SJ Review #413

Episode: 413 - Rumours, Bargains and Lies
Mike Vejar
John Vickery (Neroon)
Ron Campbell (Drazi Ambassador)
Guy Siner (Religious #1)
Chard Haywood (Religious #2)

Sheridan hatches a plan to convince the League of Non-Aligned Worlds to allow White Star ships to patrol its borders. Meanwhile, Delenn is travelling to Minbar to lead the Religious Caste in the civil war.......

This episode had two distinct parts - the political scheming on Babylon 5 itself and the events aboard the Minbari war cruiser. As well as having very different plots, these two parts summed up the fourth season's overall quality.

The part of the episode set on the station itself was ridiculous, far-fetched and exceedingly immature. These words can be used to describe many aspects of the last few episodes of season four. This is exactly the kind of script that causes the show to lose viewers, particularly amongst the adult viewers. Sheridan's plan was pure farce - it seemed to act more as a joke than as a serious plot point. The whole scenario was badly thought out - the aliens, despite being of different races, all acted in the same stupid, stereotypical way (this removed their credibility as aliens; instead they appeared to be lots of humans wandering about wearing funny masks); and what reasons did Sheridan have for withholding his idea from the rest of the command staff?

This bad plotting was let down by equally bad acting. Bruce Boxleitner (Sheridan) was very unconvincing - he has never been very good at the diplomatic stuff. The worst acting came from the aliens; aside from Campbell as the Drazi ambassador, the other aliens were played incredibly badly. This became most apparent during the "They could be all around us!" scene - that scene can be listed alongside the attack of the monster in "Grey 17 Is Missing" in the Book of Terrible Scenes.

Thankfully, the Minbari aspect of the episode was handled much better. It showed a maturity and level of awareness that was present during the first six episodes of this season, but which evaporated after "Into The Fire". The dialogue was adequate, although some parts seemed slightly forced - after a fashion, of course. The acting was to a good standard here, as well - Vickery was, as always, excellent as Neroon, exuding just the right levels of menace and charm; Bill Mumy (Lennier) and Mira Furlan (Delenn) gave their usual solid performances; even the Minbari extras were convincing. Although Guy Siner made some very strange faces at Chard Haywood throughout the episode, they nevertheless fit the parts fairly well.

The main problem with this episode was that it relied far too heavily on unlikely coincidences, which undermined the realism and believability of the whole thing. First we had Lennier overhearing the sabotage plans; this seemed rather worringly as if it was only there because Straczynski could not think of any other way of saving the ship. Later in the episode, Lennier sees Neroon pass by his bed on his way to his flyer; on such a massive ship (many, many times larger than the White Stars), how likely is it that Neroon would have passed through that particular corridor? As for the Sheridan plotline - it was riddled with coincidences.

As with other disappointing fourth season episodes, "Rumours, Bargains and Lies" managed to pull of a brilliant ending, which improved the episode somewhat. However, B5 cannot rely on excellent endings to improve merely mediocre episodes forever.

The special effects of Minbar were superb - the scenes in the viewing chamber were very well created, particularly with the subtle addition of the reflection in the floor and table. Unfortunately, these superb effects show how terrible the Mars and Earth effects have been so far.

Rating: 6/10 - The Minbari half of this episode was very interesting, but the Sheridan half was so badly executed it prevents this episode from getting a higher mark.

Points For Discussion:

Why did Neroon leave the ship, when he could have remained and gathered more information?
The Voice of the Resistance is supposed to transmit the truth. Sheridan is already using it to twist the truth for his own propaganda purposes; how similar is he prepared to become to Clarke in order to achieve his goals?
What will the League of Non-Aligned Worlds do if they find out about Sheridan's trickery?
Why is Claudia Christian (Ivanova) unable to cope with scenes containing humour?

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.