Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Point of No Return"

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Episode Information

Title: "Point of No Return"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Jim Johnston
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: August 31, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


B5 is ordered under martial law, and Nightwatch makes a play for control of security.

The declaration of martial law on Earth by President Clark in the previous episode ("Messages from Earth") has plunged Earth into near-civil war. Clark has dissolved the Senate by executive order, and now he and the senators opposing him are squabbling over control of the military. General Hague's ship, the Alexander has gone missing in the solar system - by the end of the episode we will see that it fights its way out of the solar system. Sheridan thinks Hague might head for B5.

Everyone is getting ready for the other shoe to drop on B5. Garibaldi frees G'Kar early, because he doesn't want to waste the men to guard him. The head of Nightwatch on B5 has called a special meeting.

Sheridan and the command staff receive a communication from an Earth Force general. The general says that the Political Office has turned B5 security over to Nightwatch; Sheridan protests vigorously, but the general emphasizes that the chain of command must be followed. After the message, Garibaldi explodes in a rage, saying that no one is going to take over security from him.

The head of Nightwatch on B5 clearly knew this order was coming, and the power-hungry look on his face is pretty scary. He says that since Zack Allen is second in command of security and is part of Nightwatch, Zack is now in command of security. Zack and the Nightwatch guy begin going through the list of security personnel, offering them the choice to join Nightwatch and retain their jobs, or refuse and lose their jobs. It's somewhat heartening to see that at least some of the security personnel refuse to join Nightwatch.

Garibaldi storms in in a black rage and makes a huge scene about Nightwatch taking over. He tries to use his connections with his personnel to get them to refuse to give in to Nightwatch, but no one is brave enough. He particularly lets Zack have it, asking Zack if this is what Zack wanted all along - command of security.

Sheridan receives the official order of martial law from Earth, but it's some time before he can bring himself to announce it to the station. Ironically, his announcement of what is Clark's increasing control over things happens while a mob begins fighting on the zocalo. A comment by Franklin makes Sheridan realize that the general's message to him about the Nightwatch had a hidden meaning, and we get the impression that he may have found a way out of the situation.

G'Kar has returned to his quarters to find Ta'Lon waiting for him; Ta'Lon had originally been rescued by Sheridan last season in "All Alone in the Night" and then came to the station this season in "A Day in the Strife". G'Kar tries to explain his revelation to Ta'Lon, but has trouble putting it into words. He says that the Narns must sacrifice themselves in order to save themselves, and the humans are the key to doing that. To that end, G'Kar later approaches Ivanova, saying he has an idea.

We don't know what Sheridan's plan is yet, but the pace quickens. Zack returns to his quarters to be ambushed by the command staff. The next we see him, he's telling the head of Nightwatch on B5 that Sheridan has decided to supplant the Nightwatch security with Narn mercenaries just about to arrive. The Nightwatch leader nearly cackles with glee at the prospect of catching Sheridan in a treasonous act, and orders all of the security forces to arm and head down to the docking bays.

Zack signals Sheridan when all the Nightwatch people are in the docking bay, and Sheridan orders the bulkheads to drop; Zack runs out just in time. Sheridan tells the Nightwatch forces that the order for them to take over security was illegal, because it came directly from the Political Office and did not go through the proper military chain of command. Privately, Sheridan knows that this is a delaying tactic, but he's hoping for the parts of the government opposing Clark to take over and restore order.

Sheridan tells the Nightwatch personnel that they can leave the docking bay one at a time, must relinquish their weapon, and will be confined to quarters until official orders come through. In the mean time, he calls in G'Kar and G'Kar's Narns, who really are going to supplement security while the Nightwatch people are locked up. G'Kar's price: he wants in on Sheridan's War Council, which we saw him begin agitating for in "Voices of Authority".

The second plot in the episode involves Londo arranging for late Emperor Turhan's third wife, Lady Morella, to visit the station; she is a seer, and he wants her to give him a vision of his future. (Turhan died last season on B5 in "The Coming of Shadows".) When Morella asks why he wants this vision, he explains that he wants to know if the future he sees can be diverted.

By the end of the episode, Morella gives Londo his vision. She sees a fiery future ahead of him, but he has three chances to stop it - having missed two chances already. Her description: "You must save the eye that cannot see. You must not kill the one who is already dead. And if all else fails, you must surrender yourself to your greatest fear, knowing that it will destroy you." She caps this by saying that he will be emperor someday - and so will Vir.

I think that this episode is somewhat mis-named, because it's not really the "point of no return" - Sheridan has been very careful to follow the letter of the law, and so relations with Earthgov could be fixed if necessary. Perhaps it's the "point of no return" for Zack and the Nightwatch - he has turned his back on them for good. Either way, the episode brings the effects of the martial law decree to us personally on the station.

It's extremely sobering to see news reports about fighting on Earth outside of the various government building, let alone in space. In the US, we have had peace within the country and peaceful transitions of power since the Civil War, and so it's hard to fathom what it must feel like to be involved in that struggle.

Because Sheridan has to worry about retaining control of his own space station, there's not a lot of time for consideration of the big picture. That big picture is the split in Earthgov - do General Hague and the others opposing Clark have enough numbers and force to be successful? Since we know that Clark has the backing of the Psi Corps and the Shadows, this seems unlikely. If Clark consolidates his position and retains power, will Sheridan and the others go along with him? If General Hague does show up at the station, what will Sheridan do?

For the moment, Sheridan has neutralized Nightwatch on the station. Assuming the order for Nightwatch to take over security is re-done through the proper channels, what effect will that have? There certainly will be recriminations between the personnel that were on either side of the issue. And how can Sheridan operate a station when he doesn't have control of security? One wonders how the Political Office expected him to do this in the first place. Of course, I'm sure they would be pleased to be de facto running the station through Nightwatch.

In some ways, Londo's plot in the episode had greater ramifications. First, we find out that Londo realizes that what he's thought of as his great destiny does not have a good end to it, and now he wants to avert it. As Morella says, there are always choices, but obviously he needs to make the right choices at the right time to have the large effect he needs. Morella's description of his chances of redemption are suitably cryptic for a prophecy, but hopefully enough for Londo to recognize them as key turning points.

Londo becoming emperor was not new information, since we've known about Londo's "death dream" since season 1's "Midnight on the Firing Line", which features him as emperor. However, Vir becoming emperor is new - and a hoot, since it's hard to picture it. Morella's comment that one would be emperor after the other was dead seemed obvious - Londo is quite a bit older than Vir, after all. This comment was overplayed as Londo and Vir watched each other suspiciously at the end of the episode. For Vir to become emperor, either he or the Centauri Republic must change quite a bit.

G'Kar's volunteering of his people to work for Sheridan must be part of his plan to save the Narn through sacrifice. How long will the Narn be persuaded by G'Kar to potentially fight and die for another species? We know that G'Kar's revelation was partly or completely engineered by Kosh (in "Dust to Dust"). Does Kosh have any idea if it's true that the Narns will save themselves if they sacrifice themselves? Or did Kosh plant that idea solely to gain further support against the Shadows?

On another side of the issue, what will Earthgov think of Sheridan hiring aliens as a security force? Not only aliens, but of a race that the Earth Alliance isn't really supposed to be dealing with, except through their masters, the Centauri.

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