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In Valen's Name: A deadly accident in in the Babylon 5 docking bay because of outdated equipment, too few dock workers and an inadequate budget touches off labor strife aboard the station. An informal strike begins. Commander Sinclair attempts to soothe the frayed tempers, but gets no support from Earth and the guild rep, Neeoma Connoly, is not very receptive to his efforts. Sinclair warns that Earth Gov will invoke the Rush Act--essentially, martial law--if the strike doesn't end, but Connoly believes he's bluffing. Orin Zento--a notoriously ruthless labor negotiator--then arrives on the station, intent on breaking the strike. He doesn't negotiate so much as order and demand, offering no accommodations or compromise and seems to look forward to bloody conflict. Zento invokes the Rush Act, and sends Garibaldi and station security in to arrest all of the striking workers. A fight erupts before Sinclair recalls Garibaldi's men. Sinclair, along with Zento, then approaches Connoly. Sinclair asks Zento to confirm that the Rush Act gives the station commander legal authority to end the strike "By any means necessary." Zento, smug jerk he is, confirms this. So Sinclair immediately reallocates funds from the station's military budget to meet some of the demands, then grants blanket amnesty to all the striking dock workers. Yay, Sinclair!
What Jayme Says: This installment of Babylon 5 reeks of "a very special episode" syndrome. It's a ham-fisted allegory about union-busting that doesn't even have the dignity to be an allegory. It's just a straight-up union-busting episode. I mean, I got nothing to add--there's the oppressed workers and mustache-twirling villain, end of story. It's a very linear plot with a cute twist at the end that feels like the cop-out it is.
There's a throwaway sub-plot with Londo and a sacred plant G'Kar needs for a particular religious ritual. After back-and-forth shenanigans that are almost as ham-fisted as the A plot, G'Kar finally acquires the plant, but too late to complete the ritual. Sincliar then points out the the light from the Narn homeworld's star from the particular date in question (albeit from 10 years prior) will arrive at the station shortly, and G'Kar can still technically complete the ritual. Sinclair's solution to the problem is far more clever than the solution to the A plot, but that's not important. What is important is that this is the first serious glimpse of the Narn having a spiritual side that outweighs their impulsive, pugnacious persona. The Narn have maintained the role of stereotypical war-mongering agitators thus far in the series, despite some evidence they have good reason for their hatred of the Centauri. For the Centauri's part, Londo is still the affable, laughing, harmless uncle of previous episodes, but here he shows a streak of cruelty that is barely masked by his humorless smile. That's some subtle foreshadowing, but not easily noticed or appreciated with season one's stand-alone episodic format.
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