Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "Signs and Portents

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Episode Information

Title: "Signs and Portents"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Janet Greek
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: February 22, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Londo jeopardizes the station with a secret plan to recover a valuable Centauri jewel.

Raiders are becoming a problem again in the regions near the station. Sinclair, Ivanova, and Garibaldi discuss options for stopping them, of which there are few. Sinclair orders a fighter wing to be on standby at all times, so when an attack is reported they can get there as quickly as possible. In addition, Ivanova is going to check cargo manifests of scheduled freight ships to see if there are particularly plum targets.

When Sinclair ends the meeting, he asks Garibaldi to stay behind. He asks Garibaldi for help in figuring out what happened to him during the critical period when he was in the Battle of the Line. He tells Garibaldi what he has remembered because of the events in "And the Sky Full of Stars", including the fact that Delenn was among the Minbari that examined him. Garibaldi promises to keep his eye out for any relevant information. This scene is a nice follow-on to that previous episode, as we get the impression that Sinclair has been thinking over what happened and trying to put things together, but hitting a wall. As we've been told (but better saw, such as in "Survivors") Garibaldi has ways and means of doing things and finding things out that Sinclair doesn't.

Londo is concluding a business deal: he had paid a man who finds lost things a very sizable sum of money to locate the Eye. The Eye was one of the original, and now most valuable, symbols of the Centauri nobility, but it was lost 100 years ago. We don't know how Londo got involved with the search for it, but presumably it will benefit Londo politically.

A overly pleasant man named Morden had earlier arrived at the station, having allegedly been out on the rim for some time. He visits G'Kar and asks, "What do you want?" G'Kar doesn't understand the question and waves him off, but Morden pleasantly keeps repeating the question, which drills deeper into G'Kar until what he really wants bubbles out: to destroy the Centauri and beat them down as the Narns themselves were beaten down. When Morden asks what he wants after that, G'Kar shrugs it off and says he doesn't care, as long as the Narns are safe. Morden thanks him and leaves, and G'Kar dismisses the matter from his mind.

Lord Kiro and Lady Ladira (Kiro's aunt) arrive from Centauri Prime. When Londo greets them as they arrive, Lady Ladira has a vision of Babylon 5's destruction in fire. She is a seer, although Kiro doesn't seem to take her seriously; after all, she said that he would be killed by shadows. We see that Londo and his guests are being followed by disreputable-looking humans.

They retire to private quarters, where we learn that Londo conducted the search for the Eye at Kiro's behest. The Eye originally belonged to Kiro's family, but now it is to be given to the current emperor. Kiro describes how the Centauri people are becoming more and more unhappy and the emperor does nothing. Kiro speculates about using the Eye to dethrone the emperor and put himself in his place, but Londo carefully nips that ambition in the bud (or so he thinks).

Morden visits Delenn to ask her "what do you want?" At first Delenn questions him about his motivations, but then something odd comes over her and a triangular symbol appears on her forehead. She hides it, and when she looks at Morden, he appears to be standing in a deep shadow. She frantically orders him to leave, which he does. Once he's gone, she remarks, "They're here." Who?

A freight ship rather far from the station comes under attack by raiders and calls for assistance. Sinclair dispatches Ivanova and the Delta wing of starfuries to assist. We see the men following Londo and Kiro indicate that this is to their liking.

Londo takes the Eye and heads to the boarding area to see Kiro and Ladira off to Centauri Prime. On the way, Morden finds him to ask the fateful question. At first, Londo says he just wants to be left alone. But when Morden presses him, something inside seems to snap, and Londo says that he wants the Centauri Republic to return to being a glorious, powerful empire that can command the stars. Morden seems pleased with this answer.

When Londo, Kiro, and Ladira reach the boarding area, they are confronted by several armed humans who take them hostage and continue toward Kiro's ship. On the bridge, Sinclair has realized that the freight ship's cargo would be worthless to the raiders and that the attack is a diversion, so he orders Ivanova's wing of starfuries to return to the station. Then Sinclair looks at the ships that will soon be arriving or departing and zeros in on Kiro's ship. He heads down to the boarding area to warn Londo and Kiro. His interruption of the kidnappers causes them to leave Londo and Ladira behind, but continue onto Kiro's ship with him and the Eye.

Sinclair plans to let Kiro's ship out of the station, but then to pin it down with Garibaldi leading the alpha fighter wing and the station's defenses. However, the raiders' command-and-control ship, capable of making its own jump point, shows up with numerous fighters. Ladira says that the shadows are coming for Kiro.

What follows is a nice battle sequence between the starfuries and the raiders. The starfuries want to kill the fighters and the command-and-control ship, but only disable Kiro's ship. The raiders want to get Kiro's ship back to their own large ship. Sinclair orders an effective strategy of pinching the raider ships between alpha wing and the station, and then he orders in delta wing, which was waiting in hyperspace. The raider fighters are all destroyed or disabled, but Kiro's ship makes it onto the command-and-control ship, which jumps away.

During the fight, while confusion reigns among the civilians on the station looking for a safe place to go, Morden and Kosh have an encounter. Kosh tells Morden that, "They are not for you." He orders Morden to leave the station, but apparently Morden wasn't very cooperative, as we learn later that Kosh's encounter suit was damaged mysteriously.

