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Old June 26th 16, 10:06   #22
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: UK
Posts: 418
Re: Is it time to give season 5 another chance?

Strange Relations

At last, six episodes in and we have some impetus! It takes the return of an arch villain – Bester – to provide that impetus. It’s not quite as explosive or tense as I’d like, but it does give the impression of an opening salvo being fired in the battle for the rogue telepaths and we’ve now got a countdown - 60 days - before it all gets really ugly.

The rogue teeps’ cause isn’t helped by the general characterisation of Byron. His little speech to Lyta about the willow was utterly self-indulgent, pretentious and so over-the-top that you can’t help but cringe. That said – given that we know what his fate is later, and what his origins are – you get the impression that all this twaddle that he spouts is an attempt to create a personality that obscures what he’s done in the past. For me, he would have been more interesting had that aspect been played up – that he’s blatantly developing this personality to hide something awful that he once did, leaving the viewers guessing what that might be. Alas, aside from a cryptic lie from Bester, that doesn’t really happen.

I am curious about the way politics is playing out in these stories. I remarked after watching No Compromises that I felt some of the attention to detail from previous stories was missing - the same attention to detail as in Point of No Return, when Sheridan realises that the order to hand over security to the Night Watch had not come down through the proper chain of command. B5 is Alliance territory, despite having an EarthForce governor. Surely Earth must first request extradition of the telepaths? And it is Sheridan’s prerogative to say no and there would be nothing Earth or the Psi Corps could do about it, especially if they have been officially granted asylum – I’m glad that Sheridan at least stood up to them and told Lochley to find a way around it. Yet those details are ignored for the sake of having a bit of drama and, maybe in the context of providing an hour’s worth of TV entertainment, that’s a valid thing to ignore, but it does detract from the telepath storyline in that it feels like it is being forced rather than being the natural outcome of a cleverly constructed storyline.

Lochley is beginning to grate a little bit at some points in this episode, as though she is going out of her way to be antagonistic. She may not have a personal beef with Bester, but she damn well knows that he is persona non gratis on B5, the least she could do to be diplomatic to the people she works with is to keep Bester at arm’s length, rather than sitting around drinking tea with him. At least she is able to foil his plans at the end. Bester takes it all remarkably well!

I haven’t spoken about the hole left by Ivanova this season yet. I’m not going to compare Lochley to Ivanova or expect Lochley to act like Ivanova – they are two different characters – but there is an energy and a irreverence and a charm missing to the show that Ivanova brought that the other command staff characters lack and it did feel missing in this episode, what with grumpy, suspicious Garibaldi, Bester the villain, Byron the weeping willow, and Lochley’s rigidity.

A couple of plot points that puzzled me. It can take weeks, months, for air-crash investigators to figure out why aeroplanes crash, yet they figure out why the Centauri cruiser explodes within five minutes, even finding a detonator amongst all that wreckage?! That seems unrealistic just to provide convenience to the story. Furthermore, hundreds of people just died on that ship, but nobody bats an eyelid. Maybe everyone has just seen it all before - by my counting, that’s the third Centauri cruiser to have been destroyed outside B5.

There was also the ship that crashed in the docking bay, in what seems to be a deliberate nod back to By Any Means Necessary, even to the point of giving Neeoma Connolly a shout-out. But did I miss its relevance to the plot line? Or was it just an excuse to get Lochley outside in a Starfury? But again, what’s the purpose of that?

The bloodhounds are an interesting addition - it would have been nice to have got a sense of how they work, rather than just leaving them to badly acted extras. Interesting that Bester is using them now, but didn’t bring them to the station to catch Ironheart or the underground railroad (the real reason, of course, is likely that JMS hadn’t thought of them at the time).

And is it me, or is some of the dialogue absolutely terrible this episode? Lines like “riding me since I got here” and “crawled up my butt” – does anybody talk like that (not to mention the sexual connotations that dialogue brings)?

I should say that one of the neat things about this season 5 rewatch is that I actually can’t remember all the episodes – the general story and some of the scenes, yes – but some scenes and dialogue I had completely forgotten about, so it feels fresher to watch as opposed to earlier seasons that I know inside out having watched them so much!

So in conclusion, this episode does bring some much-needed momentum so for that it is a welcome episode, but the care taken in the story-crafting (and by this I don’t just mean JMS’ writing, but overall acting, direction) feels rushed. I don’t feel like I’m watching something great or exciting yet – it feels like just another show and B5 never felt like that in earlier seasons, at least for not such a long run of episodes as these opening episodes of season 5. But we’re an an upward curve now, hopefully it will continue!
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