Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Ceremonies of Light and Dark"

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Episode Information

Title: "Ceremonies of Light and Dark"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: John Flin III
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: September 9, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


While Delenn prepares a Minbari ritual, she is kidnapped by former Nightwatch members.

The station may no longer be under obvious attack, but things are far from settled and safe, as we see at the beginning of this episode. Sheridan walks through the Zocalo to show himself and help lift morale, and we see a sniper taking aim. The sniper is stopped by Boggs, the leader of the Nightwatch members who managed to stay on the station while the rest were sent back to Earth.

Delenn has decided that holding the Minbari rebirth ceremony (which we saw a part of in the first season in "The Parliament of Dreams") would help everyone heal spiritually after their recent fighting. However, she finds it difficult to gain support and attendees for the ceremony: Londo basically tells her to mind her own business; G'Kar says he's too busy; even Marcus says it's a bad time. Nonetheless, Delenn is determined, and Sheridan has trouble disagreeing with her on such matters.

Some business that Londo is tending to for himself involves meeting with Lord Refa on the station. Londo tells Refa that he's worried the Centauri Republic is fighting little wars on too many fronts - Refa scoffs and says they are powerful enough to win them. Londo reveals that he knows Refa is dealing with Morden and tells Refa that he's concerned that Morden's "associates" are not good for the Centauri. Refa again shrugs it off. Londo finally reveals the coup de grace: he has poisoned Refa's drink. The poison won't be activated until a second element is added, but Londo says that if Refa doesn't obey him, then one of Londo's agents will slip Refa the final element of the poison. Refa agrees.

This scene is great, both in the dialog and in Londo's approach to the conversation. Londo has always had a way with words, whether it is using cutting humor to make a point ("are there any of our neighbors we are not at war with?") or describing events in very vivid terms (the two parts of the poison will join and "have a little party in your cardiovascular system"). Londo is in complete control here, and he sets up his conversation to give Refa every opportunity to come to his senses (in Londo's view) and agree to what Londo is asking. Only when Refa refuses does Londo use the coercion of the poison. If Refa had gone along with Londo right away, would Londo have revealed that he gave Refa the poison? (For that matter, what's the point of a poison where you have to add a second part? Couldn't Londo's agent just slip Refa a "whole" poison instead of just part? I suppose the threat is not as effective.) It's great to see Londo proactively working to protect his people from the Shadows, now that he realizes his past mistakes.

We see Boggs speaking to his followers, assuring them that they will strike soon against Sheridan and the others. Boggs knows that killing Sheridan could make him a martyr, so he plans to strike at Sheridan's Minbari support: Delenn. This scene is a little too expository, but it does showcase the psychopathic nature of the Nightwatch people that managed to stay behind on the station. The sniper, in particular, is completely sadistic, describing how he tortured Minbari during the Earth-Minbari war, and the others don't seem to have any problem listening to it.

Delenn is meeting the captains of the Minbari cruisers in order to given them a tour of the station they helped save. She asks Marcus to escort her to the meeting so that she can get to the bottom of why Marcus doesn't want to participate in the rebirth ceremony. Marcus says that part of the ceremony is giving away something that is important to you, but he doesn't have anything left to give - his remaining family was killed when his colony was destroyed by the Shadows. Delenn almost plays the role of a father confessor here: she tells Marcus he must forgive himself for being alive. This strikes too close to home to Marcus, and he excuses himself for a moment for a brief errand.

His timing is poor, because the first Minbari captain and entourage arrive, and Boggs and his men ambush them all. Boggs kidnaps Delenn, Captain Lenann, and the Minbari equivalent of a redshirt; he hides them all somewhere in downbelow.

The command staff quickly learn about the kidnapping, but they have very little information to go on. Before too long, Boggs contacts Sheridan and Garibaldi (who recognizes Boggs as a former Nightwatch man he's been looking for) with demands: the Minbari cruisers must leave within 6 hours. Boggs has the Minbari redshirt killed in order to demonstrate his sincerity. Garibaldi begins tracking down everything he can on Boggs, but doesn't have much luck; Ivanova begins analyzing Boggs' message to them for clues about where he is.

Marcus is furious at himself for letting Delenn get nabbed, and he runs off to the bar in downbelow where he meets his contacts. He knows the other unsavory people there probably have some idea of where Boggs is. Marcus confronts the leader of the miscreants, demanding information, and when the others refuse, declares that there will be no one left standing in the bar except him (Marcus) if they don't cooperate. This is quite a boast, but we don't get to see the fight scene - we jump to Marcus finishing off the last two men in the bar, with dozens unconscious on the floor. Then he gets a great line: "Bugger, now I've got to wait for someone to wake up!"

Lennier finds Marcus and tries to convince Marcus to participate in the rebirth ceremony, since that's what Delenn wanted. Marcus confronts Lennier about thinking about such a trivial thing now, but Lennier says it's all he can do. Part of the rebirth ceremony is to tell someone else something you've never told anyone - as his secret, Lennier tells Marcus that he's in love with Delenn. Marcus is floored, to say the least. Lennier says it's a "pure" love, and he knows that Delenn is destined for someone else. (Does he have any idea who?) However, such noble feelings might not hold up when it comes down to Delenn marrying someone else. One of Marcus' victims wakes up, and Marcus finally gets some information about Boggs.

