Babylon 5 #118: The Well of Forever

"What have you done to your quarters?" "I made it the right size. I don't know why everybody else always makes things huge. This is the way I like it, nice and small."
IN THIS ONE... Galen persuades Gideon to seek a mystical crossroads in hyperspace. An investigator probes Matheson's mind.

REVIEW: This one definitely seems like it's been shown in the wrong order. Not only are we STILL not really looking for a cure to the Drakh plague, but everyone is trusting Galen a lot more than they should given that he has yet to prove himself to the team. Gideon refers to important conversations we've never heard or seen, and to Dureena's ability to focus on death so absolutely, something we might have seen in A Call to Arms, but he wasn't there, and Crusade has only ever shown her as a positive influence. The character development is all over the place, and not just because we're TOLD things rather than shown them. Matheson's secret mistakes are uncovered by a new breed of PsiCop (a rose by any other name, really), but he's made to ignore them after his own indiscretion, so we don't know what they are. Never has a mystery so dull been laid in. Give us a clue, at least! Tantalize us! Nope. And when the crew comes across the Well of Forever and it seems to become what they want to see, why does Max the archaeologist see dollar signs and Dureena the thief see a giant mausoleum? Those reactions seem completely reversed! It wouldn't have taken much tweaking to give them the same attitudes, but NOT have Dureena school Max on what is essentially his field. In any case, they don't get to explore the thing, and we're left with cryptic answers to cryptic questions, in what feels like writer Fiona Avery desperately trying to emulate JMS' style.

There's some merit to exploring hyperspace if it's going to have its own ecosystem and native(?) structures, but perhaps not so much if it's going to be an excuse for puerile humor. Again, it's way too soon in the show's history for the loss of dignity incurred when a giant hyperspace jellyfish humps the Excalibur. As we explore the sub-universe, we also get to see more of the ship, but I'm wondering why they went through the trouble of making it more submarine-like - with the tube-like bridge configuration enabling some as-yet-underexplored depth of field, and the more naval uniforms - if everything else aboard would look like you were in a giant food court or hanger. I admit the gym is pretty cool now that they've filled up the CG matte painting, but even the larger Babylon 5 was more claustrophobic than anything on the Excalibur. Even Dureena seems to think so in the one scene I did like, where she's made her quarters smaller (or at least, shorter, it still seems a huge space to me). I like how it really relates to the main plot, a huge magical discovery to everyone but Galen, who in fact only wants to go there to bury his dead love and make pretty speeches. From the large, to the small.

Beyond the pseudo-mystical claptrap Galen continues to impose on the show, there's the half-formed subplot about Matheson getting his regular(?) deep scan from a Mr. Jones - all these "Watchers" carry the same name to make it more impersonal - which could have been better used to reveal information on the Telepath Crisis caused by Lyta. Alas, despite whatever changes occurred, all we get here is a hypocritical bargain basement Bester, and not a very interesting one. One wonders why he's aboard during this mission - we're still working from B5's open port playbook, looks like - and why Matheson didn't get checked out BEFORE joining the mission. Because the ship's resident telepath acts like the sweetest kid on deck, there's really very little reason to think his sins are all that great, even after Jones' pronouncements, and I don't even feel connected to his "plight" about going out in hyperspace because that increases one's powers to uncontrollable levels. Whatever. At least Gideon has some agency in this thread, tricking Jones into compromising himself (not that he has any reason to think he would) and doing something nice for his first officer. Not so in the A-plot where, for the second time in a row, he's relegated to the role of witness to Galen's shenanigans.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - There's one scene here I liked, and a whole lot of material that seems unearned or badly paid off. Ultimately, The Well of Forever is just boring.


LondonKdS said...

Max's and Dureena's reactions are in-character in the light of later (which should have been earlier) episodes - Max is pretty self-centred and greedy, while Dureena is pretty much purely a "thief" in the D&D class sense rather than an actual plausible professional criminal.

My big problem with this episode was the sheer selfishness of Galen endangering the entire crew and hijacking the ship just so he could go and scatter his dead girlfriend's ashes, which nobody really reacts enough to.

Cradok said...

Aah, the Fen. A double dig that someone, probably JMS, slipped into the episode. On one hand, we have the more obvious humping the ship, his response to a network request to have more sex in the show. And on the other, we have the 'attracted to shiny objects', which only makes sense if you know that 'fen' is a plural form of 'fan' that was used by the SFF community as a way of separating themselves from other types of fan. Add in having the scene actually filmed, then there was pretty much nobody who wasn't insulted with it.

'Out of order' is pretty much the watchword for Crusade. Between TNT shifting the order around to front-load the Galen episodes, and the bizarre decision to have the later-filmed but intended to air first episodes referencing things that happen in the rest. There is actually no order which has everything fit correctly, but if you ignore the uniform change - there's a uniform change coming up, by the way - there is an order you can watch them all in.

Siskoid said...

That Fen scene is looking worse and worse the more you talk about it.

TNT did to Crusade what Fox did to Firefly, but at least the DVDs had the episodes in the right order. And here I thought all the B5-related DVD sins were behind us.

Madeley said...

Is this the episode where Gideon said something along the lines of "You once told me this crew was like your family" to Galen? Having not heard about the behind the scenes nonsense and the change of running order, it was stuff like that that made me feel like the producer of one of my favourite shows had completely lost the plot. Particularly annoying was having to buy the episodes on video (it was either showing on satellite TV, which I didn't have, or wasn't shown on a channel over here. Can't remember exactly). Crusade really was just generally a frustrating experience.

Siskoid said...

I don't know if it's this one, but it's definitely one I've watched (I'm a couple days ahead of the blog). The order they ended up in makes a lot of elements seem unearned. I can't believe you splurged on video tapes of this.

Cradok said...

I had them all. 5 times 11 for the series, the 4 TNT movies, 7 for Crusade, for a total of 66 tapes. And then I got rid of them because they were taking up room when the DVDs started coming out. In retrospect, maybe I should have held on to them...


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