Monday, July 30, 2012

B5 Rewatch: Born to the Purple

Hello there! Welcome back to the Babylon 5 rewatch. Today's post is about the third episode, "Born to the Purple."

Spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers.

What Happened

We find Londo enjoying himself in a club where women are dancing (rather sedately, and fully clothed) on raised stages. Sinclair and G'Kar arrive to inform him that they need to discuss the Euphrates treaty with him, discussion of which he has apparently been dodging. He says sure sure, whatever, and agrees to a meeting the next morning. Just then the music changes and Londo gets excited, saying this is the act he has been waiting for. He invites Sinclair and G'Kar to sit and join him for the performance.

A Centauri woman begins a dance and Londo calls her perfection. G'Kar settles in to enjoy the show and have a drink when a Narn woman arrives and calls out his name very abruptly, causing him to spit out his drink. She introduces herself as Ko D'Ath, the new head of his diplomatic staff. G'Kar has clearly been expecting her, but not for some days yet. She explains that she was eager to begin her new duties and booked an early transport. A human man comes up and hits on her while they are talking and she puts him down none so gently. G'Kar offers to show her to her new quarters. They leave and Londo and Sinclair resume watching the Centauri dance. Later, Londo walks through the station humming to himself and clearly a bit in his cups. He enters his quarters and grins to find the dancer from earlier waiting for him in his bed.

Garibaldi does a check of the communications channels and the computer picks up an anomaly. He radios Sincalir to tell him he's picked up an unauthorized transmission to Earth.

Sinclair, G'Kar, Vir, D'Ath and Talia have gathered for their discussion of the Euprhates treaty but Londo is a no-show. G'Kar is getting more angry by the minute and Sinclair sends Vir to go check. Talia excuses herself and walks away, holding her head. Sinclair goes to check on her and she confesses that such strong emotions, like G'Kar's anger, are hard to block and they can get to her. She comments that these talks must be very important to Sinclair, and he agrees. He says a peaceful settlement is necessary, and with Talia's help they can keep the Centauri and the Narn from lying to each other and get down to a reasonable compromise. Assuming Londo ever shows up, of course.

Londo, meanwhile, has been having sexy fun times with his dancer friend in his quarters and is loathe to leave. He tells her that she makes him alive. She seems to be very enthralled with his position as ambassador and he worries that his title is all she really wants of him. She says she wants no more than what she's getting. He calls her Adira and asks what that is exactly. A washed up old politician dreaming of better days? She says that these are her better days and then she kisses him and leaves. Londo finally answers his comm and Vir reminds him about the peace talks. He says he will be there shortly.

On the bridge, Garibaldi has brought the anomaly to Ivanova's attention but she seems to think it is not a big deal. Garibaldi tries to convince her that it is, and she says that she will look into it as she is required and kind of shoos him off.

Londo arrives at the peace talks all smiles and apologizes for his tardiness.

Adira arrives in her own quarters and a man called Trakis is waiting for her in the dark. He asks her if all is going well with the ambassador and she reluctantly tells him yes. Trakis asks why she hasn't gotten the purple files from Londo yet then and she says it is difficult. Trakis says she forgets her place and that a slave must never lie to her master. He puts a hand on her face and releases some kind of electrical charge that is clearly painful to her. She begs him to stop and he does, turning away. Trakis says that Londo has the power he has because his family has been collecting dirt on other noble families for years, that's how the game is played. Adira says not all Centauri play such games and Trakis says yes, and then they end up like her. Trakis says those files will bring down any noble house in the Centauri republic. A Narn would pay heavily for such secrets and he wants them. He orders Adira to get them tonight and hands her a mind probe to use on Londo. As he leaves he tells her to cheer up, reminding her that the prize for her cooperation is her freedom.

Later Adira greets Londo in her quarters. He brings her a special kind of flower that she says she hasn't seen since she left her world and he admits he had them grown for her. He also gives her a present, a brooch from the earliest days of the republic, belonging to an ancestor of his. She says she can't take it but he insists and pins it on her gown. She suggests ordering dinner but he thinks they should go out. He's made a reservation at the finest restaurant on the station. Adira is surprised, worried about what others will say if they see him with her. He says he doesn't care, she makes him too happy for him to worry about appearances. She is very moved by his admission and a look of guilt crosses her face.

