Review: Babylon 5 2.05

by on Dec.06, 2008, under Babylon 5, Reviews by Bill Thompson, Television

The Long Dark

Review: Babylon 5 2.05 92amis 300x241

Franklin is back in pimp mode, but this time he’s shot down. This is not a moment that will be highlighted in Franklin’s Guide On Being The Ultimate Pimp! Are the pale colored Drazi the same as an albino human, because that sucks for them if that’s the case. What’s the deal with all the yelling and running around, Amis needs to chill man, just chill. Speaking of needing to chill, maybe the Soldier of Darkness just need to take a nice relaxing vacation, maybe that would stop him from eating everyone’s organs.

Written By: Scott Frost
Directed By: Mario Di Leo

Bare Essentials:

A Plot - An old Earth ship, the USS Copernicus has drifted into Babylon 5 space. Contained within are Mariah Cirrus, who has been in cryogenic freeze for over a hundred years, her dead husband Will and one Soldier of Darkness. The arrival of the Soldier sets off a lurker on the station named Amis who had encountered the Soldier once before. With the help of Mariah and Amis the Soldier is cornered by Garibaldi, Sheridan, Ivanova and some security forces where they destroy it.

B Plot - A lurker named Amis has fallen on hard times. Since the Earth-Minbari War ended he has been a shattered man and now his enemy from the past has returned. With the help of Garibaldi he confronts his enemy and is able to vanquish it and possibly regain his life in the process.

C Plot - Like usual, there’s a new woman on the station and Franklin is putting the moves on her. This time however he is rebuked as Mariah decides she needs to return to Earth and find herself first.

More Arc, Less Arch:

Garibaldi’s comment that Amis was about to accuse Londo of being in league with the devil isn’t so much an arc moment as it is a meta type of moment in its simplicity.

The Shadows are all over the place in this episode,

Amis’ yells about “they’re coming through the walls” when we first see him harkens back to the episode Babylon Squared and Garibaldi’s claims in the future destruction of B5. It’s probable then that it was the Soldiers of Darkness that were coming through the walls and attacking Babylon 5 in that possible future scenario.

The Markab Ambassador makes reference to an ancient darkness, it’s defeat many years ago and the ancient darkness’ recalling of forces in the present. The ancient darkness he refers to is of course the Shadows, and for speaking openly about the Shadows the Markab will face some serious repercussions in Confessions And Lamentations.

G’Kar is especially interested in what the Markab Ambassador has to say and this leads him to consult with the Book of G’Quan. In the book he sees an illustration of a Soldier of Darkness from many years ago when the Shadows were on Narn. The Book of G’Quan will come into play later on in helping to deal with the Shadows in Ship Of Tears. The illustrations pertaining to the Shadows in the Book of G’Quan will pop up again in the episode, Matters Of Honor.

It’s revealed at the end of the episode that the Soldier of Darkness is being recalled to Z’ha’dum, and this means that it is being recalled by the Shadows. Based on what we find out about the “awakening” of the Shadows in the episode In The Shadow Of Z’ha’dum I believe it’s safe to assume that the Soldier was inert on whatever planet it occupied when the arrival of the Minabri and humans during the Earth-Minbari War woke it up, and it went to feed and then became dormant again until it received the call to return and used the Copernicus to that end. For more info on what is going on in the rim or who might be getting called back to the rim check out The Passing Of The Techno-Mages: Book I: Casting Shadows and Book II: Summoning Light.

Who Are You? What Do Yo… Hey, I’m Asking The Questions Here!:

Why would the entire command staff enter an unknown space craft without any security detail?

I question the logic of doors in security holding cells that open when someone on the inside merely walks towards them. Even if Garibaldi’s key card unlocked the door from the outside, why not place another card reader on the inside for security purposes?

Idiosyncratic Musings:

Mariah’s inquiry about people not evolving past violence is a standard tenet of futuristic science fiction. It’s also a basic philosophical idea that has been debated for years. There are two schools of thought present. One argues that people will always be different and therefore there will always be something to fight over and there will always be violence, war and strife. The other line of thought is that one day people will become more enlightened and realize that violence is not the answer and we will enter a more utopian age where peace takes the place of violence and aggression.  I’m in the non-Star Trek camp, I don’t believe we will reach any stage of universal enlightenment. As a species we are too different and too inherently protective of those differences. For as long as the human race lives on there will be war, violence and strife.

I See What You Did There:

In order to preach openly on B5 you need a Class C missionary license.

DeValera is a cardiac drug.

Garibaldi served in the Earth-Minbari War as a GROPO.

Long term stasis dries out the tear ducts, although this may just be a trait common to humans.

Say It Again Mac:

Amis, “Well, I’ve found that life is, in general, much easier if I forget most of the things that happen to me.”

It’s Your Cultural Imperative:

For a short time on Earth, right before contact was made with the Centauri, deep range ships, sort of like the shuttles we have today, were launched into space with the crew in cryogenic suspension. The ship would drift along until it picked up some sort of signal. It would then gravitate towards that signal and the crew would be woken from stasis when the aliens boarded the vessel. Based on how history panned out it’s obvious none of these ships were successful.

Before building their own jump gates Earth would lease time from the jump gates of other races.

GROPO is the new term in EarthForce for infantry, it stands for Ground Pounder.

Don’t know if I mentioned this before, but there is a pale skinned Drazi in this episode. They are quite rare within the Drazi race as I believe they are only seen once or twice. The scene was bizarre in and of itself as the Drazi looks up at the Soldier in almost genuflection as seen from the Soldier’s point of view.

