Babylon 5 #18: Legacies

"It's been my experience that discussions of old battles only interests historians."
IN THIS ONE... A young telepath in search of a future helps solve the mystery of a Minbari general's honored corpse disappearing.

REVIEW: I'm starting to think Ivanova's only viable character trait is her pathological hatred for PsiCorps, and frankly, she deserves better than an episode that makes her completely unreasonable and illogical. Fine, I'll accept that she doesn't think PsiCorps is a very ethical organization, but that's a far cry from convincing the audience that PsiCorps training automatically results in creating an unethical agent. We've had at least four examples to the contrary. Every argument she brings to Alisa would seem to push her towards PsiCorps, not away from it. That she's dangerous and nosy because of her lack of training, that her mother committed suicide because she refused to join PsiCorps (so an orphan with nothing to lose would refuse and risk drug treatment WHY exactly?), that her other options, say as a DNA cow for the Narn, are even bleaker... It's a good thing there was a third, vocational option, even though it's hard to believe a common thief and, as horribly, tooth-grindingly played by Grace Una, a little twit to boot, would fit in Minbari culture. Letting Talia buy her coffee is progress, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like a progression in their relationship, which has always been civil if a little tense. Perhaps if Talia was allowed to be in more episodes...

At least the telepath thread does connect to the Minbari A-plot, in which a great military leader's body is stolen by persons unknown. The show's trained us to mistrust the arrogant jerk that is Neroon, and think he may have engineered these events (after all, he's the one who took human security off the crypt) to start another war. He's kind of like Colonel Ben Zayn from the previous episode. Except it's a big fake out, and after a bunch of red herrings, including a potentially cannibalistic solution, it's revealed Delenn took his remains and cremated them. See, the guy was of mixed caste, his role that of warrior, but his heart of the religious caste, and Neroon wasn't respecting his modest last wishes with the whole universal tour thing. Okay, but how did she think this would turn out? Her gesture almost starts a war, and her plan to spin the body's disappearance as a miracle could not possibly have worked without Neroon's cooperation. Which she gets anyway by pulling rank and invoking the will of the Grey Council. This cows him and shows us just how much power Delenn really has, but... why not start with this? If your answer is because there would then be no episode, that's really a failure of the script.

At least the encounter allows Sinclair to face his bitterness regarding the war, and despite the harsh words exchanged between him and his Minbari homologue, their truce is sincere. Neroon has eaten the humblepie Delenn was serving and still retains a touch of his native arrogance, but Sinclair is very gracious and his tribute to the fallen leader is, it seems, a great step forward, both politically and personally. If Babylon 5 is the best hope for peace, that peace resides in the human-Minbari relationship, and through Delenn, that seemed a given. Now that we know there's a rift between the ruling castes and that, as Neroon proves, all Minbari aren't ethereal elves, there's a little more at stake. And of course, there's still the matter of the Minbari's hidden agenda, and the word "Chrysalis" seen in Delenn's mind by Alisa foreshadows further developments in solving that mystery.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - I like the way it moves the political and personal stories forward, but several characters are taken down a few dozen IQ points for the main plots to work. Might have been a Medium if the guest acting had been watchable.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you're touching upon something that has bothered me: I'm not Ivanova's biggest fan, because her main character trait seems to be irritability, not strength. This may be an artifact of the early 90s, when TV writers were still trying to figure out how to write "strong women", and didn't have a wealth of good examples to work with. Ivanova might have been written very differently had Joss Whedon showed up 10 years earlier.

That said, on the other side of the wormhole, Major Kira "leveled off" nicely during the first season, where she stopped being primarily angry and distrustful. But it helps that they threw her heavily into politics in ways that they couldn't with Ivanova, so Kira was getting episodes like "Progress" and "Duet" that forced her to evolve.

Madeley said...

Another duff episode, thank god for the next one.

The Minbari caste stuff is important, and I always like seeing Neroon, but for the most part it's a poor effort.

Anon- I distinctly remember being glad when they eased back on Angry Major Kira in DS9. Ivanova certainly could've used a little bit more subtlety in the first series, and I think that's maybe the fault of Christian's performance as well as the writing.

Siskoid said...

Ivanova's Cardassians are the PsiCops, so the possibility is there, but her attitudes aren't changing with every PsiCorps encounter.

Ryan Lohner said...

Interestingly, all this is in stark contrast to the way the people behind the show felt about the episode. DC Fontana was brought in to hear another episode pitch from JMS, but with her courage bolstered from her experience with The War Prayer, she asked if she could write her own idea, and told this story from beginning to end. JMS was very impressed and gave her the go-ahead, and ended up never using the idea he was going to give her. And Fontana considers it one of her personal favorite stories of her long and distinguished career.

JMS famously hates "cute kids and robots" (see the fate of the kid from Believers) but somehow Alisa becomes the one to escape that fate. Presumably he had too much respect for Fontana to change her story so drastically (ultimately his only changes were a couple bits of foreshadowing like the chrysalis line). Though they really should have gotten a better actress to let us want to see her succeed and be happy.

Cradok said...

Back when VHS was a thing, B5 was released two episodes a tape, eleven tapes a season. However, since season 1 had to include the pilot, there were two tapes with an unheard-of three episodes. One was the next three episodes - Voice in the Wilderness 1 & 2, and Babylon Squared - and the other was the previous two and this. Grail, Eyes, Legacies. Such a terrible tape...

LiamKav said...

There's a hell of a quality difference between those two tapes...

(I acutally own every UK VHS release of seasons 2-5, and about half of season 1. I keep meaning to did my old video player out of the loft and look at some of them, to see if the improved quality of the non-SFX scenes on the DVDs come at the cost of consistency with SFX stuff.)

 

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