And Now For a Word
We start from a report from an ISN news desk with special correspondent Cynthia Torqueman, as we the viewers are treated to her experience of the controversial Babylon 5.
The first few minutes witness an armed Narn cruiser destroy a Centauri transport, and the first view is focused on Dr. Franklin trying to help the survivors of the strike, while Captain Sheridan offers "no comment." Londo is quick to point out how hostile the Narn are being in neutral territory, but G'Kar denies it saying he will receive a statement from his government shortly.
The next three interviews are from the chief docker Delvientos (about how every loading and unloading task seems to be always on a priority list), Lt. David Corwin (and how rewarding the experience is), and Captain Sheridan himself (about his service in Earthforce, and the chances of how long the station would last).
We then go to Dr. Franklin in the med bay, and he reveals why he hates jokes about people being spaced, one of his friends was spaced, suffocating after fiddling with switches on walls.
G'Kar comes up with a statement about the Centauri transport shot down: he claims said ship was a weapons transport that would be bound for the front lines in the Narn-Centauri conflict, and promises to put a stop to the weapons trafficking, even if it means shutting down Babylon 5 itself.
Torqueman brings in Earth Senator Ronald Quantrell who asks how beneficial keeping the station actually is. Sheridan comes back with a retort: The Earth Alliance hasn't recovered from the Earth-Minbari War and still don't have the technology to hold off the Minbari, Centauri or especially the Vorlons.
In C&C Torqueman comes to Commander Ivanova, who is investigating the recent attack, and she gives a very brief version of her life story to the reporter, though when Torqueman asks if there's more she simply says, "yes". Chief Garibaldi is next, and admits he'd rather have a quiet day where he's completely bored for twenty-four hours on Babylon 5. They're interrupted when Ivanova calls him up to the deck.
- Garibaldi: See what I mean? Always something.
After the human staff are consulted Torqueman begins talking about alien population, including a shot of the mysterious Vorlon Ambassador Kosh, but is not able to talk. Delenn is next. She talks about her homeworld, how she had changed overall after since last year, but when the Earth-Minbari War gets mentioned, and Torqueman begins asking how the relatives of those who died would feel to see a Minbari with human features, Delenn nearly breaks down in tears until Ivanova calls to request her presence in chambers.
Ivanova's investigation is finished, and the League is session to discuss the findings. G'Kar's suspicions have been verified, and Sheridan is royally upset at Londo; Babylon 5 is in neutral territory, and not to be used as a staging area/munitions depot, and anything that causes that to change would put all the residents in a dangerous situation. Londo is quick to retaliate, but Sheridan and Delenn shoot him down, then G'Kar demands that the remaining Centauri ships be seized and searched, which Londo vehemently protests promising Centauri ships will defend themselves against any boarders. Just before the debate gets seriously heated, the Narn and Centauri ships outside start fighting. Delta Squadron is deployed, and Sheridan, after some deliberation, calls for a neutralization order (disable first, destroy as a last resort). Sheridan calls for any combatants to be thrown in the brig, then nearly orders Londo and G'Kar thrown in as well if they refuse to return to chambers, but calls for a "neater" action since the cameraman's on his left.
- Sheridan: Then invite them again, as firmly and politely as you can. This nonsense has gone on long enough.
(cut to docking area where captured Narns are herded in)
Torqueman: The "nonsense" Captain Sheridan referred to is the Narn-Centauri war, which, over the past several months, has grown into a conflict which threatens to spill into other systems and lead to an escalation of hostilities. Prior to the battle we just witnessed, ISN spoke with representatives from both sides, in order to better understand the history of this conflict.
G'Kar gives his life story about the first Narn-Centauri War, how the Narns initially welcomed the Centauri but were enslaved. He tells how his father was hung on a tree after spilling some hot jala on the Centauri mistress of their house. G'Kar went out to see him then was able to run away and score his first kill. Next is Londo's take on the war, claiming they came to help a primitive race and that the Narn had started to resort to violence at first. The Centauri, of course, only want peace.
