Babylonia!

Our long-delayed third installment of the Babylon 5 Viewing Club is finally here (pause for crickets)!

The introductory post was here. The Soul Hunter was covered here.

This week: Born to the Purple! You can watch it here, and the Wikipedia synopis is here.

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.

We good? We good! Everybody who has done the watchin’, see you after the cut!

We’ve got two running plot threads this episode: Londo and Adira, and Garibaldi’s unknowing pursuit of Ivanova, who is illicitly using the Gold Channel communications network without authorization.

Quote of the episode, by Londo: “We Centauri live our lives for appearances… positions, status, title… these are the things by which we define ourselves. But when I look past the mask I am forced to wear, I see only emptiness.”

Let’s start with the Garibaldi/Ivanova plot thread, because it’s a little clunky and it is really only about Garibaldi and Ivanova. Ivanova is using the Gold Channel to talk to her father, who is terminally ill at home. Ivanova, as second in command, could certainly wrangle use of the channel officially by just asking Sinclair. From what we’ve seen of the station commander so far, it seems unlikely he’d turn her down. Ivanova, however, undoubtedly regards her private matter as private, giving us some more insight as to where and how she’ll bend rules (something we already knew from the first episode). One expects that at some point in the series, Ivanova might utter a “In Soviet Russia…” joke.

Story note: a third of the way through the episode, we see Garibaldi reading a newspaper, a charming anachronism (“Universe Today”, for the less-sharp-eyed). Garabaldi utters a phrase familiar to all sports fans, “Lousy (Home Team)”. Garabaldi is unfortunately a Dodger fan, which is too bad. However, the Dodgers suck in the future, so that’s kind of awesome.

The Londo and Adira plot thread introduces us to a number of interesting worldbuilding things, simultaneously.

  • Production note: Takis is familiar, is he not? B5 does find neat walk-on actors.
  • Ko’Dath, G’Kar’s new (unwelcome) aide.
  • Londo doesn’t take his diplomatic duties seriously, again, as evidenced by his failure to appear at the Narn-Centauri negotiations.
  • Londo, however, does have a strong sense of duty to his home government, in spite of the fact that we already know he doesn’t like it.
  • Londo’s Purple Files – and presumably the Purple Files of any ranking Centauri – contain some serious dirt.
  • Suggestive drugs and technology enable enhanced interrogation.
  • Sinclair’s first duty is to the mission of the station, and he’s willing to manipulate the ambassadors (well, at least G’Kar) to sustain that.
  • Slavery is legal in the setting; or to be precise, Centauri have legalized slavery, and it is recognized as a matter of interstellar law, and slave papers are binding on B5.
  • N’Grath isn’t just willing to be involved in a plot to assassinate an ambassador, he’s okay with taking jobs that might lead to the death of the commander of the station. Dude’s hard core.
  • Ms. Winters is willing to bend PsiCorp rules, but not break them.  But PsiCorp rules are seemingly not terribly hard to bend pretty far.
  • Londo’s got a mean right cross.

See you next week, with “Infection”!

 

32 thoughts on “Babylonia!

  1. In the future: there will still be booty clubs.

    This episode told me a *LOT* about Londo.

    Remember how he was going to shoot G’Kar a mere couple of episodes ago? Now he’s waving G’Kar over to his table and telling him to shut up and watch his favorite dancer. Hell, they’re toasting chicks at the end of the dance.

    Londo seems like a guy without guile. If he’s in a bad mood, he has no problem with spitting in your food. If he’s in a good mood, he’ll invite you to watch some nice ladies dance with him. You’d think that “reaction suppression” would be the number one thing you’d look for in a diplomat. As it is, I think I’d enjoy playing poker against this guy.

    I had assumed that the Narn were lizard-analogues. I didn’t know that they’d have an appreciation for mammary glands.

    • I think Londo’s diplomatic status is due to that Purple Files folder.

      Yes, I think you’ve tagged him pretty good, though. He’s not naturally a guy who’s all about machinations (which puts him at odds character-wise with G-Kar who is naturally predisposed to machinations and has to have circumstance prod him into acting without thinking).

      • Another moment that I very much enjoyed was seeing Londo say “just don’t give away the Homeworld” to Vir and then, moments later, G’kar saying this to Ko D’ath.

        “They’re so alike!”, I’m sure I was supposed to say.

        I also like how likable Londo manages to be. He’s a diplomat that doesn’t show up because he’s going to titty bars… and even G’kar can’t stay mad at him WHEN THEY CATCH HIM IN THE ACT.

        Later in the episode, when Sinclair starts yelling at Londo, he pretty much trails off and just makes him an offer. “Look, if I help you, will you accept my compromise?” Or, paraphrased, “Look, if we free this stripper friend of yours, save your career, and irritate the Narn ambassador, will you let me do my job?” When Londo accepts, Sinclair is *HAPPY*.

        Londo is the man.

        • This example is a good one of “getting things done” vs “doing it correct and proper”. The crap diplomats probably have to deal with even in our day.
      • I don’t think so and I’ve seen the entire series.

        Remember Londo is part of a great House family. Those families no doubt engage in power struggles. These files are just dirt collected to use during those conflicts….like for positions of power in the Court or the Emperorship.

        I think you have to go further into the series to make my conclusions so I’ll end there as i don’t want to give any spoilers.

