"How fitting you should die with a song on your lips!"
REVIEW: The last episode written by someone other than JMS (Larry DiTillio) until Season 5, Knives is, like other "guest scripts", something you could remove from the canon fairly easily. There are several references to continuity (Franklin's father, the Babylon 4 time anomaly), as if to tell us it's all one big story, but the use of these elements doesn't meaningfully change those elements. The one exception is Refa's appearance, since it creates the potential for Londo to once again fall out of favor now that he's given disreputable men all the power. His intention to keep a closer eye on the political arena will surely bring him in conflict with his untrustworthy ally again.
Of the two story threads, the Centauri plot is the most worthy, having, like the best of B5, irony and political maneuvering. As soon as Londo's friend Urza plays the assassin and mock-threatens his life, we know he's to die by London's hand somehow. That's just how this universe works. (And what a bad joke to play on a VIP during war time. Dude.) And sure enough, Londo is put into a position where he must betray his friend or risk his new position of influence. Surprisingly - I'll share Vir's pride about this - Londo chooses the latter. It's perhaps not a strong dramatically as if he'd eventually acquiesced to Refa's threats - he's a fool, not a rat - but it's an interesting twist. His shame is thus not about betraying Urza (whom actor Carmen Argenziano pushes right to the limit in the scenery-chewing department), but about killing him. Urza asks for this, leaving himself open to the blade at a crucial moment. Apparently, the victor must adopt the loser's family into his own, which saves them from the dishonor awaiting him at the conspirators' hands. It wouldn't really have gone any differently had he known Londo was one of those conspirators to begin with, but Londo still must face his guilt.
Sheridan's thread is very much weaker, like something pulled from a stock, and not very interesting, Star Trek episode. An incorporeal creature jumps from a dead alien to the captain and makes him hallucinate. Sheridan avoids the alien's fate - committing suicide after the visions drive him mad - by working out the emotional puzzle it is trying to transmit. I don't buy it one bit, and I'm not even sure the episode is playing fair with its audience. If Sheridan really worked it out (and there are too few clues for this to be convincing), why does he take off in a Starfury without consulting anyone? Because he has to appear erratic so we don't know he's solved this week's problem. It's a damn Superman Silver Age story, with the explanations all at the end. I'm also not keen on the idea that the creature is from Sector 14's time anomaly, which just feels like JMS plugging the Babylon 4 element so we won't forget it (and to make sure Sheridan's been told about it). It's lame and does nothing with it. That could have been any glowy part of space. Immensely forgettable.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: What is it with science-fiction writers and their silly obsession with baseball? You'd think the fact Sisko has this quirk would have kept Sinclair and now Sheridan from sharing it. It's kind of fun to see a whole baseball field inside Babylon 5's inner circumference, but it's a waste if they only use it as a fancy batter's cage. You want to keep this up, JMS, we better start hearing about a B5 league.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Another non-JMS episode that could be largely jettisoned without our losing much of anything. Is the problem that other writers don't get it, or that he wouldn't let them do anything of substance with his toy box? Either way, the Londo thread kind of saves it, but not by much.