Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "Points of Departure"

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: "Points of Departure"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Janet Greek
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: March 22, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Captain Sheridan arrives to take command of the station and must deal with a rogue Minbari warship.

Our first look at Captain Sheridan is on the Agamemnon, the ship that he commands. General Hague contacts him personally to tell him about a Minbari warship, the Tragati, that went rogue at the end of the Earth-Minbari war, and has recently been sighted heading for B5. Off-camera, the General also informs Sheridan that he's taking command of B5.

On the station, a voice-over by Ivanova reveals that it's been eight days since the events in season 1's "Chrysalis" and five days since Sinclair has been recalled to Earth. Garibaldi is still in a coma in medlab. She has been in charge of the station, and she is clearly reaching the end of her rope.

General Hague contacts Ivanova and informs her that Sinclair has been permanently reassigned - as the first ambassador of the Earth Alliance stationed on Minbar, a specific request by the Minbari. Hague tells Ivanova that Sheridan will be assuming command of B5; Ivanova was under Sheridan's command at the transfer point off Io.

We see Lennier still holding vigil over Delenn in her chrysalis. Another member of the Gray Council, Hedronn, visits and laments the fact that Delenn acted without their approval. He instructs Lennier to give Sheridan specific information if the Tragati shows up.

The Tragati had been commanded by Sineval, who committed suicide rather than surrender at the order of the Gray Council at the Battle of the Line. His second-in-command, Kalain took over, sending the ship into exile since the war. Kalain shows up on the station and accosts Hedronn.

Sheridan arrives, and Ivanova gives him a humorous run-down of the current situation on the station vis a vis the ambassadors and crew, and then takes him on a tour. They finish the tour in Sheridan's new quarters.

We can see right away that Ivanova has a strong past relationship with Sheridan, because she already seems much more relaxed and informal with him than she ever was with Sinclair. We can also see that Sheridan returns that friendship, speaking very frankly with her about crew morale and her personal reaction to the President's death.

Ivanova remarks that Sheridan is not likely to be a popular commander with the Minbari, since he destroyed their flagship, the Dark Star, during the war. We later find out that Earth Force ships had a horrible time attacking Minbari ships during the war because Minbari stealth technology prevented Earth ships from locking weapons on to them. Sheridan had mined the asteroid belt in the solar system with fusion bombs, destroying several ships - virtually the only victory Earth had during the war. The Minbari still resent him. Sheridan says that Hague told him he was the late President's choice to command B5 if something happened to Sinclair, despite his inevitable unpopularity with the Minbari.

Sheridan heads to the bridge to introduce himself to the crew and give his lucky welcome speech, but partway into the speech, he is interrupted by an urgent request from Hedronn for a meeting.

When they meet, Hedronn reveals that Kalain is on B5, but doesn't say why or what ship he is from. Sheridan plays his hand, "guessing" that Kalain is from the Tragati. Hedronn confirms this, but when Sheridan presses him about how someone from the "Ministry of Culture" would recognize someone like Kalain, Hedronn becomes angry. Hedronn says he doesn't recognize Sheridan's authority, since the Minbari were not consulted about his assumption of command, and Sheridan retorts that Earthgov thought the Minbari had too much influence on the station. Hedronn accuses Sheridan of bringing a doom upon the station and stalks off.

This scene gives us an immediate contrast between Sheridan and Sinclair's style. Even though I've watched the series many times, I'm always initially taken aback by how assertive and even confrontational Sheridan is in this scene. While Sinclair would have calmly drawn information out of Hedronn, Sheridan comes across as a hot head. And then as soon as Hedronn leaves, Sheridan is completely calm, and we see that he was trying to rile Hedronn on purpose to get more information.

Sheridan figures that Hedronn is a member of the Gray Council, and also deduces that if Hedronn said Kalaim felt betrayed by his own people, then he might go after Delenn. Sheridan and a security team arrive at Delenn's quarters to find Lennier interposed between Kalain and Delenn's chrysalis. Kalain allows himself to be taken into custody. Sheridan is curious about Delenn's condition, but Lennier lets him know in no uncertain terms that he's not welcome while Delenn is "indisposed."

Sheridan and Ivanova question Kalain, but they don't learn anything useful. Sheridan hits on the main question: if Kalain is on B5, where is the Tragati?

Lennier finds Delenn and Ivanova and tells them that he has much information for them about Sinclair and why the Minbari surrendered at the Battle of the Line. Presumably this information is what Delenn was trying to tell Sinclair at the end of last season in "Chrysalis". Now that Sinclair is on Minbar, has someone also filled him in?

Lennier tells them the story in his quarters. The Minbari fleet had finally arrived at Earth after three years of war. The ships on the Line were no problem for them, but before they were all destroyed, Delenn on the Gray Council suggested that they capture a human for questioning about Earth's ground defenses. By chance, they brought aboard Sinclair. They tortured and questioned him, and then somehow they made a discovery: he has a Minbari soul.

