23 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “The Parliament of Dreams” Spoiler Space”

  1. I had forgotten about the tragic airlock incident, was that for a simple casting change? This was our first substantial look at the fun side of G’Kar with his singing and send off to the assassin. Nice to also see Lennier and his relationship begin with Delenn.

    1. Mary Woronov reportedly had issues with the Narn makeup: whether that means allergies to the latex or some such, we don’t know. But she only appeared in the one episode and the character was replaced by Na’Toth.

      And agreed, this is the episode where G’Kar really begins to shine.

  2. JMS said

    “There’s a definite improvement arc in the show; the deeper we got into production, the better the stories generally became, and the better the production values. (With a few exceptions.) The biggest change in the show came once we began writing scripts *after* we’d begun shooting episodes, so that we/I could again see the actors and find their fingerprints. “Parliament” is the first one I wrote after we started filming; “Soul,” “Infection” and “Midnight” were all written prior to filming starting.”

    and I think that really nails and explains this ep 😀

    1. That’s a very good point – this certainly feels like an episode where everything began to click.

  3. I’d have to agree. Now, going alllll the way back to the first Podcast, when you guys were talking about how you got into B5 in the first place, it really struck a chord with me. I was at university in early 1994 when B5 started showing on Channel 4 in the UK. A bunch of us started meeting in a communal TV room to watch it, as we did for Star Trek TNG (running about 3 years behind the US) another night of the week. Initially we weren’t that impressed. Eps like “Infection” certainly didn’t help. We took to only-half-jokingly referring to the show as (pardon my French) “Babylon Shite.” However “Parliament” was probably the first episode where B5 showed real promise. I’m not religious, so by-and-large the various races’ religions as depicted in the show didn’t grab me all that much (though, I’ve been trying to remember if, say, any Star Trek episode ever looked at Belief in such depth?). I was probably half expecting some trite resolution to Sinclair’s problem on how to depict the beliefs of humanity; the reveal when it came was breathtaking and bold – especially in putting the atheist first! I’m amazed they got away with that, and suspect they wouldn’t if done nowadays, some religious group or other (not naming any names) would organise a boycott or something. Instead we have one of the first truly memorable and iconic moments of the show.

  4. On Twitter, Jason Snell asked why neither G’Kar nor Londo have any children. I wanted to put my own head canon on record here 🙂

    Clearly G’Kar shows a great deal of interest in non-Narns, and this implies he is xenosexual. Despite his enthusiasm with the prospect of mating with Lyta, it seems unlikely it would result in children. So the underlying cause of his lack of children seems fairly easy to explain.

    Londo, on the other hand, is married thrice over. He can’t stand any of his wives (‘famine’, ‘pestilence’, and ‘death’), and consequently is unlikely to produce children with any of them. He shows interest in other Centauri, but perhaps their society refuses to acknowledge illegitimate births. Consequently any children he may have would be a matter kept secret.

    Jason also asked why Londo isn’t expected to produce heirs if he is from a high ranking family, and this is a bit harder to explain. Perhaps Londo is not the eldest son or heir to his family’s title(s). This explanation agrees with his relegation to an obscure and unimportant post on Babylon 5. We also know he has a nephew, so others in his family have produced heirs.

    What do you think? Is this a gaping hole in JMS’ storyline? Or is it an important dimension of these two characters?

    1. If it’s a gaping hole, it’s a deliberate one on the part of JMS, who is reported to have declared a ban on kids and cute animals in the show. He uses the occasional child when the story calls for it (“Believers” and “Legacies” come to mind), but the main storyarc itself is wrapped around adults in adult conflicts and situations. I don’t think anyone normally questions the lack of kids in other shows where the main focus is on adult lives, so I’m personally not fussed that a bunch of military people and mostly unattached politicos don’t have kids. We know that at least Sheridan/Delenn and Garibaldi had kids offscreen after the storyarc was done, when it would have been safer to have kids. I agree with your assessment of Londo being something of a loose end in his family tree and it wasn’t important enough for him to have children.

    2. Easier head cannon – they have children, just not ever specifically mentioned? Isn’t G’Kar’s family either threatened or killed when the Centauri retake Narn later on? And if Londo doesn’t have children himself, we know that he has at least a nephew, based on Midnight on the Firing Line. It could be that the lineage would be passed on through a sibling of Londo’s. Just a thought!

  5. One of the biggest tropes in science fiction (regardless of format) is the alien civilization which has one religion/philosophy of life. Not only does this civilization have only one religion/philosophy of life, the entire culture and everything they do is based on it.

    The Star Trek Universe is full of these kinds of alien civilizations for example. And as this episode show they are around in the B5 Universe as well.

    It has already been commented on what a clever diplomat Sinclair is shown to be, and here we see it again. By showing off mankind’s embrace and celebration of differences in opinion on the subject of religion/philosophy he is also pointing out (in a very gentle way) mankind is not a stagnant race but a race always looking for better ways to view things.
    A view point that appears to be lacking in lots of these older more stagnant civilizations.
    Nice job Jeff!

