"Welcome to Babylon 5: the last best hope for a quick buck!"
REVIEW: Peter David turns in his second B5 script, and I can certainly recognize the twisted humor, though as we'll see, JMS tried to add to it. Where you really get "guest script" from the episode is the conventional frame-up story. Or rather, that the frame-up and the Vir subplot which would have him losing his job now that Londo is an important man who deserves better both end without any chance in the status quo. You could take this episode right out of continuity and lose very little. Which doesn't make it unentertaining. When Sheridan is forced into a situation where he has to kill a Minbari, possibly igniting a powder keg on the station, it could have been played as just another investigation to clear someone of wrongdoing. We've already had a lot of those. But instead, there's a lot of play on Minbari culture and a game of hide-the-dishonor ensues, with Sheridan not only cleared, but getting to do a solid for Lennier's clan and helping them save face. A little too much like the ending of Acts of Sacrifice, but Minbari honor is more complicated than the Narns', so it remains interesting. Getting to that point has its pleasures, like getting a glimpse of Lennier's martial arts again and Delenn facing her race's distrust and disgust. Caitlin Brown appears as Sheridan's lawyer, a small role apparently created to let her appear on the show without her heavy Na'Toth make-up, but while a credible addition in the circumstances, a rather slim one.
The B-plot is a silly trifle about Babylon 5 merchandising. This isn't what it looks like - i.e. an attempt to sell actual merchandise to fans - because it was all made special. The action figures are particularly cool, though Londo gets some grief over getting "Kenned", if you know what I mean. This bit with the alien and human masks is a neat gag as well. It falls apart for me when JMS gets involved and writes a final scene where happy-go-lucky Sheridan, holding a cute teddy bear with his initials on it, suddenly decides to ditch the program and the 2 million credits it might have earned annually. No real reason for it except that a different writer grabbed the typewriter. Ivanova is more than happy to kill the merchandising venture, of course, but Sheridan has little motivation for his change of heart. JMS has said that he hates cute and the scene was his revenge on PAD for giving him that same bear (the initials are, of course, the same whether we're talking about John Sheridan, Jeff Sinclair or Joe Straczynski, make of that what you will) as a gift. Next thing we know, the bear is floating out in space and hitting Keffer's windshield (oh yeah, that dude's still on the show). And it would work if the show had earned it with a lighter tone throughout. It didn't. The A-plot was much too serious for that.
Two C-plots jostle for a little attention in addition to these two. The first is Vir's, realizing he's never had a choice in his life (just like the Centauri Emperor then, an irony not lost on this viewer), going where people who let him. Londo, a good friend, makes a plea to keep him on as his assistant, even though his higher social position would normally require a more competent aide. Aw. Except Londo only really thinks of Londo, and it wouldn't do to have the guy who's kept all his Shadowy secrets to date out of sight and bitter like that. Friendship my ass. Talia shows up in the middle of this to get a drink poured on her by accident. Not a big work week for Andrea Thompson there. The other thread is Kosh's continuing lessons to Sheridan, another bit JMS claims credit for, and while it's a very interesting scene, it's also largely opaque. Sheridan is dumped in a dark hole where he experiences "a moment of beauty". Either this is a telepathic vision, or a magic trick, but it's not something we can readily explain. Is Kosh showing Sheridan something of how the Vorlons see the world, or teaching him about the values worth protecting against the Shadows? Unknown. Perhaps both. The song Sheridan hears is in Latin and includes Biblical references (check out the Lurker's Guide for the full translation). Getting into it would be going beyond the scope of these reviews, but the more interesting elements include a victorious hand (the Vorlon vision called Sheridan the hand in All Alone in the Night, and Londo's dream also involves a dark hand), and some Messianic prophecy which could apply to Sheridan/Delenn/Sinclair. The singing by a choir also seems relevant (Kosh once told Talia to listen to the music not the words, and her last brush with a serial killer had him adding people to his choir, is this all connected?). Either way, a lot of this is impossible to get from just watching the episode unless one knows Latin quite well, so I feel like I'm cheating even mentioning it.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Check out the dig at DS9, with our heroes saying B5 isn't some "Deep Space franchise". Keep it in your pants, guys.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Not unpleasant. Some amusing bits, some nice diplomatic shenanigans, stuff that might get you talking. But also completely disposable in the larger story.