Wednesday, September 5, 2012

B5 Rewatch: By Any Means Necessary

Hello everybody! Welcome to the Babylon 5 rewatch! Today we'll be tackling the twelfth episode of season one, "By Any Means Necessary." Join me, won't you, on this spoilerific journey?

Let Me Sum Up

A computer malfunction occurs while a Narn ship is attempting to dock with the station, causing it to collide with another ship. Two members of the station crew are trapped by the subsequent explosion, and one does not make it. The cargo on the Narn ship is also lost.

The incident sparks turmoil with the docking bay workers and with G'Kar (and the Narn government). The malfunction appears to have been caused by a defective microchip and it is revealed that all of the chips in that part of the station are substandard, the contractor used the cheap stuff. They need to repair the bay and install new chips, which will cost money they don't have. Earth is not eager to up the station's budget, either.

Meanwhile, G'Kar desperately tries to track down a replacement for his cargo, a rare flower that he needs for a religious ceremony that must be conducted during the holy days of G'Quan, an observance that is happening currently. Despite his and Na'Toth's best efforts, they cannot find a way to have another shipped to them in time for the ceremony. Though it does turn out that there is one on the station. It just happens to belong to Londo.

The station's dock workers, unhappy to learn they won't be getting any sort of raise, new equipment, new staff, relief of any sort, start calling in sick. Which is their way of striking (since it is illegal for them to do so based on their employment contracts). Sinclair wants to help them but his hands are tied by lack of funds. He tries to reach a compromise with their leader, Connally, to get them to go back to work while he works on getting Earth to give them the funds they need to improve conditions. Connally says not without guarantees.

G'Kar goes to Londo to offer to purchase the plant, but Londo is unwilling to part with it unless G'Kar pays an extremely exorbitant sum. When G'Kar scrapes up the money, Londo says he changed his mind and will not be selling G'Kar the plant. He tells G'Kar to consider it a small taste of revenge for what the Narn did to their colony on Ragesh 3 (and to Londo's nephew).

Earth gets wind of the trouble and they send a labor negotiator, Zento, to try to bulldoze the dock workers into backing down. He threatens to invoke something called the Rush Act if they don't get back to work. He swears up and down that there are no funds to give them what they want, despite that they were promised raises the previous year. Apparently they did not get that in writing though. He says their experts assure him that they are staffed and stocked well enough to get through the next year, but the brother of the man who died speaks up that their equipment is so beat up it won't last them another two months. When Zento dismisses the claim, they decide to declare a full-out strike.

G'Kar tries to enlist Sinclair's help in procuring the plant from Londo. Londo, knowing Sinclair wants it for G'Kar, still won't budge. So G'Kar arranges for a holy Centauri item to go missing.

Zento gets the Rush Act invoked by Earth's Senate and harangues Sinclair to have all of the striking dock workers arrested. The security force goes to carry out the order and it looks like a riot will break out. There is a bit of a scuffle and Sinclair orders Garibaldi to pull back. Zento arrives and demands they all be arrested but Sinclair wants to talk to the workers. He confirms with Zento that the Rush Act empowers him to end the strike "by any means necessary." When Zento agrees Sinclair announces that he is reallocating a large chunk of the station's military budget to use towards meeting the dock workers' demands. Zento is outraged but Sinclair points out that it was Zento who gave him the authority. Sinclair also declares amnesty to the workers for the strike. His offer is dependent on them returning to work immediately and they gladly agree to do so.

So that leaves G'Kar and Londo to deal with. Sinclair orders G'Kar to return the Centauri statue. Then he points out to Londo that the plant is actually a controlled substance and only legal to possess for medical or religious purposes. Londo sighs and says fine, he can have the plant. He's gotten his enjoyment out of the game. G'Kar sighs and says it doesn't matter, it's too late. That's why Londo caved so easily. Sinclair points out that there is a way the Narn can still perform the ceremony and be considered within their time limit (due to light traveling through space and such not). This satisfies G'Kar's needs and the ceremony is performed.

Sinclair finally heads to his quarters to rest, only to have a message waiting from his Senator friend on Earth. The Senate will uphold his actions, but he has made some powerful enemies. Sinclair doesn't really seem to unsettled by this news. It is old hat to him by now.


Oh, Ivanova clearly loves being on traffic control. Must be rush hour on the station. Uh, oh. Didn't she just say don't alter your course? Seriously? ...and chaos. this a labor union episode? Oh lord.

Ooh. Narn religious ceremony! Uh oh, someone's dead and the Narn cargo is lost.

Ivanova has a point. She did tell the guy to stay where he was.

Great, substandard microchips. That's never a good thing. Let me guess, Earth doesn't want to increase the budget.

Hmm. I wonder what this G'Quan Eth is? I would guess it has something to do with their religion, since it shares part of its name with the deity. Oh, okay, it's the "holy days of G'Quan." I guess that explains why G'Kar is suddenly religious now.

