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Recap / Babylon Five S 03 E 03 A Day In The Strife

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An alien probe shows up promising the answers to everything.

A Day in the Strife

Ivanova: If I live through this job without completely losing my mind, it will be a miracle of Biblical proportions.
Lt. Corwin: Well, there goes my faith in the Almighty.

Sheridan and Ivanova are in a meeting with the transport association, which is not going well, while a pair of Narns arrive on station. One of them introduces himself as Counselor Na'Far, and says he is here to replace Citizen G'Kar. The Centauri have gotten wind of G'Kar's effort to organize a resistance, and they are not happy about it. Na'Far is here to put stop to it. Sheridan refuses to help, and tells him to try and convince G'Kar on his own. Na'Far then reports to Londo, getting an update on the situation on the Narn homeworld, if the Narns are cooperating, and the executions are continuing. Vir asks Londo if it's all necessary, but Londo just says if they don't break their spirit the Narns will just pose a problem later.

In C&C, Corwin informs Sheridan of a probe of unknown origin entering their space. It's broadcasting a signal that will take some time to decode.

Londo goes to see Delenn, to cash in on a favor she owes him. He wants Vir away from here, out of harm's way, and he thinks Minbar would be a good place. She agrees to try and secure a position for him as Centauri ambassador to Minbar.

Garibaldi is having Franklin over for dinner and begins asking him about how he's getting through the day working so many shifts. Franklin admits to having used a stim earlier and promises to cut back on his use of them.

In the Zocalo, Na'Far's body guard, Ta'Lon meets up with Sheridan. They first met when they escaped the Streibs last year, and Ta'Lon feels he owes Sheridan a debt. Though not comfortable with it, Sheridan agrees to Ta'Lon's offer.

The computer finishes analyzing the probe's signal. It's asking questions about numerous technical and theoretical fields. If it gets the right answers, it promises highly advanced technology, but if it does not, it will vaporize the station with a 50,000 megaton explosion. Not really seeing an alternative, Sheridan has them call Earth to get the required information.

Na'Far tries to convince G'Kar to return to Narn, but G'Kar won't have any of it. The Narns on the homeworld are starving, and there won't be food as long as the resistance is operating. G'Kar refuses to submit, saying the Centauri are only trying to control them, and the Narns on the station won't accept someone they see as a collaborator.

When Vir finds out about his new position, he protest that he doesn't want to go, and that Londo will be alone if he does. Londo tells him, "I have always been alone."

The local Narns confront Na'Far, and nearly start a fight, but G'Kar appears and, feeling it the only way to prevent conflict among themselves, agree to return to Narn.

Sheridan is trying to compile the answers he needs, while putting off the transport association, Garibaldi tries to convince G'Kar not to go, and Franklin threatens a doctor on Earth when she can't get the answers he needs fast enough and goes and takes a stim.

They finally get the answers ready, but Sheridan has been thinking; why would a highly advanced race offer them new technologies, and moreover why threaten to destroy them if they don't give the correct answers? What if this is a trick, a ploy to identify races that are advanced enough to pose a threat and eliminate them? As time ticks down, Sheridan tells them not to transmit. Time expires and the probe begins to move off. Sheridan doesn't let it get too far before having a securebot follow it out then transmit the answers once it's out of range. Sure enough, the probe goes boom, destroying the securebot but leaving the station intact. With the threat eliminated, and never going to bother anyone else again, Sheridan is disappointed because now he has to go to that stupid meeting with the transport association.

As G'Kar prepares to leave, the free Narns make one last attempt and Ta'Lon approaches and draws his sword. He has been convinced to join them and reminds G'Kar that they all knew the risks when they began. G'Kar is convinced to stay.

Garibaldi and Franklin are in Earhart's talking about what happened, Franklin assuring him that the stims are under control, while Vir meekly boards his transport to Minbar and Sheridan watches, bored, as Ivanova tries to calm the rabid meeting.

Just another day on Babylon 5.

This episode contains examples of:

