Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season ???: ???

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Episode Information

Title: "A Late Delivery from Avalon"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: September 27, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The soldier who fire the first shot in the Earth-Minbari war arrives on B5 thinking he's King Arthur.

Things are returning to some semblance of normality on the station, albeit with many bumps on the road. There are issues with mail delivery, customs, and security. As Franklin and Marcus are in the arrivals area, a man tries to bring a sword onto the station. He causes a scene with security, refusing to surrender the sword and claiming to be King Arthur. He is dressed for the part, wearing a cape and chain mail.

Marcus defuses the situation by treating "Arthur" as genuine; Marcus and Franklin take Arthur to MedLab. He doesn't have any identification, but Franklin runs a DNA test. The War Council briefly mulls over the idea that Arthur is real - preserved by the Vorlons a la Mr. Sebastian from season two's "Comes the Inquisitor" - but come to the conclusion that that's unlikely, and the man must believe he's Arthur because of some trauma.

Meanwhile, Arthur has left MedLab and wanders into Downbelow to begin righting wrongs. He confronts a group of 5 or 6 thugs, demanding the return of stolen items, and even with his sword, he seems likely to be beaten. (He has a great line here, to the effect of, "You have something which does not belong to you. Actually, I think you probably have a great many things that do not belong to you.") G'Kar is conducting an illicit deal in the area, hears the commotion, and joins Arthur in defeating the thugs.

Afterward, Arthur and G'Kar celebrate in a bar in Downbelow, where Arthur knights G'Kar. G'Kar obviously doesn't know this tradition, but he is sensible to the honor implied. Arthur tells G'Kar the story of his last fight on Earth, against Mordred, which was started by accident. During his recounting of the story, Arthur is seeing visions of Earth fighters and Minbari ships in battle - clearly something deeper is going on with him. Marcus finds Arthur and shepherds him back to MedLab.

Through the DNA test, Franklin receives information about Arthur's true identity: David McIntyre, the gunner on the Prometheus who fired the shots that began the Earth-Minbari war. Franklin plans to tell "Arthur" his true identity, intending it to be the first step in healing him. Marcus begs Franklin not to, saying that McIntyre fled into his delusion because he couldn't handle what he did, and forcing him to remember it will hurt him more.

Franklin proceeds to talk to McIntyre, who initially deflects Franklin's recitation of history with descriptions of his last battle with Mordred. Eventually, though, Franklin penetrates McIntyre's defense of delusions to some extent: McIntyre visualizes himself as being stabbed by a black knight, and he falls into a non-responsive state.

Franklin begins kicking himself for forcing the truth on McIntyre, but Marcus finally puzzles out why McIntyre developed the King Arthur delusion: he's trying to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. Presumably, McIntyre has bundled up his guilt at starting the war into the object of the sword, and he's looking for forgiveness from the enemy: the Minbari. Delenn visits McIntyre to relieve him of his sword; this visit awakens him and brings him out of his delusion.

In the end, McIntyre has recovered, but has decided to devote himself to helping others, in an unconventional way: he is going to Narn to help the Narn resistance, with G'Kar's blessing.

A subplot of the episode is Sheridan and Ivanova forming a new deal with the Non-aligned Worlds to provide for the mutual defense of the station. Given the trade and diplomatic opportunities the station offers, the Non-aligned Worlds agree. This makes the station less dependent on the Minbari for protection, and sets a good precedent for cooperation among the various worlds.

A second subplot of the episode is Garibaldi trying to get his package of Italian foodstuffs from the Earth Alliance postal service without paying the newly-instated high fees. This plot is played for laughs, with Garibaldi finally getting the last one, but it does point out the sudden difficulties the station faces about mundane things - like getting the mail through. They've been dependent on the Earth Alliance for a lot of everyday stuff, so how are they going to be able to deal with it all themselves?

This episode was a bit of a lark to watch, but it really didn't leave a lasting impression - and given the meat of the main plot, it really should have. A big detraction for me was the use of the King Arthur delusion. It's certainly a popular story that resonates with a lot of cultures, as we can see when G'Kar understands Arthur's story immediately. The episode tries hard to make clear the parallels between Arthur's battle with Mordred and the start of the Earth-Minbari war. However, somehow it didn't sit right with me. The visions of the endless hallway of doors and then the black knight seemed overwrought. I think Arthur's flashbacks to the fighting with the Minbari would have been sufficient.

The big moral quandary of the episode was whether or not "Arthur" should be confronted with the reality of McIntyre's past. This is really where the episode didn't gel for me, because I didn't care very much about whether Franklin told McIntyre the truth or not. I'm not sure why. Perhaps seeing a gallant "Arthur" doing good things just didn't make me feel McIntyre's deeper pain. While the parallels between Arthur's story and McIntyre's life were drawn clearly, I didn't see McIntyre's current "Arthur" delusion as accomplishing much for him. He seemed to have come to the station to see Delenn, but was he just going to wander around in Downbelow until he happened to run into her? Somehow he seemed organized enough to get to B5, but then was aimless.

I think that the other problem I had with this issue is that even though McIntyre was delusional, he really wasn't in any danger - unless being whupped by thugs in Downbelow counts. So while in principle I would agree with Franklin that one should not hid from one's past, I don't feel like there was an urgency that McIntyre should know about his past immediately.

I contrast this with a similar moral dilemma, from earlier in the season in "Passing Through Gethsemane". In that episode, Brother Edward was a mind-wiped serial killer who was not supposed to know about his true past, but eventually learned about it. The issue about Edward knowing about his past was made much more urgent by the fact that someone was out to kill him for revenge. The moral dilemma about telling Edward about his past was also made worse by the fact that he had done something horribly wrong for which he had been convicted and punished. In the current episode, McIntyre was formally found not to have been at fault. Obviously McIntyre's own guilt wouldn't disappear because of that, but if no one else thinks he's done something wrong, then what does it hurt to just let him forget about it?

I also feel like an opportunity was missed in the episode. McIntyre fired the shots that started a major war. He was following orders from a commander who misinterpreted the Minbari's actions. Even though McIntyre didn't do anything wrong, I think it's very believable that he would feel a lot of guilt over it. In fact, we find out that he more or less tried to die in the line of duty (and on The Line) during that war, but didn't. Some kind of discussion of all of this by the main characters would have been very interesting, especially if Delenn had been involved. Delenn accepts the sword from McIntyre to end his delusion, but does she truly forgive him? We know that she was on the Grey Council when the war began - what role, if any, did she have in the Minbari's initial response? In addition, once McIntyre's delusion was ended, he became a cheerful, apparently well-adjusted person again very quickly.

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