Top TV #5: And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place

Well, this was an interesting week, blog-wise. It’s the first time I’ve ever tried to write a series of five related posts, with one each day. I’m still impressed with how other people blog so often, though of course it depends how much time per day you’re willing to spend. Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get to today’s episode.

Since it’s the last of the five episodes, I wavered a bit when choosing the one that I felt deserved to be here. Since most of these week’s episodes have been pretty dramatic, I thought about choosing something lighter, like the “Modern Warfare” episode of Community or the musical “Once More With Feeling” episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On a more serious note, I considered the final episode of Life on Mars (the original UK series) and several others, but in the end I went with one that I’ve loved since the first time I saw it.

And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” is the 20th episode from season 3 of Babylon 5. Like all series, B5 has its ups and downs, but this episode is definitely one of the “ups.”

This episode features two main threads: a joint meeting of religious leaders (on board the space station Babylon 5), as well as part of an ongoing story in the current state of affairs between the Centauri and the Narns (two alien races whose conflicts are somewhat analogous to the Nazis and the Jews in World War II, respectively).

I won’t try to explain all the characters and the details of the plot, and who’s counter-bluffing and getting revenge on who, since it won’t mean anything to you if you’ve never seen the show. You can get it from the Wikipedia link above, if you want it.

The standout moment of “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” utilizes one of my favorite storytelling techniques, which I’m afraid I don’t recall the name for, but it’s one that anyone who’s read Alan Moore’s Watchmen will recognize. In brief, it’s what you get when you are watching one scene play out while hearing another scene that’s taking place somewhere else and is only occurring at the same exact moment by pure coincidence. In the case of Watchmen, that ‘hearing’ was in the form of word boxes with, for example, ‘hearing’ a sports announcer on tv talk about “He’ll feel that in the morning,” “He’s on the ropes,” and so on, while you’re watching a brutal fight in an alleyway.

In this instance, [spoiler alert] it’s the camera intercutting between a church service on board the station, and a Centauri aristocrat suffering a brutal death at the hands of the Narn whose families he executed, as he attempts to flee through underground tunnels. [end spoiler] 

The song being sung at the service is a traditional Negro spiritual, “There’s No Hiding Place Down Here”, and you continue to hear the song even while watching the revenge of the Narns. It’s a beautiful, brutal, spellbinding piece of television that I’ve never forgotten.

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