Welcome back to the Babylon 5 Season Two Book Club!
Sincere apologies to everybody for failure to report in a timely fashion. Next episodes are “The Long Dark” and “Spider in the Web”, if someone would like to do either, let me know. Otherwise we’ll be back on a Monday post schedule next week. Pinky swear.
It’s very difficult to discuss this show without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot; if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
Season Two, Episode 4: “A Distant Star”.
Open cut: Captain on unknown vessel informs underling he wants to contact Sheridan on B5. “And take this down exactly“… and over to the B5 command area, where Ivanova is passing along said message, from Captain Maynard of the “Cortez”. Sheridan starts to grin even before Ivanova notes the message is “rather rude”. Apparently Sheridan has the nickname “Swamp Rat”, and Maynard is one of Sheridan’s old buddies. Nice to know trash talk among old peers is still common in the future.
Arriving through the gate is EAS Cortez, an Explorer-class ship, whose job is roughly analogous to the original Star Trek’s Enterprise: go out and explore places we haven’t been before, and build jump gates out there. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Cortez has been out there for… five years. Insider nerd joke. Cut to the intro reel.
Back from the break, Swamp Rat is giving his old pal Stinky a tour of the station. Delenn makes an appearance, asking for a Council meeting later this week. Captain Maynard seems surprised that Sheridan is in something resembling (to Maynard, anyway) a desk job.
Cut to medlab, we’ve got Garibaldi giving Bad Patient to the doctor in the old, “You can’t tell me what to do,”, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor” byplay. Welcome to middle age, Garibaldi, you can eat veggies and tofu. The doctor will be monitoring you closely, Mr. Garibaldi.
Back to Sheridan and Maynard, and a recap of the season so far. Maynard is playing the part of Sheridan’s inner “die-hard spacer” telling Sheridan maybe he’s not in the right job. This plus the Garibaldi subplot as revealed so far makes me feel like the episode was aimed at “guys in their forties”.
Over to Sheridan and Garibaldi, discussing a shoplifting wave. Sheridan is listening too much to that inner die hard spacer now that Maynard has resurrected him and brushes off Garibaldi’s report as something for security to handle. John, John, can I make a prediction about whether or not that decision will bite you in the ass by the end of this episode? Over to Maynard, Sheridan, Ivanova, and crew trading war stories in the bar. War story blackmail (shout out to July 12!). A moment of seriousness intrudes when the crew ask Maynard if he thinks there is any truth to the rumors of something living in hyperspace… Maynard replies that he doesn’t think there’s anything living in hyperspace, but there are strange things out there… Sheridan and Maynard continue the conversation on the way out of the bar. Sheridan quizzes Maynard about the weirdness he’s talking about, Maynard gives a story where he saw something large and black blocking the stars out on the Rim.
Oh, sorry. Where was I?
Ah, back over to Garibaldi, he is engaging in some contraband acquisition down in the grey market, probably looking to get past the doctor’s impositions on his diet/food plan. Over to the doctor, he’s giving diet plans to Sheridan, too.
Now we cut to Delenn, getting criticism from some Minbari about her recent transformation. Delenn pulls the “shut up and follow orders” card, but the representative points out that if she – in her now altered, not exactly Minbari anymore state – can’t answer his questions, he’ll send a representative directly to the Grey Council. Unless she objects. It hangs there for a minute, and Delenn says she has no objections. The Ambassador is dealing with an implicit loss of authority, for someone formerly in the Head Honcho Brigade, she doesn’t appear to happy with the transition. Ah, the costs of decisions!
And we’re back to the doctor, and he’s drunk on power (at least, as much as he gets drunk on anything). Now he’s got a diet for Ivanova. For her to gain weight. Temporarily. Heh. Anyone see a future scene in this episode coming?
Cut to Maynard and Sheridan, now that the Cortez is restocked they’re all ready to take off. We get Maynard playing a voice in Sheridan’s head talking to Sheridan. Inner conflict unresolved. Off goes The Cortez. It gets *another* five year mission?
