Now that we’re safely on the downslope side of Season 2, and the show has *finally* found its footing, we get our first really ‘format breaking’ episode. This time out, the story isn’t told as though it’s a standard hour of B5, but rather it’s shot as though it’s a 23rd century news show *about* the Babylon 5 space station. The story, then, is told through the eyes of the reporter and the camera crew. We see what they see, don’t see what they don’t see. In other words, if you’re having trouble with my not-very-good explanation here, the concept is that you’re seeing B5 not as it normally appears to us in the here and now, but as it would appear to an average Joe (Or Jane) who lived in that fictional universe, watching TV 247 years from now. Think of the Walter Winchell episode of “M*A*S*H” and you’ll get the idea.
In storytelling lingo, this is called “In Universe.” And does it work? Well…
PLAY BY PLAY
An Interstellar Network News program called “36 hours” visits B5 to film an episode. They spend 36 hours in some exotic location, reporting all the ins and outs, asking questions, you know: the usual. While arriving at the station, some Narn and Centauri ships start firing on each other. Once on the station, we find lots of injured Centauri all over the loading bay, and Dr. Franklin giving emergency aid. Cynthia, the reporter, tries to get an interview, but everyone’s way too busy.
As the plot unfolds, we find that the Centauri have been using B5 as a means of transporting “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Since these are obviously intended to be used against the Narn in their ongoing war, they decide to stop it, and that’s why they started shooting in the teaser. The Centauri, meanwhile, maintain that since the weapons were transported *outside* the station itself, no rules were broken. This results in a lot of squabbling. Sheridan orders no more of this, and orders the Centauri vessels away. Londo pitches a fit, and in comes a Centauri Cruiser to interdict all traffic. They say they’ll use force to protect their shipping, and B5 has no right to stop it.
Sheridan calmly figures out a way to call their bluff without risking any lives, and this works, but literally *while* they’re congratulating themselves, a Narn heavy cruiser jumps in and starts firing at the Centauri ship. They catch ‘em with their pants down, and it’s destroyed, but it’s a pyrrhic victory as the Narn’s jump engines were damaged in the fight, and they explode as they try to jump away.
That’s pretty much it for plot, really.
In between all this, we get interviews with the characters on station, and a few others as wel;L
- Garibaldi, who has nothing to do in this episode, complains about how he’s got too much to do.
- Sheridan complains about how ‘every time someone loses a war, you just wait a few years, and there’ll be someone bragging about how things would have gone differently if they’d been allowed to fight…’ The reporter points out that earth won the war. “Of course.” Sheridan says, chagrinned.
- Delenn is asked about her newly humanized appearance, and human hatred of the Minbari, and she starts crying.
- Londo is an oily politician, talking to the cameras. He’s good at it.
- G’kar does his normal G’kar stomp, nothing impressive. It’s a waste.
- Lt. Corwin displays fear of Ivonova
- Ivanova barely manages to control her rage at being interviewed.
In addition, we have some interviews with the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees B5 itself.
There’s also a fake Psicorps Recruitment commercial.
In my market, this episode aired on May 5th, 1995, which was a Friday. I remember this so specifically because that was the only day I was ever around people playing “Magic: The Gathering.” My friend Renaud showed up to drag me away from B5 and go hang out with him and his wife at this local Bennegins sports bar type place that had literally hundreds of people sitting around playing the game. So I didn’t get to see this, but I did get to see a whole lot of people staring at tables and occasionally turning pointers. Score! I mention this only to point out how freakin’ *LONG* ago this show was. Ah, I was young and skinny once…and I was *STILL* blowing it hanging out with geeks. Ah well.
“Weapons of Mass Destruction” was not an amazingly common