Babylon 5: S05E04: A View from the Gallery
This has got to be one of the worst Babylon 5 episodes I’ve ever seen. It was co-written by Harlan Ellison and directed by Janet Greek. They both need putting out of my misery in my opinion. This was a good story ruined by poor characterisation and a patronising script.
The show opened well, a deep space probe was destroyed by a group of unknown spaceships. But the probe managed to beam back some info to Babylon 5. Captain Lockley is woken from sleep by Lt. Corwin and informed of the attack.
After reviewing the information, Lockley informs the crew on the bridge that this attack was probably made by an advancing group of aliens looking for likely worlds to invade. She warns that they will attack Babylon 5 and that there will be a difficult battle later on. As a precautionary measure, she orders that a life pod be made ready for Sheridan and Delenn and puts the station on stand-by red alert.
Lockley finds Sheridan and tries to insist that he and Delenn leave the station for safety reasons. Sheridan is reluctant to do so and they argue. The argument is overheard by a couple of maintenance engineers called Bo and Mack earwigging in the background. These guys are among the many responsible for the upkeep and efficient operation of the station and deliver their responsibilities with a childlike perception of their surroundings, commenting on the bravery (or otherwise) of the leadership on the station.
During the rest of the episode we are subjected to a patronising rendition of life on Babylon 5 through the eyes of a pair of complete morons. The highlight of this first encounter is when they question the use of a particular piece of equipment they are using. Apparently they are unsure how or why it is used. This was rather like watching an electrician puzzling over the usefulness of a screwdriver.
As the station goes on full red alert, Bo is called to Med Lab and Mack is called to the Command and Control centre. As Bo arrives he finds that Franklin is organising his staff for a major influx of casualties. He orders that special conditions be created for the alien casualties. As Franklin’s staff busy themselves with their preparations, Bo asks Franklin why he should bother to save any alien casualties. I was shocked to see Franklin take the trouble to explain the basic principals of medical ethics by use of a personal story. This was really far-fetched, I’m sure Franklin had more important things to do.
Mack is on the Bridge attempting to fix one of the command consoles when the aliens begin their attack. This was more like it!. Lots of sexy spaceships flooded out of the jumpgate, guns blazing, into a squadron of Babylon 5 fighters. The battle was tough, there were casualties on the B5 side but the first wave of enemy fighters was destroyed thanks to Mack who eventually pulled his finger out and fixed the damaged console enabling the station to use more firepower.
Lockley was not too impressed with the defeat of the enemy ships. She believed that this was simply a scouting party ‘softening’ them up ready for the real battle later. Babylon five, she said, was in ‘real guano’ (whatever that is) (Update – the eloquent and knowledgeable ChaosXtream emailed me to say that “Its bat shit on a cave floor”). The station began its repairs ready for the next attack.
Mack and Bo met up again later and discussed the fighting ability of Captain Lockley. Mack concluded that he is glad that she was on their side. Good grief! So what? I know JMS and Harlan Ellison were keen to let us know how our heroes are perceived through the eyes of the ‘little people’, but this sort of patronising backslapping was over the top.
Lockley was after Garibaldi’s blood. She was upset that she had received little or no information about the capabilities of the aliens, especially that they were capable of downloading the ships tactical codes. The two argued in the elevator. I think it fair to say that neither was clear winner, but Garibaldi had certainly had his wings clipped (again). As he left, he muttered a statement to the effect that Babylon 5 had a slim chance of winning the forthcoming battle. Garibaldi was overheard by Mack and Bo who looked at each other with a puzzled expression. They then had a conversation about pizza (!?). Would you talk about pizza if you were about to die?
Bo and Mack are ordered fix a problem in the sanctuary, Bo tells Mack that the reason that the jumpgate is not shut down is that it would take days to shut down and even longer to power up again. This from a guy who doesn’t know how to use his own work tools. Lockley announces that the second wave of aliens are about to arrive, I watched in awe as hundreds of alien ships burst through the jumpgate. This was going to be a whopping battle!
Then, the worst part of the whole show, we see Bo and Mack stop for lunch in a sanctuary observation room. they are able to see the epic battle through windows which surround them. They comment on the pretty lights outside. Listen you guys, this bit made me so angry that I’m gonna have a little bit of a rant for a couple of paragraphs. If you want to avoid this (and I suggest that you do) jump to the next bit of the story by clicking here.
Imagine that you’re watching a raging battle outside, a battle that will determine if you will live or die in the next hour or so, let me guess, you’d be sat with your feet up eating your lunch wouldn’t you? You’d be discussing the pretty bright lights with your moron buddy, wouldn’t you? Well I wouldn’t! My underpants would have turned brown and I’d be climbing the walls or hiding under a table, I’d be praying to all the gods I could think of and probably hurling as much verbal abuse at the enemy ships as I could possibly could.
