Babylon 5 #52: Exogenesis

"Where I come from, one man from three leaves two." "Where I come from is a far more interesting place."
IN THIS ONE... Spine parasites are taking over Marcus' lurker contacts. Ivanova gives Corwin a loyalty test.

REVIEW: After Confessions and Lamentations, I was open to B5's next "medical mystery", but the title "Exogensis" conjured up memories of Voyager's technobabble titles. The end product is neither. It isn't an important or particularly emotional episode like C&L, but it's isn't absurd pablum like a Voyager ep. And though it's a Doc Franklin story, it teams him up with Marcus to give the new character on the block his first meaty episode. Marcus almost had to team up with Franklin because everyone else gives him the cold shoulder. I suppose it's hard to trust when paranoia levels reach this kind of high. Garibaldi isn't particularly warm on the best day, but his rejection of Marcus' concerns seems a dangerous oversight. The Ranger is building a network of contacts, so their disappearances might be an attack on the conspiracy of light, no? Ivanova's cold shoulder can at least be attributed to her sensing (she did say she was mildly empathic) his attraction to her. Not sure how much Franklin really does know about her "type", but it might be a veiled allusion to her same-sex relationship with Talia. I suppose Marcus could by an irritant, a snob who quotes Shakespeare to people he knows don't get the reference, and an outsider to Earthforce who nevertheless won't shut up (which is a sign that he doesn't know he has to earn his place in a social group). He comes on too strong. If he worms his way into the hearts of the cast and the fans, it'll be because he's a super-competent badass. He gets some good moments, trampling over Franklin's directives and breaking out of the Vindrizi cell (really liked how the links work and don't work too, logical).

The Vindrizi plot is standard SF fare, which makes it disappointing, even if it doesn't take the most obvious route. Gross spine parasites taking people over is the cliché, but as it turns out, they're not necessarily bad guys. They're the living memory of the universe, surviving through the dregs of humanoid races, experiencing the whole of Creation so nothing will ever be truly lost. They even get their hosts' authorization, and heal their ailments. Obviously, Franklin decides to help them, he's that kind of guy, but not stupidly. His conditions make sense. But while this gives the story a definite twist, it's still disposable, marginal to the greater story.

If the conspirators had to accept Marcus on Delenn's word, they're a little more skittish about doing the same to Corwin, a long-standing member of the C&C crew. He looks like a good kid, and has just been promoted (which I guess comes with higher clearance or at least, responsibilities that might make him notice the command staff's strange behavior), but could he be trusted with the big secret? Ivanova is assigned to gauge his loyalty, which is an excuse for JMS to riff on his own "oh crap, s/he thinks it's a date" moment with Claudia Christian (often mentioned in these reviews' comments) for all the LOLs (I guess). So Corwin thinks it's a date and blows a week's pay on flowers, gets to drink half a cup of contraband coffee before getting thrown out, and is judged too loyal to Earthforce to be trusted. No belly laughs, but it's nice to see one of the "little people" featured a bit more heavily. Knowing he's a good-hearted antagonist will keep him on our radar, and that's a good thing.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The Vindrizi are symbiotes, not parasites? And they use humanoid bodies to make themselves immortal? Is one of them called Dax?

- It's not a bad one-off, but it IS a fairly traditional one-off.


Madeley said...

I used to think the Corwin scenes were a nice bit of comic relief, but since learning they're taken from JMS's actual behaviour, they just skeeve me out a bit.

Ryan Lohner said...

Grey 17 is Missing gets all the attention, but to me this is unquestionably the show's worst episode. And there's a very good reason for that: the union negotiations I talked about before came when JMS was right in the middle of writing it, and he then had to focus so much on saving the whole show that he found he'd completely forgotten how he was going to end the story when he got back to it. Hence we have a quite promising first half (including a pretty cool tease for the next episode when Marcus asks about the package he ordered) which then completely falls apart.

Last time I talked about Borg Syndrome, and here the story's big flaw is what I like to call Others Syndrome, after the group from Lost. For those who haven't seen the show, this is when a person or group does everything they possibly can to appear evil, refusing to explain themselves at every turn, and yet we're supposed to be ashamed that we mistrusted them when their true motives emerge. Hence we get the Vindrizi, who have to realize by now that their appearance will make people uneasy and they should make their intentions clear right away, yet what they do is put Marcus and Franklin in a cage and threaten to kill them, so that it's entirely their own fault that the heroes aren't too inclined to trust them when they finally come clean. Duncan's actor also deserves some of the blame, as he seems utterly incapable of talking without a huge grin on his face, which makes him look pretty darn shady when he's talking about killing Marcus if he has to.

Matthew and Jackie are named after two fans who won a contest. Imagine their joy when their pseudo-cameo happened in this piece of crap.

The one saving grace is the Corwin story. It's a quite believable problem for the heroes, and while Corwin's role here could have easily led to annoying hammy farce acting, Joshua Cox goes just far enough with it to be funny without crossing the line.

Anonymous said...

This may be the worst episode, but it's by no means the worst example of Others Syndrome. Give it six episodes.

LiamKav said...

I have no idea about the rank pins on Babylon 5, so can someone tell me if there's a visual difference between Lieutenant JG and full Lieutenant? The way the opening shot is done is implies that the big leather stripe is part of the promotion, but as far as I can tell Corwin's been wearing that since the start of season 3. Did he get a promotion after Fall of Night? Were the episodes mixed up? Or does the leather stipe mean something different?

LiamKav said...

Regarding the "Others Syndrome", even the production is complicit in this. We never see them asking permission, creepy music is played when they take people over... this isn't a case of "don't judge on appearances", it's a case of "don't judge on appearances, sound, music, or any other shorthands that TV shows use to tell you that someone is evil". Even the bit where Marcus feels guilty because Duncan can't take on another symbiotes is unfair. They didn't tell Marcus that's what they were doing, didn't say that it was a one way thing... None of it is his fault.

Anyway, Marcus, there's someone who's had a complete personality switch from his first appearance. The guy who originally said "I don't usually speak unless I have something to say" is now the guy who won't shut up, who's constantly dropping references and who's will go around anyone and anything to get what he wants while sporting a cheeky grin on his face. I'm not complaining as he's vastly more entertaining this way (and just this side of annoying), but it's a fairly big change.

Susan's "questioning" of Corwin is a bit sloppy. She's talking in vague terms when there are better, more concrete examples she could be using. Why not ask him if he's seen the assassination video. See why he hasn't joined Nightwatch. Ask for his opinion on the shops being closed under the charges of sedition. A wet behind the ears junior officer saying that he wants to do what's best for Earth doesn't really tell you anything. In a lot of other sitatuations she could end up agreeing with him. Especially since she turns out to be wrong.

And speaking of the assassination video, there's a really weird lack of follow up with that. The quest to find proof of Clark's involvement in the assassination was one of the driving aims of the last year or so. They suddenly get the proof, it's broadcast live to the whole galaxy, and then... nothing. Either Clark should have been immediatly kicked out (or at least suspended until the investigation was over), or we should have gone straight to "Point of No Return". As it is, things have just carried on for the past two weeks as they were before hand.

Finally, something I noticed a few episodes ago when they changed the end music... I love the season 3 music. It's big, dramatic, full of rising tension and aprehension, and it's absolutely inappropriate for cute endings like this. Oh look, Marcus thinks that Ivanova is giving him some flowers. Isn't that cute and funny and DUN DA DAAAAA BASS DRUMS DISCHORDS!


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