Monday, August 6, 2012

B5 Rewatch: The Parliament of Dreams

Howdy folks! Welcome to another installment of the Babylon 5 rewatch! Today we are tackling the fifth episode of the first season, "The Parliament of Dreams." Join me, won't you?

Spolierfest ahoy!

What Happened

An alien in the arrivals area tries to convince Garibaldi to let him bring a knife on board, calling it a ceremonial blade. Garibaldi refuses, citing the policy against weapons on board the station. They are, as far as I can tell, only allowed to members of the security staff, otherwise they are completely forbidden. The alien leaves, unhappy, and a colleague comes up to Garibaldi. He gripes that they have five more days of this to put up with and Garibaldi agrees, saying they can blame Earth Central. We learn that the station is holding a week where every species on board gets to demonstrate their "dominant" religious belief. It is an attempt to encourage cultural understanding. As they are talking, he notices a woman walking through the area and hands off the watch to his colleague, following her out.

In his quarters, G'Kar sings a little song while he cooks something. He sits down to eat and is interrupted by a beeping at his door. A Narn comes in and introduces himself as diplomatic courier Tu'Pari, just arrived from the homeworld. He has a message for G'Kar's eyes only. He seems a bit affronted that G'Kar doesn't jump to check it out, but G'Kar dismisses him and says he'll look at it later. Tu'Pari leaves and G'Kar sits back down to eat but after a moment huffs in frustration and opens the message.

It is from an old associate of his, Du'Rog, who says he is dying. Likely by the time G'Kar receives the message, he will be dead. G'Kar toasts to the message, not put out by the news. But then Du'Rog continues. Of course, very shortly, G'Kar himself will be dead too. G'Kar turns to look at the screen in shock. Du'Rog continues that G'Kar should hardly be surprised. Apparently G'Kar was responsible for the ruin of Du'Rog's reputation and family name. He should have been expecting retribution. But proper retribution is expensive. So, now that he is dying (dead), Du'Rog has ordered that all of his assets be liquidated and the funds given to someone qualified to kill G'Kar. He tells G'Kar that he will be dead within forty-eight hours of receiving the message, claiming to have an agent close to the ambassador already. As he wonders about the possible identity of his would-be assassin, there is another ring at his door. A Narn walks in and introduces herself as diplomatic attache Na'Toth, his new aide. He simply stares at her.

Garibaldi goes to see Sinclair, who is getting ready for Londo's presentation on Centauri religious ceremonies. Garibaldi tells him someone named Catherine is on board. He tells the Commander that he just saw her come through customs and thought he would want to know immediately. Sinclair is surprised but tries to play it off. Garibaldi asks if maybe he wants to see her and Sinclair says no, that's alright. Garibaldi turns to leave and Sinclair stops to ask if she was with anyone. Garibaldi says not that he can see. Sinclair looks saddened as he finishes dressing.

The Centauri celebration is under way and Londo is more than a little drunk. Delenn seems a bit overwhelmed and says it seems quite elaborate. Londo just pounds the table and laughs. Even Ivanova seems to be enjoying herself. Vir explains to Delenn that this is a celebration of life, stemming from a time in Centauri history when two dominant species were fighting for supremacy: their people and a species they called Xon. He says at year's end they would count all of their people who had survived and celebrate their good fortune. Garibaldi asks what happened to the Xon and Londo declares they are all dead, and good riddance. Delenn is not impressed.

Garibaldi quietly asks Sinclair if he is sure he doesn't want to see her, meaning Catherine. Sinclair says he is sure. Ivanova asks Londo to tell her about the statues decorating the party and Londo says they are the household gods. Sinclair asks Garibaldi where Catherine is and Garibaldi gives him the information. Drunken Londo climbs on the table, naming each of the gods. Then he tells Delenn she is very cute for a Minbari, and that Garibaldi is cute too, in an annoying sort of way. He declares that everyone is cute, even him, and passes out. Vir turns to ask Commander Sinclair if he would like some more spirits, but the commander is gone.

Sinclair, in another part of the station, finds Catherine conducting a business deal of some sort. As she wraps it up, she notices him in the doorway and turns to leave through another exit. Sinclair's communications link chirps with Ivanova looking for him but he quickly silences it and puts it in his pocket. Catherine stops in the doorway and then turns, walking back to Sinclair. She says hello and explains she didn't know he was in charge of the station until she arrived. If she had known she would have stayed away, keeping her promise. She offers to leave and he tells her not to. She is clearly there for business, and that's what Babylon 5 is for, after all. She asks how he's been and he says busy. She asks after someone named Carolyn and he answers that she is fine, at least last he heard. They went their separate ways when he would not quit the military and go into business with her. Catherine agrees that would be very out of character for him if he had done so. Ivanova tries to communicate him again and her voice can be heard from Sinclair's pocket. She says she'll let him get back to his business. He asks if she'd like to have dinner while she's on the station. She is hesitant but he assures her it is just dinner, he wants to show off the station to her. She says this is how they get into trouble every three years but agrees anyway. She leaves and he watches with a small smile.

