Babylon 5: The Parliament of Dreams
January 13, 2018 3:24 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

[arc episode, most meaningful in retrospect] Babylon 5 is having a "week of religious festivals" to encourage inter-species respect. G'Kar fears he is being followed by an assassin. Sinclair's on-and-off-again lover, Catherine Sakai, arrives. "Aaahhh, our household gods. In a world where every day is a struggle for survival, you need all the gods you can get."

-The first in a run of two very quotable episodes in a row.
-"Oh! And you are cute, too, in an annoying sort of way. Everybody's cute. Everybody's cute! Even me. But in purple, I'm stunning!"
-"The Earthers have a phrase: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. I believe they stole it from us."
-"Ah! He's become one with his inner self." "...He's passed out." "That too."
-"No, but understanding is not required, only obedience."
-"You will know pain..." "...and you will know fear..." "And then you will die. Have a pleasant flight."
-"Will you follow me into fire, into storm, into darkness, into death? And the nine said yes. Then do it in testimony to the one who will follow, who will bring death, couched in the promise of new life, and renewal, disguised as defeat. "
-"I cannot have an aide who will not look up. You will be forever walking into things."

-Plot stuff!
-G'Kar's thing for human women is well-known.
-Sinclair and Sakai begin to reconnect after a rocky last meeting.
-G'Kar is worried about some 'unfortunate' information about his time on the Council getting out.
-G'Kar is less upset about having someone attempt assassination on him as he is about the assassination attempt being so shockingly competent.
-When G'Kar loses his cool, he really loses his cool.
-The Narn use couriers regularly -- does this mean they distrust FTL communication?
-Introduction of Na'Toth, G'Kar's aide. Na'toth has no time for tomfoolery. Cherish this character.
-Introduction of Lennier, Delenn's aide. This position is quite the jump in position for him.
-Second time Delenn is called 'Satai'. It is clearly an exalted positioned, and Delenn does not want anyone else to know she is so highly placed. Beginning of the cherished B5 tradition: extremely confidential conversations in extremely public places.
-Tennyson's Ulysses is quoted.
-Sakai, unkowingly, implies that Delenn and Sinclair might have gotten married in the Minbari ceremony.
-A somewhat hoary old sci-fi trope appears: what makes humans unique is their diversity.
-The statue of Goddess Li will return.
-Pay attention to the phrase "And so it begins." This episode, it is said by Delenn.
-No Narn religious celebrations in this episode.
posted by flibbertigibbet (10 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This episode, while strictly speaking skippable, introduces enough characters, concepts, and relationships that it should be watched.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:27 PM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


An episode very worth watching, even if the arc stuff only becomes clear in retrospect. Understanding is not required, only obedience.

Careful viewers will be amused by G'Kar during the Minbari ceremony.
posted by nubs at 3:47 PM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Many things are taking a little while to settle in, which is a common rhythm in episodic TV (see also: more or less every Star Trek iteration). That said, the G'Kar/Londo frenemyship is already great. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say these characters and these actors continue to be great in unexpected ways. Na'Toth and Lenier are great as well, as foils for their respective ambassadors. Seeing their introductions for the first time here was fascinating.

Was G'Kar with the fruit particularly subtle? Seemed pretty intense to me. Unless there's an even more subtle thing I entirely missed?

"Purple files" -> "I look stunning in purple!" Hmm, I wonder what's in those files, specifically. Kinda getting a "first season Veronica Mars" vibe there.

I'm not quite sure what to do with the "Space Monoculture!" trope here, as all the world-spanning star empires throw a single shindig for their dominant religion, while Sinclair is careful to show representatives of tens of earth religions. Can't tell if self-aware writers having a moment of laziness and/or expediency, or important future plot point.
posted by Alterscape at 3:53 PM on January 13, 2018


Was G'Kar with the fruit particularly subtle? Seemed pretty intense to me. Unless there's an even more subtle thing I entirely missed?

