Written by J. Michael Straczynski and Larry DiTillio
Directed by Janet Greek
As the first season of Babylon 5 is winding down, with the characters established fairly well, it’s time to build on the story which will carry the series through the next three seasons. This first half of a two-part episode serves to set up a mystery on the planet above which the Babylon 5 Station is orbiting. Prior to its being built here, the planet was scanned and there were no signs of life up to two miles below the surface.
Commander Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) and Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) are surveying the planet Epsilon III, over which Babylon 5 is orbiting. There have been some unusual seismic disturbances as of late. A team is sent to scan the surface in a shuttle and experiences a power surge from deep inside the planet that disables their ship.
Meanwhile, along with Ambassadors Delenn (Mira Furlan) and Mollari (Peter Jurasik), Sinclair is trying to negotiate a trade pact. Things seem to go pretty reasonably until talk turns to the Narn. Mollari thinks the hatred between the two races is a natural thing.
Delenn: “I would suggest that there is a difference between being unreasonable and being angry. Ambassador G’Kar is angry most of the time, but even the greatest anger fades with time.”
Mollari: “My dear ambassador Delenn, I’m sure that for you this is true, but for G’Kar and his people; they will do all that they can to destroy us, until the universe itself decays and collapses. If the Narns all stood together in one place and hated, all at the same time, that hatred could fly across dozens of light-years and reduce Centauri Prime to a ball of ash. That’s how much they hate us.”
When Ivanova brings Sinclair up to speed on the incident with the shuttle, she asks him if there has been any word from Mars Colony. The most recent news cycle didn’t mention it, but usually, there is something from the colony every day. While watching the news in his quarters, Sinclair learns that there is a revolution going on against the Earth Provisional Government on Mars. They are demanding independence for the Mars Colony. At the same time, Sinclair sees what appears to be a hologram in his quarters asking for help.
Delenn returns to her quarters and is visited by an old friend and former teacher. Draal (Louis Turenne) laments the changes that have been coming to Minbar.
Draal: “Our world is changing, Delenn. I’m not sure when it began to change. Perhaps the war, perhaps the death of Dukhat. Perhaps the darkness was there all along and we refused to see it.”
Delenn: “If you’re referring to the growing division between the religious and military castes –“
Draal: “That, and more than that. There is a sense that we are lost, drifting. In the streets, in the temples you can hear it in their voices, their manner. An anger just beneath the surface; a growing dissatisfaction; a self-involvement above the needs of others.”
Are you sure this was written almost 30 years ago? Because it sure sounds like what we’ve been going through in this country over the last decade or so.
Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) is trying to get through to the Mars Colony and can’t get through the communications blackout. He talks to telepath Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) and tells her about when he left Mars Colony two years before and the woman he left behind who he is very worried about. Talia agrees to do what she can to help him. However, Psi Corps refuses to put through a connection fearing that would confirm the location of their center on Mars.
A second mission to scan the surface of Epsilon III ends with an attack from the planet’s surface.
Ivanova: Confirmed Survey 1. Upon arrival you will report for debriefing. And just one more thing, on your trip back I want you to take the time to learn the Babylon 5 mantra. Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova’s recommendations. Ivanova is God. And if this ever happens again Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out! Babylon control out.
Just kidding about that God part. No offense.
Dr. Tasaki (Jim Ishida), who led the mission to scan the surface, debriefs with Sinclair and Ivanova. They conclude that it was some kind of ancient planetary defense system that was triggered when they approached. He thinks the missiles came from about five miles beneath the planet’s surface and there must be something pretty important down there.
Sinclair and Ivanova decide to investigate themselves. They manage to get past the planetary defense system and enter the fissure Dr. Tasaki indicated was the source of the missiles. Sure enough, five miles beneath the surface they locate a landing grid. As they explore the surrounding area, Ivanova finds an interior column with elevators still operating. Sinclair is amazed by the technology. Unfortunately, while they are down there, another quake strikes. They need to find another way out of there but soon come across the same hologram figure Sinclair saw pleading for help. It leads them to where the humanoid is and it begs for help, stating if they don’t all of their people will die.
Just as Ivanova and Sinclair are bringing him back to Babylon 5, something very large comes through the Jump Gate.
There’s a lot to unpack with this episode, and it leaves the viewer with a great cliffhanger. Mars Colony has come up several times before during the season with comments that lead viewers to believe all is not perfect there. Here, it finally pays off as we learn that there is an outright revolution going on there against the Earth government. We don’t know why they’re rebelling, we just know that it has broken out into violence at this point. There is more here about Garibaldi’s background as well, and the woman he left behind when he took the lifeline Commander Sinclair offered him to be head of security at the station. He gets some nice interaction with Talia as he’s desperate to contact this woman and know she’s okay.
Then, we see another side of Londo when he makes an attempt to cheer Garibaldi up, and manages to do that. It’s a fun scene. Londo has a lot of great lines in this episode as does Ivanova. She jumps at the chance to get off the station with Sinclair and do some exploring but usually has to stay back. The fact that both she and Sinclair leave the station (in Garibaldi’s hands) is kind of like the Captain and First Officer beaming down. It makes for a good show but it really isn’t all that practical.
The star here is the effects. Dated by today’s standards, they do a marvelous job not just with the Babylon 5 station but also with Epsilon III and the technology there. The remastered versions that are available for streaming are really great. I found my old DVDs to be blurry with a lot of the CGI. Here everything is clean and crisp, even if it’s very obviously CGI.
The actors have eased into their roles by now and everything just seems to work so well in this episode. It really had the feel of a small-town community, just in space. There are outsiders and bickering and a desire to escape for some. I loved the dialogue and it didn’t feel forced or like they were earnestly trying to convince the viewers it was all real. I’ve noticed some science fiction shows try too hard to be cerebral and talk down to viewers. This honestly feels like a community in space and it’s really working well as the season winds down.
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