Babylon 5

Series Rewatch: Babylon 5 – The Geometry of Shadows – Of Wizards and Warlocks

Written by J. Michael Straczynski and Larry DiTillio
Directed by Michael Vejar

There have been a number of moments of prophecy in this series already. It’s remarkable how much J. Michael Straczynski got right when it comes to religion and faith, when he is an atheist. He was raised in the Catholic faith, and he has a great understanding of what faith is, even if he doesn’t necessarily believe in it himself. His depiction of faith in this series is very well done, with lots of respect for many faiths across the Babylon 5 universe.

The Geometry of Shadows opens with Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) visiting Dr. Franklin (Ricard Biggs) about returning to work. Garibaldi admits he isn’t sure he can trust the new Commander of the station, John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner). Franklin thinks there is a residual psychological effect of Garibaldi being shot in the back by his own man, and perhaps this is behind his mistrust of Sheridan.

Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) is meeting with Lord Refa (William Forward) from the Centauri homeworld who indicates Londo is being looked upon favorably on Centauri Prime. Lord Refa confides in Londo that the Emperor is getting old and they are considering a coup when the Emperor dies. Vir (Stephen Furst) watches on, incredulous at what he is hearing.

Londo: “Vir, do you believe in fate?”
Vir: “Well, actually, I believe there are currents in the Universe. Eddies and tides that pull us one way or the other. Some we have to fight, some we have to embrace. Unfortunately, the currents that we have to fight look exactly like the currents we have to embrace. The currents that we think are the one that’s gonna make us stronger, they are the ones that are going to destroy us. And the ones that we think are going to destroy us, they are the ones that are going to make us stronger. Now, the other current–“

As Londo is saying goodbye to Lord Refa, he spots a Technomage arriving on the Station. There are actually three of them, which Londo says is a very bad sign. He decides he needs to consult with them and sends Vir to set it up.

Vir meets with Elric (Michael Ansara) and tries to set up the meeting. Elric refuses the invite, even with the enticement of money. He tells Vir not to come back. Londo is determined to get their blessing, thinking that would be a powerful image for him. He convinces Sheridan to set up a meeting with them, where he offers to “help out.” Sheridan meets with Elric and demands to know what they are up to. Elric resists but confronts Londo when he arrives. Sheridan threatens to send him back to Centauri for bugging his office.

Elric: We are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers. We study the mysteries of laser and circuit, crystal and scanner, holographic demons and invocations of equations. These are the tools we employ, and we know many things.

Meanwhile, Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) brings news of a conflict between Drazi factions. It occurs every five years in the Drazi tradition. Sheridan tells her she’s been promoted to Commander and will be taking on more of the minor diplomatic issues, this being one of them. Ivanova meets with the Drazi factions, one wearing green sashes and one wearing purple sashes. It’s their custom to put the sashes in a barrel and draw out sashes and they fight. While trying to make sense of it, she takes a purple sash off of one Drazi and puts it on a Drazi wearing a green sash. All hell breaks loose.

Ivanova ends up with a broken foot. Dr. Franklin tells her he could speed up the healing, but she’ll still be in a cast for three weeks and it will be painful. Ivanova doesn’t back down from the challenge when Sheridan offers to take over. However, news comes from the Drazi homeworld that the Greens have started killing the Purples. She arrives to find many the purples dead.

Ivanova: Don’t you understand? This is insane. It doesn’t make any sense to go around killing each other over a piece of cloth.
Green Drazi Leader: You do same, yes? For flag, for honor?
Ivanova: That’s different.
Green Drazi Leader: Is it?
Ivanova: Yes. Our flags at least mean something. It’s not as arbitrary as yanking a color out of a box. I mean, you’re fighting and dying over a stupid piece of cloth. (takes leader’s cloth) Look, there’s nothing special about it. It’s not patriotic. It has nothing but this stupid little star in the middle of it.

While all this is going on, Sheridan goes to see Garibaldi. Garibaldi tells him he’s not sure if he wants to come back or if Sheridan really wants him to come back Sheridan says he wants him to come back and will hold the job open for as long as he can until he decides.

Elric: I’m afraid you’re going to have to spend the rest of your life paying for your mistakes . Not this one, of course; it’s trivial. I have withdrawn the spell. But there will be others.
Londo: What are you talking about?
Elric: You are touched by darkness, ambassador, I see it as a blemish. It will grow with time. I could warn you of course, but you would not listen. I could kill you, but someone would take your place. So I do the only thing I can. I go. Oh, I believe it was an endorsement you wanted. A word or two, a picture, to send to the folks back home, confirming that you have a destiny before you.
Londo: Yes, it was just a thought, nothing more.
Elric: Well, take this, for what little it will profit you. As I look at you, Ambassador Mollari, I see a great hand, reaching out of the stars. The hand is your hand. And I hear sounds…the sounds of billions of people calling your name.
Londo: My followers?
Elric: Your victims.

This is a great bit of prophecy in what will be several prophecies surrounding Londo. He is receiving warnings about his future actions. Does he have the ability to change them or are they written in stone? Even this early, he is an interesting character. He was sent to Babylon 5 to get him out of the way of the Centauri government. He was considered a bit of a screw-up in his job prior to this, but because of his lineage, he is still entitled to certain positions within the government. He is fighting to gain the respect he believes is due him, and although he has something of a conscience, he makes poor choices when faced with challenging decisions.

Throughout this series, I loved the character of Vir. He is not quite the antithesis of Londo, but he is the conscience that Londo lacks. He also gets some very funny moments, such as here when Vir chugs what Londo was drinking and passes out. He also has one of the best special effects in this episode as he is meeting with the Techntomages and is apparently confronted by a monster

Elric: You don’t frighten easily.
Vir Cotto: I work for Ambassador Mollari. After a while, nothing bothers you.

The character development of the others in this episode seems secondary, but it really isn’t. Claudia Christian actually did break her foot, and it was written into the series quite well. It also gave her character a chance to develop more skills by mediating the dispute with the Drazi. The rapport between her and Sheridan grows nicely, as he sees her potential and wants to see her live up to it. At the same time, he offers her a way out. To no one’s surprise, she declines. We see a determined officer here who won’t back down from a challenge.

The rapport between Sheridan and Garibaldi is also important in the future. The doubts here also come into play. It’s a great bit of foreshadowing that seems couched in a bout of PTSD for Garibaldi. Sheridan understands that, having been in combat himself. It shows some doubts between the two and sets the stage for a very convincing betrayal later on. Garibaldi comes off as something of a Bruce Willis knock-off at a time when Willis was in high demand and coming off of Pulp Fiction. I don’t know if that was how Jerry Doyle played the character or if it was how he was written and directed, but it works for the most part throughout the series.

Michael Ansara is no stranger to science fiction, and I enjoyed him here as the Technomage. He manages a regal air while at the same time, he warns Sheridan that the Technomages are going away to hide from the darkness they see coming. It’s another bit of mysticism or religion in the universe that is full of mysteries. I, for one, appreciate a universe that is open to many forms of faith and belief and loaded with mysteries that cannot be explained.

The second season is off to a great start with a number of key episodes that build characters and set the stage for what is to come.

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