not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake

Now I Watch All Babylon 5: "Points of Departure"

Season 2, Episode 1: Points of Departure

Plot: Captain John Sheridan, famous as the only human to have destroyed a Minbari ship in the war, is assigned to command Babylon 5, after Sinclair is sent to Minbar as an ambassador.

The commander of a Minbari war cruiser that went into self-exile rather than surrender in the war, the Trigati, arrives at Babylon 5. He's captured sort-of-threatening Delenn's chrysalis. As the Trigati arrives, he commits suicide to provoke a fight. Sheridan realizes the Trigati are trying to commit suicide by Starfury, and avoids attacking. A proper Minbari cruiser shows up and destroys the Trigati.

Lennier tells Sheridan that the Grey Council surrendered the war against humans (even though they were winning) after testing Sinclair and other humans and discovering they had MInbari souls; the Minbari believe that their souls reincarnate, but were reincarnating in humans. However, they chose to keep this secret; even from the warrior caste (leading to stuff like the Trigati).

In the C plot, Sheridan keeps trying and failing to give his "lucky" speech, complete with Lincoln quote, in the first 24 hours of taking command.

The Title Means: Sinclair has departed; Sheridan departs his old command; the Minbari reveal is a point of departure for the storytelling.

Comments: Bruce Boxleitner takes over the main role, which is a big help, becase I really didn't like Michael O'Hare's acting as Sinclair. It's hard to get a straight answer on the net about what happened there; wikipedia says it was "mututal and amicable"; JMS expressed concern about the character arc going to fast or the character being "bottled" into too narrow a role. But surely, surely it's because people weren't happy with his acting? (O'Hare was primarily a stage actor, which may have been an issue.)

As I mentioned before, Jerry Doyle's portrayal of Garibaldi also kept hitting false notes for me during season 1, but I peeked ahead to season 3 and he seems fine in that, so somewhere along the line he cleans it up; I don't know if it's sooner or later.

The episode introduces Warren, a Starfury pilot whose addition to the ensemble seems pretty lame (why does he hang out with the command staff in the bar?). At least he'll die soon enough, semi-heroically.

The writing in this episode is really wonky. A bunch of stuff seems screwily structured. None of it really hurts the episode--it may seem kind of nitpicky, and it may be possible to fanwank explanations for them--but the quantity of them makes me wonder if something went wrong in the writing process:

  • The way Sheridan is told about his new command is interleaved with telling him about the Trigati in a weird, nonsensical way: the General tells him that he wants him in the area because of his history with the Minbari. Oh, but actually, the reason Sheridan should be in the area is to command Babylon 5 on orders direct from the President. So it has nothing to do with the General wanting him in on the search for the Trigati.

  • Sheridan never personally coordinates with the other Minbari cruiser as commanded; they never contact him, just show up at the end.

  • Sheridan is warned about the Trigati at the beginning, then later mentions that they never knew if it was the Trigati for sure, keeps the warning secret from Ivanova but mentions it in front of her... there's just something weird about how all that info is presented.

  • Sheridan says he was the late President's choice to replace Sinclair. But Santiago was very pro-alien; why would he have wanted such a provactive choice?

  • And Sinclair was only chosen because the Minbari had veto right over the selection of commander, a right they gained by helping to finance B5. Did those rights run out? Or is the Earth Alliance just blowing them off? The Minbari "protested", but if they'd made a significant financial contribution that seems pretty lame.

  • Hedronn (the Grey Council member) tells Lennier to infodump Sheridan if the Trigati shows up. When they capture Kalain (before the Trigati shows up), they talk to Hedronn who admits Kalain is head of the Trigati. But Hedronn doesn't explain the other stuff, he just leaves it to Lennier to do it in the very next scene.

  • The new second-in-command on the Trigati tells Sheridan 'you have illegally captured and detained the captain of this vessel'. Sheridan explains that Kalain assaulted someone, and the second replies "None of your people were killed; no Minbari was killed; you have not been harmed". Setting aside the fact that she just wants to ignore crimes other than killing, how are we the audience supposed to think she knows any of this? At best, the plan was for him to hurt nobody and get arrested, and she assumes this is what happened and says so. Ok, fine. But why does Sheridan not wonder at these claims of hers? From his POV, how could she possibly know those things? Yes, in the heat of the moment, he might not think of it, blah blah, but no, I don't buy it.

  • Kalain's suicide doesn't actually make any motivating sense. It would make sense for the Trigati to use it as an excuse to attack Babylon 5, but they attack anyway--and besides, they don't actually attack, they want to get B5 to attack them. How could Kalain's suicide do that? (And how is Kalain's suicide honorable, if that is their end goal?)

  • Sheridan's lucky speech that he always gives seems a bit overly customized to B5, and not so widely applicable to be a "lucky speech" he always gives.

The music from the first season kind of bugged me because so much of it was synthesizers pretending to be orchestral instruments. This season they break out a lot more actual orchestral instruments: much better.
Tags: now i watch all babylon 5
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