Love this thread. Don’t have much to contribute, as I don’t have the opportunity to do a re-watch at the moment, but loving the overviews and commentary. Thanks!
Same, just vicariously researching through the recaps.
I’m rubbish! I started watching for this thread, watched my usual selection of first season episodes and, um, I’m up to Divided Loyalties now.
I’ll try to come back and chip in to the contemporaneous discussion over the weekend though!
Well, that’s appropriate as I finally get around to talking about Mind War.
Right, shall we quickly shoot out The War prayer, and maybe spend some time on
Signs and PortentsAnd the Sky Full of Stars?
The War Prayer
The writer for this episode was DC Fontana, who is best known for her extensive work on Star Trek, having written and edited episodes of TOS, and worked as a writer,editor and producer on TNG and TAS - including working on the TNG series bible with David Gerrold, and having a co-writer’s credit on Encounter at Farpoint. She quit TNG towards the end of series 1, but retrned to Trek a few times later on - she wrote a novel about Spock’s first mission on the Enterprise under captain Pike, the DS9 series 1 episode Dax, as well as the scripts for a few computer games and an issue of IDW’s Star Trek Year Four comic. She wrote two more episodes of Babylon 5 between this and series 2. Other Cult TV work includes episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, Land of the Lost, The Fantastic Journey, Logan’s Run, Buck Rogers, He-Man, War of the Worlds, Hypernauts, Earth: Final Conflict, and most recently an episode of Star Trek: New Voyages.
Shal Mayan is played by Nancy Lee Grahan, who is best known as a soap opera star, having had lengthy roles on Santa Barbara (from 1885-1993) and General Hospital (from 1996 to now), as well as a stint on One Life to Live between 1978 and 1982. Aside from Babylon 5, she’s had guest appearances on Cult TV shows including the Incredible Hulk and Knight Rider.
Aria Tensus is played by Danica McKellar. Best known for playing Winnie in The Wonder Years, she’s had a lengthy career as a guest actor, as well as appearing in TV movies and an extensive selection of voice acting for cartoons and video games. She’s also a mathematician, having published a paper in 1998 and written 4 books aimed at getting teenagers interested in a career in maths
Kiron Moray is played by Rodney Eastman, who’s best known for his starring role in Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, and as is often the case for B5 guest actors, a lengthy career in TV movies and as a guest actor on other shows.
Tristan Rogers, who played Malcolm Biggs is another soap star, He had a role on General Hospital between 1980 and 1992 when he was killed off, returned as a ghost in 1995, as the same person but alive in 2006 and in a 2008 spin-off show, and then for like 7 episodes in 2012. He was a regular on The Young and the Restless between 2010 and 2011, and returned to the show after his abortive return to General Hospital in 2012. He’s also appeared in a streaming soap opera called The Bay since 2010.
This episode introduces the Homeguard, a pro-earth, anti-alien group, who were mentioned in Born to the Purple and Infection.
Both Doctor Kyle and Leta Alexander were transfered back to earth shortly after the events of The Gathering, being the only two humans to have seen what a Vorlon looks like.
Ivanova and Malcolm split up 8 years prior to this episode, when she accepted a posting to Io. The Jumpgate in the Sol system is located in an orbit near Jupiter, and the oft-mentioned transfer station at Io serves as a port for it. It’s suggested that this is a prestigious posting.
Londo has three wives, all of whom were arranged marriages for his House’s political and economic gain. He doesn’t seem to like any of them, and is glad to be stationed to Babylon 5 to get awy from them. Centauri Prime is apparently 75 light years from the Epsilon Eridani system (though as we’ll see later, B5 take sinto account that because different planets have different orbital cycles, a Centauri light year might not be the same length as a Human one)
Londo refers to his wives as Pestilence, Famine and Death. Those are three of the Biblical Four Horseman. War is not mentioned.
G’Kar says “Do you think we are pouchlings?” during the scene in the B5 Advisory Council. This is the first reference to the Narn being marsupials.
The botanist Delenn introduces to Sinclair is an Abbai, the first appearance of her race on the show. The Abbai are a pacifist matriarchal race, in secondary material it’s stated that they developed powerful shield technolody, and while the Dilgar occupied one of their colonies, they were unable to take their homeworld. The Abbai defended fellow League of non-aligned World members during the Dilgar War, but did not take part in the assault into Dilgar territory.
This episode reveals that Ivanova is growing coffee in the Hydroponics bays. This was, of course a recycled plot point from the scene betweenTakashima and Kyle in The Gathering which was cut for the broadcast version. With the extended cut of that episode, it’s likely that Ivanova’s taken over Takashima’s crop, and may have been handed over from one XO to the next.
The Deep Space 9 episode The Circle aired shortly after filming wrapped on this episode. In that episode, Quark is cornered in a corridor by unseen assailants who brand his forehead. The titular Circle - who are responsible for this act are a group of Bajoran nationalists who want to remove alien influences on their culture and society, just like the Homeguard here. JMS discussed this online after he saw the DS9 episode and spoke frankly about how there was no way ether episode could have influenced the other, and he considered removing the branding scene, but ultimately decided to leave it in, partially because of messages of support from the B5 fan community.
The episode as written was running short, and as a result a scene cut from The Parliament of Dreams discussing how Kosh got poisoned was inserted here, with a bit of ADR to fill in the craks.
So this is an episode with a bad rep. And it’s one that I’ve dismissed in prior rewatches… but it’s actually OK? Like, there’s a lot of hammy performances, and the story is hackneyed (in the making of show, Andrea Thompson referred to B5 as Casablanca in space - everyone winds up there, and this episode really feels like that), but there’s actually a lot to enjoy, and a lot to think about in this episode as well.
To begin with, this is another one with Richard Compton in the director’s chair, and he uses a lot of interesting camerawork here. Both Shal Mayan’s assault, and when Roberts is jumped by the Drazi are shot in a very different style, with the camera shaking about, lots more darkness than usual, giving the scenes a visual punch that helps to sell the brutality and hatred these scenes represent.
Secondly, the episode adds a lot of depth to both Ivanova and Londo. This episode is the closest we’ve had to an Ivanova-centric one so far, and she gets a few moments to break out of the stiff mold she’s been cast in. What’s well-done is that you can see her soften after she gets the rose from Malcolm, but shifts back into it after she sees the recording of Malcolm. A large part of Ivanova’s arc early on is that she gets hurt when she expresses her emotional side - between this and her father’s death she’s taken to big blows in a short period of time.
Londo’s story here is a bit more stereotypical - the idea of the aged noble who has a change of heart is well-trod ground, but it works well enough here. His “my shoes are tight, but I have forgotten how to dance” speech is really good, and as usual a lot of that is because of Peter Jurasik’s performance.
Finally, this episode’s pretty fucking timely right now, isn’t it? Of course, JMS and Fontana were tapping into sentiment that’s been in and out of the zeitgeist many times, but is back in force right now. Pro-Earth/anti-alien sentiment is a repeated theme in B5, especially at this point - it’s been mentioned in Infection and Mind War, and it stands to reason that this sentiment would be bubbling over on earth in the aftermath of a literally apocalyptic war. And it’s interesting to see Malcolm’s level of suspicion around Ivanova and Sinclair when they feign interest in joining up - given that racist groups in the US were thoroughly infiltrated by law enforcement in the 70s, and a number of prominent alt-right groups have fallen apart in the last year because of suspicion that one or other leader is a cop. As is often the case, the antagonists are more competent than their real-life counterparts.
Honestly, these genre shows with their preposterous fantasy plotlines