Babylon 5: And the Sky Full of Stars
February 5, 2018 9:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

[major arc] Two "Knights" kidnap Sinclair and force him to relive his memories of the last battle of the Earth-Minbari war, as they are convinced he is a collaborator or spy. "I know you. I know who you are. I know you." and "What do you want?"

-The last battle of the Earth-Minbari war was the Battle of the Line. During this Battle, Sinclair's ship disappears completely for 24 hours (an Earth investigation later suggests this was due to sensor malfunctions) and then reappears. Shortly thereafter, the Minbari--who were winning the war to the point of being able to completely end the human race within days or weeks--surrender.
-Two "Knights" use a mook to get the battery to power their mental-simulation/torture machine. They later kill him, and Garibaldi finds the body. Still, Sinclair frees himself and then Delenn talks him down from a brief bout of psychosis in the denouement.
-When Sinclair relives his memories of his missing 24 hours, he remembers torture inside the Minbari ship, in front of a group of grey-cloaked Minbari. Delenn was one of the cloaked Minbari (presumably, the Grey Council Lennier was told to never mention again).
-The Knights are part of the growing Earth concern about alien influence inside government. "Look at Earth! Alien civilization. Alien migration. Aliens buying up real estate by the square mile. What they couldn't take by force, they corrupted--inch by inch!"
-The Minbari have cloaking devices and can scramble weapons locks.
-The Battle sequence implies the Minbari killed the rest of Sinclair's squadron, then deliberately shot to disable him. This wasn't an accident.
-Sinclair's reaction to the deaths of his squad: kamikaze mission on a Minbari cruiser. (He fails.) This episode finally explains some of Sinclair's bad decision-making: he has a death wish due to survivor's guilt.
-A Minbari lurking in Delenn's room tells her that if Sinclair ever recovers his memories of the Battle of the Line, he must be killed.
-Sinclair's torture included a staff, topped by a triangular device, which seemingly knocked him out.
-An interesting newspaper article says that Psi corps might have broken their rules by endorsing a certain candidate for president...
posted by flibbertigibbet (9 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
"And the sky was full of stars; every star an exploding ship. One of ours...."
posted by nubs at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think this is also the first episode to call the residents of Down Below "Lurkers" - a reference to the internet. B5 started right around the time the internet became popular with the public; there was a lot of contact between jms & the shows fans via email and usenet groups.

Some other headlines from the paper:

-Narns settle Ragash 3 controversy
-San Diego Still Considered Too Radioactive for Occupancy
-Special Section: Pros & Cons of Interspecies Mating
-Is There Something Living in Hyperspace?
-Copyright Trial Continues in Bookzap Flap: Books Downloaded Directly into Brain: Who Owns Them?
-New Binary Star Discovered
posted by nubs at 7:43 PM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


So this one is all about Sinclair learning about his past, but he's not the one driving the action. That's an interesting dramatic choice. And for much of the episode, it actually works. There's good conflict between the knight, who wants to uncover dirty secrets, and Sinclair who wants to protect his reputation and his memory of the battle. But once it's clear there really is a secret to uncover, the episode falters. There's a switch between Sinclair wanting to forget, to resist the knight, and him wanting to remember, for his own purposes. The writing doesn't quite thread that needle, and it leaves Sinclair's motivations a little muddled in the climax.

Come to think of it, there are several ways that Sinclair is existing and reacting, instead of driving his life and his career forward. The way he got back with Catherine Sakai, for one. Or the way he got chosen for command of Babylon 5 (which I don't think we've gotten to yet...)
posted by Banknote of the year at 8:14 PM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Come to think of it, there are several ways that Sinclair is existing and reacting, instead of driving his life and his career forward. The way he got back with Catherine Sakai, for one. Or the way he got chosen for command of Babylon 5 (which I don't think we've gotten to yet...)

Exactly; and they all tie back into the events of the Battle of the Line. Sinclair is carrying survivors guilt from that battle, and the system - even though it "cleared up" what happened to his missing ship - doesn't trust him as a result of his missing 24 hours, stalling his career. At least that is how I've always read it; he was never going to get promoted again, and his current posting was a shock for everyone. Sinclair, up until this point, is looking for a good death...he's too professional to shirk his duties, but he's taking risks and putting himself in harm's way for a reason.

So to see him shift from defense against the Knight to becoming an active participant in mining his memory is actually an important one; it's the start of Sinclair moving from reacting to what is around him to becoming a bit more pro-active. At least, I didn't find that it muddled the climax for me - Sinclair moving in pursuit of his memories is likely what enables him to flip the tables on Knight Two, much like using jujustu.

That being said, there's a lot of little rocky moments in the writing of B5, and my love for the show may mean I glide over some.
posted by nubs at 8:28 PM on February 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, I agree the shift from defence to actively searching is a very important part of Sinclair's arc. I just think this episode doesn't give us a lot of character insight into Sinclair as that shift happens, and it doesn't make the shift feel like a dramatic turning point. The character work of how Sinclair feels about the recovered memories, or even if he wants to recover them in the first place, gets lost in the action of showing those memories to the audience.

Like you said, there are lots of rocky moments in the writing, and I think this is one of them.
posted by Banknote of the year at 9:31 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Production note: Walter Koening was originally slated to play one of the two Knights, but (as evident from his role as Bester) wasn't able to film and the role was recast; Patrick McGoohan (whose show The Prisoner influenced both the portrayal of the Psi Corps, and also the direction of this particular episode) was also approached and had to back out to issues with the production's timing.

Not as a knock on either of the actors playing the knights: I'd love to have seen how either of those casting choices played out. (Getting Koening as Bester was a happy accident, all said and done.)
posted by cjelli at 9:49 PM on February 11, 2018


Further casting notes - Judson Scott, who played Knight Two, was also Joachim in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Every time I see this episode, I keep wondering where else I know him from; so I looked it up, finally.
posted by nubs at 10:57 AM on February 12, 2018


Further casting notes - Judson Scott, who played Knight Two, was also Joachim in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Every time I see this episode, I keep wondering where else I know him from; so I looked it up, finally.

And Diana's chief enforcer in V. I knew the name sounded familiar, had to go look.
posted by Kyol at 7:11 AM on February 14, 2018


(Just a note to remind everyone today that Valen is the reason for the season)
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2018


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