As we learned way back at the beginning of season 1, in "Soul Hunter", Minbari believe that when a person dies, his/her soul is reborn into the next generation of Minbari. However, the population of Minbari has been declining, and there is some feeling that the newer generations of Minbari are not as "great" as prior generations, both of which imply that Minbari souls are not being born back into Minbari bodies. With the discovery that Sinclair has a Minbari soul, the Gray Council inferred that the "missing" Minbari souls are begin reborn into human bodies. The Gray Council could not allow Minbari to continue to slaughter Minbari souls, so they ordered the surrender. They also realized that neither the general Minbari nor human populace would understand the reasoning, so they kept it secret.

This scene is quite a revelation. Who would have guessed that such a spiritual and impractical reason was behind the Minbari surrendering? Clearly the religious caste would take such matters especially seriously, and apparently the evidence regarding Sinclair's soul was sufficient to persuade the members of the Gray Council from the other castes. It's obvious why they didn't reveal the reason to everyone, however. As Sheridan says later in the episode, he doesn't really believe the soul-transfer idea, but what's important here is that the Minbari believe it, or at least the important Minbari. If only enough important humans had followed their religious dictates as closely (such as "thou shalt not kill" for Christians), Earth history would be a lot less bloody. And who can prove the Minbari are wrong?

Another interesting aspect of this scene is how Sheridan for the most part sits back and observes, while Ivanova prods Lennier for details. Sheridan has no problem taking charge, as we saw earlier in the episode, but I think that here he's deferring to Ivanova's greater familiarity with Lennier and Delenn.

The Tragati comes through the jumpgate, causing an uproar on the station. We see Kalain take poison in his holding cell. The ranking officer on the Trigati demands the return of Kalain, but Sheridan refuses. The Trigati launches fighters, and Sheridan orders the station's fighters launched in response and the defense grid activated. However, he notices something odd: the station's sensors can track and lock onto the Minbari fighters, despite the fact that the same type of sensors could not do so in the war.

Sheridan puts the pieces together and realizes that the Trigati is trying to force B5 to fire first so that they can respond and die honorably. He has a tight-beam laser message sent through the jumpgate, then he tells B5's fighters to hold their position and not to attack, despite the Minbari fighters heading right for them. The fighters get into point-blank range, and then just fly on by and loop around. They cannot retain honor if they fire first.

The message Sheridan sent was for the Minbari war cruiser searching for the Trigati; that ship arrives and demands that the Trigati surrender. Of course, the Trigati fights, and the other Minbari ship quickly cuts it in half with a huge beam weapon. The Trigati's fusion engines go critical and explode.

Later, Sheridan unpacks his things in his new quarters and reflects to Ivanova that maybe he wasn't the best choice to command B5, since he causes so much ill feeling with the Minbari. Ivanova disagrees, saying he can't blame himself for any of the events that took place. It's good to see Sheridan questioning himself here, since it shows that he's not so full of himself that he thinks he can do no wrong. I think he realizes here that he's going to have to be more careful of the consequences his actions will have on the diplomacy between the various species.

We see Lennier telling Delenn's chrysalis about the recent events, and saying that he wished he could tell them about the great enemy that is returning. When Lennier leaves, we see Delenn begin to break through her chrysalis from the inside.

This episode does a good job showing the change in command of B5 and demonstrating the differences in the characters of Sheridan and Sinclair, as I discussed in various places above. Sinclair's new assignment as ambassador on Minbar seemed sudden when we first learned about it, but in light of what Lennier says about Sinclair's soul, it makes sense that the Minbari would want him to be their ambassador.

This episode is also different from a lot of typical television in that two of the top-billed characters are absent: Delenn and Garibaldi. We know Delenn will be returning to us in some form soon, but Garibaldi's status is still uncertain. One thing's for sure: if he wakes up, he's not going to be happy to find out that his warning about the President was too late, no one believes the conspiracy exists, and Sinclair is gone.

Why was Sheridan really chose to succeed Sinclair? Because he's a war hero against the Minbari? If the new President thinks that Sheridan will purposely cause problems with the Minbari, I think he's going to have to re-think that, because although Sheridan doesn't seem to have any great fondness for the Minbari, he generally treats them respecfully and doesn't seem to hold a grudge. I think he fought them during the war as best he could, because at that time they were the enemy. Now they aren't - and that may be hard to adjust to, but it has been over 10 years. He's moved on.

I find it a bit odd that the Minbari hate Sheridan so much for destroying one of their capital ships. After all, they were in a war. Yes, it was the flagship, but really - get over it. After all, the Minbari had overwhelming superiority for the entire war. Perhaps it's not the destruction of the ship that bothers them, but the method - was it dishonorable? I suppose the Minbari might actually think it would be better to die by honorable means than to live by dishonorable means. Someone needs to introduce them to the saying, "All's fair in love and war."

On another point, how did the Minbari determine that Sinclair (and others) have Minbari souls? In season 1's "And the Sky Full of Stars", we see a triluminary lighting up when it is held up to Sinclair. If that's the indication, how does that technology work?

As for the larger plots in the series: it doesn't take too much of a leap of imagination to figure out that Lennier's "great enemy" are probably the shadows that Morden has been associated with. They certainly seem to have powerful technology, but for now they seem content to be unseen. What are their goals? And how will humans discover the shadows, as Lennier says they will?

Return to my Babylon 5 reviews page.