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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Babylon 5 1-11: Survivors

Episode:11|Writer:Marc Scott Zicree|Air Date:04-May-1994

Looks like another goofy comedy episode this week.

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm watching Babylon 5 episode 11: Believers, at least that's what I wrote in the title box before I caught my mistake. It was cruel of them to put Believers and Survivors back to back like this, especially as they were filmed over a month apart.

I may have mentioned this already, but B5's first season was shot way out of order, with Survivors being produced immediately after Mind War and just before the season finale. In fact only three episodes in season one have an episode number that matches their production number: the abysmal Soul Hunter, the rubbish The War Prayer... and this one. I'm hoping that's the only thing this episode has in common with them.

Like always I'm going to screencap key moments from the episode and write SPOILERS under every one. But only episodes that aired before it will get spoiled, nothing that aired later.



The episode begins with a news reporter talking about how Earth Alliance President Luiz Santiago is continuing his journey to Babylon 5. He's here to present a new fighter wing to the station, and maybe to build support for his new alien immigration and trade agreements as well.

This means we get to see EarthForce 1, which looks a bit like a squashed version of the ball-shaped starliners. We also get to see some fuzzy little Presidential Starfuries keeping it company. I think they've got blue on them!

A new fighter wing is good, as it means Ivanova might get more than two Starfuries next time she needs to rescue a starliner, but these two prefer to dwell on all the problems it's causing for them. Like how they have to renovate the Cobra landing bays at their expense to have somewhere to put the things.

This is one of those core shuttles running through the centre of the station where gravity is weakest, so they have to hold railings to get around. Fortunately Ivanova's spent so long in space now that her hair has become immune to low gravity... though it seems to have turned her uniform green. No clue how they screwed this shot up so badly when the colours looked fine on the shuttle ride in Mind War. It's like they got their G channel mixed up with their B channel.

But it's nice to finally get a glimpse at the inside of the ball part at the front of the station. I feel like they're on the train at the start of ‘Half-Life’ on their way to a science catastrophe, but they're actually going to stop by the Cobra Bays.

Oops, Cobra Bay 12 just went and exploded, sending some poor welder flying off into space.

But that's not quite dramatic enough for him, so he somehow manages to start drifting back the way he came to make an appearance outside the circular C&C window at the front of the station. I guess he didn't make escape velocity.

This reminds me of the ending to The Gathering, where an explosion knocked the station out of position and the crew were desperately trying to get it back in place before it tore itself apart. It was the big action climax to the movie! But this time they don't seem that bothered. Perhaps it wasn't as huge of an explosion, or maybe they're just really jaded by this point and they just get on with it without all the yelling.


ACT ONE.


The welder survived! Though in his present condition any procedure used to wake him up and get some answers would kill him.

All the monitoring equipment in the Cobra Bay was destroyed in the blast, but their best guess is that the explosion was a wildfire anti-proton reaction caused from someone forgetting to close the dampers on the plasma driver. Which I think is actually the closest the series has come to a line of technobabble so far.

Major Lianna Kemmer is on board to handle security for the President's visit and she's not impressed by the way the station has chosen this moment to start exploding. She wants her own team to handle the investigation, with no involvement from Security Chief Garibaldi.

Garibaldi knows Kemmer, her dad was a friend of his, but it's been 17 years since he last saw her and they didn't part on good terms. They're not parting on good terms here either as Garibaldi storms off and soon catches a criminal in the Zocalo he can take his frustrations out on.

Fortunately Sinclair extricates himself from a conversation with G'Kar just in time to stop his friend doing something he'll regret. Like accidentally breaking the set by shoving an actor into it too hard (I definitely saw that wall shake a bit). The two of them sit down for a drink and talk about why he's so pissed off. A drink of water that is, and Garibaldi's doing all the talking.

17 years ago Garibaldi was working security for the ice mining operation on Europa and the place was such a corrupt craphole that it drove him to drink. But then he finally met someone else with a bit of integrity: Kemmer's father Frank. They kept Garibaldi sane and sober for a while, until some assholes blew up the shuttle pad to kill him and accidentally took out Frank instead. Garibaldi ended up being fired for negligence and went back to drinking, which presumably makes this the first of the five jobs mentioned in Infection that he was kicked out of.

Then at the exact moment the exposition is over Sinclair gets a call from Dr Franklin saying he's needed in Medlab immediately.

Major Kemmer has gotten to the injured welder and pumped him with enough orange liquid to wake him up... and it ended up killing him just as Franklin expected. But he hung onto life just long enough to reveal that the explosion was no accident, and point the finger at Mr. Garibaldi!