Garibaldi is on duty and the computer alerts him to another unauthorized transmission but the computer fizzles out before he can track its source, much to his frustration.

Sinclair takes Talia out to dinner as a thank you for her help with the negotiations. He says after their day she deserves it. She admits she hasn't sensed so many lies since her days with the political bureau. She also says that Londo's thoughts were intensely erotic. Sinclair says he's not surprised and points out Londo and Adira at a nearby table.

Garibaldi heads to the bridge and he tells Ivanova he picked up another call. She asks if he tracked it and he says he got a prefix on the Russian Consortium before it hit a wall and crashed his computer. She says if they used I.C.E. they should have no problem finding the source with a scan and he says he knows. Hence his presence at her console. He runs the scan and it comes back clear with no unauthorized transmissions. She asks if maybe it is just a figment of his imagination and he grumbles and stalks off.

After their dinner Adira bids Londo to make himself more comfortable while she gets them some drinks. She drops a pill in his while he is out of the room. He returns and they share a toast, she watching him nervously after he quaffs his glass. They kiss and then he passes out from the drug. She pulls the mind probe out of her bag and affixes it to his head. She uses it to get him to tell her the access code to his purple files. She removes the mind probe and leaves him to sleep, heading to his computer and playing his code, which she had recorded him saying. She accesses the files and has them transferred to her crystal port. Once the data is transferred she gives the sleeping Londo a sad kiss goodbye, saying she's sorry and removing the brooch. She sets it on the table and leaves.

Londo wakes later to the beeping of his door. Vir comes in and says that he was ordered to rouse Londo for the negotiations. Londo is feeling a massive hangover and as he sits up he notices the brooch on the table. He picks it up and looks at it in confusion.

Adira, meanwhile, stares at the crystal for a moment and then calls Trakis. When he asks if she got the files she confirms she did and he says he'll be right over. She says no, Londo might come looking for her. She says she will meet him in the Zocalo (the ship's market) near the Galactic Boutique. He gives her ten minutes and warns her not to be late. She makes a sad face at the screen after he signs off and then glances at the flowers Londo had brought her with a regretful smile before she leaves.

Londo looks at his computer while Vir hovers, wanting them to get going. Londo suggests that Vir represent the republic in the talks today and grants him full ambassadorial authority, admonishing him not to give away the homeworld.

Adira makes her way through the Zocalo, and she sees a man buying flowers. When she sees Trakis she runs from him instead of going to greet him. He notices her and begins to give chase but runs into someone and loses sight of her before he can bet back on her trail. He makes his way to her quarters, where he finds Londo knocking loudly. Trakis tells him they won't find her there and that they have much in common. Adira has betrayed them both. He opens the door and goes inside, a very confused Londo following.

Adira, meanwhile, has contacted one of her dancer friends. She wants to return to her world Davo, where she thinks that Trakis won't be able to find her. There is a transport leaving soon and she asks a friend to book passage for her. The friend agrees and promises that Adira will be safe at her place until the transport leaves.

Trakis decides to play Adira off as a Narn agent to Londo. Londo, of course, doesn't believe this for a second, reminding Trakis that Adira is Centauri. Trakis tells him not to be a fool, if those files get out Londo's career, and the republic, will be ruined. Londo wonders what interest Trakis has in any of this, not being Centauri or Narn. Trakis says he is just trying to protect his own interests, and his property. He presents documentation showing that Adira is a slave, and his. It is all perfectly legal under Centauri law. Londo is dumbfounded by this revelation. While he is distracted, Trakis places a small device on Londo's back and then tells him that Adira never cared for him, used him and lied to him. Londo tells him to get out and Trakis leaves.

G'Kar is once more annoyed at Londo's lateness. Vir arrives and says he will be negotiating on behalf of the Centauri today. G'Kar is furious, saying he doesn't have to put up with this. He says he is leaving and will not return until Londo does. In the meantime, D'Ath will represent the Narn regime. She expresses her honor at the responsibility. Before he storms out, G'Kar admonishes her, "just don't give away the homeworld." (Oh, I love symmetry.) Sinclair tells Talia to keep Vir and D'Ath talking while he goes in search of Londo.

