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Old July 22nd 16, 19:15   #31
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: UK
Posts: 412
Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

In the Kingdom of the Blind

The thematic heart of this episode isn’t about telepaths or nefarious happenings on Centauri Prime – it’s about the legacy of the Shadow War and is just as much an ‘arc episode’ as those directly involving the First Ones. I love that everything boils down to the legacy of the actions of the Vorlons and Shadows – here we see the beginning of the downfall of Londo that comes as a result of his relationship with Morden and the Shadows, while on the station we see the consequences of the Vorlons creating human telepaths. The fact that we get to see that legacy on the show and in this episode is incredibly impressive, particularly during a season that has been quite light on ‘arc’ episodes.

However, while I do think this episode sums up the best of B5, it also highlights some of the worst things about this season. I’ll start off with the negative things so we can end on the high points.

After a couple of good episodes, the telepath story returns to the contrived storytelling we saw earlier in the season, with several characters acting without even a modicum of intelligence.

Let’s start with Byron. His feeling that the galaxy owes telepaths something for their services in the Shadow War is compromised by his homo-sapien only viewpoint. Alien telepaths seem well regarded by their individual civilisations, and aside from Lyta it seemed to be mostly Minbari telepaths that we saw employed during the war. Human telepaths barely took part (the human teeps handed over to the Shadows by the Psi Corps being the exception, but then Byron should then direct his ire at the Corps). Byron’s anger against the Alliance seems totally misplaced. Nor do I understand why he didn’t simply take his proposal for a telepath homeworld to Sheridan and Delenn. At least try a reasonable approach first, especially with people who are sympathetic to their cause. I’m mean, Sheridan’s the President of the Galaxy – he can pull strings if he wants to.

Instead, Byron takes the worst course of action, which results in everyone on the station turning against the teeps and Byron’s gang having to blockade themselves into Down Below. Byron even has the audacity to say that cooler heads might prevail in time and that alien races might rally around their cause when they hear about the teeps starving in their self-made blockade. These would be the same alien races you’ve just tried to black mail, Byron? Great plan.

On the Alliance side, we have Sheridan at his reactionary worst, Garibaldi’s continuing change in character to a completely unlikeable person and only Delenn talking sense. Why didn’t Sheridan just have Byron arrested there and then in the council chambers? There’s other story contrivances. Byron claims to have knowledge about the attacks on shipping lanes and Garibaldi allows him to present it to the council without first knowing what that information is or double checking it? For all Garibaldi knows Byron really does have information. What if Byron’s information was wrong? It could worsen the situation. That whole scene just screams contrived. I really hate how Garibaldi is just plain rude to Byron as well in that scene. I really don’t know what has happened to the writing of Garibaldi but I really don’t like his character this season. It feels like JMS is still writing the Garibaldi from season 4 who’d had his personality altered.

There’s also this issue of the telepaths being attacked every time they step out of their territory. To those Drazi, the human teeps just look like normal humans. How are they distinguishing them? And how do ordinary Drazi know about what is going on at a political level? Again, it’s contrived.

Zack’s mumbling on his PA announcement made me laugh.

Season 5 also seems to be plagued by slow-motion fight scenes that look really, really, really terrible and there’s another one this episode. Director David Eagle ain’t John Woo. I can’t tell if these slow motion fights are a deliberate but ill-advised style, or just trying to cover up crappy fight choreography, which I’ve never felt B5 was very good at.

But then we’ve got the events on Centauri Prime, which are much better. There’s intrigue, backstabbing and mystery – everything we’d hope for from a Centauri story! Ian Ogilvy is a touch of class in a season that has been distinctly lacking in good guest stars, while Damian London as the Regent continues to chew the scenery in delightful fashion – I love his range of bewildered and terrified expressions as he brings Lord Jano to his death. “I think we’re well beyond pastels now” is the best line of the season so far.

I do have some nitpicks. Budgetary reasons I’m sure, but why does Londo – the Prime Minister – stay in such a pokey little room in the Royal Palace? Surely he’d have a big, grandiose house! And is the way from his quarters to the Regent’s quarters really through a dimly lit, rocky tunnel? That made no sense. There’s also more overly dramatic and intrusive music – a common occurrence this season which I’ve mentioned before – when they find Jano’s body.

I did laugh at the Centauri women being attracted by G’Kar and his reptilian magnetism! :-) I also liked the transition from Londo wondering what they’re doing with the Centauri fleet to the battle scene in space – but that was a Brakiri battle cruiser, why did it have no weapons? And the dialogue there is so terribly trite, it felt like little thought had been put into it.

I apologise for such a long review of the episode, but the varying quality of the two halves is quite startling. As an aside, Byron describes the events of Secrets of the Soul as being “yesterday” so that confirms that Day of the Dead is in the wrong order (I know it aired out of order, perhaps it would have been better being moved to after Phoenix Rising on the DVDs).
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