Monday, December 21, 2015

Babylon 5: Survivors

I am re-watching the entire Babylon 5 television series. I had not seen a single episode since B5 completed its tumultuous run. Does J. Michael Straczynski still have the touch? Come along and find out.

In Valen's Name: Earth Alliance President Luis Santiago is visiting Babylon 5 in several days, and bringing along a new fighter wing for the station. Naturally, there's an explosion in one of the hangar bays. Obviously, not good. Although initially thought an accident, it quickly begins to look like sabotage. What's more, evidence--including a medlab accusation by a dying construction worker injured in the blast--points to Security Chief Michael Garibaldi being behind it. Major Lianna Kemmer, the president's security overlord, arrives to investigate. This is bad for Garibaldi, because her farther, Frank Kemmer, had befriended Garibaldi back during his drinking days on Europa, and Garibaldi indirectly contributed to his death. Naturally, Major Lianna blames him for it, and wants to pin the sabotage on him, convinced of his guilt. Her assistant, Cutter, finds blueprints of the hangar bays and a bag of Centauri money. Garibaldi goes to ground, and convinced nobody will believe he's being framed, crawls into a bottle. He's captured, but "Homeguard" materials--the xenophobic anti-alien political faction--are found in the quarters of the dead worker. This is the first evidence that his claims of being set up are true. Garibaldi convinces Lianna to make a personal inspection of the hangar bays, and Cutter attacks them, knocking Lianna out before Garibaldi subdues him. Cutter is a Homeguard plant as well, and placed bombs in the hangar to go off when the fighter wing launches to greet the president. Lianna then lets her hair down and she and Garibaldi reconcile.

What Jayme Says: This is the "Michael Garibaldi" episode of season one, part character study, part info dump wrapped around political intrigue. Trouble is, when people accuse Babylon 5 of having bad acting, this is one of the episodes they point at. I could say Elaine Thomas, the actress who plays Lianna, is wooden, but that would be an insult to wood and wood by-products everywhere. She's stiff, stilted, tense and monotone. That undercuts the entire episode, and for the life of me, I can't get beyond it. This episode backfills a lot more of Garibaldi's history--until now, all we know is that he's screwed up on a series of jobs and this is his last chance at redemption, courtesy of Commander Sinclair. We also learn that it doesn't take a whole lot to push him off the wagon--I mean, really, how stupid is it to get stinking drunk when you know there's a conspiracy out to get you? This is also the first hint we get that various political factions vying for power are willing to potentially endanger the Earth Alliance president's life. I mean, blowing up half of Babylon 5 upon the president's arrival isn't exactly the model of restraint. Nothing is particularly clever or subtle in the script. Apart from Garibaldi's detour into drunkenness, the story moves in a very linear fashion--Garibaldi's set up, Garibaldi exposes the conspirators, happy ending, the end. All in all, not an episode I'm craving to revisit.

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