Londo has returned to his quarters and found that Adira accessed his purple files. Sinclair shows up to try to bring him back to the talks but he says he doesn't have the time. Sinclair starts to lecture him on their importance and Londo acknowledges it but he has other concerns. He beseeches Sinclair to help him track down Adira. He can't let it become official. It must be handled discretely, only Sinclair can help. Sinclair says he'll help, but only if Londo agrees to accept his compromise on the Euphrates situation. Londo willingly agrees.

They head to the club to talk to the dancers in hopes of tracking down Adira. The club owner is less than cooperative, however. He tries to have his security throw them out. Sinclair starts laughing like a madman, saying that "Argo" was right about the owner. That perks his ears up, and he is surprised they know Argo. It seems to be enough to pique his attention and he asks what they want. Sinclair says they want to hire some dancers for a private event and the owner calls out the ladies. Londo asks Sinclair how he did that and Sinclair says he likes to know everything about everything on the station and Garibaldi's files are very thorough. Londo asks the dancers about Adira and offers up payment if someone will talk. One of them says Adira has a friend named Gera Akshi that she roomed together with once and Londo asks where they might find her.

The dancer says she lives in Brown 6 and Trakis hears this over the listening device he planted on Londo earlier. He is with N'Grath (last seen helping the soul hunter stalk Delenn) and asks if he can help. N'Grath says it will be tricky and Trakis says they just have to delay Londo and Sinclair until he has the girl. He can kill them if he needs to. Trakis promises to double the price if there is any trouble from such an action.

Londo and Sinclair go in search of Gera and run into N'Grath's goons. They manage to hide and overhear the goons getting told to stand down. They realize that Trakis has Adira.

Ivanova radios Garibaldi about reports of heavy gunfire in sector Brown 7 and promises to keep an eye out for any unauthorized calls while he is gone. He makes to leave but stops before he gets to the door. He sits back down and orders a team to check out the incident. He then tells the computer to monitor the channel the unauthorized calls are going out on and to locate Ivanova, clearly suspecting that she is behind the calls.

Sinclair tells Londo that nothing has left the station in several hours, which means Adira and his files are still on board. Londo says likely in the hands of Trakis. Sinclair volunteers to arrest Trakis but Londo shakes his head. That would make the situation public and it is possible that Trakis might hurt Adira. Sinclair is surprised that Londo is still worried about her but Londo implores him to find another way. Sinclair thinks he might have an idea.

Garibaldi picks up another transmission and is able to track and tap into it this time. He gloats that Ivanova's butt is his and moves to listen to the call to find out what she's up to. A nurse pops up on the screen and tells Ivanova that she doesn't have much time, then switches to an old man in a hospital bed. It is Ivanova's father and he is clearly dying. He tells her that he wants her to know he is proud of her, despite their disagreements. He apologizes for failing to give her the love she needed growing up and begs her forgiveness. After he has his say he passes on and Ivanova cries. Garibaldi in his station cuts the transmission and looks pensive about what he has witnessed.

Sinclair walks through the station with G'Kar. G'Kar says that his proposal is most interesting but wonders why Sinclair would wish to provide the Narn with an advantage over the Centauri. Sinclair says it is Earth's call. They want concessions in the Euprhates sector and will rely on the gratitude of the Narn to get them. They will have Talia sit in on the sale to make sure the merchandise is valid.

After getting G'Kar's agreement to the deal, Sinclair and Londo go to Talia to bring her in on their scheme. She is hesitant to break Psi Corps regulations for a personal matter. They persuade her, revealing the danger to Adira's life. She agrees so long as she doesn't actually break the rules--she will read surface thoughts only.

They go to the meeting and Talia manages to trick Trakis into thinking about Adira's whereabouts. She tells Sinclair and, realizing the trap, Trakis makes to flee. He is stopped by Londo, who knocks him out and manages to retrieve the data. Londo then thanks a very confused G'Kar for his help in saving not only Londo's career but the entire Centauri Republic as well.

Garibaldi goes to confront Ivanova about her calls. He says he tracked the most recent call and it was just what she said, a computer error. He fixed it and doesn't think it will happen again. She realizes what he is offering and says, no, it won't. He asks if he can buy her a drink and she declines because she's on duty. As he turns to leave, she stops him, tears in her eyes, and says maybe some other time.

