SJ Review #406

Episode: 406 - Into The Fire
Kevin James Dobson
Wayne Alexander (Lorien)
Ed Wasser (Morden)
Julian Barnes (Durano)
Damien London (Minister)

Whilst Ivanova and Lorien continue their search for the First Ones, Sheridan launches his final strike agains the Vorlons and the Shadows. Meanwhile, back on Centauri Prime, Londo and Vir are fighting to save their entire planet...

This episode is so monumental that I doubt any Babylon 5 viewer, myself included, will be able to truly appreciate the events that occur in it for a long time yet. 'Into The Fire' marked the end of an era for B5 (or the start of the Third Age, as Sheridan so poetically puts it...). For the last three and a bit years, we have been thinking that the Shadow War was the main plot element, and that all other stories were merely background information. And now, with over a year and a half of the series still to run, the war has come to an end.

As for the quality of the episode: In my opinion it is quite possibly the best Babylon 5 episode in the series' history. It is also arguably one of the greatest achievements in science fiction, not just television SF, but SF as a whole. B5 has shown that television can deliver the same depth and texture as a novel. Indeed, I was left with a feeling at the end of this episode decidedly reminiscent of the feeling I get when I have just finished a really good book - it has been brilliant, but it is a shame it had to end. Of course, in this case we still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, a very large chapter in the Babylon 5 television novel has just been finished, I feel.

It is very difficult to pick out any bad points for this episode. All I can think of at the moment are good points!

The special effects, which have been increasing in quality every subsequent season since the pilot episode, were outstanding tonight. From my experience of TVSF, they were probably the best ever screened. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the effects in 'Into The Fire' rival those in 'Return of the Jedi'. For the first time since that film was made, the effects have been equalled, or even surpassed.

The opening attack on the Vorlon asteroid base, for example, was wonderful. The sweeping shots were tremendously exciting. Yet, come the main battle, the effects people managed to top even that! I think it is quite fair to say that this episode showcased the best special effects ever seen on a televsion programme.

This episode did not rely soley on its special effects, thankfully. The acting and dialogue was equally impressive. Alexander as Lorien was excellent, as usual, and, just as with Wortham Krimmer's Cartagia, it was a pity to lose him. Peter Jurasik, as usual, got all the best scenes. His confrontation with Morden (Ed Wasser) was handled perfectly, and Morden's outrage at the destruction of Selene was brilliantly timed. It was good to see Londo getting the upper hand for once, instead of Morden manipulating him.

Talking of manipulation, Jurasik's acting when Londo found out the truth about Adira was exemplary - I really felt for him, as I did when he ordered Vir to kill him. It has been great seeing Vir in a serious role, and it is good that Stephen Furst was up to the job. At the start of the series, I would not have said that Furst was a good enough actor.

Christopher Franke's music was at its best in this episode - quiet, subtle and haunting. The repetitive, over-the-top, electronic sounds of the first season have changed to much more apt music, which fits in extremely well with the events transpiring.

The tension built throughout the episode and the end, despite Sheridan not winning with a flashy space battle, was very well thought out. Although it may disappoint some, who were hoping for Sheridan to 'haul ass', as he put it, I feel that it was much more realistic this way.

Sheridan's line "Get the hell out of our galaxy!", which could have sounded awful, instead somehow managed to capture the very essence of B5. It's nice to see that Straczynski is very much aware of the criticism levelled at him due to his use of the word 'hell', and managed to get a line in that blatantly slapped those critics in the face.

Overall, an incredible episode. It takes all the tension built up in previous episodes, adds some amazing effects, throws in the usual good acting and screenplay, then somehow goes one step further and leaves us lying on our sofas drooling, trying in vain to wrap our heads around all the concepts being thrown at us. To be honest, I can't see how this episode can be bettered.

I'm just glad my head isn't going to explode any longer (see 'The Long Night' review to explain that last comment...), although it certainly felt like it was about to when Channel 4 cut to advert breaks!

Rating: 10/10

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.