Ivanova and Mollari in Babylon 5 "The Parliament of Dreams"

Babylon 5 Rewatch: “The Parliament of Dreams”

“The Parliament of Dreams”
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Jim Johnston
Season 1, Episode 5
Production episode 108
Original air date: February 23, 1994

It was the dawn of the third age… It’s a festival of religions on B5. Each species on the station is encouraged to show off their primary religion to everyone else. In addition, both G’Kar and Delenn have new aides show up.

In Delenn’s case, Lennier is very honored to be tapped for this duty, as he was just a novitiate prior to this. He also refers to Delenn by her title of “Satai,” which she gently asks him not to continue to do, as her role on the Grey Council isn’t generally known, and she wants to keep it that way. She also urges him to stop looking down at the floor in her presence, as he’ll be constantly walking into things.

G’Kar, meantime, has bigger problems. One of his greatest rivals, Du’Rog, has sent him a message via a courier: he’s dying, and his final act before death is to put out an assassination contract on G’Kar in revenge for all the indignities G’Kar has visited upon him. Du’Rog threatens that the assassin could be anyone, including someone very close to him. It’s right after he finds this out that his new aide, Na’Toth, shows up.

We see a popular Centauri religious rite: a drunken feast, celebrating the fact that the Centauri survived their war against the other species that shared their homeworld, the Xon. When Ivanova asks about the statues on the table, Mollari explains that they’re the Centauri gods, and he climbs up onto the table and explains who they each are before he, as Vir says, “becomes one with his inner self,” prompting Garibaldi to say that he’s passed out, and Vir says, without missing a beat, “That, too.”

Ivanova and Mollari in Babylon 5 "The Parliament of Dreams"

Catherine Sakai has come on board the station. Garibaldi warns Sinclair about it. It turns out that Sinclair and Sakai have a past, and Sakai insists that she had no idea until she arrived that Sinclair was in charge of the station, or she never would have docked, as she had promised to stay away. However, Sinclair says there’s no need to keep that promise, as he and Sykes have broken up. He invites her to dinner at Fresh Air so they can catch up. That dinner is a mix of amusing and awkward, as they both have done this dance before, going back to when they first met at the Academy and their time serving together: they catch up, they ask about each others’ families, they fall into bed, something goes horribly wrong, and they go their separate ways. Both question whether they should go through all that again.

G’Kar decides to take Na’Toth into his confidence regarding the assassination. Na’Toth points out that, if there really was an assassin, they’d be from the Thenta Makur (the assassin’s guild), and they’d leave a black flower to warn him. G’Kar has seen no such thing. Na’Toth also wonders why G’Kar is taking her into his confidence, since she herself is an obvious suspect for being the assassin, what with her assignment and the fact that Du’Rog was a sponsor of Na’Toth’s father. G’Kar quotes a human saying that he thinks Earthers stole from the Narn: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

The next morning, G’Kar awakens to a black flower in his bed. He charges Na’Toth with finding Tu’Pari, the courier who brought the message from Du’Rog, then he goes to N’Grath to hire a bodyguard. G’Kar can’t go to Garibaldi or report this officially, as his specific relationship with Du’Rog might come out. For his own part, G’Kar could give a damn if it does come out, but the revelations would compromise his position as Narn ambassador.

Delenn, Lennier, and some other Minbari perform a Rebirth Ceremony for the station’s VIPs. Part of the ceremony involves Delenn giving piece of fruit to each of the audience. (G’Kar, notably, surreptitiously switches his fruit with Ivanova’s, just in case.) It ends with Delenn giving Sinclair a significant look and saying, “And so it begins.” That’s not ominous at all…

Delenn, Lennier, and some other Minbari perform a Rebirth Ceremony in Babylon 5 "The Parliament of Dreams"

G’Kar storms to his quarters, livid that the Riar bodyguard he’d hired from N’Grath never showed. He finds the Riar in his bedroom, dead, a black flower next to the corpse. Garibaldi and a security team arrive to investigate, with G’Kar playing dumb and claiming to have absolutely no clue why this total stranger of a Riar could possibly be in his room. When Garibaldi continues to question, G’Kar cites diplomatic immunity.

