Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 4: "Rising Star"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

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Episode Information

Title: "Rising Star"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Tony Dow
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: March 29, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan submits to Earthgov, while Delenn forms the League of Non-Aligned Worlds into a more cohesive Alliance.

Sheridan's campaign to re-take Earth and depose President Clark is over, and now he has handed himself over to Earthgov, which doesn't quite know what to do with him. He's left cooling his heels for quite awhile, while the Acting President of Earthgov, Susanna Luchenko, pulls the government back together.

In the meantime, Franklin is rushing back to B5 to stop Marcus from sacrificing himself to save Ivanova, but he's too late. He gets back to the station to find Ivanova huddled in a corner in tears and Marcus dead. She can't believe that she's alive, and she can't believe that Marcus killed himself for her. It's unsettling to hear her describe how she felt herself peacefully slipping away to death, only to be dragged back to her body; hearing death described so nicely and living so harshly is disconcerting. She's also upset because she knew that Marcus was in love with her, but she was afraid to begin a relationship with him, and now they'll never have a chance. Franklin can do nothing but console her.

Back on Earth, Bester pays Sheridan a visit and wastes no time making threats of what he'll do to Sheridan if he finds out Sheridan used his rogue telepath lover as one of the "weapons" in the attack against Mars in "Endgame". Sheridan scoffs at Bester's death threat with one of the best lines he ever gets: "Death. Been there, done that." Well, if you've essentially died for your cause and come back to life, might as well get some enjoyment out of it. He lets Bester squirm a bit before he reveals that Bester's lover is still safe on the station in cryogenic storage.

Sheridan turns the tables on Bester, asking what plans Bester has in store now for trying to take over the government, since the Psi Corps' pawn, Clark, is dead. He warns Bester that whenever he tries sometime, Sheridan will be watching and waiting for him. Bester shrugs him off. When Sheridan asks about the telepath virus that Bester stole from Edgars in "The Face of the Enemy", Bester refuses to confirm he has it, but assures Sheridan that if he did, it would be somewhere completely safe. With some malicious humor, Sheridan warns Bester to watch his back, because Garibaldi is intent on revenge.

Garibaldi is in fact tracking down Lise and rescues her from some thugs presumably intent on ransom. Lise is safe and unharmed, and very glad to see Garibaldi.

Delenn, Londo, and G'Kar meet with the representatives from the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. Londo reads Delenn's proposal and tells her she is mad, but cannot stop laughing. We don't find out what the proposal is, but Delenn seems to have secured the agreement of all involved by the end of the meeting.

On Earth, Sheridan is finally visited by Acting President Luchenko. She is extremely no-nonsense and minces no words in telling Sheridan that he has made a huge problem for her and Earthgov, because the population of Earth Alliance as well as the military are completely split on what to do with him: shoot him for treason or give him the Medal of Honor. She, of course, has to please everyone, especially since the government is still so shaky after Clark's death. Luchenko offers him a choice: in exchange for amnesty for his crew, he will resign, or he will be court-martialed, along with all of his crew. Sheridan clearly has no choice - as Lunchenko says, they are not having a conversation - and so he asks for the promise of amnesty in writing and resigns. I have to say that it's a really odd feeling to think of Sheridan not being in Earth Force and not being someone in a position of power. It's also hard for the viewer to feel offended at Luchenko's brusque treatment of Sheridan, when he did just save Earth from being destroyed.

Earthgov plans a big news conference for Sheridan to present his resignation, which is attended by Delenn, G'Kar, and Londo. Sheridan's speech is short but has a lot of feeling, as he says that because he loves Earth so much, he realizes that he is too divisive to remain in Earth Force, so he must resign.

Then G'Kar speaks, announcing that a new Alliance has been formed, which includes the Minbari, the Narn, the Centauri, and the members of the former League of Non-Aligned Worlds. Delenn takes over and says that the Earth is also invited to join. The purpose of the Alliance is to help each other economically, technologically, and politically. The Rangers will use the White Star fleet to enforce the peace between members. The members will exchange technology and provide each other mutual assistance in humanitarian matters. Delenn dangles a very inviting worm before Earthgov: the Minbari technology to generate artificial gravity. To emphasize her points, a number of White Stars buzz the building. A governing board including a representative from the Minbari, the Centauri, and the Narn will run the Alliance, but the board will be run by an elected president.

