Five Thoughts on Babylon 5‘s “Day of the Dead”

By | July 27th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

The past never dies but it also can’t stay for long, you won’t believe who plays Rebo and Zooty, and JMS finally gets to take a break. Welcome my friends. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2262. The place: Babylon 5.

Spoilers ahead.

1. C-C-C-Combo Breaker

Only 1 episode in season 5 was not written by JMS and it has arrived! I like to think he breathed a sigh of relief for, like, 12 hours before going back to writing the rest of the season. For the curious, I did a whole write up of this way back in season three but now I can talk in more specifics about the episode itself. Specifically how it is written by one Neil Gaiman.

JMS had wanted Gaiman to write an episode for the series for years but the schedules never aligned. When the fifth season happened, though, he made it a point to get the episode, though it helped that Gaiman had just finished “The Sandman” the previous year. You can tell that the episode was written by someone different and, if you have a passing familiarity with Gaiman’s work, can spot his fingerprints on the episode.

I have to say, though, even with all that knowledge, I was caught off guard until I saw his name in the credits. It slotted in nearly perfectly with the show’s tone and only felt a little more mystical and dreamlike than usual. I think it goes to show both his talents, JMS’s talents, and the whole cast and crew’s in making a world that is whole and can support stories that fit on the fringes.

2. Fool Us. No Bullshit.

Did I ever think we’d meet comedy duo extraordinaire Rebo and Zooty? No. Did I think they’d even be MENTIONED again? Not really. Did I nearly scream when I saw they were being played by Penn & Teller? Only the walls of my apartment know.

Zooty zoot zoot.

Gaiman deciding to pay off the gag from “Rumors, Bargains, and Lies” might be the best callback the show has done. Maybe not the strongest – JMS is very good at the subtle, dramatic callback – but definitely my favorite. They don’t play a huge part in the episode but they provide a nice counterbalance to the drama going on in the A-plot during the second half of the episode.

They get a few good lines in too. The conversation about what comedy is and why they might get into politics was a great defense of the profession (and a great take down of the Senate for the time. In 2022 it just makes me sad how true it is.) Lockhey gets to be us, being absolutely lost on what makes these two funny, and there’s the payoff of Londo finally learning to love good old R & Z.

Actually, they get a lot of good lines and moments. Delenn cracking up at The Machine’s Minbari joke was comedy gold thanks to Rebo (Penn)’s deadpan explanation of how they’ve studied almost every culture’s humor and then Delenn’s failure of an attempt to explain the joke. I was as confused as Sheridan but as full of laughter as Delenn. It’s also a good moment that established these two take their craft seriously. That’s a lot of depth for a ridiculous gag from a season ago.

Even if they don’t offer a lot to the plot, and though I didn’t quite understand Zooty’s final line to Sheridan, at least not for a good while, I’m glad we got to see them perform and be in the episode.

3. And Then I Slept on the Ground

I think the weakest part of the episode came through G’Kar. It’s not so much that he’s bad, just that Gaiman clearly has a role for the character and in attempting to subvert expectations, he ends up just creating a minor head scratcher. What G’Kar knows about the Brakiri seems, at first, to be a lot. He tries to warn Lochley not to sell part of the station temporarily and is so freaked out, he wants to sleep in C&C. At the end, he regrets his choice, showing a lack of knowledge rather than an abundance of it.

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This conflict is hard for me to grasp simply because Gaiman didn’t make clear what G’Kar was acting on. What did he think was going to happen? Did he only know about the translocation of the section? Did he hear wildly incorrect rumors? Or was he afraid of the past returning, and did not realize how helpful it could have been? In an effort to remain mysterious and keep information from the audience, he ultimately turned G’Kar from an interesting piece of the puzzle in his own right into a character in service to a plot.

4. That is You. And This is Me. Look. See.

The bulk of the episode, and the most interesting bits of it, revolve around Garibaldi, Lochley, Lennier, and Londo. Three are visited by past lovers while the fourth, Lennier, gets a less than welcomed guest. I was definitely caught off guard by who each person sees, though not surprised by Londo or Garibaldi’s. I’ll get to Lochley and Lennier’s in a minute.

Londo is visited by Adira, who you’ll remember was killed by Morden, who framed Refa in order to push Londo into accepting his help again. It’s a sweet side-story, giving Londo a bit of a respite before his inevitable descent and tortures as emperor, and while Adira is once again little more than a prop, the conceit of the episodes means that every vision character serves this purpose. Though Adira gets the worst of it, for sure.

What a reveal though. Def thought it was gonna be the first emperor

As for Garibaldi, he’s visited by Dodger, who you’ll remember from way back in “GROPOS”. It’s an interesting choice, especially since Garibaldi is with Lise now – though the strength of his involvement had to be walked back a little, OK, a lot, from where we last left it. It’s partially wish fulfillment and partially a guilt trip, with a small detour into forbidden arcane knowledge. That got a good chuckle out of me.

Gaiman nails Dodger’s “live and let die,” “keep thing simple” attitude from the original episode. It’s interesting to me that she’s not bitter about her death but it’s not surprising. For one, that’s not her role in the episode and for another, it’s not in her character. Plus, this episode isn’t about the injustices of war but instead on the power of the past on us, even when we think it holds no sway.

