SJ Review #412

Episode: 412 - Conflicts of Interest
David J. Eagle
Tim Choate (Zathras)
Mark Schneider (Wade)

Ivanova travels to Epsilon 3, whilst Sheridan tries to ease relations between Londo and G'Kar. Meanwhile, Garibaldi accepts a job proposition that turns out to be more than he had accepted.....

This episode marked a return to the standards present during season two and the first few episodes of this season. On the whole, every aspect of the show had improved in quality since the last few episodes - acting (particularly on the part of the guests), special effects, dialogue, direction...

'Conflicts of Interest' returned us to the spacestation itself, with almost all the scenes taking place aboard it, unlike the majority of season four episodes which have been in other locations. This has been one of the problems with season four - all the plot that had to be squeezed in concerning the Shadow War forced out the plots that take place on Babylon 5, leaving some people (particularly newcomers, I should imagine) wondering why the show was called 'Babylon 5' in the first place.

Let's take things one step at a time, though. Firstly, the acting was noticeably better from most of the cast. The regulars were mostly excellent (particularly Jerry Doyle as Garibaldi) - Jeff Conaway is playing Zack a lot more convincingly than he ever has before. Even Bruce Boxleitner, who has been delivering a rather flat performance the last couple of episodes, performed well, especially in the scene between himself and Jerry Doyle. The only disappointment was Claudia Christian (Ivanova). Her scene with Tim Choate (Zathras) was marred by her camp acting, which seemed wholly out of place.

The guest actors were much more pleasing than in the previous couple of episodes. Tim Choate was, as always, exemplary as Zathras. He managed to create a subtly different character from *Zathras*, so that Zathras had character traits all of his own. If you see what I mean. Although the scene existence seemed to be more to please the fans than to serve any real plot element, it was still very welcome. If only Claudia Christian had acted as she normally does (minimally), instead of trying to be as over-the-top as Choate, things would have been perfect. Unfortunately, Choate's excellent performance emphasised just what a limited range of acting skills Christian has.

Wade (Mark Schneider) was also a lot more convincing in this episode than he was in 'Racing Mars'. Judging from his performance in this episode, it would appear that his inferior one in 'Racing Mars' was more due to a bad script than bad acting. Denise Gentile as Lisa Hampton was also quite good, although she wouldn't win any awards for her portrayal.

What made the acting so good to watch (excluding Christian's) was the interaction between the various cast members - everything seemed very natural. This has been missing from previous episodes somewhat.

The highlight of the episode, for many, will be the shootout between Garibaldi and the telepaths. This was probably the most exciting scenes we have had so far this season; perhaps even for the entire series. The scene with shots coming through the floor in the air duct was particularly tense. The CGI explosions and gunfire were very good, too. The whole sequence was handled expertly - it could have come straight from a big-budget action film.

The special effects were good. It appears that the new digital effects team have finally found the time to create some new 'location' shots of B5, which were stunning, particularly the fast zoom-out at the beginning of the episode. The approach to Epsilon 3 was interesting, even if many of the shots were old recycled ones. Perhaps the CGI team are finally finding a style of their own that could allow them to create things to the standard that Foundation Imaging were last season.

Everything held together pretty well in this episode, and managed to create an atmosphere bristling with tension and excitement. Although we certainly don't want action-oriented episodes all the time, if they are all to this standard we could hardly complain. The direction of David Eagle was impressive, binding the episode together without getting in the way. Only the fast zoom-ins on characters, a rather over-used technique in B5, irritated, and only slightly.

Rating: 8/10 - A fast paced adventure of an episode, showing that B5 can do action as well as thoughtful episodes.

Points For Discussion:

What is the true story behind the chemicals that William Edgars wants?
Is Garibaldi truly under the influence of Psi-Corp?
How dictatorial is Sheridan prepared to become to attain his goals?
What does Wade really want?
Why is it so hard to think of these points???

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.