Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Racing Mars"

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Episode Information

Title: "Racing Mars"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Jesus Trevino
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: January 8, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Franklin and Marcus arrive on Mars; Sheridan and Garibaldi have another confrontation.

At the beginning of the episode Franklin and Marcus are on the last leg of their journey to Mars, and they are driving each other crazy. They meet an odd old guy, Captain Jack, in the cargo hold in which they are traveling. Presently it turns out that Captain Jack is their contact with the Mars resistance movement.

Captain Jack gives them their fake identities - they are newlyweds honeymooning on Mars, which amuses Marcus to no end. When they arrive on Mars, Captain Jack takes them to their meeting with the resistance. Along the way, we learn that because of the Earth Alliance's embargo around Mars, no one on Mars has any idea about the Shadow war, who won, or what B5's role in it was. This would seem to cut down on B5 and Sheridan's creditability on Mars.

They are met by the second-in-command (Number Two) of the Mars resistance, who is extremely dubious about the legitimacy of Franklin and Marcus, since they have also recently gotten information indicating an assassin is trying to get to their leader (Number One). Number Two has Captain Jack and other guard Franklin and Marcus while he checks their backgrounds. While they are waiting, Captain Jack seems to be one of those old guys who just can't keep quiet, chatting on and on with Franklin, in particular.

Number Two returns in a rage, saying that their backgrounds don't check. He's about to order their executions, when Number One herself arrives to talk to them. Franklin and Marcus notice something odd on Captain Jack; even though they don't know what it is, they know it's bad, and they manage to knock Number One away when Captain Jack tries to shoot her. Marcus shoots off whatever was on Captain Jack, but Captain Jack himself runs off.

Franklin analyzes the remains of what was on Captain Jack, and speculates that it was a creature that could infiltrate itself into a human and gradually begin controlling the humans actions. He realizes that Captain Jack was so oddly voluble because he was trying to hint that something was wrong. Marcus expresses his disgust at human parasites, probably caused in a large part by the events last season in "Exogenesis". Number One contacts Captain Jack and tries to get him to return, but Captain Jack knows he only has a few minutes left of freedom before the parasite grows back. In one of the creepiest scenes in the series, we see the parasite's tentacles looping up behind Captain Jack before he uses a grenade to blow himself up.

Apparently Number One is now satisfied with Franklin and Garibaldi's credentials, and she arranges for a meeting of all the resistance leaders. She asks Franklin and Marcus out to dinner, but her intentions are clearly on Franklin, so Marcus declines.

This plot in the episode was pretty straightfoward. Franklin and Marcus are going to find their mission a lot harder than they expected, since no one on Mars knows what B5 and Sheridan have been up to. Why should they believe that Sheridan can help them in any way? What will Franklin and Marcus come up with to convince them?

One thing this plot does is fill us in a bit on how Keepers work, since Captain Jack clearly had a Keeper on him (like the Centauri Regent does now, as we saw in "Epiphanies"). Keepers seem to be nearly impossible to remove, which explains why Londo needed to die in the scene from the future last season in "War Without End, Part 2" - he couldn't stop his Keeper any other way. Can a Keeper remove itself voluntarily?

Back on the station, another plot involves the interaction between Sheridan and Garibaldi. Ivanova has forced Sheridan to take some time off, and Sheridan really doesn't know what to do with himself. He finally decides to go talk to Garibaldi about what he said in the ISN interview from "The Illusion of Truth". Their conversation couldn't go more wrong. Sheridan initially is somewhat conciliatory, but Garibaldi is extremely obstinate and just can't agree with anything Sheridan says. Sheridan finally gives up and orders Garibaldi not to say things against the station, because it's hurting their overall cause against President Clark. They erupt into a big fight, and finally Sheridan stalks off.

Later Delenn finds Sheridan sulking in the garden, angry over the fight with Garibaldi. She simply tells him that they may be growing apart, and then distracts him with an invitation to another ritual. Sheridan is growing tired of rituals, but he can't resist her description of this one: they will spend the night together, discovering each other's pleasure centers - respectfully and prayerfully, of course. He agrees to meet her later.

Before he does, he goes back to the Zocalo to apologize to Garibaldi and try again. They are interrupted by an alien woman who begs for a blessing from Sheridan, since he returned to Z'ha'dum. Garibaldi becomes irrationally angry, telling her to get lost. Sheridan defends her, and Garibaldi punches him in the face. Sheridan warns Garibaldi, that that was his last chance.

Later, Garibaldi is approached by Wade and his minions for the second time, asking Garibaldi if he'd like to do anything to stop Sheridan. Garibaldi had turned them down the first time, but now he agrees, although he refuses to hurt Sheridan. Wade says that if Garibaldi gives them Sheridan, they'll make sure he gets the help he needs.

Sheridan has gone to Delenn's quarters for the ritual, but is taken aback to find that there are a number of other Minbari waiting, led by Lennier. According to ritual, they will be in the outer room as chaperones, making sure the rituals don't go too far and praying and meditating. Sheridan isn't sure he can, um, perform, but Delenn persuades him and happily leads him into her bedroom area and shuts the door. Sometime after the ritual, Sheridan and Lennier have a somewhat embarrassing encounter in the lift.

This plot line of the episode is very frustrating. The conflict between Sheridan and Garibaldi seems way too forced. In a way, I suppose that's intentional, since we think that Garibaldi is operating under some kind of programming. No matter what Sheridan does, Garibaldi is going to disagree with him. But Sheridan isn't programmed, and I really think he did a poor job of trying to find out what's really wrong with Garibaldi. He was way too volatile. One wonders why Ivanova, for example, hasn't really tried to have a heart-to-heart talk with Garibaldi about his motivations, but that probably wouldn't be effective either, given how he's deflected Zack and Lennier.

We don't yet know much about Wade - who he is, who he works for, and what his intentions are. Since he's spouting the party line about Sheridan needing help (such as was presented in the ISN report in "The Illusion of Truth"), presumably he's connected to Earthgov somehow. It doesn't seem to be a good thing to have someone from Earthgov getting their hands on Garibaldi. Possibly this is the goal of Garibaldi's programming - to get to Sheridan.

The Minbari ritual part of the plot was pretty much for humor. I think when Delenn mentioned rituals, the viewer probably sighed along with Sheridan. But as it turns out, some rituals can be good, if somewhat odd - having witnesses? And if you're exploring pleasure centers, how can you go too far?

Delenn does make an interesting point when she says that Minbari couples have rituals for everything, which can be helpful in maintaining relationships. If there's a ritual for bringing up to your husband that you're annoyed he doesn't empty the garbage can, then it really might help keep the relationship happy.

Overall, this episode got the job done, but it wasn't an amazing or griping episode.

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