Babylonia!

We’re back on track with our tenth 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. After that was Infection. Then came The Parliament of Dreams. Following on its heels was Mind War. Then, RTod covered War Prayer. After that, I recapped Sky Full of Stars, then Dman recapped Death Walker! Last time, Jaybird hit The Believers.

This week: Survivors! 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! Let’s get to the recap!

Survivors

El Presidente is headed to Babylon 5, either to deliver a new fighter wing, or pimp his pro-trade, pro-immigration alien legislation, according to TV Pundit. Garibaldi and Ivanova are commiserating/kvetching about getting the fighters they deserve two years late without the proper support to maintain the facilities to house them, while on their way to the bay where the fighters will be housed. There is an explosion, and in one of those moments that breaks my credulity a bit, a station support personnel guy/gal’s body (dead? alive?) drifts past the command center where Sinclair is watching.

Coming back from commercial, we’re in Medlab where Franklin is working on the support personnel who has survived, but is in serious condition. Garibaldi and Sinclair are recapping the incident; current evidence supports accident, but Suspicous Garibaldi notes that sabotage can’t be ruled out. The head of the President’s security detail, Major Leanna Kemmer, wants to interview the commander, apparently she’s the daughter of an old friend of Garibaldi’s.

When they meet in the command center, she’s cold and usurps the investigation right out from Garibaldi, which surprises Sinclair… but then Garibaldi tells Jeff to let her have it and storms out. Sinclair follows, but gets waylaid by G’Kar, who has some kvetching of his own to do regarding the seating chart for the Presidential banquet. Before Sinclair can detach himself from diplomatic duties, Garibaldi catches some local station lowlife guy in the middle of a deal and loses his temper. Sinclair winds up separating the two and after a brief cut, they’re doing a buddy cop deal at the bar.

For all of the criticisms we’ve levelled at Michael O’Hare’s performances so far in the recaps, I have to say that his scenes with Garibaldi really do flow well and make me wonder how much better of an actor he would have been if he wasn’t struggling during the filming with mental illness. This was something I myself didn’t know about until just recently, always having understood that he chose to leave the show for other reasons, and it has colored how I watch the first season, now.

J. Michael Straczynski on his departure (pertinent to O’Hare begins at the 9:40 mark):

Back to the story.

Garibaldi reveals that Leanna’s father Frank was killed by a blown attempt to get rid of Garibaldi at a previous job on Eurpoa, and Garibaldi was thrown under the bus, officially tagged with incompetence. Garibaldi struggled with alcoholism then and has had trouble since. The buddy cop moment is interrupted by a call from the doctor, who needs immediate help from Sinclair.

Rushing to Medlab, they find Leanna has taken over and has injected the surviving crewmember (Nolan) with some sort of revival injection to bring him to consciousness, whereupon he implicates Garibaldi in a sabotage event rather than a maintenance accident, and then dies.

Leanna demands Garibaldi’s suspension, under her authority as Presidential Security Muckity-Muck, and Sinclair is forced to agree. Garibaldi storms out.

Back at his quarters, he can’t be let in because they’re scanning the place for evidence. He and Leanna have a brief moment of humanity before her right-hand man comes out of Garibaldi’s quarters with a bag of Centauri ducats and schematics for the bay that was sabotaged. Garabaldi scoffs that it’s obviously a frame-up job and asks why he’d keep the evidence in his own quarters, Leanna offers that maybe he just screwed up again like 17 years ago when her father was killed and orders him arrested. Garibaldi pulls some Kirk-do moves on her right hand man and rabbits.

Cut to the command center, where Ivanova tells Sinclair that there’s a stationwide alert posted for Garabaldi’s arrest. Sinclair is about to counter that command when Leanna arrives and there’s a standoff, where Sinclair pulls rank and orders her off the bridge. Ivanova points out that she’ll just call up-command for authority to tell Sinclair to suck it, and he says that it will at least give him some time to find Garibaldi before she does. He exits. Ivanova orders a “routine” maintenance check of off-station communications which will tie up the entire system for a couple of hours, and smiles.

Cut to Garibaldi in skivvies meeting up with Londo. News is already out that Garabaldi is under suspicion. Garibaldi quizzes Londo about the ducats, Londo magnamaniously agrees that he wouldn’t be above framing Garibaldi, but that he didn’t… but might know who did. Cut to Ivanova, who tells Leanna to pound sand when Leanna demands an open communications channel. Back to the bar, Londo mentions that G’Kar has access to Centauri ducats from a ransoming event from the occupation of Ragesh III. Londo offers to float Garibaldi a loan to aid his investigation. Garibaldi asks why Londo is helping him out, and there’s a moment of Londo-history where the ambassador admits to feeling a kinship with the security officer.