Of course Londo has the sacred flower that G'Kar needs for a time sensitive ceremony. Raise your hand if you're surprised by this. Oh my goodness, Londo's smug face.

Surprise surprise, Earth doesn't want to give the station more money. When someone's died, doesn't that at least warrant a reevaluation of priorities? "Safely and efficiently" run the station. Translation--make due with the bare minimum.

Illegal workers strike, huh? Well, that's what happens when you make it so that people have no recourse against unsafe working conditions. Sigh. No one wants to compromise.

This has to suck pretty hard for Sinclair, considering he wants to give the dock workers what they are asking for.

Oh man, Londo is reveling in having this to hold over G'Kar. I wonder how long he's been waiting to dangle it in front of G'Kar?

Wait. Is the Senator really calling to bitch out Sinclair for the dockers' actions when he was just telling the Senator that the dock workers need to be given better conditions? *headdesk*

Look at this guy's suit. He's the best dressed guy on this whole series. Must be a villain. This Rush Act sounds extremely ominous.

Wow. Londo. I get where you're coming from, but way to be a dick. Do you really want to get G'Kar that mad at you? Hmm. So, the Narn all have different sects, and seem accepting of those who don't have any beliefs. Interesting.

"Babylon 5 is a military installation in the midst of hostile alien governments. It is vital to the defense of Earth." (Zento)

What, the? What? I mean, yes, okay. I guess the fact that it is run by military officers backs up that it's a military installation. But this guy (and apparently Earth, who sent him) do not see the station's purpose as what the alien governments or even Sinclair see it as. The station is supposed to be neutral territory, not a military defense. I am side-eying you hard Zento. So hard.

Sigh. I have so little patience for this kind of story line. I know it is supposed to show that the future isn't perfect and there's still class struggles and whatnot. But. In order to pull this kind of story off, you've once more got people who have to be acting just plain obtuse. This is basic maintenance and cost required to keep the station running. If it breaks down, everyone on it dies. That is simple math. Labor disputes that would be considered normal on Earth can't be allowed to get that point on a space station. It is just plain idiotic not to treat these people well and keep the workers safe and satisfied in their jobs. Especially on a station like Babylon 5, where ignoring the escalating conditions can (and case in point does) lead to a diplomatic incident with other races. If Earth can't afford to keep the station running properly, then they need to either scrap the project or work with the other alien governments to secure further funding.

Also, how the hell did the dock workers end up in what basically sounds like indentured servitude?

"Beg your pardon, Commander, but if someone's pushed you, wouldn't you push back?" (Eduardo)

Well, another tipping point for Sinclair to realize how out of touch Earth is with the station.

"Look, I can't force you to do this. But in the name of interstellar goodwill, not mention peace and quiet on this station, I'm asking." (Sinclair)

Poor Sinclair. He is not having a good week, is he? Dock workers going on illegal strike, the Centauri and Narn ambassadors at each other's throats. Everyone willing to break the rules to get what they want. Sigh. I wonder if he ever feels like he's just trying to herd cats?

Oh goody, the reporter's back. How is she allowed in C and C? Oh, and G'Kar and Londo too. Looks like the you-know-what's about to hit the fan. ...and there goes what was left of Sinclair's patience. Oh, and there's the Senator. Right on time. Hmm. Asking for the full text. Someone's looking for a loophole.

Okay, really. Could the security forces look any more ominous when they arrive?

Also, don't be pissed at the soldiers who are just doing their job when you're the ones who (with good reason yes, but still) pushed them to the necessity of unpleasant duties. Just because you (again, rightly so) are refusing to do your job, you cannot expect everyone else to do the same. Especially when you are talking about military forces, who are trained to follow orders no matter how unpleasant.

Can someone punch Zento? That might make this plot worth it. Guy is oilier than a snake oil salesman...wait, that got away from me.

Oh Sinclair, you are about to do something awesome. I love you.

"You should never hand someone a gun unless you're sure where they'll point it." (Sinclair)

Amen, brother. Heh. Zento's mad that Sinclair twisted the intent of the order. Yet he and Earth have been twisting the intent of the station itself.

Well, that's one problem down. Time to deal with G'Kar and Londo. Heh heh. The plant is a restricted substance. Well played, Sinclair. It pays to pay attention to the rules in detail. Furthering the theme of technicalities, Sinclair has a solution for G'Kar's missed deadline.

It's good that the Senator is on Sinclair's side at least, since he seems to have made more than a few enemies, in and out of the Senate, on this particular venture. Which is what happens when you push such a clever man into a corner. But no one's acknowledging that bit today. Sigh. Sinclair and the station are one step closer to a rift with Earth now.

So here is where we start to see G'Kar's spiritual side. We don't learn too much about his actual beliefs just yet, but we know that he does take his faith very seriously. That will come into play later on down the road, so it's nice to see the groundwork put down, even if it did kind of seem to come out of nowhere in this episode.


That wraps up another week. See you back here on Monday for the next episode, "Signs and Portents."

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