Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "The War Prayer"

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Episode Information

Title: "The War Prayer"
Writer: D.C. Fontana
Director: Richard Compton
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: February 1, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sinclair must stop human vigilantes from attacking non-humans on the station.

We begin the episode seeing Delenn entertain the poet Shaal Mayan in her quarters after a poetry recital. They are old friends, and it's a pleasure to see them talk. When Mayan walks back to her quarters, she is stabbed in the abdomen and branded on the forehead by several assailants. Apparently someone finds her, since she is taken to medlab.

Delenn is furious and unleashes her anger on Sinclair and Garibaldi in her outrage. We find out that other non-humans have been attacked recently. There have also been attacks of aliens on Earth, as well, since "pro-Earth" people have been organizing into something called the Homeguard. Sinclair and Garibaldi scoff at the idiocy of such groups, but their more immediate problem is a sticky one, since Garibaldi doesn't have many leads. Unfortunately, Mayan didn't get a good look at her attackers.

Meanwhile, Ivanova has greeted the arrival of a transport ship in order to take two prisoners in custody: a teen-aged Centauri couple. Ivanova sends them to Sinclair to await the Centauri authorities on the station. Also arriving on the transport is Malcolm Biggs, an old lover of hers that she hasn't seen in eight years. He greets her warmly, but she is brusque with him, obviously very surprised to see him. Later she tells him to take it slow.

Sinclair dumps the Centauri "prisoners" (who had stolen credit) into Londo's hands. The young Centauri, Kiron and Aria, know Vir, who had lead them to believe he was the Centauri ambassador on B5. The two teen-agers ran away because they were both ordered to enter into arranged marriages with old and/or ugly partners, and they are in love with each other. Londo lectures them on their duty to marry well so as to enhance their families' honor and power, and that love is not a factor. After all, he has three wives that he doesn't like, but he's doing just fine. The youngsters wail in typical teen-age fashion about how it's not fair! Vir tries to reason with Londo, claiming that their love is more important than tradition, but Londo is having none of it. He is sending them home to their arranged marriages.

Garibaldi has a suspect in Mayan's stabbing: a dock worker named Roberts with a bloody knife. Roberts openly denigrates aliens and speaks well of the Homeguard, but claims he cut himself on his knife. Unfortunately, subsequent DNA analysis of the blood shows that it is Roberts'. Garibaldi releases him, but under covert surveillance, in the hopes that Roberts will lead him to the Homeguard.

Sinclair briefs Kosh about the situation, but Kosh is unconcerned. After an enigmatic conversation, Sinclair gives up and heads to the bridge. He remarks to Ivanova some of the puzzles surrounding Kosh: if Kosh wears an encounter suit, how did he get poisoned on the hand in "The Gathering"? Why did Dr. Kyle, the only human to have seen a Vorlon, get transferred back to Earth soon after? Why did Lyta Alexander, the only human telepath to have scanned a Vorlon, get transferred back to Earth soon after? He doesn't have any answers, but his discussion to Ivanova reminds us about these questions, which indicates that they will be answered eventually. It's a tease!

Later, Ivanova has dinner with Malcolm Biggs. They discuss old times, and we learn that Ivanova broke off the relationship because she was transferred off-world to Io. Malcolm is eager to rekindle their relationship, even to the point that he is moving his business to the station. Ivanova is surprised, but matters between them proceed well enough that she invites him back to her quarters.

Kiron and Aria visit the station's garden to be alone, but they are quickly set upon by the pro-Earth attackers. To his credit, Kiron immediately tries to defend Aria, but he's no match for several armed me. Kiron is shot, and Aria is zapped by some kind of shock weapon. Only Vir's loud approach saves them, as the attackers flee.

At about the same time, non-humans lead by G'Kar are gathering in the central corridor to protest about the attacks on them by humans that haven't yet been apprehended. G'Kar claims that the suspects haven't been found because Sinclair is protecting his own kind. Sinclair, Garibaldi, and security men arrive, but Garibaldi convinces Sinclair to leave for his own safety. The security men disperse the crowd, but not before two Drazi slip away and beat up Roberts. (Ironically, Garibaldi's surveillance of him may have saved his life, since the surveillants stepped in to chase the Drazi away.)

