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Old July 5th 17, 05:55   #4
vacantlook
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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Re: Rewatching Babylon 5.

Midnight On The Firing Line

So there was a year between when “The Gathering” aired and when this first proper episode of the show was broadcast. There were changes. Takashima, Kyle, and Lyta were replaced with Ivanova, Franklin (who doesn’t show up in this episode but soon will), and Talia. Additional new characters are also introduced. Vir in this episode, and eventually we'll get Lennier and Na’Toth. This show really did have a large cast, and for the most part, the show is able to feel balanced in how much time is given to different characters.

In introducing two new characters – Ivanova and Talia – having them butting heads allows the plot of that interpersonal conflict to give us introductory revelations about the two of them while not feeling like an introduction.

The main plot of the episode is political, and though it’s wrapped up cleanly, it still feels like it has a certain level of weight. And there’s the little background bit about the election, but it’s referencing events that are mostly occurring well offscreen. We have to ask ourselves why is it important since it doesn’t impact anything in this episode, and that suggests it will have to be important later on. That suggestion carries with it the necessity that this show will be serial, not episodic.

We get to see a good bit of the Starfuries in this episode. I always loved the original Starfuries way more than the Thunderbolts that later start showing up in the show. I love how real the Starfuries feel. They move like they’re actually in space. It’s nice. The raiders are very much plot-of-the-week no matter when they're used in this show, but they are a reasonable trouble the people living in this world would have to deal with.

We get Londo’s prophetic dream referenced for the first time. I wonder if anyone who watched originally ever saw this and thought that it was more than flavor for the episode, that what he dreamed would indeed happen eventually. Londo’s sense of guilt over the danger his nephew is in is mournful and angry. G’Kar is angry too. He feels a absolute need for a sense of justice, but clearly goes too far for a long time. Neither one of them is right and both of them are right. In other words, they’re not clean characters; they’re complicated. Londo and G’Kar’s arguments feel deep, beyond the two of them, and long-lived. This show has history built into how characters react to circumstances and each other.

We get way more of Kosh in this than we did in “The Gathering.” He is, as Dr. Kyle said, “pretty alien.” That he is an ongoing character is exciting because a character as odd and cryptic and grandiose like him on another show would easily have only ever been a one-episode sort of thing. It’s understandable because one wants viewers/readers to be able to connect with and understand characters, and a very alien alien would need to be really odd, risking the establishment of that connection.

This episode, though it wasn’t the first filmed, works really well as a first episode. It has enough moving pieces to remain interesting, but still gives us significant character insight.
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