Babylon 5 #127: Visitors from down the Street

"There are probably some who'll say that by doing this, we are interfering with their culture." "Probably. Screw 'em."
IN THIS ONE... It's an X-Files spoof when Gideon picks up conspiracy-obsessed aliens who claim human have caused their own Roswell.

REVIEW: What an odd little episode. I mean, an X-Files spoof, at the height of that show's popularity, is amusing and all, but Crusade is still in its infancy. It's way too early to do offbeat episodes of the kind. Towards the end of the broadcast run, it's not TOO bad. As part of the first five as it was intended to be, it's nigh criminal. In fact, while Gideon and Matheson get some little bits of character development, the joke requires EVERY OTHER MEMBER OF THE REGULAR CAST to sit the episode. Say what?! What the heck was happening over there at camp Straczynski? Those character pieces offer some nice banter between the pair. Both are snarky in their own way. Skipping over the poop jokes, thank you, Matheson shows a bit more of his powers, while Gideon seems to be a little homesick and finds a little taste of home by the end of the episode.

And a taste of home is very much the theme of Visitors. The aliens found in a failing escape pod (not coincidentally made to look like a UFO) are wearing human suits, speak perfect English and from their flashbacks (which have an interesting black and white film noir feel), human offices. 20th-century ones at that. The premise is ridiculous, but this is meant to be a comedy. In an amusing reversal, the aliens accuse humans of visiting their world for centuries and pulling all the strings. There are gags based on Roswell, the faces on Mars, etc., and as it turns out, their planet is actively spreading these rumors to make Earth the scapegoat for any and all problems, lest their extremely paranoid culture starts waging civil wars again. That's as good a justification as any, and of course, a conspiracy to fake a conspiracy is fairly clever, but it's not particularly believable that they would transform their whole culture - fashion, technology, language - just to promote a hoax. There have to be easier ways. Nor am I too enthusiastic about Gideon's solution, choosing to spread the truth all over their planet. Yes, sure, it protects Earth from future retaliation if and when these guys become a full-on space power, but he should be ready to have civil wars and coups on his conscience. It's all done as a joke, but there's nothing funny about it. (Classic JMS.)

Of course, the whole idea is to poke fun at the X-Files, and if you know the show, you'll get your money's worth. The aliens have names that evoke Scully and Mulder's (or Duchovny's, really); the girl even has red tentacles on her head. The conspiracy guy pulls out a smoke at the end; he's the cigarette-smoking alien. There's a play on "The truth is out there", and a noticeable "Y" on the door in the flashback. I guess it's the office next door to Mulder's. 15 years later, this stuff isn't quite so biting. Good thing it works as a spoof on UFOlogy in general, with the characters looking like alien Men in Black. Still fluff though.

See the featured quote for the shot JMS takes at Star Trek. Deep Space Nine winked at the X-Files too, in Trials and Tribble-ations, and played around with Roswell in Little Green Men.

- Mildly amusing, especially if you're aware of the source material, but it's (again) way too early to be doing "offbeat" because we don't even know what the "beat" is supposed to be on Crusade.


LiamKav said...

It's be like doing "Far Beyond the Stars" as a season 1 episode of DS9.

Hell, it'd be like doing an episode where the entire cast acts drunk and out of character as the second ever episode oh wait...

(Some episodes should not take place in season 1. See also "splitting Torres into her human and Klingon halves".)

Siskoid said...

Just go back 7 years on this blog to see that this was exactly what I said of The Naked Time and The Naked Now.

Ryan Lohner said...

Considering that by this point in Trek the Prime Directive had completely morphed into its horrific state of "I won't rescue this trapped baby because he might become the next Hitler," I say go show. This episode really has me interested in checking Crusade out now.

Siskoid said...

At this point, I'd recommend the five episodes with the gray uniforms FIRST.

LiamKav said...


I think the turning point for me was "Homeward", where the bridge crew solemnly stood up and listened to Picard giving a pretty speech whilst they watched an ENTIRE PLANET BLOW UP. Urgh.

That said, you have to be careful with stuff like that. There's a thin line between "well-observed barb" and "petty waa waa-ing". Either that, or do what South Park did with Family Guy and dedicate two whole episodes to slagging it off. ('Do you have any idea what it's like? Everywhere I go, "Hey Cartman, you must like Family Guy, right?" "Hey, your sense of humour reminds me of Family Guy, Cartman." I am NOTHING like Family Guy! When I make jokes, they are inherent to a story! Deep, situational and emotional jokes based on what is relevant and has a POINT! Not just one interchangeable joke after another!')

Siskoid said...

Homeward was quite literally one of the worst TNG episodes ever.

Craig Oxbrow said...

Well, yes.

Although it's no The Ghost Of Planet Scotland, or whatever that one was called.

Siskoid said...

Up the Long Ladder also has a shot at the title, yes.

LiamKav said...

No, that's the Hijinks of the USS Irish-to-be-sure. The Ghost of Planet Scotland is Sub Rosa.

I think the writers all voted that episode to have the worst line of dialogue in all of TNG: 'I can travel on the power transfer beam'.

It's a line I've used on my wife.

It's not very effective.

Siskoid said...

Ah yes sorry. Sub Rosa's bad too, but not nearly as much as those other two.

LiamKav said...

B5 largely avoided the "Planet of the regional stereotypes", mainly by not really going to many other planets. I guess we should be thankful we never got to visit Marcus's home colony, which was presumably the Planet of the Foppish Brits.

Siskoid said...

Instead, JMS' go-to aliens were those completely unreasonable, argumentative and stupid ones exemplified by the Drazi.

LiamKav said...

The Babylon 5 alien guide.

1. Refuse to co-operate with any other alien race.
2. Have your ambassador argue with everyone as though he is a child at kindergarten.
3. Have said ambassador occasionally storm out of meetings in a strop.
4. Have an inherent belief in your own superiority, even when sitting next to other races with clearly more advanced technology.
5. Think that only your race is chosen by God.
6. Whilst at war, believe that if a major battle has to occur every two days, then the best solution is to immedietly stop fighting and go home.
7. Whilst at peace, refuse to go to war when it would be a good idea to do so, and be desperate for a war when a peaceful solution would make more sense.
8. Try and make sure all your ambassadors sound similar to each other. (Kim Strauss is the Jeffry Combs of the B5-verse.)

Remember back in season 3, when I pointed out that episode ("Sic Transit Vir", maybe) where Sheridan and Ivanova got the League races to support the defence of Babylon 5 by convincing them with a well done presentation pointing out the financial, logistical and diplomatic reasons to support them? That might have been the only time that worked...


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