Sakai finds out that her latest survey mission turned up large quantities of Quantium 40, which is apparently very valuable, and entitles her to a massive-ass commission. Not wanting to celebrate this largesse alone, Sakai goes to Sinclair’s quarters with a basket of food and a bottle of wine. After a few false starts, they wind up in bed together.

Na’Toth finds Tu’Pari and brings him to G’Kar’s quarters. The ambassador immediately interrogates him, and Tu’Pari admits that the data crystal he delivered came from Na’Toth’s father. G’Kar contacts the Narn homeworld demanding that Na’Toth be recalled. The person on the other end apologizes for the lateness of the courier, as he met with a horrible accident while on his way to B5. At that point, the jig being up, Tu’Pari ambushes G’Kar. He takes G’Kar to a remote part of the station with a pain-giver attached to his person. If he gets too close to Tu’Pari, it goes off, plus the assassin has a control for it. He tortures G’Kar for a while, though the ambassador refuses to give Tu’Pari the satisfaction of a scream.

Then Na’Toth shows up, claiming to be Tu’Pari’s backup. To prove what she says, she kicks G’Kar repeatedly. Tu’Pari is still skeptical, a skepticism that is justified when G’Kar jumps him, Na’Toth’s kicks having destroyed the pain-giver. Na’Toth injects Tu’Pari with a sedative that keeps him unconscious past the deadline for G’Kar’s assassination. In addition, G’Kar transfers money into Tu’Pari’s account. It will appear to the guild that he violated the contract, which is a big no-no. Tu’Pari leaves the station in fear and disgrace.

Sakai goes off to her next gig, but promises to work out of the station going forward so she and Sinclair can make a go of it.

Sinclair, who has been struggling with how to do for Earth what Delenn did for the Minbari and Mollari did for the Centauri, finally presents the command staff and the ambassadors with the Religion Receiving Line: the first person he introduces is an atheist, then a Roman Catholic priest, then a Zen Buddhist, then a Muslim, then an Orthodox Jew, then Oglala-Sioux, and so on down the line.

Sinclair shakes hands with a Catholic priest in Babylon 5 "The Parliament of Dreams"

Nothing’s the same anymore. Sinclair has a fondness for Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses. He listens to a reading of it, and has been doing so since the Academy, to the point that Sakai can quote parts of it to him.

Ivanova is God. Ivanova is the only non-Centauri who seems to be enjoying the Centauri feast.

The household god of frustration. Garibaldi opens the episode confiscating a Drazi knife, refusing to accept the Drazi’s claim that it’s part of his religion. The security chief thinks the whole religious ceremony thing is a silly goose and he can’t wait for it to be over.

If you value your lives, be somewhere else. The Rebirth Ceremony, at least according to Sakai, also can double as a marriage ceremony, which makes Sinclair and viewer wonder if anyone wound up married in the eyes of the Minbari after it was all over.

In the glorious days of the Centauri Republic… The Centauri started the feast during their war with the Xon to celebrate those who survived the last round of battles with the enemy. The tradition continued after the Centauri won and the Xon were wiped out.

Though it take a thousand years, we will be free. G’Kar, unsurprisingly, had some shady dealings with fellow Narn, and pissed off one of them enough to take out a contract on G’Kar’s life on his deathbed.

Looking ahead. The Minbari ceremony is the latest in a series of occasions when Delenn is acting weird toward Sinclair.

In addition, the notion of G’Kar refusing to scream while being tortured is one that will be revisited.

Sinclair and Sakai in Babylon 5 "The Parliament of Dreams"

No sex, please, we’re EarthForce. Sinclair and Sakai progress to the on-again phase of their on-again/off-again relationship. It’s established that, some time since “The Gathering,” Sinclair and Sykes broke up, which Sinclair credits to his refusing to resign his commission and go into business with her, as she requested in that episode.

In addition, G’Kar’s proclivity for human women, hinted at in “The Gathering,” is seen twice here, once in Na’Toth’s dialogue, once when Garibaldi finds a human woman’s panties in G’Kar’s couch.