I remember the first time I watched this episode I really wasn't sure who the Alliance president would be... silly me! We cut to a fun scene where an Earth Force general bursts in on Sheridan in his "waiting room" and is discomfited by having to address Sheridan as "Mr. President". Sheridan enjoys needling the general, assuring him he didn't know for sure the Alliance would happen, but he hoped it would. Of course, Earth joins the Alliance. How can they resist the technology being offered them? Plus, they can use friends right now, when their military has been weakened by their civil war. I personally hope, and I think Sheridan also hopes, that showing the benevolent side of the local alien populations will help humans get over the anti-alien feeling Clark engendered.

Sheridan finally leaves his waiting room for good, and has a happy reunion with both Delenn and his father. His father is safe and sound, and he welcomes Delenn into their family.

Sheridan's first press conference includes the announcement that as part of joining the Alliance, Earth must free its colonies if they vote for independence: Mars is free. Garibaldi and Lise watch Sheridan's press conference from bed on Mars. ISN announces that Ivanova has been promoted to captain, and has chosen to command a new type of warship on a year-long shakedown cruise. ISN also announces that Sheridan and Delenn were married on the trip back to B5.

On the ship heading back to B5, Londo and G'Kar ponder the wedding ceremony - with G'Kar eating the bits of rice that were thrown - while Sheridan and Delenn apparently consummate their marriage. G'Kar's artificial eye is missing, which Londo notices... and we cut to a view of it sitting across from Sheridan and Delenn's bed.

This episode has very important plot points and resolutions in it, but after the breath-taking events in the previous episode, it can't help but be a let-down.

That being said, I think this episode clearly illustrates the classical nature of Sheridan's heroism. He's just arrived with a huge fleet and saved Earth, and yet now he submits to whatever Earthgov dishes out to him. If he truly was power hungry, he could have left Earthgov when Luchenko gave him that ultimatum and returned to his fleet, conjuring up some story to get the fleet to help him overthrow Earthgov again, until he got his way. After all, the aliens follow him because he went to Z'ha'dum and survived, and then led them to victory in the war against the Shadows. The humans follow him because he has convinced them Clark had to go. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that he could push his influence a lot farther if he wanted to, until he was in control and no one could do anything about it.

But he doesn't. By submitting to Earthgov, he demonstrates his belief in the government's democratic process and his willingness to accept whatever punishment they might deem is necessary. In fact, it's hard to watch him letting Luchenko upbraid him after everything he's sacrificed for Earth and B5. His leadership of B5 and the combined forces during the Shadow War and then the campaign against Earth are certainly equal to the leadership of something like the president of the Earth Alliance. After Sheridan takes his slap on the wrist, it's satisfying to see him be made President of the Alliance so that now the others have to acknowledge his position.

I have to emphasize that Sheridan is willingly turning himself over to Earthgov because he believes in it. Contrast his submissive attitude with Luchenko to his attitude toward Bester and the Psi Corps, which is the complete opposite. Sheridan gives Bester and the Psi Corps little, if any, respect, even warning Bester that he's prepared to fight against the Psi Corps. Sheridan believes that Psi Corps is corrupt and up to no good, and he no longer even pretends to sanction them. It will be interesting to see how he handles them when he is President of the Alliance.

This leads me to a minor point: Sheridan mentions here that he knows a war with the Psi Corps is coming. So why hasn't he been working to make some kind of allies against them? Working with the rogue telepaths would be one thing to do, but they are dispersed now. Taking Lyta under his wing would be another major thing to do, but as I've mentioned previously, such as in "The Exercise of Vital Powers". Maybe he'll do that now.

This episode does a lot of wrapping-up for the other characters, too. Ivanova is out of the picture, away on her new assignment. One can't really blame her for wanting to leave the location of such pain (B5), although in the real world I know it's because the actress decided to leave the series. We get the mention that the Centauri Emperor is ill, so Londo will become Emperor soon. Lennier makes his most obvious statements ever to Delenn about his feelings for her, but Delenn doesn't really seem to get it. Garibaldi actually seems to be happy - knowing him, it can't last. Finally, it's a bit disappointing to have missed Sheridan and Delenn's wedding; did Sheridan's parents get to be aboard and see it?

The creation of the Alliance is huge shift in the politics in this part of the galaxy. The previous Advisory Council only cooperated in running B5, not in the overall relations between all the various worlds. The new Alliance means that now just about every race we know of should be at peace and cooperating with each other. The exceptions are the remaining Shadow allies, such as the Drakh, but no one really seems to know where they are. It's interesting that the Drakh controlling the Centauri Regent apparently agree to allow the Centauri to join the Alliance.

The benefits of being an Alliance member seem tremendous, with the exchange of goods and technology. However, it will take time to get everything working, and so some worlds may become impatient. How long before the Rangers have to use force to ensure the peace? Sheridan is the perfect choice for the Alliance's first president, since all of the races have worked with him before and respect him. How long can he remain president?

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