Dodger is a better example of this than Adira because her presence is more complicated. Adira and Londo’s time is bittersweet, fleeting, while Dodger and Garibaldi feels like a taste of a “what if” and is thus more tragic for the both of them, though not necessarily more sad.

Most CW characters don't have nearly this level of one-off character recognizability

You see this in the way they exit the episode. Or, rather, how we do and don’t see them. Adira remains in Londo’s arms, gone by morning like a pleasant dream. It has to end, all dreams do, and there is sadness in that but there is happiness in just having the dream in the first place. Dodger walks off, leaving Garibaldi behind on the bed after having shared a laugh and a metaphysical conversation about death, happiness and how Dodger had to try just as hard to get Garibaldi to sleep with her this time as last, distrustful and distracted as he always is.

It’s a much harder goodbye; not a dream, not a nightmare, but a memory and a vision. He leaves feeling more whole, filled with a sadness not born of grief or loss but of the realization that good times are fleeting, even when they come back for an encore. Nothing lasts forever unchanged. Not even memoires. How one lives with that is the ultimate question.

5. Haunting of Babylon 5

If Londo and Garibaldi were visited by dreams, then Lennier and Lochley are visited by nightmares. Sure there’s a sadness to both of the previous two but hoooooboy are L&L put through the ringer. Let’s start with Lennier. He’s visited by a newly permed-up Morden.

He doesn’t do or say much, instead being cryptic and kind of unhelpful. To be fair to him, Lennier doesn’t want to entertain what he has to say so even if he wanted to, there’s little chance he would’ve been able. It’s interesting that we don’t get a new specter from his past, instead getting a more general representation of all the ills that have befallen poor Lennier these last few years.

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I like the choice. It foreshadows events to come, which is what Morden always did best, while unsettling Lennier and demonstrating to us that maybe Lennier did make the wrong choice in joining up with the Rangers. He’s angry, irritable, and unwilling to listen. He feels different than he was and not in a good way. He is much like Marcus in a way, doing the right thing at, perhaps, the right time but for the wrong reason. And thus the work is corrupted.

As for Lochley, we know so little about her, anyone appearing would be illuminating for her past. Who will she see from the dead? It turns out to be someone very important from her life from before she married Sheridan, before she even joined up with Earth Dome: Zoe.

Zoe seems like she wasn’t the best influence on Lochley. Actually, it’s hard to tell, and that may be an unfair assumption on my part, because the version we see here is from the end of her life, from her lowest moment. Content warning for any viewers who read this first: drug use and suicide are both facets of this specific thread. Of all the visits, this one was the most devastating. Even though we only get two or three actual scenes with Zoe, Gaiman really lets us feel how painful this is for Lochley, though there is time for some light goofing around (mostly in the background during the Garibaldi conversation.)

But mostly it's like this

What’s worse is Lochley has no idea how to handle this. She doesn’t know what she wants to get out of the conversation and hell, she probably has had some version of these conversations in her head for decades. In this, it feels like we, and she, gets the least out of her time (aside from Lennier and Morden.) However, I think that’s missing the purpose of Zoe.

Zoe isn’t really here to provide closure – for us, at least – or an encore or anything like that, although she does have a plot relevant message for Sheridan. Zoe’s here to develop Lochley’s character for us and, for Lochley, to be a reminder that Zoe was a person, not just a painful memory that is now her passcode. That she struggled, that she had joy, and that she lived.

There is closure between the two, and for both of them, which is not the case for anyone else. I think it’s best exemplified by the final lines they share, which turned me into a sobbing mess when I watched them and when I re-looked them up for here.

Zoe: I didn’t want to hurt you but…yeah. I did do it on purpose. I just couldn’t go on. Don’t hate me OK?

Lochley: I could never hate you.

Before I close out, I did want to speculate for a second. I suspect Gaiman wanted to work with Ivanova and Talia rather than Lochley and Zoe, a phantom from her past we never knew.

While Zoe’s appearance helps develop Lochley as a fuller person, and establish her as bi even if in doing so it means it’s only explored thus far through tragic circumstances, the dynamic and conversation channels the two other characters. It would have provided some closure to Talia’s abrupt departure and presumed death and given Ivanova the time to grieve. Maybe he would’ve picked Marcus, both for plot and practical “Andrea Thompson may not have wanted to/been able to cameo” reasons.

Obviously, this is playing the “what if” game. Still, with Claudia Christian’s departure not as distant as Thompson’s, I could see that being the germ of the idea that brought about Zoe & Lochley’s scenes. I want to be clear: I have no proof and this also isn’t a case of a plan being derailed by behind-the-scenes changes. It’s just pure speculation.

But isn’t it fun to do that every once in a while?

That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for Bryon’s gambit, Londo figuring out that maybe the Royal Court is a den of vipers, and so much political intrigue on the station where it’s hard to remember who you are.

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This is Elias. Signing out.

Best Lines of the Night:

1. Lennier: “Rebo and Zooty are here? Zoot Zoot? It truly is a day of miracles.”

2. Morden: “No one should ever want to talk to the dead.”

//TAGS | 2022 Summer TV Binge | Babylon 5

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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