|Episode:||22|||||Writer:||J. Michael Straczynski|||||Air Date:||03-Oct-1994|
This is it. When I wrote about Babylon 5's pilot movie The Gathering back in April last year I also committed to rewatching all 22 episodes from season one along with it, but this is the last of them. Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching Babylon 5's first season finale, Chrysalis!
That's the same establishing shot of the station that Midnight on the Firing Line used under its title as well by the way, which kind of works as they bookend the season. Speaking of titles, this seems to be the only episode of Babylon 5 that shares a title with a Deep Space Nine episode (though B5's Between the Darkness and the Light and DS9's The Darkness and the Light come really close). B5's Chrysalis came first if you're wondering.
I'll be recapping the story and sharing my thoughts as I go so this'll have SPOILERS for Chrysalis and likely other first season episodes too, but I'll spoil nothing about what comes after so this'll be safe if you're on your first viewing. Though I wouldn't recommend listening to the DVD commentary on your first time through.
December 30, 2258 according the on screen text and G'Kar's finally back! I don't know what he was doing that was so important that he missed eight episodes in a row, but at least he showed up for the season finale. Plus we even get a full council scene for the first time since... wow, Deathwalker I think.
And it's a really full council scene as this is the only time in the entire series we ever get all the ambassadors and their aides in here; the only time that they're all together in the same episode in fact. All of the humanoid alien characters showed up during Parliament of Dreams, but that time they were missing Ambassador Kosh. The episode was also missing telepath Talia Winters and she's taking this episode off as well, which is a shame because this is the closest the season gets to having a full set of main characters.
By the way I'm not sure I've ever mentioned how much I like the floor of this set. Not just because of the curvy bit at the end, but also because of this glowing strip running down the middle with the hazard stripes around it and grating. It'd better if it didn't sound like wood when people walked on it, but hey maybe they're all wearing wooden shoes in the future, I dunno.
Anyway he came all this way to warn Garibaldi that 'they' are going to kill... and then he dies before he can say who. He probably should've started with the name and carried on from there, but then there'd be less of a mystery to carry people through the opening titles to act one.
It turns out that she's been together with Commander Sinclair all this time and right now they're just laying around his quarters watching the news and waiting for Ivanova to call in with another crisis. Seems that Earth Alliance President Santiago is going on another tour around space before he makes his speech about how he's going to form stronger ties with the other alien races.
The guy was re-elected in the season premiere and he visited the station (off screen) in Survivors halfway through the season, so it seems like we're checking in on him every six months. Though what's weird is that Survivors and Chrysalis were actually filmed back to back, even though they share no special sets or guest stars. They just felt like shooting the season finale a few months early and confusing all the actors I guess. Production became a lot more chronological after season 1 but they'd later beat their record by filming Babylon 5's series finale a whole year early.
Anyway Sinclair makes a long and awkward proposal to Catherine and she immediately says yes, so they're getting married! I think we've got our first suspect for who's getting killed off this episode.
Londo: "This is like being nibbled to death by err... what are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet, go quack?"Just then he gets a call by his mysterious benefactor Mr. Morden from Signs and Portents, who's aware that Londo has a problem and wants to help resolve it. Londo's too frustrated and desperate right now to be anything less than enthusiastic about his sinister offer.
Londo: "Cats! Like being nibbled to death by cats!"
She has a vague conversation with Lennier about a vague thing that Ambassador Kosh said and then leaves the room in a hurry.
Anyway Garbialdi walks around an unhelpful crowd of mute extras looking for anyone with information about the dead guy from the teaser, but the only actor in the bunch who was paid to speak on camera turns out to be pretty bad at it, at least in this scene.
Though according to the Lurker's Guide page for the episode, this isn't how the scene appeared when it was first aired in the US. Instead it looked a lot more like this:
It might seem like Londo's being ridiculously naive walking into this deal, but the story's established how sick he is of the Narn putting him under pressure and how sick he is of his government caving in to them. He hates what his republic has become, he hates what a joke he's is right now and he just can't stand being himself any longer. Back in Midnight on the Firing Line he put a gun together and went to assassinate G'Kar, so making dumb moves out of desperation is nothing new to him. Plus A Voice in the Wilderness rekindled his adventurous side and he's eager to jump in and do something.
