Dr. Franklin decides to become a leaf on a stream, G’Kar is taught something about leadership, and we are all Kosh. Welcome my friends. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2260. The name of the place is Babylon 5.
1. Second Franklin
I’m so glad Richard Biggs is still around in the show. I kinda knew this wasn’t the end but you never know. It’s also great to have an episode totally focused on Stephen. . .or at least mostly focused on him. Around this time last season, we learned that Dr. Franklin is a Foundationist, a religion in the Babylon 5 universe that came out of humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial beings. This was striking to me because I’d always assumed based on his portrayal previously that he was an atheist or at the very least agnostic. Now that he’s taking a leave of absence/full-on-resignation due to his addiction to stims, he’s connecting back to his Foundationist roots and so we get treated to some more philosophical and theological discussions. Well, more religious philosophy than theology.
“Walkabout” is a fascinating look into Stephen’s belief system but more importantly, where he believes himself to be. He’s lost, a fact that was apparent to everyone but himself for most of the season, but his lost-ness is also manifested through the Foundationist idea of “becoming too engrossed in the world.” Stephen, in his capacity as a Doctor, is forced to care more about others than himself. He literally sacrifices himself and his health for the health of his patients and in the process, forgets why he was originally working so hard so much.
He started taking stims to help when they were short-staffed and under extreme pressure. He kept it up because “he had to” when there were other ways and other people who could’ve, and should’ve, taken over for him. He came to that fork in the road and the true him went left while the real him went right. Now he’s trying to find his way back.
If “Walkabout’s” placement in the season feels off, that’s because it kinda is. Originally, it was going to air before “War Without End” but, because of the way PTEN scheduled breaks, the original order would have meant that “WWE Part 1” would have aired in May of 1996 and “Part 2” would have aired in Late September/Early October of the same year. Hell of a cliffhanger, eh? JMS and the studio didn’t wanna do that to fans so they moved “Walkabout” to be the “return” episode and pushed its production. This is why “Walkabout” seems to follow directly up on “Interludes and Examinations” rather than on “WWE.”
That said, with the way B5 is structured, this kind of change doesn’t affect much and, honestly, if “War Without End” hadn’t been the two episodes between, I might not have noticed. Plots and characters dip in and out all the time and certain aspects of the show can go dormant for a while before kicking back into high gear. With only four more episodes after this, I think it’s probably safe to say we’ll be seeing more of the good doctor on his journey.
3. Forward the Kosh
Kosh is Dead. Long Live Kosh.
The Vorlons are a mysterious bunch of cryptic assholes. They have mysterious ship writing, they rarely speak in sentences that bring clarity to ideas, and they really, really hate questions. For two and a half seasons, our only encounter with the Vorlons was through Kosh, who leaned much harder on the cryptic end of the scale than the asshole side. This new ambassador, who insists we call them Kosh as well, leans much harder on the asshole side, though they also somehow ups the cryptic as well.
There’s a lot to unpack with Nu Kosh and a lot of questions I have, some conceptual, some narrative driven, but I wanted to talk instead about Nu Kosh’s design. It’s very similar to but noticeably different from Kosh’s and keys us into the differences between the two. For one, the camera face of the suit is more angular than Kosh’s, making Nu Kosh seem more menacing. I was also struck by how Nu Kosh’s shoulder-pad-things look more like giant tusks. Combine these visuals with the darker blues & greens of the suit itself and you’ve got yourself a spooky newContinued below
Oh and Nu Kosh force chokes Lyta Alexander for. . .reasons? I bet it has something to do with the time Kosh and Lyta swapped soul tendrils or something.
4. Prelude to G’Quan
G’Kar has always been a good leader. He’s charismatic, he cares about his community, and he has a sharp mind. He’s also, like all of us really, a bit self-centered. He can also be a humongous knob-head but that’s besides that point. “Walkabout” challenges G’Kar on his leadership skills but, more so, it challenges complacency and the individualist “what do I get out of this” mentality that prevents many large-scale projects from coming to fruition. The captain of the Narn heavy cruiser does not want to help Sheridan because it might cause them to lose the ship and thus make the Narns’ ultimate goal of taking back Homeworld. The others in the council are like that as well, as seen by their hesitation.
Heck, the only reason they joined was because the Vorlon’s were shown offering support and proving that it wasn’t a lost cause. The irony is that the only reason they might have been a lost cause is precisely because they were not willing to offer aid. If one only acts when the outcome is guaranteed, when profit is the goal rather than experimentation, then the things we can accomplish and gain are severely reduced. It takes Garibaldi berating G’Kar in the middle of the night and throwing the Book of G’Quan in his face (figuratively) to spur him into action. To apply the leadership and oratorical skills he has to motivate the other captains to send their ships to Sheridan’s aid. It is a risk but without taking that risk, then failure is almost certain.
5. Fame and Earth
At one point on Stephen’s journey through the station, he encounters a singer named Cailyn. She’s working at a bar, singing blues and jazz, and the two of them have a brief fling, a real heart to heart, and some complication that makes the whole thing sad and tragic. It’s a trope as old as drama TV, and not always exactly true to life, but I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. The tragedy, the resonance, the drama. It’s always great to watch, though I did not love watching Stephen making remarks about how “she shouldn’t be down here with a voice like that.” It felt condescending but, then again, that is who Stephen is.
If three seasons have taught us anything about him, it’s that he has a problem seeing past his own preconceived notions and conviction that he is correct. Part of his walkabout, I presume, will be about confronting those parts of himself. That journey began here as he learnt that not everything is about him and that sometimes, what makes one happy and what makes others happy cannot be found in the biggest room imaginable.
Oh, and the actress who played Cailyn? That’s Erica Gimpel, who played Coco on the TV adaptation of Fame and sang the titular theme song for the first four seasons. Stay through the end credits to hear more of her singing. I promise it’s worth the extra minute.
That about does it for now. Join me again in a week for the start of the final four, an entire sector disappearing(?) and some more great dialog on the station that, in the year of the Shadow War, became something greater.
This is Elias. Signing out.
Best Line of the Night:
Garibaldi: “You’re a doctor. A scientist.”
Garibaldi: “And what?”