Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Voices of Authority"

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Episode Information

Title: "Voices of Authority"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Menachem Binitsky
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: August 11, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan's coalition begins searching for the First Ones and incidentally discovers incriminating evidence about the assassination of President Santiago.

Delenn has decided that it's time for the coalition of Light on B5 to begin making more allies. She says that after the last great war, not all of the First Ones went away - some of them just became very reclusive. Any First Ones still around would be excellent allies against the Shadows. Draal offers to let Sheridan use the Great Machine on the planet below to search for likely places to look for the First Ones.

Sheridan never gets the chance, however, because his new political officer, Julie Musante from the Ministry of Peace, has just arrived. She is confident, out-spoken, and extremely smooth with the "new-speak" of the Clark administration. Sheridan realizes that she's going to be sticking to him like glue for awhile, so he covertly communicates to Ivanova that she should take his place leading the search.

Sheridan is upset and offended at the idea of a political officer and makes it very clear that he's not going to share his command authority in any way. Musante tries to soothe him, saying that she's only present to help him make more politically astute decisions that reflect current Earthgov policies.

Musante strong-arms Sheridan into dinner with her, where she uses many techniques to try to win Sheridan over: she's just following orders, so they should try to make the best of things; she admires his military record and patriotism; she likes him a lot. At first she seems to be a blind follower of the Ministry of Peace's party line: there's no homelessness problem on Earth, no poverty, no crime. She does finally admit, however, that those problems really do exist still, but that the government is "redefining" them in order to start dealing with them.

Meanwhile, Ivanova goes down to the planet and follows Draal's instructions for using the Great Machine to track down some First Ones. The first lead she gets takes her mind to Sigma 957, where Catherine Sakai had an encounter with a strange alien ship in season 1 in "Mind War". While there, Ivanova's mind encounters some kind of manifestation of the Shadows, which tries to trap her. She manages to pull away, but then she somehow stumbles upon a transmission of a conversation with then-Vice President Clark. The conversation between Clark and an off-screen voice (that is clearly Morden's voice) talks about making the arrangements to destroy Earth Force 1, killing President Santiago (as seen in season 1 in "Chrysalis") and leaving Clark as President. Ivanova is stunned, but arranges for Draal to make a copy of the conversation to take back to B5.

Later, Musante conveniently has problems with the lock on the door to her quarters, so she goes to Sheridan's quarters. She wastes no time in getting naked in order to try to appeal to Sheridan more. Of course, this is the moment when Ivanova uses Draal's holographic projection system to appear in Sheridan's quarters. Sheridan distracts Musante and tells Ivanova to go to Sigma 957; then he proceeds to spend the rest of the evening trying to get rid of Musante.

The next day, Musante calls a meeting of the Night Watch members on the station. She conveys the new rules from the government: it's no longer appropriate for Earth Force personnel to publicly criticize the government, and Night Watch members may now investigate past associations. Some of the Night Watch members are upset about this, including Zack, but Musante is very smooth, saying that such measures are only temporary. She tells them a secret: that very soon certain individuals high in the government will be charged with treason, spying, and immoral conduct. This is a clever tactic, making the Night Watch members feel special and needed, and helps convince them that there really is a crisis. I wonder how much of this "secret" will be a self-fulfilling prophecy: once the Night Watch powers are extended, surely some important people will be found "guilty" of something.

Ivanova takes the White Star (with Marcus as her Minbari interpreter) to Sigma 957. They make contact with the same ship as appeared in "Mind War" and explain their desire for allies against the coming war with the Shadows. The First Ones refuse to help, but Ivanova will not let them go. She delivers some insults that were supposedly said by the Vorlons about the Sigma 957 First Ones, provoking their wrath but also their ultimate agreement to become allies.

Back on the station, Ivanova had left behind a copy of the Clark-Morden conversation for Sheridan, who is at once stunned at the revelation and ecstatic that they now have the proof they've been looking for. He sends a copy (I hope it's a copy) to General Hague (who has been working to expose the corruption in Clark's government, last seen in last season's "Hunter, Prey"). Shortly we hear on ISN that the story has exploded back on Earth, and Clark's government is in a flurry of activity dealing with it. Musante is recalled to Earth to help out.

This episode has a lot of set-up in it for future events. Just as the Shadows are gathering their forces, our heroes are also making powerful allies. From all appearances, they will need more help than from just the Sigma 957 First Ones, but finding them is a first step.

Within the Earth Alliance, the revelation of Clark's involvement in Santiago's assassination should have huge repercussions. How will events shake out? What Sheridan, Hague, and their allies hope is that it will force Clark out of power and return Earthgov into saner hands. However, if Clark has enough influence and power - especially since we know he has Morden's and the Psi Corps' assistance - he could use it as an excuse to clamp down extra hard on anything he doesn't like.

The Ministry of Peace's officers and propaganda are extremely fine-tuned. Almost everything Musante says seems reasonable at first blush and is difficult to argue against. She describes pointing out mistakes the government has made as "embarrassing our leaders", for example. But what about the right to speak out and criticize? The Ministry of Peace takes their reasonable-sounding ideas to the extreme, which is the problem. But their propaganda sounds so good that it's difficult to resist it, especially for an everyday person, like we see with Zack. I cringed everytime Musante said "ideological purity", since it seems like such an obvious sign of a zealot, but other zealots seem to appreciate that kind of speech.

I appreciated the character of Musante - right up until she dropped her dress for Sheridan. It was clear she was going to try to get into the sack with him, but I thought she would be just a bit more subtle. Otherwise, she was a very strong character, able to think on her feet well, and not willing to take any crap from people she considered to be subordinate.

Zack gets some good mileage in this episode, with the running joke about his uniform not fitting, as well as his increasing dissatisfaction with both the Night Watch and Garibaldi. He's clearly very uncomfortable with the measures that the Night Watch is starting to take. But Garibaldi doesn't know that Zack might be ripe for "conversion" to Sheridan's goals, and continues to keep Zack in the dark. Zack is no idiot and knows something's going on. However, the "code 7R" clue was pretty silly - Delenn's meeting wasn't some kind of surprise emergency, so there really should have been no reason to invoke a "code" to contact Garibaldi - just put something innocuous on his calendar. Even so, there certainly are clues that Zack can pick up on. But will he reveal what he knows to Night Watch?

Another character that got some incidental development is Marcus. He prattles on to Ivanova on the White Star, driving her crazy. I'm not sure at that point whether he has a particular interest in her, or just an outgoing guy. When Ivanova insults the First Ones to get them to change their minds, you can see that Marcus is astounded. After all, as we found out earlier in the episode, all of Marcus' teaching has been that the First Ones are nearly all-powerful and very dangerous, so Ivanova is taking quite a risk. I think that this is when Marcus starts falling for Ivanova, although we won't see the result of that for awhile.

A third minor character/plot development is that G'Kar is also starting to realize something is "up" on the station, what with all the secret meetings between Delenn and Sheridan and some rumors about "Rangers". He asks Delenn and the Garibaldi about the truth, but they have to rebuff him. G'Kar suggests to Garibaldi that there may be some way he (G'Kar) can help them, and Garibaldi says he can't think of how. This leads to one of my favorite lines from G'Kar, something like, "Then that's something you should work on." Later, G'Kar drops off the Book of G'Quan to Garibaldi, telling him to read it. G'Kar seems to have developed into a better, more compassionate person, but at this point, one does have to wonder what he could offer Sheridan and Delenn's coalition of Light.

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