    1. I think it would have been nice if JMS had been able to work in the fact that the Narn have competing religious beliefs (somewhat parallel to the notions of Moses vs. Jesus vs. Mohammed), but there’s really no room for it in this episode.

      And I don’t know that it’s totally cut and dried for the Centauri or Minbari, though it appears so here. The Centauri seem to have hundreds of gods, so anyone can be a devotee to whichever god/outlook on life they choose. The Minbari trace their religion back to Valen, but we have the three castes (religious, warrior & worker) that all have different approaches and philosophies. But there are other races that we’ll see that, because of their lesser importance to the storyarc, do have a monotheistic religion (such as the Brakiri and the “Day of the Dead” episode, if I remember correctly).

      1. It’s interesting that while the Centauri have multiple gods, that still implies a single religious structure where all the gods fall under a single pantheon much like ancient Greece or Rome. So that implies that they have a unified religious system across their race.

        I think it can be called human-centric to say we’re the only planet with such variety of rival religions just as we have many rival countries with distinct identities (Ivanova’s Russian heritage for example). But this could be attributed to our youth as a space-faring race in B5 timelines.

        This is almost always the case in shows like B5, Star Trek, etc. Other races are usually shown as more advanced and this includes unified planetary government and religion. Thus implying that humanity will evolve to the same point in a few centuries.

  6. I actually felt the final scene was a bit more of that “bashing over the head” thing that was discussed in the last episode. I have a feeling a number of people (even in the mid-90’s but certainly now) would be hoping that by the time the B5 era rolled around, we had moved on from religion. What a bold statement THAT would have been.

    As for the rest of the episode, I enjoyed the G’Kar plot a lot and remember watching that ep for the first time and working out who the assassin was before the great reveal.

    1. Moving on from religion within 250 years from now? That’s optimistic. Dominant beliefs have lasted for millennia in our history – I think JMS is spot on that by the middle of the next century we will at least have achieved a point where differing beliefs exist and are respected…at least I would hope so.

      I agree with you – I think when I first watched this episode I had cottoned on to who the assassin must be a few acts before it was officially revealed. But it’s a great introduction for Na’Toth.

      1. I’m actually not sure that in reality religion will necessarily prove that robust over the next few centuries. We live in societies that have been altered by industrialization since a couple of centuries or so ago (and continue to change) in ways that make them fundamentally different from previous societies in certain respects. So it might be that in a thousand years time our descendants will look back on this period as one of transition into a world without religion, which at that point will seem a normal and obvious development. Or not. There’s no way to know for sure, of course.

        That’s separate, I think, from the aesthetic question of whether doing a televised space opera with a lot of religion in it is dramatically satisfying and meaningful. On that point, I think it matters that B5 wasn’t made in a vacuum. It’s the usual obvious point here, but the importance of religion in B5 is probably in part a conscious reaction to Star Trek. It was worthwhile to give religion a prominent role, and more importantly this particular kind of prominent role, simply because it hadn’t been explored in this way in this medium.

    2. I don’t think showing we had moved on from religion would have been that bold at all. Star Trek had already been doing that for years. I think that B5 being a science fiction show that said “look, we went to the stars but we are still who we are, including religion” was, while not bold perhaps, something not previously done in science fiction television.

  7. On the lighter side …

    As part of my association with the Babylon 5 Fan Club Chat Room, circa approx. 1998, I got to be part of a wedding of two of our “chatters” who met through the chat room and ultimately married. Still married, actually.

    I only bring this up because a part of their marriage ceremony was Delenn’s speech during the Rebirth ceremony, along with the passing around (by my daughters) of maraschino cherries to represent the ‘red fruit’ in the episode.

    Oh, and a lovely B5-inspired wedding cake:

    Wedding Cake

    Ah, we be geeks!

  8. Having listened to the podcast:

    There are times when I think that “It’s meant to be like stage dialogue” is a valid defense of JMS. “Don’t touch me unless you mean it” is not one of those times. I somehow don’t think that line would become better by being delivered on stage.

    In fact, the Sinclair-Sakai scenes (IMO) show just how much the effect of the later Sheridan-Delenn romance is dependent on the performances of the actors. (To be fair to JMS, another reason why Sheridan-Delenn works is that there’s an element of comedy to it that’s utterly absent from the leaden Sinclair-Sakai scenes.)

    It’s not just O’Hare who’s not so fabulous in The Parliament of Dreams (this is actually not one of his worst moments). I don’t think that I can quite agree that everyone else is “acting their socks off” either. It may not be Julia Nickson’s fault, but she comes across terribly as Catherine Sakai.

