SJ Review #506

Episode: 5/06 - Strange Relations
Director: John C. Flinn III
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Guests: Robin Atkin Downes (Byron)
Walter Koenig (Bester)
Joshua Cox (Lt. Corwin)

Bester returns to the station to hunt down the rogue telepaths, Garibaldi discovers Lochley and Sheridan's secret, and Londo gets a new bodyguard...

The last seven episodes of Babylon 5 have been something of a breather; after the frenetic pace of the Minbari and Earth civil wars, the universe calmed down a little. Consequently, the last few episodes have been less intense and less arc-driven than usual (although arc references will probably pop up in hindsight further down the line, as tends to happen with B5 - one of its best features).

"Strange Relations" marks something of a turning point, therefore, shifting the structure of the show once again, from the quiet calm of the beginning of season five, to the future, which looks decidedly less calm, and certainly less quiet. As Londo says, "this is where it starts to go badly. For all of us."

Returning once again was Walter Koenig, as Bester. It seems that at every subsequent showing of his character, Koenig injects either some new aspect into Bester's personality, or increases the intensity of some previously acknowledged aspect. In this episode, Koenig was at his most disturbing, portraying Bester once more as the man who is completely in control, even when his plans are not going entirely to plan; this is a man who makes you truly believe you *cannot* win. With just a few subtle gestures - a raised eyebrow, a quick smile - Koenig brings Bester to life superbly.

The regulars were on top form, as well. Jerry Doyle was, as usual, superb as Garibaldi, wrapping the character in a complete sense of credibility; Garibaldi is perhaps the most believable character in the series at the moment. Jeff Conaway (Zack) and Patricia Tallman (Lyta) were very good, Tallman a particular improvement upon previous outings; this is perhaps due to the increased part her character is playing at the moment, and the fact that her personality is being, at last, properly examined.

Robin Atkin Downes finally managed to achieve to get Byron right here. Byron now appears as he should; mysterious, unnerving and with all the traits of a mildly insane cult leader - he no longer is just the irritating token British bloke, in place of Marcus. It has taken a while, but Byron is now a very intriguing character, and developments further into the season should be interesting, to say the least.

Straczynski was also on top form, delivering a brilliantly witty script, which also managed to remain utterly convincing. The humour was absolutely in-tune with the characters, which made it all the more funny - it enhanced the script, rather than destroying its credibility.

Flinn's directing was good but unremarkable - it did its job without doing anything wrong, but did not do anything particularly noteworthy, either.

Perhaps the best thing about this episode is its ominous feel; the way it leaves you waiting desperately for the next episode. This is a quality that most season four episodes had, but which had been lacking from season five as yet. The tide has now turned, thankfully, and the plot seems to be getting out of first gear.

Rating: 8/10 - A good, solid episode which sets up a lot of questions for the future.

Best Quote:
LOCHLEY- A very long time ago, Sheridan and I were married for all of about three months.
GARIBALDI- Get outta town. How many wives has he got?
LOCHLEY- Just three...

Points For Discussion:

o What is Byron's connection with Bester?
o Has Bester been hunting these particular telepaths for a long time, as his comments towards the end of the episode seem to hint?
o How is Lochely going to get out of this one?
o How is *Sheridan* going to get out of this one?
o Just how strong is Lyta?
o Is G'Kar being Londo's bodyguard a wise move?
o Why did Garibaldi not find out about the marriage in Lochley's records?
o Who destroyed the Centauri cruiser?

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.