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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Babylon 5 1-17: Legacies

Episode:17|Writer:D. C. Fontana|Air Date:20-Jul-1994

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm recapping and reviewing episode 17 of Babylon 5's first season, Legacies! I should be up to episode 21, but I already watched that one a while back because the internet told me to. The Lurker's Guide Master List page to be specific.

So this is where I'm at:
20 - Babylon Squared
21 - The Quality of Mercy
14 - TKO
17 - Legacies
22 - Chrysalis
I'm telling you this because I'll likely be throwing out SPOILERS for the earlier episodes as well, and when you move an episode right to the end of a season, everything becomes an earlier episode. But I'll not spoil a thing about the season finale Chrysalis or anything that comes after it, no matter how much I want to.



The episode begins with Garibaldi whining to Sinclair in Babylon 5's C&C. The Minbari are bringing the body of their greatest warrior leader to display on the station for a while, and this is kind of awkward as his great war was against Earth.

Sinclair's trying keep a diplomatic state of mind, but his mood soon turns sour when he sees they've brought him over on a Minbari War Cruiser.

He flashes back to the flashbacks of the Battle of the Line from And the Sky Full of Stars, where he saw a fleet of the ships up close, tearing through all his friends on a mission to wipe out humanity. It's been over 10 years now, but it's clear that he's still kind of bothered by the whole thing.

While that's going on, a young thief with perfect hair and a bit of dirt on her face to show she's living rough gets caught trying to lift some jewellery from a stall in the Zocalo and makes a run for it. Ivanova and telepath Talia Winters are both close enough to hear the guy yelling "Thief!" but any hope of a dramatic chase scene are ruined when the thief grabs her head and collapses on the floor.

"She's just taken a mind-burst," explains Talia. "She's a telepath."

Over in C&C they've made a discovery of their own: the Minbari ship's gun ports are open. They're armed for a fight! Not that they'll find one here, as B5's weapons are pretty crap compared to Minbari technology. It's really good at spinning though!


ACT ONE.


Sinclair activates the station's defence grid (more like the offence grid really as it's all gun turrets, no energy shields here) and requests an explanation from the Minbari ship. But the Minbari commander has no interest in explaining their ways.

I won't spoil anything, but this scene doesn't quite match up with what we learn later in the series, as there's no way Sinclair should've armed the defence grid here. It would've been drilled into every single Earth Alliance officer that if you see a Minbari ship flying at you with its gun ports hanging open you just let them carry on.

In fact we later learn that Earth Alliance tracking systems can't even lock onto a Minbari vessel unless they deactivate their stealth, so really they've made themselves more vulnerable by letting them see their guns like this.

Fortunately Minbari ambassador Delenn appears just in time to prevent anyone firing weapons and triggering Earth-Minbari War II, by explaining that they've got their gun points open as a symbol "to show they carry the body of a great warrior leader." Uh... that's not quite the explanation I remember from later episodes, but it's close enough!

By the way, this is another ep by legendary Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana. It's her second after The War Prayer, which to me wasn't all that great an story. Partly because it had Sinclair's issues with the Minbari right there to use and did nothing with them. Seems that Legacies may be making up for that.

Down in Medlab, Dr. Franklin is trying to figure out what's wrong with their telepathic thief. Talia explains again that it was a mind-burst, but they're both still clueless. Probably because they didn't attend the Psi Corps course on putting the word 'mind' in front of everything to turn it into something related to telepathy. Still at least it definitely wasn't a mindquake like in Mind War, those are rubbish.

Turns out that some telepaths are born with the gift, while in others it's latent until triggered. The thief could suddenly mindhear the mindthoughts of everyone around her and the mindshock caused her mind to run and hide inside itself.

Talia tells them that she'll contact the Psi Corps and arrange for her to be sent to Earth for training, but Ivanova's not going to make it that easy for her. She was committing a theft, so she's under station jurisdiction for the time being.

