SJ Review #415

Episode: 415 - No Surrender, No Retreat
Mike Vejar
Marcia Mitzman Gaven (Commander Sandra Levitt)
Richard Gant (Captain Edward MacDougan)
Ken Jenkins (Captain Trevor Hall)

Sheridan leads the rebel fleet in a direct assault upon Earth-held Proxima 3, whilst Londo tries to persuade G'Kar to put aside old hatreds for the cause of peace....

The reaction of many fans to the episodes immediately following "Into The Fire" and the conclusion to the Shadow War has been one of disappointment. They have felt that the plots, scripts, acting and special effects have taken a definite 'nose-dive' in quality. Hopefully "No Surrender, No Retreat" will put to rest such feelings.

The disappointment surrounding the past eight-or-so episodes has been partly due to the fact that the main plot arcs have taken a back seat to smaller-scale events, which seem decidedly hollow when compared to the galaxy-threatening Shadows story. The last couple of episodes have been more popular, as they have witnessed major new and old plot strands resurfacing, notably that of the Minbari and Earth civil wars. This episode dives back into the major plotline that was almost abandoned a whole season ago - that of President Clarke and Sheridan's planned coup.

This was an episode that needed desperately to be good and, thankfully, it was. None of the criticisms of post-Shadow War episodes can be used against this episode: It is tightly and intelligently scripted, carefully plotted, well-acted by all and the special effects and music were outstanding. So, one thing at a time.

The last few episodes have shown the lead characters making rash, naive and entirely unrealistic decisions; notably Sheridan. This episode returned to the careful characterisation and plotting expected of B5. Sheridan's continued explanation of tactics (do not fire unless provoked) to the League and the fleet was nicely detailed, and was very convincing. The mix of impressive battle scenes with quiet, dialogue-driven scenes. This prevented the episode from seeming to be too much of the same. It was a great relief to see the return of an 'intelligent' script with realisitc plots and dialogue.

The acting complimented the script. Peter Jurasik (Londo) and Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) were, as always, excellent and their scenes bristled with tension and barely hidden hatred, particularly on G'kar's part. The regulars all put in good performances, even Claudia Christian, who has been below the expected standard recently. Jason Carter, as Marcus, was a joy to watch; perhaps his character has now been defined well enough to avoid simply being irritating! The guest actors playing the various Earthforce personnel were more than adequate, as well; hopefully we will be able to see more of Richard Gant as MacDougan.

This combination of good acting and a good script resulted in the tension during the battle sequence being almost unbearable, as we tried to figure out who was going to side with who. This tension and unpredictability is another factor that has been missing from the last few episodes.

The special effects were outstanding during the battle. Whether seen from within a White Star or from outside, the action was portrayed excellently and realistically, with everything fitting together seamlessly. B5 once again proved that it can match, or even surpass, the quality of big-budget movies in the realm of digital effects.

Complimenting the special effects were the sound effects, which seemed vastly improved for this episode, as well as being more throaty. The engines, lasers and explosions all sounded much more full and rich than in previous episodes. The music was equally good, with Christopher Franke building the tension up at the start of the episode and then keeping it up throughout with the use of some very exciting music.

All of this was held together by excellent directing, which was unobtrusive and innovative at the same time; notably the first and last scenes of the episode, as well as the fade from the Proxima 3 map to the planet itself. All this showed the flair that was present at the beginning of the season, but which eventually trailed off.

Overall, a highly exciting episode, with just enough contrasting plot elements to remain interesting throughout.

Rating: 9.5/10 - Excellent special effects, excellent script, very good acting. What more can we ask for?

Points For Discussion:

Where did the Juno run off to?
What made G'Kar change his mind about the joint statement? Was he just waiting in order to humiliate Londo first?
Can the Resistance strike against Earth and Mars so early and win, if they had trouble with Proxima 3?
What does Sheridan want with the frozen telepaths?
Why is Claudia Christian (Ivanova) so inconsistent between episodes?

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.