SJ Review #414

Episode: 414 - Moments of Transition
Tony Dow
John Vickery (Neroon)
Bart McCarthy (Shakiri)
Walter Koenig (Bester)

Lyta Alexander has to make more difficult decisions regarding her loyalty, whilst the Warrior Caste tighten the noose around the neck of the Religious Caste back on Minbar.....

This episode had a great deal of plot squeezed into it; thankfully each separate plotline was well produced, unlike "Rumours, Bargains and Lies", which suffered from one good plot and one terrible one.

Thankfully, Straczynski's script was better than his last few offerings. The result of one man writing every single episode since halfway through season two is that some episodes are sheer brilliance, some are terrible and most are somewhere inbetween. At the beginning of this season, we had a solid run of about five well-scripted episodes, with excellent dialogue and interweaving plots. Following the conclusion of the Shadow War, and the discarding of the more mythic elements of the series, the dialogue became noticeably more worse, as did the plots themselves. There were, thankfully, occasional snippest of brilliance which proved to us that Straczynski was still capable of writing good material (the whole of "Atonement", for example, as well as the Minbari-aspect of "Rumours, Bargains and Lies").

"Moments of Transition" managed to juggle the more mythical, melodramatic dialogue of the Minbari with fairly realistic talk from the Humans well. Both plots held our attention and the pace kept up throughout. Whilst the events taking place aboard the station were interesting (mostly because of the presence of Bester), the majority of the episode's impact came from the dramatic events on Minbar. The conclusion to the civil war was excellent, thanks to a perfect mix of special effects, acting, dialogue and pure dramatic power.

Indeed, the acting in this episode was a joy to watch. Jeff Conaway continued to add depth to the character of Zack Allen, creating a character that is far more interesting than the one seen last season; Jerry Doyle's portrayal of Garibaldi this year has been his best to date and his scenes in this episode were very convincing; Walter Koenig gave his usual chilling performance as Bester, despite having awful dialogue in his first scene; Mira Furlan and Bill Mumy gave their usual fine performances as Delenn and Lennier. In fact, the only bad piece of acting came from Claudia Christian (Ivanova). Unfortunately, Christian does not seem to be able to handle scenes of intense emotion at all well; her outburst at President Clarke's latest atrocity was decidedly camp and amateurish. She has always been a weak member of the acting team and, unlike Doyle, has not improved over the years. Whilst it is a great pity Ivanova will not be returning for the fifth season, it is perhaps to the betterment of the overall series, at least in terms of acting quality - of course, this all depends upon Tracy Scoggins' capabilities.

A special acknowledgement has to go to John Vickery as Neroon. From his introduction in the first season episode "Legacies", Neroon has always been a very intriguing character and, unlike Bester, has not been overused. His fate in this episode was very poignant and Vickery carried it off superbly. Unfortunately Neroon's demise signalled the departure of yet another brilliant guest actor (preceded by Wortham Krimmer and Wayne Alexander amongst others), and new guest actors are simply not up to the same standard.

Equally impressive were the special effects of Minbar. The cityscapes, the temples and the chamber in which the finale took place in were all immaculately created, and served to show just what the new effects team can achieve (and also made us wonder why they cannot do better for Mars and Earth...).

This episode marked a welcome return to form, with the more mature aspects of the show taking over from the ridiculous plotting and dialogue of the past few episodes.

Rating: 9/10 - A very well designed episode, with excellent acting, special effects, dialogue and music. Hopefully this will set the standard to come.

Points For Discussion:

What exactly was the Starfire Wheel?
Just what did happen to Neroon?
Can the Resistance strike against Clarke so early and win?
Did Zack coax Bester into scanning Garibaldi? Did Bester tell Zack what he found out?
Why is Claudia Christian (Ivanova) unable to cope with scenes containing strong emotion?

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.