Babylon 5 #99: In the Kingdom of the Blind

"Once I would've thought pastels for the curtains, but I think we are well beyond pastels now. No, no bright colors anymore, just darkness."
IN THIS ONE... Londo and G'Kar go to Centauri Prime and fend off an assassination attempt. Byron and the telepaths blackmail Babylon 5 to try and get their own homeworld.

REVIEW: ...the one-eyed man is king. The title may be a clever play on the idea that the Regent is being possessed by a Shadow create with one eye, for those who remember his last appearance and its connection to Londo's own future. But therein lies the problem. The program has shown us so much of the future - through prophecy, time travel or thinking it needed to reveal it before the show's untimely end - that it holds far fewer surprises than it ought to. The episode tries to play up the mystery, with a mad hiding Regent, but we already know what's going on. His obscure clues are a mystery to Londo, but not to us, so fall a little flat. It's not without its wrinkles of course, as what I imagine is a Drakh redesign (or at least, some Shadow agent) saves Londo from an assassination attempt, with its telekinetic powers. So already, he's been tapped to wear the one-eyed parasite, or else they wouldn't save him. Why wouldn't Vole have made a better host, I wonder? Maybe because Londo has a solid in with the new Alliance. And if the Shadow agents are running the show on Centauri Prime, are they using Centauri ships to attack Alliance ships as suggested in the final moments? Sure looks like it. The Drakh don't want to use their trademark tiger raiders on this one.

Obviously, all this Londo/G'Kar stuff is great because, well, Londo and G'Kar. The latter navigates courtly intrigue with a wink and a smile that's quite satisfying, especially in the face of so much racism. The Centauri girls do love him though. Poor Centauri attitudes on this make sense because of the history they have with the Narn, but we're definitely getting the feeling that only Londo is keeping Centauri in the Alliance at this point. The "symbol" of him having a Narn bodyguard is completely lost on them as Centauri culture continues its spiraling decline into its own navel. The Courtiers either serve only their own petty ambitions, or else wind up hung from the rafters. Londo wants to go back to Babylon 5 as soon as possible, which is probably better for his health, but not for his planet's. Though even if we didn't know the future, it might be too late for it anyway.

Back on the station, it's the day after Byron's absurd epiphany - Day of the Dead was shown out of sequence, you see - and he's decided on a course of action that scarcely makes sense. He has his guys telepathically steal all the Alliance delegates' secrets (is that what he himself does to Garibaldi? it plays strangely), then blackmails them in exchange for some uninhabited planet somewhere. The telepath's Israel, if you like. And though he antagonizes the Alliance members, he hopes this will all go down in a peaceful manner. For someone who can read thoughts, he sure doesn't know how people think. Soon enough, violence erupts on both sides, and he sits there crying, never acknowledging that he himself created this situation. Are there really no planets where colonists might be able to establish a small settlement that they really need to threaten the Alliance? I mean, Sheridan gave them sanctuary on the station. Have they even tried ASKING for land? Where's Lochley during this crisis? I know she and Sheridan share responsibility when it comes to this issue, but her absence when Zack and his men are called in seems wrong-headed. Never mind that, as I've already discussed, the motivation for this sudden insurrection is complete nonsense. Dude, just declare independence and ask to join the Alliance; they'll have to help you. It's in the charter. This whole plot thread is so badly handled, it's not even funny.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Londo and G'Kar palling around together gets us a long way, but the sense that we're simply connecting known points together takes some of the air out of it. The telepath plot just needs to go entirely.


LondonKdS said...

This raises what I think is one of the biggest plot holes in the whole series - that Sheridan never makes the faintest attempt to warn Londo of what he saw in his vision of the future in "War Without End". Is he convinced that he averted it? Does he think the Centauri deserve it? Is it fatalism? Any of those might have worked, but it never gets so much as mentioned, especially since one assumes that Franklin or Marcus would have mentioned encountering a Keeper on their way to Mars.

Ryan Lohner said...

This was the first script of the season where JMS really felt like he got his mojo back after the blows of losing his notes and Ivanova, and boy can you tell. There's a whole new confidence in the storytelling as we dig deeper into Londo and G'Kar's endgame, though I can also only sigh at how moving War Without End to the middle of the show removes a lot of the mystery of what's happening. Still, we at least get to wonder just what the Drakh's plans are with these random attacks. I've even seen this one called the one worthwhile episode in the season's first half, to newbies who'd heard about fan opinion and wanted to know if they should just stop with season 4.

This storyline was Andreas Katsulas' favorite time on the show, since he got to play G'Kar as just having fun for once. I can certainly imagine that would be a relief after the heavy stories he had for the past four years.

LiamKav said...

- I like the idea behind the Telepath story. Either through accident or design, Babylon 5 carries on past the point most TV shows stop (DS9, for example), and so we get to follow a society post-war. The idea that the telepaths were created for a war, so what do you do when that war is over is a good one. It's jsut the execution that's lacking, for a whole variety of reasons.

- I get that we as an audience are privy to some things that the characters aren't. We know the regent has a Keeper on him. We know what they are capable of from the Captain Jack episode. We know that they can control someone unless they drink. Londo doesn't know all these things. There's a couple of issues with that. For one, there's no reason for Franklin not to have told Sheridan about the Keeper they found. There's no way Sheridan didn't put two and two together than realise that was the same creature that he saw on Londo in the future. As LondonKdS says, since the characters have no compuction about NOT changing the future, there's no reason why he wouldn't have told Londo about it.

Even apart from that, I have the same problems that I have with Garibaldi's storyline in season 4. These people live in a society where telepaths are common. They have had at least THREE experiences with hidden personalities by the end of season 3. In this sort of society, the moment anyone appeared to be acting drastically out of character by, for instance, turning against all his friends just after being kidnapped by known people, or suddenly starting to drink heavily after a lifetime of abstaining, I'd be extremely suspicious. In most shows you can wave away the idea that the characters wouldn't expect mind control/hidden personalities because it's not common. The B5 universe doesn't have that excuse.

- Siskoid: You mentioned back in season 4 that you found the comedy character of the Regent annoying. I didn't mention it at the time, but I can see what the point was. The tragedy of the character shown here works better if he starts out fluffy and lightweight (a bit similar to Londo himself).

- This is mentioned at the Lurker's Guide, and it bugs me too... Sheridan still has an Earth Alliance plaque in front of him in the council chambers. That can't be right. Do we even know if Earth has joined?

Siskoid said...

There are certainly ways to play that without making the Regent a caricature. Like just being a nice guy, grateful for the appointment but a little overwhelmed.


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