Babylon 5 #96: Strange Relations

"I'm caught in a web of my own good intentions." "Well, the road to hell is paved with them, sir." "know. But why does it have to go through this office?"
IN THIS ONE... Lochley is revealed to have been married to Sheridan for three months a long time ago. Bester comes aboard to round up rogue telepaths. There are security problems with taking Londo back to Centauri Prime.

REVIEW: I understand how gossip would undermine her authority, but I find it rather hard to believe something like the President of the Alliance assigning a former spouse - which would be a matter of public record - to Babylon 5 wouldn't be plastered all over the news. ISN fail! It's not even a secret worth keeping from a guy like Garibaldi, or from Delenn initially, so the whole subplot feels contrived. But then there's a lot about Lochley that feels contrived. There's the fact Sheridan could have said "my second wife" about Anna, but never did. There's her by-the-book attitude, which is almost robotically calibrated so that she can't break any rule, so she can be an antagonist to characters of longer standing (and yet, you want us to like her and not resent her, Joe?). Truth be told, despite all this, I do like her. She gets some good barbs in, puts Garibaldi in his place (for longer than required), knows what's what when it comes to Bester but doesn't come with the same baggage everyone else does, and pulls a Sinclair at the end by loopholing the PsiCops. She'll follow any rule to the letter, see, even a rule that's just been written. At her urging. That's a good solution, and shows she can at least think outside the box, if not exactly act outside of it.

The telepath story proceeds apace, with a definite romantic direction for Lyta and Byron - the only Marcus-like blowhard in a colony of mutes, apparently, though they can sing like the filthy hippies they are. Frankly, I'm more interested in finding out if there's a personal connection between Bester and Byron, as they seem to know each other, and Bester is extra creepy about bringing blondie in. Not so long ago, Bryon was psycho-analyzing Lyta and telling her she was empty vessel for others, not her own person, so trying to lure her into a relationship where she's subservient to him could be seen in a negative light (not that he's doing that exactly); but now he calls her a resilient willow. I guess that's the other side of the coin. (Not sure if JMS is tapping into the same symbology, but in Tarot terms, Lyta's sign would be the Wheel of Fortune, on the one hand incapable of taking control of her own life, but on the other, having the ability to go with the flow with the least resistance - the season does have a Wheel in its title. Of all the characters of destiny on this show, she's probably the one whose fate is least in her control, the one we'll least see coming.)

Speaking of destiny, Londo is having the hardest time getting off the station to take his place on Centauri Prime's throne. All the ships going there get blown up. It's an odd subplot, because it seems really important, but gets glossed over. It's more or less a reason to show CG sequences in an interior episode. It doesn't help that Londo doesn't seem to mind, since what's waiting for him on Centauri (his destiny and the dreams of his death) fill him with dread. To put another piece of the puzzle in place, G'Kar, looking to contribute more to the Alliance, will accompany him as bodyguard and as a symbol of the Alliance healing the deep wounds between their two peoples. Well, we want these two guys together, if not on the station then elsewhere, so this is good, even if a lot of Season 5 seems to be focused on just moving the pieces to where we know they should be by the already seen end.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Not a bad episode. If things fall a little flat, it's perhaps because there are so few surprises left, and the ones there are don't feel natural.


Ryan Lohner said...

It didn't surprise me at all to learn that the Sheridan Lochley marriage was invented at the last minute when JMS became desperate for some interesting aspect for the fans to grab onto besides her just being a "fake Ivanova." In fact, the original script for the season premiere has Sheridan saying it's good to meet her. But like I said last time, it's a dynamic that's particularly unwelcome in throwing something new into the show's final season where everyone has to be focused on wrapping up the whole damn story.

Now that the Lyta/Byron romance has become clear, I can talk a bit more about it. The original idea was that he would make advances on Ivanova, who in turn, with the specter of what she could have had with Marcus in mind, would respond to them more than she might have otherwise. And then it would eventually turn out that Byron was utterly the wrong person for her. It might have had some interesting moments (for one thing, I can't imagine Ivanova would be nearly as accepting as Lyta of his "Don't sit down because I ordered you" bullshit), and as an extra plus, it would have been over by now. But losing his notes on everything else he had planned forced JMS to stretch the story out beyond any interest it could really hold, and the result was making Byron easily the show's most hated character.

LiamKav said...

Sometimes, I think season 5 suffers from not realising that it's the last season. Take the conversation with Zack and Mollari in the teaser. Londo says "I don't know where and I don't know how, but this is where it begins to go badly wrong, for all of us". A line like that would have been fine back in season 1 or 2 when we were still in forshadowing mode, but now? All I think is "worse than when you got into a devil's pact with the Shadows? Worse than when you had the emperor assassinated? Worse than when you bombed the Narn homeworld?" Follow that up with "ship docking disaster sequence number 3" and I'm convinced Na'Toth and Talia are going to walk by. (I'm sure the bit with the docking ship occurs almost identically in an earlier episode, but I can't think which one.)

- The telepaths in Downbelow don't have anything. No food, no clothes. Plenty of shampoo and conditioner though, apparently. (And why did not-one ever think to dirty Byron's clothes up a bit? Dude looks like he's just got back from the dry cleaners.)

- "If there was a straight answer buried in there somewhere that I sure as hell didn't see it." Lyta is such an outsider that she even exists outside the normal rules of JMS dialogue.

- Why is Garibaldi hanging around the security office while Zack is using the bathroom? Go and do your own job, Michael!

- I don't get the 60 days thing. Surely it counts from when they first turned up? Lochley has got to have been on the station for a few weeks by this point. So why does the 60 days only start when Franklin turns in the paperwork?

- Sorry, Lt Corwin, but who are you to walk up to CAPTAIN Lochley and start telling her that she did right thing? From a meta point of view, it's the same "In my book, you're okay" thing that happened in "A View From the Galley". Don't tell us what to think, JMS! From an in-universe POV it's even worse. What authority, experience or kudos has Corwin earned to tell Lochley that?

- I'm not even sure about the whole quarantine rule in the first place. Like Siskoid, I got the impression that it was something Franklin had just written. But Lochley says that it's an EarthForce rule, not an Interstellar Alliance rule. Surely Franklin isn't in a positition to create new regulations for EarthForce, especially within 30 minutes?

- It's interesting that after your comments last episode to "save things regarding Lochley/Sheridan for this episode", hardly anyone has commented. It's just such an underwhelming reveal, I imagine that no-one really HAD anything exciting to say about it. (Although I'm still not sure how the DVD spoiled it for you.)

Siskoid said...

On the spoilage: I clicked on the episode, it sent me to the menu for scene selection as usual. One of the scenes is titled "The former Mrs. Sheridan" or something like that, under a screenshot of Lochley.

It does something similar with revealing Byron was Bester's protégé.

LiamKav said...

Ah, okay. When I select an episode on mine, it then shows me six chapters, each with a still image, but there's no scene titles. They just say 1-6. Must be a Region 1/2 thing.

Siskoid said...

Then we got the worst of it.

No end to the DVDs' sins.


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