Review: Babylon 5 2.01

by on Oct.31, 2008, under Babylon 5, Reviews by Bill Thompson, Television

Points Of Departure

Review: Babylon 5 2.01 b5 points of departure 1 300x220

Everything is going straight to hell! Why is that lady in a cocoon and why is it oozing mysterious fluids? I want to see Keffer die right now, he’s a completely useless character, him and his annoying frock of hair. Just how many inquisitive looks can Ivanova flash at the camera, tune in to find out! As a friendly reminder, if you are a fan of the way the show is progressing and are watching it on DVD, then skip the opening credits for this episode or you will be spoiled, terribly!

Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Directed By: Janet Greek

Bare Essentials:

A Plot - An exiled Minbari war leader, Kalain, is on board Babylon 5. He sets in motion a plan that brings his ship, the Trigati, to B5 space where they hope to induce another war with the humans. Their plan fails however and the Triagti is destroyed when their fusion reactor explodes following a hit by a fellow Sharlin Class War Cruiser.

B Plot - Commander Sinclair is no more, and Captain John Sheridan has been chosen to take his place as commanding officer on Babylon 5. The Minbari harbor a deep hatred for Sheridan and this hatred is what causes Kalain and the Trigati to move their plan into action. Sheridan diffuses the situation and survives a very interesting first day in charge.

C Plot – The mystery of why the Minbari surrendered at the Battle of the Line is finally revealed. The Minbari captured Jeffrey Sinclair and through the process of torturing him discovered he had a Minbari soul. They examined more humans and found more humans with Minbari souls. Based on this the Minbari now believed their souls were being reborn into human bodies and as such they could not kill any more humans. They surrendered, but they decided not to let anyone outside of the Grey Council know why they were surrendering and this led to the war leader Sineval killing himself while his crew on the Trigati took the ship into exile instead of surrendering.

More Arc, Less Arch:

A very minor arc point, and not even an arc point really, but the crew of the Trigati and their leader Sineval taking his life was first introduced back in the episode Legacies.

Minbari souls being reborn into every generation was touched upon in Soul Hunter. However this is the first time that we are told exactly where those lose souls are going. The revelation that those souls are now being reborn as humans, and specifically Sinclair, was hinted at in And The Sky Full Of Stars as well as the aforementioned Soul Hunter and will be further played out in War Without End, Part 2 and In The Beginning.

The Minbari’s hatred towards Captain Sheridan is prominent throughout the show and is featured heavily in There All The Honor Lies and is only silenced following season 4.

Lennier is talking about the Shadows when he mentions a great enemy that is returning. He’s also referring to Delenn’s transformation that began in Chrysalis and will end in Revelations when he mentions the prophecy about the uniting of the two sides of their spirit.

Idiosyncratic Musings:

Hedronn’s statement to Sheridan about a man “like him” being in power truly showcases the hypocrisy and frankly, the idiocy of the Minbari. Sheridan did what warriors, or soldiers do, he killed in battle. He didn’t slaughter innocents, he didn’t rape or pillage, he killed the enemy before they could kill him. Countless Minbari did the same to humans, and they are undoubtedly in important positions of power. Hedronn’s statement is a combination of xenophobia, hypocrisy and stupidity, traits that are far too common in Minbari and continually show how they are an extremely flawed race.

Sheridan is a drastic change of pace from Sinclair, and acting wise Bruce Boxleitner is a drastic change from Michael O’ Hare. In the show Sheridan is far more straight forward and by the book, he is a classic military leader. He brings more stability to the station, more firmness in his actions, but at the same time he brings more rigidity to the role nor is he anywhere as open to the suggestions of others as Sinclair was. Possibly the biggest difference on screen comes in how the actors decided to portray their respective characters. Sinclair came across as very introspective because O’ Hare played him very laid back, he was more of a thinker. Boxleitner plays Sheridan as a much harder man, he doesn’t think, he acts. Both approaches are valid and it’s interesting to see how both men will handle certain situations the same and other situations completely the opposite.

