Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "Born to the Purple"

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Episode Information

Title: "Born to the Purple"
Writer: Larry DiTillio
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: January 24, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Londo is manipulated by a slaver in order to get valuable information about the Centauri Republic.

The episode opens with Londo enjoying the dancing performance of a young, beautiful, Centauri woman. Apparently he has been enjoying these performances frequently, as Sinclair and G'Kar confront him about avoiding negotiations regarding the Euphrates Sector. Oddly, throughout this episode, the enmity between Londo and G'Kar is not nearly as pronounced as one might expect, given the events in "Midnight on the Firing Line".

We see shortly that Londo isn't just enjoying the dancer's public performances, as she is waiting for him in his bed when he returns. Her name is Aidra Tyree, and Londo has clearly fallen head-over-heels in love with her. The chemistry between them is very believable, even though he's obviously old enough to be her father (at least!). Londo seems to take Adira completely at face value, that she enjoys being with him and getting trinkets and favors he gives her. On his part, Londo says she makes him feel young and shows him that there is more to living than just keeping up appearances.

Londo's romantic interludes have still been holding up the negotiations. We are never really told what the importance of the Euphrates Sector is, but Sinclair is very anxious to have the negotiations be successful so that B5 can show that it's fulfilling its purpose. He has even employed Talia for the negotiations to make sure all sides are being honest.

Once Londo goes to the negotiations, Adira returns to her quarters to be confronted by a man named Trakis. Adira is his slave, and Trakis has set up events to put Adira and Londo together so that Adira can steal the "purple files" from Londo. The purple files contain all kinds of dirt on the various important Centauri families, and Trakis intends to sell the information to the Narns. He orders Adira to use the "mind probe" that evening to finally get the files. We can tell that Adira is not happy to be using Londo, but Trakis promises her emancipation if she is successful.

That evening, Londo shows more of his feelings for Adira by giving her a jeweled brooch that has been passed down through his family. Then he takes her out to a public restaurant, a bold move for someone with a "kept" woman.

When they return later to Londo's quarters, Adira drugs his drink and uses the mind probe to get him to tell her the code to access the purple files. She then downloads the files onto a data crystal and leaves. She tips Londo off to the fact that something is wrong by leaving behind the brooch. When Londo is awakened by Vir, he realized something is amiss and sends Vir to represent the Centauri at the negotiations. G'Kar is so insulted by this that he leaves his own assistant to negotiate for him. Sinclair is frustrated that the negotiations have stalled like this and goes to find Londo.

Meanwhile, Adira has arranged to meet Trakis on the Zocalo to give him the crystal. At the last moment she realizes that she can't betray Londo, and she flees the Zocalo just ahead of Trakis. She goes to another dancer friend on the station and arranges transport off the station the next day.

Londo has gone to Adira's quarters, which is where Trakis finds him. Trakis says that Adira has betrayed them both, and that she is a Narn agent. He also manages to place a bug on Londo's coat before revealing that Adira is his slave. Londo is crushed by these revelations, although he doesn't accept Adira being a Narn agent.

Sinclair finally finds Londo, and Londo realizes Sinclair might be someone who can help him. He explains the situation to Sinclair, but says he can't make any kind of formal charges or inquiries, because then the news would get back to his superiors. Sinclair agrees to help if Londo will accept Sinclair's compromise in the Euphrates Sector.

Londo and Sinclair visit the nightclub where Adira danced and ask the other dancers if they know where she is. The dancers give them a lead, but Trakis hears the same information through the bug. Trakis arranges to have Sinclair and Londo delayed for long enough to capture Adira himself.

Sinclair and Londo are now an an impasse; from the station records, Trakis can't have left B5 yet, but they aren't sure how to track him down without the possibility of him hurting Adira. Sinclair has an idea: he arranges a meeting between G'Kar and Trakis, telling G'Kar that there is information available that could give him great advantage over Londo. Then Sinclair and Londo beg Talia to help them during this meeting; Talia only agrees because Adira's life may be in danger, and even then manages to set up events so that she doesn't technically violate PsiCorps regulations.

G'Kar, Talia, and Trakis meet. Trakis is unsure about a telepath, but Talia reassures him and mentions that he should keep his mind on the meeting and not on where Adira is. Of course, Trakis thinks of exactly that, which Talia scans and tells Sinclair, who is waiting nearby. Trakis is taken into custody immediately, and G'Kar is left infuriated.

Once Adira is rescued, she meets with Londo again to apologize. Sinclair has convinced Trakis to give her her freedom, but Adira still feels that she needs to leave for awhile to get over the pain of recent events. Londo gives her back the brooch and asks her to come back to him someday.

Throughout the episode was a subplot involving the unauthorized use of the Gold communications channels, which are only known about by senior command staff and the ambassadors. Garibaldi tries to track down who's committing the violation, but Ivanova brushes off the events as glitches. After a couple more occurrances, Garibaldi manages to listen to the last transmission: Ivanova has called the hospital on Earth where her father lays dying. Her father apologizes for his apathy toward her after her mother died, and then he dies. Sometime later, Garibaldi tells Ivanova that he did discover the transmissions were just a glitch, but that he doesn't think there will be any more of them. Ivanova agrees.

This episode gives Londo a very human side, making him very sympathetic to the audience. We can enjoy his fun with Adira, and even after she betrayed him, he doesn't want her to be hurt. Since we are going to see Londo do some very bad things later on in the series, I think it's important to make him likeable in the beginning, so we can sympathize more with his downfall.

Londo continues to have some of the best lines, calling Vir a "moon-faced assassin of joy" and warning him not to give away the homeworld during negotiations. Vir is still somewhat of a buffoon; watching Sinclair's annoyance grow as Vir continued to play a video game was a hoot.

One problem I had with the plot: how did Trakis know about Londo's purple files? I can't imagine they would be something Londo would advertise or mention in casual conversation. Do all Centauri have such files? Even so, I wouldn't think they would all be called the same thing. G'Kar was left looking like a fool after the fake meeting, which will not endear Sinclair to him. It's a risky thing for Sinclair to do, when he has to work with G'Kar.

The subplot involving the Gold channel transmissions dragged a bit, although it was logically set up. In the end, though, it really told us a lot about Ivanova. First, we can see that she is extremely private. One would think that if she had told Sinclair about the situation, he would have allowed her to use the Gold channels, but I don't think she wanted anyone to know. Even after Garibaldi tacitly tells her that he does know, she doesn't want to speak about it.

We also find out more about her family history, which is Russian-tragic. We already knew her mother committed suicide. Now we find out that her brother was killed in the Earth-Minbari war, and she joined EarthForce over her father's objections - presumably he didn't want to lose her last family member. Her father's profession of love and pride must be bittersweet, coming from him on his deathbed. She no longer has any ties to anyone - is B5 her family now? Clearly her job is going to become even more important to her.

A small point: Talia agrees to violating PsiCorps regulations in spirit, if not in letter, for what she considers to be a matter of life-and-death. This seems to be a small broadening of her belief that PsiCorps is right in all things.

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