So he knew that Garibaldi had planted a bomb in the Cobra Bays and just on kept welding in there without telling anyone? Did he see it taped to the launch arm complete with a signed confession 10 seconds before it went off? Or was it a cartoon bomb with "Acme" written on the side and he's just making an educated guess?


ACT TWO.


Garibaldi knows that the man was lying and reveals that he busted him a while back for trashing an alien shop. But Major Kemmer wants Garibaldi suspended and she's in charge of Presidential security so there's nothing Sinclair can do but to take his badge and gun. Now she's in charge of Babylon 5's security.

The fun's not over for Garibaldi though as they're also searching his quarters. On the plus side this is the first appearance of Officer Lou Welch... who doesn't get a whole lot to do here.

Kemmer's still understandably pissed off about her father's death and she's letting it cloud her judgement. But she's pissed off that he got drunk and ran away afterwards as well, which is something he actually is guilty of.

He's apparently guilty of setting a bomb too, as her lacky Cutter finds schematics for the Cobra Bays and a large amount of Centauri currency in his quarters. So Garibaldi does the sensible thing and makes a run for it!

Kemmer tries to post a stationwide fugitive alert for Garibaldi, but Sinclair cancels it and gives Ivanova orders to do her favourite job: escort the annoying interloper out of C&C. I don't think she's had a chance to do that since way back in Infection.

Sinclair goes off to find Garibaldi before his entire security force can and Ivanova orders a diagnostic on the communication channels to prevent Kemmer from calling Earth Central to override them.

But forget about that, here's some gamblers in the casino getting way too into a holographic knight fight! This may well be the most convincing visual effect in all of Babylon 5.

We're apparently supposed to be watching Garibaldi walking by in the background but I didn't even notice he was there until I started counting all the hats in the screencap.

This is definitely a hat episode. I've never seen so many extras wearing hats on a space station.

Garibaldi's here in a stolen shirt to see Ambassador Londo for information. There were Centauri coins in his quarters, so that's the only clue he's got to work with. Londo claims innocence, explaining that it's likely all G'Kar's fault. Certain equipment from their Ragesh 3 colony was taken during the Narn attack and the Centauri had to pay the Narn in hard cash to get it back, so he'd have the coins to plant in his quarters. Wow, I haven't heard Ragesh 3 mentioned for a while.

Londo decides to help his friend out and loan him some cash (it's usually the other way around), which means Garibaldi has enough to get by for now. Though he'll also be buying everything in Centauri currency and that's not going to look good to the people chasing him.

Meanwhile Major Kemmer has noticed that all the communication channels are offline and demands that Ivanova opens a channel for her at once. Ivanova reminds her that she's a lieutenant commander in EarthForce and doesn't take demands. But... if she has a request she'll consider it.

So Kemmer requests that she opens a channel. "Request denied, have a nice day," Ivanova responds, ending the conversation.

Ivanova is mean.


ACT THREE.


Next Garibaldi sneaks into the ambassadorial wing, only to find that G'Kar has disabled the monitors to give them time to talk.

G'Kar knew he was coming because he's got people watching Londo. They both watch each other. And he knew that Londo would blame him, because he always blames him. He claims innocence as well, but offers Garibaldi a job on the Narn homeworld, explaining that "The universe is run by the complex interweaving of three elements: energy, matter and enlightened self-interest." And it's in Garibaldi's interest to be elsewhere right now.

Shockingly Garibaldi turns down the chance to use his talents to betray his own people, even though it would get him safely off the station. You'd think that this would be the part where G'Kar threatens to call security on him, the two have never exactly been friends, but he doesn't even seem to consider the idea. He just lets him escape back down the corridor to carry out the next step in his quest to prove his innocence.

Incidentally G'Kar's actor, Andreas Katsulas, played a notable role in The Fugitive the year earlier, so he's had some experience dealing with innocent men on the run.

Garibaldi's next stop is to visit praying mantis crime boss N'Grath and his two thugs for a security card, which makes this their fourth episode! They've turned up in a third of the season so far, which is more than I remembered, but we have at last reached their final appearance. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that, as they're pretty much just erased from that series past this point, like they never existed. Because I think the production team may have been happier if they hadn't.

So long N'Grath, you may have been a fairly decent alien costume, but you were a dopey looking crime boss.

But he's not about to admit he's a criminal to the chief of security, even if he claims he's been suspended, so Garibaldi walks away without the security access he needs...

...just as a pair of security officers are passing by outside. No idea how they realise that it's him so quickly, seeing as he's in a stolen shirt and a mask, and he's hidden in mist, but they seem pretty sure as they immediately open fire on him!

