Babylon 5 #125: The Memory of War

"Where are you going?" "To follow a friend into hell."
IN THIS ONE... Another dead planet, this one protected by a Technomage A.I. and nanites that turn people into psychotic killers.

REVIEW: Yes, I'm liking the series as originally envisioned, bellhop uniforms and all, than I do the SeaQuest stuff TNT broadcast first. But while it's common for the second episode of a series to repeat a lot of the same points the first one did, The Memory of War does seem to start with the scenes we didn't see from the previous episode - the team preparing to go down to a planet with an intact and abandoned city, Galen warning them it's incredibly dangerous... That all sounds like what we saw in Racing the Night. But as with the original pilot, everyone in the cast gets something to do (you can't say that of any black uniform episode), the environments are pretty cool, and the action relatively exciting. The climax's effects bit off rather more than they could chew, coming off as awkwardly blue-screened computer game cut scenes, but the effort is appreciated.

It's clear the cool kids are Gideon, Galen and Dureena. The first takes is an able leader, loyal to his friends and incapable of letting Galen face danger alone. The second sees it as his duty to destroy a Technomage threat, outraged that his order would cause a genocide and then try to cover it up. The technomagical tropes are well used as imagery, more than mumbo-jumbo. A.I.s, nanites, we understand these words, but when the A.I. exposes his plans, it seems the characters were right to call his lair "hell" because it's evil incarnate. We're seeing more of Galen's technology too, like contact lenses that hack into the ship's sensors. Very cool stuff. And Dureena is always off the map, doing something fun. She's either climbing buildings or walking tightropes or digging up Galen's lost staff. Will this last offering get him to relent and teach her magic? One can she a sorcerer/apprentice relationship developing. Max is only TRYING to be one of the cool kids, a metaphor that makes a great deal of sense actually, but he's far less charming than he (or is writer, I suspect) thinks. Matheson and Chambers play what roles they must to keep the story going.

If we talk plot, viewers watching in the original TNT order will immediately realize the Technomage nanomachines causing people to go mad and kill each other, as repurposed by Chambers and Galen to act as viral shields, were actually used PREVIOUSLY in Patterns of the Soul. Way to go, network suits. The way the original structure worked, we would have seen progressive advances until all the tool necessary to find and deliver a cure were found, but the airing order has made a hash of things. The story's a bit slim, necessitating padding at the front and back, and there's a rather large plot hole, or can't the shuttles be used to outrace the night and avoid the nanites' effects? Still, it works as a "haunted planet" story. The characters are in proper danger and get act heroically (or not, in Max's case), and so on.

- Despite its problems, The Memory of War seems to confirm that the show worked better without the network's retooling notes.



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