Londo's claim becomes suspect as a Centauri Battle Cruiser jumps in right on top of the station, and Londo calls up. He demands the suspected Centauri transports be returned to Centauri space, and until then any other ship will be interdicted or shot down.
Next a teenage boy, John, is seen complaining to his mother about how other kids don't like him and he seems to know what they're thinking. A Psi Cop appears and tells him that he may be a telepath and encourages him to be tested by the Corps. A few weeks later, John is a full-fledged member of the Psi Corps, and the Psi Cop encourages anyone who knows someone who might be a telepath or thinks they might be one to come to them. As the spot closes, there is one frame with the words, "PSI CORPS IS YOUR FRIEND. TRUST THE CORPS."
After the break, Torqueman waits outside the council chambers trying to get statements from Sheridan ("All sides are still talking.") and G'Kar, who says this is proof the Centauri are a menace and promises to make it clear to them this will not be allowed. He rushes off as Torqueman tries to ask what he means.
Back with Senator Quantrell, he and Torqueman discuss what happens next, the senator voicing concerns that having an outpost like Babylon 5 only puts Earthforce personnel between warring factions, and that the loss of life might have been avoided. Torqueman points out that they are at war, which means people die, but he retorts that it wouldn't have happened in their backyard.
In C&C, Sheridan calls the Centauri cruiser, telling them Earthgov has rejected their demands and if they make any hostile attack, the station has its weapons loaded to bear. After that he sends a single shuttle through. Several tense moment pass but it flies past the cruiser without incident.
On C&C there is jubilant applause, but just as Sheridan opens a channel, a Narn cruiser jumps in and assaults the Centauri cruiser and manages to destroy it. Narn cruiser then attempts to jump out, but their drives have been damaged and the ship explodes.
- Torqueman: (at anchor desk) As journalists, we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we suggested that events such as those you've just witnessed were typical of the situation on Babylon 5. Like anyone else, they have good days and bad days. But there can be no question that it is a flash point that can only grow hotter as time passes. And yet, growth only comes through pain and struggle, so perhaps we should allow Babylon 5 time to realize, or one day, even exceed the dreams we have invested in it. We'll be back with some concluding thoughts right after this message.
Torqueman: After the crisis was over, the debris cleared, and the bodies counted, we asked each of the people involved in this story one question: Given the danger, at the end of the day, as Mr. Garibaldi said, is it worth it?
Garibaldi says yes, they found out the Centauri were transporting weapons and put a stop to it. "We learn, that's what humans do." Londo also agrees, and learning lessons is one of the things that keep Babylon 5 alive. G'Kar presents his doubts, Ivanova gives a curt "yes", Delenn says yes, saying it's a "great gift, but a terrible responsibility." Senator Quantrell thinks we'll have to wait and see. Dr. Franklin says yes (because of medical intervention), Delvientos says yes (for the sake of pension), and so does Captain Sheridan, however, he says it's not for any of the reasons above, but for the sake of creating peace and working out interracial problems. He says Babylon 5 is more or less about making a better future...
- "I'm Cynthia Torqueman. Goodnight."
This episode contains examples of:
- Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: Played With: Torqueman pronounces Susan Ivanova's last name as "I've-a-nova", which is actually closer to the Russian pronunciation.
- Alphabet News Network: ISN
- Are We Getting This?: The shot of Kosh came at a point between the filming of segments. After Kosh retreats, Torqueman says "Did we get that? Tell me we got that." (They had.)
- Armor-Piercing Question: Torqueman's question to Delenn about her physical change to part-human clues Delenn in that her well-intentioned action may have actually made things worse in some regards...and makes her visibly upset, to the point of crying.
- Ascended Extra: We finally learn the name of one of the C&C officers: David Corwin. He gradually becomes more prominent as the series continues.
- Bastardly Speech: Londo's account of the Narn/Centauri conflict very much comes across as this, especially coming right after G'Kar's harrowing account of his childhood under the Centauri occupation.
