Babylon 5 #78: Lines of Communication

"Touch passion when it comes your way, Stephen. It's rare enough as it is. Don't walk away when it calls you by name."
IN THIS ONE... Delenn meets and fights the Shadow agents called the Drahk. Sheridan sets an anti-propaganda program in motion. Franklin and Number One hook up.

REVIEW: So because Earth is heading for civil war, does that mean everyone else has to as well? Sheesh. It's happening on Minbar, where they never did fix that broken Grey Council, and the warrior caste is expelling other Minbari from the cities and letting them die in the frozen wastes. In desperation, the religious caste has turned to unsavory allies from Z'ha'dum. I guess poor, misled Forell isn't the kind of guy who judges Necronomicons by their cover, but the Drakh are evil-looking mo-fos. In the B5 universe, that probably counts for something. Also, they're ruthless raiders, which isn't a nice profession to be in. They do look cool, and one wonders if they've always been out of phase with the universe, or if the Shadows called them up from some dark pit, or what. Their tiger-striped ships are likewise memorable. Forell will, of course, pay for his treacherous foolishness, and goes the way of most B5 guest-stars by the end of the episode. But for Delenn, it means it's her turn to take a sabbatical from the station so she can sort out some other corner of the larger universe. Her farewell speech seems to go on and on, with JMS making points he's made before, so things get a little dull at the end there.

It is still very much Delenn's episode, giving her every chance to be a badass. She won't be protected by Sheridan, and stares down Shadow agents with aplomb, but Lines of Communication is intent on showing how good a ship captain she is. She proposes innovative (and poetic-sounding) strategies and gives cool orders like "End this" and "Be faster". For all her cryptic wisdom and pixie dust, she's a fierce opponent and you don't want to get in her way. I did raise an eyebrow at the fact the White Star's autopilot once again saved the day - computers are better than pilots is what we're told - but the action sequences do work.

Moving to Mars, Franklin and Marcus deliver Sheridan's message to the Mars resistance - though soon they might be able to get it direct from the B5 channel and Ivanova's anti-propaganda news show - and some ad libs besides. Franklin ingratiates himself further with Number One by putting words in Sheridan's mouth that suit her own agenda (he'd agree, rogue elements in the cell killing civilians should be a big no-no), and soon enough, we go from romance teased to romance consummated. Franklin is reticent, but Marcus makes a speech I quite like (quote above) and to which I respond to. You know, if I think Marcus is at times irritating, I think it may be because there's a lot of him in me: There's wisdom in his words, but you need to endure non-stop sarcastic humor, and of course, the whole unrequited lovelorn bit which fits me to a tee. So when I say I don't like him very much, it's the self-loathing talking. I don't much like the punchline to the episode though. JMS does love to make his characters moan cliché or stupid lines during sex while someone sits outside, doesn't he? We JUST had Sheridan's best-forgotten "woo-hoo", and here Marcus has to sit through Number One's "Oh Steven". It's the same joke twice and I didn't think it was funny the first time. Voyeur fixation?

- The ending loses focus, but lots of cool action, dialog and eye candy before it belly-flops.


Madeley said...

Oh boy, no spoilers but you've just reminded me a scene at the end of this series and christ are you right about the voyeur fixation.

Siskoid said...

I guess we may have dodged a bullet when JMS didn't finish his Superman run. What with the super-senses and all.

Ryan Lohner said...

JMS was never satisfied with the Drakh; a later episode will describe them as "a shadow of a Shadow," which is a bit on the nose in a meta sense. It also didn't help that the costume here looked terribly fake, which they tried to cover with the blurring effect. It doesn't really help, and the only result is making the damn thing literally painful to look at. Thank god this particular technique never comes up again, as I don't think my rods and cones could have taken much more. At least their ships are awesome.

Other than that the episode works very well. Delenn gets to be the action hero and Mira Furlan is clearly loving every second of it (guess she got over her reticence about this kind of thing from Atonement), and the Mars storyline nicely makes the previous episode worth sitting through. It also subtly adds to the Garibaldi storyline; last episode he accused Sheridan of building a cult of personality around himself, and what do Marcus and Franklin's statements about Sheridan sound like? JMS' big intent with this story was that even with us knowing Garibaldi is being pushed to do whatever he's up to, we can still understand why he might think he's doing the right thing, and that's where stuff like this comes in.

Madeley said...

Was there ever an explanation for whatever that blurred/phasing effect was meant to be? Or, for that matter, why some of the Drakh look like the picture above but others look more like a Drazi/Jem'Hadar crossbreed?

LondonKdS said...

It's not explicit, but some episodes of "Crusade" imply that the skull-faced Drakh are a "grunt" caste and the other type are leaders.

LiamKav said...

Sheridan watching ISN and getting wound up reminds me of people who read Fox News or the Daily Mail just to be annoyed. And by people, I mean me.

I love Number One, but there's still some sexism going on regarding her. "Is this how you treat all your former lovers?" Can you imagine that line being said if she wasn't a woman?

Everyone seems to know a lot about the capabilities of these Drakh ships. "Several seconds are all they will need to destroy us". "We're faster than them", etc. That's pretty impressive for a completely new race with new technology that Delenn's crew have never ever met. A new race that they manage to defeat pretty handily on their first encounter. I'm not expert, but I'm sure that on the big list of "how to make your new threat look really impressive", "have the good guys beat them on the first try" doesn't appear.

Was there ever an explanation for whatever that blurred/phasing effect was meant to be? Or, for that matter, why some of the Drakh look like the picture above but others look more like a Drazi/Jem'Hadar crossbreed?

Technically the guy featured in this episodes says that he is an "Emmissary. Speak for Drakh", so maybe he's not a full Drakh. The real world answer would be something like "well, that didn't work last time. Let's get Wayne Alexander and see if he can make a character out of nothing again", but we'll get to that in due time.

"Her farewell speech seems to go on and on, with JMS making points he's made before, so things get a little dull at the end there."

Did you know that humans build communities? It's true. That's what makes them unique. That that they build communities. It's what humans do. All the time. Build communities. Community building. All the time. Troy and Abed in the mooorrrning.

Siskoid said...

Yeah, like, what do other races build? Doesn't Minbar have cities and thus, communities? Whatever.

LiamKav said...

The Centauri build societies, the Narn build neighborhoods, the Drazi build collonies, and the Minbari just become close, as we have become close.

(To be slightly fair, when originally aired there would have been months and years between every uttering of community, rather than weeks. It wasn't designed to be watched daily.)


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