Babylonia!

Our long-delayed fifth installment of the Babylon 5 Viewing Club!

The introductory post was here, The Soul Hunter was covered here, and Born to the Purple was covered right here.  Last run was Infection.

This week: The Parliament of Dreams! You can watch it 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 open with some Garabaldi plot exposition! We’ve got a religious conference going on B5 this week (no religion). We’ve got some post 9/11 level security theater going on here; when the underworld baddies have access to guns, I don’t know that holding up a pilgrim’s ceremonial dagger qualifies as the best use of the Chief of Security’s time (no politics).

Garabaldi spots a woman that he obviously recognizes, and mutters “never fails”. Ah! We must be up for some Garabaldi-focused ex-relationship problems this week, right?

Cut to G’Kar, cooking himself dinner in his quarters. Looks like the Narn are fans of braised pork heads? A nice little domestic scene interrupted by a courier bearing something “important” in the form of a data crystal. Duty overrides G’Kar’s desire for dinner. The crystal carries a recording from one of old G’Kar’s enemies, apparently, who tells the ambassador that (a) he’s dying and (b) soon G’Kar will be, too.

Dun dun dun!

Back from commercial, we find that G’Kar’s old enemy is a big fan of the Klingon proverb “revenge is a dish best served cold”. He’s liquidated all of his holdings upon death to pay his entire net worth to a professional to put the kaibosh on G’Kar, someone “close” to him, who will kill him within 48 hours of receiving the message (this is holding a grudge by anybody’s standards). Ah, paranoia!

We cut over to Sinclair and Garabaldi and it turns out that the Trouble Woman spotted in the opening scene isn’t Garabaldi’s ex-relationship problem… she’s Sinclair’s ex-relationship problem.

We move on to a large banquet thrown by the Centauri, a “celebration of life”… apparently a traditional celebration where they commemorate the victory of the Centauri over the other sentient race from their homeworld, the Xon, who were wiped out by the Centauri. Nothing like a celebration of genocide! Londo is rather well lubricated, and Ivanova seems to be enjoying the party quite a bit. Londo hits on Delenn and then passes out… er… “becomes one with his inner self”.

We have an uncomfortable scene between Sinclair and Catherine Sakai, the mystery woman ex-relationship, who is a planetary surveyor. Sinclair’s got a nervous little schoolboy thing going on, apparently this is an on-again off-again relationship. Fcbvyre nyreg: jr’yy frr ure ntnva.

G’Kar is an interesting mix of the easily frightened and quick to display stubborn bravery, isn’t he?

We’re introduced to Lennier, Delenn’s new aide. We’ll see him for a while. He’s deferential to the point of near-obsequiousness due to Delenn’s position on the Grey Council, which she makes clear must remain a secret.

G’Kar arranges for some personal protection, but being unwilling to go to station security (as he’s unwilling to explain why he’s a target of assassination), he goes to the Underworld and we get to see our buddy N’Grath again. (T’Xne’f obqlthneq qbrfa’g cna bhg.)

We get a glimpse of Mimbari ceremony, as well. (Nabgure fcbvyre: guvf prerzbal pbagnvaf hfrshy vasbezngvba nobhg gur Zvzonev).

Ms. Sakai gets a big payday, she and Sinclair get a moment. It’s interrupted by station duties and she’s ready to storm out, but he stops her, we get some osculation.

Turns out it’s not G’Kar’s new aide N’Toth that is the assassin in disguise… it’s the courier. He kidnaps the ambassador and begins a regimen of torture that is to end with G’Kar’s execution (all apparently part of the contract). The assassin’s guild has strict rules about contract enforcement. N’Toth tracks them down and pretends to be the assassin’s backup, and under the guise of delivering a beatdown to G’Kar, she disables his bonds and rescues him.

G’Kar deposits some money in the assassin’s account, thus ensuring that he’ll be thought to have betrayed his contract, reinforced by the time deadline has passed and G’Kar is still alive. The assassin flees, assuming his brethren are going to shortly arrive and terminate their turncoat.

