Contents: Overview - Backplot - Questions - Analysis - Notes - JMS
As the Earth Alliance plunges toward civil war, internal strife threatens to shatter the command structure of B5. Zack's loyalties are put to the test when the Nightwatch is ordered to take over station security. Londo receives another glimpse of his destiny. Majel Barrett as Lady Morella. Marshall Teague as Ta'Lon.
P5 Rating: 9.31 Production number: 309 Original air week: February 26, 1996 DVD release date: August 12, 2003 Written by J. Michael Straczynski Directed by Jim JohnstonNote: this episode is more momentous than most. Think twice before proceeding to the spoilers; it's worth seeing unawares.
Another possibility is a connection to the transfer of Minbari souls to humans; the owner of a particular previously-deceased Minbari soul (perhaps Sinclair) may prove troublesome to Londo in the future.
In every interview he's given on the subject, Walter Koenig has spoken glowingly of BABYLON 5, as a show he feels is fighting for genuine quality SF in television, with serious, mature stories for fans who grew up on STAR TREK and are looking for more of that quality...none other than Majel Barrett Roddenberry has gone on record at conventions, including Toronto Trek and the recent Wolf 359 convention, as saying that BABYLON 5 was "the only other intelligent science fiction series out there" besides the ST shows, and urged ST fans to support it.
If you've tried the show, and it wasn't to your tastes...fair enough. No one should be expected to like everything. If you'd like to give it another shot, that's fine, but there is no need to defend your opinion; we respect it. Not every show works for every viewer.
If you *haven't* tried the show...if you liked the original ST and the work of Majel and Walter and Harlan and others involved in it...if you like the work of Peter David, who has written for B5 and supports it...you may want to give it a shot in October/November.
The final four episodes from year two will be broadcast starting the week of October 11th, with the new year three episodes beginning the second week of November. These nine episodes in a row contain some of the best work we have ever done. Acting, writing, directing, effects...we stand behind all of them. (The year two Final Four were held back from earlier broadcast to lead into the debut, so these are new to the US, although they have already aired to substantial praise in the UK.)
If perhaps you have been turned off by some of the more vigorous messages from B5 viewers, I'd only ask that you consider those comments in light of the fact that Paramount (NOT the people doing ST, but the studio itself) has done everything possible to hinder the progress of B5, which engenders certain reactions from everyone; and that to a man or woman, virtually all of the more vigorous posts have come from those who have long considered themselves fans of STAR TREK, voicing many of the concerns which are stated right here in this forum by current viewers...which they had long before there was a B5... as well as some of the praises found here.
The ironic thing is that there is no problem between those who make B5, and those who make ST..Jeri Taylor is a friend, Majel supports the show, when ST does an episode with great EFX we call them, when we do a good one they call us...it's almost entirely a matter of perception.
So for what it's worth, direct from those of us who make BABYLON 5, if you haven't checked out the show before, or if you're curious to see where we stand now...I would like to personally invite you to check out the new batch of episodes starting around October 11th. If you want to give us all nine episodes, that's great; if less, that's fine too. If not at all, that's also fine.
Over a late dinner with Majel, I observed that after the original STAR TREK, which for the first time presented truly *human* characters, with all their flaws and frailties and bravery and nobility, in a science fiction series, the ball was dropped, and no one picked it up again for years. She agreed with this...and it is my hope that you will find this coming season of BABYLON 5 to be that show.
Because it isn't an either/or, sum/zero game...one can watch, and enjoy, BABYLON 5 and STAR TREK equally, for different reasons, since their approaches are very different. And this is the perfect time to come into B5, since these episodes encapsulize a lot of background, and will take you quickly into the background, the universe and the characters.
Which is why, I'm pleased to announce, Majel Barrett will be appearing as a guest star on BABYLON 5 this coming season...a gesture of support from her, and a gesture of respect from all of us at B5. The deal has been signed, it's a done deal...she'll be appearing in episode #9, "Point of No Return," as Emperor Turhan's third wife, Lady Morella. We're very much looking forward to her appearance in the B5 universe.
For all these and other reasons, I hope you'll give BABYLON 5 a try.
This, btw, is called "typecasting," which is one of the primary reasons why so many talented actors who helped to create Star Trek and other series couldn't get work for so many years...they did so good a job that they forever *became* that character. Let's not be guilty of that crime here. Majel's character will no more be Troi than Bester is Chekov.
Yes, it's a jms script, and is one of the most pivotal of this season, episode #9, which with the one before it, "Messages from Earth," builds to a major turning point in #10, so it should be a very popular, intense and memorable episode in every respect.
Morella: "You must save the eye that does not see."
Londo: "I...do not understand."
We never actually saw how she spelled or meant this.
Given Londo's background, one could almost make the case that the discussion was about him. Not saying that's it, but it's a possibility and a subtext.
Also, Clark didn't (ostensibly) declare martial law to protect himself, he did it because of an imminent alien threat which was detected long before these allegations came out, we just had Ganymede attacked and that's spitting distance from the primary Earth jump gate at Io...there is indication of collaboration and conspiracy among some in the Joint Chiefs (and in fact that's correct, from his point of view, given Hague's activities)...there's enough ammo there to justify martial law. Dissolve the Senate? Just happened a couple years ago in Russia, when we had tanks firing on the Senate building. Some might say that Yeltsin was in the same position as Clark in that his motives might be saving himself.
(The majority of our posters, btw, are taken from genuine WW II propaganda and war-support posters that were actually in use. We make some slight modifications, but the gist is there. Yes, we do fall for these things, we do go for these things. We always have.)