I See What You Did There:

Jeffrey Sinclair is the first Earth ambassador to be allowed permanent residence on Minbar.

Ivanova previously served with Sheridan on Io.

Sheridan’s fascination with oranges is a character quirk that is very prominent for a few episodes and will then be dropped summarily.

The executive suites and command quarters on Babylon 5 all have functioning water showers, whereas the rest of the quarters use sonic vibe showers.

Sheridan was former President Santiago’s first choice to replace Jeffrey Sinclair if anything ever happened to him.

Sheridan earned the nickname “Starkiller” from the Minbari for his actions in the Earth-Minbari War. His ship was disabled, but he mined the asteroid field between Mars and Jupiter with fusion bombs, sent out a distress signal and destroyed the Minbari flagship the Black Star when it returned to finish Sheridan’s ship off.

At the Battle Of The Line the crew of the Trigati refused to surrender when ordered to do so by the Grey Council. Instead they retreated into exile.

Garibaldi is revealed to be an agnostic, this a very appropriate character trait for him.

Say It Again Mac:

Ivanova, “And as far as I’m concerned, the transports can wait until the sun explodes! And if you’re not happy with the seating arrangements, I will personally order your seats to be moved outside, down the hall, across the station and into the fusion reactor. Am I absolutely, perfectly clear on this?”

Lost In Translation:

Sheridan, “General, with all due respect the last time I made personal contact with a Minbari warship I sent it straight to hell.” Whoa, there tiger, settle down with the 1940′s style bravado why don’t ya.

Yes, I Am A Fleet Junkie:

Points Of Departure offers the first glimpse at an EA Omega Class Destroyer, the Agamemnon in this case. As the show progresses the Omega Class will be the most widely used ship by the EA and will be its real work force. It is in all actuality quite the capital ship, it maintains a crew of 850 and can carry up to 18,000 troops if need be. It has an armament of 6 heavy particle lasers, six heavy pulse cannons, 12 particle lasers, 12 pulse cannons, an array of fusion missiles, and around 18 Mk. II energy projectors. An Omega Class Destroyer houses 36 Starfuries, and it has the ability to carry either Aurora Class Starfury Heavy Fighters or Thunderbolt Class Starfury Heavy Fighters. The Omega can form its own jump point and unlike other EA capital vessels prior to its creation the Omega has the ability to create artificial gravity on board due to its rotating middle section. The Omega Class Destroyer is a very powerful vessel, able to hold its own against any vessel not belonging to a First One or a Minbari Sharlin Class War Cruiser and far more powerful than any war ship found in the secondary races.

This episode features yet another flashback to the Battle of the Line, and as with every instance where we are shown that battle the Minbari forces wax the EA forces all over the screen.

We get to see the Trigati and another unnamed Sharlin Class War Cruiser, but this time they are in action against each other, sort of. The unnamed Sharlin slices through the Trigati with ease and the Trigati is destroyed when it’s fusion reactor explodes. However this really isn’t a good indicator of how this type of battle would go since the Trigati didn’t offer up any fight and wanted to be destroyed.

Babylon 5 uses the EA standard XB7 tracking systems.

It’s Your Cultural Imperative:

One of the aliens yelling at Ivanova in the pre-title sequence is a yet to be described race, the Hyach. The Hyach are a biped humanoid like species that lay claim to the planet of Shir-shraba as their homeworld. The Hyach have tan, bordering on reddish, skin complexion and are easily recognizable by their most prominent feature, their cranium. They have rather normal faces, but they feature a hairless cranium that appears to be two separated bulbous protrusions. The Hyach are a peaceful member of The League Of Non-Aligned Worlds. Despite their peaceful nature the Hyach are considered one of the more advanced and powerful races of the League.

I Think This Might Be Based On Something:

Agamemnon was a Greek King during the Trojan War who was later murdered by his wife. This is a very interesting parallel with B5′s captain and the travails he will endure with his former wife in later episodes. But, the Agamemnon was also a ship in the British Royal Navy that participated in the Battle of Trafalgar.

