I watched the other two episodes on the DS9 DVD tonight- "The Nagus" and "The Vortex." "The Nagus," of course, was the early Quark vehicle, and it was far more watchable than later Ferengi-centered outings. (Although Zek's voice still manages to shatter my ear drums.) Not that I have anything against Quark, Rom, or Nog as characters. Each of these three had some wonderful moments throughout the course of the series- just not in the Ferengi-centered episodes. Unfortunately, the Ferengi as a race gradually became a ludicrous parody of themselves. The evolution of Rom and Nog from bumbling or illiterate sidekicks to accomplished characters in their own right was quite lovely however. And Quark's outsider view of the Federation was frequently very illuminating. "The Vortex," meanwhile, was the first Odo origin story, and it sets up Odo's yearning for knowledge about his heritage quite nicely.
As for Babylon 5, the plot thickens...
"In the Kingdom of the Blind"
"I have been in the royal palace on and off for most of my life. Even when Cartagia was here, I never lost my affection for it. But tonight, for the first time... I think it frightens me."
This episode ratchets up the arc considerably between Byron's ultimatum and the goings on in the Centauri royal court. For this shameless Centauri-phile, any storyline that involves Londo, G'Kar, and dark conspiracies in the palace is generally a winner. :)
As for Byron, well, I feel no sympathy for him. Sheridan stuck his neck out for Byron's group over the objections of the station commander, and Byron answered this compassion by violating the minds of every Alliance representative. He didn't even bother to ask politely. From what we see in this episode, a calm, persuasive case- a reasonable request without threats- may have swayed Delenn and through her, possibly Sheridan. There was no reason for Byron to go into the council chamber with his guns blazing. His prejudice against mundanes so consumed him that he damaged his cause permanently and endangered the lives of his own people. Now Byron is trapped, and there's only one way this can end- badly.
Meanwhile, on Centauri Prime, a trap is being laid for another character- namely, Londo. This half of the episode was filled with good moments. G'Kar was a delight. It was indeed "curiously satisfying" to see the Narn stay above it all- the impish way he asked Vitari when supper would be served, the kiss he blew to the young woman in the court, his "correction" of Lord Vole, and his answer to Vole's test, which was so good it deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
G'Kar: "Tell me, Minister, if I were to strike you, which would you be angry at -- the hand that struck you, or the heart that commanded the hand to strike?"
Vole: "Well, the heart, of course."
G'Kar: "The hand has no choice but to do as it is told. It is the heart that carries the burden, and that heart is dead in both of us, Minister. It died with Cartagia, it died in me soon after. (G'Kar drops the whip to the floor) Besides, everyone knows that the true source of pain is neither the hand nor the heart. It is the mouth. Is it not, Minister?"
This was tied with one other scene (see below) for best scene in the episode.
(It's interesting to note the different reactions to G'Kar in the court, by the way. The older members of the court, such as Vitari and Vole, looked upon G'Kar with superior contempt, while the younger courtiers seemed to see G'Kar as a fascinating novelty, an exciting exotic- certainly a more open-minded point of view. Hope for the redemption of the Centauri definitely lies with the young. Like Vir.)
But while G'Kar was gleefully ruffling noble feathers, Londo was learning things about life in the royal palace that could make anyone shrink away in fright. The murder of an ally, the mysterious behavior of the Regent, dark aliens with glowing red eyes, and magically thwarted assassination attempts are the stuff of nightmares. Watching Londo lying awake in bed wondering just what is going on, then panning up to see a Centauri ship destroying a vessel (completely ignoring the plea for mercy) is an episode tag that chills to this day.
The episode's other best scene was Londo's conversation with the Regent. Damien London played the Regent's radical mood swings quite well, and Peter Jurasik conveyed Londo's anxiety and confusion with his usual expertise. And what the Regent had to say to Londo made my blood run cold:
"They like you, you know. That's why they saved you. They say you are just like them. They say... They say you have much in common."
"If you have ever believed me before, Londo, believe me now. You still have time. Enjoy it. Run in the sunlight. Eat, laugh....like a fool. You have so little time."
Londo's haunted "I don't know" when G'Kar asked him what he had learned said it all.