Babylon 5: Points of Departure

b5As the title suggests, this is where things begin to change.  After the powerhouse finale for Season One, Jeffrey Sinclair’s words could not be more profound: “Nothing’s the same any more”.

We come back to Delenn still in her Chrysalis, Sinclair is gone, Sheridan is being introduced, and we don’t know the status of Michael Garibaldi.  By the nature of TV, we can assume that his survival into Season Two means he’ll be ok, but we don’t know what that will mean in the grand scheme.

Let me start with a massive complaint: if you’re not going to reveal Delenn until episode 2, for the love of God, keep her out of the credits.  They reveal her during the opening with all her human/Minbari qualities, but couldn’t that have been either obscured or sped up to appear in the first episode?  (Totally by chance, I was reading something about this and it seems, at the time of airing, this was not shown; I didn’t watch season 2 at the time, so I can only go by the Amazon Prime release and the DVDs I own; but it seems a terrible thing to leave in there!)

Speaking of the opening, it’s interesting that the opening identifies the year as 2259, “the year the great war came upon us all”.  So we know what’s coming to some extent.  But the big drive of this episode is to give us background on Sheridan. He survived against a major Minbari threat by mining an asteroid field and destroying their flagship.  Shame Admiral Ackbar didn’t work for the Minbari, he might have noticed… “It’s a a trap!”

Sheridan seems a lot different from Sinclair with the exception of his initials (both JS).  He’s a colder commander it seems, more matter-of-fact.  A no-nonsense kind of guy, which makes sense considering where he’s coming from.  He doesn’t have the luxury of being all diplomatic or mincing words.  This is something I found refreshing in the character.

This story gives us a chance to understand him and how the Minbari are going to react to finding out he’s been given command of Babylon 5.  It’s necessary background and filler.  But there are things that are interesting from other points of view.  Lennier says “they say” about change coming (Sinclair will be the first, there will be others), but what does that mean?  Who is they?  The Religious caste?  Someone else?  There’s also talk of a soul pool from which Minbari souls are being diminished.  How does that work with the Soul Hunter’s pool of souls?  Does it make it real, or is it hypothetical?

Points of Departure is a good opener because it does have action and story but it’s largely filler.  Will we see Sinclair again or was his return to earth and subsequent post to Minar just a way of writing him out?  How will Sinclair’s position of power effect Minbari society?  What will Michael think when he wakes up?  And just when will he wake up anyway?  Lastly, with Sinclair gone, that thing Delenn had to tell him… will we ever find out what it was?   Time will have to tell…   ML

The view from across the pond:

As a first-time viewer of B5, I came to this episode completely unaware of what to expect, assuming that we would get a continuation of the cliffhanger ending to the previous season.  That didn’t quite happen, and I’m not sure I’m all that happy about what we got instead.

The first big change is that Sinclair has gone, to be replaced with Bruce Boxleitner as John Sheridan.  A quick google reveals that Michael O’Hare was struggling with mental illness, which played a part in his decision to leave, and he has since passed away, which is desperately sad.  I might not have warmed to the character of Sinclair immediately, but by the end of the first season I had come to like him very much, so I don’t welcome the change.  I’m trying not to have a knee jerk reaction to Boxleitner.  Let’s give him some time and see how Sheridan settles in.  So far I’m ambivalent towards him, although this got on my nerves:

“There was an early Earth President: Abraham Lincoln.”

Has American become synonymous with Earth in the future, or is this just a piece of very clumsy writing that accidentally displays a sort of extreme/ignorant patriotism?  Either way, it now makes Donald Trump an “early Earth President” as well, according to the same logic.

Also new on the scene is Robert Rusler as Warren Keffer, a sort of chief fighter pilot, and if we’re moving towards a “great war” (as the new title sequence spoilers us) I suppose that’s a necessary addition.  He is just dropped into the lineup and seems to be already pally with Ivanova and Franklin, which is a little clumsy.  A lot happened in the missing week!

A couple more things I noticed.  Delenn’s change of appearance is spoilered by the opening.  Apparently her chrysalis doubles up as a hair salon.  And Na’Toth is apparently going to be played by a different actress, Mary Kay Adams instead of Caitlin Brown, presumably on the basis that “all those aliens look the same to me”.  I don’t like it.  But again, I’ll reserve judgement for now.

This episode was a bedding in exercise for the new commander, and his self-doubt at the end was a decent bit of writing.  Self-assured heroes are boring, after all.  It baffles me that somebody would be chosen to run B5 whom the Minbari hate.  There needs to be a good reason for that beyond creating some tension, as at this point it makes zero sense.  Sinclair and Delenn were getting along great, and I don’t see why whoever is running America Earth would want to jeopardise a relatively young peace treaty in this way.

I loved the revelation of why the Minbari surrendered in the war, and it seemed a little wasted by being thrown into the first episode of the series.  It was too big a moment for that.

“Minbari souls are being reborn, in part or in full, in human bodies.”

Interesting stuff.  So all in all it wasn’t a bad episode, just a bit disconcerting as it felt like such a sidestep from where we ended up last season.  Final thoughts: the arrangement of naked flames in proximity to a chrysalis looks like a bad idea to me… oh, and I can’t stand people in sci-fi who say “negative” instead of “no”.  It’s unnecessarily pompous, and I prefer my sci-fi more down to America.

I mean down to Earth.   RP

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About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyardview.wordpress.com Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Babylon 5, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Babylon 5: Points of Departure

  1. DrAcrossthePond says:

    My only thought on the Earth President thing is that Sheridan has a speech planned and does not know completely how he will get a chance to deliver it. He knows the station is an Earth/Minbari venture with Narn, Centauri and Vorlon involvement as well. All understand that Earth now has a planetary President. So rather than the clumsier writing of “There was an early American President, which is a country on Earth where freedom was a big thing, especially after this very president had a speech at a town called Gettysburg…” etc etc. I think his line works very well and I think the writing is actually very sharp in recognizing that.

    While you do often make me look at things under a stronger setting of my mental microscope, this is one I do not agree with. ML

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger Pocock says:

      When the viewer is required to make that kind of mental leap I wouldn’t tend to credit that as good writing, but I can see the logic to your argument.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DrAcrossthePond says:

        Oh I like that he gives some credit to the viewer for having a brain. What’s tough is realizing that there would be months between seasons when the show aired. The new model of tv is better in that regard. ML

        Liked by 2 people

      • Roger Pocock says:

        Yes, that’s very true. I’m getting the first-time-viewer perspective, and I can just about keep up with all the references to previous episodes (watching Season 3 at the moment), but it does seem to have been written for the box set era more than the era of television in which it was created. Ahead of the game in many ways. It’s something I’ll discuss more in future articles.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Roger Pocock says:

      “There was an early president of an Earth nation…” There I’ve just done JMS’s job for him. Having said that, I do feel (having seen later episodes) that JMS is more often critical of US history than supportive of it in the allegories he uses, but remember I’m writing episode by episode, first impressions, first viewing, so my gut feeling at the time was that it was clunky writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. scifimike70 says:

    We’ve seen a female Earth President in Dr. Who: Frontier In Space whose timeless quote was “I will not be responsible for starting a war!” That’s the kind of Earth President that I think humanity needs. 🌎🌏🌍🌌🖖🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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