There's the shot of him refusing it, and then in the background of another shot you see his hand as he exchanges his berry with whoever was sitting next to him (Garibaldi, IIRC?)
posted by nubs at 3:56 PM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


then in the background of another shot you see his hand as he exchanges his berry with whoever was sitting next to him

Now I can't remember if I noticed that or not. I definitely noticed a lot of other business with the berry, but I actually watched this two weeks ago. Either way, fun bit of business for Katsulas!
posted by Alterscape at 4:00 PM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


An episode very worth watching, even if the arc stuff only becomes clear in retrospect.

So after we watched this episode, my husband went "Oh--OHHHHH..." and then desperately contorted his face as I asked him spoilery questions about this episode is particularly meaningful, so that his face wouldn't give anything away.

I still don't entirely know the great arc significance...

I loved this episode. Na'toth and Lennier are both great. The opening scene is great. G'Kar is great.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:24 PM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Garibaldi: And what happened to the Xon?
Londo: Dead, all of them, and good riddance.
The Centauri/Xon pre-spaceflight conflict -- and genocide? -- alluded to here is incredibly grim, especially considering how Londo immediately turns it into a joke; it's a nice (if not, you know, nice) bit of character-building for Londo, and you have to wonder how that history played into the Centauri/Narn conflict and the Centauri worldview as a whole.

I'm not quite sure what to do with the "Space Monoculture!" trope here, as all the world-spanning star empires throw a single shindig for their dominant religion, while Sinclair is careful to show representatives of tens of earth religions. Can't tell if self-aware writers having a moment of laziness and/or expediency, or important future plot point.

From contemporary notes about the production:
I didn't say that Earth was the ONLY one with diverse religions...It's not. Narns, as we'll see in "By Any Means Necessary," have several competing beliefs. The idea of the festival wasn't to compare and contrast, only to show what *we* (whoever *we* is) believes.
The same notes also mention that at least one scene was shot for this episode and then moved to another because this episode was running long, so I think 'expediency' might be on the nose -- although that doesn't entirely explain why they didn't do a clearer job of articulating that there were diverse beliefs amongst other species, even as a throwaway line.

There's some dissonance, in other words, in that the show isn't supposed to be part of the Space Monoculture trope -- and later episodes make clear that it isn't; and not only for the Narn; there's development and nuance for most of the different governments -- but this particular episode makes a big deal about how diverse Earth is, which implies that other cultures aren't. I think that's partly because the actual service this episode is doing is foregrounding the viewer -- the human, earth-dwelling viewer of the modern day -- in the show's expectation that it wants to treat the story of humanity reaching out to the stars as one in which all the myriad parts of human will stay vibrant; that this is not merely the story of One Specific Group, but of humanity as a whole. (I don't think it entirely succeeds at that, but it certainly aspires to that, which I find admirable.)

But it's also doing some world-building, and also character development, and the world-building bits ended up getting jettisoned to other, later, episodes. That's not a bad decision, but I think you could also do this by shifting G'Kar's plot to a future episode and spending more time developing the other empires.
posted by cjelli at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2018


>the G'Kar/Londo frenemyship is already great.

G'Kar is great.


I could basically write either of these comments in nearly ever episode they're in, and I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the way they continue to play off each other is consistently great. Babylon 5's dialogue is sometimes a bit more melodramatic / theatrical than natural -- which also makes it quotable! -- and both Jurasik and Katsulas lean heavily into that from the beginning. It's sometimes a little scenery-chewing, but in an enjoyable way: they both manage to sell their characters as people who just behave that way, each for their own reasons.
posted by cjelli at 11:02 AM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think that's partly because the actual service this episode is doing is foregrounding the viewer -- the human, earth-dwelling viewer of the modern day -- in the show's expectation that it wants to treat the story of humanity reaching out to the stars as one in which all the myriad parts of human will stay vibrant;

One of the ideas jms also mooted about with regards to the show was the idea that when faced with real alien aliens, humanity (by and large) ceased to care as much about distinctions inside human groups; what is skin colour or a different religion when you've got a Pak'Ma'Ra around. So I think that was also part of the way this episode ended.

Also note that this episode won an Emmy for Makeup in a Series.
posted by nubs at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I know it is kind of trope-y, but rewatching it now just seemed really amazing - reminding me of a time when you could do that earnestly and genuinely believe the future could be better.
posted by corb at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


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