Babylon 5: The Geometry of Shadows
April 21, 2018 5:18 AM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Londo attempts to woo a gathering of Technomages who have arrived on the station, to mirror an event in the early Empire and bring himself prestige. Ivanova tries to stop the regularly scheduled Green Drazi/Purple Drazi conflict. "There is a storm coming, a black and terrible storm. We would not have our knowledge lost or used to ill purpose. From this place we will launch ourselves into the stars. With luck, you will never see our kind again in your lifetime."

-Lord Refa arrives on the station. While he would not have deigned Londo with any attention a month ago, the miraculous destruction of the Narn base has made Londo into a secret political powerhouse. Refa intends to take advantage of that, and use his secret merry band of nobles to try to choose the next Centauri emperor--one who wants to restore the Empire to its former greatness. This is exactly to Londo's liking.
-The first Centauri emperor had, before becoming Emperor, been endorsed by a group of three Technomages. A blessing by three Technomages is therefore a powerful image in Centauri society, and with his new alliance with Lord Refa, Londo decides for a pretty transparently naked power grab by approaching Technomages who have gatherd on Babylon 5.
-Technomages are people who used technology to a level that it is indistinguishable from magic.
-Londo initially sends Vir to woo the Technomages, and when threatened with a realistic (for mid-'90s CGI) hologram, Vir shows heretofore unseen backbone, which impresses the Technomage. Despite this, the Technomage refuses to meet with Londo.
-Londo then decides to use Sheridan to get to the Technomages, sets up a meeting and just 'happens' to wander in with a bug. The Technomage detects the bug, destroys it remotely, and gives Londo a curse for his trouble: every technical interface he interacts with is completely and totally nonfunctional. His money is gone, Narn opera is playing in his quarters... He's miserable. Elric eventually ends the curse, but not before warning Londo:
Elric: Oh, I'm afraid you 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 Not this one of course, it's trivial, I have withdrawn the spell, but there will be others.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 that 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.
-Technomages aren't usually the 'gathering' type, and no one knows why they are there. One plot point is that they were denied permission to leave until they stated their destination--which, as it turns out, is mainly "away from the coming conflict." What conflict? Sheridan has no idea.
-Meanwhile, Ivanova has been promoted to Commander and is told to deal with the every-five-years Drazi conflict: every Drazi is randomly assigned to Green or Purple, and the two sides fight each other constantly for domination until a victor emerges, who leads for another 5 years. Her early attempts to resolve the situation with her trademark angry outbursts leads to a riot which breaks her foot (a rewritten scene after the actress actually broke her foot), and eventually she resolves the situation by taking the Green Leader sash (the rules about alien leaders are "caught up in committee") and making all on-Station Greens turn Purple.
-...but not before getting captured trying to prevent a mass-murder Drazi incident. Garibaldi, who is mulling over whether or not to return to station security and is dealing with self-doubt and depression, realizes something is up when Ivanova isn't prompt in responding to an official message. He uses a Daffy Duck routine (literally) to get access to the room where she's being held, and frees her.
-An exchange with the Technomages:
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.
-Another good Technomage moment:
"We are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers. We study the mysteries of laser and circuit, crystal and scanner, holographic demons and invocation of equations. These are the tools we employ, and we know many things. [...] The true secrets, the important things. Fourteen words to make someone fall in love with you forever. Seven words to make them go without pain. How to say good-bye to a friend who is dying. How to be poor. How to be rich. How to rediscover dreams when the world has stolen them. That is why we are going away—to preserve that knowledge."
-Elric also almost directly quotes Tolkien in a warning to Vir about the anger of wizards. He is also a reference to Moorcock's Elric.
-By now it is safe to say that all episodes with 'Shadow' in the title are important.
posted by flibbertigibbet (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The technomages never made a lick of sense to me (in terms of why they have any influence/power), but by Kosh I enjoy this episode.

Purple! Green!
posted by nubs at 9:09 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


every Drazi is randomly assigned to Green or Purple, and the two sides fight each other constantly for domination until a victor emerges

This sequence is commonly used as a metaphor for the player v. player dynamic in the location-aware mobile game Ingress, with the caveats that the factions there are actually blue and green not purple and green, and that the aggression over meaningless distinctions of color isn't nearly as tame in Ingress as it was on B5.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:19 PM on April 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I still think of the Green! Purple! argument whenever I see some Internet debate that seems totally inconsequential to me.
posted by tautological at 5:38 PM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


The technomages never made a lick of sense to me (in terms of why they have any influence/power), but by Kosh I enjoy this episode.

I think, in-universe, JMS was trying to emphasize the materialism and Realpolitik of his universe's politics: people don't mess with Kosh because the Vorlons have access to technology that is beyond the 'young' races (this will be more obvious in a few episodes, but was obvious from when Kosh blew up the Deathwalker's ship and everyone's reaction was "...alrighty then"). The Minbari are next down the ladder, and no one messes with them because of it. Then it's a three-way scrabble for third place between the Narn (who are probably in last place but recently managed to wear the Centauri down to surrender), the Humans, and the Centauri (many of whom, including Londo, are aghast at slipping this far in the power rankings), and a many-way scrabble for 'also-ran' among the League of Non-Aligned Worlds.

Meanwhile, G'Kar's speech to Sakai, and his inter-season Hunt for the Red October Shadow Ships, also suggests that maybe everyone's ranking of the known species in the galactic order may be off by an order of magnitude.

The Technomages try to position themselves as the Vorlon -- all you need to know is that they have technology that is beyond you, and much like the Vorlon, they take joy in obfuscating their capabilities to strengthen their position. No one actually knows what they (Vorlon and Technomage alike) can or cannot do, all they know is that they are likely to beat you and the fight won't even be fair.

Outside of the show's lore, I really think JMS really wanted to play with Gandalf and Elric of Melniboné and used Clarke's maxim as the sci-fi/fantasy bridge.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:35 PM on April 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Outside of the show's lore, I really think JMS really wanted to play with Gandalf and Elric of Melniboné and used Clarke's maxim as the sci-fi/fantasy bridge.

This was my read on the situation. (Also, I never liked the Technomages - they felt like an unneeded indulgence, where everything with the Vorlons clicked for me.)
posted by mordax at 8:26 PM on April 22, 2018


The Technomages try to position themselves as the Vorlon -- all you need to know is that they have technology that is beyond you, and much like the Vorlon, they take joy in obfuscating their capabilities to strengthen their position. No one actually knows what they (Vorlon and Technomage alike) can or cannot do, all they know is that they are likely to beat you and the fight won't even be fair.

Which is then undermined by the fact that they are sitting and waiting on B5 for permission to depart; if they were a real force, they wouldn't be waiting for anything. I think mordax puts it well; the whole thing feels a little too much like an indulgence. That being said, it's a indulgence I can live with because of Michael Ansara (who played Kang on Star Trek) as Elric. If you need an actor to deliver portentous warnings, you could do far worse.
posted by nubs at 8:28 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


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