Major Lianna Kemmer in a scene from Babylon 5 "Survivors"

Babylon 5 Rewatch: “Survivors” – Reactor


“Survivors”
Written by Marc Scott Zicree
Directed by Jim Johnston
Season 1, Episode 11
Production episode 111
Original air date: May 4, 1994

It was the dawn of the third age… President Santiago is going to visit Babylon 5, partly to deliver a new fighter wing to the station. Garibaldi is complaining about the fact that they should’ve gotten this fighter wing two years ago, and also that the Cobra Bays are being remodeled by inexperienced crews and something will probably go horribly wrong.

Just as Ivanova is congratulating the security chief on how Russian he’s sounding, he’s proven right, as there’s an explosion. A worker is blown out into space, and another—Nolan—is badly burned. Franklin treats him—he’s too out of it to answer questions. Garibaldi’s initial investigation doesn’t show any signs of sabotage, but also no ability to rule it out.

The head of Santiago’s security detail, Major Lianna Kemmer, has arrived and demands to see Sinclair immediately. Garibaldi reacts to her name, revealing to Sinclair that he was close friends with her father and knew her as a child, but hasn’t seen her in seventeen years.

Major Lianna Kemmer in a scene from Babylon 5 "Survivors"
Credit: Warner Bros. Television

There’s obvious tension between Kemmer and Garibaldi, and she demands that she be put in charge of the investigation. Garibaldi agrees, and then he angrily goes to the Zocalo and picks on a thief named Dagool, roughing him up some before Sinclair stops him. The commander confronts Garibaldi, who explains the source of the tension between him and Kemmer.

Seventeen years earlier, Garibaldi was working on Europa, which was a cesspool of corruption. Garibaldi drank in order to deal with it. His only friend was a shuttle pilot named Frank Kemmer, and Garibaldi was semi-adopted by the Kemmer family.

Because he refused to be on the take, Garibaldi made a lot of enemies and they had Frank killed and framed Garibaldi for being guilty of negligence. It just led to Garibaldi drinking more, especially after he broke the news to the Kemmer family, including Frank’s little daughter.

Said daughter is all grow’d up and has kicked Franklin out of Medlab and has Nolan revived and interrogated, against Franklin’s medical advice, as that will probably kill him—which it does, but not until Nolan fingers Garibaldi for being the saboteur. Adding insult to injury is that Kemmer’s aide, Cutter, finds detailed plans for the Cobra Bays and Centauri currency in Garibaldi’s quarters.

Garibaldi’s response to this accusation of sabotage is to assault Cutter and run away. Kemmer immediately puts out a fugitive alert. Sinclair and Ivanova—who were not present when Cutter showed off the specs and apparent bribe—cancel the alert. Sinclair accuses Kemmer of having a vendetta against Garibaldi that’s clouding her judgment. She counters that she has full authority here as the head of presidential security. Sinclair counters right back that it’s his station, thank you very much, and kicks her out of CinC. (“You are going to resist, I hope?” Ivanova says sweetly.) Sinclair admits to Ivanova that Kemmer will get the authority she needs eventually, but he’s hoping to find Garibaldi before that. To help matters, Ivanova orders a maintenance cycle on the communications array, which keeps Kemmer from contacting Earth.

Ivanova appears on a communications video screen in a scene from Babylon 5 "Survivors"
Credit: Warner Bros. Television

Garibaldi steals some clothes and finds Mollari in the casino. Mollari denies that he set Garibaldi up, despite the Centauri currency that’s among the evidence against him. Mollari doesn’t deny that he would set Garibaldi up if he had good reason—but he doesn’t and he didn’t. In a reversal of their usual positions, Garibaldi asks Mollari for a loan, which the ambassador is amused to be able to grant, as he’s had some luck at the casino lately. Mollari also thinks that this smells of G’Kar.

