John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane
jkahane

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Babylon 5, Season 1, Episode 1

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have started re-watching the episodes of Babylon 5, a science fiction series on television that changed the shape and the nature of sf tv production forever. The previous entry on the subject dealt with the two-hour pilot of "The Gathering", in both its forms, and so it is time to move on to the first episode of the series.

"Midnight on the Firing Line"
Season 1, Episode 1
Production Number: 103

The first episode of Babylon 5 to be aired, this was, in fact, the third episode to be shot. In many ways, "Midnight on the Firing Line" is a second pilot for Babylon 5, one that reintroduces the setting and the characters (albeit with a few changes). The focus of the plot is the Narn invasion of Ragesh 3 by the Centauri, and sets up the conflict between Ambassador Londo Mollari of the Centauri Republic and Ambassador G'Kar of the Narn Regime. The antagonism of Londo and G'Kar is only the beginning of what is to come between these two, but sets the stage nicely, and the entire plot shows some of the political elements and strain that the station and its personnel must deal with.

The two B plots deal with Raider attacks on shipping in the area, and the interaction of the new station telepath, Talia Winters, with various station personnel. At first glance, both the minor subplots seem to be pretty much just what they are - minor plots designed to flesh out an hour of television. But as the series continues and evolves, the difficulties and the threat represented by telepaths, and the Psi Corps in particular, become more apparent. While the Raider threat and plot is used here for a nice twist, and tie-in to the main plot, it is dealt with later in the season and resolved, and thus served to show some of the darkness that is to be found in the universe of Babylon 5. The new second-in-command, Susan Ivanova is introduced in this story, and we learn a good deal about her personality and outlook on life, just enough to act as a teaser for the future, and she plays well off the other new character, the telepath, Talia Winters. The Vorlon ambassador, Kosh, is presented in this episode in a manner as to make him mysterious, and truly alien. Another minor subplot follows the election of the new president on Earth. While Luis Santiago is elected president at the end of the episode, this plot will have all kinds of ramifications as the season progresses, and is merely the prologue to a major storyline that will run through the series down the road.

When all is said and done, "Midnight on the Firing Line" is a story that sets up the beginning of the five-year novel/story that J. Michael Straczynski (JMS, for short) set out to tell. The hints, the subtle references to future events, all are there in this episode, but one has to look for them, one has to remember them for future reference. "Midnight on the Firing Line" may not be the greatest story seen in the history of Babylon 5, but it certainly does a good job for re-introducing JMS's universe and playground once more, and serves as an interesting jumping off point for the series.
Tags: babylon 5, episode review
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