G'Kar watches Na'Toth carefully and she asks him if something is the matter. He remarks that he was just thinking about the past week, about the sudden and unfortunate demise of his first aide, Ko'Dath. Apparently she died in some sort of airlock malfunction. G'Kar asks Na'Toth who sponsored her to be his new aide and she answers Counselor Li'Dak of the fifth circle. G'Kar remarks that she must then know Du'Rog, who is Li'Dak's sponsor. She says she's never met him, but G'Kar isn't so sure.

He says that Du'Rog has hired someone to kill him and asks what she has to say to that. Na'Toth tells him with all due respect, if she was the assassin, he wouldn't be alive for them to be having this conversation. G'Kar says unless Du'Rog ordered her to prolong his discomfort for the full forty-eight hour window. Na'Toth shrugs it off, doubting the existence of such an assassin. If Du'Rog did hire a killer, though, she tells G'Kar, he likely hired someone elite, from the assassin's guild. Those killers always leave a black flower for their victims to allow them time to get their affairs in order. She asks if G'Kar has received such a flower. He says no, and she tells him he shouldn't worry then. Later that evening he sleeps. Rolling over, he finds a black flower on his pillow and screams.

He calls Na'Toth to show her the flower. He demands to know how it got into her bed and she says it's hardly her place to know how anything gets in his bed. She comments on his rumored fascination with Earth women. Then she moves on to ask why he doesn't go to the Commander for protection if he's so worried. G'Kar bristles at this, saying he takes care of himself, citing his survival of the war and other assassination attempts. Besides, if he asks for help he will have to explain why Du'Rog wants him dead. While he doesn't care if the information gets out, personally, it could have negative effects on current negotiations and shed light on some of his history with the council that is best kept quiet.

Na'Toth shrugs. Fine, she says, but if he suspects her, why is he telling her any of this? He tells her about the keep your friends close and enemies closer concept. He wants to find Tu'Pari and learn who gave him the message in the first place. She says he's probably already left the station but G'Kar checked and no Narn ships have left the station since Tu'Pari's delivery. Na'Toth's first test will be to find Tu'Pari for him. Meanwhile, he is going to arrange for a bit of protection. She is surprised, saying she thought he wanted it kept secret. He says he's not telling the Earthers and ducks out.

Delenn waits in customs as a slew of arrivals board the station. A young Minbari man is among them and he looks around in wonder, smiling as he sees Delenn. He greets her as Satai and bows. He introduces himself as Lennier of the Third Fane of Chudomo. He says he was sent and Delenn answers that she has been expecting him. He seems hesitant to meet her gaze and when she tells him he can he says it is forbidden. She seems amused and says if he is to be her aide he must be able to look up. When still he hesitates she says please and he meets her eyes.

She leads him into the station. As they walk he asks her forgiveness, saying that this is all new from him. Going from being a simple novitiate to working with one of the Grey Council is overwhelming. She says his teachers spoke well of him and she knows he will adjust. She says he must start by never mentioning that she is of the Grey Council. No one here knows that and they must not find out. He is confused but she says it would lead to questions she does not want to answer. He admits that he does not understand but understanding is not necessary, only obedience, and he will do as she says. She is clearly relieved and as they continue on she tells him his arrival was timely, explaining the display of religions going on at the moment. She says he can help with the display of Minbari religion. The Third Fane of Chudomo has served with honor for five hundred years, he tells her, he will not disappoint her. She is content with his answer and takes his arm, asking for news of home.

G'Kar, meanwhile, has gone to pay a visit to the local preying mantis black market whiz N'Grath in order to ask for protection. N'Grath is amused by this, but G'Kar explains he needs a bodyguard not of his own world to avoid complications. He needs someone within the next two hours to attend the Minbari ceremony. N'Grath calls forward a minion and G'Kar seems pleased.

