"And what guarantee will you give me that the cruiser will not open fire on a Centauri vessel as it approaches Babylon 5, hmmm?" "The same guarantee I gave you when I said that none of the other Narns would break into your room in the middle of the night and slit your throat." "Mr. Garibaldi, you have never given me that promise." "You're right. Sleep tight."
REVIEW: JMS is really hitting his stride, incorporating theme even in throwaway details. Just look at that pre-credits sequence. The notion that every culture has its version of the Swedish meatball ties into the theme of interchangeability that is part of the larger theme of the show, that together, we can overcome great obstacles. All our meatballs are the same, but so are our souls. So are our interests. The program has said and shown again and again that isolationism is always the wrong way to go, which is why the Narns refusing to risk their sole warship to test the Shadows' weaknesses is so intolerable. Seeing the big picture, in Babylon 5's terms, is seeing everyone as the same, and Garibaldi appeals to G'Kar's perception of that big picture to put the warship in play, and all the other meatballs besides. "So it begins", indeed. This must be done, according to Garibaldi's figurative book AND G'Kar's literal one. Again, interchangeability.
The other bit in the teaser is Sheridan's gratuitous space walk, gratuitous but for its thematic quality. It prefigures 1) his relatively "naked" sortie in Shadow-threatened space and 2) Doc Franklin's own walkabout. And it's beautiful too, something from under the sea when the Vorlon ship moves to inspect him like some terrible kraken. Doc Franklin's soul-searching quest brings him to beautiful singer Cailyn, a poetically-minded woman who looks at his soul through refracting glass and alcohol haze. He wonder who he is when he's not a doctor, only hoping, I think, he is more than his job. And yet events draw him back to Medlab. Jazz bar mirrors and clinking glasses show us several images of Franklin, and the woman in his arms is a reflection too, junky meeting junky (though a twist reminds us that interpretation is always partial, biased and flawed - he sees himself in her, and does not see her for what she really is). If he HAS met himself on this journey, we have yet to see what he learned from himself, but if he's wrong to equate her with his addiction, the fact that she sees herself as a (spiritual) healer means something. Mirroring, interchangeability, correspondance. We might not have needed two almost-complete musical numbers in the episode, but we did need this character, and those songs add a layer of meaning in and of themselves (they were written by JSM; the lyrics here), the second starting on an ironical note underscoring Kosh II's sense of loss with "I think about the things we lost".
Ah Kosh II. Here's another instance of interchangeability, as a second Ambassador Kosh comes aboard, insisting he be called Kosh too. Unknown if he's just making the deception airtight, if the Vorlons are somehow a group entity, or if they share the Minbari concept of an oversoul, but take it much farther. The theme carries on. The new Kosh is darker and more violent, and wears a sleeker encounter suit that looks cooler, but is also an answer to production difficulties associated with the original suit's bulk. Kosh II is looking for a piece of Kosh that might have survived in others' minds, something Lyta doesn't have, but Sheridan might. Can a Vorlon ever be destroyed if they can transfer souls? How does a Vorlon rejoin the oversoul? And does mixing their souls with those of other species create a ripple effect like that of Valen on the Minbari oversoul/meatball? Wow, it's really getting metaphysical in here.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: Unknown if the Star Trek universe has an omnipresent Swedish meatball, but they do have "Breen". You just don't turn your back on one. The notion of someone's soul essence surviving after death for one's people to collect is what the Vulcans call the katra. Deep Space Nine is still two years away from getting its own jazz bar and jazz singer (Vic Fontaine), but he'll recur a heck of a lot more than Cailyn.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Sometimes indulgent, the episode nevertheless features great moments for many characters and is thematically coherent to the point of delight.