Review: Babylon 5 2.04

by on Nov.23, 2008, under Babylon 5, Reviews by Bill Thompson, Television

A Distant Star

Review: Babylon 5 2.04 300px eaexplor lg1

That’s quite possibly the lamest “Yes, Sir!” I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how things work in EarthForce, but you can get shot for that sort of stuff around these parts. Sweet boots Captain Maynard, all white and spiffy, me likey! If only Keffer hadn’t of found his way back to the station, I’d be a very happy man. I’d also be willing to explore Ivanova’s expanding Russian borders at a moment’s notice, I’m free for that sort of exploratory mission.

Written By: D.C. Fontana
Directed By: Jim Johnston

Bare Essentials:

A Plot - The Cortez, an EarthForce Explorer Class Research Ship has made its way to Babylon 5 for re-provisions. After they leave with their new supplies in tow their reactors malfunction and the resulting explosion leaves the ship adrift in hyperspace with no way to lock on to the beacon and find their way out of hyperspace by themselves. Luckily for them Babylon 5 receives their distress call and on orders from Captain Sheridan they send out a squadron of Starfuries that form a line of ships to lead the Cortez back to B5’s jump gate. A Shadow Battle Crab appears and destroys one Starfury and disable another one, but not before the damaged Starfury is able to show the Cortez the way to B5. Later, Lt. Keffer returns in the damaged Starfury and the problems with hyperspace are over.

B Plot - The arrival of Captain Sheridan’s old friend Captain Jack Maynard has stirred up feelings of wanderlust in Sheridan. He begins to question his placement on Babylon 5 and yearns to be back on a ship exploring the galaxy again. After a stern talking to from Ivanova and a visit from Ambassador Delenn that puts things in perspective Sheridan leaves his wanderlust behind and realizes he is right where he needs to be on Babylon 5.

C Plot - Dr. Franklin decides that the entire command staff need to eat better so he puts all of them on food plans. They of course rebel and in the end even Franklin succumbs to their wishes and eats something definitely not on the approved good eating list with Garibaldi.

More Arc, Less Arch:

As the episode ends up showing, the conversation about things living in hyperspace deals with the Shadows. The story in Universe Today about things living in hyperspace that Keffer refers to was seen in And The Sky Full Of Stars. But, far down the line in the Crusade episode The Well Of Forever we’ll see that there really are things living in hyperspace.

For more strange goings on out on the rim around this time check out The Passing Of The Techno-Mages: Book I: Casting Shadows and Book II: Summoning Light.

The new feelings that the Minbari hold towards Delenn will play out in the episodes There All The Honor Lies, And Now For a Word, before finally being resolved in Atonement.

Who Are You? What Do Yo… Hey, I’m Asking The Questions Here!:

How exactly does Garibaldi assign the shoplifters he catches to community service? We know that B5 observes the idea of due process and the right to a fair trial because of the Ombuds. That throwaway line doesn’t work at all.

Why doesn’t the Cortez just jump out of hyperspace? As far as we know the Cortez’s jump engines aren’t damaged, so it should be able to jump to real space from its present position. Unless, in Babylon 5 you have to lock onto a jump gate and it’s hyperspace route in order to jump, but that’s never been explained.

Idiosyncratic Musings:

Delenn’s conversation with Teroon about the feelings of the Minbari on Babylon 5 towards her illustrates a couple of things. First, the idea of not accepting that which is different. Secondly, the notion that the Minbari people must accept Delenn’s change without question because they don’t have the right to question someone of her authority. Neither is a strict Minbari way of thinking and doesn’t reflect badly on Minbari as they are very common “people” traits. Both are in fact bad ideas, because people should be accepting of change while at the same time be allowed to question said change.

I See What You Did There:

Sheridan’s first post was the Moon-Mars Patrol, where his commanding officer was Jack Maynard.

With its rescue the Cortez becomes the first ship lost in hyperspace ever to be found again, although it is unclear whether that encompasses all races or just humans.

Keffer is promoted to Commander of Zeta Squadron, although it’s not an official promotion in rank because he still maintains the rank of Lieutenant.

Say It Again Mac:

Great exchange,
Ivanova, “Now suddenly, I am the expanding Russian frontier.”
Franklin, “But with very nice borders.”

Yes, I Am A Fleet Junkie:

We get to see an EarthForce Explorer Class Research Ship for the first time. The Cortez in this instance, and it is massive, easily the largest non-First One vessel seen on the show and obviously it can form its own jump point. The Cortez’s rotating middle section does provide a workable gravity inside of the vessel, and despite it’s main function being that of exploration and jump gate construction an Explorer does carry two squadrons of Aurora Class Starfury Heavy Fighters, 16 in total, and an armament. The armament consists of 4 pulsed plasma cannons, 4 twin particle cannons, and 62 Mk. I defense grid energy projectors. An Explorer can defend itself, but that is about the extent of their capabilities as most other capital ships from any other race would be able to take out an Explorer in a fight. Looks wise the Explorers resemble a skeleton, or a bare bones design with a construction looking outer shell. It’s an interesting ship to look at, that’s for sure.