For his part, G’Kar—who knew Garibaldi was coming, as his spies saw him talking to Mollari, just as Mollari’s spies have no doubt seen Garibaldi sneaking around the ambassadorial wing—also denies setting Garibaldi up. G’Kar admits to admiring the plan and wishing he’d thought of it, but he didn’t. However, the only help he can provide Garibaldi is to offer to let him live in exile in Narn space. Garibaldi refuses, as he’s not that desperate…

Garibaldi’s next stop is N’Grath, but the gangster wants nothing to do with a policeman, even a defrocked one. Then Garibaldi is accosted by Dagool, who’s brought a couple of Drazi along to pay Garibaldi back for his treatment in the Zocalo. Sinclair shows up in the nick of time to chase them off—but then Garibaldi sneaks off when Sinclair is distracted by being told that General Netter wants to speak to him.

The general makes it clear that Sinclair is to provide Kemmer with full cooperation. Sinclair acquiesces, but once again accuses Kemmer of a vendetta. He also orders Nolan’s quarters to be searched.

Garibaldi goes to a seedy dive in Downbelow, evading security and—for the first time in a long time—having a drink. But, since he’s an alcoholic, he can’t have just one drink, and after guzzling an entire bottle, he stumbles out into the corridor where Kemmer and her people stop him with ridiculous ease, as he’s swozzled (and still injured from being beaten up by Dagool and the Drazi—which is totally the name of my next band).

Garibaldi holds a drink in a scene from Babylon 5 "Survivors"
Credit: Warner Bros. Television

EarthForce One is due to arrive within the hour. Cutter volunteers to check the Cobra Bays one more time.

Welch, one of Garibaldi’s security people, reports to Kemmer what they found in Nolan’s quarters after the search Sinclair ordered: Homeguard propaganda and a bomb detonator. Garibaldi, getting more sober by the second, hypothesizes that Nolan is the saboteur, but his bomb went off prematurely, and he pointed the finger at Garibaldi as a distraction. (And possibly as revenge, as Garibaldi had written him up for damaging a shop owned by a non-human.) And Cutter’s the one who “found” the evidence in Garibaldi’s quarters and now is supposedly checking the Cobra Bay. Garibaldi convinces Kemmer to check the bay herself, which she does, taking Garibaldi at gunpoint with her just to be safe.

Before she can start the inspection, Cutter takes her out with a shock stick, but Garibaldi is able to subdue him and convince Ivanova to stop the launch of Zeta Wing. Turns out that Cutter put a whole mess of explosives all along the Cobra Bay.

Cutter is revealed to be on Homeguard’s payroll, and he’s arrested. Kemmer—who is now wearing her hair down after having it up in a severe bun through the episode—reconciles with Garibaldi.

Santiago’s visit is a great success, but Garibaldi is unhappy about the fact that he fell off the wagon.

Nothing’s the same anymore. Sinclair is not at all happy with Kemmer’s throwing her weight around, and is also convinced that Garibaldi is not the saboteur.

Ivanova is God. Ivanova isn’t all that thrilled with Kemmer, either, giving her mock-pleasant bureaucratic runarounds when denying her the use of the communications systems.

The houshold god of frustration. We get a big chunk of Garibaldi’s backstory, finding out a part of why he has such a crappy reputation. We also learn that he’s an alcoholic, and that he’d been sober for a while before this episode.

In the glorious days of the Centauri Republic… Mollari has been blessed by Ilarus, the goddess of luck and patron saint of gamblers in the Centauri religion, which is why he’s able to float a loan to Garibaldi. Mollari says that he has a somewhat contentious relationship with that particular goddess…

Garibaldi and Mollari in a scene from Babylon 5 "Survivors"
Credit: Warner Bros. Television

Though it take a thousand years, we will be free. G’Kar is first seen complaining about the seating arrangements for Santiago’s visit, then later does the mustache-twirling bad-guy thing with Garibaldi…

Welcome aboard. Elaine Thomas plays Kemmer (with Robin Wake playing the little-kid version of Kemmer in Garibaldi’s hallucination/recollection), Tom Donaldson plays Cutter, and Rod Perry plays Netter. Maggie Egan returns as the ISN reporter from “Midnight on the Firing Line”—she’ll continue in that role through all five seasons, and also in Crusade.

