Babylon 5 #126: The Needs of Earth

"Don't say 'stand by' when we're one word away from good news."
IN THIS ONE... A covert mission rescues a thief possessing stolen data crystals bearing important information of an alien culture.

REVIEW: A point made in the re-pilot (War Zone) was that Gideon was ready to do anything to get the job done. This hasn't always been evident in practice, but The Needs of Earth nails his single-mindedness. He approves a covert, criminal mission with nasty political consequences. Nice to know the Rangers are willing to suggest it though - you can almost feel Sheridan's maverick hand behind this. It's a great vehicle for Dureena too, given her profession, and with Vejar at the directorial helm, you can expect the violence to be violent and the environments and effects to push things as far as they can. He delivers. The planet looks savage, Gideon goes through a glass plate window in slow motion, and he even squeezes tension out of a touchpad scene. But while the episode could have been just this action-driven plot, it's really only the first act.

From there, it's the mystery of who this alien is, what's on his elaborate data crystal, and why his people - yet another smug species that doesn't want to pollute itself by even speaking to us, it's JMS' go-to alien attitude - want him back/dead. Turns out he doesn't want to sell the crystal, he wants to make a gift of it, but only to those he finds worthy. As soon as he starts listening to classical music, we should know where this is going. We're worthy by virtue of human artistic achievement, and of course, the crystal is full of art, literature and music. His theft was a rescue operation from a world bent on a planet-wide form of censorship. Though this seems a bargain basement Star Trek plot, it has something to offer. I particularly like the amusingly honest translator, and how Gideon is initially pissed that they went through all that for something that has no practical value. JMS over-eggs the pudding a little bit with Chambers' big point, that this is a treasure trove of new and hopeful art to help sustain the human race during the dark times ahead. I don't disagree, but it's an odd thing for the doctor to say; sounds like a WRITER saying it. Still, it's more character than she's yet had the occasion to show. And while Evan Chen's score for the series is unlikely to ever grow on me, I have to wonder if it couldn't be of Moradi origin. It would make a kind of metatextual sense that the odd music Crusade is set to would be this new-fangled stuff that came out of the data crystal and suddenly infused human culture.

