Babylon 5

Series Rewatch – Babylon 5: Signs and Portents

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Janet Greek

This is another episode that, while it stands up well on its own, contains a lot of foreshadowing of the future of the series. There’s a lot of character and story development here that’s important going forward.

Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) confides in Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) about the missing time from when he was in the Battle of the Line and asks his help in piecing together what happened. It would seem his memories from the episode And The Sky Full of Stars are less than complete, but he knows more than he did before. Garibaldi later does a little digging and finds out that the Minbari were given final approval over who the Babylon 5 station commander would be in exchange for being the first to sign on, and they rejected every name on a long list until Commander Sinclair’s name came up.

However, the main plot point of this episode is the arrival of Mr. Morden (Ed Wasser). He visits the various Ambassadors and asks them “what do you want?” G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) dismisses him at first, then tells him he would like to see the Centauri completely wiped out, but then can’t follow it up with anything else. When he visits Delenn (Mira Furlan), she sees something she can’t explain and knows the Shadows have arrived. He manages to dodge Ambassador Kosh for the time being.

Do you really want to know what I want? Do you really want to know the truth? I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or look forward. I want us to be what we used to be! I want… I want it all back the way it was. Does that answer your question?

– Ambassador Londo Mollari

The station is dealing with increasing Raider attacks. The problem is that by the time they hear of the attack and scramble fighters, the Raiders escape. Sinclair tells Ivanova (Claudia Christian) to keep Delta Squadron on high alert.

Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) secures a very important Centauri artifact in hopes of bolstering his status on his home planet. This brings Lord Kiro (Gerrit Graham) to the Station, along with his Aunt, Lady Ladira (Fredi Olster), who is a prophetress. She has a vision of Babylon 5 exploding in a sea of fire and pain.

Ivanova goes out with Delta Squadron on a Raider patrol. Commander Sinclair figures out that the Raiders are trying to lure them away from the station, possibly to target the Centauri that are meeting with Ambassador Mollari. Unfortunately, by the time Sinclair figures this out, all of the Centauri were just taken hostage. Sinclair manages to free Londo and Ladira, but Lord Kiro is taken hostage on the Centauri Transport. Ladira tells Mollari that the Shadows are coming to kill Lord Kiro. “The Shadows have come for Lord Kiro… The Shadows have come for us all…” This seems to make no sense – unless you’ve already viewed the series and know what’s going to happen.

Eventually, Ambassador Kosh and Mr. Morden meet. Kosh orders him to leave the Station.

The Raiders have the ability to create their own jump-point and jump into space to attack the Centauri Transport. Garibaldi is out with Alpha Wing and defends the station. Delta Wing arrives back in time to surprise the Raiders. Unfortunately, the command ship gets away. However, there are prisoners taken from the Raiders who can be interrogated.

The kidnapping was part of Lord Kiro’s plan. Unfortunately, the Raiders he’s in collusion with double-cross him. As they are telling him how they are double-crossing him, a new vessel appears and destroys the Raider command ship, and presumably Lord Kiro and the artifact he has with him.

Before leaving the Station, Mr. Morden delivers the artifact back to Ambassador Mollari, in a box that looks like it’s been through a battle.

This episode doesn’t seem to be much on first viewing. It’s only after someone watches the entire series and then comes back a second time that a viewer realizes that there is so much here that’s important down the line. At the same time, it stands well on its own, giving the viewer a bit of insight into the character of each of the Ambassadors. Their responses to Mr. Morden’s entreaty are a window into each of them and their societies. G’Kar is perhaps the most interesting. He seems to be the likely candidate to embrace Mr. Morden and what he is offering, which is not yet apparent. However, the fact is that once his rage against the Centauri is used up he doesn’t seem to want anything else. He’s not an evil, power-hungry being at heart; he and his race have just been oppressed for so long by the Centauri that’s all he can think of.

For Londo, it’s different. Yes, he wants the Centauri to lead the galaxy once again, but there’s more. Londo wants the power, in addition to making his race feared among the galaxy. That’s the reason he has made such an effort to recover the missing artifact in the hopes that his star will rise. He’s been sent off to Babylon 5 as a sort of punishment, or to get him outside of Centauri society at home, and he wants to become a force to be reckoned with in his government again.

The acting here is good, especially among the regular cast. There’s a bit of melodrama in Lady Ladira’s scenes. Is that just her character or is it the fault of the actress and/or the director? I’m not really sure. However, the rest of the cast is stellar. I loved the initial interaction between Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik as they bicker near the lifts on the station. It’s a bit of tense comedy and the actors hit the mark with the tone. Ed Wasser strikes the perfect note as the new character of Mr. Morden, and it will be a while before viewers learn why he is so stoic in his delivery, but it’s sufficiently sinister.

The production values here are the best so far. There is a great use of synchronicity as Lord Kiro is being murdered by the Shadows and Lady Ladira’s “second sight” sees it. The special effects of the first real space battle in the series between the Raiders and the Starfuries is well-executed. I appreciated the remastered effects here very much. My DVDs were usually blurry and these scenes were hard to watch on a widescreen television. Now, they are a pleasure to view, even if they are more clearly CGI than effects I’ve seen in recent movies.

If you haven’t viewed the series yet, this is definitely an episode to come back to once you have. I’ve viewed the series multiple times, and there are still things I discover that will have a payoff down the line. Signs and Portents is not only setting up some of the story going forwards but also does a great job building on characters who are important to that story.

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6 replies »

  1. “She has a vision of Babylon 5 exploding in a sea of fire and pain.”

    I love how that plays out in the end: emotional pain, yes, but as with most of B5, things here are not ever as they seem.