We close out the episode with Sinclair introducing the ambassadorial crew to “the dominant religion of Earth”, a very long receiving line of various faiths (including atheists) from a Catholic to a Shinto and everything in between.

28 thoughts on “Babylonia!

  1. I enjoyed this episode a great deal. (After Episode 4, that was quite welcome.)

    Londo and the Centauri remind me of nothing so much as Rome.I did enjoy knowing that their big religious ceremony involves eating too much, drinking too much, and attempting to get lucky. It seems to me that this is a religion that would be fairly successful at missionary work.

    G’Kar is a guy who has a lot of enemies. Apparently back when he was on “the council”. I mean, anybody who gets to his level will, of course, say “I made a lot of enemies” but how many get assassins? Oh, he’s had several assassination attempts. Huh. I suppose being good at dodging assassination attempts is one of those things Narn have to be good at.

    I’m told that Lennier eventually gives one of the Greatest Babylon 5 Speeches Ever. At this point, I’m just saying “THAT’S THE LOST IN SPACE KID!!! DANGER DANGER!!!”

    DeLenn and Lennier (what the hell does “Lenn” mean???) hammered out some stuff about the Grey Council thing but what I picked up is that DeLenn was not surprised at all to see Lennier’s display (rather expected it, really).

    The Minbari Religion seems like it’d be less successful at missionary work.

    It seems weird to me that Earth is the only planet with a kabillion religions. Maybe the Centauri would have something akin to monoculture, but the Minbari? You’d think that they’d have given a short speech about how there is Orthodox Minbarism, Conservative Minbarism, Reform Minbarism (they aren’t *REAL* Minbarists, though… they still drink the fermented juice of the red fruit) before going into a display of Old Schooly Conservative Minbarism.

    • Erzrzore gur Zvzonev unir ervapneangvba. Jura lbhe crbcyr pna pbzr onpx, vg fgnaqf gb ernfba gung gurer zvtug or yrff qvfnterrzrag nobhg jung vg’f yvxr ba gur bgure raq.
    • Gurl zvtug unir unq gur inevbhf synibef bs Zvaonevfz va gur cnfg, ohg gur pheerag fbpvrgl vf n pnfgr flfgrz, bar bs juvpu vf gur Eryvtvbhf Pnfgr. Gung xvaqn fdhnfurf bgure begubqbkvrf.
    • You’d think that they’d have given a short speech about how there is Orthodox Minbarism, Conservative Minbarism, Reform Minbarism (they aren’t *REAL* Minbarists, though… they still drink the fermented juice of the red fruit) before going into a display of Old Schooly Conservative Minbarism.

      The Minbari strike me as a quite private people. If they did have such religious factions, they probably wouldn’t advertise them to every species in the galaxy.

  2. I liked this episode as well. Especially because it leads to a future one where GKar and Catherine Sakai, who frankly, is SMOKING hot, have a conversation and introduces a future element into the story that’s quite indispensable down range.

    Second, all the big wig assistants are coming into play: N’Toth, Lanier, and soon I think, Veer. There are some interesting plots involving these guys that make for a fuller story arc/background to the mail plot lines.

  3. This was one I liked as well. We finally see a little of what goes on with the Narn (though still not much). After the first couple of shows the Narn, and G’kar in particular, felt like a Smiley Whiplash bad guy. Now we are gaining a little depth.

    I liked seeing the religion of the other races, but I thought it strange that they did not do the Narn religion.

    And finally, Lennier has come back to…. B5!

    • Most of the characters in the series start off with the appearance of cliches that we are used to. As there series develops we are shown the depths beneath. I am fairly certain that it was planned that way from the start-leading the viewer down the expected path, only to flip things around and make things happen in an unforeseen way. JMS is also fond of showing the future in the form of prophecy or other means, so the viewer knows how things will end, but will have no idea how they will get there.
  4. I started with the pilot last week and worked my way up to this, and have to admit this is the best so far – though I still have a problem with the overall writing/acting/pacing I’m seeing. (I do enjoy the storylines, though – which begs the question: is B5 the first TV show that works better as a Wikipedia-episode-guide read than an actual television show?)

