SJ Review #105

Episode: 105 - The Parliament of Dreams
Director: Jim Johnston
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Cast: Julia Nickson (Catherine Sakai)
Thomas Kopache (Tu'Pari)
Mark Hendrickson (Du'Rog)

Synopsis:
A series of religious festivals are held on the station, whilst both G'Kar and Sinclair find problems from their pasts resurfacing...

Review:
After the dismal "Infection", almost anything would have been an improvement. "The Parliament of Dreams" goes far beyond expectations, however, delivering an episode that cleverly mixes a couple of standard, unexceptional plots (G'Kar's little problem with the Assassin's Guild, and Sinclair's re-acquaintance with Sakai) with a particularly intelligent and thought-provoking one (the various religious ceremonies).

What lifts this episode even higher is that even the standard plots are hindled with such finesse that they become something greater; the acting on the parts of Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar), Julie Caitlin Brown (Na'Toth) and Thomas Kopache (Tu'Pari) is outstanding. Katsulas gets his first real opportunity in the series so far to show what an exceptional actor he is, relishing every line and delivering his words with such convincing vigour and enthusiasm that the character of G'Kar becomes very, very real. Caitlin Brown makes an extremely impressive debut as his aide, getting straight into the part within any dithering.

The other ordinary plot, the stalling romance between Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) and Sakai (Julia Nickson) is handled equally well, Straczysnki writing some superb dialogue for their parts and the two actors handling it capably. This is one of the few times romance has been handled convincingly in the series.

The main drive of the episode, the religious festivals, is a real treat, providing some of the most entertaining B5 in the entire series. A particular highlight is the Centauri banquet, Peter Jurasik (Londo) and Stephen Furst (Vir) stealing the show with some wonderful acting, some of which *must* have been ad-libbed; the flow is natural and convincing, and the entire scene is absolutely hilarious.

As mentioned above, Straczysnki's scriptwriting skills really shine here. "The Parliament of Dreams" takes many ingredients, from good, solid SF ideas through to ordinary human relationship problems and mixes them all into a superb episode that has only a couple of flaws, both of which occur in the same scene: G'Kar's meeting with Na'Grath. The insect crimeboss is embarassingly unconvincing, and the bodyguard that wanders in equally embarassing; these two creatures are straight out of tacky sci-fi - this is emphasised because they are placed in a scene with Andreas Katsulas, who is, to some extent, the show's quality made physical.

Jim Johnston's directing is very good throughout, particularly during the Centauri banquet and the very final shot, of the endless line of human religions. That final scene is incredibly powerful; it stays with you long after the episode has finished.

This episode, combined with "Soul Hunter", are the best indications of the potential in the series, which has not yet, by this episode, been totally realised.

Rating: 8/10 - One of the most entertaining episodes of Babylon 5 ever made. A thoroughly enjoyable and intelligent slice of SF.

Points for Discussion, posed without future episode knowledge:
1. Why didn't the Narn G'Kar was talking to on the monitor alert station security when Tu'Pari struck?
2. What exactly happened to Ko'Dath? How do you "have an accident with an air lock"?
3. Was the Minbari ceremony a rebirth or a marriage ceremony?
4. Will Sakai and Sinclair finally get it right?
5. Whatever happened to Carolyn Sykes?

Future Arc:
1. We see Na'Toth for the first time.
2. We briefly see a glimpse of Centauri sexual organs...
3. Delenn takes part in a rebirth ceremony, foreshadowing "Chrysalis".
4. Carolyn Sykes arrives on the station. She would appear a few more times.

Simon Jones,
alt.babylon5.uk reviewer.

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1998 Simon Jones.