Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classics: B5 3:19 - Grey 17 Is Missing

Overall: 5.3

This episode is not as bad as I first thought, I've decided. Yes, Garibaldi's plot is ridiculous, but the Minbari plot at least achieves a high-par rating -- and that pulls the whole shebang out of "inverse feature" territory.

Plot Synopsis:

The Lurker's Guide summarizes the WTF-ery here.

The Skinny:

I think the reason we fans tend to heap scorn upon this episode is that it is tragically out of place. JMS builds a hell of a lot of momentum with Interludes and Examinations and War Without End. Unfortunately, we start to lose that same momentum with Walkabout, and with Grey, we grind to a screeching halt. While re-watching this episode, I couldn't help but wonder why JMS plonked a first season storyline in the middle of his most important arc. That decision just doesn't make any sense. But let's look at the episode in isolation and attempt to give it a fair hearing.

First, the Minbari plot: As other fans have pointed out, Neroon's motivations are actually quite reasonable. We, of course, know that Delenn has no intention of using the Rangers to conquer her own homeworld, but Neroon doesn't know that because Neroon hasn't seen what we've seen. All he knows is that Delenn has seemingly abandoned her Minbari identity, has broken the Grey Council, and is now assuming control of a powerful fighting force. You'll have to forgive Neroon for thinking that Delenn is plotting a revolution. Also good: Neroon loses the argument, but he does so with his dignity still intact.

The problem with the Minbari plot is this: While the ideas are good, the execution is a bit boring. JMS' scripts often suffer from Talking Heads Syndrome, but here, it's particularly noticeable. There's a lot of telling and very little in the way of showing. The viewer feels a sense of relief, in fact, when Marcus and Neroon start kicking the crap out of each other because at least that gives the characters something else to do. (Though Marcus and Neroon still talk while they fight, which isn't terribly realistic.)

Now to the Garibaldi plot: Alas, this plot features plot holes so large you could drive a truck through them. For example, do you really expect us to believe that the Jeremiah cult jiggered the lift and took over an entire level in Grey Sector without anyone noticing? Seriously? And while we're at it, why wasn't anyone worried about Garibaldi's disappearance? Granted, Sheridan and Ivanova were busy recruiting telepaths and welcoming the Rangers on board, but you'd think Zack would evince a little concern at least.

The second reason the Grey 17 plot fails: Jeremiah. Yes, quite a few cults have elected to commit ritual suicide in order to ascend to a higher plane, but such cults were led by individuals who were unusually charismatic. Jeremiah is no such creature. I just can't buy that such a nebbishy little man would succeed in convincing his victims to feed themselves to an alien predator. Fail, JMS. Epic fail.

The third reason the Grey 17 plot fails: The monster is not scary! I usually make a lot of allowances when it comes to shows produced on shoe-string budgets, but come on -- a guy in make-up? You can do a lot better even with limited cash. The other thing I find difficult to accept is how easy it was to defeat the Zarg. If a Zarg is "the most dangerous predator in the galaxy," Garibaldi should not have been able to scare this one off with the equivalent of a fire extinguisher. And don't even get me started on Garibaldi's make-shift gun. I'm no expert on how guns work, but I'm pretty sure a stream of pressurized air is not going to apply enough force to the bottom of a bullet to cause it to fire. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy -- and also dumb.

Writing: 3.0

The Garibaldi plot gets a 0.0, and the Minbari plot gets a 7.0. That gives us an average score of 3.5, but I docked 0.5 for the "wrong time, wrong place" issue noted above.

Acting: 7.0

The acting is actually okay, so I can't be too harsh here.

Message: 6.0

I also didn't pick up any especially insulting themes, so we'll go with a mid-range score on the message.

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