Londo's part of the plan will be simple, all he has to do call up his government and basically do to them what Morden is doing to him: give them wild vague promises that he'll handle it himself somehow. They'll think he's drunk of course and they'll probably be right, but that's irrelevant.
Anyway, it seems that she has great doubts about... something and must see... something with her own eyes. Apparently the secret scheme she's had all season also involves the Vorlon. He gets exactly what she's talking about and opens up his encounter suit to reveal to her his true form! Off camera, so we don't get a look.
Delenn: "Yes, thank you. Now I will keep the promise. Goodbye, you will not see me again as I am now."Vaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaague.
Devereaux outright gives away that he's involved in something, calmly pointing out that Garibaldi's making a mistake investigating this as it's way too big for him. Too big for the head of security for this entire sector of space, huh?
Actually I have no idea how many sectors the station's responsible for, or how big a sector even is. It's probably smaller than a quadrant though. Or larger.
"I'm honoured to be your best man. Hell, I'm honoured to be best at anything."But their happy dinner is interrupted by a call from security telling Garibaldi that those prisoners he just brought in have gone missing. They're becoming a bit of a concern to him, especially considering that the pistol Devereaux was carrying had no serial number, and they only give them out to special agents in Earthforce security.
Meanwhile somewhere else in the galaxy, we finally get to see the famous Quadrant 37!
Well we almost see it. The trouble with black spaceships is that space also tends to be black and kind of dark too. That's why everywhere interesting in the Babylon 5 universe seems to have a nebula in the background.
We also get a bit of insight into Narn design here, as the outpost is actually built up from bits of their spaceships, and I don't think it's just the VFX team being lazy. The Narn are still recovering from their occupation so they're forced to be creative with what they have.
Anyway, Garibaldi is going through some of the boxes that were meant to be loaded onto a ship for Devereaux but ended up being left behind. This is the cargo that the dead guy from the teaser would've been moving, and its no wonder he discovered something here as the lid on the left box just pops open on its own midway through the scene.
Turns out that the boxes contain little jamming devices and a triangulation system with co-ordinates pre-programmed into it to help someone place the jammers in the right place. But the co-ordinates aren't pointing at the station, they're pointing to within Earth's solar system... right where the President's ship will be passing through!
So he phones Sinclair to tell him to meet him in the briefing room, then leaves the jammers with his aide and rushes out... only to run into Devereaux and his friends in the corridor.
So now TKO's sole contribution to the arc has played out and it can be safely forgotten. Twice his friend warned him to watch his back, but even the paranoid Mr. Garibaldi didn't see this coming.
Babylon Squared and reveals that she knows that he knows what happened to him when he was captured during the war 10 years ago!
He figured out back in And the Sky Full of Stars that during the final battle of the Earth-Minbari War Delenn had his Starfury brought aboard her War Cruiser. Then she scanned him with a Triluminary, wiped his memory, dropped him off again and cancelled the apocalypse.
But he doesn't know why she did it and why they made sure he was put in charge of Babylon 5 and it's been eating away at him for months. Now she's offering to tell him everything, but with Garibaldi missing he can't spare the time! C'mon Delenn at least tell the audience. This would be a great time to go on a long monologue to an empty room.
G'Kar reacts pretty much as you'd... not expect. He doesn't suspect the Centauri, not even slightly, and he works through the other suspects logically to come to an alternative conclusion: there's a mysterious and powerful new player out there, and they're not messing around.
The gunshot wound to the back didn't kill him, but it sure didn't make it any easier to crawl over to a lift and press the button for the Zocalo. I guess he wanted to end up in a place with as many people as possible, so he could ruin their celebrations.
I just looked this up and it turns out that there's an authorised book called Across Time and Space: The Chronologies of Babylon 5 which says Babylon Squared takes place in July and Signs and Portents takes place in August, so it seems that even the Lurker's Guide Master List isn't putting these episodes in the right order. See, this is why you film episodes chronologically if possible: to give viewers a fighting chance to follow the damn story!