Sinclair contacts Ivanova for a meeting with him and Garibaldi, interrupting her and Malcolm just after they have arrived at her quarters. They all know that the tense situation on the station is becoming explosive, but they still don't have any leads.

In medlab, Kiron is in a coma, but Aria is fine. Aria refuses to leave Kiron, despite Londo's denigration of their love. Shaal Mayan, who is still recovering in medlab, tries to intercede; she fails, but makes a telling point to Londo: that he has learned to survive without love.

Garibaldi continued surveillance of Roberts in medlab and recorded Malcolm Biggs visiting. Malcolm makes it clear that he's a member of the Homeguard and tries to recruit Roberts. Sinclair and Garibaldi have no choice but to show the recording to Ivanova, who is obviously crushed even though she hardly bats an eye. Sinclair asks Ivanova to introduce him to Malcolm; Sinclair will pretend to be sympathetic to the Homeguard so that Malcolm will try to recruit him.

Later, Londo is contemplative in the station garden when Vir comes to press the case of Kiron and Aria again. In a nice scene, Londo reminisces about something his father said when he was very old, something he never understood until now. He comes to a decision, and when Kiron awakens, he reveals that the two lovebirds will not be separated. They will be fostered by a relative of Londo's until they are of age, and then they will be allowed to decide for themselves who they will marry.

At a diplomatic reception the next day, Sinclair snubs a new ambassador that Delenn introduces him to, and then plants the bait with Ivanova and Malcolm. They continue their "pro-Earth" discussion later in Ivanova's quarters, and Malcolm falls for Sinclair's overture. As a gesture of good faith, Malcolm asks Sinclair to close the investigation into the attacks on the aliens; Sinclair does so in a council meeting the next day, claiming the suspects have left the station, much to the vocal dismay of the alien representatives.

Malcolm arranges a meeting between Sinclair and Ivanova and the Homeguard people on the station, but the meeting will be at an undisclosed location and they will be unarmed. Garibaldi is able to track their links and will have a strike force standing by. Sinclair and Ivanova are led by Malcolm to a storage bay, where the Homeguard attackers appear, turning off some kind of military camouflage. They turn on a jamming device; when Garibaldi loses contact, his team begins moving in.

The Homeguard contingent want Sinclair to facilitate the simultaneous assassination of the major ambassadors on the station, to which Sinclair agrees. They also want additional proof of his commitment to them, so they bring out the new ambassador for Sinclair to kill. Just then, they detect the security men approaching; Sinclair grabs a gun and he and Ivanova duck for cover. A shoot-out begins, but the overwhelming force of Garibaldi's security team ends it quickly. All of the Homeguard members are taken into custody and sent back to Earth.

This episode makes me embarrassed to be human. I don't think the episode misrepresents humans in any way - unfortunately as long as there are humans, there will always be idiot humans. I have always hoped that should intelligent extraterrestrial life be discovered, humans will realize how petty our differences are and finally come together in peace. Sadly enough, I think that this episode is probably more realistic: humans will come together, all right, but only to direct their hate outward. Certainly not all humans even today hate other humans, but the small fraction of humans that do can do horrible things. I find it all to realistic that something like the Homeguard would exist in the Babylon 5 universe, especially since a major war against the Minbari had concluded relatively recently.

I thought that Sinclair's plan to fool Malcolm proceeded too quickly to be believable. Yes, Malcolm would love to recruit Sinclair, but it seems like Malcolm would need more reassurances. On the other hand, I realize that Sinclair needed to push things to try to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible before he had a riot or worse among the alien population.

The Homeguard apparently have friends in high places already, in order to get ahold of the high-tech camouflage they had. Just how far does the Homeguard's influence go? How many Homeguard members are left on the station? How long until they try to expand their influence on the station again?

I hope (and assume) that Sinclair will explain what happened to Delenn. From her reaction at the end of the episode, it would appear that she deduced his plan, but in the interests of their friendship, he really owes her an apology.

Poor Ivanova. Her father just died ("Born to the Purple") and now she finds out that the former love of her life is a violent racist. She just can't win.

This episode gives us some further softening of Londo. I thought it was rather ironic that he scoffed so much at love, given his recent passionate affair with Adira ("Born to the Purple"), but I think he needed to realize that just because he has suffered doesn't mean that the youngsters also have to suffer. And Vir has become bolder, telling Londo that he's wrong!

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