Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "A Day in the Strife"

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Episode Information

Title: "A Day in the Strife"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: David Eagle
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: July 16, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


This episode gives a look at how the various plots and characters are transitioning from the recent important events into everyday life.

There are a bunch of plots in this episode, so I'm going to discuss each one on its own instead of trying to follow the jumps from one to another. The main plot is a space probe from an unknown race that approaches the station and begins transmitting a message. A translation of the message reveals that the space probe is asking a large number of scientific questions; if the probe receives the correct answers, it will transmit incredible information, such as cures to all diseases and advanced jumpgate technology. The additional bit that gives the episode its time frame is that if the probe doesn't receive the correct answers within 24 hours, it will self-destruct and destroy the station.

Sheridan orders all of the relevant departments to get to work answering the questions, requesting information and answers from Earth as needed. He figures that the aliens that sent the probe are "weeding out" unworthy civilizations with their scientific test. Some of the questions are very advanced, and all the answers are not pulled together until almost the last minute.

Just when Ivanova is ready to transmit the answers, Sheridan has second thoughts. This is very abrupt, given his previous rationalization of the purpose of the probe and the fact that we haven't seen him reconsidering at all. He decides the probe is actually looking for advanced civilizations that pose a threat to its senders, so if they send the right answers, then the probe will explode. Apparently he is correct, since the probe begins leaving after the deadline passes. Sheridan orders a distant repair probe to transit the answers, triggering the probe to explode so that no one else will be threatened by it.

This plot, which presumably was trying to inject some suspense, just fell flat to me. Somehow the characters involved didn't seem as concerned as they should be, and the urgency of the situation didn't come through. Or the excitement - the "prize" the probe offered was terrific. I would've thought that Earthgov would've been all over the station's efforts to answer the questions. And then there was Sheridan's about face in the probe's intentions, which just managed to save them all.

The second plot involved the arrival of Na'Far, the newly-appointed liaison between the Narns on the station and the Narn provisional government (appointed by the Centauri, of course). When he arrives and meets Sheridan, we learn that he is here to convince G'Kar to return to Narn. He believes that G'Kar's resistance movement is causing too much pain and death on the Narn homeworld and that such resistance must be delayed. Sheridan reiterates G'Kar's claim for sanctuary, and says Na'Far must work things out with G'Kar.

Na'Far is extremely collected and relatively soft-spoken, for a Narn. He seems to be a polished politician or diplomat, always managing to turn the right phrase. It would be easy to label him as a collaborator who is helping the Centauri and hoping for some kind of personal gain in money or power. But when he checks in with Londo, Londo twists the knife of Centauri victory, making Na'Far recite how well the work camps and executions are proceeding on the Narn homeworld. Although Na'Far manages to maintain an unruffled appearance, we can see how he truly hates what the Centauri have done to his people and his world. It's nice to see that Na'Far does not fit into a black or white characterization.

When Na'Far speaks privately to G'Kar, he tries to convince G'Kar that the resistance is currently hurting their own people more than it is helping, since Centauri food shipments are shot down and any Centauri that are murdered result in 500 times more Narns killed. Na'Far proposes that the resistance be stopped for now so that they can lull the Centauri into a false sense of security and then act, and that for now the Narn need to heal and rebuild their world as best they can. Frankly, it's not obvious that Na'Far's strategy is bad - it's just that most Narn probably couldn't sit still for it.

When Na'Far's argument doesn't convince G'Kar, he mentions that the families of the Narn on the station will be harassed and imprisoned on Narn if G'Kar doesn't return to the homeworld. This is the telling point, and G'Kar agrees to go home.

The other Narn on the station are dubious of Na'Far's leadership, seeing him only as a collaborator. They know that their families on Narn are in some danger, but by the end of the episode they have decided that they can't let G'Kar leave. As G'Kar is on his way out, they stop him and convince him to stay, no matter what. As they say, G'Kar himself taught them that their freedom and the freedom of their people is more important than possible danger to their families.

Incidentally, Na'Far's bodyguard is Ta'Lon, the Narn Sheridan rescued last season in "All Alone in the Night". He and Sheridan have a drink, and Ta'Lon pledges to fulfill his debt of honor to Sheridan. How will he do that? At the end of the episode, Ta'Lon seems committed to G'Kar's cause.

This plot was a satisfying follow-up to G'Kar's somewhat nebulous status on B5 since his ambassadorial status was revoked last season and "The Long, Twilight Struggle". We know that the Centauri had neutralized the former Narn government, except for G'Kar, so it makes sense that they would want to get their hands on him. Their strategy - harassing families - is sensible, because it's something that won't make the Narns want to resist them more, but instead comply. And it almost worked.

It's also satisfying that after G'Kar has had to work so hard to establish his leadership over the local Narns (such as last season in "Comes the Inquisitor") that they finally believe in him and will work to get him to stay. G'Kar seems to be taking much more of a leadership role toward his people now than he did when he was officially an ambassador and part of the ruling government.

The third plot in the episode involves Garibaldi noticing Franklin's possible stim addiction. We saw Franklin using stims when overworked in episodes last season (such as "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum" and "Confessions and Lamentations"), and he seems to be on another work binge. Certainly the urgency of answering the probe's questions merit some overwork. But here, we see Franklin pop a stim in the restroom even before the probe's questions become known.

Garibaldi can't help but notice the signs of a possible drug addiction, so he invites Franklin to dinner and tells him about his concerns. Franklin is immediately defensive, claiming he doesn't have a problem, and that he needs the stims since he's overworked and understaffed. Garibaldi claims Franklin works more than he needs to. Franklin says he'll cut down on the stims since Garibaldi is worried. Garibaldi lets it go. Later in the episode, we see Franklin debate about taking a stim and deciding not to, but he ultimately gives in to the need by the end of the episode.

The interaction between Garibaldi and Franklin as friends is nice to watch. Unfortunately, we can guess from the very existence of this plot that Franklin is going to have a problem eventually from his stim addiction. What will have to happen before he realizes he's addicted? What will Garibaldi do to help him out, since he has his own experience with alcoholism?

The fourth (!) plot in the episode is Londo distancing himself from Vir. Londo knows that Vir is very unhappy with how the Narn-Centauri war turned out and what the Centauri are continuing to do to the Narn. He knows Vir doesn't approve of all the things that he (Londo) has done. He also seems to be concerned about Vir continuing to stay in proximity to himself. As a result, he calls in a favor with Delenn and has Vir assigned as the Centauri ambassador on Minbar. Vir vehemently does not want the post, but Londo doesn't relent, and Vir leaves at the end of the episode.

Londo's conversation with Delenn is most revealing. In true Londo form, he tries to project a stronger friendship with Delenn than they have ever had, which Delenn points out at the end. Delenn suggests that Londo needs Vir, and we know that she means that Vir could bring some "goodness" back to Londo's decisions, but Londo brusquely denies it. Londo has distanced himself from Morden and the Shadows, and now Vir. He told Vir that he's always been alone, but this seems to be of his own devising. Why?

This episode had a lot going on, but none of it was hugely important at the moment. We can see how the characters are rearranging their relationships and how they might be positioning themselves for the future. The large issues in the series remained status quo.

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