In the nineteenth episode of the first season of Babylon 5, the truth of what’s below the surface of Epsilon III is revealed (kind of), and someone makes a sacrifice. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
There’s an interesting element to this show that I’ve noticed, but it really felt obvious in the second half of “A Voice in the Wilderness.” The station and its crew largely know that their purpose is diplomacy, and that informs most of their decisions. They’re human, of course, so, in the case of Garibaldi, we’ve got a character who sometimes does ignore diplomacy so he can bash someone’s head in. But culturally speaking, it’s not like Garibaldi is an outlier. This show is not depicting a utopia, and the arrival of Captain Pierce is a good example of that. In a sense, I feel like there is a parallel between them—intentional or not—that shows us when these people choose violence of diplomacy.
Because I can’t ignore just how huge and invasive the Earth’s military is in this episode, and I don’t think this will be the only time they interfere like this. We’re getting a portrait of division, one that feels uncomfortably relevant in our current political climate. Back home, President Santiago is dealing with a world that’s in chaos. The military doesn’t seem all that much of a fan of him, I take it? Plus, there are the Earth-first terrorists, and there’s the revolt on Mars, and all of this combined gives an atmosphere to the show that I’m appreciating. It’s so complicated, of course, but it feels real. Alive. Breathing. Because of that, I didn’t feel like Captain Pierce was one-note so much as determined. In his mind, there is a single purpose to Earth Force, and it’s the protection of Earth and their interests. So, the existence of some sort of futuristic technology that can provide endless opportunities to the development of defensive and offensive means for Earth Force is a no-brainer to him. He believes wholly in the orders he’s been given, and that is why he comes across as so stubborn. When he talks with Sinclair at any point in this episode, there’s this condescension dripping off all his words, as if it’s just obvious why they’re trying to take all that technology. Of course, to Sinclair, who has far more information than Pierce does, the counter to Pierce’s point is super obvious, too.
Thus, we get a clash between intent and diplomacy, and OH LORD, does this episode escalate. It’s gets so bad SO FAST. Pierce refuses to listen to Sinclair’s warning that any action on Epsilon III will cause its defense systems to activate a doomsday machine, killing them all. And you’d think that threat would be enough to convince someone to give matters a second thought, but nope. NOT AT ALL. But while this struggle is unfolding, there’s another journey happening that gives us an example of an alternative. Mollari, unsurprisingly, hears news of the discovery of Epsilon III, and what’s his first reaction? Well, he wants to know what it can bring the Centauri people. He thinks of himself, and his people, and I fully expected that he’d make this all even worse. But like moments spread across season one, Londo Mollari has something hidden inside of him, pressed down deep due to years of repression and duty. I was reminded of him saying his shoes were too tight, that he couldn’t dance, when he told Draal and Delenn that he would accompany them and Varn back down to the planet. I think it was always clear that Draal was going to end his life as a Minbari, given how he began this two-parter. But these characters provide that opportunity to imagine a different way of doing things, one that doesn’t involve destruction but a self-sacrifice for the greater good. Draal agrees to become the sentient heart of a PLANET, y’all. That is a LOT, and it is certainly more than I think I would be capable of personally. But it follows so naturally from the spiritual path that Draal believed himself on, doesn’t it?
I like, then, that the show left it ambiguous exactly what that technology did. It’s better that we don’t know. However, WHY DID DELENN SAY THAT SINCLAIR HAD ANOTHER DESTINY? That was a rather bold thing to say in front of Garibaldi, wasn’t it???
The video for “A Voice in the Wilderness, Part II” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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