Garibaldi shows up in G’Kar’s quarters, who is expecting him. Like Molari, G’Kar admits that he’d frame the security officer if the situation was to his advantage, but says he didn’t… and then he offers Garibaldi a job. Garibaldi turns him down and leaves.

I’m giving both of these conversations (Garibaldi and Londo, Garibaldi and G’Kar) somewhat short shrift in the recap, but here’s where we start to see some more depth in the relationship between these pairs of characters that’s really interesting.

While the new fighters arrive at the station, Garibaldi has moved on to meeting with N’Grath. The station underworld boss won’t help him out on account of Garibaldi could be a mass murderer, but N’Grath still thinks he stinks of pork. Security catches a glimpse of Garibaldi leaving N’Grath’s place and a brief chase ensues. Garibaldi rolls a critical success on his Area Knowledge (Babylon 5 Underworld) skill check and gets away, but then rolls a critical failure on his Enemy (numerous) roll and gets waylaid by station thugs, who start beating the crap out of him. Things look bad, but a judicious use of Luck and a success roll for Ally (Sinclair) produces the station commander, who helps him fight off the attackers, which the gamemaster explains away as “he’s been monitoring the security channels” and can apparently get from wherever he was to the underbelly of the station post-haste. I must say, this is one of the weaker episodes for intra-station travel time discrepancies.

Sinclair is interrupted in his offer to help Garibaldi by Ivanova, who tells him that General Muckity Muck has a priority message for him (undoubtedly Leanna has finally managed to contact someone with authority enough to tell Sinclair off), and Garibaldi slips away while Sinclair asks for security officer Welch.

Earthforce 1 (aka Airforce 1) jumps through what seems to be the last gate to the station, and we cut to Sinclair getting a “cooperate with the nice lady or I’ll tear you three new ones” call. Leanna goes Smug.

Garibaldi shows up at Happy Daze, a wretched hive of scum and villany, and proceeds to fall off the wagon. Predictably, he’s sold out by one of his drinking buddies, and Leanna shows up to arrest him when he can’t really stand unassisted. Kemmer calls off the search, and her right hand man Nolan suggests that he check the bays one more time before the President arrives, she agrees.

Cut to an interrogation room, Leanna is talking to Garibaldi when Welch shows up. He says that Sinclair asked him to investigate Nolan’s quarters, and he found a detonator and some home guard pamphlets. Garibaldi guesses that Nolan got himself accidentally blown up planting the bomb. Leanna notes that this might be what happened, but doesn’t clear Garibaldi from investigation because of the evidence found in his room. Garibaldi’s lights come on, and he points out that her right hand man Cutter was the one that found the evidence, and he’s the one currently doing the last-minute examination of the new fighter bay, and maybe she should go investigate the bay herself.

She goes, taking Garibaldi with her. They find Cutter outside the bay, and Leanna fails her “be stupid for plot sake” roll and trusts him just enough to turn her back on him for a second whereupon he stuns her and Garibaldi and Cutter get into a dukefest. Garibaldi grabs his link during the fight and tells Ivanova that there’s a bomb on the bus, and she halts the fighter launch with a second to go.

Wrap-up scenes. First one is Garibaldi and Sinclair in the medlab. It’s not quite an “all’s well” ending, Garibaldi is troubled by his fall off the wagon, but it’s another scene that shows Sinclair-Garibaldi buddy cop comraderie well.

Second scene is Garibaldi and Leanna (with her hair down, signaling humanity) in the launch bay as she’s leaving. It’s a bit schmaltzy.

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11 thoughts on “Babylonia!

  1. This wasn’t an awesome episode. It felt like a “before I’ma tell you that story, I’ma have to tell you this one” episode.

    Girabaldi fell into the bottle once, and he can fall into the bottle again. The alien races like Girabaldi. I loved G’Kar’s interaction even more than I enjoyed Londo’s. (Londo came across as a standup guy. A huckster with a heart of gold. G’Kar came across, however, as a fairly decent chess player.)

