In the eighth episode of the third season of Babylon 5, with one victory comes another setback. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
It’s not like this show HASN’T been constantly warning us that things were going to get worse. We knew this. This very episode even featured that Night Watch officer telling Zack (and the audience) that things were coming down the pipeline. And then—BAM! The closing scene gives us what has been inevitable this entire time. In many ways, it feels like Earthgov was just waiting for the right moment in which to declare martial law. Isn’t that what they’ve always wanted? Hell, haven’t they been finding ways to erode rights this whole time??? This is a logical next step, and I am not at all surprised that it happened when it happened. Look at the political climate here! The Night Watch is prepping to issue even harsher policies around dissent, loyalty, and protest, and the resistance just scored a significant victory against the Shadows and whomever in the government has allied with them. This is a retaliation, isn’t it?
I’m getting ahead of myself because I AM FRUSTRATED. It’s hard not to be when I live under a government that regularly claims that people within it and outside of it are trying to destroy it, that lashes out at the press, that is doing HALF THE THINGS THIS SHOW IS. It’s stressful? I’ve said this in five million different ways? It still keeps happening??? Help us all? But I do have to look towards the light, and in this case, I must remind myself that Delenn, Sheridan, Lennier, and their crew pulled off something that was nigh impossible. In doing so, they’ve struck a major blow and prevented Earth from getting a Shadow ship. And holy shit, let’s just start with that: the scene where Dr. Mary Kirkish reveals why she’s been ferried to Babylon 5 is UNREAL. What could be so huge as to warrant that kind of protection? Why are random people trying to kill her?
BECAUSE. SHE KNOWS THAT THERE USED TO BE A CRASHED SHADOW CRAFT ON MARS. SHE KNOWS THAT THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS. This piece proves that government officials lied about the ship being a mystery. And while I don’t have a solid timeline—Did Dr. Kirkish say when this all happened? Could we place the timeline based on when Garibaldi was there?—I believe this also gives us a sense of how long people on Earth have been in contact with the Shadows. Someone had to orchestrate letting the ship on Mars leave? Did they give that ship back as a sign of generosity with the hope of forming an alliance? Or is something else happening here? I suspect there’s a lot more because I don’t get how the Shadows found out it was there, and I don’t get why Earth would let one ship go while trying to control the second one that was found on Ganymede. UGH WHAT’S HAPPENING.
Regardless, this was such a huge deal that it made immediate action necessary. That’s a big reason why this plot was so thrilling! I couldn’t believe how quickly this was escalating. Not just that, but it was 100% believable that even if the White Star succeeded, they’d be captured. So there was a lot riding on this, and it was terrifying. Bravo, Babylon 5, for building such a believable burst of dread in this story. However, that’s not the only reason “Messages From Earth” works so well. Plot-wise, it’s so tight and scary and thrilling. (With maybe one quibble, and I am fine blaming this on my memory rather than the story. But did we know that Garibaldi had that piece of the wreckage? That struck me as odd.) It’s the emotional weight of all of this that truly soars, though. Part of the terror comes from that: What exactly did Dr. Kirkish mean when she said that they want humans to become more like the Shadows? What sort of threat to humanity exists here? There’s an existential horror here: Are we talking mental changes? Body? Philosophy? That threat hangs over all of this, and so, when Sheridan makes his decision, I really got the sense of what a huge moment this was. This war is breaking out into the public more and more, and at some point, they were going to have to take a risk like this.
And why not now? Why not when Earth might gain control of one of the most awful spacecrafts of all time? Still, it doesn’t make this easy to live through, and I appreciated that the show allowed these characters to be vulnerable. UGH, THAT CONVERSATION ABOUT RAIN FALL WAS SO GREAT. And then Delenn made the sound of rain falling appear in those chambers? Seriously, it’s so damn romantic, and for someone who is very new to being human, she’s got a knack for human romance. AND NOW: KISS.
It is of course intensely ironic that the Agamemnon is the ship that shows up to take in the White Star, and it also worries me. Not a whole lot, since I think it’s probably important that Sheridan discovered another way to destroy Shadow ships. Gravity wells! But his reluctance to fire on the Agamemnon was understandable, but is probably going to be an issue later on? And I get it! How can he see humans as his enemy? There are people on that ship—honestly, probably nearly all of them—who have no idea what’s going on with the Shadows, and they’re just following orders. At what point does this resistance group draw a definitive line in the sand? How do you separate who should be attacked when there’s so much fear, manipulation, and misinformation being spread about Earth and the rest of the galaxy?
I don’t know. But that ending means we’re going to find out, at least in some way. Martial law on Earth, y’all. It’s frightening, isn’t it? It’s frightening because how quickly this is moving, and it’s frightening because I worry about the day under this current administration when the same thing happens. It feels inevitable some days, doesn’t it?
Lord, what a superb episodes. I’m blown away.
The video for “Messages From Earth” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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