Sinclair and Catherine are out at dinner and she chides him for being out of uniform, saying she doesn't think she's ever seen him off duty. She tells him she was surprised to see him here. He says he's not sure why. It seems like they run into each other every two or three years, though one or the other of them is always with someone else when they do. When they run into each other and both are free, it seems they always reminisce about their days in the academy together, make small talk, pretend they don't miss each other, and then end up in bed together. Then one of them leaves. They have a small disagreement about who left last time but Catherine says who can even keep it straight anymore. She admits she had been thinking about him recently, wondering how he was. She says she still has all of his letters and reads them from time to time to remind herself of why they shouldn't be together. She says they aren't any good for each other. He says he knows and then after a moment they look at each other and then fall back into their old routine.

At the Minbari religious ceremony things are all seriousness and the audience seems fidgety. G'Kar looks around, anxious. Most of the others seem a bit bored. Lennier hands around what looks like a fruit of some sort as Delenn recites a litany. She calls it their death and tells them to taste of it and not be afraid. Londo and Vir pop theirs without hesitation, Garibaldi passes, and Ivanova cautiously eats hers while G'Kar just sniffs his suspiciously. Delenn watches Sinclair carefully and seems pleased when he eats his own fruit.

G'Kar runs into his quarters, distraught and demanding to know from Na'Toth where his bodyguard is. He was supposed to be at the ceremony and yet G'Kar was left all alone. Na'Toth quickly hushes him and indicates the other room. He goes through to find the man sitting down and starts to berate him. He claps him on the back and the man falls over, clearly dead. Behind him is a black flower. G'Kar gasps in surprise.

Garibaldi is called and is very suspicious of the details that G'Kar has provided him. He is quite skeptical that this man that was dead in G'Kar's quarters isn't someone G'Kar has ever met before. Snooping around a little, Garibaldi finds a pair of lacy panties, asking if they are G'Kar's. Frustrated, G'Kar snatches them up and tells Garibaldi to get out. Garibaldi bristles but G'Kar reminds him of his diplomatic immunity, saying he called Garibaldi as a courtesy and that he should stop wasting his time with pointless questions and find out who killed the guy (waving the panties around the whole time). Garibaldi gives him a look and then apologizes, leaving.

Na'Toth tracks down Tu'Pari and tells him to come with her. He says he is needed on the homeworld and that he has orders. Na'Toth says so does she, and if he doesn't come with her he will be the late courier Tu'Pari. He caves to the threat and follows her out.

Catherine meets with some of her associates going over the results of a planetary survey she had done for them. They thank her and then tell her they have some good news. The last planet she surveyed for them turned up substantial quantities of a valuable resource. According to their contract, she is entitled to a share of the profits from that find. They show her a number and she is a bit overwhelmed. They say they need to head back to Earth and make their goodbyes, sure she will want to celebrate her good fortune. They say they will see her later. She looks around and says "Cheers," taking a drink and staring at the screen again.

Na'Toth brings Tu'Pari and G'Kar says he would like to speak to the courier alone. Na'Toth leaves and G'Kar immediately grabs Tu'Pari and demands to know who gave him the message he delivered the previous day. Tu'Pari says it came from Du'Rog but G'Kar isn't having it, saying since Du'Rog is dead, someone else had to give Tu'Pari the message. Tu'Pari caves under the rough treatment and admits that it was Counselor Shu'Toth who gave him the message to pass along. G'Kar is surprised, as Shu'Toth is Na'Toth's father. Tu'Pari remarks that the danger is closer than G'Kar had thought.

Sinclair is chilling in his quarters watching a television program (that quite frankly sounds like a bit of a downer) when his door chimes. He tells the visitor to come in and Catherine enters, all dressed up and carrying a basket of goodies, joking about how expensive things are on the station. Sinclair sits up quickly. She tells him she just got some fantastic news and is tired of not having anyone to share it with. She sees what he is watching and is surprised that it's Tennyson. She says he's been hung up on that since the academy and wonders what it will take to drag him into the twenty-third century. He protests that he enjoys it. She quotes a bit of it to him and he is surprised that she memorized it. She says she lived with him for a year, she didn't really have a choice. He says they shouldn't be doing this. They just got over each other. She asks if that's really the case. She doesn't think they've ever gotten over each other. He asks what she wants from him and she says she doesn't know. She just didn't want to celebrate alone. She begs him not to send her away and he says he couldn't. He reaches for her and someone pages him. He takes the call and Catherine makes to leave but he stops her. They kiss.

G'Kar calls his homeworld to request immediate reassignment of Na'Toth. The representative on the other end agrees readily enough. She also apologizes for the delay in getting their dispatches to them. He asks what she means and she tells him their courier met with an unfortunate accident before he could leave for the station and they have yet to find a replacement. G'Kar is confused and tells her that the courier is already there. He turns around and Tu'Pari grins and raises a weapon, firing it at him.

