Babylon 5 #35: Acts of Sacrifice

"Well you could put a bag over his head and do it for Babylon 5!"
IN THIS ONE... The escalating Narn-Centauri War has repercussions for Babylon 5, and Ivanova might have to have sex with an alien.

REVIEW: As the Centauri-Narn conflict heats up, tensions naturally rise on the station, and no matter who's on top at the moment (the Centauri), both G'Kar and Londo feel isolated. Katsulas plays wounded like nobody else, and the episode would be worth watching for his performance alone. He lived through the occupation and the horrors of war/rebellion, and has been passionate about obtaining reparations. He's incredibly patriotic and yes, selfless, a traits shared by at least some of his people, going by the initial "act of sacrifice" we witness. He screams at the injustice, and everyone sees that injustice. He just can't get other governments to officially lend aid to his people, no matter how hard he tries. His despair is palpable and moving. His own sacrifice is one of face, accepting the best deal he can get, and swallowing his pride when someone like Delenn points out the Narn are just as genocidal as the Centauri, no matter who fired the first shot in this particular conflict. He must get his people under control before the conflict destroys B5's neutrality and they all get evicted, and that comes at a price too. He's the old man the youngsters don't want to obey, at least until he responds to the implicit challenge with violence.

Now look at Londo and his selfishness. His troubles are comparatively silly. Everyone's trying to curry favor with him now that he's a big shot. Aww. Garibaldi shuns him and he can't get anyone to have a drink with him even if he's now paying. Sad. And yet, his isolation is no less real than G'Kar's. But it's a winner's loneliness, we're not as sympathetic to it. Though the murder of a Centauri aboard the station could have started a riot, Londo chooses to more or less let it go. The guy who died was a jerk (we saw evidence of this) and apparently held no political power whatsoever, so it doesn't take much largesse to simply require the killer's expulsion and a somewhat humiliating sale of his belongings profiting the Centauri cause. The favor does earn him a little peace and quiet, and a friend in Garibaldi again. Whatever Londo does, he does for Londo. Make no mistake.

Everyone's trying to get a coalition going in this episode. G'Kar gains the use of Franklin's underground railroad to get his civilians our of harm's way, but no political power to broker a peace with. Londo's coalition is of a personal nature; he's well set up with the Shadows and the Centauri government on the macro scale anyway. And then there's Sheridan, who gives Ivanova the task of bringing a new alien species on board with Earth - the Lumati. Why does she get all the comedy-diplomacy assignments? Taken at face value, it's a case of just who we're willing to get in bed with (that turn of phrase will become important in a moment), because they're holier-than-thou a-holes who are fiercely non-interventionist because evolution should dictate who wins and who loses. They have no empathy or compassion. In one of the show's most leftist commentaries yet, the Lumati douchebag Correlilmurzon thinks poverty (i.e. how the Lurkers live down below) is a wonderful innovation to filter one's gene pool of unwanted, weaker elements. And that creates the common ground he needs to see humans as equals worthy of his voice, presence and alliance. We're monsters. Now all that needs to be done to cement this deal is for Correlilmurzon and Ivanova to have sex. All of the LOLs, I guess. Strange bedfellows taken literally, the Lumati are a completely disreputable race, but Ivanova has a plan. She'll convince Correlilmurzon to have sex the human way, then invent a little dance accompanied by orgasmic sounds and tell him it's done. The dance in question is a parody of a bad relationship, and somewhat amusing, though it seems a little uncomfortable for Claudia Christian. It's trying too hard to get laughs, I think. What we're going to do with non-interventionist allies anyway, I don't know.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - You could jettison Ivanova's A-plot, but the G'Kar/Londo stuff is rather brilliant.


Anonymous said...

JMS trying to be funny is the REAL war crime in this episode.

Siskoid said...

Hahaha. It's why I dread thinking I might one day read his Inferior 5 issue of Brave & the Bold.

Anonymous said...

If it helps, I read it, and can tell you it's not as bad as it could be. He's having too much fun with wibbly-wobbliness to really lay into the joke-smithing.

Now Marv Wolfman ... there's some truly cringe-inducing attempts at humor.

Siskoid said...

It's not given to everyone.

Ryan Lohner said...

Some interesting guest cast here. Most recognizable is Glenn Morshower from 24 as the general who refuses to help the Narns, and then there's Ian Abercrombie, Mr. Pitt from Seinfeld, as the Lumati ambassador. His spokesman is Paul Williams, a very popular singer in the '70s whose star has waned considerably since then (he's now probably best known for his work with the Muppets, including writing their signature song The Rainbow Connection).

