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Posts Tagged ‘Grey 17 is Missing’

JMS’s philosophy when putting together every season of B5 but the first was something he would happily discuss on the internet and elsewhere: at the beginning of a series B5 was likely to get more new and casual viewers, and so to encourage them to stick around and become regular viewers, those parts of the season included more standalone episodes and stuff designed to bring people up-to-speed with what was going on. Conversely, fewer people were likely to watch the show for the first time towards the end of a season, and so the overall story was much more prominent.

This is certainly the case with season 3, with most of the final five episodes comprising one ongoing story, namely the planning and execution of a counter-attack against the forces of the Shadows and its ultimate consequences for all concerned.

Walkabout, episode 18, has the testing of a new weapon as its B-story. This part of the episode is competently done with some decent special effects sequences, even if some of the drama leading up to the climax feels a bit contrived (G’Kar has to be wrangled into sending a Narn ship to help in the test). My problem with the episode is the A story from which it gets its name: it’s just terribly, terribly dull, concerned with Dr Franklin (still coming to grips with his drug problem) getting involved with a cabaret singer played by a former Kid From Fame. (Her songs are JMS compositions, and all I will say is that the music of the 2250s seems to be looking over its shoulder to that of the 1980s.)

Hey ho. There’s a bit of a tangent in Grey 17 is Missing, which is partly concerned with the aftermath of Sinclair’s departure – apparently War Without End and Walkabout swapped places in the running order, which would have made this flow a little more smoothly.

With Sinclair gone, Delenn is taking on some of his responsibilities, including the leadership of a Human-Minbari paramilitary organisation, the Rangers. As she is a member of the religious caste, the warrior caste want one of their own people installed instead, and so recurring nuisance Neroon turns up making various dark threats against her person. Having been made to promise not to warn any of the station staff about the danger, Lennier gets round this by telling (oh dear) Marcus, who resolves to delay Neroon long enough to complete the transfer of power by challenging him to a duel.

It turns out you *can* get the staff after all.

It turns out you *can* get the staff after all.

At the time this episode originally aired, B5 was still running in a teatime slot on Channel 4 and, as such, was occasionally savagely edited to fit the timeslot. This occasion was the first time I’ve seen it uncut (the same is true of Shadow Dancing), and I’m not completely sure what the fuss was about. All right, so there’s a prolonged action sequence in which Marcus gets beaten half to death (I’m tempted to say ‘pity about the half’), but not what you’d call buckets of blood. Some dialogue about broken ribs is fairly on-the-nose, I suppose. Anyway all is resolved in the stately manner one would expect of an episode about Minbari politics.

Except all this is the B-story! The A-story is a frankly rotten and silly one about a religious cult living in a hidden level of the station, complete with their own pet monster. Garibaldi – who’s never had much to do this year – discovers their existence, and, well, nothing much happens. The premise strains credibility, the dialogue is JMS-waffle, and the conclusion is nonsensical. I don’t think season 3 comes close to the heights of season 2, but it only contains one real stinker of an episode – and, mainly due to the A-story, this is it.

Centauri politics get some screentime in And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place, a neat little political thriller which is basically setting up locations and plotlines for early in season 4. Peter Jurasik, Stephen Furst and Andreas Katsulas all get lots to do, which is always a sign of a good episode. The B-story about a convention of religious leaders visiting the station – complete with a gospel service – is a little clunky but on the whole this is strong.

Shadow Dancing is very much akin to Walkabout, featuring big space battles against the Shadows and Dr Franklin and his drug problem – though thankfully that gets resolved in this episode. The battle with the Shadows looks good, but doesn’t have the same emotional clout as the assault on Babylon 5 from earlier in the season. It leads very smoothly into the climax of the season, Z’Ha’Dum.

The lesson we learn from this story is that Sheridan makes a very bad houseguest. More than that? Hum, well, to me I don’t think this story is doing what JMS wants it to – the audience is so invested in the characters by now that it’d take more than a philosophical debate to make the Shadows’ point of view seem reasonable. JMS-waffle obscuring the identity of their key spokesman is also arguably counterproductive.

But if nothing else it’s a strong end to a reasonable season which is possibly the last one to show Babylon 5 as a consistently good TV series. Seasons 4 and 5, mainly for behind-the-scenes reasons, have – how shall we put it? – specific issues of their own, which will probably become apparent quite soon.

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