Elsewhere Garibaldi can't believe that Sinclair is going to attend a ceremony on the station in honour of the man who planned and led the attempted invasion of Earth during the Earth-Minbari War. Sinclair's not all that thrilled about it himself, considering that Shai Alyt Bramner commanded one of the ships that wiped out his team at the Battle of the Line (including his best friend Mitchell!) But giving the Minbari this courtesy will help strengthen the reconciliation of their two worlds.

The Minbari may be an highly advanced race who have mastered glowing coffin technology, but they're also an ancient culture with a love of medieval-sounding RPG tunes, judging by the music playing right now.

Sinclair meets the Minbari captain Alyt Neroon face to face during the ceremony, and they exchange words of thanks that sound more like barely veiled 'fuck you's.
Neroon: "It is a worthy thing to honor the Shai Alyt, thank you."
Sinclair: "And worthy that you would honour the importance of this place with his presence."
Delenn has been very respectful during all of this, but when Neroon has gone Sinclair asks her about Bramner and begins to realise she's not actually happy about this ceremony either. She has no interest in discussing her own opinions though and walks away.

Back in Medlab, Talia and Ivanova still haven't found anything more important to do than watch over the young telepath. This turns out to be a good thing, as when she's wakes up Talia's the only one with the training to help the kid learn to block out the voices in her head.

She hasn't learned how to stop broadcasting her thoughts to other telepaths though, so now Talia knows her backstory. She's called Alisa Beldon, she came to the station with her father and was orphaned when he died last year in an accident. Wait, orphaned kids get left to fend for themselves in Downbelow? What the hell kind of city is Sinclair running here?

Talia still wants to get Alisa to the Psi Corps for training, Ivanova's still determined that won't happen. Franklin's a bit curious about this and asks if there's any particular reason why she's interested in this case. She pretty much says "Yes," and leaves.

Bramner's body is going to be lying on Babylon 5 for the night, so Neroon drops by Sinclair's office to discuss the security procedures. He doesn't want human security anywhere near the body. Sinclair calmly encourages Garibaldi not to freak out over this, but the smile cracks when Neroon has some requirements from him as well.
Sinclair: "This is my station, I don't take orders here."
Neroon: "Impetuous. Is this how you reacted on the Line, Commander?"
Sinclair: "This isn't the Line."
Neroon: "No, WE were in control there."
Fortunately Delenn interrupts just before Sinclair can inflict a diplomatic incident on Neroon's face. It's funny how Neroon was so eager to piss the Commander off that he didn't even wait for an opening, he just brings the worst conflict of the Earth-Minbari War up out of nowhere. It was almost as bad as: 'Would you like some tea Neroon?' 'Did you offer people tea on the Line, Commander?'

At the viewing ceremony we get a surprise panning shot revealing what the top half of the circular rooms looks like! Well okay this is probably just what the top half of this particular room looks like, but it's still a nice use of a virtual set extension that makes the place seem less claustrophobic (and more vulnerable to ninjas).

It's not a huge ceremony, with only Delenn, Sinclair, Garibaldi, Neroon, the guards and a band present. The guards remove the flag from the coffin and fold it the best they can (because apparently they've got American traditions now), then the casket is opened with a 'twang' from the soundtrack...

... to reveal that Shai Alyt Bramner's body has gone missing!


ACT TWO.


Neroon and Delenn really aren't pleased about their missing war hero, pointing out the last war between them started due to the 'accidental' murder of Dukhat and if this is another such 'accident' then things could escalate. This seems like it might be the first clue we've had about what actually triggered the Earth-Minbari War, but I'm not sure.

It's funny how the only times we really see Delenn get angry with Sinclair are in D.C. Fontana episodes. It wasn't even slightly his fault this time, as it was Neroon's men in charge of security! He wouldn't let them station any of Garibaldi's human guards.

Later in her quarters, Sinclair questions Delenn on who would want to steal Bramner's body, while she plays with her triangles some more. She's been building that thing since at least Signs and Portents, though it looks less complete than it did back then. Maybe she made a mistake and started again (or Lennier accidentally knocked it over). Actually this was filmed immediately before Signs and Portents, so I suppose it's possible that it was once meant to air earlier too, but who knows? You could go nuts trying to rearrange season one into an order that makes total sense.