So Garibaldi runs around the corner with the two officers in close pursuit.

Well it's certainly nice to be back again.

Either Garibaldi ran around the block in a loop to confuse them or the director really did just move the camera a foot to the left and hoped he could trick viewers into thinking that they're looking at a different corridor. One that just happens to look exactly the same even down to the signs on the wall. What makes it worse is that the same set was used for the corridor outside his quarters earlier as well, so any time he's been running from people it's been outside this one doorway.

Anyway Garibaldi gives them the slip for now.

And then the credit card thief from earlier catches him!

I haven't always been impressed by the music this season, especially during comedy scenes, but here it's sounding great. Sure it's also sounding very 90s, but the episode looks very 90s and I liked the 90s so I'm not seeing a problem. Well okay the little victory fanfare that plays whenever the fight goes his way is cheesy, but I'd rather have this than the sonic nothingness going on in the DS9 episodes I've been watching.

Unfortunately for the thief it turns out that Garibaldi hasn't gotten any worse at fighting since their last meeting and he soon has the guy pinned with a chain wrapped around his neck.

But then two drazi drop down on chains to join in. Seriously, that just happened.

Outnumbered, Garibaldi soaks up punches until he's pinned to the ground, where he's mercilessly kicked and beaten. Good work Garibaldi, getting yourself murdered in your first starring episode.

But then out of nowhere a new challenger emerges: Commander Sinclair! He jumps down from some stairs and immediately starts kicking people in the face until they run away. The man managed to go two whole episodes without violence but if there's a fight scene going on, he wants in.

"Jeff, what are you doing here?"
"Trying to keep you from frying your own butt."
Well now we can add 'frying your own butt' to the list of things that humans have said.

Sinclair wants to get Garibaldi to Medlab seeing as he just took a serious beating, but he can't give up his daring attempt to prove his innocence now! Not when he's so close to somehow finding a way to get the security access he needs to discover any kind of clue. Plus all the blood on his face is making him look more like Bruce Willis than ever and he can't give that up either.


ACT FOUR.


So instead of taking Sinclair's help Garibaldi goes on the run again, which takes him... to a bar. If he's got a plan here we're not being let in on it, though he is quick to buy a hat when he sees a security officer come in looking for him.

"No want hat?" the confused alien asks when he returns his headwear, "Take bottle! I go casino."

Garibardi pours a glass of the drink he's inadvertently bought and studies it for a moment. He's fucked up job #6 and this time it's looking like he might well get arrested for treason as well... so why not get absolutely wrecked? The music thinks it's a foregone conclusion and it pretty much is at this point.

Meanwhile his friend in the hat is outside selling him out to security!

Soon the bottle's almost dry and Garibaldi's telling dumb jokes to a drazi trying to sleep peacefully in his food. He successfully manages to stand up and get himself moving towards the back door, but can't resist making a speech to the room on the way out.

Even the other drunks in the bar seem unimpressed by his comic overacting; they likely agree that it's very inappropriate for the tone of this episode. That said, the music is going for the opposite of comedy right now. It's very concerned for poor Mr. Garibaldi as he makes a fool of himself.

Hang on... have they added a clear plastic disc to the neck of that beer bottle in the drazi's hand to turn it into a space-beer bottle? How very Jetsons.

And then he immediately trips over a bit of scenery on the way out and gets caught by Kemmer and her henchman Cutter.

"Drunk again Uncle Mike?" she asks.

Then she asks him again as a young girl. The words echo through Garibaldi's head as he's cuffed and dragged away.

Now Garibaldi's in custody, Kemmer's goon Cutter rushes off alone to check the Cobra Bays one more time before the President arrives, to make sure he didn't go and sabotage them again.

Hey, that’s the same pattern as on the floor of the council chamber! And that arrangement of monitors looks very similar to the ones in Sinclair's office...

Major Kemmer wants Garibaldi to just come clean already, as she honestly believes he's the one responsible for the bombing. Strangely no mention of telepaths have been made at all so far, even though you'd think she'd at least try to get Talia to scan him.

Suddenly Lou Welch interrupts. He was ordered by Sinclair to search the dead welder's quarters and he's found pamphlets linking the guy to Homeguard, the pro-Earth group they kicked off the station back in The War Prayer. Turns out that he was the bomber! He didn't know they were using plasma drivers in the bay and got caught in the blast when his bomb was triggered prematurely.

Outside, EarthForce One has finally arrived at the station and the Earth Alliance President is coming over via a shuttle.

