SJ Review #416

Episode: 416 - The Exercise of Vital Powers
Director:
John Lafia
Guests:
Denise Gentile (Lise Hampton)
Mark Scheider (Wade)
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (William Edgars)

Synopsis:
Garibaldi rendezvous with the mysterious Mr. Edgars, whilst Franklin struggles to control the Shadow implant-controlled, cryogenically frozen, rogue telepaths.

Review:
This episode was a great contrast to the previous one, "No Surrender, No Retreat". Instead of another effects-driven, space battle episode (as would have been expected after 415), we got a slow and dialogue-driven episode. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing, by any means. It all depends upon one single thing: The quality of the script.

It is generally accepted that the quality of the scripts dropped noticeably after the conclusion to the Shadow War, and that it has been steadily getting better for the past couple of episodes. Thankfully, "The Exercise of Vital Powers" had a good script, enabling the talky scenes to remain interesting, with natural, flowing dialogue; not the unrealistic, clunky dialogue of episodes such as "Rumours, Bargains and Lies".

Of course, an episode cannot solely rely upon its script; it also needs capable directing, acting and special effects. One at a time:

The effects were nothing special, but the Mars landscapes looked marginally better than those seen in "Racing Mars". The interior shots of the Mars domes were particularly well-done. The episode would have benefited from more imaginative sets in Edgars' compound - it woul have been nice to be able to see out a few windows, for example.

Zimbalist, as Edgars himself, portrayed the man in a surprisingly sympathetic manner - much unlike what many people would have been expecting. However, his style and interpretation of the character definitely worked. Gentile (Lise) and Scheider (Wade) delivered their usual capable but unextraordinary performances, which were good enough to be convincing, but just lacking in that certain something that distinguishes them from such guest actors as Wortham Krimmer (Cartagia) and Wayne Alexander (Sebastian, Lorien). Jerry Doyle continued his strong portrayal of Garibaldi, managing to play the character in a much more subtle way than in previous seasons. The only regular who really shone was Richard Biggs as Franklin. He rarely gets an episode where he has a lot to do but, when he does, he grasps the opportunity firmly with both hands.

The directing was adequate throughout: During the scenes on Mars it fit the subdued atmosphere very well; however, the scenes in medlab were not as frightening as they needed to be to have maximum effect - the only reason the encounter between Lyta and the Shadow telepath was even remotely tense was because we knew about the Shadows; take this away and the scene is rather flat.

This episode, unlike several ealier episodes this season, continued to deliver carefully thought through plot elements, as did the last episode, which is a good omen for the future.

Rating: 8/10 - A well scripted and acted episode, albeit rather slow and unimaginatively ddirected.

Points For Discussion:

What is Edgars really up to?
What is the true story behind the experiments he is carrying out on telepaths?
Why is Sheridan so reluctant to divulge his strategies to his officers?
Can the Resistance strike against Earth and Mars so early and win?
What does Sheridan want Franklin to do with the frozen telepaths?

Simon Jones,
alt.babylon5.uk reviewer.


1997 Simon Jones.