SJ Review #505

Episode: 5/05 - Learning Curve
Director: David J. Eagle
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Guests: Nathan Anderson (Rastenn)
Turhan Bey (Turval)
Brendan Ford (Tannier)
Trevor Goddard (Trace)
Brian McDermott (Durhan)

Two trainee Rangers accompany their masters to Babylon 5 to see Delenn, whilst Garibaldi delves into Lochley's past...

Considering how important the Rangers are to the Babylon 5 story, we have seen precious little of them. Those we do see usually end up dead a few scenes later. This episode was more than welcome, offering an overdue peek into Ranger training and their general way of life.

"Learning Curve" was also a notable episode in that it finally got the main plot arc rolling. Whilst "The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari" developed Londo's character and "The Paragon of Animals" revealed some surprising revelations about the Drazi, the first four episodes have had worryingly little arc material, whether in the form of questions or in the form of answers. This episode finally started to throw up some interesting questions, particularly concerning Lochley and Sheridan, which will no doubt become more important further down the line.

Another welcome return was Turhan Bey as the Ranger teacher, Turval. Bey previously played the Centauri Emperor in the award-winning "The Coming of Shadows". Whilst he has acquitted himself admirably on both occasions, there were problems with his reapparance, namely the fact that he was *too* recognisable. Most actors who have reappared have done so in remarkably different roles, under various amounts of make-up and with different accents (Wayne Alexander, for example, who has played the roles of Sebastian, Lorien and the Drazi 'prisoner' in "Intersections in Real Time"), so making it almost impossible to realise it is them without seeing their name in the credits. Turval and Emperor Turhan (named after the actor) are both very similar characters, though; wise, knowledgeable, old, experienced. His highly distinguishable accent is another easily identifiable characteristic of the actor. The similarity between the two characters was somewhat disconcerting, and watching "The Coming of Shadows" and "Learning Curve" back-to-back would be a very strange experience.

The directing in this episode was unremarkable, but well-handled nevertheless. The fight scenes were exciting and realistic, but the scene when Trace's henchmen are picked off one by one could have been far more suspenseful.

The end of the episode neatly builds up a great deal of anticipation for future episodes, but as of this episode, the season is still just passing the time. Hopefully the main plots of the telepath and Drakh wars (not to mention the Centauri/keeper situation) will start to emerge soon, as well as some advances in the characters, which have been unaffected by episodes in season five so far, which have all been remarkably self-contained, with no events carrying on to the next.

The next episode, what with the Lochley-Sheridan connection cliffhanger at the end of this one, should dive headfirst into the arc, and stop treading water around it.

Rating: 7/10 - Another well-executed episode, but still lacking anything
of great interest, except in the final scenes.

Points For Discussion:
o What is the Lochley-Sheridan connection?
o What happened to Na'Grath?
o Why is Lennier pushing himself so hard?
o Did Garibaldi look at Lochley's record? If so, what did he find out?
o How far can Rangers extend their powers? They could theoretically become
a totalitarian police force.

Please comment on this review - discuss it! The whole point of this review is to generate some meaty discussion. Of course, those of you who know the answers to the Points For Discussion - don't spoil us!


Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.