"I carry my sword in my hand. You carry yours in your heart and in your mind. As I see it, that gives you a two-to-one advantage in arms. Be fair, Citizen G'Kar."
REVIEW: A Day in the Strife definitely has the leisurely feel of "day in the life" stories, but doesn't really commit to it, tacking on a needless Star Trek stock plot that doesn't amount to much. Heavy with dramatic subplots, the episode actually uses its life-and-death situation-of-the-week to generate humor (mostly with C&C banter), which further takes the stuffing out of it. The alien probe sent by an unknown race unlikely to ever be referenced again, pretends to offer gifts if its questions are answered, but is actually a test so it can destroy potential threats. How Sheridan figures it out is sketchy, unless he figured out the theme of the episode, which appears to be that doing what you think is right isn't always the correct thing to do. Perspective is important. Of course there was a third option no one ever thought to mention - what if the probe was a spy trying to steal all the answers its home culture DIDN'T have, getting a technological step-up under false pretenses. That all possibilities weren't explored makes the story thread entirely too slim; it really is just a distraction for Sheridan, who'd rather be doing this than attending trading union meetings. B5 has been having trouble with "comedy" openers lately, and the trading union stuff is definitely less amusing than its writer thinks it is, with the utter nonsense of a trader calling Sheridan a gun-totting tyrant and so on.
The real story is thankfully about Narn. The Centauri-appointed Na'Far comes to the station to take G'Kar's place as official representative, a puppet of the Centauri, treated like a slave by Londo. Even when the Centauri were sympathetic figures in Season 1, hedonistic and somewhat pathetic galactic has-beens, their practice of slavery was a troubling element. Here we see how even the "hero" Centauri treats a defeated enemy, in a speech designed as reinforcement of the master-slave relationship and an attack on the man's dignity and self-worth. We share Vir's distaste. For Na'Far, collaboration is the correct path, ensuring the safety of Narn everywhere. But for the Narn on the station at least, a line has been crossed, and freedom is now more important than safety. The dilemma is explored through G'Kar, who tries to resolve which is the greater cause. He chooses martyrdom (his people's safety), but his people won't let him. They choose freedom, they choose never to bow to the Centauri, regardless of cost. They, and their families, will share G'Kar's sacrifice. Pledging himself to this cause is the finally-named Ta'lon (bit on the nose there, JMS), the soldier Sheridan escaped from the Streib with. We'll see him again, unlike Na'Far. The show has also picked sides. Someone else who has taken sides is Vir. Having made ethical speeches in Londo's direction one time too many, the ambassador sends him away to Minbar. He does so out of both fondness and irritation, a reward in one sense, and punishment in another. I understand this was necessary because Furst got a job on a sitcom, but though he'll still appear on occasion, I'll miss his stabilizing influence, budding but subtle friendship with Lennier, etc. Londo may not realize the sacrifice he's just made. Vir was his only friend; he's burned his bridges with the humans, Lennier regrets having saved his life, and even offering the hand of friendship to Delenn here yields no love.
The C-plot features Doc Franklin's growing addiction to stims. Following the theme, spending all his time in medlab is the "right" thing to do given how overburdened the medical staff is, but it's also the "wrong" thing to do, because his skills are deteriorating as a result. I love how it's Garibaldi who notices something's up (when Franklin returns from the bathroom all jacked up) and who offers to be his sponsor. He deals with addiction every day; it's perfect. The intervention, staged around one of Garibaldi's home-cooked meals, recalls the bond these two characters have shared since one first cooked for the other. The Doc is in denial, of course, but when he cuts the stims out, signs of withdrawal appear. He's irritable, fidgety, looks at his stim dispenser a lot, etc. There's no question he has a problem. It'll be interesting to watch him as a mirror to Garibaldi, starting on the road to recovery even as Garibaldi is at the end of it.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - If it were all subplotty goodness, I'd be happier. It panics and adds irrelevant SF material and comedy.