"Can I sit?" "That's between you and your chiropractor - I don't get involved."
REVIEW: I might be more enthusiastic about a sequel to And Now for a Word with the added twist that ISN is now a propaganda machine, if the original ISN report hadn't been biased. There's not enough contrast here to make the exercise worthwhile, and the episode is strapped with some very messy writing and direction besides. Let's start with the latter. Unlike the original "news report" episode, The Illusion of Truth weaves in and out of "news footage", with at least some scenes occurring objectively. Except director Stephen Furst gives two of those objective scenes documentary-style camera movement (including one BEFORE the cameras show up). It's very confusing. Are we supposed to think these were filmed as well? Is someone spying on the station, as per the last scene where the POV is the TV screen's? If Furst (or JMS his overlord) is trying to be clever and questioning the objectivity of the entire series (since the writer chooses what is seen, image and sound are skewed to make the audience think and feel specific things, etc.), he should know you can't sacrifice clarity for the sake of meta-text. It just doesn't work. Oddly, those objective scenes filmed as documentary make the writing feel even more staged than normal. I kept waiting for a final twist that revealed these scenes indeed WERE staged for someone's benefit, but it never happened. Furst also has the cameras take stills, which doesn't really make sense. I do like the joke about commercials just before actually going to commercial, even if it tends to get lost on DVD.
On the writing side of things, that Sheridan and Delenn's comments would be taken out of context and used against Babylon 5 is SO obvious as to make them look like idiots. Their answers about their relationship don't make sense and are crafted to sound like their making threats. Their eventual use in the report is loudly telegraphed and hardly a surprise. Again, I waited for the twist that would explain the attitude, but never got it. The strategy to give short declarative answers that couldn't be taken out of context fails completely, and if they were actively trying to avoid this, it makes them even stupider for choosing the answers they did. Garibaldi throwing Sheridan under the bus could be PsiCorps programming, I suppose, but doesn't really ring true either, especially in the way Garibaldi responds to flattery (unrelated is a neat scene where he shows his detective skills with a prospective client now that he's in the retrieval business, but it does make me wonder why he was never this competent as head of security). I do respect the commitment to the fake news show in the second half of the episode, showing ISN's bias in a pseudo-authentic format (the call to report on dissidents and the hypertext captions work quite well, for example). Ultimately, it does seem back-loaded with things we've seen before, and the footage manipulation is rarely clever.
The question of whether the journalist made good on his promise to Sheridan to get a least a small truth out is answered at the end when he reports not only casts Sheridan in a sympathetic light (a victim of alien influence; and it isn't complete fabrication, just Earthgov's xenophobic bias that's wrong), but also gives Sheridan information on his father, information denied him until now because of the embargo. Small comfort given how slick and brazen the journalist apparently is in his smear campaign. It's very hard to forgive him. Throw in some tedious psychobabble from a biased expert and hardly anything of import happening in the objective scenes (or even much new information) and you've got a bit of a snoozer here.
REWATCHABILITY: Low - I'm not going to argue there aren't a couple of good scenes in there, but because we revisit an old trick, it doesn't feel innovative, and there are some very messy decisions made along the way.