Sinclair and Catherine snuggle in bed together and she tells him he should get some sleep. They talk for a few moments and Catherine says they should enjoy the time they have until he is the busy Commander once more.

G'Kar wakes to find himself elsewhere on the station. Tu'Pari sits nearby reading a book. G'Kar lunges forward to attack him but is stopped short when a collar around his neck begins to electrocute him. Tu'Pari explains that it is a pain-giver. If he gets within ten feet of Tu'Pari, he will be shocked, within five and he will be killed. G'Kar asks him what he wants. Tu'Pari says his orders are quite specific. He pulls out a paper and reads from it. G'Kar is to know pain--he shocks him again--and fear, and then he is to die at the required hour. G'Kar says he can double whatever price that Tu'Pari was paid to kill him. Tu'Pari says he is sure that is the case but to accept it, to betray a commission, would violate the spirit of the Thenta Makur (assassins' guild) and then they would have to kill him. He says they must all make their own little sacrifices, and G'Kar is about to make his.

Na'Toth arrives at G'Kar's quarters, surprised to find him gone. She notices broken glass and other signs of a struggle. She sees that his communications screen is active and orders it to reestablish contact with the last transmission.

Tu'Pari continues to electrocute G'Kar, urging him to give in to the pain and cry out. G'Kar says he would die before giving Tu'Pari the satisfaction. Tu'Pari is fine with that. As he continues with his torture, Na'Toth walks in. Tu'Pari is surprised to see her and she says she is glad to see her instincts were correct. She knew he would need complete privacy and found which transport tube had suddenly broken down in order to track him. Tu'Pari says this is none of her concern but she says on the contrary. She's his backup, there to finish the job if he fails. He claims he wasn't told about any backup and she says of course not. That's standard practice in the assassin's guild. He still doesn't quite believe her and she dismisses his method of torture, saying it is too quick. Tu'Pari asks what she would recommend and she rolls G'Kar over, kicking him repeatedly, knocking him back into a pile of crates.

Tu'Pari still isn't buying it, but before he can act G'Kar reappears and runs at him, removing the pain-givers and getting the gun away from Tu'Pari. Once the assassin is dealt with he turns to Na'Toth and smiles, shaking his finger at her and saying that hurt. She straightens and says contritely that it was the only way to disable the pain-givers. She asks what he is going to do with the assassin. He grins and chuckles.

Tu'Pari wakes up unbound in the customs area, sitting between G'Kar and Na'Toth. G'Kar says he was worried the injection might not wear off for another day. Tu'Pari fixates on the word "another" and Na'Toth cheerfully tells him he's been out for seventy-two hours. Sadly, he's missed his deadline to kill G'Kar. G'Kar smiles and says that to make up for it he deposited a substantial amount of money into Tu'Pari's account. Tu'Pari freaks out, knowing that the Thenta Makur will think he took a bribe not to finish the job. G'Kar smiles and nods. Na'Toth says she thinks they will probably arrive within the hour. A boarding call is heard and G'Kar and Na'Toth tell Tu'Pari that is his flight. He hurries off.

G'Kar and Na'Toth discuss the incident, amused at how it played out and clearly getting along famously. They run into Sinclair escorting Catherine to customs. Sinclair remarks on G'Kar's good mood and then speculates that maybe Earth Central was on to something with the whole religious festival. It has been kind of quiet for the last few days. He asks Catherine if she really has to go and she says yes, but just for a few days. He promises to be there when she gets back, and she promises to come back. They think this is going to be the start of an interesting ride.

Catherine then asks him if he's figured out what to do for the demonstration of Earth's dominant religion (which she doesn't name). He isn't sure. He doesn't know how he can top the Minbari ceremony, mentioning the little pieces of fruit. That catches Catherine's attention and she asks if it was red fruit. When Sinclair says yes she asks if there was a "serious exchange of looks" and Sinclair said yes, as part of a rebirth ceremony. Catherine laughs and says it also doubles as a marriage ceremony. Depending on how seriously anyone took it, someone got married the other day. Sinclair wonders if maybe that's why G'Kar was smiling. Catherine smiles and kisses him and they promise to see each other soon. As she leaves she asks if he thinks they'll get it right this time and he says he doesn't know. Fair enough, she tells him, and leaves.

