Wednesday, October 3, 2012

B5 Rewatch: Babylon Squared

Well, it's Wednesday again, and that means it's time for the second installment of this week's Babylon 5 rewatch. Today we'll be looking at the twentieth episode of season one, "Babylon Squared."

Join me in the Spoiler Dance, won't you? No? Oh, okay then. On to the episode!

Let Me Sum Up

Ivanova joins Sinclair and Garibaldi for breakfast, more tired than usual. She tells them that Control woke her up especially early to inform her of some strange tachyon emissions they picked up in Sector 14. She authorized a pilot to take Alpha 7 and go check it out. He should be arriving very soon.

Alpha 7 arrives and finds what looks like a space station that seems to be appearing out of thin air. The pilot on the radio with Ivanova expresses shock at what he's seeing, saying it is impossible, just before there is the bright light of what appears to be an explosion. Ivanova loses contact with the pilot but her scanner shows that the fighter is headed back to the station. Sinclair posits that maybe his communication system was just fried. He asks if they are still picking up tachyon emissions and she confirms this. They picked up a burst just as they lost contact with Alpha 7 in fact. Sinclair nods and says to have Franklin on standby just in case.

Delenn takes a ship out by herself, leaving the station.

Alpha 7 returns to the station but does not enter the docking bay when cleared to do so. They scan the ship and can't find any apparent structural damage. Nor can they find any life signs, however. The pilot is dead. After Franklin gets a look at him, Garibaldi reports to Sinclair. As far as they can tell, the pilot died of old age.

Sinclair balks at this, pointing out that the man was barely thirty. Garibaldi agrees but says that Franklin's findings show that as normal as he looked on the outside, his insides were those of a ninety-year-old. Garibaldi guesses that the pilot set the fighter's autopilot for the station before he died. Sinclair is unsettled by this. He orders Garibaldi to have a team go over the fighter with a fine toothed comb and also commands that all traffic be routed around that sector until they can figure out what actually happened.

Delenn arrives at her destination and begins monitoring for a beacon.

Garibaldi shows Sinclair and Ivanova that the pilot managed to scratch something into a belt buckle. It reads "B4." Ivanova asks if it means Babylon 4. Garibaldi says probably, but he has no idea why. Sinclair chimes in that he looked up some more information on Sector 14 and the point where they are picking up the emissions is the exact spot where the previous station disappeared four years ago. Ivanova asks if whatever happened to it could be happening again.

Sinclair starts to posit a possible alternative explanation when they are interrupted by a call from Control. The station has picked up a distress signal from Sector 14. It claims to be coming from Babylon 4. The group races to Control and Sinclair has Ivanova pull up the previous station's assigned broadcasting frequency from the archives. The incoming call is an exact match.

Sinclair takes the distress call and it is the Commander of the previous station. He says that they need help. Something is terribly wrong with the station. They had just gone online when all hell broke lose. They are losing power and seeing all kinds of fluctuations throughout the station. Sinclair asks how many are aboard and the Commander says it is a skeleton crew, only twelve or thirteen hundred people. Sinclair starts to ask him something else but the Commander cries out that it's starting again and the transmission is cut off.

Garibaldi is still more than a little suspicious of a hoax but Sinclair is unwilling to take the chance. He asks Ivanova how many people they can evacuate at once. She says they'd have to make several trips to get that many, but they can do it. It will take probably about ten hours. Sinclair orders her to ready a crew for the mission. He tells the assembled crew they really aren't sure what they'll find but he means to save anyone he can. It is a voluntary mission because it is definitely not without risk but no one backs down. The evacuation crew heads out for Sector 14. As he leaves, Sinclair tells Ivanova if she doesn't hear from them in eight hours to notify Earth Central but to not send any further ships.

Delenn waits in her ship. A large Minbari cruiser arrives at her location and she docks with it. She is greeted by a group of Minbari who hand her a new set of robes. She changes and then heads into a meeting of the Grey Council, the governing body of the Minbari. It seems she was summoned there by the rest of the council. She asks why and they inform her that now that ten years have passed since their previous leader Dukhat was killed, they consider their mourning period over and have chosen a new leader. Delenn is their choice. She asks about her work on Babylon 5, mentioning a prophecy of some sort. They insist that her time on the station is done and they will find a new Ambassador. The prophecy will take care of itself.

