RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Babylon 5: “And the Sky Full of Stars” (Season 1, Episode 8)

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

The first year of B5 is pretty inconsistent and dull, and never so much as in the first third of the season, but for those who’ve soldiered on thus far, they get some payoff: The mystery of Sinclair’s disappearance at the Battle of the Line is revealed, and a larger mystery emerges from that one.

PLAY BY PLAY

Delenn is getting a physical from Dr. Franklin, not that she needs one, she’s just trying to help him out. The human medical system *still* doesn’t have a full set of baseline medical readings for the Minbari. They get to talking about Stephen’s past - he traded medical services on freighters for free passage. “It didn’t matter where they were going, so long as I ended up seeing something I’d never seen before. But all that ended when the war came.” Delenn haltingly asks him if he was involved. He tells her that at the end of the war, when it was apparent we were losing, Earthforce commandeered any existing medical notes on the Minbari in the hopes of developing a virus or other biological WMD to wipe ‘em out before they defeated us. “As a doctor I took an oath to preserve all life, so I destroyed my notes rather than let them be turned into a weapon.” When asked what *She* did during the war, Delenn becomes evasive and says it’s “A topic for another day.” It should be mentioned that the Minbari’s intentions in the war were clearly genocidal (Or is that ‘Speciecidal?’). Had they won, that would have been the end of the human race.

Meanwhile, a security red shirt has gotten himself hip-deep in debt to “Deuce,” the local crime boss. If he doesn’t pay up, they’re gonna’ kill him. He makes a bad deal to get the money, but ends up dead anyway.

Meanwhile, two mysterious men arrive on the station, Knights 1 and 2. They’ve smuggled some techno babble devices on the station. That night, Sinclair dreams of the battle of the line and wakes up to a completely abandoned station. After hunting around for a bit, he comes across Knight 1, who explains that Sinclair is in a “Virtual Reality Matrix” (Which was a very trendy new thing when this was filmed) and he’s going to break Sinclair down until he finds out what *really* happened in the battle of the line. As you may recall from the pilot, Sinclair’s entire squadron was wiped out in less than a minute, and his own ship was critically damaged. Knowing he was going to die anyway, and enraged, he attempted to kamikaze the nearest Minbari ship, blacked out, and woke up 24 hours later to find the war was over and - inexplicably - we’d won.

The official story is that the Minbari realized humanity’s defenses at The Line were insurmountable, and gave up. Nearly everyone believes this, though obviously it doesn’t make much sense. Why would they surrender, why not just run away, particularly when they were clearly winning big? Some groups on earth don’t believe the official story, and suspect the Minbari were attempting to develop a “Fifth column” to infiltrate and weaken earth from within. As the most high-profile of those they suspect, they went after Sinclair.

After a good deal of limbo-lit prevarications, Sinclair actually decides to go along with them - for now - to find out what happened to him. He relives the missing hours: He attempted to ram the Minbari ship, was caught in a tractor beam, brought inside, tortured, scanned, brought before the Grey Council - one of whom was Delenn - and then evidently his memory was wiped and he was set free. But why? And what were the scans all about?

Sinclair breaks free, damaging the equipment in the process, resulting in a feedback loop that causes Knight 1 to become permanently brain damaged. Hepped up on goofballs, Sinclair lumbers from the cheap motel room, and sees everyone on the station as Minbari. This results in a shootout on the Zocalo with Knight 2 and some incoherent babbling and paranoia, until Delenn bravely walks up to him and talks him down.

After sleeping it off, Sinclair lies to Delenn, saying he remembers nothing from the incident. After he leaves, a tall Minbari with a triangle on his forehead tells Delenn, “If he remembers, he must be killed.” She reluctantly agrees.

The End

OBSERVATIONS

The title comes from a line in the pilot where Sinclair talks about the Battle of the Line: “And the sky was full of stars, and every star an exploding ship”

Franklin’s refusal to turn over his information during the war was not without repercussions, as we’ll see later on.

How did Knights 1 and 2 know the red shirt needed money badly? I do really like how they killed him: “Terminate,” and no hesistation: bang. Note that you can see the PPG bolt *leaving* his body through the back when he gets shot.

In “Mind War,” we saw the “Standard Residential Unit” was rather dark, but large and furnished. In this one, the room the Knights rent is pretty small and rinky-dink. It’s got Japanese Businessmen-Styled Coffin-beds built into the wall. Also, what’s up with that big radiator-looking thing by the door?