Everyone has gathered for Sinclair's demonstration, getting impatient as Sinclair hasn't shown up yet and they are really just standing in a hallway. Even Ivanova and Garibaldi don't know what he has planned, but Garibaldi is adamant that they wait for the Commander. Sinclair arrives and says they are all set and ushers everyone to follow him. He introduces representatives of the many different beliefs and denominations on Earth (including atheists), and all of the ambassadors shake hands with each as they go down the line.


Well. While I can definitely understand the impetus to want to learn about the religious beliefs of all of the different species aboard the station (it would seem to be a diplomatic necessity for those running things at the very least), having one week where everyone flies their flag seems like it would lead to all kinds of chaos. Also, don't get me started on only displaying the "dominant" religion of each world. Can you imagine if we met an alien species in real life and they wanted to know about only one of our religions to get a better understanding about us? That right there might be enough to trigger World War III. I do really like how Sinclair ended up displaying Earth's religions, and that atheists were included. It says that in the future, we are a lot more at ease with our diversity of faith than we are right now. I hope that is a prediction that can come true, to be sure.

As it turned out, the ceremonies actually all seemed to go over pretty well and mostly just served as a backdrop for the main plot of the episode (more on that in a moment) as well as to give us a little bit more insight into the Centauri and Minbari cultures at least. I would have been curious to see the Narn ceremony, especially now that I think about it and remember how into his faith G'Kar gets as the series progresses. Still. We got a different sort of education about the Narn in this episode, so they weren't exactly left out. In regards to Catherine's comments on the rebirth ceremony also serving as a marriage ceremony, I have to say, that was an interesting little bit of foreshadowing and a wonderful red herring. Because wow, yeah, Delenn was watching Sinclair very carefully and seemed quite relieved when he ate the fruit. The red herring is in bringing up the marriage aspect, of course, because I definitely think this was a rebirth ceremony if not intended specifically for Sinclair, definitely one that Delenn hoped he would partake of.

In regards to Sinclair's rekindled romance: wow. This show loves to just throw you in the deep end regarding character back stories. First one mysterious woman from Sinclair's past, and then as soon as he starts talking to her, we learn of another. I like that they don't stop to explain every little second of the story, it gives the scenes a lot of realism. Also, it was an interesting side of Sinclair to get to see, that he has this romance that he keeps coming back to, even though he knows it probably won't work out in the long run because he and Catherine are just too different in their ambitions. I like that they are both willing to at least keep trying and to enjoy the time together that they can make. I enjoyed how it was handled from a writing standpoint as well. It wasn't all sappy and dramatic. They both acted like grownups and again, we got a nice dose of realism there.

So. G'Kar. I like how it didn't phase Na'Toth one bit that G'Kar so readily accepted Du'Rog having reason to want him dead, nor that it really should be kept quiet. Not to save G'Kar personal embarrassment but to keep Narn interests from being damaged. I think that says a lot about Narn culture right there, really. We also learn that while G'Kar definitely has the status and history of a hardened warrior, he does fear death when it isn't something he can just face head on. I love that he was so jumpy until he finally knew who was coming for him. When he could face Tu'Pari head on, he lost that fear and went back into warrior mode. It suggests that what G'Kar truly fears is the unknown.

It was also nice to see him working with Na'Toth despite his early distrust of her and how quickly they were able to build a rapport once he knew she was not actually a threat. She's a fun little addition to the series.

Lastly, can I just say, Lennier, yay! He is possibly my favorite character of the whole series and so I was very happy to have him finally make his appearance. He doesn't get a lot to do in this episode, but at least he has been introduced. He does serve to help deepen the mystery surrounding Delenn and her hidden agenda for being on Babylon 5 though. I also like how early Delenn begins to groom him for greater things, and to try to instill some self-confidence in him. Their mentor/student relationship is another one of my favorite parts of the series, and it's very nice to see it there from the start.

Favorite Quotes

"You test my faith!" (Alien)
"And you're testing my patience. Now move on before I decide to flunk out." (Garibaldi)

"Are you Ambassador G'Kar?" (Tu'Pari)
"This is Ambassador G'Kar's quarters. This is Ambassador G'Kar's table. This is Ambassador G'Kar's dinner. Which part of this progression escapes you?" (G'Kar)

"He has become one with his inner self!" (Vir)
"He's passed out!" (Garibaldi)
"That too." (Vir)

"I don't mean to alarm you, but your pants are talking to you." (Catherine)

"I cannot have an aide who will not look up. You will be forever walking into things." (Delenn)


Well, there you have it. Be sure to stop by again on Wednesday for the next episode, "Mind War."

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