"And what kind of head of security would I be if I let people like me know things I'm not supposed to know. I know what I know because I have to know it. And if I don't have to know it, I don't tell me or let anybody else tell me either."
REVIEW: We're back with the third season, "Point of No Return", which in the "novel" is the act reserved for "Complications" (which is frankly what the second's "Rising action" already felt like, so I guess it gets really bad), though in the opener, those complications are really the Shadows'. After building up their ships as invincible killing machines, Sheridan destroys one in his first encounter with them. He now has the help of new additions to the series - Marcus the Ranger, who might as well be Aragorn in space; and the White Star, a human/Minbari hybrid ship (driving it is like making love to Delenn, Sheridan) with untold capabilities. While Marcus gives a hypercompetent face to the mostly nameless army of light, the ship allows Sheridan to become proactive in the secret war being waged. When the focus is a space station - and the same is true of shows on an exploratory vessel - protagonists tend to be reactive, finding solutions to what every episode brings. Babylon 5 is now separating itself from that (we'll just have to see how much) so that its Earthforce characters can be active agents in the plot, much as the ambassadors have been. But then, Sheridan can't wait for things to happen anymore, as exemplified by the notable contrast between his cheery self from a year before and his current "don't try to cheer me up" attitude.
And it's just damn cool to see Sheridan show his worth as a starship captain. He's the same guy with the only victory on record in the Minbari conflict, one thought impossible (perhaps Ivanova's gift of a piece of that Minbari ship should have been delayed to this episode to make the point further). Sheridan, like Kirk or Riker, is one of those captains who doesn't accept the no-win scenario and finds innovative strategies to win his battles. The Shadows' ship is beaten with a dirty trick and the hope that the White Star is fast enough to outrun its own attack. In one fell swoop, Sheridan not only destroys the Shadow, but the jump gate that allowed grave robbers to strip the dead Markab world bare. Not a bad day, though I wish the choreography was a little sharper. But I guess a lot of the money for the episode went to developing the White Star, which is pretty ship, even if I'm not in love with the interiors. Pink and purple aren't my colors (how TNG!) and the high ceilings make everything look like an obvious set. The faux-organic colons on the bridge are a bit of an eyesore too. Still, the White Star's power should only grow. Here, Sheridan doesn't know everything he needs to know to captain her, and his crew is made up of Minbari religious caste acolytes who don't understand English. I guess no one of the warrior caste joined the Rangers. Not surprised, and I suppose this is why they need a couple of Earthforce officers to go on the mission; they don't know what the heck they're doing.
Back on the station, Garibaldi is amusingly stalling (see quote above) an Earth intelligence officer looking for info on the Shadows, which secret war or not, the crew might want to share lest these monsters attack Earth. It's almost as if they can guess the army of darkness is already in with PsiCorps and the Senate ;-). For the epic scale required, evil must all come from the same source, I suppose. It's all connected. And while Morden and the corrupt Senator want to keep the Shadows under wraps, the PsiCorps thinks understands the value of fear, and would have people panic over this. All that needs be hidden is their own ties to the forces of darkness. So though this is an epic, fantastical saga, there's very much a sense of realpolitik at play. Since Londo cuts ties with Morden (after agreeing to a Centauri-Shadow border), it looks like Earth will now be the conspirator of choice.
A few words on the new intro? Ivanova now gets to say the words, an edit of her final voice-over from the previous season. I wonder how that will play out. Is the season to be HER story? The music is completely different, with driving, military beats and intense, strident chords. I like it. And instead of old-fashioned shots of the cast, we get a sort of designed curtain call with each character turning towards us with a different expression. Feels like there are clues in those credits. Changing the opening sequence with every chapter to reflect its feel is something I endorse, especially if they keep getting better. Finally, they've gotten rid of the clunky "the name of the place" which I have always hated.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Deep Space Nine had the Defiant, Babylon 5 has the White Star.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Needs to introduce and reintroduce key concepts, and manages to juggle all that with space action. Does the job, but could have done it better if all the recaps (building up the Shadows again, Ivanova spewing exposition when invited to join the Ranger group) weren't necessary.