- Blatant Lies: Corwin's (very nervous) description of Babylon 5 as a calm, cheerful workplace where nobody ever gets mad. While Commander Ivanova glares at him from the background.
- Calling Your Attacks: Over the comms, the Starfury pilots report if they have fired or being fired upon.
- When present-day fighter pilots fire weapons, they say "Fox one" over the radio when they use radar-guided missiles, "Fox two" when using heat-seeking missiles, "Fox three" for smart missiles, and "Fox four" for guns. During the battle, a Starfury pilot said "Fox five," suggesting some other sort of weapon (or perhaps they regard the Starfury's standard weapons as different from the previously mentioned four).
- Camera Abuse: B5's numerous, independent "Securecams" floating around the hull; we see a few of them get trashed during a skirmish between Narn and Centauri ships.
- Casting Gag: Sheridan's line about how he isn't very much into gambling may come out as Hilarious in Hindsight when you know Boxleitner featured prominently in the western Movie The Gambler some ten years before B5 went on air.
- Complete-the-Quote Title: "And now for a word...from our sponsors." The sponsor in question apparently being Psi Corps and IPX.
- Continuity Nod:
- One of the sponsors of the program is Interplanetary Expeditions.
- We've seen floating cameras used in a couple previous episodes.
- Eduardo Delvientos mentions the trouble the dockers had last year.
- Torqueman mentions a barely averted attack by the Vorlon Empire.
- Once again, Delenn's decision to make herself a Half-Human Hybrid to help bridge the divide between Human and Minbari is called into question, largely because of that very divide.
- Ivanova gives more details about her past, but it's what she leaves out that is especially interesting, namely her father's recent passing, or how her telepath mother killed herself after taking sleepers. When pressed by Torqueman about more details, telling her that certainly her life story is more interesting, she gives a very telling "Yes".
- Crystal Spires and Togas: Delenn's description of Minbar.
- Damage Control: When the Narn and Centauri start fighting damage to the station includes a hull breach in Blue 70. Sheridan sends a repair crew down then orders the fighters to deal with the belligerents.
- Dark and Troubled Past: G'Kar reveals his, and it puts a really personal spin on his hatred of the Centauri. He was raised a slave in a Centauri household, and watched his father be hanged to death from a tree for three days for spilling a hot drink on the lady of the house.
- A Day in the Limelight: Usually ISN is just in the background. Here they take center stage.
- Easter Egg: The ship that ISN used to arrive to Babylon 5, the Heyerdahl, is named for Thor Heyerdahl, whose Kon-Tiki expedition attempted to prove that South American natives could have populated some South Pacific islands.
- Also, notice the pinetree air freshener on the bridge of the Heyerdahl.
- Explosive Instrumentation: Downplayed. One of the control panels in C&C emits a shower of sparks after the station is hit by a stray shot during the battle between the Narn and Centauri ships. The operator backs hurriedly away, but appears unhurt.
- Finagle's Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong...while a news crew is onboard to film it and broadcast it to millions of viewers.
- Torqueman's statement that B5 is a flashpoint that can only grow hotter.
- Torqueman mentions reports that the Narns have been losing more battles than not. While G'Kar dismisses this as Centauri propaganda, future episodes show that the war is going worse than he feared.
- From Bad to Worse: From a Narn ship attacking a Centauri ship, to an escalating diplomatic crisis, to an all-out battle being fought right outside the station.
- Funny Background Event:
- Watch Ivanova's reactions as Lt. Corwin describes Babylon 5 as a nice, quiet place where hardly anyone gets mad.
- All the background extras mugging for the camera whenever the news crew is out in public.
- Godzilla Threshold: Both the Narn and Centauri governments threaten retaliation if Babylon 5 interferes with their ships during a space battle going on outside the station. Once the station begins taking damage in the crossfire, Sheridan promptly orders his Starfury pilots to put a stop to the engagement. Which they do, in less than a minute.