    I liked the juxtaposition of each of the antagonistic alien ambassadors needing to be saved by a female of their species, with one initially trusting a gal too much and one too little. Nice touch.

    I agree with JB about the Centauris being set up to look like Ancient Rome, specifically in those days of waning power. And the Narn remind me of the B’Jorans (sp?) from DS9, a race that’s been downtrodden so long they have a hard time not giving in to terrorist impulses.

    Intersestingly, the only male-female banter I found uninteresting was the human one, with Sinclaire and his old flame.

    This is less a complain than an observation: does anyone else find it interesting that all alien species are appearantly from Easten Block countries? It’s like each alien world learned English by listening to Rosetta Stone tapes recorded by the guys who played Earnst Blowfeld.

    • It’s mostly the ambassadors who are like this. Lennier and Vir, for instance, have no accent at all. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other aliens who speak with the same accents as their ambassadors, too. I think there was a Centauri who spoke like Londo once… but I may be misremembering.
    • The Narn do seem a lot like the Bajorians. The combination of the space-station setting, the resemblance of the Narn-Centauri relationship to the Bajoran-Cardassian one, the more ‘plot arc’ style and DS9 coming out after B5 had been pitched but before it actually aired (IIRC) made a lot of B5 fans feel like Star Trek had ripped off their idea.
      • A big difference is in how the Narn are acting now. The Bajorians were always afraid the Cardassians would come back, but never built up their military. They relied on the Federation. The Narn, on the other hand, have built up their military and are starting to flex it towards the Centauri.
          • True, but Cardassians would have constantly kept them down through messing with their politics. That civil war would have gone through without the Feds and that would have ripped the Bajorians apart. The Narn are too unified in their hatred where the Bajorians seem to have more people that just want to be left alone than those that want to kill all Cardassians.
  5. I liked the episode, but it seemed out-of-character that they made G’Kar so jumpy. If he’s survived several assassination attempts, he shouldn’t be so spooked by this one.

    The Minbari religion (and their ceremony, with echoes of communion) veers a little too close to Christianity in my estimation; an alien religion should be more, well, alien. Ohg gung znl or vagragvbany, nf cneg bs gur Zvaonev-Uhzna pbaarpgvba. On Jaybird’s point about multiple religions – my guess is that it’s partly because humanity is so new to interstellar travel, and that the longer a species had contact with many alien species, the more homogenous their homeworld culture becomes. Like globalization (most of the world’s major cities are a lot alike by our point in history), but on a galactic scale.

    Regarding Catherine Sakai (spoilers up to the end of season 3): V xabj gung gur fubj unq n ybg bs cynaf rafhevat gurl pbhyq er-wvt gur fubj vs nal npgbe yrsg. Tvira Fnxnv’f wbo, V’z jbaqrevat vs fur jnf vagraqrq gb cynl Naan Furevqna’f ebyr unq Fvapynve erznvarq pbzznaqre va yngre frnfbaf.

    • The Minbari have some amount of verification for their religion, though. If they haven’t gotten everything completely wrong, the fact that there’s overlap between their religion and some earth religions is downright inevitable.

      Assuming that there’s something to get right, of course… but I think the show assumes that there’s something to get right.

        • Delenn was freeing souls in Episode 2. Presumably with their full consent.

          The knowledge that souls exist does a double buttload of heavy lifting when it comes to the whole “spirituality” thing.

          • That doesn’t prove those souls can reincarnate, or survive the death of the body at all (without technological assistance). The soul hunters could just be copying a person’s brain state at the time of their death.
          • The Soul Hunters were able to sniff stuff out to an absolutely uncanny degree. While I am more than happy enough to say that we don’t know what happens to souls that aren’t caught, I’m not happy enough to say that Minbari have less evidence in the “for” pile than the “against” pile.

            For example: the ability of the souls to see what’s going on around them.

    • I think G’Kar was jumpy because of the assassin group that was hired. They had quite the reputation. Also, G’Kar many not have know of the other assassination attempt and just had to react to survive. For this one, the mystery of the unknown is often worse than knowing the truth.

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