"Why am I here?" "You have always been here."
REVIEW: Sheridan should know better than to ask what could possibly go wrong when he takes a Starfury out for a spin, but at least he's not trying to get himself killed like Sinclair often was. Forced to eject, he's captured by an asymmetrical monstrosity, later identified as a Streib ship. The Streib are an intriguing race, despite their clichéed modus operandi, abductors who test other species and set them against one another. Well, they're only intriguing if Sheridan's dream was one of their tests, but the real Kosh saying the same lines at the end makes me doubt that. The surreal encounter with B5 regulars with birds on their shoulders, and their cryptic message, could be an actual dream (dreams are part of B5's vocabulary) or a telepathic message getting through from somewhere. Sheridan as a PsiCop, "You have always been here", and so on. It plays initially like it IS a test. If it isn't, we're left with a torture table, trials by combat, and an "Enemy Mine" set-up with a pessimistic Narn (unnamed, but whom we'll see again). I suppose the Narn are pessimistic by nature after a century of occupation. An escape attempt is inevitable, and it succeeds with a little help from Sheridan's friends. Standard.
There's another character being tested in this episode, and that's Delenn, who appears in front of the Grey Council and is exiled from its presence. She's no longer completely Minbari and besides, her spot on the Council, normally reserved for someone of the religious caste, has been taken over by Neroon of the warrior caste (we met him in Legacies). He doesn't buy the whole oversoul argument. With 4 votes on the Council, the warriors have basically taken control of the Minbari government (with Earth and Centauri, that's three coups in a row) and they've decided the new wars brewing are a good time for isolationist policies, even though the prophecy counsels crucial alliances. More difficulties thrown into our heroes' way. Rejected, Delenn returns to Babylon 5, the loyal Lennier still at her side. If there's a character who might be exactly what he seems, it's him. The purest soul. The biggest surprise JMS could spring on me at this point is revealing Lennier has some kind of secret agenda. In a final, twisted irony, Delenn proves more useful to humanity than the Minbari by giving B5 the lowdown on the Streib and helping defeat them. Particularly ironic, because her actions are war-like.
The Delenn subplot reminds us there are shadows to be fought from within as much as without, and so it is with Earth's political situation as well. General Hague, while useful in the context of the plot to bring the big guns necessary to save Sheridan, is a patriot who wants to enroll Babylon 5's help in fighting one of those shadows within. Sheridan had a side-mission to spy on the other Earthforce characters, but that's not the reveal. The reveal is that it was he was asked to do so in aid of a larger secret mission to uncover and expose/defeat the conspiracy that led to President Santiago's assassination and Clark's assension. We can't be too surprised the whole crew joins the cause, but that scene, symbolically played in civilian attire, feels like another turning point. JMS is really stacking the deck against the crew, and you can feel the tension appreciably rising.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The quote above is right out of the Prophets' first (so-to-speak) encounter with Sisko. Trek's been doing the test-the-captive bit since forever, most recently (broadcast-time) in "The Search" where the Founders tested the crew in a VR simulation. On the flip side, B5 is first to use Robert Foxworth as a paranoid superior officer.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The A-plot is the least interesting here (especially since the Streib aren't ever mentioned again, at least on the program); the politics are where this episode lives, and lives dangerously.