A Distant Star
An old friend of mine once quoted me an ancient Egyptian blessing: "God be between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk."
—Captain John Sheridan
The Explorer ship Cortez is about to make a supply stop, and the captain, Jack Maynard, has a specific destination in mind, and he sends a particular message. On Babylon 5, Sheridan gets a message addressed to "Swamprat," which he says is a long story. The jumpgate activates and the Cortez comes through, dwarfing everything around it. Ivanova announces that Sheridan's friend "Stinky" has arrived.Once Maynard is aboard, he and Sheridan spend time catching up, Delenn comes up wanting to talk to Sheridan later. Maynard is surprised at her appearance, but Sheridan can't tell him much beyond what she has said.Garibaldi is still recovering and Franklin decides he needs to change his diet to expedite his recovery. Garibaldi is dismayed as it's almost time for him to make his favorite meal, Bagna Cauda. He starts to describe it to the doctor, who cringes as he lists the ingredients, and forbids Garibaldi to make it.In Sheridan's quarters he's recounting the things that happened since he arrived. Maynard is interested but he is surprised to find Sheridan in what is essentially a bureaucratic position. Sheridan Says he can make a difference here, but it's still a desk job. Later he and Garibaldi are making rounds. Garibaldi is talking about some minor thefts which Sheridan dismisses impatiently, telling the chief he needs to take care of the details.In Earhart's later, Sheridan and Maynard are swapping stories with Ivanova, Keffer and Zeta Squadron leader Galus. After a few humorous jibes at each other someone asks about stories of things living in hyperspace. Maynard mentions there is something out there. After they leave Sheridan asks about it. Maynard describes a time when he was in a shuttle and got separated from the Cortez and saw a dark shape that blocked the star behind it. When he looked again it had vanished. Sheridan notes that he's the second person to say there's something strange happening on the rim.Meanwhile, Garibaldi meets with one of the dockers to see about getting the ingredients for Banga Cauda on station, without letting Franklin know. Franklin is at that time putting Sheridan on a diet, to lose ten pounds.Delenn is meeting with Teronn, another Minbari. He is asking why she made her change, voicing concern among the Minbari on station that she is no longer one of them. Delenn dismisses the claims and says she can't tell them anything more. Teronn is not satisfied and requests permission to send a missive to the Grey Council. She grants it and sends him off.Ivanova is also put on a diet to help her ankle heal. She balks when she sees the plan, "I'll gain weight!" Franklin assures her it would only be temporary, and she quips, "Figures. All my life I've fought against imperialism. Now, suddenly I am the expanding Russian frontier." As she leave Franklin quietly adds, "But with very nice borders."As Maynard prepares to leave, Sheridan wishes he could go along. He goes up to C&C and personally gives clearance for the Cortez to depart. Later in his office, Ivanova is informing him of a complaint on of the ambassadors has filed, insisting that only he can resolve it. Sheridan is fed up and begins ranting about everything, the troubles, the pettiness. Ivanova points out that it's not all that different from managing a crew, so there must be something else bothering him. He finally admits that he resents being turned into a bureaucrat.The Cortez is in hyperspace when a fire suddenly erupts in their control system, throwing off their navigation, and rendering them unable to leave hyperspace. Eventually they are able to get off a distress signal, which Babylon 5 receives, and immediately orders all fighters to prepare for launch.Meanwhile, Franklin is examining Delenn for any side-effects of her transformation. Attempting to deflect more personal probes she asks when the new delegation will arrive, the one Mr. Garibaldi is waiting for, Bagna Cauda. Franklin rolls his eyes in response.In the launch bay, Sheridan and Ivanova are briefing the pilots. They are to form a chain from the jumpgate into hyperspace which the Cortez will follow to safety. It's risky but the pilots head off to their ships and into hyperspace after launching. They keep comms open hoping to hear a signal from the Cortez. Finally, the last two fighters, Galus and Keffer, manage to locate the ship, but just as they do, one of the strange black ships appears and flies across their path, destroying Galus and damaging Keffer's fighter. He fires his weapons in a certain direction indicating which way the Cortez should go, but he himself seems doomed to be lost in hyperspace.In C&C an alert goes off as the Cortez and the fighters, minus the two that were lost, jump back in. Later he is in the garden when Delenn comes up. She listens to him and offers comfort, assuring him that the Universe puts people in places where they can make a difference, and finally telling him a great secret:
- Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff, we are the universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out. As we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective.
This episode contains examples of:
- A Friend in Need
- Black Market Produce: Garibaldi goes to some lengths to acquire the ingredients for bagna cauda.
- Call-Back: Garibaldi's still recovering from being shot In the Back. Ivanova's foot is still broken. Both these plot points are referred to when Doctor Franklin hands out "food plans" to them.
- Continuity Nod:
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: The petty thieves are sentenced to community service... cleaning out the waste recycling plant.
- Cool Starship: Sure the Cortez might not be the prettiest ship you ever saw, but (1) it's huge and (2) it can build jumpgates!
- Diet Episode: Franklin takes the opportunity to put the entire command staff on one, much to their annoyance. Every single one of them is on a diet of something they hate and one of the others loves. At one point they try to swap plates, but Franklin catches them.
- Distress Call: From the Cortez, after she suffers her accident in Hyperspace.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Finally averted in the opening sequence. The voiceover for this season is spoken by Bruce Boxleitner in-character as John Sheridan. However, when it was originally recorded, Boxleitner had nothing but the text to work from. When the footage was put together for the opening credits, Boxleitner asked to re-record the speech to better match the action on the screen, and to do it with more feeling. The improvement between the two takes in incredible. This is the first episode that includes the new take.
- Explosive Instrumentation: When the Cortez malfunctions after entering hyperspace, this happens in the background. This was done by the director despite JMS's desires.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Cortez suffers a catastrophic equipment failure, losing her navigation systems in the process. If she cannot find her way back onto one of the Hyperspace lanes, she will become endlessly lost in the eddies and currents of Hyperspace. To make it worse, when Zeta Squadron's fighters locate her, they run afoul of a large unidentified shipnote passing through, destroying one and leaving the other similarly crippled and lost. Several discussions in this episode also center on whether or not something lives out there...
- Insistent Terminology: Doctor Franklin isn't putting the entire command staff on diets, he's putting them on food plans.
- Mile-Long Ship: The Cortez.
- Noodle Incident: Several are mentioned.
- Sheridan's nickname "Swamprat", which he says is a long story. Possibly related to Maynard's nickname "Stinky".
- Maynard's leave on Mars involving a dancer, though we can probably guess on that.
- July 12, 2253.
- Shout-Out: Delenn's "we are starstuff" speech echoes themes touched upon by Carl Sagan, especially in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.
- Tuckerization: Maynard is named after the father of DC Fontana's childhood best friend.