Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2"

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Episode Information

Title: "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Janet Greek
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: March 10, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The crew must prevent the planet they are orbiting from exploding as well as prevent a war with a new alien race.

At the end of Part 1, we were left hanging about a large ship that had just come through the jump gate. Now we learn that it's an Earth Force heavy cruiser, the Hyperion, commanded by Captain Pierce. Earth Force had heard Sinclair's reports about the amazing technology on the planet, and so the Hyperion is hear to protect Earth's claims to that technology. Even knowing that the Hyperion was easily diverted from another mission, this is extremely fast work, considering that Sinclair and Ivanova haven't even returned to the station yet - how did Sinclair's reports get sent to Earth Force when he hasn't even been back to file them?

Sinclair and Ivanova return and send the alien to medlab. Then Sinclair confronts Pierce: he's furious that Pierce is there because the Hyperion draws attention to the station, making people wonder about what Sinclair's mission on the planet was. Pierce returns the animosity, commenting on the station's cushy accommodations. The chain of command between them is murky: Pierce outranks Sinclair since he's a captain, but Sinclair has nominal command of the station and the sector of space around it. Sinclair does request a formal confirmation from the President of his authority, but of course it won't arrive until the episode ends.

Sinclair and Pierce proceed to try to work around each other to fulfill their orders. Pierce wants to send some of his own small ships to the planet's surface. Sinclair tries to convince him not to (because of the missile attacks), but only succeeds in delaying the mission until the "jamming device" preventing the attacks can be repaired. Of course, there is no jamming device, but Sinclair hopes his ruse will work for long enough.

Observations of the planet show that the seismic activity has been increasing substantially. From what they can tell from the measurements and what they saw while they were on the planet, the extensive technology includes numerous huge fusion reactors, which are all heading for a critical overload. Within 48 hours, the reactors will explode, destroying the planet. This seems to be some kind of doomsday setting that has been triggered by the alien leaving the planet.

Garibaldi's nerves are shot with his worry over Lise and the situation on Mars. When some loud-mouths on the zocalo diss the Mars rebels, Garibaldi breaks a few heads. Later, he finally tells the story to Sinclair, who promises to get a communications channel for him when the present crisis is resolved. They also discuss the possibility of evacuating the station if the planet's doom cannot be stopped - they both know it will be an absolute madhouse and not everyone will get off. Sinclair asks Garibaldi to make sure Ivanova gets off the station, since her whole career is still ahead of her. This is a touching sentiment from two older soldiers who have obviously had stalled careers.

Draal hears the alien's voice calling to him, and he and Delenn go to medlab. Dr. Franklin tries to keep them away from his comatose patient, but their presence wakes up the alien, who is named Varn. Varn warns that the planet will be destroyed if anyone else lands on it. He also says that a living person needs to control the machinery in the planet, or it will also be destroyed. Franklin says that Varn is dying, so clearly someone else will have to become the "heart" of the machine.

Sinclair is notified about this information from Varn, and he tries to use it to persuade Pierce not to send another expedition to the planet. Pierce scoffs that Varn is lying to protect the planet's technology.

But before they can resolve the issue, another huge ship comes through the jump gate. The ship scans the computer banks of both the station and the Hyperion, and the aliens on the ship use the information to be able to speak English. The aliens claim that the planet is theirs - it had been lost for 500 years, and they have been searching for it. They demand that everyone else leave the area within 10 hours. Before Sinclair can reply, Pierce responds that the planet is under Earth Alliance's control, and the aliens must leave within 9 hours. As Ivanova says, "Worst case of testosterone poisoning I've ever seen."

Sinclair consults with Varn about the new arrivals. Varn says that they are violent outcasts, and that the planet had been hidden from them. He warns Sinclair not to allow them to take the planet, because the planet must be saved for the future... what that future is, and how long from now, is not said.

Delenn and Draal discuss Varn's situation. Londo, who has been frustrated in his attempts to find out what's going on with the planet, interrupts them and insists that they share what they know. After some discussion, they decide to take Varn back to the planet along with them, and one of them will not be returning. Londo will pilot the ship down. They create a diversion and snatch Varn from medlab.

