"Much as it might offend their sense of perspective, not everything is about Babylon 5."
REVIEW: This season's "change of pace" episode (and I note the DVD DID change the opening sequence to match this time) treats the show as if the Psi Cops were its protagonists. While I'm not always convinced of their "world" - the Orwellian signs on the walls are rather obvious and silly - the net effect is to make the Babylon 5 personnel the "villains" and Bester and his fresh recruits the heroes. It's more than the premise, it's also in how it's played. Bester comes off as a tired old veteran, wise and gracious in how he lets Mundane jerks be mean to him. The few B5 characters we do see (Zack and Franklin) are smug, callous, and arguably racist. This holds up until the end when the show loses its nerve and has Franklin play up his ethics, and the Psi Cops ditch a Mundane out an airlock in hyperspace. You ALMOST had me.
The real shame is that the sympathetic interns accompanying Bester couldn't be better written. Both are little more that groupies, however. The guy, Chen, isn't given much to do except be rash (because young men are rash). The girl, Lauren, is so star-struck by Bester, she tries to seduce him. He refuses, still in love with the telepath in cold storage on B5 (and married to boot), and handles it rather graciously, but she comes off as a pure twit. Is this what JSM thinks of female interns in general? Of female fans? Or is he going back once again to his experience in a cult, and playing the PsiCorps as Yet Another B5 Cult(TM)? Whatever the case may be, the whole thing creeps me out. If at least they were used to expose a lot of cool stuff about the Corps, but showing orientation videos seems a terrible use of Bester's time. The cool stuff is limited to the creepy effects on the psi-battle (but the tentacles put us in mind of the Shadows and are probably misleading) and the hidden ship in hyperspace (but is that ever going to be anything?).
As for the plot about a telepath with split personalities, one of which is a P12 murderer, it's fine, but not great. Split personalities are a hack device, as far as I know still dubious in the eyes of science, though in a telepathic context, it could have been made to work. The idea that the rogue Harris could steal a skill from a victim - and may I say, the victim gets the strangely gory end of the stick, yeesh - opened the door to a foreign personality infecting a telepath, creating the schism. They miss the boat by an inch. It doesn't help that the actor portraying Harris isn't as strong as he needs to be, nor is the mystery very mysterious. We realize what's going on long before Bester makes the leap.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A pretty negative review, but it's born from disappointment, because this idea had legs. It's not a bad story for Bester to go out on, but it's completely disposable.