Written by J Michael Straczynski and Larry DiTillio
Directed by Kevin G. Cremin
This episode deals quite a bit with the situation on Mars Colony. It’s been mentioned several times up until now, but other than the episode involving Mr. Garibaldi’s former lover, it’s been mostly an abstract idea only talked about. This also sets up that there are people operating outside of the usual channels, but not everyone who realizes this will be honest about it.
Taro Isogi (James Shigeta) is an old friend of Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson). He’s on Babylon 5 to try to help broker a peace on Mars with one of their representatives, Amanda Carter (Adrienne Barbeau). After some negotiations, he is walking down the corridor with Talia when he is murdered by a man who shouts “Free Mars!” Talia gets some images from the man, which seem contrary to other members of the Free Mars movement she has met in the past. Commander Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) is doubtful, having been previously warned that Taro Isogi is up to something by Senator Voudreau (Jessica Walter).
Talia is there to make sure none of the parties are hiding anything. She isn’t supposed to have an impact on the negotiations themselves. When she and Taro Isogi encounter the assassin, she doesn’t feel any emotion from the assassin, just images. Talia is also a staunch defender of Isogi’s, after it seems Sheridan was told a different story about what Isogi was up to. Sheridan isn’t sure who he can trust, but Commander Ivanova (Claudia Christian) tells him that he can trust Talia. Sheridan decides to investigate the situation for himself.
The assassin plugs into a communications portal and sends in a report. He is then ordered to kill Talia, as she could jeopardize the mission. He attacks her when she is walking with a guard. The guard is killed, but somehow Talia’s psychic ability breaks through to the assassin and she escapes. DNA analysis identifies him as Abel Horn (Michael Beck), a radical Free Mars leader. He also knows that Amanda Carter was also once a member of Free Mars!
Sheridan remembers a former research project called Lazarus, that would insert a device into the body to reprogram people to be under other people’s control. He theorizes that is what happened to Abel Horn, even though he has no proof, except what Talia states she saw in his mind. Horn gets Amanda to lure Talia to her quarters.
Spider in the Web has plenty of intrigue in itself, but it also sets up that there are people both within and outside of Earth’s government who are trying to steer events to create a specific reality. In this case, they abducted a Free Mars radicalist at the point of death and reprogrammed him to destroy both himself and the movement, as well as thwart the peace process. Sheridan talks about a covert organization within the government he has stumbled upon after years of trying to uncover what is going on. He tells Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) about Bureau 13, who is skeptical. Still, it’s a demonstration of the trust Sheridan has in Garibaldi. The person he last talked to about it ended up dead.
Talia isn’t upfront with Sheridan, either. She claims she didn’t see anything she recognized in the images from Horn’s mind. That’s not the truth as she had a clear image of the person who operated on him. The end of the episode shows her finding the woman to be deceased, but is she really? There seems to be a lot more intrigue surrounding who wants control of Mars Colony.
The audience learns more about Sheridan here as he’s probed into something that has been hinted at in his life and on the show. He once saw a hint of some group operating outside of official channels and he didn’t care about the risk to his own life to uncover it.
This episode marks the first time we see Zak (Jeff Conaway) as one of Garibaldi’s security detail. He wasn’t yet listed as one of the stars of the show, but he would grow into the role as it demanded more of him. There is also an overview of the San Diego Wastelands on Earth, which is where Bureau 13 is headquartered. San Diego was blown up by nuclear terrorists in 2157, but it makes for a great place to hide something that people don’t want to be discovered.
There aren’t many effects to speak of in this episode. The most here is the electrical charge that Horn has to kill his victims. The devil is in the details, and there is a great story told by Sheridan about first contact with one of the alien races, the Tikar. This helps to show that even though he was a soldier, he was also curious enough to not shoot first and ask questions later. This also feeds into his desire to learn about Bureau 13 and who or what is behind it. It also seems that Earth Government thinks it can manipulate Sheridan, as he’s fed details about Isogi that aren’t quite true. It’s not that they are telling him what to do – they are just giving him enough information to steer him in the direction they want him to go. It might have worked, except for Talia’s close relationship with Isogi and the fact that Horn left her alive to begin with.
There is a lot of character development here, but also intrigue set up as to the Mars Colony. It is an important part of the overall story that is being told. Mars seems to be much like the Middle East in our own time, with factions that want to see it free, and other factions that want to control it. There are people like Amanda Carter who have been fighting for a long time and are ready to live in peace, while others want to see the conflicts remain ongoing. No one agrees on what’s best for Mars, not even the people who live there.
This is a good episode that develops the characters as well as feeds information about Earth’s Government and the Mars problem. Sheridan and Garibaldi still don’t quite trust each other, although Sheridan seems to offer an olive branch. Talia is shown to be good at hiding things as well, despite Ivanova’s reassurance that she can be trusted. Spider in the Web offers both solid character development and solid storyline development.
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