The speech that Sheridan gives is an abridged version of the speech that US President Abraham Lincoln gave in the annual State of the Union address in 1862.

The lunge club that Ivanova, Franklin and Keffer are in at the end of the episode is Earhart’s. This is of course a homage to famed aviator Amelia Earhart, who was one of the first female aviators to gain any sort of notoriety.

An interesting anecdote is that Captain John Sheridan is a descendant of the real life Union General Philip John Sheridan from the American Civil War.

You Look Mighty Familiar:

Robin Sachs, Hedronn, is a pretty well known genre actor. He voiced the Silver Surfer for a trio of episodes of the mid 1990′s Fantastic Four. He was the dastardly Sarris in the hilarious classic Galaxy Quest. He was also everyone’s favorite evil wizard Ethan Rayne in various episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He portrayed General Valen in the episode The Void of Star Trek: Voyager. He played Hans Dietrich in the episode Nightingale of Alias.

Richard Grove, Kalain, played Colonel Cash in a couple of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman episodes. Fans of the cult classic Army Of Darkness will remember him as Duke Henry the Red.

Robert Foxworth, General Hague, voiced Ratchet in the live action Transformers. He also voiced Professor Emil Hamilton for a bunch of episodes of Justice League. He was Administrator V’Las for a bunch of episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. He worked with JMS again when he played the role of President Emerson for a couple of episodes of Jeremiah. He was Admiral Leyton for a couple of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes. He played Royce Shelton in the Sympathy For The Deep episode of SeaQuest DSV.

Robert Rusler, Lt. Warren Keffer, hasn’t appeared in anything of note, and there is a reason for that more than likely. Genre wise he’s only had two other roles worth mentioning. He played Ron Grady in A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. He also played Orgoth in the episode Anomaly of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Prior to Babylon 5 Bruce Boxleitner, Captain John Sheridan, was most known for his role as Lee Stetson for the entire run of The Scarecrow And Mrs. King. But, he was most famous for playing Tron in the cult classic futuristic TRON. Other than those roles Boxleitner has built a career out of B movies and westerns and hasn’t done many mainstream projects until recently when he returned to the screen for a couple of episodes of Heroes as Robert Malden.

Casting Ahead:

Captain John Sheridan makes his first appearance, he will remain with the show until the very end.

General Hague makes his first appearance, he will appear in at least one more episode.

This is the first episode for Warren Keffer, he will be a regular cast member for all of season 2.

Kim Strauss first appears in Points of Departure as an unnamed ensign in C&C, he will be back many more times as many different characters.

Robin Sachs plays Hedronn in this episode and he will back quite a few times in different roles.

Michael McKenzie is back again, this time as the Minbari Captain Vastor of the unnamed Minbari Sharlin.

Mark Hendrickson appears once more in the series, this time as one of the Ambassadors hounding Ivanova in the beginning of the episode.

Jonathan Chapman is one of the ambassadors arguing with Ivanova through the Zocalo, and he will be back numerous times as a bunch of different characters.

Jennifer Anglin, who played Deroon in this episode will make a few more appearances on the show.

That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen:

When Sheridan enters Command & Control to give his good luck speech the door stays open behind him. This doesn’t jive with the doors always automatically closing behind people once they’ve entered C&C.

Hedronn’s statement to Kalain that “we don’t harm our own kind, we never have” is seventy different kinds of wrong. We know that the Minbarui fought and killed each other before Valen arrived, and being a Minbari and a member of the Grey Council, Hedronn knows this as well.

Sheridan says that he destroyed the Black Star along with three other Minbari war cruisers. This contradicts In The Beginning where it is shown on screen that only one Minbari war vessel was present, the Black Star, and that is all that Sheridan destroyed.

