AB Review #113

Episode: 1/13 - Signs and Portents
Production #: 116
Janet Greek
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Original Title: Rading Party
Cast: Gerrit Graham (Lord Kiro)
Fredi Olster (Lady Ladira)
Ed Wasser (Morden)

Raider activity increases around the station and Londo recovers a priceless Centauri artifact. A Centauri prophetress predicts the station's demise while a mysterious stranger visits the Ambassadors.

The first scene is a classic - this makes for a good teaser to the main script but which ISN'T actually related:

A scuttleship unloads cargo from a transport parked alongside the station. PAN ACROSS with the scuttleship, tracking with it until it passes into the docking bay, then DOWN TO the observation dome window, where we can just see into INT. OBSERVATION DOME where Lieutenant-Commander IVANOVA stands at the console, cup in hand, staring bleakly out into the starscape as SINCLAIR comes up alongside.
I hate mornings...I've always had a hard time getting up when it's dark outside!
We're in space. It's always dark outside.
  IVANOVA (forlornly)
I know...I know....

This PERFECTLY demonstrates why this episode is a good one, the characters joke among themselves and it makes for good viewing. This is my first point, the script is a classic, one of the best ones so far (I've seen up to A Voice In The Wilderness as I write this...) which is a reason in itself to watch this episode.

The guest cast give it their all and this shows as we get to see Mr. Wasser give one of the best performances by a member of the guest cast since Koenig's Bester. With a good plot and its strong importance to the story arc this show is just yelling out "watch me".

The story, as I said is a good one - all the sub-plots are good enough to work together and with some outstanding performances (even an excellent performance by Claudia Christian) it really does make this episode worth seeing.

People have criticised by marking scheme - well I say that my marking scheme is still working - I haven't given a mark over 10 yet!

The ONE disappointing thing is the shallowness of Delenn in this episode - she isn't giving one of her best performances. I hear that Chrysalis should be a big Delenn ep. (I know what happens but I'll keep it to myself - it wouldn't be nice of me to do otherwise).

Rating: 9.5/10 - I still prefered Believers...

Cult TV'S Rating: ***** out of *****
One Hour of Sheer Heaven as the shadows and their human agent, Mr. Morden are introduced, and a Centauri prophetress forsees the station's destruction.

Andy's Star Trek comparison
Nope - no similar plot.
The atmosphere doesn't really match any Star Trek episodes. At the begining it feels like "Little Green Men" (DS9) but the humour soon goes to be replaced by tension. Quite tense in places - similar to the episode "The Best Of Both Worlds" (TNG)
I enjoyed this episode about as much as I enjoyed "Our Man Bashir" (DS9)

Points for Discussion (no spoilers for future episodes):
1. Who is Morden and why is he asking these questions?
2. What do Delenn and Kosh know about him?
3. The Minbari would only agree to the station if Sinclair was the Earth representative - why?
4. How big are the raiders (politically - not physically)?
5. What will Londo do with the Eye?
6. Where did Reno get the Eye from?
7. How did Morden manage to find the freighters and recover the eye?
8. Who was on the shuttle in Ladria's vision (speculation only please)?
9. Will the vision come true (speculation only please)?
10. Why doesn't Kosh want Morden to see Sinclair?
11. Is Morden a friend or an enemy?

We Learn Here:
Of the existance of the shadows.
That Morden is interested in talks with the diplomats.
That the Minbari would only agree to having the station IF Sinclair was the Earth representative.
The Centauri leader hasn't been seen in public in years (Is this Cartagia?)
That both Delenn and Kosh have basic psychic powers (assumed but in Kosh's case pretty obvious and it adds up for Delenn - see Legacies for more details but beware - my reviews do carry spoilers)
Morden and Kosh know each other.
A triangle appeared on Delenn's forehead - this was also present during the battle of the Line.
Kosh says to Morden "They are not for you" - I think that we can assume that he means the humans.
Morden and Kosh appear to have been in a fight - Kosh doesn't want Morden to see Sinclair.
Babylon 5 may be destined for destruction, apparently with only a single shuttle escaping in time.
Morden apparently can disappear or cloak in some way while still being present.

Notes and Facts About The Show:
Ed Wasser, the actor who played Morden, also appeared as the main C&C technician in the pilot movie, "The Gathering." The same character? JMS won't say. (Taken from Lurkers...)
A female entered the men's toilets as Sinclair and Garibaldi left.
It was re-titled because JMS said that the title wasn't very good and he wanted one episode a year to carry the season title.
JMS says that Morden was written for Wasser.
JMS named the Shadows after the Jungian notion of the Shadow, which is the part of the mind which is all desire, and is destructive.

Andy's theories:
Perhaps the fact that I can write down some theories for this episode is why I gave it a slightly higher mark than I said it deserved? Anyway, the friction between the Religious and Warrior castes appears to be being replaced by Religious superiority. This could indicate that the Grey council is becoming more religion orientated - I don't know, but then this section isn't about knowing but guessing. I would hazard a guess that this won't do much to help with the Minbari-Earth situation but will rather just strengthen the Religious caste-Earth relationship! It appears in this episode that Winters is the friendlier of the two women, Ivanova strongly disliking Winters. This COULD mean that Winters is going to make the first move towards friendship (after buying Ivanova coffee).
Finally I can only guess that the Narn are REALLY desperate for telepathic skills but they haven't approached the Centauri yet, I can but hope for a scene in which G'Kar and Londo discuss how to go about breeding Centauri-Narn telepaths... Speaking of which we haven't seen a Centauri or Vorlon telepath yet (I would guess that Kosh has ESP but not mind reading abilities). Will we soon? (Note - this is a rhetorical question)...

Character Ratings (out of *****):
Sinclair - *****
Ivanova - *****
Dr Franklin - Not Featured
Garibaldi - ****
G'Kar - *****
Londo - *****
Delenn - ***
Kosh - ***** (Woo hoo - I cryptic sentence to decipher)
Vir - Not Featured
Lennier - Not Featured
Winters - Not Featured
Na'Toth - Not Featured

Andrew Brack 1998