In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Babylon 5, multiple stories are set-up in this strange episode. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent
I wouldn’t dare go so far as to say that “Racing Mars” is filler because there’s a lot of important information here, much of which helps to support a number of ongoing plots on the show. But it also doesn’t feel like an episode with a contained story, either. It’s like a waystation; it’s a stop along a much larger trail or path. Which is fine! It just makes for a tonally jarring experience, since it jumps around its various stories so rapidly.
Still, there’s stuff here I appreciate because many of the details involve things that I don’t see very often. Case in point: Ivanova dealing with the financial logistics of the blockade. With less traffic and less fees, Babylon 5 is moving closer to a disaster. It’s months away, sure, but they have to start thinking about the long haul. What if this war with President Clark goes on longer than anyone thinks it will? Thus, we get a delightful scene in which Ivanova—who has relieved Sheridan of duty so he has plausible denial—basically manipulates a bunch of smugglers and thieves into working for the station. In exchange for business and care for their ships! So it’s not all bad! Seriously, though, Ivanova is really in her element here, and I love that even when dealing with logistical shit, there’s some humor mixed in, too.
And the same goes with this adorable subplot, in which Sheridan gets a day off that is… not much of a day off? We’ll get to that other stuff later in more detail, but I appreciate that we get these glimpses into the culture of mating and courtship for the Minbari. One thing that remains striking to me is just how open Sheridan is with all of this, even when it makes him uncomfortable or when he doesn’t understand it. It shows that he recognizes how important this stuff is to Delenn and that he wants to love her on her terms just as much as his own. Which is so important, too. They meet in the middle more often than not, and it’s a healthy aspect of their growing relationship. It’s also awkward, too, and I’m glad that part is not ignored either! Learning a partner’s culture and their standards isn’t easy, but Sheridan welcomes this stuff with open arms. EVEN THAT LAST THING, which would terrify most people. So… woo-hoo indeed!
I am now grasping at this theory that Garibaldi is still a Psi Corps agent because I cannot fathom any other explanation for what I’m watching. Unless it’s just the obvious, but that’s… that’s just so disheartening. I don’t think that’s the case! So, my theory is supported by the fact that Garibaldi’s rejection of Sheridan feels so illogical. Look, even if that person who kneels before Sheridan wasn’t a plant, Sheridan still rejected them. And we’ve seen so much proof of how humble and thoughtful he is a leader, and Garibaldi sees none of it. And even if he disagrees with Sheridan, it’s like he’s been programmed to see Sheridan as an antagonist. He was so irritable towards him after he was rescued, so I’m guessing this is a much more subtle manipulation than my original theory that Garibaldi was a spy.
Y’all, it’s just so, so, so uncomfortable. Both of the confrontation scenes are unbearable to watch. How is that Garibaldi??? I really hope I’m right, or else this has gone in a completely unexpected direction.
I like some of what’s in this plot, but the pacing is so odd. Things don’t even pick up until that thing is revealed to be controlling Captain Jack. I kinda get it, though, and there’s some worldbuilding accomplished by the plot. The boredom that Marcus and Dr. Franklin experience gives us a great sense of just how long their journey is. We’re so used to space flight in Babylon 5 being something that happens off-screen, and even when it does, we’re told that it takes relatively little time to travel long distances. But without access to the jump gates, these two have to take the long, LONG way around to Mars. So the pacing makes sense! It’s a whole lot of nothing before it’s a whole lot of everything!
This is also bolstered by another shocking reveal: most of the people in the resistance on Mars HAVEN’T GOTTEN ANY RELIABLE NEWS. So the Shadow War is still just a distant rumor to them. Which blows my mind! It is perhaps the most important war ever fought in this whole galaxy and NOPE. MEANS NOTHING TO THEM. And it also explains the confusing reaction the resistance gives to Dr. Franklin and Marcus when they show up! Communication is extremely limited because of what President Clark has done. So, I can excuse a lot of the pacing stuff because it’s building to these reveals, and those reveals clearly matter. We’ve seen how the blockade has affected Babylon 5, but what about a community that’s been under Clark’s heel for way longer? I am really excited to see more of the resistance!
Truly, though, aside from one VERY NOT SUBTLE thing, most of Dr. Franklin’s and Marcus’s plot involves building the world very slowly and quietly. For example: it is presented as absolutely normal that two men would be married and on vacation together, which makes me assume that marriage equality had to have been achieved, right? Those are official IDs, too! And while I would have preferred an actual couple on the screen, this sure was a whole lot more than most mainstream science fiction was willing to do at the time. And there’s never any sense that this is gross or wrong, either, and that stuff helps to build a framework for understanding how the culture works in this show.
Also, I need to know: Was there one bed in their hotel room? TELL ME THERE WAS JUST ONE BED, IT’S ALL I NEED.
And finally: WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT PARASITE THING. This is the third time we’ve seen it, but the first time someone has talked about it being given to them. Captain Jack manages to tell the others that someone was able to get to him, so I desperately need to know who this is. Are they giving that creature orders? Does the parasite have its own mind? What was the point of using it here? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.
The video for “Racing Mars” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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