"If I kill him, it'll start a war."
REVIEW: We've seen military witch hunts like the one conducted by Colonel Ari Ben Zayn (and they might at least have found an actor of Middle Eastern extraction for it) on Star Trek, going all the way back to "Court-Martial", and if I invoke TOS, it's because Ben Zayn taking over the station felt a lot like all those episodes where some Admiral, Commodore or Ambassador took over the Enterprise and proved himself a poor leader. Ben Zayn appears to be one-dimensional, but unlike Norah Sati from TNG's "The Drumhead" (another such Trek episode), there's no empathizing with him in the end. He really IS one-dimensional. A ranting, raving villain who wears his jealousy and hatred on his sleeve to the point where you hardly need a telepath to tell us he's crooked. Throw in a comedy sublot in which Lennier overhelps Garibaldi with his vintage 1992 motorbike if you must (JMS, if you're going to do commercials within the show, at least get paid for it - they apparently weren't), but I can't quite muster any enthusiasm. Half the time, it feels like the episode will turn into a clip show, and while Sinclair's solution is his usual "loopholing", the rules aren't set up before being invoked and lack that special something. And where are the Minbari in this? Not trying to protect their pet commander? I even have issues with the direction, which is over-reliant on shaky steadycam walk and talks, creating unmotivated tension in various scenes.
If there's a redeeming feature, it's Jeffrey Coombs as Grey. Coombs is perfect as the atypical PsiCorps member who puts Earthforce duty and honor above the Corps' darker agendas. He's a good guy who just happens to have a creepy job (one he didn't choose nor can get out of). So we feel for him when he unsuccessfully tries to convince Ivanova he won't violate her privacy. We believe him - and ultimately, he saves the day - but this is territory too sensitive for Ivanova, an intrusion on sacred memories shared with her telepathic mother. Though Sinclair is meant to be the dramatic protagonist and Garibaldi the comedic one, it's really Ivanova who's at the emotional center of this. Her properly surreal nightmares (rarely well done on television), her almost reevaluation of Grey, that she would rather quit than undergo mind scan, and the clues as to how she formed that Russian facade of hers, are all good reasons to watch this episode despite the scenery-chewing going on elsewhere. The subplot does make the viewer realize Talia Winters has been M.I.A. now for a long time. Will SF writers never learn that telepaths in the cast always have to be shuffled off-screen because of their plot-breaking powers?
And, of course, even in the weakest of Babylon 5's episodes, one can take some pleasure in the way each chapter is part of a whole, so we have this plot being Bester's attempt at revenge (maybe, he certainly didn't appoint the right Corpsman to Ben Zayn), the Colonel acting on the idea that the Minbari gave the B5 job to someone unworthy instead of him, and the first mention of the Free Mars movement as unrest grows on Earth and its colonies. The science buff in me enjoyed the mention of "Lagrange 2", a reference to a station obviously built at a Lagrange point, places in space that are gravitationally balanced by other astral bodies as to keep them in a stable position. But no matter how much key information is delivered by an episode, the story and acting have to be there for it to have any value.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Jeffrey Coombs would soon become very important to that other show, across the way.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Watch it for the Ivanova stuff, the rest is just so much cardboard.