Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "The Parliament of Dreams"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Parliament of Dreams"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Jim Johnston
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: January 28, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Babylon 5 hosts a festival demonstrating the dominant religious beliefs of each culture.

As the episode opens, the station is riotously busy because of the Earth Alliance's cultural festival. Each species has been invited to the station to hold a demonstration of their dominant religious beliefs in the effort to further interspecies relations and understanding. Sinclair and Garibaldi have to deal with the headaches involved with the administration of the festival.

Garibaldi sees Catherine Sakai, an old lover of Sinclair's, come aboard the station and warns Sinclair about her. This shows us the strength of their friendship, that Garibaldi is acting as Sinclair's "wingman". Although I have to say from Garibaldi's solemn warning, I expected matters between Sinclair and Catherine to be much tenser.

Meanwhile, G'Kar receives a message by courier from a dying rival of his, warning him that upon his rival's death, his remaining estate will be used to assassinate G'Kar. The dying Narn warns G'Kar that the assassin is closer than he could ever suspect, and that G'Kar will be dead within 48 hours. G'Kar's former aide had just died under unusual circumstances, and her replacement, Na'toth, shows up just in time to fall under G'Kar's full suspicion. Fortunately, Na'toth is a very level-headed thinker, and when G'Kar explains the situation to her, she asks him if he's received any of the typical warning signs from the assassins' guild. He has not.

The first religious display we see is from the Centauri. It consists of a raucous, drunken feast. The feast is traditionally held at the end of the year, when the Centauri celebrate being alive. It originated long ago when the Centauri inhabited their homeworld along with another sentient race, the Xon, and were fighting for survival; at the end of each year they celebrated how many Centauri had survived. The Centauri long ago exterminated the last of the Xon. (I love Londo's joke about what the last Xon said before he died.)

Londo is, of course, completely drunk. Ivanova in particular seems to be having a great time - perhaps a little release after her father's death? Delenn isn't quite sure what to make of the festivities, and Garibaldi is only barely tolerant of them. (This makes more sense when we learn that Garibaldi is an alcoholic - he can't enjoy being around so much temptation.) As Londo passes out crawling over the table, Sinclair slips out to find Catherine.

Sinclair and Catherine renew acquaintances awkwardly. They apparently have had an on-again-off-again relationship for some years. Sinclair invites her to dinner. At dinner, they discuss how they keep getting together and breaking up, and how it's just not worth doing it all again.

G'Kar wakes up to find a black flower on his pillow, a sign from the assassins' guild. He nearly panics, and his overly cautious behavior is funny. He orders Na'toth to find the courier that brought him the death-message. Then he goes off to hire a black market bodyguard before he has to attend the Minbari religious demonstration.

Delenn's aide, Lennier, has just arrived. He confirms what we had learned in "Soul Hunter", that Delenn is a member of the Grey Council. Delenn orders him not to mention it to anyone on the station. Lennier is extremely deferent and meek, and obviously hasn't been offworld much, since he gawks quite a bit at the things on the station.

The Minbari religious demonstration is extremely ritualized and based on a story from their history. Delenn gives each of the main characters a small fruit to eat - we can see G'Kar switch his with Ivanova's. She seems to fixate on Sinclair as she finishes the ceremony and commands them to eat the fruit.

After the Minbari ceremony, G'Kar is furious that his bodyguard didn't show up. Na'toth says he's in G'Kar's bedroom - where G'Kar finds him dead, with a black flower beside him. He notifies Garibaldi, but claims to have no prior knowledge of who the dead being is.

Catherine is some kind of space prospector, searching for planetoids that have items of value, and then selling their locations to interested companies. During some business, her customers inform her that a previous deal they made turned out to be very lucky, since an extremely valuable mineral was discovered on the planetoid. Catherine's share of the profits is considerable. In her excitement, she buys some goodies and heads to Sinclair's quarters. Sinclair isn't sure they should be starting things again, but they can't keep their hands off each other.

Meanwhile, Na'toth has finally found the message courier, Tu'pari. When G'Kar speaks to him alone, he convinces G'Kar that Na'toth is the assassin. Then while G'Kar is distracted, Tu'pari knocks G'Kar unconscious and takes him to a secluded part of the station. G'Kar wakes up to find "pain givers" on him - devices that impart a painful shock. Tu'pari is obviously the assassin, and he talks a bit about how his assignment is to make G'Kar's life painful until he is killed at the appointed hour.

Na'toth returns to G'Kar's quarters and cleverly deduces what has happened and where G'Kar is. She approaches Tu'pari and tries to convince him that she is the backup assassin in case Tu'pari fails. Tu'pari is unconvinced, even after Na'toth kicks the crap out of G'Kar. Tu'pari is right to be suspicious, but it's too late since Na'toth's beating broke the pain givers. G'Kar comes roaring at Tu'pari and beats him senseless. When Tu'pari comes to, the three of them are in the departure area of the station. G'Kar and Na'toth convince Tu'pari that he has been unconscious so long that he has missed his assassination deadline; that, plus the money G'Kar put into his account, will convince the assassins' guild that he has betrayed them and they will kill him. G'Kar and Na'toth jovially show Tu'pari off the station.

Catherine has to leave the station on business, but promises she'll be back soon. She and Sinclair seem committed to try to make their relationship work this time.

Sinclair has to finish the arrangements for the demonstration of Earth's religious beliefs, keeping the ambassadors waiting. Finally, he ushers them into a long room where he introduces them to dozens of humans, each representing a different Earth religion.

This episode has lots of interesting bits in it, but doesn't really end up going anywhere. The plot involving G'Kar's assassination is played for laughs too much to be taken seriously. However, we do learn some tidbits about G'Kar: he has a "taste" for Earth women; he will not give his enemy the satisfaction of crying out with pain. G'Kar was once on the ruling council of the Narn. Is he still? If so, we could ask the same question that's been asked of Delenn: what's he doing as an ambassador? Is it a secret that he is/was on the council? I do enjoy the straightforwardness of Na'toth - she has good strength of character to not take any of G'Kar's crap.

My opinion of the relationship between Sinclair and Catherine Sakai is so-so. I like how it is portrayed relatively realistically, with ups and downs. However, I've never thought that the actress portraying Catherine was very good.

Delenn's performance in the Minbari religious ceremony is what generates the most buzz in this episode, especially since Catherine says it could be taken as a marriage ceremony. However, since that turns out to be a red herring, the ceremony doesn't seem as significant. Clearly Delenn thinks that Sinclair is someone important and emphasizes that in the ceremony, but we already knew that.

It's a little strange that we didn't see a Narn ceremony. Was it held off-camera, or did the Narn's not present one?

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