"No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions, not for glory, not for fame--for one person, in the dark, where no one will ever know or see. I have been in service to the Vorlons for centuries, waiting for you: Diogenes and his lamp looking for an honest man willing to die for all the wrong reasons."
REVIEW: Whatever the Vorlons are, they want confirmation that Delenn is the right person to head the army of light. Their questionable means - have her tested by a Victorian sadist who just happens to be Jack the Ripper. Urm... On the one hand, the notion that the Vorlons are angels who nabbed Jack/Sebastian from London (and I sort of knew as soon as 1888 was invoked) to show him his "holy crusade" against corruption was itself corrupt and turn him into an agent who would go on to test and break people the same way is intriguing. The most dangerous sin in Babylon 5 is Pride (as we've seen again and again) and the Vorlons must make sure their "heroes" aren't motivated by it. Delenn and the also-tested Sheridan prove they aren't in the fight for fame, glory or the need to prove something by showing the trait of heroic self-sacrifice, not when the stakes are epic, but when they are personal. It's a good scene, but it would ring a little more true if the two characters willing to sacrifice themselves for the other weren't in a romantic relationship. Can you sacrifice your life for a stranger's, with no emotional predisposition? In the context of JMS' statements across the whole of the show's production, I find it remarkable that he keeps attacking sinful Pride, because it appears to be one of his defining traits (just looking at his statements about this episode and how he stridently defends his use of Jack the Ripper as yet another example). This is either highly ironic, or a personal exorcism, a writer working through his faults by exposing and examining them in his fiction.
On the other hand, I have to wonder why Kosh's exercise was necessary in the first place. As a Minbari, Delenn is culturally hardwired for self-sacrifice, and has already given up her position on the Grey Council by turning herself into a "freak". And she should really be able to run circles around Sebastian in the early interrogation scenes; she's a master of zen wisdom and cryptic debate. Perhaps the solution to both problems is the same - her new human turmoil. It's what makes her emotionally vulnerable when hard-pressed by the journalist in And Now for a Word, and the same happens when up against the Inquisitor. And perhaps it's the reason Kosh is no longer sure about her. Has she integrated human sin and made herself less worthy in the process? Or of course, Kosh didn't need confirmation, but Delenn DID, and the process was meant to assuage HER doubts. I feel like I'm trying to win a No-Prize here, which is why I'm so ambivalent about it. Same thing with the secret identity of Sebastian. What a strange detail. The Vorlons are kidnapping serial killers and both reforming them and using their sadistic qualities? Keeping them alive through the centuries? Bizarre. The Victorian attitude adds color to Sebastian, but making him the Ripper might be a step too far. I'm not saying it doesn't work - how he projects his sin on Delenn, how they avoid making him a mysterious killer, etc. - but again, ambivalence.
G'Kar too is being tested, by everyone. First he is tested by the arms merchant who pushes to see if he can put his money where his mouth is and pay the high price he's asking to get guns to his people. Then he's tested by Garibaldi who knows everything and gives him a chance to either fess up or disappoint him. G'Kar passes this test as well, and is rewarded with a place to run his guns through, it just isn't Babylon 5. A great Garibaldi moment (damn, have I finally warmed up to him?). We may still find G'Kar lacking in that he's doing exactly what he not so long ago accused the Centauri of doing, but the situation is hardly the same. If it were, Garibaldi would hardly be helping him on the sly. And G'Kar is tested by his own people, who won't contribute to the cause unless he can prove he can make good on his promises. And with the help of Sheridan and the Rangers, he manages to get that proof. Seems everyone is on the Narns' side these days, so long as they don't ask for anything big. And then there's Vir, the one repentant Centauri who's been against his people's plans from the beginning. He's the only one who fails his test, unable to obtain G'Kar's forgiveness for the lives of all the Narn killed in the Centauri action, an incredible moment in which G'Kar cuts his hand open and lets each drop of blood represent a life lost. Amazing stuff, and why people keep talking about G'Kar as the show's best character.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The Narn and Klingons both enjoy cutting up the palms of their hands. DS9 would eventually broadcast an episode called Inquisition in which Bashir was tested by a creepy operative. Of course, Jack the Ripper also exists in the Star Trek universe, as the alien entity Redjac.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - While I'm unsure about some of the choices this episode makes, the high points are quite high, the theme is present throughout, and the G'Kar plot thread is damn near flawless.