        • Apologies, I meant to come back and edit to make that clearer, but you beat me here. For people that may be concerned about such things, it is a couple scenes from a future episode, though not too revealing plotwise (with the caveat that I’m not remembering details about the particular episode, so there may be smaller things that are more significant in context).
    • G’Kar seems to prefer non-Narn women.

      I think Londo does not take his position too seriously, because he does not think his government takes it seriously. Considering the fates of Babylons 1-4, there is no reason to expect this one to succeed.

      He invites G’Kar over just because he does not want to miss the Adira’s dance. He will not even let G’Kar ruin one of his few moments of happiness.

      • “I think Londo does not take his position too seriously, because he does not think his government takes it seriously”

        I was having trouble pinning down exactly why I disagreed with jaybird initially characterization, and this I think fits my feelings better.

        Naq V guvax yngre ba Ybaqb fgnegf gb fubj zber thvyr nf ur trgf gb unir zber vasyhrapr, gubhtu znlor vg jbhyq or zber npphengr gb fnl ur gevrf gb hfr thvyr, ohg unf zber pbasvqrapr va uvzfrys guna jnf ernyyl whfgvsvrq.

  2. I am not a big fan of this episode. Little happens of importance. It does help define Londo better and show the happy side of the character. It makes me think that Londo is bi-polar. One moment he can go to kill G’Kar and in the next…. best buds looking at girls. And about the Purple Files:

    Gur svyrf frrz yvxr gurl fubhyq or irel vzcbegnag, ohg V pnaabg erzrzore gurz orvat zragvbarq nsgre guvf rcvfbqr. Jvgu rirelguvat gung Ybaqb qbrf naq gur cbyvgvpf ur trgf vagb jvgu uvf bja ubzr jbeyq, lbh jbhyq guvax gurl jbhyq hfr gubfr svyrf ntnva. V qvfyvxr vg jura n fubj sbetrgf jung gurl unir jevggra.

    I also dislike the Garibaldi/Ivanova storyline. I realise they are trying to make Ivanova more of a real person, but the whole thing is just…. off. I like her one liners much more that then they try to make her cry in the show.

    The best part of the show was the failed diploancy attempt for the contested sector. But, as I have said before, the best moments of this show is when Londo and G’Kar are interacting.

    • What??? This is my 2nd favorite episode so far! (After the 1st).

      Here’s what I liked about the Garibaldi/Ivanova storyline: he told her that he was going to go after this infraction. She told him “go after this imaginary infraction!”. He went after this infraction and found out what it was… and found out that it was her own. Then he told her “I found out about your infraction.” And, because he was kind, said “and it was imaginary.”

      And they looked at each other. And maintained eye contact.

      As subplots go, I can’t imagine a better one.

      Unless it involved Londo.

      • For me it’s just Garibaldi’s acting. He’s really clunky early in the first season. His most natural line so far in the series is, “Lousy Dodgers”. His physical acting is off, too. He exits stage in a way that seems, I dunno, unnatural.

        He really does get a lot better.

        My only complaints about Ivanova is that the early writers wrote her the way someone might write about an Irish security officer or something. There’s stereotypes there but only the nice ones. She’s a good enough actor to work more out of the lines than what’s written, though.

        • Maybe that is it. I just found the whole thing difficult to remain in the show for. Garibaldi does get better and he has a few really good storylines, but this was not one of them.
  3. I thought the second episode was just fantastic. I thought this one was good.

    I like Londo, but I have a feeling that he is going to grate on me. Sooner rather than later.

    Was I the only one who saw the stripped and said “Woah! Selma Hayek guest-starred on Babylon Five?!”

  4. By the way, is it just me or is data security in the B5 universe abysmal? First, we have Ivanonva in episode 1, who doesn’t lock her workstation when she walks away from it. And now we have the super important Purple Files, which are secured with a three-word code (even if it has biometric security). At least Star Trek’s self-destruct codes were alphanumeric.
    • Each Sci-Fi universe has their faults. Star Trek’s faults are the lack of seat belts.

      I do agree about Ivanonva’s work station though.

    • I was about to comment that it is not uncommon for high ranking people to leave their stuff unlocked, but Ivanova seems pretty tech savvy, so it seems unlikely here. Are we certain that she left it unlocked, and that Garibaldi did not access it though his own methods?
      • Besides which, you don’t have to leave it in the person’s hands. My desktop at work locks itself after being unattended too long.

        Maybe Garibaldi broke in, but given Invanova’s personality, her reaction was a bit mild for that to be the case.

    • Outside of the usual Idiot Ball rules when it comes to plot, one has to remember this is twenty years ago when even a sci-fi savvy person watching this show likely only had one or two passwords to remember (their computer login and maybe their email). It wasn’t our current world, where everybody has umpteen million passwords to remember and the phrase “data security” actually means something. Plus, people are dumb. Something like 60% of all debit card PIN’s are one of five 4-digit codes.
    • One of the things I learned when I got my Security+ cert was that the best security involves multifactor authentication:

      Something You Have
      Something You Know
      Something You Are

      So a card key and a pin would suffice, or a card key and finger print, or, yes, a password and biometric voice reader.

      What screwed Londo up here was that he was a perfect target for a social engineering attack.

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