Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S01E11 – Survivors

In the eleventh episode of the first season of Babylon 5, Garibaldi is framed, and the crew must prove his innocence. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of terrorism, alcoholism

This was another solid episode, but I must admit that I found a lot of the subtext more interesting than what was on the surface. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! “Survivors” presents the audience with a story that’s familiar and paced beautifully, and that’s perfectly fine on its own. I’ve seen and read plenty of stories about someone framed for a terrible crime due to someone else’s political agenda. It’s not a story trope/type that exists only within genre shows or genre fiction either. There are plenty of contemporary examples of it throughout history, too, spanning hundreds and thousands of years. We get all the major story beats you might expect from this tale, too. Garibaldi is accused; everyone is shocked at the very suggestion that he could be guilty; the evidence, convenient and unfortunate begins to pile up; some personal detail or history is revealed that makes it seem possible that they did exactly what they are suspected of; Garibaldi flees and tries to prove his innocence; he uncovers a conspiracy and a seedy underbelly; he is vindicated at the last minute.

As I said, it’s solid. But there’s a texture here that elevates some of this episode beyond that. Even if this is an “episodic” show at this point, there are so many tiny threads being pulled and woven through the greater fabric of Babylon 5, and it allows me a deeper understanding of the world in which it exists. And unlike “Deathwalker,” that context never felt confusing or weighty to me. For example: there’s no outright confirmation that Home Guard was behind the events of this episode. Nolan was a part of it, sure, so it seems pretty obvious what’s happening here. But that’s almost immaterial to the point. Rather, this episode further cements the idea that the pro-Human movement on Earth is growing at a rapid pace, one that means it probably cannot be contained before something worse happens. Ultimately, Nolan wanted to destroy President Santiago, whose policies are progressive, accepting, and radical. We still haven’t seen him onscreen yet, but it’s clear that he represents everything that the pro-Human terrorists despise. So what I’m getting is a feeling, a dread-inducing atmosphere, from these sort of plots. They’re part of something larger that comes off as inevitable: it’s only a matter of time before this explodes. And probably literally, too.

This episode also gives the audience a much-needed look into Garibaldi’s past. And as someone who was a teenage alcoholic, I was immensely impressed with how this script portrayed Garibaldi’s struggle. It’s true that some people develop an addiction due to unresolved trauma, and Garibaldi’s guilt is what led to his reliance on alcohol. As I said on video, I’m guessing that this is what explains his frequent job-hopping, even though it is also not confirmed onscreen. And all we know is that at some point, he stopped, and he was fully aware how dangerous it was for him to drink again. 

Thus, this episode acts as one giant band-aid ripped off the wound. The accusation is bad enough, but the investigation being run by the daughter of the man whose death set Garibaldi on this path is REAL FUCKED UP. You know, I understood Kemmer’s role in this story, but there was a part of me that wished she wasn’t so one-note. Her own bias and grief was important to display here, but I think her character would have benefited from being less obsessive and determined to nail Garibaldi as she was here. It’s obvious that there are constant threats on President Santiago’s life, and at times, I wanted the script to play up that angle a bit more. Show that her loyalty isn’t misguided; it’s due to the very real threat that Santiago is going to be assassinated.

Anyway, that’s a smaller issue of mine. Largely, I appreciated that sobriety was depicted not as a solution that sticks forever, but something that must always be worked towards. I’ve been sober now for nearly seventeen years. And while I don’t get cravings for alcohol, I know other sober people who struggle with the urge when they are stressed, depressed, or immensely upset. And in “Survivors,” Garibaldi understandably turns to the bottle when he’s at his lowest. The show doesn’t depict him to be a bad person for this, but it also allows him to feel disappointed in himself for not resisting the temptation. That’s important. It felt real without feeling cruel, and that’s a meaningful, empathetic thing to portray. 

The video for “Survivors” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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