Babylon 5

Series Rewatch: Babylon 5 -Born to the Purple

Written by Lawrence G. DiTillio and J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Bruce Seth Green

Born to the Purple is a first-season episode of Babylon 5 that develops the character of Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) quite a bit as well as gives insight into Centauri society. There’s a lot here that is going to have ramifications in the future, although it feels more like a character piece.

Captain Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) and Narn Ambassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) confront Ambassador Mollari about negotiations between the Centauri and the Narn, which he has been avoiding. They do this in one of the clubs on the station where the dancer is a favorite of Londo’s. G’Kar’s new attache, Ko D’Ath (Mary Woronov) arrives and finds him there, while Londo returns to his quarters to find the dancer in his bed.

Adira (Fabiana Udenio) is the reason Londo nearly misses negotiations again. Londo can’t imagine what she sees in him, but he’s not complaining. In the Centauri culture, families gather information on other families and use it to elevate their status. Adira is the slave of Trakis (Clive Revill), and he is using her to try and get the files Londo has on other Centauri families.

Adira gets the information but has second thoughts about betraying Londo. She attempts to disappear on the Station. Trakis confronts Londo – they both want what she has. When Londo turns to Sinclair for help, he uses it to leverage negotiations with the Narn.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) picks up an errant transmission to Earth on one of the secure channels that are only supposed to be for senior staff use. He brings it to Ivanova (Claudia Christian), who doesn’t think much about it. He picks up another one, but all of the records have been erased. Eventually, he solves the puzzle, but it’s not what he thinks.

Born to the Purple starts sowing the seeds of some of the unlikely friendships that develop on the Station. As much as G’Kar and Londo hate each other, there’s also a degree of humor between them. It’s becoming sort of a “devil you know” type of tenuous friendship between them. Both are stubborn when it comes to the negotiations, and leave their assistants to negotiate for them, with the same advice to each: “Don’t give away the Homeworld.”

Despite the existence of these “purple files,” it is apparent that Londo has not chosen to be assigned to Babylon 5. He’s put in a place that is out of everyone’s hair on Centauri, and where he can’t do much damage. There’s likely a reason for things that have happened, and here he seems to let his responsibilities take care of themselves while he pursues someone young enough to be his daughter. His foolishness causes him to miss some of the signs along the way and compromises not only himself but all of Centauri. Adira has affection for him, despite the age difference. This ends up putting her life in danger when she can’t betray him.

Londo knows he is a foolish old man for how he feels about Adira. Nonetheless, he goes through the motions of getting her out of the trouble she has found herself in. It’s a good bit of depth for the Centauri, who will soon be doing some pretty hideous things. Here we see a side that is more caring and sensitive. It’s easy to see why Sinclair wants to help him as he seems so lost when he knows he’s screwed up by letting those files fall into the hands of someone who would potentially use the information not only against him but all of Centauri. I had the feeling this wasn’t the first major screw-up Londo has committed, but it had the potential to be the biggest.

Adira is one of my favorite minor characters in the series. I felt for her as much as I did Londo in this situation. She’s not a bad person, but she’s trapped by the status she was born to. It feels like there’s a chemistry between the two actors here, or maybe it’s just that they are that good at their craft. They really sell the May-December romance and Londo clinging to her in his loneliness and isolation on Babylon 5. G’Kar is tricked into helping Londo, but there’s the feeling that the negotiations went a long way to smoothing things over since G’Kar was more annoyed than angry upon learning he had been duped.

Londo also gets some great lines here, particularly with Vir (Stephen Furst). When Vir interrupts his tryst with Adira, Londo answers the videocall with “What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?” It’s one of my favorite lines and I have it on a t-shirt.

The sub-plot between Garibaldi and Ivanova is also a character-building moment. It conveys that Ivanova is a very private person, without having to beat anyone over the head with it. If she had spoken up about her need to Sinclair, it’s likely she would have gotten what she wanted, but it also makes her vulnerable. Garibaldi lets her know that he knows what happened, and at the same time respects her boundaries. It’s a great moment for the two of them as actors and characters as it creates a bond among the support staff on the station.

Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) is brought into the negotiations as the resident telepath. When Sinclair needs he help with the Londo situation, she’s reluctant to do it, knowing it would probably violate Psi Corps regulations. Their plan makes it so she technically isn’t violating regulations; she’s just sort of treading around the edge of them. It also creates a bond with the staff on the station that she is willing to work with them and not just a Psi Corps puppet. This will be important later on down the line.

All in all Born to the Purple is a solid episode. It gives more insight into the characters and the situation on Babylon 5. It’s not terribly surprising, but it works well to give us more information about what’s going on. There’s not a lot of special effects or action, just what’s needed for the story, and it’s primarily character-driven. Watching it now, knowing what’s coming, it’s an important piece to set up the tragedy that is the life of Londo Mollari and his bad choices.

Previous episode of the series (link): Babylon 5: Soul Hunter

Next episode in the series (link): Babylon 5 – Infection

7 replies »

    • That’s a difference between then and now. We just sort of shrugged our shoulders then. I mean, we knew she was compromised, but even as a viewer who sympathized with her situation, it just seemed like a “that’s the way it is” type of thing. Nowadays this episode actually has much more impact after the “Me Too” movement.