Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S03E03 – A Day in the Strife

In the third episode of the third season of Babylon 5, various characters deal with the ever-changing status of the station. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of imperialism, war crimes, addiction

I appreciate that this episode is like a slice of life story, but that “slice” is just… really fucking intense and chaotic. This is the new normal for the station, though. While this doesn’t advance the main plot all that much, I still found it very necessary. We need to see how people are surviving, how some are thriving, how others are suffering, and what it looks like between the major battles. 

Let’s discuss!

The Probe

Look, I fully believe that it is possible that at some later point, we’ll learn who sent the probe that threatened the station. The Narn from the Streib ship actually came back, y’all! I feel like ANYTHING is possible at this point, you know? But not giving the audience a hint to the source of it felt immensely realistic. Sometimes, shit just happens without an explanation this far out in space. Space is weird and unknown, and this episode is a fine example of that. But it’s also fascinating to see how the arrival of this probe affects the various characters on the station. In particular, many of them don’t even seem to care about the impending doom that is circling Babylon 5. Granted, not very many people knew about the probe, but even so. This gave me a sense of how the experience onboard the station is so different across the board. While the command staff was dealing with this absurdity, there were a hundred little dramas playing out elsewhere. Sheridan was dealing with frustrations of his own, and the probe also further complicated Dr. Franklin’s already limited amount of time. That’s life in the strife.

Dr. Franklin

Well, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. Franklin’s reliance on stims was confirmed last season, and now it’s gotten so bad that when he tries to go off them during one shift, he turns into a complete asshole. Like yes, you’re stressed and overworked, but STOP YELLING AT PEOPLE, DR. FRANKLIN. Take a nap! Like five naps! Naps are great! (I’m also yelling this at myself, as I am notoriously terrible at taking naps. I’ve probably taken about ten in my whole life. I KNOW.) I do understand that he’s under such terrible pressures all the time and that he’s working in a department that is massively underfunded. But this is only gonna get worse. Garibaldi knows this! And I was pleased that the episode stuck him alongside Franklin so that someone could approach him from a place of empathy rather than judgment. Still, Dr. Franklin is on his own journey, and while Garibaldi will probably end up being an important part of that, Dr. Franklin is going to have to want to stop first. And right now, I don’t think he’s at that step. 

Replacement

This episode arrives directly after one in which we get a glimpse of Londo’s kindness, however brief that might be, and it means that it’s hard to remember the good he does. When Na’Far arrives on Babylon 5 and must consult Londo, we are given a display of absolute cruelty. It’s monstrous to watch Londo toy with Na’Far, to tease him about the destruction of his homeworld and the subjugation of his people. Is it necessary? Well, there’s a split in opinions, and the audience is clearly supposed to see this as a horrific moment. It is, however, the final straw for both Vir and Londo. Vir openly criticizes his boss, and it’s because of this that Londo seeks out Delenn to see if she’ll take Vir for an ambassadorial position.

Why? Well, in his own twisted logic and understanding of the situation, this is to protect Vir. It’ll keep him away from Londo, and it will keep him away from the reality of the Centauri occupation of Narn. I can squint at this and see an act of good will, but I mostly see something else: Londo wanting to get rid of someone who will act as a conscience. Vir has gotten more and more bold over the course of this show, and it’s clear he’s not going to stop speaking his mind. Maybe this is better for Vir’s career, and maybe he’ll have an easier time, but I think this is a bad move for all involved. I actually thought that Londo was going to stop this at the last second, but I was tricked by G’Kar’s plot into thinking he wouldn’t leave. Holy shit, he’s really gone, isn’t he? 

G’Kar, thankfully, is not. I know I said this while watching the episode, but G’Kar’s story just gets sadder and sadder. Na’Far has some good intentions, and I understood why he felt the need to ask G’Kar to come back. Perhaps he was compelled by other means, but he saw the safety of the Narn as his primary concern. I wonder how much of that was intentional, because I’m with G’Kar on this: the Centauri want the Narn to fight with one another. And what better way than to install a “new” leader who brings with them the promise that everyone’s family members will be arrested and possibly tortured if the old leader isn’t returned?

G’Kar, unsurprisingly, is willing to give up his own life to save others. It’s a matter of honor and pride, and it’s exactly what the Centauri want to extinguish in the Narn. From Londo’s own mouth, y’all! That’s what he admitted! That’s why it was so meaningful to see the other Narn reject Na’Far and insist that G’Kar stay. They know what the Centauri are trying to do: kill the desire for a resistance force. If they can break the spirit of the Narn, they’ll get exactly what they want.

Not yet, at least. G’Kar stays, and I’m happy that’s the case.

The video for “A Day in the Strife” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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