SJ Review #418

Episode: 418 - Intersections in Real Time
John Lafia
Bruce Gray (Interrogator)
Wayne Alexander (Drazi)
Raye Birk (William)

Sheridan is interviewed by a ruthless interrogator. Can he hold out against the mental torture.....?

This episode is quite probably the most important one since "Into the Fire". Although initially intended as the season four finale, it was forced forward by four episodes due to the uncertainty concerning the fifth season; this means that some of the power of the episode may have been lost, although it does have the advantage of us not having to wait another six months for the resolution of Sheridan's plight...

"Intersections in Real Time" had the potential to be the worst Babylon 5 episode ever created. It had no special effects; It had an incredibly small cast (especially compared with the last episode); it was not set aboard Babylon 5, but in a single room (more-or-less); there was absolutely no physical action whatsoever. However, it also had the potential to be the most incredible piece of science fiction television ever created, if handled properly. Thankfully, it does not fall into the former category whatsoever; however, it does not entirely fit the latter, either. But it comes close. Oh, it comes very, very close.

From the beginning it was clear that this episode was going to be that little bit *different*, with Sheridan's disjointed memories replacing the usual, cliched 'last week on Babylon 5' plot synopsis. Immediately after this, we were introduced to an actor which would make this episode the masterpiece that it is: Bruce Gray, as the interrogator. The simple normality of his performance, the feeling that we all know somebody like him, made his character all the more intimidating and frightening; yet, at the same time, Gray managed to find a small portion of sympathy in our hearts for this character - he depicted the interrogator as a reluctant individual, who did not like some parts of his job but felt he had no way of rectifying things (this, incidentally, is one of Straczynski's central philosophies - that "you *can* fight city hall and win" - clearly a philosophy that the interrogator does not share). This sympathatic, yet infinitely cold man was brilliantly scripted, acted and filmed. Bruce Gray can rightfully place his name alongside Wortham Krimmer (Cartagia) and Wayne Alexander (Lorien, Sebastian) on the Best B5 Guest Actor List.

Whilst on the subject of Wayne Alexander, the talented actor made an unexpected return in this episode, appearing as the (seemingly) downtrodden Drazi prisoner. His performance in the scene when Sheridan begs him to reconsider his confession evoked incredible emotions. That scene is probably the most powerful scene ever seen on Babylon 5, made all the more poignant by the revelation at the end of the episode.

Completing the trio of fine actors was regular Bruce Boxleitner. On numerous occasions Boxleitner has disappointed viewers with rather flat acting; on this occasion, he delivered one of his best performances. The contrast of this quiet, almost-broken Sheridan with the confident, aggressive one of the previous episodes was shocking. Every single little nuance of feeling he etched into Sheridan's character was perfectly placed. Inferior acting would have been all the more terrible in the company of the other two actors; thankfully, Boxleitner did not disappoint.

John Lafia, the director, did a most remarkable job with an extremely difficult script. There is only so much one can do to make a single, virtually bare room interesting to watch. His mix of extreme close-ups and distant shots (usually from the ceiling) were all very well timed with the events unfolding. As with the best directing styles, Lafia was unobtrusive without being boring. Despite the wonderful acting, this episode could still have become visually dull - Lafia manages to avoid this, and it does not really harm the episode at all that it all takes place in one location - in fact, it adds to the power of it.

This power is enhanced by Straczynski's script, which is superb, matching and probably surpassing all previous standards. This was an episode that depended an awful lot upon decent dialogue, and Straczynski delivered. One by one he brought out different emotions before throwing them back in our face; slowly he raised our hopes before dashing them to pieces; the pace did not slip once, despite the limited nature of the plot. And the ending continues the recent trend of being stunning as well as ominous; it leaves us reeling.

Complementing all this was Christopher Franke's hauntingly beautiful, yet threatening, music. As with Lafia's directing style, it never interrupted the episode's flow, but added to the overall texture immeasurably.

This episode will inevitably be disliked be some for its lack of real action. However, for those viewers who savour in the character side of Babylon 5, this is a rare treat. It is also a tremendously exciting episode for those interested in the techniques of filming. And, last of all, it should interest all who are fans of science fiction; whether they like Babylon 5 or not is irrelevant - this is, simply and purely, one of the best pieces of science fiction television ever to grace our screens. That fact that it is Babylon 5 only makes the experience all the more fulfilling for us, the fans.

Battle sequences may stun us momentarily; but it is thoughtful, intelligent episodes such as this one which leave a lasting impression - episodes such as this one will be being discussed for many, many years to come.....

Rating: 10/10 - Quite simply one of the, if not *the*, best Babylon 5 episode ever made, as well as being a wonderful piece of science fiction in its own right. What more is there to say?

Points For Discussion:

What will be Sheridan's fate?
Was the Drazi another hallucination or another ploy by the interrogators to break Sheridan's spirit?
Why did the executioner leave Room 17 and return later? Was it the Drazi who was in the room in the first place?
What has been happening to everybody else whilst Sheridan is imprisoned?
Can Sheridan be rescued, or can he escape?

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1997 Simon Jones.