Written by J. Michael Straczynski, D.C. Fontana, and Larry DiTillio
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
This episode goes a long way to providing a foundation for the rest of the series. However, at first glance, and first viewing, it doesn’t seem that way. It manages to hide clues in a story that feels a bit like filler but actually gives viewers a lot of details about life in Psi Corps as well as the history of the Earth-Minbari War.
The Minbari arrive at the Station having displayed the body of one of their great warriors throughout the known galaxy as a tribute. All of the officers of Babylon 5 act as a receiving line. The ship arrives with the gun ports open, and they interpret this as being armed for a fight. Delenn (Mira Furlan) arrives and explains that it is symbolic and diffuses the situation. The cortege comes off the Minbari ship with the body, and Alit Neroon (John Vickery) greets Delenn. Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) arranges for the body to be viewed in-state.
Neroon and Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) argue over security for the body, with Neroon trying to tell him what he will “accept.” Sinclair points out that he is in charge of the station, not Neroon, but he will do his best to accommodate him. However, the body turns up missing during the viewing ceremony.
Meanwhile, a young girl (Grace Una) attempts to shoplift something and collapses. Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) tells Ivanova (Claudia Christian) that the girl is a telepath and has just taken a mind-burst. It’s what happens when a telepath’s abilities are suddenly “turned on,” often in adolescence. Ivanova and Talia argue over who has jurisdiction over her: station security or the Psi Corps. Talia does help her control it so she doesn’t hear every voice in her head. Her name is Alisa and she’s an orphan living in Down-Below. Both try to sway her decision about whether or not to join Psi Corps. Ivanova tells Alisa the story of her mother.
Delenn tells how the deceased Minbari, Branmer, was a high priest of the religious caste before becoming a member of the warrior caste. Garibaldi questions the different races on the station. The Narn Na’Toth (Julie Caitlin Brown) points him to the carrion eaters in the Alien Sector. When Garibaldi questions the Pak’ma’ra after finding some of Branmer’s robes outside of their quarters, they deny any knowledge.
Na’Toth tries to bribe Alisa to come to Narn. They have no telepaths, so Alisa would be the first. Alisa is considering it when she peeks into Na’Toth’s mind and doesn’t like what she sees. Ivanova also says there are possibilities with the Minbari, and brings her to meet with Delenn. She peeks into Delenn’s mind and learns what she knows about the missing body.
This rounds out what we know about Ivanova’s mother. Having her contend with the latent psychic and her choices, shows how much she resents the Psi Corps and wants to keep anyone from joining them. In the end, Talia tries to make amends with Ivanova, and there is something broaching friendship between the two.
Sinclair shows his diplomatic abilities when he confronts Neroon in private. He accepts Neroon’s apology and offers to send a missive with him saluting Branmer as a warrior. Sinclair is good at giving Neroon a way to save face as well as diffuse the tension between the Minbari and the Earth. It’s a good bit of diplomacy and shows why Sinclair is the man for the job at the Station.
We’ve seen enough of Psi Corps up until now to know it isn’t a good organization, despite Talia’s protests. Ivanova makes it clear that she will fight anything that the organization tries to do on Babylon 5. Her reasons are sound, and a little terrifying. Any psychic ability means you either join the corps or take mind-numbing medication for the rest of your life. It’s a horrible choice for anyone to make and means a lot of people will go to extraordinary lengths to conceal any abilities they might have. Talia sees this as a logical way of dealing with psychics while Susan sees it in terms of the people it affects.
There are some good special effects of the Minbari ship arriving at Babylon 5 which are even better if you view the remastered seasons. This was the early days of CGI and is actually pretty impressive what they manage to do. There’s enough action and intrigue for the episode to stand on its own. There actors are at the point where it seems like they have a feel for the characters they are playing, particularly Delenn, Sinclair, and Ivanova.
The ending of the episode hints at how the season is going to end, but at the same time doesn’t give much away. It’s only when watching this after watching the entire series that the episode becomes so pivotal. It’s setting up a number of different storylines that will be important in the coming seasons.
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