- Humans Are Special / Humans Are Diplomats: Delenn's reason for saying Babylon 5 is worth the risks. Humans alone would build a station for the entire galaxy to use, rather than just their own kind.
- Intrepid Reporter: Cynthia Torqueman.
- Jerkass Has a Point: "Jerkass" is strong, but Torqueman doesn't hold back in pointing out that many humans who lost friends and loved ones during the war are going to be unhappy about a Minbari taking on a human face and will feel that she's taking a part of humanity she's not entitled to. Delenn did, in fact, not ask any human's permission before undergoing her transformation.
- Just in Time: Just as Delenn is about to break down on camera, Ivanova calls her to a council meeting, giving a justified reason to end the interview.
- Kick the Dog: An unintentional one by the reporter, whose interview of Delenn just after she's been rejected by her own people too is enough to leave the Ambassador in tears.
- Kinda Busy Here: Non-telecommunications variant: Franklin tells off the reporters for bugging him while he is hip deep in seriously wounded patients.
- Look Ma, I Am on TV!: A couple of the shots of Torqueman in public areas has a bunch of people (humans and aliens alike) trying to get into the camera's shot field.
- Magical Security Cam: Barely averted. Upon realizing a camera couldn't fit into some of the angles seen (at least, as we knew them in the mid-'90s), JMS ordered a CG small floating camera in the background of an early shot to explain this.
- Mutual Kill: A brief space battle between a Narn Starcruiser and a Centauri Battlecruiser results in the destruction of both ships, to no material gain for either side.
- Naval Blockade: After the fight between Narn and Centauri ships a Centauri battlecruiser shows up and positions itself between the station and the jumpgate, threatening to fire on any ships attempting to travel between them, unless the Centauri ships that had been impounded are released. Sheridan calls their bluff and defuses the situation, shortly before a Narn cruiser appears to attack the Centauri ship.
- No OSHA Compliance: Dr. Franklin tells a story about a friend of his that got spaced when he went into an airlock and accidentally hit the wrong button.
- Paparazzi: Ambassador Kosh finally meets his match...and retreats rapidly.
- Red Alert: When the shooting starts, air raid sirens sound throughout the civilian areas of the station, as the quarter-of-a-million residents scramble for the relative safety of the shelters.
- Running the Blockade: Downplayed example: A single shuttle is sent to run past the Centauri battlecruiser blockading the system jumpgate, because Captain Sheridan doesn't think the Centauri are willing to risk an actual shooting war with Earth over the issue.
- Subliminal Seduction:
- PSI CORPS IS YOUR FRIEND. TRUST THE CORPS. Arguably the whole point of the episode, considering its title. "And Now For A Word" calls to mind the phrase continuing "...from our sponsors". As only two organizations get an advert inserted into the program (well, every version of the program, and this is the only full-length advert), we might guess who was sponsoring it. They certainly got that word in.
- Word of God is that, out-of-universe, the editors of Babylon 5 made the message flash as quickly as they could without violating the real-world laws against subliminal messaging.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Dr. Franklin once watched a friend die from an accidental spacing. For this reason, he doesn't find "spacing" jokes particularly funny.
- Tuckerization: Word of God is that Lt. Corwin was named after Norman Corwin, one of J. Michael Straczynski's writing instructors. It was originally going to be Ivanova's name.
- War Is Hell: Throughout the episode, but best depicted in the brief and mutually destructive battle between a Narn and a Centauri cruiser. Both ships are destroyed, neither side gains anything out of it, and it was over an issue that had just been resolved by Sheridan.
- The War Just Before: Sheridan and Quantrell have differing views on Earth's readiness following the Minbari War. Sheridan thinks the senator is making the "If I'd been there, things would be different" argument so common after losing a war.
- We Are Everywhere: The Psi Cop in the commercial says exactly that about the Psi Corps. For your convenience!
- With Due Respect: Sheridan's reaction to some of the senator's comment.