The Ombuds Have Decided:

Points Of Departure does a great job of introducing Sheridan, but it is nothing more than an introductory episode. There’s no real drama in the episode because you know the Trigati will be thwarted and that they will deliver nothing but idle threats. Still, Points Of Departure does flow nicely, features a very big revelation, the intro of an important character and despite being clunky in spots it is good for what it is, a rather mundane character introduction episode.

Claudia Christian does a tremendous job of acting in the scene where Ivanova’s discussing the impact the death of President Santiago has had on her and the crew with Sheridan. You can feel how distraught she is and her emotion is very real and evident to the viewer. Christian draws you into that scene with her terrific display of vulnerability and at the stoic nature she brings forth at the end.

On the flip side of that is Ivanova’s conversations with Sheridan regarding his destruction of the Black Star. The acting isn’t bad, but it’s a clunky bit of obvious exposition that doesn’t make much sense. Ivanova was stationed with Sheridan before, his destruction of the Black Star was public knowledge and it was documented and shown on video in the military. Ivanova should have known the method he used to destroy them either as a civvie before she joined the military if they did make Sheridan’s method of victory public knowledge. If his method of victory wasn’t public knowledge, then she should have found out when she did join the military, and especially when she was stationed on IO, where old vets would certainly tell the tale and the military itself would make sure its ranks were knowledgeable about their only victory in the war. I’m not willing to say it’s an accident and place it in That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen, but it’s not a part of the show that made sense in any way.

Continuing that thought, there are times in Points Of Departure where the dialogue is quite choice, but there are too many instances where the dialogue is clunky or doesn’t make any sense. Hedronn telling Sheridan that the crew of the Triagti believe they have been betrayed by their own world and by the humans is an example of this. How can someone feel like they have been betrayed by a group of people that were never loyal to them in the first place. Take the humans out of that statement and it works perfectly fine, but with them in it that statement is a mess of nonsense. In the same conversation Hedronn tells Sheridan that he would answer one of his questions if he recognized Sheridan’s authority. Hedronn has gone to Sheridan to get him to use his authority to capture and detain Kalain, so clearly he recognizes his authority. There are far too many cases of this type of bad, illogical and downright bad dialogue in Points Of Departure.

The huge revelation scene about Minbari souls is hurt somewhat by the awkwardness in the acting. Ivanova and Sheridan provide facial expressions and mannerisms that don’t fit with what they are being told. They are almost blas√© about it, not showing any emotion at all and treating this news like it’s old hat. That ruins the effect the big revelation is supposed to have on the audience, because we are experiencing it through Sheridan and Ivanova. They should have either been shocked or acted like it was the most ridiculous thing they’ve ever heard, but instead we were given two people acting like they were in the middle of a boring conference meeting.

I find it incredulous that Babylon 5 would use the same tracking system ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. When you combine the general progression of technology with the boom that war gives to technological innovation it is completely implausible that ten years after the war a high level military station like Babylon 5 would still be using such an antiquated tracking system. It’s not even an issue of them now being technologically advanced enough to track the Minbari, they shouldn’t be, but they should be using more advanced tracking systems than what they used in the war.

I’m not a fan in any way of Keffer being buddy buddy with Ivanova and Franklin right off the bat. It’s been established that Ivanova, Garibaldi and now Franklin are a very tight knit group. People aren’t immediately introduced into their group, you have to work in order to gain their trust and gain entry, as was seen last season with Franklin and will be seen with Zack Allen when he joins the show. I understand that Keffer was a character foisted upon the show by the network, but they could have introduced him to the show without having to include a scene where he appears to be part of the inner group. This will never be touched upon again, because he is a character that isn’t relevant to the core group, and that’s why he should have been introduced as a periphery character instead of shown hanging out with Ivanova and Franklin.

Rating:

79/100

B-

That’s all for the first episode of season 2, my next entry will be all about Revelations.

Cheers,
Bill

Previous – Season 1 (1994)

Next – 2.02


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Themed by RAKALAP

Copyright © Oros Productions 2007-2009

All Rights Reserved

Contact Paul Talon @ paultalon@secondviews.com with any questions

FireStats icon Powered by FireStats