The Lumati were inspired by a report JMS happened to catch late at night where a female reporter was interviewing an Islamic leader. He clearly understood English as he didn't need her questions to be translated, but still insisted on giving his responses through an interpreter as he considered it beneath his dignity to treat a woman as an equal. And despite Star Trek's portrayal of the Prime Directive not having quite sunk to the levels it's often mocked for, their philosophy of "let a child die because evolution demands it" works quite nicely as a criticism of the mindset that would one day give us the Enterprise episode Dear Doctor and its implicit advocacy of genocide.

The human style sex scene is one of those things that's entirely dependent on the skill of the actor regarding whether it works, and personally I think Claudia nails it. Though she does leave out the jumping jacks mentioned in the script for some reason.

I also have to make note of one of Andrea Katsulas' finest acting moments in his whole career, where as the script describes it, "G'Kar doesn't know whether to laugh or cry, and so he does both." Because he knows full well that the Narns have made their own bed with their overly belligerent response to just about anything in the wake of the Centauri occupation, and this really is the best he can hope for.

Anonymous said...

"a criticism of the mindset that would one day give us the Enterprise episode Dear Doctor and its implicit advocacy of genocide"

I didn't take it as advocacy of genocide; the dilemma was, one species or the other was going to prosper depending on whether the Doctor helped the more advanced species (which had already started its natural decline). Genocide is all about actively destroying a people, and nothing even close to that was on the Doctor's or Archer's mind, only that they didn't feel they had the power, the right, or the knowledge to take control of that planet's evolution.

Ryan Lohner said...

The trouble is, the whole "dilemma" was predicated on the idea that there is a predestined pattern to the universe, down to species naturally evolving into extinction, when the entire idea behind evolution is that it AVOIDS extinction. It's the exact same fallacy that gave us the Voyager episode Threshold, and it's pretty funny that Braga grew to hate that episode so much, yet then did the exact same thing, and worse.

Siskoid said...

While this is perhaps a discussion better had on my review of Dear Doctor, I'll try and spin it back to B5.

In no way do I excuse Braga's (or any Trek of B5 writer's) poor grasp of science, but I will say this: These are fictional worlds where fate/destiny seems to be an actual force. If it is in the lives of the characters we follow (bolstered by ESP/prophecy or time travel, if you need some kind of quantum physics explanation for it), then it also is in the normal course of evolution, planetary development etc. The very idea of fiction means these worlds are more ordered, less random, than our own.

So if Sinclair and Sheridan have very real destinies, then the formation of Earth and the evolution of humans were just as preordained. Dear Doctor's argument runs that way (but Threshold is inexcusable any way one looks at it).

Anonymous said...

Species compete for limited resources; some thrive, others do not. Some species rely on technology to make themselves strong and grow weak; those species will fall.

It is the way of the Shadows.

Madeley said...

I think that fate/destiny are a lot more wibbly-wobbly in B5, in the Terminator sense of there being no fate but what the characters make themselves.

Prophecy is obviously a working thing in the B5 universe, but given JMS's preference of having more than one explanation for any given phenomenon, it could either be seen as magical destiny, perhaps ordained by a supreme being or beings, or the Living Universe of Minbari faith, or a psychic power tied in some way to whatever mechanism allows for B4 to experience actual time travel.

JMS has always been careful to say, and the text of the show bears this out, that there are alternative futures that have been avoided specifically by the actions of the characters, which I think argues against the idea of manifest destiny existing in this particular universe. One of the core themes of B5 is an individual's ability to effect the course of history due to their choices.

Siskoid said...

Right. The universe tends to abhor a paradox (just like it does a vacuum). It only looks like predestination.

LiamKav said...

I feel the need to point out that as of this episode, Londo has a new jacket. It's darker and a bit smarter, which ties in with where his character is going.

Also, the scene where he's sat, alone, waiting for Mr Garibaldiis pretty sad and a bit pathetic. I think it also speaks to his character that he never considers asking Vir.

LiamKav said...

JMS: " As it happens, I made it a point to be on-set the day we shot what we ended up calling "the Ivanova dance." Wanted to make sure it was done correctly."

I don't know how well this is known, but at some point during season three JMS took Claudia Christian out on a date (which she didn't realise until after). I believe he was still married during season two. I'll just leave that quote there, and the thought that he wrote a scene that required Ivanova to do a humorous dance while making sex noises.


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