Babylon 5 #122: The Rules of the Game

"So, this is Babylon 5. It's everything I expected. Noisy, crowded, and constantly in trouble. Still, you have to give it credit. It has lasted 10 years. Nobody back home thought it would even last a year." "Lots of things hang on longer than they should: poison ivy, measles, Babylon 5, some people."
IN THIS ONE... On Babylon 5, Gideon asks permission to land on a planet from morally superior aliens, and Max helps his ex-wife deal with a loan shark.

REVIEW: Hey we're back on Babylon 5, and look at that, two Babylon 5-style plots. Well, I'd complain, but Crusade-style plots to date have been pretty disappointing. And if you're going to feature Lochley at least some of the time, might as well show her as a competent captain in charge of two million five hundred thousand tons of steel. And that's exactly what she is. There's no question that she's Gideon's equal in cleverness, ability and willfulness, and neither is submissive in their relationship. Neither of them purely the aggressor. They are honest with each other about how little they can invest in this relationship, no pride is hurt, and they share thoughts only possible for people in their high-ranking positions. It is frankly one of the most adult courtships I've ever seen in fiction. The show tries to get sexy with it with a shower scene, but when the dirtiest shot is of a ship penetrating a docking bay, we can't exactly call it exploitative.

B5 stock plot #1 has Gideon appeal to ridiculously closed-minded aliens for help. Alliance or not, the Brakiri is callous about Earth's population dying and are no help at all. The featured aliens are even worse and a major drain on enjoyment. The Lorkans are over-acting, illogical jerks who think, like so many JMS aliens, that only they are worthy of God's love and protection. And when I say "over-acting", I mean I can't believe there's still scenery left for future episodes to use. These particular guys won't let Gideon explore their planet's ruins for ancient tech because they're crooks, not because they actually believe in their theology, but other representatives of the culture do that for them later. They're also armed with Logan's Run palm rubies, but they stink at using them (that's a joke for those who have actually watched the episode). Remember when the Drazi were the idiots of choice on Babylon 5? Well, now there's a long list of species that should have succumb to Darwin's law long ago.

B5 stock plot #2 features Max getting a visit from his ex-wife, and she's on the run from a loan shark who's such a scoundrel, he kidnaps her cat at one point. Oooh, hard core. I'm being facetious, of course. While I'm a well-known cat lover, Mister Kitty's role in this seems to me one of JMS' worst indulgences to date. The cat even gets an obituary card at the end. Anyway... There's at least hope that Max will get some character development in all this, and though everything her ex tells us is stuff we already knew - his smart mouth gets him into trouble, he's a loner, etc. - I did come away from the episode liking him more. Why? Because he shows how he can be heartless bastard when dealing with his enemies. The loan shark finds himself on the wrong end of some ancient alien artifact and will just have to run scared for the rest of his life. Lesson: Give him more enemies! The actor, David Allen Brooks, hasn't shown much range to date, but it's a thankless task portraying someone who doesn't open up easily. He almost cracks in the scene where he lists the few things he's loved in his life. Very oddly, the much-neglected Dr. Chambers plays Dureena's role here. Normally, the thief is paired up with Max and it would make more sense for her to be throwing down with the loan shark. I guess Chambers has martial arts training too. That's fine, but they're definitely struggling to find something for her to do. On a mission to cure a plague. Hm. Yes, I wonder what she could participate.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium and a bit
- The character development is still the best thing about Crusade in this middle-stage, but the plots aren't as strong. Still, nice seeing Lochley having settled into her role on the station.


LondonKdS said...

And this episode gives me the opportunity to point out the other big debt that Crusade owes to Blake's 7: Eilerson is quite blatantly conceived as an AU version of Avon in Blake's 7, who began as the original protagonist's main challenger within the cast and ended up as protagonist in the second half of the series.

The only real difference is that Eilerson is an archaeologist while Avon is a pure computer guy. But they both share the snarkiness and the way in which they both have genuine capacity to feel for others and stand up for what they believe, but at the same time their avarice, arrogance, cruelty and amorality are definitely not just a facade hiding the entirely decent person underneath.

Also, David Allen Brooks even looks a bit like Paul Darrow, who played Avon, and both actors/characters share an incredibly ambiguous and often-inappropriate smile that is rarely 100% good news for whoever it's aimed at.

LiamKav said...

I'm just hoping that Lochley doesn't forget about Branston in her interactions with Gideon. Otherwise it will have all been for nothing.

Ryan Lohner said...

A couple minor Trek connections here: the villains sound rather similar to the aliens from one TNG episode who are insufferable rules lawyers, until Picard finds a loophole and makes them sweat while he walks around and dusts off the ship's plaque (aptly described in one TV Tropes entry as the closest that Starfleet's greatest diplomat ever comes to saying "You know what? Fuck you.")

And given that only Lochley is mentioned, I'm guessing it's the same as the TNG/DS9 "crossover" event which was actually just "Watch the people from one show walk around the sets from another, oh, and Bashir shows up in a couple scenes."

Siskoid said...

Actually, Lochley's role is pretty major, she gets several speeches etc. No one else we know shows up, of course.

LiamKav said...

I'm (slightly forcing) my wife to watch TNG. It's mainly working because she loves Riker. Anyway, I'm only showing her the better episodes, and the next one up is "The Ensigns of Command" which I was umming and ahing about skipping, but then I remembered that scene where Picard cuts off the blop monsters. It is awesome.

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