It is the second anniversary since Babylon 5 became operational despite the doubts and the naysayers. A young reporter has come to the station to cover the event. Meanwhile, Doctor Franklin gets a visit from His old professor, Dr. Hendricks, who comes with an interesting offer. Via a company called Interplanetary Expeditions, he has acquired some old technology from a planet called Ikarra VII that he asks Franklin to scan, which reveals veins, capillaries, and traces of DNA. It is an organic device, a level of technology only dreamed of by Earth scientists. He offers to bring Franklin in on the project which will surely put him in the history books.
What Franklin does not know is that the devices are being smuggled onto the station, and that some of them are beginning to activate. The man doing the smuggling, Nelson Drake, who has already killed a dockworker for trying to inspect his cargo is beginning to be affected by the devices.
The body of the dead dockworker is being autopsied, but there is no indication of anything strange yet. All indications are of death by natural causes.
Fifteen hours into their studies, Franklin is beginning to have reservations, questioning what they will do with the technology once they figure it out, and expressing more misgivings over how it was acquired, saying it felt like grave-robbing. He also questions what Interplanetary Expeditions is, exactly. While they do this, Nelson begins changing into some...thing. He goes to Medlab and shoots Franklin, saying "Protect!" as he does.
Sinclair and Garibaldi come to see how Franklin is doing and he tells them about the organic devices. When Garibaldi asks why they weren't quarantined, Franklin can only say he thought they had been.
In the meantime, Nelson begins rampaging through Downbelow, killing those he comes across. Eventually, he begins heading toward the main corridor.
Franklin examines the devices and finds a data cache. The information reveals that the battle suit that is controlling Nelson was created to protect the Ikarrans from foreign threats, so they programmed them to only accept commands from a "pure Ikarran". Unfortunately, the parameters of a "pure Ikarran" were defined by religious fanatics, and were only fit for an ideal Ikarran that didn't even exist. As a result, the weapon would not accept commands from anyone and wound up destroying the entire population. In addition to the hardwired programming, the battle suit was also infused with the personality of its creator, Tu'lar.
With this knowledge, Sinclair decides to appeal to the Tu'lar personality. At first he taunts it, luring it into a docking bay with the intention of spacing it. After a long confrontation, he persuades it to look into Nelson's memories, and see the planet devoid of life. The creature falls into despair and pulls the center device from its chest, crushing it in his hand. After that it reverts back to Nelson Drake.
After the incident has passed, Franklin confronts Dr. Hendricks, who admits that he was going to sell the devices to a bioweapon supplier (of which Interplanetary Expeditions was a front) once he confirmed that they were weapons. He says that there is still time to make a fortune on them, but Franklin has already turned him in.
Shortly after, two officers from Earthforce arrive to take possession of the weapons.
This episode contains examples of:
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Sinclair compares the Ikarrans' idea of a pure Ikarran to the theories of the Aryan Nation.
- Broken Pedestal: Franklin's former teacher turns out to be very greedy, to the point of endangering the station just so he could earn more profit.
- Chewing the Scenery: Sinclair does a lot of this as he taunts the Ikarran war machine. As he only does this when he is actually taunting the war machine, this could be considered an Invoked Trope.
- Death Seeker: Garibaldi is beginning to think Sinclair is one. Specifically, he's looking for a Dying Moment of Awesome. Apparently, this is a common problem for survivors of the Battle of the Line.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The first step to Sinclair Talking the Monster to Death is Sinclair taunting the Ikarran war machine about the destruction of its world.
- Early Installment Weirdness: This episode was apparently influenced by the thought that they needed to make the show appeal to Star Trek fans. Fortunately they abandoned that train of thought fairly quickly.
- Even Evil Has Standards: While Dr. Hendricks didn't probe into how Nelson got the artifacts onto the station, it's implied he wasn't willing to resort to murder himself. It's further implied that this is why Nelson was "chosen" by the artifacts; he was willing to kill, while Vance wasn't.
- Gone Horribly Right / Hoist by His Own Petard: The Ikarrans designed their cyborgs to only protect "pure" Ikarrans. And then they made the definition of a pure Ikarran so narrow that none of them were actually able to fit it. The war machines followed the instructions to the letter, and the race was wiped out.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Sinclair says this about the Ikarrans:Sinclair: You and the rest—you forgot the first rule of the fanatic: when you become obsessed with the enemy, you become the enemy!
- I Shall Taunt You: Sinclair decides to lead the Ikarran into the docking area by making it mad.
- Large Ham: Michael O'Hare really goes to town with his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the Ikarran machine. It's a bit startling given how he tends to be criticized for being too wooden.
- Lost Technology: The Ikarrans organic technology.
- Million-to-One Chance: The station's chances for survival were not optimistic.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Sinclair persuades the Ikarran to look into Drake's memories and see what has become of Ikarra, at which point it falls to its knees begging for forgiveness.
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Stephen gets so absorbed in the research that Hendricks tries to draw him out with the statement, "There's a Martian war machine parked outside; they'd like a word with you about the common cold".
- Omnicidal Maniac: The result of wearing the suit.
- Organic Technology: The artifacts (and, by extension, the war machine "suit"). Because they're organic, Dr. Franklin is asked to help study them.
- Powered Armor: A biological one, but it's still powered armor.
- Readings Are Off the Scale: The energy weapon of the Ikarran increases in power each time it's used, and it's detected in C&C each time. After a while, they've become too powerful for the station's sensors to quantify. The last couple uses (after Sinclair taunts him) are presumably less powerful than even the first use, but we never see the reaction in C&C to these.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: When Franklin turns in his old professor, rather than accept his offer.
- Take That!: Private corporations paying a shitload of money to get their hands on new technology to come front in a weapons race? And Earth Central confiscating all evidence at the end of the episode for the same goal? Doesn´t happen at all, does it?
- Talking the Monster to Death: Leads to the My God, What Have I Done? moment above.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Was the original intention, but Sinclair manages to make the Ikarran war machine back down instead.
- War is Hell: The Ikarrans were invaded numerous times before they came up with the protectors. Garibaldi also discusses this with Sinclair, specifically the effect the Minbari War had on some people.