Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Classics: B5 3:14 - Ship of Tears

Overall: 8.7

A strong character piece all around.

Plot Synopsis:

The Lurker's Guide has a recap here.

The Skinny:

Bester is definitely one of the series' best recurring characters, and this episode firmly demonstrates why. Here, JMS writes the psi-cop with a cleverness that is usually reserved for G'Kar or the Centauri. He knows Bester's motives inside and out and communicates those motives with undeniable clarity. It may seem like a strange thing to say, JMS seems to argue, but Bester loves his teeps. He genuinely believes them to be the key to the future of the human race, and he will either work with the "mundanes" or gun them down depending on what he believes will serve his people's best interests.

Will Bester one day turn against Sheridan? There's no doubt. But as long as Clark is shipping off renegade teeps - including Bester's lover - to be plugged into the Shadows' combat ships, a temporary alliance with Babylon 5 is the only choice Bester has. There's no other way to rescue these "blips" and bring them into the Psi Corps fold, where, in Bester's mind, they will finally be able to join people like themselves in solidarity.

Human telepaths have only been around for a short time, relatively speaking, and they are still pretty much an out-group on Earth. They don't have perfect liberty to do what they like because others still fear their abilities. Bester has chosen to respond to this suspicion with a counter-narrative that emphasizes teep superiority. He believes that teeps are entitled to rule, and he will climb over a mountain of mundane bodies to make that happen. That's what makes him a villain -- but that's also what makes him a well-written character.

And speaking of well-written characters, this episode also features a superb scene between G'Kar and Delenn that should not be missed. With G'Kar's agitating to be included in Babylon 5's war council, Delenn must now face the personal consequences of following the Vorlons' self-serving time table; she must look G'Kar in the eye and admit that she knew about the Shadows' involvement with the Centauri. Of course, G'Kar has already had his epiphany, so he doesn't tear Delenn to itty-bitty little pieces (and then stomp up and down on them), but JMS reminds us that G'Kar's evolution is not yet complete by allowing G'Kar to withhold his forgiveness for the time being. The brilliance of the writing here cannot be over-stated; not only is JMS dealing with an immediate need in the plot, but he is also setting up a later pivotal moment between G'Kar and Londo that will be all the more powerful precisely because G'Kar cannot bring himself to absolve Delenn here. Moreover, the performances in this scene - from Mira Furlan and Andreas Katsulas both - are absolutely stunning. Indeed, for a moment, I almost forget about the also excellent main plot.

Writing: 9.0

JMS really knocks his characterization out of the park with this one.

Acting: 9.0

Mira Furlan and Andreas Katsulas are amazing in their scene, and Walter Koenig once again proves that his acting chops were wasted on TOS.

Message: 8.0

Forgiveness does not come easily. It will take two more seasons before G'Kar can summon the inner peace and strength to accomplish it -- and that is how it should be.


DELENN: We knew that the Shadows - the Ancient Enemy, as you called them - had returned. We knew that they were rebuilding their forces - preparing to strike. We knew that they were seeking allies, and that the Centauri were the first to enlist. When you came back from the area near Z'ha'dum and warned us about the enemy's return, we could have spoken out. We could've confirmed your story. We chose to remain silent.
G'KAR: Who is we?
DELENN: The Grey Council. I was still a part of them at that time. Once the decision was made, I could not disobey it.
G'KAR: So you stayed silent. And with the help of these... Shadows, the Centauri destroyed my world... enslaved or killed millions of my people.
DELENN: G'Kar... if we had spoken out... if we had gone public with what we knew... most of the other worlds would never have believed us. It would have changed nothing. Your world would still have fallen... with one critical difference: there are billions of Narn still surviving on your world. If we had exposed the Shadows, they would have struck openly before we had time to prepare, and none of your people would have survived. (G'Kar stands, disturbed by what he is hearing.) G'Kar... under the Centauri, there is at least the hope of survival. With the Shadows, there is no hope at all. We had to choose between the death of millions and the death of billions... of whole planets.
(After a pause, G'Kar turns.)
G'KAR: I've already discovered much of what you've just told me about the Centauri. But that you knew and said nothing? Had I learned this while my world was being bombed by the Centauri, I would've killed you instantly. You understand that, do you not?
DELENN: (with tears in her eyes) Yes. I do.
(G'Kar slowly walks back to his seat.)
G'KAR: (contemplative) Some must be sacrificed if all are to be saved. At first, I took that as revelation for the future. Now I see that it is as much about how we got here as where we are going. I think that one sentence is the greatest burden I have ever known. (A beat.) You're right. Nothing would have been changed - except that my people would now be a dead race.
DELENN: You have come a long way, G'Kar - further than I could've guessed. Sheridan's promise binds me as well as it does him. We will take you into the council, G'Kar... and someday, when all of this is over, perhaps you will find it in your heart to forgive me.
G'KAR: Perhaps... but not today. (AWESOME SCENE. AWESOME SCENE.)

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