Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "The Fall of Night"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Fall of Night"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Janet Greek
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: July 5, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The Earth Alliance finally takes action regarding the Centauri Republic, while Sheridan protects a fugitive Narn ship.

Sheridan receives personal reports from the Drazi and Pak'ma'ra ambassadors that the Centauri have begun seizing minor worlds in their territories. The Drazi ambassador warns that the war could even spread to the Earth Alliance, but he's preaching to the choir with Sheridan, since Sheridan is anxious for Earth to do something about the Centauri. He's hoping this latest news will spark some action.

Shortly thereafter, Frederick Lantz from the Ministry of Peace and Mr. Welles from the Nightwatch have arrived on the station. Sheridan and the others are elated, thinking that Earth Alliance is finally going to take a stand against the Centauri. Indeed, the initial signs are positive, as Lantz arranges to meet with all of the ambassadors from worlds affected by the Centauri. Lantz tells Ivanova that there has been too much war, and he wants to leave his grandchildren a worthwhile legacy.

Meanwhile, a damaged Narn heavy cruiser jumps into the space "behind" the planet, from B5's perspective. Sheridan contacts the captain, who says that they are on the run from the Centauri. They need medical help, repairs for their ship, and time - so they ask Sheridan for sanctuary. Sheridan is elated to see the ship and agrees to the sanctuary; since the ship is hidden from direct view, no one else should be able to find out about it.

Although Mr. Welles arrived with Mr. Lantz, he clearly has a very different agenda. He visits Ivanova in her quarters, compliments her hard work in building her career, and promises to help her get future promotions more quickly if she were to support the efforts of the Nightwatch. Ivanova is remarkably restrained in her response to Welles in that she doesn't shoot him or physically throw him out of her quarters. She refuses to violate confidences or otherwise harming her own honor and pride in lowering herself to the snooping and backstabbing that the Nightwatch is urging.

Welles later holds a meeting for all of the Nightwatch members on the station, which includes Zack (who had joined in "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum"). This meeting is very different from the persuasive, do-gooder tone of the recruitment meeting. Now, it's all about results: what have Nightwatch members reported lately? Apparently Zack has not been reporting much. In this members-only meeting, the peer pressure to conform to what Welles and the other Nightwatch members are doing is enormous. Welles is also very calm and cajoling, asking Zack to only confirm information that others have reported. Agreeing is a slippery slope to giving in to Welles' other demands - Zack clearly has that feeling, but gives in. He figures it doesn't do any harm - but then we see his face at the end of the episode when the shopkeeper about whom he confirmed information is arrested.

G'Kar is elated when Sheridan notifies him about the Narn ship. He is also overjoyed at Lantz's visit, and rushes to meet with him. However, Lantz is extremely uncomfortable in G'Kar's presence, and refuses to meet with him - a sign to us that the actions Lantz and Earth Alliance are planning might not be what we expect.

We find this out for sure when Lantz orders Sheridan to stop conducting fighter training drills that involve neutralizing Centauri tactics. Lantz reveals that his interviews with the ambassadors have provided no new information that would prevent Earth Alliance from signing a non-aggression treaty with the Centauri. Lantz's legacy: "We will, at last, know peace in our time."

Sheridan can't have expected to keep the Narn ship a secret forever, and later he gets an outraged call from Londo, demanding that the ship be turned over to the Centauri. Ivanova suggests that someone on the Nightwatch told Welles (who then presumably Lantz, who then told Londo), which is what we saw happen. Sheridan and Ivanova scramble to get the Narn ship through the jumpgate before a Centauri ship can arrive. The problem is that the Narn ship is in the middle of repairs and can't make its own jump point, and before it can crawl to the jumpgate, a Centauri war ship shows up.

Sheridan orders the Zeta Squadron fighters to launch and protect the Narn ship. Lantz arrives, furious that Sheridan is jeopardizing the treaty with the Centauri, but Sheridan refuses to go back on his word to protect the ship, and kicks Lantz off the bridge. The fighters escort the Narn ship toward the jumpgate, and the Centauri ship locks weapons onto the Narn ship and B5. Sheridan orders a defensive posture, but when the Centauri ship attacks, he orders a full-scale retaliation.

