In the fourth episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, Mack and Bo go about a day’s work. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
I like the idea of this episode more than the execution.
“A View from the Gallery” is a strange (and probably self-contained) episode, entirely because of the shift in perspective. The script is written from the point of view of a maintenance team who is sent about the station “wherever they are needed,” rather than a stationary assignment in one part of Babylon 5. From this vantage point, we’re able to see just how much work must be done to keep the station running. How many people are never given the spotlight, even if they deserve it? And there’s a powerful metaphor in that, since at its heart is an appreciation and a respect for people who are often ignored in our society. Yes, flashy heroes can be important, but what of the everyday sort of hero?
That’s where Mack and Bo come in, and the show paints them with a kind brush. They’re friendly, hardworking, and have developed a witty rapport after an untold time together being sent to every conceivable part of Babylon 5. And through their eyes, we get a sense of what it is like being part of the station when you’re not part of command.
It’s compelling, but only to a point. Aside from the subplot with Dr. Franklin, I found this episode to be amusing but kinda lifeless. It doesn’t have that usual spark of commentary or subversion, and when there is something there, the script doesn’t explore it. There’s a cloying, rosy-eyed tone to “A View from the Gallery.” Mack and Bo might complain about how few breaks they get, but this isn’t like the story in season one about protest and workers’ rights. They bring up their schedule or the general attitude toward workers, but it’s not addressed beyond that. Instead, the two men have an odds-defying day on the ship, where they happen to meet every major primary and secondary character on the show. There’s talk about them, and often that commentary is, “Isn’t this person great?” Then during or after the interaction, Mack and Bo agree that the person is great, and in one case, Mack outright tells a character they’re great.
There is, simply put, no real conflict here between these two characters. They agree on everything that might cause friction. Then, there’s no conflict between them and virtually anyone they interact with during their day. The closest thing to one is the scene where Bo challenges Dr. Franklin’s ethical principles. It’s no surprise, then, that I found that to be the most interesting scene in the episode! Bo comes from a place of survival, but he’s also not one who has had the same experiences as Dr. Franklin. And isn’t that the point? The episode shifts perspective to show experiences that aren’t traditional to this narrative. And because of this, Bo comes to learn why Dr. Franklin finds his work so important and so vital.
I just wish the rest of this episode was the same way. Did any of the main characters re-think their approach to the workers on the station, or are they just passing blips in their lives? It’s such a strange choice because by the end of this story, all it did was reinforce that everyone is great and powerful? I dunno, maybe that’s the point of the tonal difference, and maybe this episode is supposed to be an exception to the realism we often get. Basically: I wish this episode had teeth, and I wish it had something meatier to say.
The video for “A View from the Gallery” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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