"Physics tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They hate us, we hate them, they hate us back. And so, here we are, victims of mathematics!"
REVIEW: JMS is back on sole writing duties for the rest of the season and you can really tell. For one thing, it's chock-full of arc elements. For another, his favorite wit-delivery engines are front and center, specifically Delenn (wise wit) and Londo (entertaining wit). It makes for a highly quotable episode. Regardless of the plot, the episode really lives in the "padding" of their subplots. Londo is particularly expendable and yet, he gets all the best scenes, whether it's his negotiations with the Minbari (where we might finally understand Sinclair's role as mediator rather than ambassador), his frustration at human nonsense songs, or his infectious high spirits saving Garibaldi from his doldrums for the (hidden) cost of a drink. Through Delenn's mentor Draal, we find the poetry inherent to Minbari culture, and how the "retire" to the Sea of Stars in the end. Draal feels expendable himself as his post-war culture migrates from the values of duty to those of self-involvement, and surely, his teasing Delenn with a philosophical question about self-sacrifice is a sign of things to come. It's all quite intriguing and well-written.
And it overshadows the plot of the week which, on paper, should have stayed the main draw. I'd been wondering about the planet under Babylon 5 for a while now, whether it was just a lifeless rock providing some measure of gravitic stability to the station, or if it had been chosen for a reason. Neither is the case (so far as we yet know anyway) and it turns out something ancient is still ticking away under its surface. After some somewhat repetitive action from would-be archaeologist day players, Sinclair and Ivanova exercise their space opera prerogative to go down there alone, even if they are the two highest-ranking officers on B5. A bit of SF Indiana Jonesing later, they find themselves in a giant room right out of an Irwin Allen production, and then rather too easily save the planet's sole inhabitant who brings tidings of discomfort and whatever the opposite of joy is. More to come, since this is a two-parter.
The perhaps more important event is the revolt on Mars, which will have important ramifications through the end of the series (as I remember it). On a personal level, Sinclair is a Martian, but it's Garibaldi who is the most affected, having served and still having ties there. He's especially keen on getting through the communications blackout because a former lover presumably still lives there. Let's just say it's obvious we haven't heard the last of Lise Hampton. Interesting name, Lise. It's French and you don't see it much on English speakers, but then this is one of the ways JMS presents the future, by mix-and-matching names between ethnicities, as if to show how the global village evolved over the next 150 years. I don't mind, though I do wish the casting was sharper for many of these roles. Colonel Ben Zayn and this episode's featured TV reporter, Derek Mobotabwe, for example, seem to infer white people will absorb everyone and everything. DNA should follow names is all I'm saying. But then, this is more easily explained by television production realities than the strange bit where Talia thinks Garibaldi is stalking her in every elevator. I don't see the point of that except as JMS' strange sense of humor.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A very witty episode, with lots of important introductions. I can easily forgive its flaws.