eye that does not see. You must not kill the one who is already dead. And at the last, you must surrender yourself to your greatest fear, knowing that it will destroy you. If you have failed all the others, that is your final chance for redemption.” Morella also tells him that he will be emperor, regardless, and that Vir will also be emperor. Vir cracks up, but Lady Morella assures him that she is not joking. One of them will become emperor after the other is dead. It’s right out of Macbeth, and it causes similar discomfort, making the two uncomfortable and mistrustful towards each other.

Sheridan thanks G’Kar, saying that the Narn are doing very well as security and are even handling the Centauri without problems. G’Kar says they understand what is at stake. G’Kar says that in return for his help, he wants to join Sheridan’s alliance.

Ivanova lets Sheridan know that four of the five cruisers that defected with General Hague were shot down, meaning that he’s not going to be able to pull off the coup and is likely to be captured soon. “They’ll be coming for us next.”

Londo’s three chances is a subject that’s been endlessly debated, but I’d forgotten about the line, “You have already wasted two others”. What do people think were the two wasted chances? My guess is that one was getting Morden to attack the Narn colony in the first place (in Season 1), and the second was starting the war.

The topic of martial law on Babylon 5 feels a bit fuzzy to me. We’re supposed to recognize that it’s obviously a bad thing, and it is, in that it represents suspension of civil liberties and privacy rights. But it’s not like B5 was a democracy before this, unlike Earth. It’s always been under a military commander, first Sinclair and now Sheridan. It’s one of the things that makes B5 a very odd concept. If you think of the UN being under the military command of one of the five members of the Security Council, that seems ludicrous and unworkable; but that’s essentially what Babylon 5 is.

(Picture is “Space” by Sweetie187. Used under a creative commons license.)

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7 thoughts on “Babylonia!

  1. The s*it’s getting real. I really like this episode.

    The lines about choices rings 100% true and the comments by Gkar I find interesting especially if you look at it from the perspective of knowing how it all plays out in the shadow wars.

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  2. “It’s a weird situation when you’re relying on a military coup to restore democracy.”

    But not unprecedented in human history.

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  3. You all probably realized this, but Lady Morella was played by Majel Barrett, wife of Gene Roddenberry, Mother of Troi, admirer of Spock, keeper of the Voice of the Computer, etc, etc. Yes, Koenig is a large part of the show, but it really meant a lot when she guested in such a prominent role.

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  4. I think the distinction they were trying to draw is between martial rule and martial law. B5 is under martial rule normally – it is run by a military governor and its security personnel are Earthforce military. But civilians who are charged with a crime are tried by civilian judges, not a Court Martial, and B5 security don’t enforce military rules of conduct on the civilian populace.

    What I suspect changes with the imposition of Martial Law is the replacement of a civilian judiciary with an Earthforce one, presumably under the control of Night Watch.

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