  • A House Divided: G'Kar decides to return to Narn when he sees the free Narns about to fight Na'Far, and would rather give himself up than see Narns fighting each other.
  • All for Nothing: Turns out the probe was a Berserker. All the data they collected to send to it, including one that Franklin got from an Earthforce doctor by force, turns out to be for nothing. Franklin even lampshades it near the end.
    • While they didn't get the store of highly advanced technology they were (falsely) promised, they did at least use the information they'd collected to make sure the probe was destroyed, protecting at least one future civilization from this particular sucker trap, and if another berserker shows up, they'll know what's up and be ready for it.
  • Badass Boast: Ta'Lon has a great one:
    Sheridan: I don't know what my superiors would say if I starting showing up everywhere with a Narn bodyguard.
    Ta'Lon: They would say, "Here is a man who will live to be a hundred and fifty."
  • Blatant Lies:
    • At the end of the episode, Franklin tells Garibaldi that he got through the whole Berserker probe situation without taking stims. It was a lie, of course.
    • When Sheridan makes a quip about Ivanova, she asks if anybody else heard that. Corwin, who is right there, denies hearing it. He also pretends to not hear Ivanova threatening Sheridan with changing his automatic shower preferences to ice water.
  • Berserk Button: Na'Far tells G'Kar that his resistance movement is causing damage to Narn. G'Kar goes ballistic, reminding Na'Far that the Centauri bombed their world with frickin' asteroids.
  • Book Ends: Sheridan and Ivanova begin the episode....and end the episode, in a Transport meeting that Sheridan would've literally died just to avoid.
  • Call-Back:
  • Les Collaborateurs: Most of the free Narns see Na'Far as one.
  • Continuity Nod: Apparently Franklin has come to appreciate Garibaldi's cooking.
  • Deadpan Snarker: See above quote by Corwin.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Discussed as Garibaldi points out this is one of Sheridan's talents.
    Garibaldi: He can take an inferior defensive force and turn it into a superior offensive force.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: While trying to convince G'Kar to stay on Babylon 5 instead of bowing to Centauri blackmail demanding that he return to Narn, Ta'Lon draws the katana he's had on his back all episode for effect. G'Kar is shocked, identifying it as a K'tok, which cannot be resheathed until it has drawn blood. Ta'Lon later discreetly cuts his palm with the sword before returning it to its scabbard.
  • Exact Words: Ta'Lon's sword, once drawn, cannot be sheathed until it has drawn blood. Once he has convinced G'Kar to stay, he cuts his own hand open with it.
    • Gets a continuity nod EVERY TIME he draws it...that poor man's hand.
  • Fate Worse than Death/Skewed Priorities: Played for Laughs. Sheridan comments that he would have rather died than go back to another stupid meeting with the Transport Association.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: After the trouble maker in the meeting accuses Sheridan of being a coward, Sheridan walks down to him and puts his PPG in the man's pocket. The guy backs down, but Ivanova is irate, saying it was "Grade-A stupid!" At that point, Sheridan shows her that he pulled the energy cap off before he handed it off. If the guy had gotten any ideas, nothing would have happened.
  • Kick the Dog: Londo rather nastily puts Na'Far in his place and reminds Vir that the Narn's pride must be broken so they're no longer a threat.
  • Look, a Distraction!: Garibaldi relates a story about how he used this to get a Brakiri to leave him alone, saying, "Look, a comet!" before jumping into the nearest transport tube. Turns out, comets are a symbol of death for the Brakiri, and Garibaldi inadvertently threatened the Brakiri, his family, and his water clan.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The futuristic-looking crowbar being wielded by the tough guy in the opening scene is a Halligan bar, a tool used by firefighters for forced entry.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: An alien probe promises a vast store of knowledge to those who can answer its questions, and destruction to those who cannot. It's actually an inversion disguised as a straight playing — the probe was designed to destroy those who were technologically advanced enough to pose a threat — and Sheridan catches on just before they're about to send the answers. After the alien probe starts to move away (proving Sheridan right), he then detonates it remotely by sending one of his station's probes after it to transmit the answers; sure enough, the alien probe explodes, taking the station probe with it but leaving the station intact.
  • Pet the Dog: Londo's desire to send Vir away - despite his claims, he really is doing it keep Vir safe.
  • Put on a Bus: Vir's departure had, in part, a real-world cause: actor Stephen Furst was starring in a sitcom on the Fox network. He would still appear on Babylon 5 in Season Three from time to time.
  • Realpolitik: Londo, outwardly, still maintains the Centauri arrogance. But his desire to protect Vir reveals he knows what they're doing is wrong, but does not want to admit it.
  • La Résistance: The one on Narn is getting to the point that the Centauri are trying to shut it down at the source.
  • Schmuck Bait: The probe promises great knowledge to those who answer the questions it poses, and destruction to those who do not. It's actually a berserker who will attempt to destroy those who do answer its questions, and ignore those who don't. Sheridan figures it out just in time, refusing to send the answers with the probe so close to the station, and once the probe goes well clear of the station, sends a securebot after it to transmit the answers, destroying the berserker so that it couldn't harm anyone else.
  • Truth in Television: JMS revealed that the probe was inspired by the actual policy of the US House Science Sub-Committee on what to do in the event of alien contact.
    JMS: Believe it or not, it was the consensus of the Subcommittee that we should not case it was a berserker, just as shown in the episode. That is our government's official policy on the subject.
  • Turn Coat: Na'Far, a Narn who has been appointed to take G'Kar's place by the Centauri. He doesn't really count as The Quisling, mind - he seems motivated only by a desire to keep the Narns alive through the occupation. He still comes into conflict with the Narn on Babylon Five, of course.
  • Victory by Endurance: This is pretty much the strategy of the Narns to win their independence (similar to how they drove off the Centauri during the First Occupation). They want to wear the Centauri down until they lose the taste for holding Narn.
  • Warrior Poet: Ta'Lon is already showing shades of this, but he considers G'Kar an even better one:
    Ta'Lon: I carry my sword in my hand. You carry yours in your heart and in your mind. As I see it, that gives you a two-to-one advantage in arms. Be fair, citizen G'Kar.
  • Weeding Out Imperfections: When an alien probe arrives at the station which promises cures to every known disease and centuries worth of technological advances if they correctly answer a series of question that will determine their level of technology. If they fail, it blows them up. Sheridan speculates that it comes from a race that considers knowledge the ultimate commodity, and only those who have it are worth existing and this probe would be to "prune" those it considers not worthy. Ivanova completes the metaphor by comparing it to a gardener, then quips she hopes Earth gets the required information in time, "Otherwise we're going to be hit with a five-hundred thousand megaton weed-whacker." Eventually Sheridan realizes it's the opposite, the probe is intended to destroy races that are advanced enough to pose a threat to its creators.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Shortly before the probe's deadline Sheridan deduces the true purpose of the probe and decides not to transmit the answers it's demanding, preventing the alien probe from destroying the station.note