Babylon 5 #30: Soul Mates

"The secret of our marriage's success is our lack of communication."
IN THIS ONE... Londo has a plan to rid himself of his pesky three wives, and Talia's ex-husband comes aboard hoping for reconciliation.

REVIEW: Of the three threads, the least interesting is the one the network chose to advertize. It concerns Talia's creepy ex-husband - I'm afraid that's the only note Keith Szarabajka ever hits as Matthew Stoner - coming to Babylon 5 to get back with her. Oh, and while he's there, putting a booby-trapped Centauri idol where a certain person can get it and try to kill Londo. Though Stoner is supposedly out of PsiCorps (what is it with Talia and her mentors, eh?) because he's lost his powers, he's actually their secret weapon and has the ability to manipulate minds (this is obvious from his first scene, not quite the reveal the show makes it out to be). Did PsiCorps or Bureau 13 sign off on Londo's attempted murder? Maybe. It's also possible Stoner does a lot of unscrupulous stuff on the side. Whatever. Though the plot nudges the Garibaldi/Talia friendship forward (his affection still seems unrequited) and showcases the man's intuitive qualities, there's not much more to it. If the acting had been stronger, it might have more resonance.

As so often happens, Londo steals the show. He's in very high spirits, even after his near-death experience, because his rise in Centauri politics has curried him favor from the Emperor, whose gift to Londo is a double-divorce from two of his wives. Hilarity ensues. Or at least, sharp wit. Londo clearly loves having the three of them compete for the single available spot. Who will he keep? Shrewish Timov? Hypocrite and social climber Daggair? Or sexy, treacherous gold digger Mariel? The resolution isn't surprising, but it is satisfying. He chooses Timov, not because she saved his life (I'm sure Doc Franklin respected her confidentiality), but because he can trust her. If she's unlikeable, it's because she's too honest. Her opposite number is Mariel who unbeknownst to Londo tried to kill him. It's suggested she's slept with G'Kar of all people, and several times too, though he wasn't her co-conspirator. All these scenes are cracking with witty dialogue, courtly insults flying. And check out that giant painting at Londo's Ascension party! I think it's of his ego.

Meanwhile, Ivanova, while relegated to a subplot, is settling into her new duties quite well. She's gone from officer-on-watch to diplomatic attachée, filling Sheridan in on various species' observances. Her big challenge in Soul Mates is helping Delenn with her new hair, as she discovers being human requires a rather different grooming regimen. Plenty of amusement there, and though we get some Minbari wisdom along the way (the thing about souls being reborn together seems like it'll be important later), it ends on a menstrual cycle joke. Joke? Or a sign that Delenn will one day have a child with a human? Sometimes, the humor on B5 chaffs against the serious tone, but with the fun of Londo's story taking up so much room, the subplot fits in fine.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: This episode was written by Peter David who, though he never scribed a Star Trek episode, wrote many Trek comics and novels, including the popular New Frontier series. And check out Mr. Homn (Carel Struycken) as an alien trader.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Londo and Delenn stories are fun, but the Talia/Garibaldi story is disappointingly obvious.

3 comments:

Ryan Lohner said...

This script had a particularly rocky development. JMS first met Peter David at a convention shortly before Babyon 5 began, and told him the first season would be completely written in-house, but he'd like David to do an episode for the second season if they got one. He jumped at the chance, having admired JMS' work for a while, but unfortunately he'd been writing Star Trek stories for so long that he had a very hard time shaking himself out of that mindset. Hence his first two drafts were puffy farces where Londo's wives arrived on the station, caused a few laughs, and then left with the status quo exactly where it had been at the start. Upon seeing this, JMS flatly turned him down.

Just one problem: David now felt like he had Pestilence, Famine, and Death in his head, berating him for screwing up their story. And so he went back to the drawing board, crafting a whole new story that would see Londo only keep one of them at the end, allowing for a natural competitiveness between them that offered plenty of meaty material. He then slipped the script to the studio claiming it was a proposal for the comic book tie-in, which JMS saw through in an instant but was still so impressed that he gave it the green light. Later, their mutual friend Harlan Ellison told David JMS had gone way too easy on him for this stunt, and while he would also have accepted the script, he would have let David squirm for a week with no word on how it had been received.

David also got to be an extra in the episode, talking to Lennier in the background at the Ascension party. Which also meant he got a front row seat to all the other extras grumbling about the idiot writer who was making them all do a scene without shoes. Andreas Katsulas was the only one who was spared, thanks to David not wanting to burden the prosthetics department with making Narn feet (though on that note, this is as good a place as any to point out that I love the occasional scenes of G'Kar in his robe, letting those guys go above and beyond in making up his chest).

Claudia Christian loved her and Delenn's C-plot, saying she was finally getting to act like a woman, but Mira Furlan really didn't. Not only is that her real hair that was put into such a frazzled state in their first scene, but she hated the "cramps" line, thinking it was a cheap and vulgar joke that the show should be above. And in fact that's exactly what it was, but David talked her into doing it by convincing her it was actually an important character piece implying she could have a child with a human. And then he was quite amused to see a lot of the fans pick up on that thought, even speculating that was the exact reason for her change.

The Stoner story is way less interesting than it probably should be (I have no idea why they gave the twist away so clearly in his first scene) but it's still neat seeing this early role from Keith Szarabajka with his raspy voice not quite as developed as it would be in later roles like Holtz from Angel and Stephens in The Dark Knight.

Peter David would later get to do more with Londo's wives in his Centauri Prime novel trilogy. Daggair is absent, but we get some quite interesting developments for Timov and especially Mariel. It's a shame they couldn't be used in the show more, but this was nice to see.

LiamKav said...

I quite like how Sheridan gives Talia a sympathetic ear when she's talking about how she had a quik marriage and divorce when she was younger. He keeps strangely quiet over any sort of similar situation he might have been in...

"I'll add it to the list of things you don't want anything to do with anymore... like PsyCorp..." Yeah, that works much better after "A Race Through Dark Places".

LiamKav said...

JMS: 'So for the most part it was little stuff; for example...Peter came up with, "Either I'm in hell or in medlab," to which I appended, "...either way, the decor needs work. Which is kind of the fun in getting an outside script; you can hear the first part of a line you'd never considered, and knowing the character, you can take it just a little further. '

I get what he's saying, but it's still coming across as "my show my show pay attention to meeeeee!"

 

Blog Archive

Category

5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zine