"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Swedish Meatballs

(Actually about my contender for the finest science-fiction TV series of all time.)

Narns G'Kar and Na'Kal enjoy a pleasant dinner 
in Babylon 5 episode 'Walkabout'
(from neatnik2009.files.wordpress.com)

Na'Kal: "Breen! You've managed to import breen from Homeworld! How?"

G'Kar: "It, uh - isn't actually breen."

Na'Kal: "The smell! The taste..." 

G'Kar: "It's an Earth food. They are called Swedish meatballs.

"It's a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish meatballs!

"I suspect it's one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained, or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth."

Once upon a time (1994-1998), writer J. Michael Straczynski conjured up a  science-fiction series, to run for five years. Cheerfully borrowing from almost everything, from E.E. "Doc" Smith's "Lensmen" series to "I, Claudius", He called it Babylon 5 , and saw to it that it was good ...
From wired.com

After a lethal misunderstanding (during a first-contact situation) ignited a war that almost resulted in the extermination of humankind, Babylon 5 was constructed, in orbit around a planet in neutral territory, to serve as a United Nations in Space, where the various species could resolve their differences without war. Their efforts were about as successful as our own UN here on Earth, but at least they tried.

The station's first three predecessors (the original Babylon station, Babylon 2 and Babylon 3) were sabotaged or accidentally destroyed before their completion. The fourth station, Babylon 4, vanished 24 hours after it became fully operational.

The station is a five-mile long rotating structure much like an O'Neill Space Colony.

Its first two commanders, Jeffrey Sinclair and John Sheridan, share the same initials as writer J. Michael Straczynski, which probably means nothing more than that the writer is fond of the initials. :-)

Women of Steel ...
Straczynski writes of strong women, tough enough to handle whatever has to be done.

Commander Susan Ivanova, Sheridan's second in command ...
Claudia Christian as Commander Susan Ivanova

After getting a science survey vessel out of trouble that she had warned them about ...

Ivanova: "Confirmed Survey 1. Upon arrival you will report for debriefing. And just one more thing, on your trip back I want you to take the time to learn the Babylon 5 mantra.
 "Ivanova is always right. 
 "I will listen to Ivanova. 
 "I will not ignore Ivanova's recommendations. 
 "Ivanova is GOD!
 "And if this ever happens again, Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out!
 "Babylon control out."
 [to herself] "Civilians."
 [looks up] "Just kidding about that God part. No offense."

But, she's not invulnerable to the pressure. One episode starts off with Ivanova walking straight into C&C without any clothes on, assuming everything was normal until the other staff start giggling...
From scifimusings.blogspot.com

She then realizes her mistake, screams, and wakes up. "I hate that dream!"

She later starts to tell Sheridan about the dream, but can't quite bring herself to say what actually happened. Instead ...
Bruce Boxleitner as Captain John Sheridan
from scifimusings.blogspot.com

Ivanova: "Same thing night after night, one bad dream after another. You know, I get the one where your teeth are breaking off or falling out and you wake up going aaah!"

Sheridan: "Oh yeah, I know that one."

Ivanova: "Or you are lost in a maze somewhere, or you're someplace I have never been before. This morning I dreamt that I walked into C&C totally ... unprepared for my work."

Sheridan: "Oh. Interested in a little time-honored psychoanalysis?"

Ivanova: "No, I'll just bury my soul in the breakfast and ask you to give me some silverware."

Sheridan tells her that it probably has something to do with them breaking away from Earth.

Sheridan: "Subconsciously you are still trying to work it all through. You don't know where you fit anymore, how to define yourself, you are feeling vulnerable, lost, and exposed. It's all perfectly obvious and completely understandable... It'll pass. Your subconscious just needs to work it all through.

"Hey, it could be worse, you could be having dreams where you are showing up to work naked. You would be in real trouble."

Sheridan walks away chuckling, while Ivanova just buries her head in her arms.

Minbari Ambassador Delenn ...
Mira Furlan as Delenn
From godardsletterboxes.wordpress,com and oocities.org

At left is how she appeared for the first few seasons. Later, to become more at home with our culture, she went into a chrysalis and emerged a human-minbari hybrid, resulting in the flowing locks. There's a wonderful scene with her trying to comb and brush it, almost ready to go to war with someone and seeking Ivanova's help with, "How in Hell do you manage this?"

But, she is no one to trifle with, as we gradually learn that she is not just an Ambassador, but also a member of the Grey Council, the rulers of Minbar.

When Earth Alliance warships threaten Babylon 5, the jump points produce three Minbari cruisers and the White Star, with Delenn in the captain's chair.