Sinclair's team arrives at Sector 14 and find that Babylon 4 is indeed there. Sinclair and Garibaldi decide to head in first to check things out before signalling the rest of the team to move in and start the investigation. They are attacked by a soldier who seems a little out of his mind but Garibaldi is quickly able to disarm him. The station's commander, Major Lewis Krantz, introduces himself. Sinclair breaks it to him that they are from Babylon 5. Krantz is shocked and asks what year it is. When Garibaldi tells him 2258 he says, "then it's true!" and tells them they must hurry. They have to get everyone off the station before--

There is a flash of light and Sinclair and Garibaldi seem to be in the middle of a riot. Sinclair is very confused but Garibaldi seems to be making a stand of some sort. He is carried off by the crowd but then finds himself back on Babylon 4. Krantz explains that the whole crew has been experiencing flashes back and forwards in time. They have become unstuck in time, he claims, which is why they need to get off the ship quickly.

Delenn has misgivings about being called forward as the leader of her people. She believes strongly that she must stay in her current place. She feels she has a role to play in the change that is to come. She asks to reconvene the Grey Council, to speak with them and implore them to choose another. She acknowledges that by doing so she flies in the face of all convention but she is convinced it must be done.

Sinclair gets the evacuation underway and remains on board to supervise. Krantz explains to Sinclair that the flashes started up about twenty-four hours after they brought the station online. Sinclair asks if anything else strange happened and Krantz said yes. He takes him to a holding room and introduces him to an alien named Zathras. Krantz tells Sinclair that Zathras just showed up. They have no idea how he got on board or even what race he is.

Zathras looks up eagerly when Sinclair enters and then sits down in disappointment. He says that Sinclair is not the One. He will not talk. Not to them. Krantz says Zathras has been talking like that since he arrived. Garibaldi tries to question the alien but all Zathras will say is that the One is hurt and that he needs to help him, must find him. He says "they" needed the station, the biggest of all the Babylon stations, so they took it. Then he makes to stop talking.

Sinclair asks why he needs the station. Zathras looks at him in thought and asks if they will let him go if he tells them. If they will let him finish what he needs to do. Garibaldi says that if he tells them, maybe they won't hurt him. Zathras thinks it over and agrees to this. He tells them of a great and terrible war, a great darkness, the end of everything. He tried to warn people but no one listened to him. But he says, there was a great hope of peace. They needed a place to gather to fight and organize in order to help save the galaxy on the side of light. They must have the station or it is the end of all. They are led by the One. He pulled the place through time to save them all.

Garibaldi asks where he pulled it through time to. The past, the future? Zethras cannot say. He can only tell them what year it is in his own time, which does no good for figuring out what it is in relation to them. A soldier comes in and tells them that something is happening again and they run out to check, leaving the door open. Zathras bolts out behind them.

A figure in a space suit is appearing in the corridor. Zathras appears behind them and declares that it is the One. Zathras says the One is in pain. He tried to warn him, but the One would not listen. He indicates that the One is stopping the station to allow the crew time to get off. Sinclair approaches the figure and reaches out to take his hand. A blast of energy sends him flying across the room. Zathras runs to the figure and hands him a device, claiming it is fixed, before the One disappears. The guards apprehend Zathras and he tells them they are done. They must go, they are out of time.

Delenn speaks before the Council, reminding them that they stopped their war with the humans because of a prophecy made by Valen, once a great leader of their people. Valen said that some humans had a destiny with which the Minbari could not interfere. So Delenn was sent to study them, to determine if the prophecy was correct. She is not done with her task.

Another council member says he doubts the prophecy even refers to humans. Delenn is positive it does. They ask her how she knows. She explains that what the Minbari consider weakness in their own race is a strength in the humans. They are destined for greatness and they are the future of the Minbari. They ask Delenn why she is so set on staying with them. She says it is the calling of her heart and no ruling of the Council can override it. They warn her that declining their offer might lead to her being removed from the Council entirely. She is willing to risk it. They put it to a vote and agree to withdraw their decision and choose another.

On Babylon 4 there is panic as Garibaldi tries to get everyone evacuated. Sinclair and Krantz question Zathras further. He says the device he gave the One was a time stabilizer, allowing a person to survive the jump in time. It was, in fact, Zathras' own stabilizer. When the station jumps, he will die. Krantz asks what if they take him with them. Zathras says since he is not of this time, he will die. The tachyon emissions start to get worse and they realize they need to get off the station pronto. Krantz insists that he wants to take Zathras with him, he doesn't believe he'll die if he stays in this time and he wants proof of what happened to the station.