Delenn explains that a great general was the last thing Bramner wanted to be. He was originally a high priest of the religious caste. The holy war against Earth forced him to become a war leader, and he believed the cause was just.

Incidentally it was the religious caste that called for the Minbari surrender during the Battle of the Line (after secretly scanning Sinclair with a Triluminary and learning... something) and the warrior caste were never told why. Bramner went along with the decision but the warrior caste still aren't happy about it.

Elsewhere Garibaldi's investigation into Bramner's disappearance has led him to question Na'Toth, who's making a rare solo appearance without Ambassador G'Kar around. In fact she might even be here in place of him, as G'Kar has completely disappeared from the season since Signs and Portents for whatever reason. That's eight episodes straight with no G'Kar, no matter what order you prefer to watch the season in.

Na'Toth denies any interest in body snatching, but points out that there are carrion eaters living in the B5's alien sector. Garibaldi never even considered that the Pak'Ma'Ra may have eaten Bramner, but now he's going to have to. His day keeps getting better.

She says 'bon app├ętit' before walking off, which I thought was strange seeing as it's a French phrase and she's an alien who probably only learned one Earth language. But then I realised that I know what it means, because the English language decided to borrow it at some point, so of course she'd know it too! It's still a bit of a strange thing to say though, as it's not like Garibaldi's going to join the Pak'Ma'Ra for dinner. In fact I imagine he'll be skipping food for a while after his visit.

Back in the telepath storyline, Alisa's getting free clothes and a free trip home from the Psi Corps, and doesn't get why Ivanova's so determined to stop her from joining them. So Ivanova tells her a story about her mother and what they did to her after she decided not to join up. How they injected her with drugs to suppress her ability until she couldn't take it any more and took her own life.

Trying to convince someone to not join a group with a horror story about what happens when you don't join up... that's an interesting strategy.

She assures Alisa that she's investigating other options, then asks for her link communicator back. Turns out Alisa swiped it right off her hand as they were talking. Little brat.

Neroon meets up with Garibaldi in the alien sector to whine a bit and together they learn that a piece of Bramner's burial robe has been found outside the Pak'Ma'Ras' quarters. This Pak'Ma'Ra claims that he hasn't stolen or eaten any great Minbari war leaders today, but the bones lying around his room aren't helping his case. The actor does have a really great mask though, with animated eyes and face tentacles. Alien prosthetics is the one area where B5 consistently rivalled or outdid Star Trek, production wise.

Despite Neroon and Garibaldi's best efforts their interrogation gives them nothing, so they have to progress to a deeper inquiry. The Pak'Ma'Ra are all going to have their stomachs pumped. By the way I'm sorry if you're eating during this. I'm sorry that I'm eating during this.


ACT THREE.


Ivanova's found Alisa another option! The Narn are offering to give her even more free clothes and jewellery too if she agrees to come to their miserable ruined world and work for them. All they want from her is a small sample of blood and tissue twice a month, as they're the only race without telepaths and they'd like to use genetic engineering to fix that.

Franklin and Ivanova don't think it's a great idea, but Alisa decides to take a look at the Narn homeworld in Na'Toth's mind to see it for herself and it freaks her out to the point where she has to go lie down.
Na'Toth: "I hope that isn't a sign of some frailty in her."
Ivanova: "Why don't you check her teeth while you're at it!"
Na'Toth: "You think that's a good idea?"
Poor Ivanova, she's used to getting the best lines in any scene, but Na'Toth has trained to hold her own against G'Kar and she's a worthy adversary.

The stomach pumping revealed nothing, so now Garibaldi's men have to take the station apart and search five miles of beams and rafters. Neroon isn't satisfied by their progress and threatens/promises to take the station apart with his ship, but then that's nothing new.

Meanwhile Ivanova and Talia continue to argue over Alisa, getting increasingly personal about it until she snaps at them, accusing them of not caring what she wants. Ivanova says she does have one other option to consider, but she was saving it until last because of reasons of drama I guess.

