Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "The Long Dark"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Long Dark"
Writer: Scott Frost
Director: Mario DiLeo
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: April 7, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


An old Earth sleeper ship brings a murderous entity onboard B5.

The station receives a signal from the Copernicus, an old Earth sleeper ship of the type that was used to explore the region around other stars before Earth encountered other species and got jumpgate technology. At the same time the station receives the signal, a lurker in downbelow named Amis goes berserk, seemingly addressing the ship. He rushes to the Zocalo and begins warning that the end of the world is coming. Garibaldi hauls him off to security, but just holds him overnight. He assumes Amis's raving and nightmares are from his bad experiences in the Earth-Minbari war and suggests counseling.

The Copernicus is brought aboard the station. One of the hibernating crew is dead, but the other is alive. Her hibernation chamber begins malfunctioning and she is raced to medlab, where Dr. Franklin manages to save her.

Franklin begins studying the dead crewman while Ivanova studies the Copernicus. Franklin determines that the crewman was murdered: all his internal organs were removed somehow, despite there being no sign of them on the ship. When he died, he was about half of his nominal weight. The surviving woman is the obvious suspect, but ship logs showed that she never came out of hibernation.

The woman, Mariah Cirrus, awakens. She and her husband had volunteered for the exploratory mission - their dreams of space were one of the few things holding their relationship together. She is shocked that her husband is dead. Franklin gradually shows her parts of the station and fills her in on the 100 years of history she has missed. She's depressed to think that if they had waited a few years to go on their mission, they wouldn't have had to, since Earth made contact with the Centauri and got jumpgate technology.

So far the mystery of Mariah's husband's death has been interesting but not pressing... until an alien on the station is killed by having his organs somehow removed. The non-aligned worlds call an Advisory Council meeting and demand that Sheridan send Mariah off the station. The Markab ambassador representing the non-aligned worlds claims that she is a "soldier of darkness" that is being recalled by their ancient enemy that they found long ago. Sheridan doesn't believe that story, but is determined to get to the bottom of things.

Meanwhile, Amis begins raving about doomsday again, so Garibaldi throws him in the brig again. He looks up Amis's war record and finds that he was part of a listening post on a small moon that was attacked - only Amis survived out of dozens of soldiers stationed there. Garibaldi backtracks the Copernicus's path and discovers that it had flown by that moon. He tells Franklin and Sheridan about all this, believing that the attacker from the moon might somehow be posing as Mariah. However, Franklin has taken a personal attachment to Mariah and can verify her whereabouts.

Garibaldi goes to Amis and asks if Amis can find the alleged monster. Amis says he can, and leads Garibaldi into downbelow. We learn the story of Amis's experience at the listening post: they had minimal weapons, and the creature came at them right through the walls of their structure. The weapons they had were ineffective. The creature slaughtered everyone but Amis, and Amis believes it purposely kept him alive to feed on him until it got more victims. By the time Amis was rescued by Earth Force, he was down to almost half his normal weight.

Garibaldi believes Amis's story, but Amis's recollection has driven him into a frenzy, and he begins yelling for the creature and runs off. Garibaldi loses him, and goes to convey Amis's story to Sheridan. Sheridan says Amis's story doesn't match up with the official records, but it's obvious to everyone that no one official would have believed his story. Garibaldi thinks Mariah might be able to track down the creature like Amis, and goes to enlist her help.

Apparently they find something, because the next thing we know, Sheridan and Ivanova on the bridge get reports of PPG fire in downbelow. They rush down with a security team with heavy weapons to find that Garibaldi managed to get Franklin and Mariah out of the danger zone before going back in.

Garibaldi has found Amis, who is the grasp of the creature, which is invisible. Garibaldi shoots at it, but it just drops Amis and runs off. Amis wants to end his relationship with the creature one way or another, so he purposely runs out to bait it. Sheridan sets up the others for point-blank fire, and once the creature grabs Amis again, they blast it. The massed weapons manage to kill the creature, which conveniently dies without leaving any visible remains.

Amis is relieved of his years-long burden, but we don't really know if he has any plans or is somewhat less crazy now. Mariah decides to go to Earth to catch up on the many years that she has missed, although she says she'll come back to Franklin someday.

Ivanova presents the last information she got from Copernicus: after the creature boarded the ship from the small moon, it reset the ship's path toward the planet G'Kar identified as Z'ha'dum. Sheridan and Ivanova both agree that there's something going on out there that scares them.

This episode plays as a one-off monster episode, but there are some good ties to the overall mysteries in the series. And it's always fun to watch Dwight Schulz (who plays Amis).

The episode is nicely creepy in its build-up, with the description of Mariah's husband's death and Amis's vivid recollection of the attack on his listening post. Amis is nutty enough that the viewer isn't sure whether or not to believe him at first, but we get enough other information to realize he must be telling the truth. Unfortunately, the special effects of the creature itself are so-so. It's not that the effects are bad - they just don't convey the level of terror that Amis and Mariah had. The other odd thing is that it's not clear why or how the creature was removing internal organs from its victims.

The creature was on its way to Z'ha'dum. What exactly is there? Somehow the other races on B5 seem to know more about Z'ha'dum and the type of creatures that are associated with it than humans do. Where does their knowledge come from? Why are humans so clueless - are they really so new on the galactic stage? Will Sheridan pass on this information about the creature and Z'ha'dum? If so, will someone from Earth Force investigate it? I would bet that the situation would be brushed off as unbelievable and unsubstantiated. Will Sheridan be able to do anything to prepare B5 for whatever scary thing is coming?

Dr. Franklin's behavior in this episode is very unprofessional. He lets himself get too emotionally involved with a patient. Mariah has just lost her husband and has found herself 100 years in the future. She's in no condition to rationally become involved with someone. Franklin should know better. However, this quick relationship he forms helps establish that he definitely has his imperfections.

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