SJ Review #104

Episode: 104 - Infection
Director: Richard Compton
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Cast: David McCallum (Vance Hendricks)
Marshall Teague (Nelson Drake)
Mary Ann Cramer (Patricia Healy)

An alien creature wreaks havoc on the station. Er...that's it.

This attempt to create an 'Alien'-style episode fails rather badly. The plot lacks cohesion, subtlety or anything new to interest people. It consists of a number of badly thought-out cliches that have been seen many, many times before in shows such as The Outer Limits and, generally, to better effect.

However, an episode should not be criticised simply for reusing old plot devices (friend of a main character threatens the station, main character can't believe it; alien device takes over somebody; creature burns through floors and walls; creature kills everybody except main characters...). If it utilises them well, there is nothing to stop it becoming a highly entertaining episode, no matter how original it is.

Unfortunately, "Infection" fails to do this. The acting from the regulars is distinctly below par, as if they are all wondering where the intelligence of the show has gone. The guests are a mixed bunch, as well. David McCallum overacts ridiculously as Hendricks, spouting dialogue as if he is playing some sort of messiah. He isn't helped by a dodgy script that lacks characterisation, originality and inspiration. One can't help feeling that Straczysnki had an empty episode slot and just felt like doing a monster story for the hell of it. Marshall Teague (now a common face on B5, as the Narn Ta'Lon) is adequate as Drake, but is most impressive as the Ikaaran creature; despite the ton of make-up, he still manages to create an interesting monster.

In fact, the creature make-up is this episode's one saving grace; it is quite superb. The design and implementation of the Ikaaran killing machine is flawless, and even manages to conjure up a sense of horror and danger, despite the limpid directing. Unfortunately, Drake's return to human form is quite laughable, clearly showing up a lack in either budget or imagination.

Even Christopher Franke's music is not up to its usual standard, consisting of over-loud bangs and whistles that irritate rather than subliminally enhance.

This is undoubtedly the worst episode yet, including the pilot, and is most probably the worst of the season, if not the series as a whole.

Rating: 4/10 - Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

Points for Discussion:
1. Has Interplanetary Expeditions got a hidden agenda?
2. Who wiped out the Ikaarans?
3. What happened to Drake's armour?
4. What happened to the organic technology, which was recalled to Earth?

Future Arc:
1. We hear about IPX.
2. The Ikaarans were wiped out 1000 years ago. Same time as the last Great War; coincidence?
3. Earth confiscates the alien artifacts; a tendency to examine alien technology which continues throughout the series.

Epilogue:  Please comment on this review - discuss it! The whole point of this review is to generate some meaty discussion. Discuss the review itself, the points raised, say whether you agree with me or think I'm talking a load of horse-radish (to coin a phrase), add you own opinions - anything! If you reply to this review directly by email to me, please post a copy of your reply to the newsgroup as well, if you can, to help promote more discussion. I look forward to hearing your replies!


Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.