Delenn: "This is Ambassador Delenn of the Minbari. Babylon 5 is under our protection. Withdraw…or be destroyed!"

Drake (commanding the Alliance forces): "Negative. We have authority here. Do not force us to engage your ship."

Delenn: "Why not? Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Minbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else."

Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari (redefining cynical)...
Peter Jurasik as Londo Molarri - from thewb.com
Among the Centauri, that crazy hair style is a badge of rank and power.

Londo and G'Kar arrive on Babylon 5 during a celebration.
Londo: "So Doctor…who died?"

Stephen Franklin: [confused] "What are you talking about?"

Londo: "Among my people this is how we celebrate state funerals. Our marriage ceremonies are solemn, sober. Moments of reflection…also regret, disagreement, argument and mutual recrimination. Once you know it can't get any worse you can sit back and enjoy the marriage. But to start with something like this? No, it is a very bad sign for the future."

Franklin and Garabaldi walk off.
Londo: "Perhaps it is something I said?"

G'Kar: "Perhaps it is everything you say."

Londo, who has three wives, chooses to keep Timov as his wife and divorce the two others.
Timov: "Why did you choose to keep me as your wife and not them? I've made no pretense of affection for you, I find your recent actions contemptible, I'll never love you, at best I'll tolerate you, and I'll never be what you want me to be. Why me?"

Londo: "Because, my Dear, with you I will always know where I stand."

Vorlon Ambassador Kosh Naranek ...
From diraven.net

The Vorlon species is a member of the First Ones, a group made up of the earliest species to gain sentience in the galaxy. When in the presence of other species, Vorlons wear encounter suits. Only much later in the series do you get to see what's inside that suit.

The Shadows ...
From myspace.com/babylon5

That's one of their ships.  The Shadows are another member of the First Ones, awakened from hibernation after a very long dormancy. Enemies of the Vorlons (and just about everyone else for that matter), they like to work behind the scenes, manipulating others to do their work. They have an ability to bend light so you usually cannot see them. You might catch a flicker of something at the corner of your eye, but when you turn to look directly at them there appears to be nothing there.

I haven't even scratched the surface of this series, considering that there are 110 episodes, about a half-dozen TV movies and a short-lived spinoff, "Crusade" that followed it. You could lose yourself for a long time in this, and it would be a wonderful experience.

It's no accident that I began this post with Narn Ambassador G'Kar, nor is it one that I'm bookending it with him again. This warrior/poet/philosopher ...

Andreas Katsulas as G'Kar - from thecomicking.net

... is simply the heart and soul of the series, advising Dr. Catherine Sakai ...

G'Kar: "Let me pass on to you the one thing I've learned about this place. No one here is exactly what he appears. Not Mollari, not Delenn, not Sinclair... and not me."

She had gone to him about exploring a world near the star Sigma 957.

After being advised to avoid it, but not forbidden to go, she goes.

While doing a survey from orbit, something huge materializes near her ship, as if coming from another dimension. Taking no notice of her at all, it rotates and disappears.

As with a canoe that was too close to the passage of an aircraft carrier, an energy surge caused by the appearance/disappearance of that thing disables her vessel, leaving her stranded. Fortunately she is quickly rescued by Narn spacecraft that were dispatched to the location by G'Kar who knew that she would very likely get into trouble out there.

Catherine Sakai: "Ambassador! While I was out there, I saw something. What was it?"

G'Kar: [points to a flower with a bug crawling on it] "What is this?"

Catherine Sakai: "An ant."

G'Kar: "Ant."

Catherine Sakai: "So much gets shipped up from Earth on commercial transports it's hard to keep them out."

G'Kar: "Yeah, I have just picked it up on the tip of my glove. If I put it down again, and it asks another ant, "What was that?",
G'Kar: "how would it explain? There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They're vast, timeless, and if they're aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants, and we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know, we've tried, and we've learned that we can either stay out from underfoot or be stepped on."

Catherine Sakai: "That's it? That's all you know?"

G'Kar: "Yes, they are a mystery. And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe, that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Miss Sakai, they walk near Sigma 957, and they must walk there alone."

(I'm guessing that G'Kar, in his study of things human, came across Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House".)

Here is the bottom line, what the show truly tries to capture and succeeds enough for me to consider it the all-time best TV science-fiction series ever ...

"And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe, that we have not yet explained everything."


Foxfier said...

I'm a solid DS9 fan, but add in SG:1 and you've got a wonderful trilogy of scifi.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful series and your sample of
great scenes brings back great memories.

Thanks for your postings about this and that.

Enjoying the read!


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