Babylon 5 #59: Ship of Tears

"Try not to drool on the controls."
IN THIS ONE... Bester asks Sheridan to liberate telepaths meant to merge with Shadow ships. G'Kar joins the army of light.

REVIEW: Trust. Hard to come by. In the opening sequence, ISN is back, but as a propaganda machine you can't trust. And if you can't trust the news media, who CAN you trust? (That can't help but sound sarcastic, I'm sorry.) Ship of Tears asks our heroes to trust and ally with two people who could prove dangerous: G'Kar and Bester. G'Kar is the easier sell, obviously, to the audience at least. Sheridan hasn't made good on his promise to include him among the conspirators of light yet, but that's because it entails revealing how they didn't warn Narn the Shadows were on the prowl. I'm not clear on how G'Kar could have used that information or even figured out his people were at particular risk, but Delenn takes responsibility for it, and the two of them share an emotional scene. G'Kar can only accept this betrayal because he has recently learned about the level of sacrifice needed to save the universe, but his waters run super-deep as usual, and he can't forgive his new allies quite yet, perhaps ever. So while G'Kar DID deserve the others' trust, do they deserve his?

Unfortunately, the Bester plot isn't as strong. We're used to Bester lying to us even when he's technically helping, nothing new there. His motivations are heroic, but genocidal as well. I know! He's Magneto! He only wants to protect his own, humanity's next evolutionary step, telepaths and telekinetics. As long as the Shadows are threatening telepaths, he'll be on "normal" humanity's side. Good to know that he isn't part of the Clark conspiracy, though! But the Shadows are taking telepaths (including Bester's lover, aww, he's got a heart) to drive their ships and... reveal! To counter other telepaths, which they fear. Seems like the Narns were instrumental in driving them away last time. Shame their telepaths are all extinct, eh? While this is all pretty interesting, it's a shame it's tacked to an ugly story line about those captured telepaths becoming Borged wire monsters when awakened. B5's "monster episodes" are definitely my least favorite, if only for that element.

Random notes: The command crew get big new jackets for flying the White Star, like something VIP Klingons would wear. I like it. Do the conspirators meet in a new set? Or haven't I noticed it before? I don't suppose the Round Table in the middle is a coincidence. New Starfury designs as well. I'm sure they'll see some action. But these are ultimately cosmetic. The important thing is how the relationships are changing and how they'll impact the story.

That new atmosphere-capable Starfury sure looks like a pimped-out X-Wing, doesn't it?

- Seems to me it could all have been done without the techno-monster. Why not trust the actors and the emotional context of their trust issues?


Ryan Lohner said...

One delightful side effect of B5's official breaking off from Earth, as the writer discusses through Franklin, is that Bester can be part of the story again without having to deal with keeping their secret from him, after Dust to Dust already covered the only two ways that could really be viable. And after that episode went a long way to making him more than a simple villain, this goes a lot further. He's someone capable of love, and found it with a person he'd been trained all his life to see only as someone to be hunted down.

Walter Koenig was one of the few Star Trek cast members who never once got to sit in the captain's chair, so that scene here was JMS' gift to him, and his reveling in it is obvious. And apparently he was very reluctant to get out when the cameras stopped rolling.

The Book of G'Quan prop was mostly made of torn up newspapers to achieve the shredded edge look, and was usually seen at enough of a distance that it wasn't an issue. But Garibaldi flipping through it here does let us get a good look at a few of them, including a glimpse at the kind of things being advertised at the time. JMS joked that Narn religion was selling out when some fans noticed it.

Doug Hudson said...

The scene with the telepath linking to the machines was intended to evoke "body horror"--that the Shadows physically build people into their ships. Sure, they could have communicated it via dialog, but actually showing what the Shadows do to people is, I think, more effective.

Interesting that both the Shadows and Vorlons use "living ships". The Shadow ships have sentient non-Shadows running them; I wonder what the Vorlons use as the "core" of their ships?

Anonymous said...

"Interesting that both the Shadows and Vorlons use "living ships". The Shadow ships have sentient non-Shadows running them; I wonder what the Vorlons use as the "core" of their ships?"

No doubt we'll get an answer one of these days, after the war slows down and Kosh has all the time in the world to share what he knows.

Cradok said...

Koenig did get to sit in the big chair, though, during Star Trek V. Probably something he prefers to forget, though...

Slight spoilers here, but based on later events, I suspect that the core of a Vorlon ship is the Vorlon who captains it.

Siskoid said...

Doug: You may be right, but since Shadow tech is unlikely to be wires and metal, it's an echo of that idea.

Cradok: That settles it, ST V isn't canon!

LiamKav said...

There's some nice, snappier than normal dialogue in this episode. Maybe JMS was trying to be more succinct for whatever reason, but liked:

"If you get near a point, make it".

"I'm a telepath. Work it out."

"You said something, captain?" "Not a word. Just burped." (I like that Sheridan didn't do the standard "Just clearing my voice" line. "Burped" is much funnier.)

"Mr Bester." "Captain Sheridan?" "Get the hell out of my chair." (I love that Bester just casually walks over and sits in it, as well.)

"Do the conspirators meet in a new set? Or haven't I noticed it before?"

It's a new set. Delenn even mentions that "their new facilities are complete" when she's taking G'Kar there, and then there's a big pan/reveal of the room once they arrive. It's nice, although I wonder if it's replacing an existing set or they got more floor space. (It's also another place for Sheridan and Ivanova to wear their pimp-jackets. Apparently the only place they don't wear them is in C&C, when they're actually running the station.)

Cradok said...

The war room was built in the same space that the casino had used, it hadn't been getting much use and was a large set.

Also, I knew I forgot something, but the new Starfury variant - the Thunderbolt - was first seen bombing Mars in Severed Dreams, as well as in the secession battle. It's a Thunderbolt that crashes into C&C.


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