In the fifth episode of the first season of Babylon 5, Sinclair entertains an old flame; G’Kar entertains a possible assassin. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
There’s a clear parallel here in that the pasts of Sinclair and G’Kar come back to haunt them. But that similarity quickly deviates in tone and execution, and instead, “The Parliament of Dreams” does some unexpected things. LET’S TALK.
Look, I felt like I’d seen enough stories like this to know where this episode was going. To the credit of the actors involved, the chemistry between Sinclair and Catherine was undeniable. And I loved how forward they were about their attraction to one another! So much of this relationship is told to us through dialogue and then through some very physical acting. The rest is left up to the audience, and I bought it. These two had clearly known one another for a long, long time, and their re-appearance in one another’s lives had unearthed a bit of a mess. Thus, I figured these two would court one another, wish that they could be in their lives again, and then, at the end of the episode, they’d part. They can’t be together! It’s too hard! Their jobs make it too difficult! Hell, even Caroline succumbed to that problem. Clearly, this was about to happen!
Which is why I was so surprised at the end of this that Catherine and Sinclair decided to actually see one another. It remains to be seen if she’ll actually show up in future episodes, but that intent is here. Catherine and Sinclair have genuinely decided to give this relationship a good try instead of disappearing on the other one this time around. I WAS SHOCKED, OKAY. And I like Catherine, so this was a neat twist on my expectations. And actual serialized romance? YES.
G’Kar’s past, however, is a lot more ambiguous. It’s a strange choice for the show because we already don’t know a whole lot about G’Kar, and this episode hints at a past through Du’Rog that it then never gives us. I can accept that they’re both political rivals, but what exactly did G’Kar do to warrant an assassination contract being taken out on him? Like the issue of contracted slavery on the Centauri world, it seems that contracted assassination is just par for the course with the Narn. But how does this connect with the negotiations that G’Kar is part of? What information did he ultimately not care about if it got released? I feel like that sort of specificity would have given this story the extra punch it needed.
As it stands, G’Kar’s plot veers between humor due to his paranoia and an attempt to show us how loyal Na’Toth is. (AND I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THEIR FATHER.) The latter works better than the former, and that’s partially due to the problem I mentioned just a bit ago: I don’t know enough about G’Kar or Narn society/culture to appreciate what’s going on here. This plot might have been more effective later in the season, perhaps, when I had a better understanding of this stuff.
However, there could have been an easy way to solve that issue: have the Narn display one of their religious ceremonies during the celebration week! There’s little to no plot in these sequences, but I’m perfectly fine with that. Rather, these scenes give us a slice of society. We learn more about the joy and decadence of the Centauri once we see Londo and Vir celebrate… well, I’m not sure who the Xon were. They got wiped out, right? Which feels very in-line with the sort of dominance we’ve seen from the Centauri. The Minbari ceremony, on the other hand, was intricately concerned with life and death. The motif of reincarnation and rebirth appears again, and we also get a sense for how sensual and emotional the Minbari are. But there’s an unspoken brilliance to that scene. It’s all performed by people who used to be at war with Earth. Now, years later, they’re able to share this cultural tradition in a space meant for building peace. That is a fantastic way to communicate a change without saying it directly. It’s a nice touch, one that’s only made better when Sinclair comes up with a beautiful idea to showcase Earth’s religious diversity. That sort of cultural exchange speaks loudly about how everything has changed between these two species.
The video for “The Parliament of Dreams” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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