So the two of them go to chat with Ambassador Delenn. She explains that telepaths on Minbar aren't paid for their work, but their needs are met by others to enable them to continue serving others. So clothes yes, jewellery possibly not.

Alisa can't help but scan Delenn's mind as well, because she has no respect for privacy (and she's entirely untrained to be fair), and inside she sees...

... a pair of Minbari in religious caste clothing using a Triluminary to stun Bramner's guards and take the body! No idea how Delenn can have such a vivid image of the corpse heist when she wasn't present to observe it, but it's definitely on her mind.

By the way, this is one of the reasons why Legacies should really come later in the season than it aired. In the original airing order these folks are using Delenn's Triluminary three episodes before she receives it Babylon Squared!

Meanwhile, Sinclair comes home to find his quarters have been ransacked... and the ransacker is attacking him!


ACT FOUR.


He's taken by surprise in a dark room, but Sinclair still manages to win the fight, and discovers that his attacker is Neroon! He thought that Sinclair might have stolen the body and stashed it in the one place no one would search.

This is pretty embarrassing for Minbari captain, considering that Minbari are much stronger than humans. It's even more embarrassing when Garibaldi strolls in and reveals that he actually did search Sinclair's room, with Delenn there observing, so destroying the place was entirely pointless. Neroon's not very good at detective work.

Once Neroon's gone, Garibaldi introduces Sinclair to Alisa, who doesn't seem to even notice that the room is a mess and he looks like he's gone a round with a Minbari.

With Alisa's information, Sinclair figures out that Delenn had Bramner's body cremated without anyone noticing and was about to have it shipped off station when he caught her.

She explains that she felt that she had an obligation to Bramner; he was a reluctant hero and only wanted a simple funeral. He didn't want to be a monument to war like this. This is why she's been in such a bad mood all episode.

We also learn that there's been a rift between the warrior caste and the religious caste since the end of the war and when Neroon finds out what Delenn has done it'll make the situation worse. Unless she tells him herself perhaps.

First though we get a nice looking shot from the lower polygon end of Babylon 5 to indicate the passage of time. The details get a bit sparse down here at the back.

Neroon's furious when he learns the truth, as you'd imagine, but Delenn turns it around on him, saying it's his fault for ignoring Bramner's wishes!

Then she moves onto phase two of her verbal assault, threatening to get the Grey Council to destroy and dishonour his entire clan over this. Unless he drops the issue and apologises to Sinclair in private.

Sinclair decides to use Neroon's apology as an opportunity, saying that there's no higher testimony to a warrior's courage and skill than praise from his enemy, so he'll be sending his testimony as a personal message to Minbar, speaking as an Earthforce officer and as commander of Babylon 5.

Neroon seems genuinely touched by this and offers to shake his hand.
Neroon: "You talk like a Minbari, Commander. Perhaps there was some small wisdom in letting your species survive."
Sinclair: "We like to think so.

ACT FIVE.


Alisa has decided to that she's going to go to Minbar on the cruiser, which... whoa, what happened to Talia's hair? Did she get it cut mid-episode or did the fringe fall down?

Anyway, Alisa's chosen to go with the Minbari instead of the Psi Corps, which Talia actually seems to be okay with, even if she doesn't agree with it. Better than taking Na'Toth's offer, as "There's no price high enough to compensate for being surrounded by Narns." Damn Talia, where did that come from?

Everyone gets hugs, Alisa leaves, and Talia buys Ivanova a drink.

But then Sinclair meets Alisa in private on the way to her ship! He wants to know what else she saw in Delenn's mind, as he knows she's up to something.
"There was one other thing, a word: 'chrysalis'."
Hey that's the title of the next episode! Or the fifth upcoming episode if you're watching in the aired order.


CONCLUSION

Legacies is a pretty watchable episode of Babylon 5 I reckon, definitely better than D.C. Fontana's previous story, The War Prayer. I imagine they would've had some completed episodes to show her this time around, so she could see how the actors performed their roles and get a feel for the tone of the series she was writing for. Always helps.

