Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "The Geometry of Shadows"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Geometry of Shadows"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: March 30, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan deals with Londo and the technomages, while Ivanova tries to solve a dispute among the Drazi.

This episode is sort of a "day in the life" episode about the station: the plots are interesting, but nothing horribly significant happens.

A gathering of technomages is occurring on the station. Technomages use science and technology to create the tools and devices they need to look magical. From what we see in the episode, than can teleport, create very real-seeming illusions, and record communications. All of this is done with no apparent tools other than perhaps a wand and hand gestures.

Londo is familiar with the technomages, and wants to get one of them to give him a "blessing", just as the first Centauri emperor received. He sends Vir to arrange a meeting, but the head technomage, Elric, turns him down. The technomages are leaving this part of the galaxy, and so they have no interest in money, or power, or in cultivating relationships with powerful people.

Londo is not one to give up on a favorite idea so easily, so he arranges to inform Sheridan of the technomages' presences and then offers his services in any discussion with the technomages. We can tell that Sheridan is suspicious of Londo's motives, but doesn't have enough information to know what Londo's trying to do. When Elric arrives in Sheridan's office for the requested meeting, Londo tries to surreptitiously record the conversation. This scene is a real treat, as first Londo chides Elric for recording Vir's conversation with him - only to have Elric somehow know that Londo is recording their current conversation and destroying the device.

Once alone, Sheridan and Elric finally converse, with Sheridan under orders to find out why the technomages are leaving and where they are going. Elric can only say that they sense a coming storm, and they are leaving in order to preserve their knowledge for later generations. They are going beyond the galactic rim, and do not intend to return anytime soon. He charms Sheridan by producing an orange blossom, about which Sheridan had been reminiscing.

Elric may have been pleasant with Sheridan, but he essentially cursed Londo for his insult. A "spell" is put on Londo's computer system, so his files delete themselves and his financial accounts are ruined. Another "spell" makes the technology in his quarters go berserk, so that ultimately Londo gets no rest. He goes to the technomages and apologizes, only to unknowingly carry back to his quarters some kind of small, winged animals that wreak havoc. When Elric finally departs, he removes the "spells". But he leaves Londo with the following vision: a great hand reaching out of the stars, and billions of people are calling Londo's name. He reveals that the hand is Londo's, but the people are his victims, not his followers. Brrr!

Meanwhile, Ivanova has been promoted to commander. Sheridan has decided that he needs to sharpen her diplomatic skills, so he has given her her first job as commander: resolve a violent conflict among the Drazi on the station. This is very clever on his part, and he clearly enjoys it: not only does it really give Ivanova experience, but it gets an annoying problem off his plate.

Every five years, the Drazi split into two factions: green and purple. The two factions fight it out over the year - usually stopping before killing anyone - and whoever wins becomes the dominant group until the next split. The Drazi on the station have split up just like those on their homeworld. The difficulty for Ivanova and security is that their fighting interferes with the quality of life of the other species on the station, so she needs to figure out how to get them to stop.

Ivanova gets some of the Drazi together to try to understand the basis of the green/purple conflict, but achieve no understanding and starts a fight that results in her foot being broken. Nonetheless, she carries on. Eventually she learns that there is no basis for the conflict: the Drazi choose green or purple scarves randomly, and the leaders of each faction are also chosen randomly. Ivanova's problems are magnified when one faction of Drazi on their homeworld escalate the conflict by killing some of their opponents. This then happens on B5 as well.

In a final effort to try to find a peaceful resolution, Ivanova goes to meet the Drazi green leader in downbelow. The green leader proposes that Ivanova gather all the purple Drazi in a specific location, and then once they are there, they be ejected into space. With the purple Drazi gone, the conflict is over! Ivanova rejects this plan, but the green leader has already sent a message to the purple Drazi in her name. The green Drazi keep Ivanova hostage.

Garibaldi has been pondering whether or not he wants to return to his job as head of security, having a major crisis of confidence since he didn't know his own second in command was a traitor. When he hears about Ivanova's alleged message for the purple Drazi to gather, he realizes something is up, and searches for Ivanova. He distracts her Drazi guards and rescues her. (The rescue must really gall her, but she was pretty incapacitated by having her foot in a cast.) The purple Drazi are saved.

Completely outraged, Ivanova grabs the green leader's scarf - the Drazi reactions to this are great. She's now the green leader! Once she realizes this, she takes all of the green Drazi to be outfitted with purple. Win one for Ivanova!

This has never been one of my favorite episodes, because I have some problems with both of the plots. However, there's a lot of good character humor in the episode, which redeems it somewhat to me.

First, the technomages. I don't really see the point of an organization that seemingly only exists to use science like magic. I feel like this is a fanboy's dream: for magic to be "real" somehow. What is the point of the organization? Do they search for new technologies? Help the less fortunate? Try to make money? Try to get more power? We don't see any purpose in the technomages.

This problem I have with the technomages is amplified by what they are doing in this episode: leaving. Somehow their "powers" have told them that there is major trouble coming soon. So what are they doing with their "magic"? They are taking it away from the very species that could potentially use it against whatever evil enemy is coming. Yes, Elric says they are preserving their knowledge. Do they all have to leave in order to do that? It sure doesn't seem like it to me.

The technomage plot has two redeeming parts in my mind: first, giving Londo a little comeuppance in the "recording conversations" scene. Second, Elric's vision of Londo's future. This is the most clear vision we've had of Londo's path into darkness, and it is very evocative. Although it's interesting that Elric says that if he killed Londo, someone would take Londo's place. So although it seems as though Morden and the Shadows have gone to some lengths to choose and groom Londo for their purposes, it seems that losing Londo would only be a temporary setback for them. I suppose many other people would jump at the chance to have the power they are offering him. Maybe we are lucky after all that the Shadows chose Londo, because we know that he does have at least a bit of a conscience.

I do love listening to Michael Ensara (who played Elric); he was one of my favorite Klingons, Kang, in the episode "Day of the Dove" in Star Trek: The Original Series.

I also have some issues with the second plot involving the Drazi. I can usually accept most alien customs without explanation, but I really would like to know how the Drazi green/purple conflic custom could have developed. The completely random split between green and purple does not give either group any advantage initially. I suppose that's the idea - then whoever wins really is superior. But why change it around again in another five years?

The biggest reason I have a problem with this custom is its implications: if the green/purple split is random, then it means that there's a 50-50 chance that the person you love most will be a different color from you. Or your family members could be split up with half on one side and half on the other. Perhaps Drazi don't value family relations in the same way, but they must have some people that they care about, and those people could then be on the other side in the conflict, and ultimately could either be your subordinate or your superior after the conflict is over. How can Drazi relationships withstand this? This issue is made even more puzzling to me when the fighting escalates to killing - I could perhaps accept everyone shrugging of the equivalent of bar fights, but how could you justify killing someone close to you because they wear a different color (that they didn't used to)?

I'm not sure I really believe that this kind of regular conflict in Drazi society is sustainable. I feel like this plot was supposed to be an allegory on the pointlessness of war, but that it was taken too much to the extreme. The plot even seemed to be laughing at itself when we learned that the exclusion of aliens from the Drazi conflict wasn't yet decided because it was stuck in committee.

I am glad that Garibaldi decided to return to security. It was very realistic for him to take the time to re-examine his reasons for taking the job - after all getting shot in the back and nearly dying is pretty traumatic. However, I'm glad I'm not as paranoid as he is!

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