Trivial matters. The original title of this episode was “A Knife in the Shadows,” which, unlike the one they used, actually fits the story….

Homeguard was last seen in “The War Prayer.” Both Mollari and G’Kar reference the Narn invasion of Ragesh III in “Midnight on the Firing Line.”

Garibaldi’s time on Europa is fleshed out in the seventh issue of the Babylon 5 comic book DC published in 1995, in a story by Tim DeHaas & John Ridgway, based on an outline by J. Michael Straczynski.

When we first met Mollari in “The Gathering,” he was in the casino trying to borrow money from Garibaldi. That their positions are now reversed is commented on by the Centauri ambassador.

General Netter is named after executive producer Douglas Netter.

This is Marc Scott Zicree’s only writing credit for B5. Most recently, Zicree is the co-creator of Space Command, a crowdfunded science fiction series that features (among others) B5 stars Mira Furlan, Bill Mumy, and Bruce Boxleitner. Amusingly, the main character of Space Command also has the family name of Kemmer, which was also the name of the lead actor in the 1950s TV series Space Patrol.

The echoes of all of our conversations.

“Mr. Garibaldi! Do you really think that I would do such a thing to you—my good and dear friend?”

“In a minute.”

“You’re right. But I didn’t.”

—Mollari and Garibaldi.

Sinclair and Garibaldi in a scene from Babylon 5 "Survivors"
Credit: Warner Bros. Television

The name of the place is Babylon 5. “The universe is run by the complex interweaving of three elements: energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest.” As a vehicle of exposition and backstory regarding the character of Michael Garibaldi, this is excellent. The pain of his relationship with the Kemmer family and the character’s vicious struggle with alcoholism are very well portrayed by scripter Marc Scott Zicree (with uncredited rewrites by show creator J. Michael Straczynski) and by actor Jerry Doyle.

Unfortunately, that’s the only way the episode is even a little good—in general as an episode of a television show, it’s tiresomely predictable, riddled with clichés, and really badly acted.

B5’s hit-and-miss casting has two misses this time, as Elaine Thomas is spectacularly wooden as Kemmer. She only has one bland facial expression, and she has none of the bitterness or ruthlessness that the script insists she has. Her fatal interrogation of Nolan has no bite to it due to Thomas’ shortcomings. And in the end, they have to change her hair to show that she’s softened because the actor herself doing it has proven to be beyond her means.

As for Tom Donaldson as Cutter, he’s practically wearing a sign on his forehead that says “I’m the secret bad guy.” Indeed, Cutter’s status as the real saboteur is one hundred percent inevitable, as he’s the only character with a speaking part who it could be, thus draining all suspense from the storyline.

I’ve never had much patience with stories where a character becomes a fugitive in order to clear their name, because the very act of becoming a fugitive makes that impossible. I mean, sure, Garibaldi is cleared of sabotage, but he’s now guilty of resisting arrest, assaulting both military personnel and civilians, theft (of the clothes he’s wearing), and disobeying orders from his commanding officer. But—as with Franklin last week—Doyle’s in the opening credits, so he suffers no consequences. (Well, except for the consequences of drinking again, something the show will, to its credit, continue to address.)

And then we have my biggest problem with the episode, which is a problem I had with the entire series: we never even see Santiago. Santiago is never seen in the flesh, and his vice-president and successor Clark is only seen briefly on screens in three episodes, finally seen in the flesh very briefly in his fourth and final appearance. These are two incredibly important characters to the storyline, yet they have no kind of significant presence in the foreground, which severely dilutes their impact (especially Clark’s, but Santiago’s, too).

Next week: “By Any Means Necessary.” icon-paragraph-end



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