The Soldier of Darkness is an unknown race and since it’s barely seen it can’t be described in any great detail. It appears to have horns on its head and a demon like face. It’s also a transient being, it has the ability to shift from a solid to an energy being. It is massively tall and appears to gain sustenance by removing the internal organs from its victims through some unknown means. This can be done either before or after it emaciates its victim and feeds on their muscle and fat, also through unknown means. When it dies the Soldier appears to vanish into nothingness.

I Think This Might Be Based On Something:

The Copernicus is named after the famed astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who was the first to posit and prove that the Earth was not the center of our solar system.

Amis is most likely based on the prophet Amos from the Old Testament of The Bible. Just like Amis, Amos spent the majority of his time warning people about upcoming calamities and disastrous events.

Amis proclamation of, “I’ve got everything a man needs.” as he leaves the security cell could be a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

The drug DeValera is most likely named after Eammon DeValera, an Irish politico and poet who liked to cause trouble.

You Look Mighty Familiar:

Dwight Schultz, Amis, is most famous for his long run as Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock on A-Team. He also had numerous appearances as the bumbling Lt. Reginald Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as in Star Trek: First Contact and again in numerous episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. He’s also had quite the career as a voice in numerous video games and TV shows.

Anne-Marie Johnson, Mariah Cirrus, had a long run as Althea Tibbs on In The Heat Of The Night. She also played numerous characters on the sketch comedy show In Living Color as well as playing Alycia Barnett for a bunch of episodes on Melrose Place when they decided , “Hey, have you noticed that every single person on this show is white, we need to do something about that.” She voiced the character of Mousie for a trio of episodes of Spider-Man.

Casting Ahead:

Warren Tabata makes his final appearance in the series as a nameless guard.

Kim Strauss is back on the show, and he continues his run as the man of many faces, this time he’s the Markab Ambassador.

James Kiriyama-Lem is back as the nameless Med Tech.

Jennifer Anglin is back as some unnamed Alien.

That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen:

When Garibaldi has his talk with Amis in the security cell, the door doesn’t close behind him. This is in contrast with what we see the same security door do earlier in the episode and what all doors on Babylon 5 do.

Right before the scene where Garibaldi is explaining the listening post incident to Sheridan and Ivanova there is an out of place scene with Garibaldi looking for Amis. I believe it was supposed to have been placed earlier in the episode, because in its current position it makes no sense. Garibaldi is searching through down below, probably for Amis, hears a scream, runs towards the scream and then they cut to Garibaldi talking to Sheridan. It was a very abrupt cut and doesn’t fit tonally with what was going on so it must be a mistake.

Amis says that the Soldier could pass through walls, and the episode shows the Soldier to be able to become an energy being. Yet when entering the Copernicus there was a 10% loss of oxygen. This doesn’t jive with what Amis has said and what we see in the episode. To be honest when placed under close scrutiny a lot of things about the Soldier and his actions before coming to B5 don’t hold up.

The Ombuds Have Decided:

The Long Dark is an intriguing episode. It works at creating a very dark and foreboding atmosphere. A lot of vagueness is used to create that atmosphere and that is also where The Long Dark falters. While the minimalist approach helped with the atmosphere it hurt when it came to the actual appearance of the main villain. The Soldier of Darkness is too vague to be scary, frightening, or ominous when finally seen in the battle at the end. I understand what they were going for, unfortunately it didn’t quite work out. But, The Long Dark is still a good episode because of the atmosphere, some solid acting and an interesting story.

I liked the way they shot from the Soldier’s point of view on numerous occasions. It was both obvious and subtle. It’s obvious once you know you are seeing things from the Soldier’s point of view, but it’s also subtle enough that it blends in naturally with the rest of the camera work throughout the episode.

As much as Franklin is the pimp of all pimps on Babylon 5, his getting close with Mariah Cirrus not only seems wrong but is kind of unbelievable on her part. She just found out her husband was dead mere hours earlier and she’s already in the middle of hooking up with another dude while spouting pathetic excuses about their marriage not being the best. Weak sauce in the excuse department on her part and not a storyline that I bought.

I do have a minor issue with the Soldier of Darkness. Babylon 5 is a series built on ambiguities and the fact that there is no true evil or good, yet the Soldier has been made into a purely evil being that doesn’t think at all. It’s also a bit dicey that it somehow was in hibernation on a barren moon for years without sustenance and then woke up and ate all the Minbari and humans before going dormant again until the Copernicus arrived. This is a situation where less back story would have helped because even the little bit of back story we are given on the Soldier cheapens him as a character and makes him a little less plausible.

Dwight Schultz gives a great performance as Amis. He imbues Amis with tremendous pathos and character. Amis is dark, disturbed and a tad insane. But at the same time there’s still a man there, one with wit, regret, fear and a great feeling of loss over the fact that he’s still alive. He says he died on that moon, but through his performance we see that’s not the case. He’s very much alive, but so little of what he was before he encountered the Soldier is left that he feels dead. Great performance from an actor that I didn’t think was capable of creating such a moving character.

The end confrontation with the Soldier is less than satisfying. It works at first, all the way up until the Soldier enters the “kill zone.” When that happens and it finally falls it’s very anti-climatic and you’re left with a “that was it?” feeling.

Rating:

82/100

B

The Long Dark is over, it’s all over. Our next journey will involve arachnids as we look at A Spider In The Web.

Cheers,
Bill

Previous – 2.04

Next – 2.06


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