Babylon 5 #94: A View from the Gallery

 "A fellow of infinite jest. I knew him, Horatio." "It's Mack, actually. This is Bo."
IN THIS ONE... An attack on the station as seen through the eyes of two shlubs working maintenance.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: It's Lower Decks, just not as well done.

REVIEW: An episode from the point of view of "the little people"? It's been done, and far better than this. Lower Decks used old AND new characters; Gallery gives only two guys, both with a similar POV, that we've never met before. Lower Decks used its structure to create a puzzle for the audience to figure out; Gallery doesn't even respect its own conceit, taking us out into CG sequences the characters shouldn't be aware of. There was room for a twist, given that Lochley seems to know entirely too much about the unknown raiders' motives and information from the Gaim could have been interpreted as "the game", we could have had a drill the shlubs think is real, until revealed it's not. But once you Starfuries exploding, there's just no room for confusion. The episode's timing isn't great either. Lochley, the new character that needs some quick development, has been absent for the past two episodes (of 3 this season), and finally appears only to have the spotlight taken from her by Mack and Bo. I think they have more character development at this point than she's had!

When you're doing something like this, you need your guest characters to be extra interesting. Unfortunately, that comes and goes (mostly goes). As far as comic double acts go, JMS isn't exactly Bob Holmes. Nor Shakespeare, though he tries very hard to make us think of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, especially with yet more gratuitous Hamlet quotes from Byron (and I though Marcus was annoying!). As "floaters" (double meaning?), Mack and Bo get to visit every set and meet/overhear every character, and while we do learn some worthwhile things, the two guys tend to irritatingly act as the author's mouthpiece. The characters, of the type you'd usually see as extras in the background, don't really know what their tasks are for, and that's mildly amusing meta-text (only mildly, it's also stupidly unrealistic). But there are also some real eye-rolling moments, including a discussion of rumors about Ivanova's departure (cringe-inducing commentary on Claudia Christian's) and JMS having Mack say White Stars look liked plucked chickens, which is a crappy thing to air about your CG guys' work, and if you think it's a flaw in the program, DON'T ATTRACT ATTENTION TO IT, JOE!

There are still some good things. The secret origin of Doc Franklin is a worthy speech (please stand there and blink, Bo) and his last, silent scene is a good reminder of the toll represented by all those dead unnamed characters, just like Mack and Bo used to be. The married joke directed at G'Kar and Londo. Delenn remembering their names and the romantic feelings she evokes in them. JMS uses the two techs to answer some commonly asked (probably) questions, like who cleans up all the debris after a battle, though the way the telepaths' powers are being presented - as varied as any random team of X-Men - is a little more questionable. Bo, at least, becomes an endearing character, feeling it when pilots die out in space, and perhaps had that ambition once. Byron allows him to telepathically experience the battle, which fills him with both joy and sadness. When Mack gets sincere or philosophical, I don't quite buy it. The good adds a grace note to something that's otherwise a mess. Garibaldi screwing up the intel... I don't know how he's still employed. The raiders' giant red helmets somehow evoke Monty Python and the Holy Grail (though they're really stolen from the Micronauts). The scene where Mack and Bo crawl under laser fire because Zack doesn't appreciate their help is just embarrassing. And what the hell is with Lochley thinking the President and Delenn are safer in a life pod, in space, during a battle, than they would be at the core of a giant station? Delenn makes the point later, which makes the other scenes even more absurd coming from career officers.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low
- Only JUST Medium-Low, mostly thanks to the soulful Bo. Much of this is crass, irrelevant or annoying.

10 comments:

Madeley said...

Is this the episode where they explain how the communicator links they wear stick to the back of everyone's hands? I remember quite enjoying how they waited until the final series to explain something that's been ubiquitous since Midnight on the Firing Line.

Siskoid said...

No that was some comment Garibaldi made in Season 4.

LondonKdS said...

There is no way that any realistic maintenance guys would be as positive and worshipful about the Great Leaders as these ones are. Even in an actual dictatorship.

LondonKdS said...

We are way past the era of "By Any Means Necessary".

Ryan Lohner said...