The fighting is fierce, but the fighters finally get the Narn ship through the jumpgate. During the fight, a large structure on the end of the station is sheared off. The Centauri ship has been damaged so badly that it explodes before any crew can be rescued.

In hyperspace, the fighters are escorting the Narn ship to the next jumpgate, just in case. Lt. Keffer, who has been searching for more information on the strange ship (a Shadow ship) he saw in hyperspace in "A Distant Star", gets sensor readings the another of the ships is nearby. He goes off-course to check it out, and the Shadow ship destroys him; he does manage to send his gun camera footage of the ship back to Earth Alliance receivers before he dies.

Back on the station, Lantz is still furious about Sheridan's actions. Sheridan points out that the Centauri ship fired first and quotes regulations about helping ships that are in distress, which Welles backs him up on, somewhat surprisingly. Welles does say Sheridan should have handled the situation in a more politically astute manner. In any case, the Centauri are willing to overlook the incident if Sheridan apologizes. Sheridan is outraged at the thought, but if he doesn't, he'll lose his command.

We see Sheridan preparing for his apology, primping his dress uniform. He gives a hilarious rehearsal to his mirror, which is to the effect of, "I'm sorry we had to defend ourselves against an unwarranted attack. I'm sorry that your crew was stupid enough to fire on a station filled with civilians, including your own people. I'm sorry I waited as long as I did before I blew them all straight to hell." The reception is being held in the Zen garden, so he gets on the tube transporter to get there.

Some Centauri get off the transporter and leave behind a bomb. Sheridan doesn't think twice before jumping out of the tube, narrowly missing the explosion. The station generates the feel of gravity by spinning, which means that the central rotation axis of the station doesn't have any "gravity", hence Sheridan feels essentially weightless. However, the "ground" beneath him is spinning, and the friction between the ground and the air makes the air move - the friction between the air and him causes him to being falling. (This physics is done pretty well in the episode.)

The ambassadors waiting at the reception see the explosion and Sheridan falling. Ivanova calls for emergency jet-packs, but they are going to be too late. Delenn urges Kosh to take action. We don't really know what kind of action Kosh could take, until he leaves his encounter suit and flies up into the air. Everyone who sees him sees someone different, but someone who is a religious or cultural legend. Sheridan sees Kosh as an angel; Kosh takes Sheridan's hand and lowers him to the ground beyond the reception. No one else realizes that Kosh is the being they saw.

Afterward, the station is buzzing with the vision that the ambassadors saw. Many consider the station to be blessed. The only person that didn't see anything was Londo, who definitely feels like he missed out on something special.

Sheridan talks to Delenn, who confirms it was Kosh who rescued him. Now Sheridan understands what Kosh meant when he said he'd be recognized by "everybody" (in "Hunter, Prey") - somehow everyone that sees Kosh sees a different figure, apparently based on their race. Is this something that the Vorlons have done - bred or altered each race to see them a certain way? Or is it something that Kosh projects into each person's mind, since he's telepathic? (So why doesn't Londo see anything? Because he's Londo, or because he's Centauri? Why wouldn't the Vorlons have visited Centauri Prime?) Interestingly, Sheridan seems to have the same awed attitude when he begins talking to Delenn, but switches to a more aggravated tone when he speculates that the Vorlons have "programmed" everyone. Delenn responds that it's a matter of perspective, which could certainly be used to excuse all manner of actions. She emphasizes that they (including Kosh) need to continue to keep a low profile so that the Shadows don't know that they are making preparations.

This is the last episode of the season, so it has a nice ending voiceover by Ivanova: the Centauri have expanding their attacks, but that the threat closer to home was worse. She says that the goal of B5 - peace - has failed, but, it is now the best hope for victory. The episode ends with Keffer's video of the Shadow ship, which somehow got to ISN and is now being shown all over.

This episode certainly ends the season on a low note for most of the major plots. Earth Alliance has decided on a strategy of appeasement with the Centauri, despite all common sense, testimony about Centauri actions, and historical precedents. Delenn's hope to keep the Shadows from getting publicity has failed spectacularly, so the Shadows may decide to move quickly to an attack. The Nightwatch is extending their reach and arresting people based on protests against the government.