Meanwhile, Boggs' sniper underling is getting agitated by Delenn. She tells him she pities him for not being able to wake up from his madness, which nearly gets her shot. Lenann jumps up to deflect the shot with his body, gaining a serious injury. Boggs stops the sniper from further action, but the situation is very tense.

Marcus' information and Ivanova's analysis of the environment Boggs was in during the message has narrowed down Boggs' location. The location is made exact when an area of the station is closed off by Garibaldi's orders - which he never gave. Sheridan quickly puts together a plan.

First, they make it look like they are giving in to Boggs' demands: Boggs' security contact sends them video of the Minbari cruisers leaving. Then they fake a coolant leak near where Boggs is hiding - when Boggs checks out all the ruckus, people are running in a panic everywhere, and gas is filling the corridor. Boggs orders his men to move the prisoners.

Once Boggs and his men get into the corridor, they fall into an ambush by Sheridan and security. Boggs is killed, but the sniper throws a knife at Sheridan. Delenn leaps up to take the knife in the back. Once Sheridan is sure the others are taking care of Delenn, he runs down the sniper and nearly beats him to a pulp. His rage bubbles over from just the harm to Delenn to the harm that the Nightwatch and their suspicious attitudes have done to the Earth Alliance in general.

Later, we learn that Delenn will survive the wound, but Lennier informs Sheridan and the others that the rebirth ceremony will not be occurring, because the time limit for it (since its announcement) has nearly expired. Sheridan decides that they will take the ceremony to Delenn, or at least its essentials.

Sheridan and the others take turns visiting Delenn and giving her their uniforms: the thing they value that they are giving away. Sheridan's secret is that he's realized he's in love with Delenn. Garibaldi's secret (paraphrased): "I worry all the time... about what might happen if I ever let go." Ivanova's secret: "I think I loved Talia." Franklin's secret: "I think I have a problem." Delenn anticipated their actions and prepared a gift for them, conveyed by Lennier: new uniforms. Somewhat ironically, the soldiers of Light are now clothed in black.

This episode is definitely a transition episode, giving us a bit of a break from the intensity of the events in the previous few episodes. As such, it's a little handicapped from the start. However, there are definitely a lot of good points to it.

Delenn plays a pivotal role in this episode, both as the target of the kidnapping, and as the spiritual leader of the others. While I don't think the humans on the series necessarily consider the spiritual side of things to be so obviously important, they respect Delenn enough to go along with her wishes. Her role as a father confessor is much more obvious at the end of the episode as she becomes a repository to everyone's secrets. They know that she will respect their confidences, but how much will she try to influence them if she feels it's necessary?

The secrets that are revealed are a mixture of the obvious and not-so-obvious. It's sweet of Sheridan to finally confess his love, if in not so many words. Garibaldi's secret isn't that much of a secret, since we know he's got a horrible temper (last unleashed in "Point of No Return") and that he also has problems with alcoholism (last seen in season 1 in "Survivors"). Ivanova's secret isn't a great revelation, but does perhaps answer some speculation after Talia's departure last season in "Divided Loyalties"; poor Ivanova has had really bad luck in her relationships. Franklin's secret is perhaps the most immediately compelling: we assume his problem is an addiction to stims, which we've witnessed happening (the last time was in "A Day in the Strife"). Does Franklin's realization that he has a problem indicate that he's going to do something about it?

The kidnapping plot was the low point of the episode, in my opinion. I definitely like the acknowledgment of the fact that Sheridan can't just rid the station of Nightwatch people and malcontents immediately. I also think the idea of the remaining Nightwatch people striking at Sheridan or Delenn is reasonable. However, I just didn't feel like the execution of this plot was the best.

The remaining Nightwatch people were very obsessive about their opposition to Sheridan and Delenn, etc., such that they would go along with the plot. We saw that the sniper, and perhaps Boggs as well, were psychopathic. These people seem like the dregs of the Nightwatch. It seems a little too easy to dismiss their views when we can tell that they are crazy. Wouldn't it have been more effective if they were rational, well-spoken people that really felt they were backed into a corner and had to take a hostage? But they were not presented that way. In addition, they seemed a little stupid, to fall for the trick that cracked them out of their hiding place, but I suppose that's hard to judge.

This plot also made Sheridan and the command staff look pretty ineffectual, as they scrambled to find anything to lead them to Boggs. Without Marcus' "innovative" interrogation techniques, they might not have gathered enough information in time to find Delenn.

There is a subplot in the episode where Sheridan, Ivanova, and Garibaldi reset the station's passwords and codes so that Earth Force can't remotely take over the computers and other electronics. This is a realistic thing to think of. However, this plot also involves the annoying artificial intelligence system in the computer that is turned on when the computer system reboots. This is just silly and grating. I think it's supposed to give the episode a lighter side, but it just distracts and detracts from the more serious events.

A nice detail in the episode is the funeral scene for the people who died in the previous episode. Sheridan's statement to the effect of "From the stars we came, and to the stars we return" is accurate and poetic. This scene marks the last time Sheridan will be in an Earth Force uniform for a very long time.

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