As they leave, the station shakes and a support beam falls on Zathras. Sinclair tries to get it off of him but it can't be moved. He doesn't want to leave the alien behind, but Zathras insists. He tells Sinclair he must go, he has a destiny. Sinclair leaves and finds Garibaldi. All of the shuttles are gone, it is time for them to bug out. Zathras remains pinned but then he looks up and smiles. The space-suited figure is back. Zathras says he knew the One would not leave him. He trusts the One.

The ship jumps back and the space-suited figure takes his helmet off and is revealed to be a much aged Sinclair. He looks dejected. He says that he tried to warn them, but it all happened just as he remembered. A figure off-screen (who sounds like Delenn), says she knows, but he did what he could and it is time to go.

Delenn goes to take her leave from the Minbari cruiser. Her friend bids her farewell. She laments that they both know she will never see the inner chamber of the Council again. Her friend is not so sure. He gives her a gift, a triangular crystal she calls a triluminary. She is shocked and says she cannot accept it, but he insists, saying if she is right about her destiny she will have need of it soon enough.

They make it back to Babylon 5 and Sinclair is left to wonder when and if they might see Babylon 4 again.


Okay, if this is the episode I think it is, we are in for a fun ride. Remember how this is the fifth Babylon station, and how there have been all kinds of ominous hints about the fate of the first four? Yeah. We're about to get some details.

Ooh, unusual tachyon emissions? That can't be good.

"God I hate mornings!" (Ivanova)
"We noticed. Personally, I find it the best part of the day!" (Sinclair)
"Yeah, me too." (Garibaldi)
"We all have our cross to bear." (Ivanova)

Oh god, they are trolling her, aren't they? Have I mentioned before how much I love the dynamic of the working relationship between these three? Oh, what are they doing with their plates...? Oh that is just mean. And awesome.

Ooh, mysterious aging? Cue the evil cackle.

So, something about Babylon 4, eh? The plot thickens. Oh, look at that, a distress call from Babylon 4.

"This is nuts! A station doesn't just disappear and then reappear four years later like some kind of Flying Dutchman!" (Garibaldi)

*cackles* Oh Garibaldi.

Hee hee, he starts to identify himself as Commander of Babylon 5 but stops himself.

Oh, okay, that's less fun.

Skeptical Garibaldi is skeptical. Yet Sinclair just takes it in stride and is like, okay, well, let's get ready for evacuation. He doesn't sugar-coat it for his crew either. Good man. I like that for him it's not about the glory of solving one of humanity's great mysteries but about saving as many lives as he can.

Ha ha, Garibaldi's brain is a fascinating place.

"Not every conversation has to be the end of the world as we know it." (Garibaldi)

Ooh, Delenn, what are you up to? Something mysterious. And ceremonial, it would seem. Oooh, Grey Council meeting? Minbari inner workings, score!

"We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light." (Delenn)

That. Wow. That right there. Just. BIG piece of the show's mythology there.

They waited TEN years to choose a new leader? That's some serious mourning right there.

Yeah. Okay, Delenn does not look happy about being chosen to be the next leader.

I like how the overall aesthetic of station four is so similar but just slightly different from station five. The most notable difference being, of course, a shift from a blue color scheme to a green one. I like this. It's a very creative use of set dressing, I think, but it works really well for the story too.

"In over a thousand years, no one has refused!" (Grey Councilor)
"Then perhaps it is time!" (Delenn)

One thing I love about Delenn is how sure she is of who she actually is. Which is quite a feat given how many roles she is expected to play.

Is this another two-parter? I can't help but feel like there's nowhere near enough time left in the episode for everything left to happen. Hmm.

Why are they all "what is it?" about the guy in the space suit? I mean, yeah, the phasing in and out of time is weird, but...

Oh man, poor Garibaldi. That is a hell of a thing to flash back in time to. I wonder how attuned the flashes are to a person's subconscious thoughts?

Oh, look. Old Sinclair. Foreshadowing!! *grin*

Poor Ivanova, she missed getting to see the mystery station.

Hmm. Okay, I think I remember why I thought there was so much more left to this story. There is, but we get it in another episode. I shall just have to be patient.

I really do love how amazingly well all of the mythology of this series is tied together. A one-off scene that seems completely out of place will turn up a few episodes (or seasons) down the line and end up having been vastly important. This is just such damn good storytelling. Especially because, in my opinion, it does an amazing job of making it *seem* on first glance to be a lot of separate stories, at least at the start. But the further down the rabbit hole you get, the more you start to realize how connected they all are. Wonderful.


Well, that's it for today. I hope you'll stop by again next week when we wrap up this season with its final two episodes. See you Monday for "The Quality of Mercy."

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