Knight 1, played by Christopher Neame, has the SF Triple Crown for having appeared in episodes of Dr. Who, Trek, and B5. Judson Scott, who played Knight 2, played Khan’s son in Star Trek II, and he looks a lot like the recurring Security Guard guy from the original Galactica. (I mention this only because that’s who I thought he was at first)

Gambling restrictions for security on B5: Limited to $50/week max, and off-duty only. Despite this, a lot of off-the-books side-betting goes on. This prompts yet another painfully obvious speech about “The Truth” from Sinclair: “Everybody lies, Michael: The innocent lie because they don’t want to get blamed for something they don’t want to do, and the guilty lie because they have no other choice.” Well, duh!

So who sent the Knights? The rumor is that it was a black ops team from inside Earthgov or Earthforce, but why? As we’ll see in just fifteen episodes, those *in* Earthgov already knew full well what happened at The Line. Therefore, if the Knights *were* a black ops team, they must have been from some group that had been deliberately kept out of the loop.

So why *did* the Minbari surrender at the Line? We *will* find out, and I promise you, it’s something you just won’t see coming at all.

Headlines on Garibaldi’s newspaper: “Homeguard leader convicted. Found guilty in attacks on Minbari Embassy.” This refers to Malcolm Biggs, Ivonova’s ex, who got arrested for hate crimes in the previous episode. Also: “Psicorps in Election Tangle: Did Psicorps violate its charter by endorsing Vice President.” That’s interesting, isn’t it? Psicorps was involved in the re-election of President Santiago, apparently. The election took place in the first episode of the season. This tracks with what Jason Ironheart* warned about in “Mind War:” that the Corps is after control.

It becomes abundantly clear in this episode that Delenn really likes Sinclair. She’s the one who tells Security he’s missing, she’s obviously very concerned, she risks her life to talk him down, and she’s clearly upset when she’s told she might have to kill him in the episodes’ coda. Pile these on top of the “marriage ceremony” from Parliament of Dreams and the “I knew you’d come, we were right about you” thing from “Soul Hunter,” and, well…she likes him. Bunches. And yet she evidently oversaw his torture. What are we to make of that?

VERY BAD SCIENCE: Garibaldi says that the station’s gravity won’t let a body get far from it. In fact, the station has no gravity. It’s rotating, and the rotation would fling a body off into space. Later, they find the red shirt’s body huddled up against the hull because of “The Station’s Gravity.” Yeah, that wouldn’t work.

Jeffrey David Sinclair, born May 2315, enlisted Earthforce 2237, became a fighter pilot 2240, promoted to Squadron Leader 2241-ish. “The smart money was that you’d make admiral some day.” It’s clear that Sinclair’s experiences hobbled his career. He’s a mere commander, and apparently hasn’t been promoted in a very long time, possibly since the war. So how did he get in charge of B5? An odd command for someone like that, don’t you think? Also interesting that he evidently graduated from the academy in three years. Sinclair was born and raised on Mars, interestingly. Mars will figure prominently in the series.

I know I said a few eps back that the “Aliens emigrating to earth” thing was a dead thread, but I was wrong. They’ve made extensive reference to it in “The War Prayer,” and here. Interestingly, it turns out that aliens partially funded B5.

The French Chick and Jack both turn up in this episode.

The spotlights are back. Since they’re in like every other episode, I’m just going to stop mentioning them. They’re obnoxiously all over the place in the pilot, but they’re much more restrained here. I’d just forgotten about it. It’s been a while since I watched this stuff.

“Maybe the universe blinked, maybe God changed His mind, all I know is that we got a second chance.”

The voice over chatter from the fighter battle in this episode were dubbed into the scene where Sinclair tells Caroline about the Line in the special edition of the pilot movie.

The mind-screwing technology we see here *will* show up again later, and seems to be in fairly consistent useage by Earthforce. Mindwipe tech turns up again, too. In fact, the Knights *could* be right, if *we’ve* got this tech, then the aliens undoubtedly do, too, and could have brainwashed Sinclair. Gee, the restraints on that chair were pretty weak, weren’t they? Twist-o-Flex manacles…by Spidell!

The triangle on the big Minbari’s head would seem to indicate he’s in the Grey Council, too.

This is the first time we get a glimpse of the Minbari War and The Line itself, but not the last. There were 20,000 ships involved in the battle - everything earth had left - and only 200 people survived.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Conspiracies? Black ops stuff? An untrustworthy - probably Democratic - government trying to control people’s thoughts, and torturing members of the Military? Sure!

* - Seriously, that’s never not funny.

Tags: