Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Lines of Communication"

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Episode Information

Title: "Lines of Communication"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: John Flinn III
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: January 11, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Franklin and Marcus meet with the resistance leaders on Mars; Delenn learns about strife on her homeworld.

On Mars, Franklin and Marcus are still cooling their heels, waiting for the resistance leaders to arrive for the meeting. The situation is desperate for the resistance: Earth Force is very steadily retaking land and quashing the resistance. Some resistance fighters are ready to take more drastic measures, as the hotel Franklin and Marcus were staying at is bombed, and civilians are killed. Number One is furious at the unauthorized bombing, but she realizes the situation is getting too desperate for her to keep control over.

When the meeting finally starts, Franklin takes the lead, giving Sheridan's offer of an alliance to overturn President Clark. He says that Sheridan needs them to be prepared to carry out his orders, but at least the fight will be coordinated and not senseless - as bombing civilians would be. Franklin says Sheridan orders them to stop bombing civilians. Finally, Franklin says that Sheridan promises that Mars will be free once Clark is overthrown. One of the resistance leaders scoffs at Sheridan's apparently ability to do anything, which leads to a great retort by Franklin: if Sheridan said he was going to grow wings and fly to New York City, Franklin would just ask him to stop off for some bagels on the way. Franklin clearly has no problem using Sheridan's new mystique to his advantage.

Frankly, I think the terms of Sheridan's alliance are pretty one-sided (in that Sheridan's calling the shots), but the Mars resistance really doesn't have any other hope, so they agree. Number One later calls Franklin on the improvisation of adding the restriction on bombings (since Sheridan couldn't have known about it), but she's smart enough to appreciate the support when it doesn't undermine her. Furthermore, she invites Franklin (only) to dinner, and we eavesdrop later on more romance between them.

Back on B5, news has been coming in about random attacks by an unknown race on many border planets. Forell, a Minbari visiting Delenn, says that even some minor Minbari allies have been attacked, and the Warrior Caste has not deigned to protect them. Delenn takes a small fleet of White Star ships to investigate the takes, along with Lennier and Forell.

While Delenn is gone, Sheridan hardly knows what to do with himself. He's getting madder and madder about Clark's propaganda on ISN, and he finally comes up with a way to counteract it. He wakes up Ivanova in the middle of the night to announce that he's going to turn the war room into a broadcast center. She's going to be the Voice of the Resistance, sending out messages with true information about Clark's policies and military actions. Ivanova is just thrilled.

While Delenn's fleet in en route, Forell tells her more about the conflict between the castes. The disbanding of the Grey Council has let their society gradually fall apart. The Warrior Caste in particular seems to be pushing this, although our view may be biased since we're getting the news through the Religious Caste. In one polar city, the Warrior Caste forced all members of the Religious Caste out of the city, where most perished in the poor conditions before they could reach another city. The victims included Forell's family. Delenn is shocked and saddened that the situation has gotten so bad.

When the fleet arrives at the site of an attack, they find unknown ships attacking a Pak'ma'ra ship. When Delenn orders Lennier to contact the unknown ships, the responding message is in Minbari - apparently they have some knowledge of the Minbari. Before Delenn and Lennier have a chance to absorb this fact, Forell pulls a gun on Delenn, saying that she must listen to what the Drakh have to say.

A Drakh shuttle docks, and a Drakh visits the bridge. Forell explains that the Drakh are willing to ally with the Religious Caste, and that such an alliance - even unused - would even the odds with the Warrior Caste and force them to negotiate. Forell says that Drakh are only looking for some minor worlds to settle, and Delenn realizes that this is because they have recently lost their home - Z'ha'dum (in "Epiphanies").

Delenn pretends to be considering the alliance, and tells the Drakh she will return with an answer in seven days. Her ruse is working, until Forell speaks Delenn's name. A Shadow ally couldn't help but know about Delenn's reputation, and the Drakh recognizes her. Delenn knows they will attack as soon as it is safe to do so, and she comes up with a clever maneuver to use the Drakh mothership as protection until they are moving fast enough to use their jump points. The protection is not sufficient, and one White Star ship is destroyed and the others suffer heavy damage. They make their getaway safely, but Forell is fatally injured.

Delenn refuses to allow the Drakh ships to get away with their success and information, and so she immediately orders an attack from all sides. With the advantage of surprise, the remaining White Star ships destroy the Drakh ships. They return to B5.

Upon her return, Delenn can't hide the truth about the castes from Sheridan, and says that she must return to Minbar for awhile to try to stop the impending civil war. She turns philosophical for a bit, saying that it may be good for her to be away for awhile, because then Sheridan doesn't have to worry about reining in his dangerousness when she's not around.

Let me comment on the Mars part of the plot first. As I said, I don't think the Mars resistance leaders had much choice in agreeing to Sheridan's alliance, but it's going to be very difficult to get it to work. The communications problems between B5 and Mars, in particular, would seem to make it extremely difficult to coordinate any kind of plan. Does Sheridan actually have any plans in mind yet, or is he just trying to get all his forces in order? And how does Sheridan expect to be able to guarantee Mars' freedom when they win? Even if President Clark is overthrown, there's no guarantee that his successor will be any kinder in his view toward Mars. If Sheridan uses force for his guarantee, then he's being hypocritical in his campaign against Clark. I suppose he figures it's a problem for another day.

I've been watching this episode and the previous few relatively carefully to notice just why it is that Number One regards Franklin so strongly in the role of leader of the embassy, with Marcus just as an aide that can stand guard duty. I think Franklin's analysis of the Keeper's remains in "Racing Mars" was the starting point, but the key was in this episode. Franklin spoke confidently and persuasively to the resistance leaders, even improvising to support Number One. Meanwhile, Marcus was chiming in with helpful backup, but he didn't really have the "lead", so to speak. It's nice to see Franklin get a bit of romance when both he and his lover are not drugged up (unlike last season in "Walkabout" or season 2 in "The Long Dark").

The real meat in this episode is the discovery of the Drakh and the collapse of Minbari society. The Shadows' former allies have certainly been busy - are the Drakh the same race that have gone to Centauri Prime and placed the Keeper on the Regent (in "Epiphanies"? Presumably the Drakh have ambitions to become what the Shadows were. The presentation of the Drakh in the episode was so-so: the costume and voice seemed suitably eerie, but the out-of-focus look just didn't work.

Delenn was really back in action here in a way we haven't seen for quite awhile. She was quick to analyze the situation between the castes and with the Drakh, and I think she's learned a bit of Sheridan's talent for improvisational attacks. Her return attack to wipe out the Drakh was unexpected, and I have to wonder how it fits in with Delenn's philosophy that every life is valuable. They are valuable until they attack her? I suppose it's only realistic to say that there are some times that you will have to take lives, but she seemed rather vengeful here.

The collapse of the caste system seemed rather sudden. After all, Delenn broke the Grey Council way back last season in "Severed Dreams". I suppose things have been gradually falling apart, but it still seems a bit contrived. We know the Warrior Caste didn't help in the Shadow war, but did they perhaps hold off on making trouble until the war was over? That would explain things a bit. But why didn't Delenn hear any hints of trouble when she was recently on her homeworld for the events in "Atonement"?

I also have some trouble believe the extreme measures that the Warrior Caste is already taking against the other castes. After all, the castes have worked together since the time of Valen, so people should know each other. How can you just kick someone you know out into the arctic cold, just because they are in another caste? The act described (kicking the Religious Caste out of the city) just baffles me overall, because I can't imagine what it's supposed to accomplish except to anger the other castes. Well, now Delenn is turning her formidable attentions to the problem, so I'm sure she'll figure something out.

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