    I didn’t know that about Michael O’Hare! What a sad story… I knew what happened to him in the story (I walked through the room when he spoiler spoiler spoilered) but I thought that that was because that was always his arc. I didn’t know that he pretty much *HAD* to go. That poor man. I liked him.

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    • My general critique of the writing in the first season is that they are doing too much setup that leads to abbreviated story development intra-episode.

      Things that make me go, “Hm, that’s a believable storyline” are interrupted by far too many things happening in too pat of a manner to move a storyline that should take two or three episodes to clear up to conclusion in the running time allotted.

      Now, the advantage of this is that we’re almost to Signs and Portents and we’ve got a huge chunk of plot arc already constructed and decent frames for how the characters act laid out and all that, but at a cost of some verisimilitude for buying into the individual episodes.

      This is a trade-off that cost the show some viewers, but gained them some viewers, too.

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      • That is a good point. There is a lot of info dump that happens, and things done to put the pieces into place, and sometimes that does hurt the individual episode stories. I think JMS might have preferred to do something more serial and less episodic, but he did not think it would have retained the viewers. Fortunately, the payoff is worth it, and things really do kick off soon.

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    • G’Kar is very opportunistic. This is not the first time he has tried to hire a human to come work for the Narn. G’Kar does some shifty things, but he mostly does it to further the Narn. Londo wants to be a good guy, but his society and culture just do not allow it much of the time. His hatred of the Narn does not help him any. One of the great things about this show is that all of the main characters develop through the series. They change and they grow.

      I had always wondered about Michael O’Hare’s departure as well. In the past, JMS said “it was mutual” and “it was necessary for the show” and things like that. It turns out that was true, but he omitted a lot, since he was keeping his promise. I never thought it seemed like just his arc, because there are plot threads that start with him, but get transferred to his successor. It aways looked like there was more to the story, but I had no idea what it really was.

      It seems popular to rag on his acting, but it never bothered me much. He makes Sinclair seem very serious and stoic, but I never thought he was unconvincing.

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      • The first time I watched the series, I had no problem with O’Hare’s acting, but I was happier to have Sheridan after a couple of episodes. The second time I watch B5, I thought Sinclair was often over acting the part. It was not until the third time and beyond that I realized it was the combination of slight over acting with his voice and the lack of acting with his face that made a mess of the whole thing.

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  2. Funny, this is one of my more favorite episodes of B5. I like learning more about Girabaldi and how he screwed up. I have also been a big detractor of O’Hare on the show, but in this episode he actual showed some range. He frowned more than usual and smiled in a couple of sceens. It was nice. I sucks what happenned to him and I would not want that to get him off the show.

    I also loved the interaction with both Londo and G’Kar. Very nice and it highlights again how similar those two are, just on opposite side. Very well done.

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  3. I”m not a fan of this episode either. Frankly, I always liked the “spacy scenes”. More alien ships flying out pew pewing the better. That being said, it’s clearly obvious that Leanna holds a grudge and wants to hang Garbaldi not for his alledged crimes but for his history.

    RE Molary and G’Kar. These are great characters and they develop a huge amount going forward. They are a joy to watch. Any more would be spoilers. :)

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  4. In retrospect, I think that Garabaldi’s alcoholism was just lazy writing. You want to write a hard-life cop, you put a bottle, the dead body of a good man, and an angry ex in his past.

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  5. Is there a planned schedule for this recap? Will you be including the movies and spin off? I think I will appreciate the series far more if I am following along with this esteemed group. At LOOG’s recommendation I watched most of the first season a couple of years back and was kinda disappointed. Conceptually I loved it, but some writing, acting, and stagecraft deficiencies interefered with my suspension of disbelief. At one point I became convinced that every child “actor” on the show was probably just a relative of one of the producers. I am told that the performances improve in season 2 and a lot of things start to pay off. I will give it another go, particularly as I am quite impressed with JMS comics work. I just reread his Supreme Power from 2003, a really fantastic superhero deconstruction/”what if” take on the main DC titleholders. Highly recommended if you like SH deconstruction.

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    • We are covering the first season not-quite weekly. Attempts are made to get the posts up on Monday… there will likely be irregularities between now and 09/20, however. We have a volunteer for the next episode so the next recap should go up on Monday, and I already have written most of my recap for Signs and Portents (because it’s sorta the linchpin episode of the first season), so at the very least the next two weeks we should have a post on Monday.

      We will probably cover the pilot at the end of the first season. If we do the movies at all, it will be after season four at the earliest.

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