Babylon 5 #106: And All my Dreams, Torn Asunder

"Now we gave you a promise, and we are bound by that promise, and damn you for asking for it! And damn me for agreeing to it! And damn us all to hell, because that is exactly where we are going! We talked about peace. You didn't want peace! We talked about cooperation. You didn't want cooperation! You want war! Is that it? You want a war? Well, you've got a war!"
IN THIS ONE... War breaks out between the Alliance and the Centauri.

REVIEW: Some interesting direction makes the first act of the episode work quite well despite it being a recap of things we already know. Props to director Goran Gajic for intercutting the "courtroom drama" with Londo waiting for the inevitable then. Gajic also seems to have an interest is visual symbols, drawing attention to Sheridan's other shoe dropping - as the full force of what's about to happen hits him - and the candle snuffing itself out, only later revealed in text as the symbol of life in Minbari culture. I also like how drunken Garibaldi is often perceived through the distortion of his favorite glass. Gajic also gets some strong, emotional performances from his players - Delenn's tearful praying, Sheridan losing his cool when it becomes obvious his dream is not shared by the majority of Alliance members, and the sweet farewell between G'Kar and Delenn. Less successful, though in its way quite effective, is the arrogant Centauri Minister, smiling whenever he talks of war or blocks someone's access to others. Infuriating, which is the point, but perhaps a little one-dimensional.

With the forces controlling Centauri Prime pushing a war-like agenda, the situation quickly escalates from embargo to hostility to open war. It's uncertain if Sheridan's plan would have worked even if Garibaldi hadn't been sleeping at the switch - things seem a little too instantaneous for that and the firing starts long before reinforcements could ever have hoped to arrive - but when you have a single guy handling intelligence, and that guy has no staff, and that guy is going through a personal crisis, well. You'd think the Alliance would have more resources than the STATION has been shown to have (like it's own C&C, perhaps using the war room), but no, Garibaldi is listening to Ranger calls alone in his room, with no back-up. A contrivance to make his screw-up even more massive. Hopefully Zack WILL say something. The episode gives him one of his strongest scenes to date, refusing to take Garibaldi's crap and calling him on his alcoholism. So whatever Garibaldi says, at least this shows JMS knows what's what and doesn't believe his own character's bull.

In many ways, this is an episode about burning one's bridges. Londo is isolated from the Council, then the Alliance, then the station, and finally the Centauri court, sharing a cell with G'Kar over security matters. G'Kar is right to say Londo may be the only man who can stop this war, but that's exactly why enemy agents have to freeze him out. Garibaldi, through his actions and mistakes, is burning his own connection to Sheridan and the rest of Babylon 5. They just haven't dropped the torch on it yet. Or the candle.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Despite its contrivances, the episode features some strong acting moments. We're starting to feel the end here, or else characters leaving the station as they so often have before would not require such gravitas.


LiamKav said...

The thing that annoys me about Garibaldi's screw up is that it has nothing to do with his drinking. Even non-alcoholics have to go to sleep sometimes. What about if the message came through then? Or while he was having a poo?

You could give him a team, them give him the information, and then have Garibaldi stop to have a drink before he delivers the message because it's such a big deal. He'd still cock up due to his drinking, but in a less stupid way.

Ryan Lohner said...

The episode is directed by Mira Furlan's husband, who JMS had been trying to convince the WB execs to let him do it since the show started. And his success here let him build a quite tidy career for himself in America afterwards after being forced to flee his homeland. It's nice when the little guy can win one.

That final council scene was extremely hard on Boxleitner, as the cameras suffered various technical issues that forced him to do that furious speech over and over, hitting the same emotional high every time. By the end his throat was ragged and there were very few usable takes, though luckily one of the best did survive and is what we see, despite it being a bit out of focus, because no one wanted to ask Bruce to do it any more.

I mentioned before how I made a decision early on to abstain from alcohol entirely, not trusting myself to keep from abusing it. What I didn't say then was that I wasn't able to avoid addiction entirely. I won't go into specifics on my particular vice, except to say that I was forced to realize it just a year ago, and everything Garibaldi goes through here, being absolutely convinced you have it under control when you clearly don't and lashing out at anyone who tries to help, is rather painful to watch now as I went through the exact same thing. My first time watching, I lost a lot of sympathy for him during this story arc. Not now.

Siskoid said...

I've even had some of that behavior with comics, of all things, where after stopping cold turkey, I could not walk into a comic book store without feeling noxious. And that was just a psychological dependence.

LiamKav said...

It's not something that I really have any experience with (although I do get grumpy if I don't get my cup of tea when I need it). I guess it's just the presentation. As I said, Franklin's storyline was well built up over the course of two years. For Garibaldi, it struck me as "well, I've had my drinking problem under control for the entire show, but it's the final season and we haven't got much else to do so I might as well have a drink".

I wonder if it would have worked better coming at it from the opposite angle. He's got a fantastic new job. He's got the girl of his dreams. He's made up with all his friends. Everything is going great. So maybe he can now handle a drink. It's not a problem. The problems before were the other things in his life. Not the alcohol. So he can have one drink. And he's fine. So he has two. And he's fine. So he has three, then five, then ten...

LiamKav said...

Two things baffle me about this episode. One, why on earth is Sheridan putting on his slippers at the beginning of the episode? He's already showered. He should be getting dressed. Is this a reference to the famous phrase "when the other slipper drops"?

The other is that at no point does anyone seem curious as to WHY the Centauri would be doing this. I know that we're privy to more information thanthe characters, but why is no-one suspicious that the Centauri have launched a clandestine offensive against every other race in the galaxy for no apparent reason? It's not as if we have just come off a major war where the Centauri were used as pawns by another race, is it?

Actually, a third would be why does Franklin have to escort Vir through the station by himself? If they don't want to draw attention, maybe have a character who's job would be more suited to this, such as Lennier or Zack. And are they REALLY saying that Vir is safer walking through the station alone than surrounded by 30 security guards? (For that matter, why did Londo never get this sort of security when the Centauri were waging war 3 years ago?)

Checking the Lurkers Guide, a recurring thread is people asking JMS why Sheridan never mentions to Londo what he saw in "War Without End". JMS keeps responding that:

1. Sheridan doesn't quite know what a Keeper is.
2. Doesn't know when stuff happened.
3. Is worred about changing the timeline.

All of which is rubbish, because:

1. Surely Franklin would have given him a detailed report on the Keeper they found on Captain Jack and did a full autopsy on.
2. If he's not going to be suspicious when the Centauri are attacking other worlds without any apparent reason, when is he going to be suspicious?
3. He had no problem going to Z'ha'dum to try and change the future, so it's obviously not something that worried him.

LiamKav said...

My favourite bit in this episode... during the arguments in the council chambers Zack suddenly shouting "Right, everybody BACK OFF!" as if he's talking to a rioting mob. The Brakiri ambassador just looks at him and says "'Back off'?"


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