Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "A Distant Star"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

If you have any comments on this review, please email me at the address at the bottom.

Episode Information

Title: "A Distant Star"
Writer: D.C. Fontana
Director: Jim Johnston
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: April 5, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


An Earth Force Explorer ship visits the station.

The Cortez, an Explorer ship commanded by Sheridan's old friend Captain Jack Maynard, stops by B5 to resupply. Explorer ships remote new (to Earth) sections of space and scout out good places to build new jumpgates. The Cortez has been on the galactic rim for some time. It's an impressive ship, very long and thin. We aren't told what the crew compliment is, but it must be dozens, if not more than a hundred.

Maynard and Sheridan reminisce, and Maynard is surprised to see Sheridan in a post commanding B5 instead of commanding his own Explorer ship. Sheridan puts a good face on his duties, even mentioning that the President requested him, but we can see that Maynard's comments bother him.

Sheridan takes Maynard to the officer's lounge to have drinks with some of the crew. Maynard amuses them with stories of adventures on the rim. When pressed, he tells a story about seeing a strange, large, black ship that quickly disappeared. Later, when Sheridan asks him about the ship, Maynard insists he did see something; Sheridan says he's the second person to mention strange ships on the rim. (Presumably G'Kar in "Revelations" was the first person.)

The Cortez departs through the jumpgate for the next leg of their mission. Before they have gone very far, though, there's some kind of explosive malfunction. The ship loses its lock on the jumpgate beacon, meaning that they can't find their way through hyperspace to a jumpgate. The odd thing that doesn't seem to be explained is this: the Cortez finds new locations to build jumpgates. That means it has to be able to make its own jump point and doesn't need a new jumpgate. So why can't it jump to normal space, try to find its position, and then jump to where it needs to be? Maybe the jump engines are also damaged, but I don't recall this being stated.

On B5, Ivanova confronts Sheridan about being out of sorts since the Cortez visited. Sheridan admits that he's having second thoughts about whether he can handle commanding B5, since he was trained to command spaceships. Ivanova says that the necessary skills are similar, but Sheridan whines about being turned into a bureaucrat. This is a great scene, because it highlights the friendship between Ivanova and Sheridan. I can't imagine Ivanova being so bold in speaking with Sinclair, but she knows that Sheridan will respect her opinions and not hold her honesty against her. For his part, Sheridan doesn't mind unloading onto her and doesn't seem to worry about it undermining his command.

The station receives a sketchy distress call from the Cortez. Sheridan orders B5's fighters on a rescue mission, although no ship lost in hyperspace has ever been found. Sheridan has a clever plan: the fighters will string out in hyperspace, starting inside the jumpgate, so that they can still keep the lock on the jumpgate but also extend their "reach". (There's something odd in this part of the episode, too. When Sheridan is addressing the fighter pilots, there's a lot of them. But ultimately it seems that only 5 fighters, Zeta Squadron, goes on the mission. Why aren't they all used to extend the search even farther?)

Galus, commander of Zeta Squadron, and Lt. Warren Keffer pilot the two ships farthest into hyperspace. Just as they locate the Cortez, a Shadow ship flashes by them in hyperspace. It collides with Galus's fighter - not even seeming to notice, and Keffer's fighter is seriously damaged. Keffer keeps his head and manages to tell the Cortez which way to go by firing his weapons that way.

The crew on the Cortez is puzzled by the sudden disappearance of their two rescue fighters, but when Keffer's fighter is relocated, Maynard figures out what to do. He orders the Cortez in the right direction, finding the string of fighters back to the jumpgate and B5.

Sometime later, Keffer's fighter has repaired itself, but it has drifted and he is hopelessly lost. Another Shadow ship whizzes by and disappears, and he plays a hunch, hoping that its direction is giving some indication of a jumpgate. Luckily he is right, and he returns to B5 some hours later. He vows to figure out what the Shadow ships are.

Throughout the episode, there were two subplots. The first involved Franklin's evil plan to put Sheridan, Ivanova, and Garibaldi on diets. This is pretty funny, as they all end up having to eat what each other would prefer. Garibaldi also tries to smuggle the ingredients for his bagna cauda birthday meal onto the station and past Franklin, but fails. However, his desperate entreaty gets Franklin to permit the meal once, if he can join in. Franklin is won over at the first bite, and their meal starts their friendship, which will be pretty important in future seasons.

The second subplot involves some of the consequences of Delenn's change. Franklin insists on examining her frequently, since her transformation has been so radical and never studied before. She meets with a representative of the Minbari on the station, who says that they are unsure if Delenn is even still Minbari. They are uncomfortable with her leading them if she is no longer Minbari. She allows him to ask the Gray Council for confirmation.

This episode is fun because of the grand scope of human endeavor that it implies: we've got Explorer ships that really are going out and charting the unknown. However, I have never cared for the portrayal of Maynard - he's pretty cardboard. And Maynard making Sheridan unhappy with his assignment on B5 is a little obvious, as is the latter part of the plot where Sheridan gets to organize the rescue and show that his job is worthwhile. I suppose it's realistic to show Sheridan settling into the realities of the assignment - compared to his overwhelming enthusiasm in "Revelations" - I just don't think it's very well executed.

The smaller bits of the episode are nice, such as the diet humor and some of the petty problems (the smelly pak'ma'ra) that Sheridan had to deal with. It's good to see that Delenn is still adjusting to her transformation and that she is having both personal and political problems with it. She seems happy to keep up the "teacher" role that she had with Sinclair with Sheridan, speaking to him in the garden and getting him to put things into perspective.

Return to my Babylon 5 reviews page.