There's a theme running through both plots this episode, with Ivanova, Talia, and Neroon each getting taught a lesson by a thief about respecting other people's wishes. Plus both storylines are about characters dealing with the consequences left by someone's death (I guess that's why it's called Legacies), and both feature a short appearance by snarky Na'Toth, trying to steal every scene that she's in.

The telepath orphan plot is perhaps the most important storyline, as it means we get to check in on Ivanova and see if she still hates the Psi Corps. And she really really does. She despises that Psi Corps with a burning passion and would rather send a orphan child off to aliens as a test subject for their genetic experiments than let the Corps have her. But she's starting to come around on Talia after seeing how reasonable and compassionate she was all episode, even if they were on opposite sides. Talia on the other hand has seemingly been fascinated by Ivanova from day one, and none of this has put her off.

It's funny though how no one even considers how bad an idea it is to be in the same room as a high-level untrained teenage telepathic thief. The girl barely knows enough to block out casual thoughts and they all know she can't help peeping into brains and swiping shiny things, and yet she she's allowed to meet with Sinclair, Delenn, Garibaldi, Ivanova and Na'Toth! Delenn's lucky that Alisa didn't spill her other scheme to Sinclair, and he's lucky she didn't take all his passwords and sell them to the Centauri. I hope the Minbari are still generally selfless enough to look after her by the way, as Delenn's friend Drall didn't seem all that impressed by the direction his planet was going back in Voice in the Wilderness.

Speaking of the Minbari, their plot was the more interesting to me this episode, with solid acting from everyone involved (no teenagers on this side of the story) and a bit of resolution to Sinclair's issues with them. Plus we've mostly seen the sensitive reflective religious caste Minbari so far through Delenn and Lennier, but Alyt Neroon shows us another side to their culture (still no appearance by the worker caste yet though). Neroon's a step up from the typical villains this season, as he spends all episode provoking Sinclair, threatening his station and he even attacks him in his own quarters at one point, and yet he still doesn't come off seeming like a particularly bad person. He's just got issues with humans since the Earth-Minbari War and the humans can definitely relate to that. Neither he or Sinclair knows why Delenn and the religious caste ended the war and it's eating at them in different ways.

So there's a lot of interesting stuff going on here, even if this wasn't a highlight of the season for me.



COMING SOON
Babylon 5's first season will conclude with Chrysalis. But before then I'm watching Deep Space Nine's first season conclusion, In the Hands of the Prophets. Lots of endings soon.

Leave a comment if you feel like it!

3 comments:

  1. Yeah, that gun port thing is weird. It seems like the sort of thing that's important enough to put in the series bible so you avoid things like this.

    That first shot of Neroon looks just like Michael Ironside and I was disappointed that it's not him. Then I wondered if Ironside had been in B5 because it's just the sort of thing he would have been in, but no, again disappointment. He was in seaQuest though, which I've always thought of as B5's sister show because of all the Amiga Format articles about the two programmes, so I suppose that's close enough.

    I reckon an Ironside Neroon could have taken Sinclair.

    whoa, what happened to Talia's hair? Did she get it cut mid-episode or did the fringe fall down?

    I was just about to comment on how weird Ivanova's hair has been in all these screenshots, but it's back to normal now.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah he does look a bit Ironside there, though personally I'm glad it's not him. I like Michael Ironside, but I can't imagine anyone doing Neroon better than the guy we got. Plus Ironside specialised in playing villains, I'm not sure I've ever seen him win a fight outside of the Splinter Cell games.

      And yeah I know what you mean about Babylon 5 and seaQuest being linked in your mind, it's the same for me. Well it was until I managed to block seaQuest out anyway. You know something's horribly wrong with a sci-fi series when even the lead actor said it went to crap after season one (and season one has a talking dolphin and a teenage genius in it).

      Now I'm trying to mentally tie B5 together with Paul Verhoeven movies instead. The sets are certainly grey enough for him, there's an ancient machine on an alien world, riots on Mars, evil corporations messing with biotech, and there's episodes with starship troopers and satirical ad breaks coming up too.

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    2. That's probably a good approach.

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