The guy we truly have to thank for this episode is writer, story editor, and professional asshole Harlan Ellison. Yeah, as if playing that annoying computer wasn't enough. As someone with a complete affinity for "the little guy" over authority figures, he'd been pestering JMS to do an episode like this since the series began, and with a desperate need of space to fill before he could get to the real meat of the end of the Londo/G'Kar story, JMS crapped this one out. And in fact, Mack is directly based on Ellison. The man's own verdict was "These guys should have their own show."

Along with all the other flaws already mentioned, a major one (and JMS himself admits to this) is Mack's "stamp of approval" to Lochley. JMS started the season using the exact same strategy he did with Sheridan, having the other characters be just as suspicious of this new person as the audience would be to ease us into accepting her rather than shoving her down our throats. So it's anyone's guess why he completely abandons that here, and ends up giving the impression that the real point of the episode is to shove Lochley down our throats and scream at us "YOU WILL LOVE THIS PERSON!"

One footnote to this that I forgot to mention last time: the real reason Lochley wasn't in the last episode, where she could have gotten some great development that would help this go down easier, is that the rushed production of this season meant the role hadn't been cast yet when it was filmed.

Much like how His Girl Friday went from a two hour script to an 80 minute movie, Mack and Bo's actors got all their lines and interactions down so firmly that their scenes ended up filling significantly less time than intended, meaning an extra sequence had to be written to fill the episode out. And since the amount of characters who could be written about with this setup were rather limited, we got the scene with Byron, which is actually my favorite of all of his appearances and I wish he'd been written more like this all the time instead of...well, you'll see.

LiamKav said...

;We are way past the era of "By Any Means Necessary".'

And how. That episode was all about how everyone is important, about everyone having their own agenda's, and about how the little guys are real people with their own motivations, which don't always align with those at the top but that should still be respected. AVFTG is almost the exact opposite. Here's these two working-class schulbs. They don't know what their equipment does! They don't want to make difficult decisions so they're glad that there are these Great People who can do this sort of thing for them so that they don't have to think. They want us to know that Lochley is okay in their book and so should be in ours goddamnit.

Regaring Lochley, and comparing her to Ezri Dax or even Sheridan himself, there's a couple of big differences between the first two and the latter. Firstly, Sheridan was the lead, so we were going to be forced to get to know him more than if he was a secondary character. And second, when Sheridan was introduced it was only the second season. The story was still unfolding. Sheridan could be integrated into that story and made to feel a part of it. When you introduce someone in the final season, it's always going to feel a bit more shoehorned in. "I've only got 20 odd more episodes with these characters that I love, and I don't want to waste any of it getting to know this new character who won't be here next year because the show is cancelled". There's a balance with making the new character similar enough to the one they are replacing that they can still fit in to the overall structure whilst also making them different enough to be interesting, and I usually don't care because I want to see Bashir/O'Brien or Londo and G'Kar.

(A similar thing happens with Worf, where he fluctuates between being shoved down our throats and having nothing to do at the beginning of season 4. But that was still early enough that they could eventually figure him out, plus he was a character that we already knew. I dunno. Maybe the whole Lochley situation would have worked better if they could have somehow used someone like Number One.)

Ryan Lohner said...

And don't forget Seven of Nine. The entire first half of Voyager season 4 feels like the writers saying "Look at our cool new toy!"

Anonymous said...

"YOU WILL LOVE THIS PERSON!"

The Other Side of the Wormhole: The Outrageous Okana.

I could have liked this episode, it could have been fun. It should have been fun. I cannot believe it failed to be fun.

Paula R. Stiles said...

What LondonKdS said, times a gazillion. I paid room and board working trades/maintenance jobs through college and grad school. If there's anybody in an institution more cynical about its leaders and more aware of how it works/where the rotting bodies are buried than the people whose job it is to clean up its garbage, I can't think of 'em.

These guys wouldn't like Lochley. They wouldn't like Sheridan. They probably *really* wouldn't like Delenn because she's a snooty alien from some weird planet that just dragged Earth into a destructive war (I liked Delenn, but come on). And they'd almost certainly be ex-military on a station like that, smart enough *not* to go wandering around in front of an open window (the wrong gravitation vectors, they hurt!) in the middle of a battle.

Even when I saw this episode on first run, I wanted to slap both JMS and Ellison for being such condescending pricks.

Siskoid said...

Throw the little people a bone and they just might throw it back! ;)

 

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