Babylon 5 #82: No Surrender, No Retreat

"Captain's personal log, September 2nd, 2261—Enough is enough."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan liberates Proxima III as Earth forces rally behind either his or Clark's banners. Londo and G'Kar sign a joint statement pledging their support to Sheridan.

REVIEW: If there's a word to describe Michael Vejar's direction in this episode, it's "urgency". His camera, always mobile and interesting, has a hard time keeping up with the characters, often lagging behind and trying to follow people who have more on their minds than letting themselves be filmed. Instead of the excruciatingly slow ramp-up to the Shadow War, we have a jam-packed, exciting half-an-episode getting us to the same point with Fascist Earth. Awesome. With Vejar in charge, the picture-making doesn't stop with the CG sequences, but these are also great, including a cool reveal of the White Star's new paint job, and a spectacular suicide run on the Pollux. Have we not seen Earthforce destroyers in action much before? Because they've never felt so much like GUNS to me before. Throw in a soundtrack full of urgent military marches and motivational speeches, and you have an episode that deserves to have its title be the Season's as well.

Worthy of note, Sheridan doesn't nuke anyone. Instead, we have potable strategies, both tactical and political, and that's true of the other side as well. Sheridan's fight is moral, and he demonstrates this by using words first, and keeping alien forces out of it (well, so long as you don't consider the White Stars Minbari), which will go some way proving to humans that he ISN'T under some alien influence (don't worry, propaganda fans, ISN can spin anything into anything). Finding out who the loyalists are and concentrating attacks on them (and rhetoric on the others) is paramount, but Clark's forces employ a buddy system to keep non-loyalists in check which counters this nicely. But Clark's weakness is exposed: He needs the corrupt few to keep the moral majority in check, so will always be outnumbered. One needs only motivate good people to do the right thing. We see two examples of this, mirrors of each other, when the crew of the Vesta fails to rally behind the loyalist plant, and the Herakles' stops following its corrupt captain's orders. The first instance could be misconstrued as the an effect of the same cult of personality that makes Sheridan's people support him, but the second reveals a greater truth about military ethics in Earthforce.

Vir's guilty conscience and Garibaldi's departure from Babylon 5 aside, the rest of the episode is dedicated to Londo and G'Kar, and whatever post-war relationship they might have. I love Londo here, on the one hand seeking redemption for his poor choices and doing right by his "friends", and on the other, unable to shake his selfish entitlement and need for acknowledgement. He's the one who goes to G'Kar with an open hand, with a diplomatic idea that would unite Centauri Prime, Narn and Sheridan's forces in a common purpose, but G'Kar gives him not an inch. Not gratitude, not respect, not even receipt of Londo's own thanks and respect. It's really rather poignant. Londo talks a good game, but his self-entitlement will always keep G'Kar at arm's length. In the end, G'Kar does make a concession, but out of loyalty for Sheridan and Babylon 5 (and perhaps to spite Clark's Earth Alliance, which abandoned his people early on), not to build any kind of bridge with Londo. As with the big space battle story, good people can be trusted to do the right thing in the right circumstances, but will only do so in their own time and on their own terms. Sheridan's victory (which comes at some cost, and we're reminded of the innocent nameless crew members who died at his hands) seems more decisive than Londo's, but both should be seen as a baby step in the overall scheme of things.

In DS9's "Paradise Lost", victory against corrupt Earth forces were also contingent on "turning" an opposing Starfleet captain.

REWATCHABILITY: High - The season's big center piece. Great action, visuals, dialog, acting and moral dilemmas.


Anonymous said...

Damn fine episode. Sheridan at his best.

Ryan Lohner said...

And here we get to JMS' other response to the people disappointed in the lack of fireworks from the end of the Shadow War: they just had to wait until the war against Earth, and they would get all the action they could want. And just like Signs and Portents, it's made all the more satisfying by the episode taking the time to show Sheridan setting up his strategy for the battle, so we're actually able to follow everything he's doing rather than just getting a bunch of dumb action thrown at us. As I now like to put it, this is why the climax of The Avengers is so much more fun to watch than the one from Transformers, despite having basically the same setup.

The most bitter part of ending the show in season 4 for JMS was deciding early on that there was no way to fit the planned ending for Londo and G'Kar's story into it, letting us see how they would one day reach the point seen in War Without End, so their subplot here, originally intended as a stepping stone to that moment, now had to serve as the end in itself, leaving the path between up to our imagination. Of course, this wouldn't actually be the end, but all in good time.

LondonKdS said...

I remember being online at the time this episode was shown, and a number of fans who were then in the US military saying that it was the best and most well-informed fictional discussion they'd ever seen on TV about the role of the military in a democratic state, and under what circumstances it is justified for the military to refuse the orders of, or actively take up arms against, an immoral and tyrannical government. Of course, in real life immoral and tyrannical governments usually ensure that the people with real power in the military are on their side.

LiamKav said...

Boxleitner almost makes it work, but "enough is enough" still sounds like what you'd say after your kids refuse to be quiet in the back of the car.

Hey, it's Corwin! I didn't realise, but he's been missing for most of the season.

When Delta Squadron launches, Sheridan's Starfury is the first one out. I don't think it's a mistake as we see other "owned" Starfuries on patrol while their owners are on the station. I'm guessing it's more of a "first dibs" situation. Keeping a Starfury for Sheridan's personal use is probably a bad use of resources.

Is this the first time we've seen other Rangers as general crew on White Stars? There's one on the White Star 2 when Sheridan comes aboard.

Hey, it's Doctor Kelso! I can't think of any jokes, but I only watched "Evolution" (TNG) a week ago so this is especially weird.

The first time I watched this episode I wondered why they sent Starfuries with the White Stars, as they seemed to be there mainly to die. In hindsight, I'm guessing that the main purpose of them is to show that it's humans that are doing the fighting, a point that would be lost if he just used the alien White Star fleet.

"Of course, in real life immoral and tyrannical governments usually ensure that the people with real power in the military are on their side."

And the longer Clark's government continues, the more true that becomes. You'd have to assume that if he was President for a decade, he'd have cemented control of the military. Here, he hasn't had the time yet.

Siskoid said...

Yes, I still think of him as Paul Stubbs, which is a little absurd, isn't it?


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