Meanwhile, Pierce asks for Sinclair's fighters to help attack the aliens. Sinclair is out of options, so he agrees. The aliens attack early, provoked by Londo's ship heading for the planet. The fighters from both the station and the Hyperion respond. Garibaldi takes a fighter down after Londo's ship, to see who is going to the planet.

Delenn, Draal, and Londo take Varn back to the heart of the planetary machine. Garibaldi shows up moments later, demanding to know what's going on, and clearly surprised to see such distinguished patient-stealers. Draal explains that he intends to take Varn's place in the machine, so that it can be brought back under control. Although Delenn is unhappy at the thought of Draal so encompassed by the machine, she seems to think it's a worthy task for him, and much better than him "going to the sea". Garibaldi puts up some pro forma protests, but clearly there's nothing else that can be done.

Draal steps into the machine and takes some time to adjust to it. In short order, however, he causes a blackout on the station, the Hyperion, and the alien ship and projects an announcement: the planet is under the control of the B5 Advisory Council, and it is for use in the future. Anyone approaching the planet will be destroyed. Sinclair and Pierce are happy to comply, but the alien ship heads toward the planet. Draal causes a huge energy beam to shoot out of the planet and cut the alien ship into pieces.

Delenn, Londo, and Garibaldi return to the station. Pierce has gotten the confirmation that Sinclair is in charge, and apologizes for any problems he caused before the Hyperion leaves.

Garibaldi finally gets in touch with Lise on Mars. She was injured in the fighting, but will recover. Garibaldi starts pouring out his feelings, telling her it was a mistake for him to leave her - he even seems willing to go back to Mars from her. Lise seems to know what he's going to say, but can't stop him at first. She says that she's married and is expecting a child. Garibaldi is crushed.

Later Garibaldi and Delenn run into each other while pondering recent events on the observation deck. Garibaldi asks Delenn why she didn't ask for help when she and Draal figured out Varn's problem. Delenn replies that if she had, then Sinclair would now be in the heart of the machine, but his destiny lies elsewhere. This is a fascinating comment. We saw how much Delenn valued Draal, and yet didn't protest his decision to enter the machine. Just what is Sinclair destined to do that is so important that Delenn feels it necessary to save him from himself?

This episode is a mostly-satisfying ending to the issues raised in the first part. The idea of a technology capable of controlling an entire planet all at once, and operating with a person as the "brain" is fascinating. However, it was a little obvious that Draal would be the one in the machine at the end, since the other characters aren't so expendable. What is the machine and the planet being saved for? Did Varn's people have some specific future purpose in mind, or just a more general "when you are ready" goal?

What will Draal be able to learn now that he is the heart of the machine? Varn speaks about him seeing and hearing many things, as well as having his life extended. There's not much going on on the planet, so the machine must have some incredible sensors and probes that can send Draal information from all over. This fits in with Varn saying that he observed B5 being built.

The interaction between Sinclair and Pierce was interesting. Despite them being fellow Earth Force officers, Sinclair was furious at Pierce's presence - not Pierce himself, but the military force he represented. This is interesting coming from a soldier, and I think it shows how much Sinclair has taken to his role as a diplomat, trying to think of peaceful resolutions first. He's starting to see Earth Force as a possible impediment to diplomatic goals.

The presence of the Hyperion presented a nice goad for Sinclair, but otherwise didn't seem to have much purpose. The ship's fighters were there for the battle, but the ship itself couldn't help much, since the enemy tactics were to use B5 as a shield, which was sensible. I suppose it's logical for Earth Force to send a ship to the station in such a situation, but this part of the plot almost seemed like a red herring.

It's hard to believe that when Earth Force was so eager to get their hands on the planet's technology that they would just meekly give it up when Draal told them to. Will they try to somehow sneak back to the planet and get a taste? The planet's weapons are powerful, yes, but I can see some Earth Force strategists trying to devise ways to get to the surface.

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