We goto the raiders' command-and-control ship and learn that Kiro was working with the raiders. In exchange for payment, the raiders were supposed to support Kiro's bid for becoming emperor. However, the raiders had no intention of fulfilling their part of the deal - they intend to ransom the Eye and Kiro in order to buy more ships. However, before the raider leader can finish cackling about his plan, a mysterious and spooky-looking vessel arrives in their vicinity. It does not seem to open a jump point (like the raider ship did), but just fade into existence. With one powerful shot, it completely destroys the raider command-and-control ship. At that moment, Ladira has a vision of Kiro's death.

After events have returned to normal on the station, Londo is despondent, mostly over the loss of the Eye. Despite Ladira's assurances, he knows that his failure in this crucial matter has destroyed his career. He tells Ladira that he expects to be called back to Centauri Prime within days. After Ladira leaves his quarters, Londo is visited by Morden, who brings him a gift: the Eye, in a very battered-looking box. Londo is ecstatic, and Morden slips out before he can even be thanked.

Garibaldi mentions to Sinclair that he was checking out the list of military men who were considered to command Babylon 5. He says that Sinclair was way down on the list, but the Minbari (who agreed to support the station if they could approve the commander) rejected everyone until they go to Sinclair. Apparently the Minbari specifically wanted Sinclair; now the question is "why?"

Sinclair goes to see Ladira off the station, since he heard that she had a vision about the station. She says that her vision is still there, implying that it concerns future events and wasn't about the recent fight. She touches Sinclair and shows him her vision of the station exploding as one small ship leaves. She says that this is a possible future for the station, since the future is changeable.

This is one of the most crucial episodes in the first season, which hits not only the important issues we have encountered so far (Sinclair's missing memories), but also really sets into motion the events that will be central in the coming seasons.

The first big question is about Morden. We know that he cannot be working alone (he never left the station, but he gets the Eye). Who are his associates? They killed Kiro, and Ladira called them Shadows, so that's what we'll call them. The way Delenn saw Morden "in shadow" and the way their ships fade in and out, it seems appropriate.

What do he and his associates when they ask the ambassadors, "What do you want?" Londo's answer seemed the most satisfying to them, and they immediately did Londo a favor by retrieving the Eye for him. This is not a favor to the Centauri so much as to Londo personally, because it will save his career and maybe even elevate him politically. Just like any politician, Londo knows that he owes Morden a favor now - what will Morden want in return? The Shadows appear to be extremely powerful, so what do they want with Londo? The way the Shadows just swooped in and killed off the raiders and Kiro does not imply benevolent motives in general.

We can partly answer this by looking at the other ambassadors' responses. Delenn kicked Morden out without answering, and he didn't return. G'Kar seemed to have violent desires, but they were limited to destroying the Centauri. Only Londo's desires were unbounded in the sense of having a vague goal (a return to glory) that would be aggressive. It's interesting that Morden did not visit Sinclair - does he know that Sinclair is too "good" to have such personal ambitions, or that Sinclair's authority is too limited to be able to do much with them? We will see in the future that Morden may have ignored Sinclair because the Shadows already have an "in" with the powers on Earth.

What happened during the encounter between Morden and Kosh? When Kosh said that "they are not for you", who did he mean? Just the humans, or all of the species on the station? Whatever happened between them, Morden as a normal human could not have damaged Kosh in any way - how did the Shadows do this?

How did Delenn know of Morden's potentially evil intent and who his associates were? She seems to somehow sense the Shadows, which is what triggered her reaction to Morden and why she said "they're here" after he left. Are some of the Shadows on the station with Morden and not detectable? That could also explain the damage to Kosh's suit.

Another interesting issue in the episode is Ladira's visions. Kiro was dismissive of them, but Londo seemed to take them more seriously, and Sinclair was intrigued by them. We saw that Ladira's vision of Kiro's death was true, so that gives us a reason to believe them. Plus, meaningless visions in a show like this would be very annoying red herrings that would disillusion the audience quickly, so we have to think they having some meaning. The establishment of a true vision here gives us reason to believe other visions (not only by Ladira) may be true.

The problem with visions of the future is that one can't always tell when in the future they occur. So when Ladira says that Babylon 5 will be destroyed in fire, we have a tendency to think about immediate events because we have no idea what will happen years in the future, but her vision may be about years or decades from now. At that point, the situation with B5 could be completely different. But it does make us wonder. In addition, since as Ladira said, the future is changeable, some visions won't come to pass, since events have caused the future to change. If you know ahead of time that you are going to die in a certain place and time, can you avert your death by avoiding that place at that time? Or will you just die in another way? This issue will be tackled a bit in season 3.

This episode gives us good follow-up to Sinclair's search for the truth behind his missing memories. Garibaldi's discovery that the Minbari wanted him in particular to command B5 may give some support to the speculation in "And the Sky Full of Stars" that Sinclair is an agent of the Minbari. Perhaps he isn't aware of his brain-washing or "programming", and the Minbari wanted to be able to keep an eye on him. As we have been told way back in "The Gathering", Delenn is on the station to observe Sinclair, and the other Minbari in "And the Sky Full of Stars" told Delenn that Sinclair must die if he figures out the truth. That implies a horrible secret in Sinclair's missing memories. On the other hand, Delenn treats Sinclair as a friend and someone she trusts, such as in "Soul Hunter", which is not what one would expect if he was a ticking time bomb.

One of the interesting things about this episode is that when it is over, Sinclair is far from having the real story about why things happened like they did. As far as he knows, the raiders had a plot to kidnap Kiro and ranson the valuable Centauri artifact. He doesn't know about Morden, or about Kiro's complicity with the raiders, or that the raiders have been toasted, or that there is a powerful race that has recently arrived on the scene. Being in the dark is going to be a bad thing for him and the station in the long run.

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