SJ Review #108

Episode: 108 - And the Sky Full of Stars
Director: Janet Greek
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Cast: Christopher Neame (Knight Two)
Judson Scott (Knight One)
Macaulay Bruton (Garibaldi's Aide)
Jim Youngs (Benson)
Justin Williams (Mitchell)
Mark Hendrickson (Grey Council No. 1)

Two covert operatives attempt to light the hole in Sinclair's mind...

This episode is extremely important to Babylon 5 for two main reasons. Firstly, it is the first episode that could possibly be considered 'a classic', as vague as that term is. This is an episode that an intelligent person could watch and appreciate, even if they do not watch the series. The second reason is that it is Janet Greek's directing debut in the series.

Greek quickly establishes a unique visual style; the depiction of the virtual reality cybernet (slightly cringe-inducing name, but we'll let that one pass) when Sinclair first finds himself enveloped in it is superb - a fantastic combination of lighting, set design and directorial innovations. The sequence is one of the most memorable to feature in the series. The rest of the episode is equally well-handled; it is evident that Greek is a director to keep an eye on, as Mike Vejar would become in the third season. Greek would go on to direct many of the series' best episodes from the first two seasons, including the Hugo award-winning "The Coming of Shadows".

For a one-plot episode, "And the Sky Full of Stars" is remarkably involving, and does not become monotonous or dull whatsoever. Michael O'Hare (Sinclair) delivers his best performance in the season to date, backed up by Christopher Neame as his interrogator. Neame's acting is outstanding, creating a very interesting enemy, one which could have become a very interesting recurring character.

Straczynski delivers by far his best script to date, featuring a very strong main plot, solid characters (backed up by decent actors, thankfully), plus a good balance of tension, intrigue and action. This episode also greatly advances the plot arc, giving more details about Sinclair's abduction. Infuriatingly, though, it leaves us with more questions than answers. Unfuriating though it is, it nevertheless makes the series far more interesting, giving it new depth and mystery.

Christopher Franke's music compliments the rather surreal and dreamlike atmosphere of the episode superbly, particularly during Sinclair's first moments in the cybernet. The score for the Battle of the Line is equally impressive, capturing the dramatic desperation perfectly. His work on the previous episodes has been variable, irritating and intrusive at worst and adequate at best. "And the Sky Full of Stars" is the first episode to show his true potential.

Just eight episodes into its first season, Babylon 5 had already achieved three or four excellent episodes, with higher standards to come. "And the Sky Full of Stars", coupled with "Mind War", shows the dark nature of the series and both drop ominous hints about the direction of this season.

Rating: 9/10 - The best episode of the season so far, handled well in all departments.

Points for Discussion (no spoilers for future episodes):
1. What really happened to Sinclair aboard the Minbari cruiser?
2. Why did the Minbari surrender at the Battle of the Line?
3. Who were Knights One and Two working for?
4. How did Knight One manage to dispose of Benson's body so easily? Did he have inside help?
5. Why must Sinclair be killed if he remembers anything about his missing 24 hours?

Future Arc (may contain spoilers for future episodes):
1. We see Jack, Garibaldi's aide, again. More hints towards his traitorous nature. Very likely he helped dispose of Benson's body.
2. Newspaper headlines drop tantalising hints for the future: "Psi Corps in election tangle; Did Psi Corps violate its charter by endorsing Vice-President?" - hints towards their future involvement with Clark. "San Diego still considered too radioactive for occupancy" - relates to the season two episode "Spider in the Web", only minor point. "Is there something living in hyperspace?" - massive hint for the imminent arrival of the Shadows.
3. Find out more about Sinclair's missing 24 hours.

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.