SJ Review #514

Episode: 5/14 - Meditations on the Abyss
Director: Mike Vejar
Guests: Ron Campbell (Drazi Ambassador)
Richard Yniguez (Montoya)
Martin Cast (Findell)

Lennier is assigned to a patrolling Whitestar, whilst the political situation becomes yet more complex back on Babylon 5...

The first eight episodes of this, the fifth and final season of Babylon 5, were setting up new plot strands and moving the arc in new directions after the very complete ending to season four, which left very little to explore in the existing parts of the arc: the Shadow War and the Earth War. The first eight episodes set up what is to come: the Alliance's foretold weakening, the Telepath War and the fall of Centauri Prime.

From episode nine, "In The Kingdom of the Blind", we were thrown bodily into the arc. The roots had been planted, and now the arc was growing. Episode fourteen, "Meditations of the Abyss", consolidates the position of season five, readjusting some key playing pieces after the end of the first telepath crisis.

The feeling of this episode is very similar to that contained in the episodes just prior to "Severed Dreams" in season three - that of behind-the-scenes wranglings and unseen deals being struck; that there is something gathering strength just out of sight, building up to an all-out attack.

The quality of this episode was superb; it had the slickness of early season four episodes; a maturity to its storytelling techniques. This is due a great deal to Mike Vejar's outstanding directing. Vejar is probably Babylon 5's most innovative director (he directed the bar scene in "The Face of the Enemy"), bringing a distinct sense of sophistication to any episode he helms. The filming takes on a very professional quality, with every camera angle in exactly the right position to enhance the acting and the script. "Meditations on the Abyss" also contained a 'classic-Vejar' scene: the bar fight in the teaser. This was no ordinary B5 brawl, which we have seen all to much of; this was a *Vejar*-style fight. The music, clever use of close-ups and wider shots and the general laid-back attitude of the camerwork complimented the two Minbaris' controlled handling of the affair wonderfully.

Christopher Franke's music contributed majorly to this episode. Whilst the bar music was excellent, timed to the actions whilst still seeming like a normal piece of bar music, the usual orchestral-electronic score was very good, as well. This was particularly evident during the asteroid chase, where Franke managed to make the music exciting without using the standard Babylon 5 space battle music, which would have been out-of-place on a training exercise; the score was much more relaxed.

Straczynski's script was good in most places; it handled each part of the episode well - there were no weak areas. The only criticisms would be that events were a little disjointed; things did not flow as well as they could have done, and that Garibaldi's plight came across more as comic relief than something to be pitied. This was more than made up for by some typical Straczynskian philosophy, spoken by G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas); the handling of these talky and complex scenes in Babylon 5 has always been exemplary, as Straczysnki is somehow able to philosophise without losing the viewer, boring us, or becoming sentimental or pretentious.

The acting was superb, particulary from Katsulas as the aforementioned G'Kar. He handled his lengthy speeches with ease. The other regulars performed to their usual standard or better. Two of the guests were particularly impressive, hwoever. Firstly the thug in the bar - whilst he had a very small part, the actor carried it off convincingly, far more so than previous lurkers have been. Particular credit must go to Richard Yniguez as Montoya. His character was completely involving and believable; he lent a realism and depth to his acting usually only seen from regulars Katsulas and Peter Jurasik (Londo).

Rating: 7.5/10 - A high quality episode that sets things up for the future nicely. However, it doesn't really go anywhere special, so does not get an '8'.

Points For Discussion:
o Why do the Drazi suspect the Centauri?
o How could Londo detect the bug so easily?
o Are any comm channels private?
o Are they going to find the proof they need?

Please comment on this review - discuss it! The whole point of this review is to generate some meaty discussion. Of course, those of you who know the answers to the Points For Discussion - don't spoil us!


Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.