We get to see the shadows again and a Battle Crab Class Attack Cruiser. A Battle Crab emerges into hyperspace and destroys a lone Starfury with the energy it emits upon its arrival. It then bumps into Keffer’s Starfury and knocks most if its systems offline in the process. Later we see another Battle Crab, or maybe the same one, pass through the area where Keffer is stranded. My problem with their appearance in A Distant Star is that they don’t destroy the Cortez or Keffer’s Starfury. At this point in time the Shadows still don’t want their presence to be known, yet when they make contact with a Starfury that is near an Explorer vessel they just leave them be and don’t bother destroying them and I don’t buy that.

It’s Your Cultural Imperative:

According to Delenn the Minbari believe that living beings are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.

I Think This Might Be Based On Something:

The Cortez is named after infamous, or famous depending on your point of view, explorer, Hernándo Cortez. He conquered the Aztecs and destroyed their culture, ensuring Spanish control of Mexico in the process.

The Egyptian blessing that Sheridan recites is taken from the short story, Paladin Of The Lost Hour, by Harlan Ellison.

Delenn’s speech about star stuff has many similarities to part of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and it also shares a part of the play The Effect Of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds, written by Paul Zindel.

You Look Mighty Familiar:

Russ Tamblyn, Captain Jack Maynard, has appeared in many genre and non-genre roles, but he’s most famous genre wise for his many appearances as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby on Twin Peaks and its film follow up Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. His daughter Amber Tamblyn may be recognizable to some for her role as the lead on the slight genre show Joan Of Arcadia as Joan Girardi.

Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Orwell, appeared in the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman episode Neverending Battle as Jules. But, his most famous role was in the atrociously bad Street Fighter as Dee Jay, a Jamaican con artist who was a weakling in the movie despite being a chiseled and huge kick boxer in the video games. He brought more awesomeness as Sticks in Leprechaun 4: In Space. However, for those who aren’t fans of terrible genre movies you may remember him for his starring role as Jamal Jeffries, AKA Juwanna Mann in Juwanna Mann.

Casting Ahead:

Patty Toy returns as random cast member Ogilvie to make her last appearance on Babylon 5. She previously appeared as the Psi Corps member that spoke to Talia Winters in A Voice In The Wilderness, Part 1.

Kim Delgado is also back for his final appearance on Babylon 5 as the unnamed Comm Tech in the background of C&C.

That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen:

There’s a bad bit of dubbing involving the female communications officer shortly after the reactor on the Cortez has malfunctioned. She’s talking but her lips aren’t forming the words she’s saying.

The Ombuds Have Decided:

A Distant Star isn’t a bad episode, but it doesn’t give you anything to care about. None of the characters or situations are appealing, save the appearance of the Shadows. We’re not given any reason to care about the Cortez or her crew, nor have we been given any reason to care about Keffer or Galus. A Distant Star is an episode where all the trouble centers around periphery characters that haven’t been fleshed out in any way and that doesn’t give you a reason to care about the content of the episode. The dialogue is a bit shaky as well, it lacks many real conversation moments and instead is a series of speeches and declarations. A Distant Star isn’t a memorable episode. It’s not a good episode, it’s a passable episode that happens to just be there.

The biggest problem with A Distant Star is that there really is no dilemma with the Cortez. They have a number of options that they can fall back on if there mayday doesn’t work. They have just gotten provisions and since they are usually out on the rim for years they could survive on those provisions for years. They have a jump engine so they have the ability to open a jump point out into real space. If that fails they have the ability to construct and lay out jump gates, so they could always do that. There’s really no intrigue to a stranded ship when in all actuality it isn’t stranded at all.

I’m still not a fan of sticking Keffer into meet-ups, such as the one earlier in the episode at Earhart’s. They don’t help his character or add to his story. All they try to do is make him seem important by association, but he’s not an important character. Stick him in a Starfury and let him do his thing, but quit shoving him in conversations with the rest of the main group when he doesn’t belong there.

The entire line of “no ship lost in hyperspace has ever been found” serves the reason for the episode. The entire episode exists so that Sheridan can look like even more of a tactical genius when he does find and save the Cortez. That’s perfectly fine, I just wish the execution would have been a bit better, and so many of the build up scenes hadn’t of been so melodramatic.

Delenn’s conversation with Sheridan is a small thing, but looking back on the series it is clearly the beginning of their relationship and a pretty important moment. Another important scene is the one where Garibaldi and Franklin share dinner, because this establishes how close their friendship has become. The importance of this will become obvious later on when Garibaldi helps Franklin to realize the destructive path he is on and in effect saves his life in season 3, while Franklin returns the favor and saves Garibaldi from a certain death in season 4, in a situation where if he had been wrong about Garibaldi he would have died along with him.

Rating:

67/100

C

That’s it for our trip to the stars, and a distant one at that. Next we shall take a journey into The Long Dark.

Cheers,
Bill

Previous – 2.03

Next – 2.05


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