Garibaldi's theory is that the bomber intended to have the Cobra Bay blow out at the time of the President's visit. His alien immigration and trade agreements aren't very popular with the anti-alien Homeguard. Plus he has an additional theory: Cutter is the one who framed him and he's sabotaging the Cobra Bays right now!

Meanwhile the central section is all getting lit up for the President's visit. We never actually see President Santiago in this episode, but he's presumably in there somewhere.

You might be wondering why they’re called Cobra Bays when the fighters inside are called Starfuries. It’s because they run along the necks of the Cobra Arms, which look a bit like cobras.

With Cutter now a suspect too, Major Kemmer decides to personally inspect the Cobra Bays before the launch of the new fighter wing... with Garibaldi at gunpoint and no other security to back her up.

So she walks one suspect alone to the other suspect, and then turns her back on both of them. You’ll never guess what happens next!

Yep, Cutter immediately knocks her out. Turns out that he's part of Homeguard too and he's no doubt rigged the bays to explode when the Starfuries launch.

But the dumbass is distracted for a moment while reaching for Kemmer's pistol and Garibaldi takes the opportunity to kick the gun out of his hand and get into another fist fight.

With only 15 seconds to go he yells at Ivanova to stop the launch countdown, but she apparently doesn't hear him as she lets the countdown keep going.

People joke that Jerry Doyle looked like Bruce Willis, but if I told you this was actually a screencap from Die Hard you'd have to think about it for a second before you realised I was bullshitting you.

Die Hard
I can't look at it without thinking he's yelling "Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza, lady?"

After a short round two against Cutter, Garibaldi gets on the link again and this time Ivanova listens to him and cancels the launch countdown... with 1 second remaining on the clock. The episode has no shame.


ACT FIVE.


A few days later Garibaldi is back to work and it's revealed that he worded his report in a way to downplay Keller's single-minded vendetta against him.

The Major has let her hair down because she’s not uptight and hateful any more. Or maybe she can just finally relax for a while now that the President is leaving the station. She tries to apologise to Garibaldi, but he lets her off the hook saying that "17 years we both died inside but somehow we survived. For better or worse that's all we can do." So that finally explains the episode title! 

She gives him a hug, the end.


CONCLUSION

It took 11 episodes, but Garibaldi's finally has his own episode to himself, where he demonstrates the charm, ingenuity, integrity and dogged determination that got him fired from all his previous jobs and sent him spiralling into alcoholism.

Wait, 11 episodes? That means I'm halfway done! Well, with season one anyway; I'm only a tenth through the entire run.

Survivors is all A plot and probably better for it as there's no wild swings in tone and there's enough going on with Garibaldi's race to prove his innocence to fill up the run time without padding. It's just kind of a shame his investigation goes absolutely nowhere and after 20 minutes all he can do is run away, get his ass kicked and get drunk. Sure he had to fall to rock bottom before he was miserable enough to crawl back into a bottle, but it'd be nice if he learned something about the saboteurs along the way. Sinclair basically has to send Lou Welch to get him a free clue because he's struggling so badly, so it's not exactly a showcase for the security chief's investigative skills, and that made it less enjoyable for me than it could've been.

The episode doesn't have any shocking revelations, new pieces of the mythology, standout classic scenes or huge changes to the status quo, but it's watchable enough and there's a few nice moments in there (usually involving Ivanova making Kemmer's life miserable). Plus it builds onto the continuity, with the reveal of Garibaldi's drinking problem and secret backstory answering a mystery set up back in Infection. It also brings back the Homeguard group introduced in The War Prayer, which is kind of a shame as I was trying to forget that episode entirely.

As an episode I'd say it was pretty skippable, but I think the season overall works better with it around. Like Believers it's a reminder that certain pieces are in play, and having an extra bit of set up is only going to make later episodes stronger.


Babylon 5 will return with By Any Means Necessary. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching Doctor Who's Face the Raven.

That's all the writing you'll get out of me today, but if you want to write your own text in the box below I'm not about to talk you out of it. Share your own opinions on Survivors or my writing, either way your feedback is appreciated.

3 comments:

  1. Whenever they mention Homeguard I can't help but think of Dad's Army. It's a bit of a tonal shift.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, I've never made that connection before. You've ruined Babylon 5 for me now.

      Speaking of ruining things, I visited the Dad's Army wiki page just to double check that they were in the Home Guard, and learned that there's a Dad's Army movie by the director of Johnny English Reborn and it came out this year. They did well sneaking that one past me, I had no idea.

      Delete
    2. "Don't panic, Mr Sinclair!"

      There seemed to be a big push for the Dad's Army film, right up until release day, then it all went a bit quiet. I don't think it was very good.

      Delete