Welcome aboard. Julia Nickson debuts the recurring role of Sakai; she’ll be back next time in “Mind War.” In addition, veteran character actor Thomas Kopache plays Tu’Pari. Mark Hendrickson plays Du’Rog—it’s one of dozens of alien characters he plays throughout the franchise, though it’s one of the few with dialogue.

Trivial matters. After being in the opening credits since the start, Bill Mumy and Caitlin Brown finally make their debuts as, respectively, Lennier and Na’Toth. It’s established that G’Kar’s previous aide, Ko D’Ath, died in an unfortunate airlock accident, a rather nasty way to write out poor Mary Woronov, who couldn’t deal with the facial prosthetics or contact lenses and quit after one appearance in “Born to the Purple.”

The Narn do not participate in the ceremony of religion-showing-off. We’ll learn more about the Narn faiths in “By Any Means Necessary.”

The echoes of all of our conversations.

“Are you Ambassador G’Kar?”

“This is Ambassador G’Kar’s quarters. This is Ambassador G’Kar’s table. This is Ambassador G’Kar’s dinner. Which part of this progression escapes you?”

—Tu’Pari asking a stupid question and G’Kar saying, “Duh!”

Na'Toth wearing human-style glasses in Babylon 5 "The Parliament of Dreams"

The name of the place is Babylon 5. “Gods for all occasions!” Okay, I have two extremely minor pet peeves about this generally quite good episode, and I want to get them out of the way.

One: why the hell is a Narn wearing Earth-style spectacles? Why would a species that doesn’t have external ears develop a device whose entire design is predicated on having ears that stick out on the side of the head? Why would a species that doesn’t have external ears use a device whose entire design is predicated on having ears that stick out on the side of the head? For that matter, how are Tu’Pari’s glasses being held onto his head? (J. Michael Straczynski explained online that Tu’Pari uses human spectacles because the Narn have a prejudice against mechanical improvements to oneself, which explains why G’Kar will later go around with only one eye, but that only answers my first question, not my other two. He should be wearing a pince-nez, if anything…)

Two: Sinclair introduces the rabbi in the Religion Receiving Line as an Orthodox Jew. He and Ivanova then shake hands, and no! An Orthodox Jewish male would not touch a woman he was not married to or a very close relative of in so casual a situation. He’s very obviously neither of those things, because Ivanova’s reaction would be more direct and affectionate if it were the case. And you can’t explain it away by saying that maybe Orthodox Judaism has changed in the three centuries that B5 is in the future, because Orthodox Judaism hasn’t changed in the last five thousand seven hundred and eighty-four years. In fact, what defines Orthodox Judaism is that it hasn’t changed ever. If it does change, then it’s another form of Judaism, not Orthodox.


Okay, now that that’s all off my chest… This is a decent little episode. G’Kar’s plotline is pretty straightforward, although the misdirects are muted by Caitlin Brown being in the opening credits, making it extremely unlikely that she is either the assassin or the assassin’s backup. Still, Brown’s Na’Toth is much more compelling than Mary Woronov’s more stereotypical Ko D’Ath was, and she and Andreas Katsulas play off each other nicely.

Seeing the different religious ceremonies was fun. It’s a little to Planet of Hats-ish to see only one Centauri ceremony and one Minbari ceremony but then have Earth show off how many religions there are. Having said that, the ceremonies are definitely appropriate: the Centauri eat, drink, and are merry because they’re not dead yet, and the Minbari are all ritualized and sedate and ceremonial and stuff. Each is very fitting. For that matter, the Narn not participating is also very fitting, as even at this early stage it’s obvious that the Narn play things close to the vest and don’t reveal much to outsiders. (Indeed, G’Kar’s reluctance to let any non-Narn in on his crisis is a plot point.)

And Sinclair introducing representatives from all over Earth is lovely, as is his kicking off with an atheist (which is Straczynski’s own philosophy). I especially like that he put the Muslim and the Jew next to each other (which he has said was quite deliberate).

Next week: “Mind War.” icon-paragraph-end

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