Babylon 5 #20: A Voice in the Wilderness (Part 2)

"Worst case of testosterone poisoning I've ever seen."
IN THIS ONE... Everyone wants the planet below Babylon 5, but only the right person can sit at its heart and prevent it from blowing up.

REVIEW: An aging Minbari looking for a new life and obsessed with self-sacrifice? A dying alien at the center of an ancient planet? I could have told you well before Part 1 ended that Part 2 would end with Draal taking over for that alien. And yet, JMS keeps making the point over and over through the episode. It's a little like how he keeps forcing Ivanova to make comments about her Russianness. What is she, Pavel Chekov? But that's predictability I can stomach. I'm far less enamored of Ron Canada's Captain Pierce, yet another warmonger who won't listen to reason. Earth may be obsessed with getting new technologies - our planet has a severe inferiority complex - but defying presidential orders, squabbling about jurisdiction, putting the lives of a quarter million people at risk, and inviting war with "shows of force" at a diplomatic outpost? Man should be court-martialed. Having Sinclair engage in saber-rattling is all quite entertaining, but antagonists with a single thought in their heads are deeply irritating, especially on a show that prides itself on its cast's complexity.

Though the planet below (Epsilon III) has been explored, its mystery continues to fascinate. What does it have to offer the future when we're ready for it? Apparently, even the last of the inhabitants weren't worthy of it; they were exiled for centuries until the planet's recent upheaval allowed them to find it again. What power does it hold when those exiles have nearly indestructible ships already, and those ships simply evaporate when exposed to Epsilon III's defenses? (Which means Draal's first act as the heart of the Machine is genocide, eech!) That'll hopefully be revealed later, though I get the definite sense JMS is setting up a literal deus ex machina we can't complain about because it won't come out of nowhere. We'll see. For now, the plot allows for some outer space action, and for Londo to find his inner hero. Delenn now owes him a favor for bringing his mad piloting skills to her action, but in a way, she's already paid it in full by lighting a joyful spark in him.

As for the Mars revolt subplot, it gives us some angry and impulsive Garibaldi scenes, until Sinclair finally uses his contacts to help his friend connect with his old flame Lise Hampton. She's alive, but it's too late for him to open his heart to her. She married since he left and is pregnant. A blow given his reasoning for waiting so long (and for an emergency) to call her - and I completely appreciate the psychology behind it - but more than that, it coyly hides the fact Lise would return in several episodes. Her appearance is innocuous, the wrap-up of a subplot on a down note, but it's a fake-out. That much I know.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Deep Space Nine is also sitting on top of an ancient looks-natural-but-is-artificial place that sometimes makes contact and considers him a chosen one.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Several good scenes and no doubt important to the overall arc, but Ron Canada is wasted in such an infuriating one-note part, and the ending was telegraphed more than an episode ago.


Ryan Lohner said...

First of all, I have to point out that it's now impossible to watch the "magic trick" scene without expecting a pencil to become involved. Thank you, Heath Ledger.

This two-parter was largely designed as a way to test the limits of the show's special effects. B5 was the first television series to make such heavy use of CGI, and the now primitive-looking work becomes a lot more impressive when you realize these people were working on their personal Amigas for the most part. By virtue of the show's five year plan, everyone knew there would be some huge battles coming up, and they needed to know if their current CG capabilities could handle them (this was even a couple years before Beast Wars, which was hampered in its early days by only being able to have a maximum of four characters onscreen at once). Luckily, it turned out they could.

That bit with Sinclair getting his comlink stuck in his jacket sleeve? It looks like an outtake that was left in, but in fact the moment comes right from the script, as a subtle realistic touch and something we can all relate to.

Very interesting that the guy who's now tacitly working with the Shadows is one of the people pegged as being capable of becoming the Great Machine's new host. As G'Kar said, no one on the show is exactly what they appear.

LiamKav said...

*Slight spoilers-ish* The Epsilon III situation is slightly messed up by the inter-season shenanigans causing WWE to be moved from series finale to where it ends up. If it was at the end of the series then we could happily ignore it for the next five years. Because it gets "activated" earlier, it means that they (the characters/JMS) keep having to come up with reasons why it's not used more often. They don't really succeed.

LiamKav said...

This is also the first time that we have a scene taking place on solid ground, and it's the first time any of the regulars leave the station in a way that isn't just a Starfury flight. The expansion of the B5 universe over time is a fascinating thing to watch.


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