Now we’ve got Ivanova and Sheridan talking about a trivial detail that triggers a bit more of the inner die-hard spacer. Ivanova mentions that Sheridan hasn’t been himself since the Cortez has been here. Sheridan and Ivanova hash it out, with Sheridan sounding (frankly) like a guy who wants to go buy a Corvette with the top down. He goes full cave-man and denies the thumb. Ivanova tells him to put on his Big Girl Pants, not in so many words, but rather nicely so.
Cut to the Cortez, there’s some sort of small explosion on the bridge and the XO is hurt. Nope, it’s not just the bridge, the jump triggered some sort of EMP which scrambled the controls, and they don’t have the lock from the jump gate any more, which means they’re stuck in hyperspace. Hold on a second, wouldn’t the Cortez have its own Jump capability? Eh, maybe they used the gate to save some of their power or something, if they’re going to be out for another long trip, that might make sense. Break!
Back from break, the Command trio is sitting eating Doctor-Approved lunch. Garibaldi is talking about his solution to the petty crime wave, Sheridan is listening, so maybe he’s over his cave-man funk. Everybody eyeballs their lunch and the one next to them and plates get rotated. No, I didn’t see that coming. Oops, nailed, the Doctor is Always Watching. Plates get re-rotated.
Over to the Cortez, they’ve got a Scotty problem: 48 hours to fix the guidance system and not that much time before they get hopelessly lost in hyperspace. Too bad they don’t have a Scotty. Out goes the mayday. It’s iffy, but of course B5 gets the signal. Sheridan gets his Command Face on. Ivanova shouldn’t need to remind him that no ship lost in hyperspace has even been found again, but she does for our sake.
Cut from Drama to the doctor who is examining Delenn. She’s physically mostly fine, but the doctor sees something going on. Delenn plays it off, and accidentally outs Garibaldi’s plan to get his real dinner behind the Doctor’s back.
Back to Drama, Sheridan is giving the Starfury pilots a sitrep and he’s got a plan. There’s a strong chance that some or all of the rescue ships might not make it back. It’s a long shot, but it’s the Cortez’s only chance. Sheridan doesn’t ask for volunteers, and nobody blinks or asks about hazard pay. The pilots hit space, they’re going to form a chain from the gate into hyperspace, spaced out between the fighters, and try and give the Cortez something to lock on. The fighters succeed in making it to the Cortez, but all of a sudden a big black ship destroys the last fighter. We’ve seen this guy before. The second to last fighter, piloted by Keffer, is damaged but uses the guns to point the way. The Cortez follows back to the gate, unable to assist the damaged fighter. Looks like Keffer is toast. Back to B5 bridge, the jump gate activates and out comes three of the fighters and the Cortez. Mission accomplished, damage collateral.
Cut from Drama, Garibaldi is picking up his contraband. Olive oil, butter, and… oops, there’s the Doctor. Busted. Garibaldi tells a father-son story justifying making himself his special dish for his birthday. The doc’s a sucker for human interest stories, gives him a pass on his diet, and would like an invite to dinner.
Back to Sheridan, Delenn has found him and commends his decision, in spite of the loss. She gives him a destiny pep talk and tells him that he belongs here on B5. Sheridan doesn’t really have her faith in the universe. Delenn gives one of my favorite quotes of the series:
“Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest secret of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star stuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.”
Lines like this get me through the dark times in this show.
Cut back to Keffer! He’s got 32.5 minutes of oxygen left, and thrusters are back online, but he’s got no Nav signal. But one of the mysterious black ships makes an appearance, and winks out. Keffer gets the computer to plot a course guessing the direction of the gate from the appearance of the first ship, and he makes it out. Cue heroic music.
We end with a wake, to Galus, who was destroyed by the mysterious black ship. Something dark dangerous went by.
Maynard mutters, “That feeling that something’s out there… you just don’t forget it.”
Oh, sorry. Ah, where was I…
Ivanova promotes Keffer to squadron leader. Congrats, Wedge, you’re not just Red Two any more.
The doctor and Garibaldi are in gustatory heaven. The doctor is best in these scenes.
Ivanova walks in on Sheridan doing some work, he’s back in old form. Roll credits.