Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 1"

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Episode Information

Title: "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 1"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Janet Greek
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: March 8, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The crew discover that the planet the station orbits is not as empty as previously thought, but has ancient advanced technology.

The various plots in this episode are nicely intertwined, but I'm going to discuss them individually.

The station's planetary monitors have begun to register seismic activity, which is becoming stronger and stronger. As Ivanova notes, there's no real concern about the activity, except for their interest in the object the station is orbiting. A team of geologic scientists goes into a closer orbit around the planet to take more measurements. When they get too close to the planet, some kind of beam shoots out, damaging their ship. They are towed back to the station. The beam seems to be a message of some sort, but they can't decode it.

The geologists' ship is repaired, and they return to a closer orbit to try again. When they go too close again, missiles shoot out from the planet. The station's starfuries provide covering fire, and the geologists return safely. The measurements the geologists did get to make indicate that the missiles came from somewhere 5 miles underground. Meanwhile, Sinclair sees some kind of image of an alien asking for help. (Londo separately sees the image.)

Sinclair and Ivanova take a small ship down to the missiles' source. They land in a hangar deck, and there are signs that the facility hasn't been touched in a very long time. They make it through a protective booby-trap and discover incredible technology. (The shot of the alien technology extending down as far as one can see always reminds me of the classic movie Forbidden Planet.) They finally reach a room where the alien from Sinclair's vision is encased in some kind of machinery. He gasps for help, and they disconnect him and take him back to their ship to return to the station. The seismic activity becomes much worse immediately.

At the same time as the main plot, the station receives the news that some citizens of Mars are revolting against Earthgov, demanding independence for Mars. Earthgov has sent in troops, and there is fighting all over Mars. Sinclair and Ivanova are upset by the news, but neither of them has friends or relatives on Mars now. Garibaldi, however, is crushed: his previous assignment was on Mars, and he had a serious relationship with a woman named Lise Hampton. When Sinclair offered Garibaldi the job on B5, Garibaldi and Lise eventually broke up angrily. Garibaldi realizes now that losing Lise was the biggest mistake of his life, and now he is desperate to know if she's OK.

Garibaldi tries to contact Lise through official communications channels, but communications are interdicted. He then pleads with Talia to use her Psi Corps connections to get him access to communications through them. Talia can't manage that, but her friends in Psi Corp run a check on Lise's name, and do not find it on the "survivors" list. Talia sadly reports this to Garibaldi, but he refuses to give up hope.

While Sinclair and Ivanova are on the planet, Garibaldi is left in charge, so he's there at the very end of the episode when a large, unidentified (to us) ship comes through the jump gate.

During all of this, Delenn has unexpectedly received an old friend on the station: Draal, a former teacher and mentor. She is overjoyed to see him, until he explains why he is there. He feels like attitudes are changing on Minbar and that the old values are no longer considered as important. Since he doesn't feel needed on Minbar anymore, he has decided to "go to the sea". Delenn is shocked. We aren't really told what "going to the sea" means, but my impression is that the person goes on a journey of exploration from which they do not intend to return. Consequently, Delenn will never see Draal again.

Even though Delenn is very saddened by the prospect, she cannot deny him what he truly wishes. Draal is there for a last visit, and so she happily shows him around the station, even introducing him to Londo. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the series, as Londo explains his in-depth study of one of the most enduring human songs, "The Hokey Pokey", and he complains with evident frustration that he just can't understand it. Watching him sing the song and Delenn and Draal earnestly listening to it and pondering its meaning is hilarious.

This episode weaves together several different plotlines very effectively, much more so than in "TKO", for example. The main plot involving the planet has a lot of excitement, with the dramatic rescues of the geologists (twice!) and Sinclair and Ivanova's trip down to the surface. Certainly the existence of the machinery within the planet and the fact that a being was living down there was completely unexpected.

The cliffhanger is the arrival of a large ship through the jumpgate - from the signal that the planet sent, we would expect this ship to be whoever received the signal.

The secondary plot involving the fighting on Mars and Garibaldi's quest to find Lise is in some ways more dramatic. We see how helpless our main characters feel, since they are so far away from the actual situation. While it's a little contrived for Garibaldi to suddenly realize he made a mistake in leaving Lise, it's also pretty realistic for him to have figured he could fix that mistake anytime - but now maybe he's run out of time.

Earthgov is moving quickly to put down the rebellion, and we get reports that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been injured in the fighting. How many Mars citizens do want independence from Earth? Will Earthgov manage to quash the rebellion?

It's interesting that Garibaldi turns to Talia for help rather than Sinclair. Was it just because he knew about the secret Psi Corps facility on Mars? Was he embarrassed to mention the situation to Sinclair (this seems unlikely)? Was he trying to show a more sensitive side of himself to Talia? Of course, he gets payback for the ogling he's been doing of Talia when she refuses to take him seriously at first. Ah, the good, old first seasons when characters have time to do things like hang out in elevators to bother others.

Delenn's old friend Draal is an interesting character, the quintessential teacher. Even now he takes a somewhat instructive tone to Delenn. It's always a pleasure to see Delenn interact with her true friends, like we did with Shol Mayan in "The War Prayer", and now here. Draal is unhappy with how things are changing on Minbar. The older generation always thinks the younger generation is changing things too much - is he just getting "out dated", or is there genuine, significant change happening on Minbar, perhaps for the worse?

We get the feeling that Draal's visit at this time might be coincidental in the B5 universe, but not in the view of the writers. How will Delenn and Draal become connected to the events on the planet?

This episode leaves everything hanging, but that's the point of a two-parter, right?

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