RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Babylon 5: “Knives” (Season 2, Episode 17)

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Lame.

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Despite the fact that a LOT of majorly important stuff happened last week, the episode completely ignores all that. Instead, we start off with Sisko and Odo playing baseball in the holodeck or something. Odo tells Sisko of some hokey spooky crap in some hokey spooky section of the station that we’ve never seen nor heard of before, nor will we ever see nor hear from again. Sisko tells us he likes spooky things, which will likewise never be seen nor mentioned again. He goes unwisely to the spooky section of the station, and finds a dead prosthetic forehead alien, which comes back to life, touches him, and (Say it with me) infects the captain with some tedious energy-based life form.

Meanwhile, Worf’s best friend from way back cub scouts or whatever - likewise never before seen nor heard, nor will he ever be again - turns up on the station. (It must be hard for them to get the beanies on over their head ridges, but I digress). Worf’s BFF mentions that he’s run afoul of the Klingon senate or cabinet or parliament or parliament funkadelic or whatever they’re called, and are about to declare him a traitor. He asks Londo (Excuse me, Worf) to intervene on his behalf, which Londo does, but it turns out that Bestest Buddy really is great and mightily screwed beyond Worf’s abilities to extricate. This results - as it always does - in a pretty lame swordfight in which two middle aged men with only rudimentary stage fighting skills jump around a lot and pretend to be bloodthirsty. BFF throws the fight and takes a dive, and Worf kills him. As he dies, he info-dumps that under the rules of Cub Scout Knife Fights, Worf will now be forced to adopt and protect the dead guy’s family forever, thus rendering them immune from the whole “Traitor” resolution that Parliament Funkadelic passed earlier in the day. As with all Klingon rules of honor, this is entirely capricious, was never set up in the past, and will never be mentioned again.

Meanwhile, Captain Sisko (Bruce Boxleitner, since whatsisname was on vacation this week) is acting increasingly erratic, hallucinating, shoots up his quarters, and talks to Major Kira, who’s not quite as annoyingly shrill as usual (Probably because this time out she’s played by the much less annoying Claudia Christian rather than the much more annoying Nana Visitor), and a couple scenes with Dr. Bashir. Then he steals a fighter…no, wait, they don’t have fighters. Ok, he steals the Defiant and takes it out. Garibaldi…I mean Odo…follows in a….uhm…runabout. Yeah. Sisko goes to the wormhole or maybe some special guest wormhole that only exists in this episode, I haven’t really decided yet, and the tedious energy-based life form exits his body, and knocks him out. Odo tows him back to the station.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Ok, obviously I’m being pretty facetious above, but the fact is this is just a terrible episode. So terrible it could easily have been an ep of DS9 with the serial numbers filed off. I mean, right down to the lame, generic one-word title that means nothing. The A-plot with Londo is a total “make work” piece of crap that totally doesn’t fit anything we know about him, the Centauri rules appear to be made up on the fly and tacked on as an afterthought, and the B-plot with Sheridan is *literally* just a placeholder to remind us of the B4 mystery from 19 episodes back. (So you know it’ll be resolved in the future. 21 episodes in the future, to be specific.)

Worst of all, *nothing* in this episode matters. There’s no consequences. After a couple arc-heavy episodes in a row, and a format-breaker as well, I understand the desire to relax and do a standalone, but this one stands so far alone it may as well be part of an unrelated series.

That said, there are some good bits: Playing baseball in the station was neat (And in a rare example of product placement, the EAS Agamemnon cap Sheridan is wearing is the same one the Fan Club sold a year or two later). The scene of Londo and Vir arguing about Centauri opera, and ending up singing together in the hallway was a hoot. And uhm…well, that’s about it, really. Everything else sucks. The idea of a mobile medical monitor is a good one, and long overdue, but never mentioned again. (And shouldn’t they be able to track a patient with that thing?)

We never even actually find out what Londo’s BFF *did* to warrant the ‘traitor’ thing.

Carmen Argenziano has a very odd delivery in the ep. Eventually I realized he was trying to do a Centauri accent like Londo and Lord Refa do, but he’s not really up to it. He’s got the phrasing, but it’s not an accent, just an odd manner of speaking. Am I not explaining that well? Think of it like reciting the lyrics to a song rather than singing them. This is made worse by having him spout nonsense about Centauri politics. Hard on an actor.

The late Centauri emperor finally gets a name here: “Turhan,” named (Retcon!) after “Turhan Bey,” the actor who played him. Likewise the *new* emperor gets a name: “Cartagia.” He’s described as an infantile idiot. Remember that name. It’ll be important later on. “Ah, but you said nothing in this episode matters.” It’s true. It’s just a name check. Trivia. It could have been dropped in any other episode just as easily.

This is the final episode written by Larry DiTillo. Earlier this year, he wrote “A Spider in the Web,” part of the Talia Trilogy of Tedium. That episode, like this one, engages in some rampant and seemingly-unauthorized character building on Sheridan which seems to have been dropped immediately. In “Spider” we’re told that Sheridan is a paranoid conspiracy buff. In this one we’re told he likes spooky things. Neither ever turn up again, really. Both episodes *appear* to be trying to set up a running sub-arc that never really goes anywhere either: Bureau 13 in “Spider” and the aliens that live in the rift here. Or maybe not. “13” certainly was an attempt, and it kinda’sorta’maybe gets some resolution if you don’t look too closely. The super temporal aliens here are never mentioned again, though it’s possible they *may* have been intended to help out later. But having said that aloud now, I doubt it.

Given the tonal shift problems between the eps Straczynski wrote himself, and the ones by other writers, this is *ALSO* the last ep to be written by anyone other than JMS for quite a while. The next 57 episodes (!) are all from Joe. In fact, between now and the end of the series, there’s only *ONE* episode written by anyone other than Joe. (And that one sucks)

CONTINUITY PORN:

We’re told expressly in “The Gathering” that (A) the Centauri made first contact with earth a century before (2150s) and claimed to be the dominant power “In this part of space,” and that (B) Earth later found out that the Centauri were washed up, and that their height of power had been “A hundred years ago,” IE a hundred years before that. In *this* episode, they make it sound like it’s only been 30 years or less, since Londo and his buddy both talk as if they lived through it.

PRINCIPLE CAST:
Sheridan, Ivonova, Garibaldi (Both with nothing much to do), Franklin, Londo, Vir.
Also-Rans:
Corwin.
Conspicuously absent:
Delenn, Lennier, G’kar, Na’Toth, Keffer, Talia, Zac

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Who cares?

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