Then the twerps remember that each little red explosion is one of their guys being blown up. WHAT! The sanctimonious, patronising little GITS!! Bo nonchalantly points out, ‘Every time we get a little red star born out there, a life ends…...’ And don’t you forget that they are saving your sorry fat ass!!
‘They’re fighting for us Mack, don’t ever forget that. ’Good Grief!’
Then a Whitestar appears through the jumpgate. The Whitestar fleet is too far a way to get back in time to help with the battle. They are returning from defending the Enpheely home world, but one must have been closer. Mack points out that it looks like a plucked chicken. They also notice in their moronic stupor, a breaching pod. ‘Looks like we’re gonna have us some guests’. (!!!???). I’m started to loose it at this point. I almost threw my beer can at the TV.
As the breaching pod attaches itself to the side of the ship, Bo and Mack leave to go to the shelter. As the lift descends it stops abruptly and when they open the door, Bo and Mack find themselves in a pitched battle between a big bunch of aliens and the security forces of Babylon 5 led by Zack Allen. The imposing looking aliens, distinguished by orange cones on their heads, look to be holding their own and the battle is fought by hand as well as with laser weapons. Zack calls out to Mack and Bo ‘what the hell are you doing here, get outa here we’ll cover you, go on..’
Bo and Mack crawl out while Zack covers them (I’d have let them die, who am I kidding, I’d have shot them!). They manage to get out of the fight to find that they are in Brown Sector where they bump into Byron and his teep buddies. Byron finally gets what he deserves, a pair of morons telepathically screaming inane rubbish all over them. Byron is surprisingly tolerant. He holds an alien helmet and explains to the morons that it belonged to an alien who was killed just outside the doorway. He tells of how, at the point of death, there is a burst of energy that telepaths can pick up, which enables them to read that persons life story. Another alien, alive this time, bursts in and raises his weapon about to fire. The telepaths mentally ‘persuade’ the alien to turn around and leave without firing (I wish I could do that).
The station takes a direct hit and Mack is worried that there will be a serious breach of the hull. Bo attempts to quiet him by saying that the Babylon 5 fighters will save them. Byron in interested in Bo’s unquestioning belief in the Stations defenders and telepathically projects the battle raging outside into Bo’s mind from the perspective of a fighter pilot. The experience is both enthralling and frightening to Bo and, when he awakens, he thanks Byron before he and Mack leave.
In the shelter, G’Kar and Londo engage in banter. I really enjoy the digs and philosophy that these two hurl at each other. G’Kar with his bone wrenching perception and Mollari with his humorous yet venomous and cutting humour. They discuss their differences in growing up, G’Kar’s life was spend in a succession of shelters hiding from the destruction of the Centauri. He explained that the shelter they are in was the closest thing he had to home. Londo explained that he was never a child, he had duty and honour to contend with for as long as he could remember. G’Kar looked Londo in the eye and said, ‘Ah, that explains it.’ He went on to tell Londo that he always carries his shelter with him, that Londo never grew up, he just grew old. Londo is slightly disturbed by this and makes an excuse to leave.
We then move from two very strong characters to two weak ones. Bo and Mack are lying on a bed (two separate beds that is). They look worried as the shelter as the speaker system announces that the second wave of alien fighters is coming through the jumpgate. (Very considerate that don’t you think. Just cheer everyone up why don’t you).
As the two morons leave to attend to a fire, they are stopped by Sheridan who instructs Bo and Mack to escort an unwilling Delenn to an escape pod. As they do so, Delenn talks them out of it – it wasn’t difficult. As she leaves, Bo asks her, ‘You two really do love each other don’t you?’ Delenn didn’t make some snappy sarcastic comment like, ‘oh we just got married for the sex!’ or ‘Why darling, are you going to ask me for a date?’. Instead she enchanted them (and us) with a warm smile.
The station is suddenly jolted and when they look out of the nearest window, Bo and Mack are pleased to see tat the cavalry have arrived. The Whitestar fleet thunder onto our screens and makes very short work of destroying the rest of the alien fleet. Babylon 5 suffered a number of hull breaches, fires and mangled metal are scattered throughout the station and there are many casualties. But the Station survived, and considering the size of the alien fleet that attacked, it got off fairly lightly.
On the bridge, Lt. Corwin reports that non of the alien ships escaped to be able to report on the weaknesses or otherwise of the station. This encourages Lockley. Then the twerp Mack springs from nowhere and tells her that, ‘Your ok in my book ma’am’. Wadda creep!
Outside the station, the cleanup operation begins.
This episode really wound me up, some of it was ok, though the introduction of the characters Bo and Mack, was a real mistake in my opinion. It was stoopid, patronising drivel and not worthy of a place in this great saga. Or is it just me, what did you think of it?
I’d rate this a sloppy and patronising 11,388 out of 10.
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The “View from the Gallery” episode review is © 1999 – 2003 Tony Fawl
and not for reproduction without the authors express permission
The BABYLON 5 names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of J. Michael Straczynski, TNT and Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.