"Valen said this day would come", Delenn tells Lennier, explaining that they shouldn't stand in the way of prophecy. He was a Minbari prophet by the way, who was first mentioned back in... Babylon Squared maybe. I'm thinking he's likely the bloke who wrote the instruction manual for these things.
She activates the machine she's constructed and it begins covering the wall with fluff. Seems like a thousand year old practical joke by their ancient buddy Valen.
It's also where the assassination will take place and Earthforce One is nearly there, so Sinclair rushes to C&C to see if Ivanova's managed to get a message out to them yet.
They're too late and Earthforce One explodes, killing President Santiago (but not his Vice President, who left the ship at its last stop due to illness).
And Babylon 5 just lost its biggest supporter. In fact every human who wants to coexist with aliens instead of isolating themselves just lost their biggest supporter.
Earth's government on the other hand has little interest in anything Sinclair has to say about the destruction of EarthForce One. They disregard his evidence and order him to remain silent on the matter. Of course that's not going to stop him from chatting to Devereaux when he finds him, though it'll be a one sided conversation as Garibaldi's former second in command just killed him and his friends. They should really give that character a name now that he's become head of Babylon 5's security.
Both the humans and the Narns have had their own JFK assassination today, or their own 9/11; a terrible turning point in their universe which will change all their lives going forward.
President Clark announces that he's going to work to create the world that President Santiago would've wanted... by ignoring the man's wishes and focusing more on "the needs of our own people". So all the Homeguard terrorists we've seen during the season may have been arrested, but they got what they wanted in the end: a more insular Earth. Obviously not a good thing for a diplomatic space station with a crew working to form stronger ties with other worlds.
Actually Kosh is reminding him about Delenn, who promised to tell him everything as long as he didn't wait too long. Sinclair rushes to her quarters and finds...
Lennier seems to be in on at least some of her plans now, but he's keeping silent, so Sinclair's missed his chance to learn the truth.
After a season of one-off stand-alone tales that always end with our heroes victorious, Chrysalis is writer J. Michael Straczynski kicking over the table and saying we're not playing that game any more.
There's four plotlines running through this episode and in each one Sinclair fails. His attempts to talk G'Kar down from putting pressure on Londo come too late to save 10,000 Narns. His warnings about the assassination come to late to save the President. His efforts to discover the truth behind what happens to him during the Earth-Minbari War fail because he forgets to talk with Delenn until it's too late. And he's going to struggle to get married now that his best man is on the brink of death. Worst New Year's ever.
So the Narn and Centauri situation has only gotten worse, Sinclair has lost his biggest supporter in government, Delenn is in a cocoon that might kill her, Garibaldi is barely holding onto life, no one believes them that the President was assassinated, a traitor is running B5 security and Londo's got a whole lot of blood on his hands. But this isn't really a downer episode, because everything's still in motion. It feels more like an 'end of part one'.
If there's one issue I had with the episode, it's that President Santiago and Garibaldi's aide haven't appeared all that much so far and when they did it was way back during the first half of the season. I'm sure I didn't even realise that Garibaldi's sidekick was someone I'd seen before when I first watched the episode.
Morden and G'Kar haven't been seen in a long while either, but that's less of a problem as the two of them are hard to forget. Morden was plenty sinister the first time around and here he's seeming even more outright villainous. But he's being villainous to the Narn, so the season's original villain G'Kar is coming off a lot more sympathetic than he started out as. Wiser too, as even though he's got a single-minded hatred towards the Centauri, he's able to think things through logically and deduce that they weren't to blame this time. Even though one of them kind of was. Drunken shouty comic relief Londo ain't so much of a joke any more.
When people write off season 1 as being skippable, Chrysalis is the biggest (but not the only) exception to the rule as it's a very good, very intense episode by the Signs and Portents team of writer JMS and director Janet Greek that feels like a real step above anything the series has done so far. Even those 10 other season 1 episodes that were filmed after it. Babylon 5 gets better than this, but not that much better.
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