Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S03E05 – Voices of Authority

In the fifth episode of the third season of Babylon 5, the show goes VERY weird. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of fascism and government oppression

Y’all, I would love nothing more than to be able to watch Babylon 5and feel like it is a quaint and scathing examination of the horrors of our past. That would be great! Wouldn’t that be entertaining and illuminating? Instead, I’m watching a show about a world government slipping rapidly into fascism, who is legislating what you can and cannot say about it, who is in collusion with a “foreign” government whose aim is to destabilize through fear and misinformation, who is purporting to put itself first at great expense of those who do not look like its version of an ideal, who….

You get the idea. This isn’t just massively uncomfortable; it’s a terrible cycle that’s beginning all over again. Just because the actors in it are different, and the context is not the same, doesn’t meant I don’t recognize it. I know we’ve had some unintentional parallels before (I’m specifically thinking of what Person of Interest “predicted”), but this is downright terrifying. 

The Night Watch

JMS pulls no punches here, and that means he’s more direct than ever about what the Night Watch is and what its purpose will be. The introduction of Miss Musante is intentional in so many awful ways, and it’s not lost on me that she often drops the pretense of her bizarre (but horrifically recognizable) bullshit speech patterns to just spell out what she means. Don’t get me wrong; the bullshitting and bureaucracy is absolutely infuriating to here because it’s so obviously propaganda. But she doesn’t care at all, and when called on it, she’s the kind of person who would readily admit to it. Everything is carefully crafted and purposeful because this is a culture war. She is an arm of Earth Force’s government, and her job here is to continue to meticulously craft a message that makes it nigh impossible to resist. Why?

Because resistance in and of itself will always be painted as treason in the system that she and the government have set up. Look at the way she talks to Sheridan! She is as condescending and insulting about everything because she knows she will get away with it all. Her certainty frightens me, y’all. She has support back home. She has power that Sheridan doesn’t. And her presence on this station is one GIANT dose of suspense, too. Which isn’t to say that Ivanova’s plot wouldn’t be as incredible without Musante around. I HAVE LOTS TO YELL ABOUT THAT, OKAY. But knowing that someone who can destroy the careers of anyone she wants is lurking all over the ship, turning people like Zack Allen against his friends and colleagues, makes this all unnerving to experience.

I am interested in y’all’s take on the way that Musante is sexualized. I feel like I understood the intent here. Earth Force either directly ordered Musante to seduce Sheridan, or they at least implied that she should use any means necessary to get his confidence, and that’s certainly one way to do it. It still rung a little odd to me in terms of thinking about how she was crafted as a character. Perhaps there’s a historical reference here that JMS was working off of that I’m ignorant of! But I’d love to hear thoughts on this. 

Anyway: fuck the Night Watch. Fuck any government that views dissent as treason or treachery. THIS IS A NIGHTMARE TO WATCH.

First Contact

I’m so into the way that Voices of Authority mixes these two plots. There are different types of tension at work here. Obviously, Musante provides the most direct source of it. But once the beginning of the episode established that the team was going to try to seek out another one of the First Ones, I was hooked. And there are so many interesting twists before Ivanova faces down the race at Sigma 957! I was thrilled that Ivanova ended up going down to Epsilon 3 because I’ve been wanting the show to further address her big reveal of her latent telepathy from last season. This is not how I expected them to do it, but I’m utterly pleased. That’s especially because this is all so deliberately strange. Ivanova gets to impress Draal, but also surprise him with the way she seeks out the First Ones. Y’all, she found a signal FROM THE PAST. Not just any signal, but one where Morden and President Clark speak openly of the assassination of President Santiago. It’s such a huge, huge deal, and IT’S NOT EVEN THE WEIRDEST PART OF THIS EPISODE. However, I gotta wonder: What else can she do? What else will she do?

Once she and Marcus board the White Star, though, I was just overjoyed. First of all, I’m kinda into the antagonistic bickering dynamic that these two have got going? I’m not sold on Marcus as a character just yet because I know so very little about him, but this is one of those character tropes I love a great deal. The two can’t seem to stop insulting one another, and if this leads to some sort of romance, I WILL BE PLEASED. ENEMIES TO LOVERS IS ONE OF THE BEST TROPES EVER. However, I’m not gonna lie: it’s the First Ones that excited me the most. Y’all, that spaceship was INCREDIBLE. It’s one of the coolest designs for a ship I’ve ever seen. A gay jellyfish ship? YES. THANK YOU. And then those weird… rock face beings? I don’t even know what that race is called, but holy shit, it’s spectacular. They’re not humanoids at all, they are openly hostile to Ivanova, and then she gets them to agree to help at some point in the future by using reverse psychology on them. It’s just so… so perfectly like Ivanova??? My gods, y’all. 

I’m just glad that there was humor and levity amidst the plot on the station, which was too goddamn real for words. But I do think that’s part of a pattern. Babylon 5 can get dark as hell, but there’s always these pockets of light within that darkness, and it prevents me from being overwhelmed by the grimness of it all.

The video for “Voices of Authority” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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