"If the primates that we came from had known that some day, politicians would come out of the gene pool, they'd have stayed up in the trees and written evolution off as a bad idea!"
REVIEW: It's hard to believe Babylon 5 characters. Some of them are masters of deception, others hiding what they really are, and then there are those played way over the top by not-so-great actors. Case in point, Captain Maynard played by Russ Tamblyn. He seems entirely out of his depth as Sheridan's mentor and one of the best starship captains in Earthforce. As a raconteur, he approaches acceptability, so we can take his over-done expressions and self-conscious delivery as those of a man telling a story he's told many times before. Except he keeps doing this even in private or spontaneous moments. So fake. And it somehow conditions the audience, because when Garibaldi talks about his poor old dad to get Dr. Franklin to agree to let him eat a fattening birthday meal, it sounds like emotional blackmail. Jerry Doyle ALSO comes off as an over-rehearsed raconteur, see. Except, no, it seems legitimate. Either that or Franklin is pretty naive. Does the acting sink the episode, though?
The story doesn't advance the Shadow plot so much as it reinforces what was already there. Maynard confirms G'Kar's contention that there are strange things on the Rim, and here the Shadows are seen flying through hyperspace with impunity, oblivious to the dangerous "drift" that can make you lose your ship out there. Sheridan has a good, low-tech, evocative plan to help the Cortez when that happens to it, but it's all rather muddled otherwise. The Cortex is inexplicably damaged, and the Shadows don't seem to converge on the ship, so it can't be them. Just a random fault? The Starfuries don't really look like they're making a chain as ordered by Sheridan, and that chain is surprisingly short anyway (5 ships). You'd also think Keffer following the Shadow's trajectory to get out of hyperspace would have wound up on the wrong side, which would have opened things up to his adventures in enemy space, perhaps captured or surviving on his wits, collecting information. But no, he returns, safe and sound, with a glib explanation I don't quite understand. Hey, maybe he's now a Shadow mole. I wouldn't mind that because Keffer is a thoroughly annoying character. I still can't figure what he's doing hanging out with the command staff (even as a squadron leader, this episode's promotion).
Let's talk subplots, though I'm afraid I'm not going to be that much more positive about them. I do like that Garibaldi and Ivanova are still recovering from injuries sustained in past episodes (for Ivanova, at least, it's to cover the actress' real-life injury), and there's some amusement to be had from Franklin putting the command crew on a diet. Some, but not a lot. It's basically three takes on the same same, all three acting irritated at the idea, and no real consequences for Garibaldi cheating on his. I would also question the use of the name "Orwell" for a black marketeer; if it's going to call attention to itself, it might as well be thematically relevant. Meanwhile, seeing the Cortez has made Sheridan doubt his role on Babylon 5 (didn't we just go through this with Garibaldi?), feeling like an adventurer turned into a bureaucrat. Maynard's promise that the adventure will come to him might as well be a threat, because we know it will. These feelings are perfectly legitimate, though the show probably forces the issue by having paperwork piling up on Sheridan's desk (a one-time thing? it's all gone by the next office scene). I also don't really buy what gets him out of that funk. Delenn - going through just as difficult a transition, her people threatening to stop following her now that's she's half-human - quotes Carl Sagan at him and it restores his faith in his own destiny? Maybe if they'd borrowed from a less recognizable source, but it makes me question Delenn's wisdom that her words would so obviously not be her own.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The Bajoran Wormhole is also home to strange unknowable alien entities.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The acting doesn't sink the whole thing, but it does blow a hole in the hull. The water coming in is what does it, as it's full of missed opportunities and clumsy moments.