As for the USA-western perspective...during WW II we saw Japanese civilians interned in camps along the West Coast...afterward we saw people prosecuted for being Reds, saw careers and lives destroyed by even the hint of "commie" influence. If you look at newsreels and documentary footage from the time, you see a populace, fresh out of a war, who survived by focusing on the Enemy, given a new enemy. Might they have gone along with some kind fo martial law if they thought that if they *didn't* cooperate, the nation might be vulnerable to Russian nukes or invasion? I think the climate was perfect for it.
Could it happen right here, right now? No, because the surrounding climate isn't right. Could it happen if the conditions *were* right? Of course it could. We're not genetically or evolutionarily different from the Germans or the Russians or the Cubans or the Iraquis. If we think we'd never fall for that, we place ourselves in *exactly* the position of guaranteeing that we *will* fall for it. Because we won't recognize it when it happens. We can justify and rationalize it as something else.
Yeah, people back on Earth still have guns. What of it? Right now, with martial law, the streets are quiet, the news is more positive than usual for a change, the quarrelsome jerks in the senate have been given a good kick in the butt, the president's getting things *done*, we've all still got our jobs, the muggers are hiding out, life goes on except for the lawbreakers. You gonna go out on your own and start shooting at Earthforce troops armed to the teeth with *vastly* more advanced weaponry? On whose behalf? The aliens? The troublemakers? What're we rallying for? Or against? This'll blow over soon, it always does. It never lasts. Right now, just ride it out, wait and see what happens. Who knows...maybe Clark's right? Who wants to be perceived as a traitor?
Those are the thoughts of any populace in this situation. Just as when Yeltsin declared martial law in Moscow, as when Mayor Daly sent in the shock troops in Chicago, on and on.
Here's the number one rule: a population will always stay passive for as long as they perceive that they stand to lose more by opposing the government than by staying quiet. It's when they have little or nothing left to lose that they rise up; the politicos first, then, more reluctantly, the general population.
It's easy -- safe and reassuring -- to dismiss Nightwatch and the whole political climate on Earth at this time as referring to Nazi germany...SS, Stormtroopers, informers...but if we know our history, it shows that this is not so isolated as we might think. If we say it was just the Nazis, then it's a non-repeatable phenomenon, we needn't worry about it again.
But, of course, it does happen again...it did, and it will, to varying degrees. Go back to the Inquisition, and forward to Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) which destroyed lives and reputations based on association, past history, social contacts and party affiliations (the items specified by Musante to the EA folks in Nightwatch). Stalin and to a lesser extent Lenin would have been right at home in Nightwatch. Several of the leaders speaking for parties in the ruins of what was once Yugoslavia would also fit.
It's easy, and safe, for us to say, "Oh, we would never do that, only THEY did that." But the "they" in this ARE the we on the other side...and "we" have done it, are doing it now, and will continue to do it. Only when we *know* the history of such things, when we recognize the rhetoric of control, when we oppose blacklisting and scapegoating and dead-catting do we help to assure that they *won't* arise again. Remember the quote: "Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it."
There's a great deal of generalized historical and political metaphor in the show, never one-to-one because that's too easy, but disguised in one form or another, transumted. The Centauri Republic isn't a real republic by any stretch of the imagination...any more than the Roman Republic from which it draws some of its political structure, particularly the Centarum, the ruling body. There's a great deal of Japanese political and social structure to the Minbari, in their culture and art and some of their philosophy. You can find parallels to the story in World War II, and the bible, among a few dozen others.
Too little of TV these days is *about* anything...it's all context, no subtext. This show is about a lot of things...but never in the mode of telling you what to think. We'll ask *that* you think, that you consider the world around you, and your place in it...but defining that is your business, not ours.
Senator Joseph McCarthy. The House Un-American Activities Committee. You can look it up.
Also, there was a PBS documentary this past week on the blacklist; I suggest that ANYone who thinks we would never fall for something like the Nightwatch should take a look at it. It makes the Nightwatch look pale by comparison.
It was also the climate created by HUAC that threatened much more widely than the actions of the committee itself. Take Red Channels, a sleazy little rag published by the owner of a *SUPERMARKET CHAIN* in which he listed those he considered -- based on whim or divine revelation -- reds or sympathetic to reds. Even a publication like that had tremendous destructive power. I know one of the writers listed in Red Channels; the networks grey-listed him instantly. It was *years* before he could work again.
The whole red-baiting hysteria of the 50s came as close to destroying the American dream as any threatened invasion. If it had been led by someone a little less self-destructive than McCarthy, I hate to think what would've happened.
You mean like when Yeltsin called up the military, dissolved the Senate, and had tanks open fire on the Senate building to keep from being ousted in a coup...you mean like that?
A very good point. Zack is, to all intents and purposes, the Everyman character in this; he wants, desperately, to do what's right. But he doesn't exactly *know* what's right, because he's getting conflicting information...or rather, a lack of *real* information and a plethora of agendas. Who is he to believe? Which way does he jump when he's not sure which pit holds the lion?
When a culture become factionalized, when it becomes us vs. them, everyone starts setting up consistently smaller camps...first it's democrats vs. republicans...then it's mainstream republicans vs. conservative republicans...then it's conservative republicans vs. religious right republicans (with the democrats having equal problems on their side). As soon as we forget that we're *all* US, it begins to fall apart.
'Course, if you were to do anything that monumental, you'd spike right smack in the middle of your three-part story.
One of the things about these three episodes that's again worth stressing is that they're really one story, linked carefully. Each of the three begins *one frame* after the other. After they've aired, if you sit down with a VCR and edit them together, you'll find that they flow absolutely SEAMLESSLY from one to the other. So PoNR is at the dead center of the piece that propels you toward the last third, like the second act in a three-act play (which was my structure for this).
That may help.
It was an ambush by Earthforce ships. (Actually, only 3 were destroyed, the other two took off separately, trying to throw off a united pursuit. But you know how ISN's been lately....)