Lantz's mission is the crux of this episode. It's hard to believe that the Earth Alliance government could be so blind to the threat the Centauri pose. However, we, the viewers, have the advantage of a nearly omniscient knowledge of what's happening, and we also know that bad things are going to happen in the future or there's no story. In terms of the story, though, one has to wonder who is really making the decisions in Earthgov now. We know from episodes like "All Alone in the Night" and "Hunter, Prey" that there are people in Earthgov that may not be working in Earth's best interests - are those people working on behalf of the Centauri or the Shadows? If Earthgov was not under such influences, would they have made a treaty with the Centauri? One would hope not.

Lantz himself seems very sincere and doesn't have any sinister motives. He's clearly very committed to the idea of a treaty, and it would've taken some extreme evidence from the other ambassadors to dissuade him. He may have gotten peace now, but at what price? Clearly the members of other races that might be killed by the expanding Centauri aggression are not significant to him. I suppose he's hoping for peace for Earth Alliance as long as possible, and then he probably figures Earth Alliance can defend itself if necessary. This assumption is wishful thinking, and not only on his part - we heard similar comments in "And Now for a Word", although Sheridan dismissed them. However, a bit of logic makes this clear: during the Earth-Minbari war, Earth Alliance bought weapons from the Narn. Presumably this was because the Narn weapons were at least as good as Earth weapons, or maybe even better. And yet, the Narn were relatively quickly conquered by the Centauri.

Whatever influences exist in Earthgov, they clearly have focused inward and want to gain tighter control over the citizens in the Earth Alliance, as we see by the growing power of the Nightwatch. Welles' offer to Ivanova shows that Nightwatch's influence extends pretty far. They can also arrest people on trumped up charges. We don't know how many of these people are eventually convicted or punished, but it's definitely a good scare tactic to keep others in line.

Zack serves as the everyman viewpoint for the series, since he's in a mid-level position and just trying to get by. He doesn't have the privileged knowledge of the command staff to get the hints of corruption in Earthgov - all he knows is that the Nightwatch's message sounds reasonable and they are willing to pay him. Will he change his opinion now that he sees the reality of Nightwatch? Although it seems like it would be hard to leave the Nightwatch - after all, wouldn't that be working against the interests of Earthgov? Nightwatch also seems to be bad for the chain of command, which is inherent in an organization that encourages informing on others. Here we see Sheridan's attempt to keep the Narn ship secret foiled by a Nightwatch member. However, even if Sheridan knew who the crewman was, the person wasn't necessarily violating any rules. How can a chain of command function if soldiers can "opt out" of orders because they think they aren't in Earth's interests (or however Nightwatch defines it)? This problem could be come much more important if Sheridan makes any plans to fight the corruption in Earthgov.

I wonder if Ivanova turned down Welles' offer too quickly - she could have fed him misinformation on behalf of Sheridan. I suppose she doesn't really have the temperament for a double-agent. Will she tell Sheridan about the offer? It would be more evidence for him that Earthgov is rotten in the core.

The Narn ship asking for sanctuary mostly serves as a flashpoint in this episode; in reality, one war ship is not likely to be able to do a lot for the Narn cause, but it certainly is laudable for Sheridan to help them. I was impressed by how much the Narn captain trusted Sheridan - presumably based on G'Kar's past information or advice - and took Sheridan's word that B5 would protect the ship. Of course, the Narn didn't have much choice.

Kosh's rescue of Sheridan was very dramatic and finally solved the mystery of what Kosh looks like. Delenn entreated Kosh to conduct the rescue, saying that there was a lot at stake. What, exactly? What has Sheridan done or will do that another couldn't do? Perhaps Delenn is referring to the confluence of Sheridan's position as commander of B5, his military skill, his sense of personal honor, his attempts to root out the corruption in Earthgov (which she knows of at least since "The Long, Twilight Struggle"), and what he knows so far about the Shadows. It's hard to think that he's irreplaceable at this point. Will he do something crucial in the future that no one else could or would do?

Finally, Keffer managed to see a Shadow ship again. This long-running plot line never really rang true to me. Why was Keffer so obsessed with finding the ship? He says he wants proof of what killed his commander in "A Distant Star", but what will that do? He doesn't even say it would make a difference in his widow's pension or some kind of award or anything... Keffer's search just wasn't believable to me. And it ended about like one would expect, even Keffer - so it seemed almost like a suicidal urge.

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