Chambers and Gideon aren't the only ones to get a shot in the arm, on the characterization front, through the machinations of the plot. Dureena reveals that her family sold her into slavery as a child. It would have been the first time, chronologically, that Matheson would have been earmarked as a telepath, but also that he's a Catholic. The two sides of that equation are tested when he fails to act on a stray thought caught from the Modari. He's presented as someone who suffers deeply when he uses his powers and invades another person's privacy, but suffers even more when he DOESN'T and something bad happens. The addition to Max's character is rather less wholesome. It seems he's got a taste for alien pornography, and because JMS has this voyeuristic fixation, of course we have to see and hear a part of it. Not only that, but every character who sets eyes on the video becomes transfixed by it, because absolutely everyone is interested in Pak'ma'ra porn even when their lives are on the line. It's kind of lucky the rebel archivist found Mozart instead of Max's collection. Making Max squirm, because he is clearly ashamed of his "hobby", is fine. Making the audience squirm over this (again and again) is perhaps pushing it.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: There's a bounty hunter called Redjack. It's unclear whether he was ever Jack the Ripper.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The plot and characterization work in tandem so well, I can forgive its flaws more easily than usual.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like (21) Activities (23) Advice (74) Alien Nation (34) Aliens Say the Darndest Things (8) Alpha Flight (25) Amalgam (53) Ambush Bug (46) Animal Man (17) anime (52) Aquaman (70) Archetypes (14) Archie Heroes (10) Arrowed (20) Asterix (9) Atom (30) Avengers (58) Awards (33) Babylon 5 (140) Batman (677) Battle Shovel (13) Battlestar Galactica (134) Black Canary (22) BnB 2-in1 (40) Books (60) Booster Gold (16) Buck Rogers (12) Buffy (6) Canada (70) Captain America (69) Captain Marvel (55) Cat (156) CCGs (51) Charlton (12) Circles of Hell (6) Class (11) Comics (3960) Comics Code Approved (12) Conan (15) Contest (13) Cooking (15) Crisis (77) Daredevil (33) Dating Kara Zor-El (5) Dating Lois Lane (23) Dating Lucy Lane (13) Dating Princess Diana (11) DCAU (404) Deadman (9) Dial H (128) Dice (10) Dinosaur Island (16) Dinosaurs (67) Director Profiles (9) Doctor Who (1676) Doom Patrol (22) Down the Rabbit Hole (7) Dr. Strange (17) Encyclopedia (28) Fantastic Four (56) Fashion Nightmares (19) Fiasco (14) Films Within Films (6) Flash (83) Flushpoint (86) Foldees (12) French (49) Friday Night Fights (57) Fun with Covers (56) FW Team-Up (37) Galleries (9) Game design (26) Gaming (111) Geekly roundup (762) Geeks Anonymous (47) Geekwear (13) Gimme That Star Trek (60) Godzilla (53) Golden Age (432) Grant Morrison (75) Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction (8) Green Arrow (50) Green Lantern (87) Hawkman (39) Hero Points Podcast (13) Holidays (241) House of Mystery (15) Hulk (44) Human Target (8) Improv (34) Inspiration (45) Intersect (5) Invasion Podcast (44) Iron Man (50) Jack Kirby (87) Jimmy Olsen (74) JLA (94) JSA (25) K9 the Series (30) Kirby Motivationals (18) Krypto (202) Kung Fu (98) Learning to Fly (11) Legion (129) Letters pages (6) Liveblog (12) Lonely Hearts Podcast (21) Lord of the Rings (18) Machine Man Motivationals (10) Man-Thing (6) Marquee (89) Masters of the Universe (9) Memes (39) Memorable Moments (35) Metal Men (5) Metamorpho (65) Millennium (72) Mini-Comics (5) Monday Morning Macking (7) Movies (457) Mr. Terrific (6) Music (73) Nelvana of the Northern Lights (8) Nightmare Fuel (21) Number Ones (59) Obituaries (41) oHOTmu OR NOT? (76) Old52 (11) One Panel (291) Outsiders (165) Panels from Sheena (5) Paper Dolls (7) Play (76) Podcast (488) Polls (5) Questionable Fridays (13) Radio (18) Rants (20) Reaganocomics (8) Recollected (11) Red Bee (26) Red Tornado (10) Reign (563) Retro-Comics (3) Reviews (52) Rom (116) RPGs (539) Sandman (21) Sapphire & Steel (37) Sarah Jane Adventures (70) Saturday Morning Cartoons (5) SBG for Girls (4) Seasons of DWAITAS (100) Secret Origins Podcast (8) Secret Wars (25) SF (30) Shut Up Star Boy (1) Silver Age (368) Siskoid as Editor (34) Siskoid's Mailbox (10) Space 1999 (51) Spectre (20) Spider-Man (100) Spring Cleaning (15) ST non-fiction (19) ST novels: DS9 (8) ST novels: S.C.E. (19) ST novels: The Shat (2) ST novels: TNG (9) ST novels: TOS (13) Star Trek (1712) Streaky (2) Suicide Squad (38) Supergirl (89) Superman (1060) Supershill (11) Swamp Thing (23) Tales from Earth-Prime (7) Team Horrible (4) Teen Titans (83) That Franchise I Never Talk About (53) The Orville (29) The Prisoner (5) The Thing (54) Then and Now (4) Theory (51) Thor (52) Thursdays of Two Worlds (43) Time Capsule (8) Timeslip (7) Tintin (23) Torchwood (62) Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms (5) Toys (65) Turnarounds (7) TV (193) V (6) Waking Life (1) Warehouse 13 (9) Websites (102) What If? (103) Who's This? (203) Whoniverse-B (11) Wikileaked (3) Wonder Woman (82) X-Files (246) X-Men (102) Zero Hour Strikes (26) Zine (5)