    Of course, that just makes Andreas Katsulas and Julie Caitlin Brown stand out all the more in this episode. One thing I might note about Katsulas: I think that this episode is careful not to move G’Kar too far beyond the stock villain. Its plot turns on his ruthless destruction of a rival in his rise to power, and we’re given no reason not to welcome his assassination.

    But that’s of course not what the experience of watching The Parliament of Dreams feels like. This is down to Katsulas’s tremendous charm. One can’t help but root for him.

    Since I’ve said some nasty things about JMS’s writing above, I’ll say here that this aspect of the story was a bold and successful move. It would have been easy to deepen G’Kar’s character by adding sympathetic detail to make him “more complex.” Instead, JMS played this story as comedy, wrote some good witty dialogue, and exploited his actor’s gifts, and achieved the same effect while deferring genuine complexity for G’Kar to more emotionally powerful moments in later seasons.

    I don’t know that any episode of B5 has such a contrast in the effectiveness of the writing between the A-plot and the B-plot.

  9. Loving re-watching these again, used to do it every year but haven’t in a while and never with a group like this. I’m spotting things I’ve never seen before.

    One of them is in the Mimbari religious demonstration. After G’Kar looks concerned at his fruit the shot goes back to the main ceremony, but if you look over Delenn’s shoulder, top right of the screen you will see G’kar’s hand come into frame and swap his fruit with Ivanova’s. Made me laugh a lot.

  10. Your conversation included several comments to the effect that Sinclair’s receiving line of religions at the episode’s end demonstrates that, on future Earth, religions are diverse and respected equally. I disagree. What it actually does is imply that they are all equally irrelevant: “Mr. So- and-So is an X,” “Ms. Whats-Her-Name is a Y”… shake the hand, say nothing of any substance — no attempt at understanding or dialogue, none at all — and move on. That isn’t a celebration of diversity; that’s mere toleration of each others’ existence. (Understand, I’m not saying we shouldn’t tolerate each other! But toleration is a bare minimum. Tolerance is just being civil, as I see it.)

    In-story, Sinclair’s move is a cop-out, as Erika suggests (i.e., he didn’t do the assignment). Out-of-story, it’s a tacit admission JMS doesn’t see human religion as playing a role in the future, because no real human religion ever impacts the B5 storyline (as I recall) to any consequential degree.

    As for the Minbari ceremony: I wouldn’t sweat the “marriage” aspect of it too much. After all, we are only hearing that interpretation from a non-Minbari; and, as I recall, she says, “It can also be..” – meaning it is all determined by context. I’m not doubting JMS’ original design; just saying it’s pretty easily explained away.

  11. Okay, so this is an old thread, but I’ve just got through all the episodes and podcasts in two weeks flat (it’s a bit of shock having to wait TWO WEEKS for the next one!) and was surprised no one else had picked this up. The song G’Kar sings to the fish is the same one that he sings in the bombed lift in ‘Convictions’ in S3, albeit with slightly-changed words. It’s a tiny thing, but a nice bit of continuity – he doesn’t know lots of human songs, but this is obviously a favourite! That’s just about my favourite Londo & G’Kar episode, so it jumped out at me when I saw ‘Parliament of Dreams’. I love that B5 does this, where something inconsequential about a character from years ago suddenly pops up again.

    [Of course, I mostly wanted to put that here so that when it comes up in the S3 podcast, I can say “Called It!” :)]

  12. Knowing what I know about B5 and where Sinclair’s storyline goes, the comment that the Minbari Rebirth Ceremony could be construed as a marriage rite has never made sense to or sat well with me, primarily because it has never struck me as being in-character for Delenn’s interest in Sinclair to have been romantic in any way, either before the events of this episode or afterwards.

    I’ve also never really liked the ending coda of Sinclair presenting a line of religious leaders, largely because it feels like a cop-out given that it’s the only thing in B5 that isn’t actually reflective of Earth culture given that the entire point of the festival was to present each culture’s DOMINANT religion.

    Regarding the episode’s introduction of Catherine Sakai, I’ve always felt that she worked far better as a character than the similarly-named Carolyn Sykes (yet another reason why The Gathering has always felt obsolete to me), and have also always seen her as a ‘precursor’ counterpart to Anna Sheridan, especially given where her onscreen story goes in future episodes. I also think Julia Nickson and Michael O’Hare have far more chemistry than O’Hare and the actress who played Carolyn in The Gathering, which helps make their interactions make sense narratively and gives the audience a reason to care about her character.

  13. I’d forgotten about the Carolyn Sykes / Catherine Sakai thing. Oof. JMS, man: I love you, but I hope you eventually learned to stop using the same initials over and over. *cough* Jeff Sinclair John Sheridan Joe Straczynski *cough*

    In Sinclair’s & Sakai’s defense: Some people, even those who are glib conversationalists in most circumstances, wind up spouting overwrought gibberish when faced with talking to/with the object of their affections, especially when the relationship’s not all that solid.

    It’s a thin defense, admittedly.

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