Londo finds Adira preparing to leave for Davo. She apologizes, saying she never meant to hurt him. He says he has been in love many times and has been hurt many times, it is a part of life. He hands her a piece of paper and tells her that Sinclair managed to convince Trakis to cancel her contract. She is free. She tanks him and they hug. Her transport is called and she gets up to leave. Londo tells her she could stay, but she declines, saying the wounds are too fresh. He understands but insists she takes the brooch he had given her earlier and asks that someday she come back to him. She kisses him and tells him goodbye before she leaves.


No, seriously, what was up with that club? I mean, it was set up like a strip club, with men watching women dance, but the women were all fully clothed and none of it was indecent or even erotic or anything. Yet Londo was acting like he was getting a hell of a show and G'Kar was clearly embarrassed to have been discovered there by D'Ath. She, for her part, was equally disgusted by the establishment. I don't get it. I mean, I know that it was the early nineties when this first aired and all, but...if you're going to try to hint that your characters are doing something they shouldn't be doing, or should be ashamed of doing, then at least portray what they are doing accurately, or be creative enough with your cinematography that it doesn't look like they are simply having drinks at the ballet or something. Jeez.

ALSO. I am trying very hard not to judge the special effects because obviously this show is almost twenty years old (eep, and now I feel old), and they were just innovating and still figuring stuff out. But the lightning/electricity effect is just Let's call it dated. Can we get back to the stock footage of exterior station shots please? I will say the prosthetic work for the aliens still looks damn amazing though. There is something to be said for the tried and true methods.

So, old effects technology I can forgive, even if it makes me cringe, but let's talk for a moment about the fashion. Because seriously. Nineties sense of style, I am judging you. Hard. Any human not in a military uniform on this show just looks ridiculous. Also, there's a strange throwback vibe to the fashion of some of the other cultures and races that is hard to figure out. I adore how the Minbari dress, and the Centauri not-quite-medieval vibe kind of suits them. So too, what the Narn have going on. But the humans...I mean. Even the military uniforms are kind of questionable, but they tend to be simplistic enough to still hold up. It's just...I don't even know. It's so strange to me how fashion seems to have hit the peak of silliness in the nineties and then just kind of more or less leveled out (at least among the common people). Seeing it reflected in someone's idea of the far future is just...embarrassing, I guess.

Sorry. Okay, so, the actual episode. I find it interesting that Londo has access to such crazy insane secrets that they could bring down his whole government, and he just leaves them lying around, apparently not even encrypted, on his computer. But overall this was a decent story of political intrigue and kind of established how the Centauri society rolls, I guess. It largely did a lot to set up Londo as a romantic, despite his normally cynical nature. That does rather play into how his character develops as the series unfolds, if I am remembering correctly. I do also find it very telling how practical he is in matters of the heart as opposed to matters of blood/honor/vengeance. I mean, Adira drugged him and stole government secrets and he accepted that she had reasons to do it and didn't want to hurt him personally. When his nephew might be dead because of Narn treachery? Dude was ready to go to war against his government's wishes to avenge that. It''s interesting.

Oh, and apparently slavery is totally legal throughout the Centauri worlds. So, you know. There's that. Sigh.

Then we get the little side plot with Garibaldi and Ivanova. I am tempted to say it was kind of a pointless little B story but...I am not so sure there is any such thing on this show. The story did certainly give us insight into Ivanova's background, as well as her personality. She could probably easily have gotten clearance to make those calls from Sinclair, given the circumstances, but she preferred to sneak around in secret rather than reveal something about her personal life to her superiors and colleagues. Garibaldi, for his part, showed that when he sets out to find a culprit, he does just that. But we also see that he is willing to look the other way if the situation warrants it. It's actually a fun little change-up, with Ivanova being the one to break the rules and Garibaldi the stickler for once.

I do have to wonder how the negotiations went between Vir and D'Ath. I wish we could have gotten one final scene on that little thread, because it was just kind of amusing. I do very much enjoy that this show manages to give us moments of levity despite a lot of the serious subject matter it tackles.

Favorite Quotes

"What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?" (Londo)

"If I do...will you agree to my compromise on the Euphrates treaty?" (Sinclair)
"I'll even seal it with a kiss." (Londo)
"That should make G'Kar's day." (Sinclair)

"I never knew you could be so devious, Commander." (G'Kar)
"Coming from you, Ambassador, that's a real compliment." (Sinclair)


That's it for today folks. See you back here on Wednesday for the next episode, "Infection."

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