Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Babylon Five S 04 E 08 The Illusion Of Truth

Go To
Smile, you're on Candid Camera!
We did the best we could. Anything we said we kept down to short, declarative sentences, making it harder for them to quote us out of context. We didn't have a big crisis while they were here. What can they do to us?


As ships that participated in the Shadow War are repaired and refit outside Babylon 5, Sheridan sits in the now empty War Room worrying. Ivanova gives him an update on traffic from Earth; other than a few scavengers it's completely dried up, and along with it their main source of revenue, even with the alien traffic. It's a problem, but that's not what's on Sheridan's mind. he's worried about his family. Since the break last year, he's been able to get a few messages to and from them but now, he can't get anything. And the last letter mentioned strangers snooping about. Sheridan told them to get out, and that's the last he heard. And there's nothing he can do about it right now.

As for things on the station, it's been pretty quiet since Zack started heading security. There hasn't been a major incident yet.


That may be about to change as Zack comes to break up a tussle between security and some people who just arrived. There's something in the crates that they don't want seen and won't say what it is. The leader tries to bar his way, but Zack just shoots the lock on the crate. Something starts to come out, a small hovercam. The man says he's a reporter and that's his camera. Zack can only give an uncomfortable smile.

Franklin finds Sheridan in a corridor. There's been some trouble with the cryo units, and Franklin is going to be moving the frozen telepaths to a temporary holding until it's repaired. Sheridan doesn't like keeping them this way, but as long as those implants are there it's too dangerous to do anything else with them. He then gets a call about the reporter, and goes off to meet the guy, even though he'd rather have the Shadows and Vorlons back.


In a small room, the man introduces himself as Dan Randall of ISN, and complains about Ivanova's warm welcome from earlier. She apparently threatened to grab him by the collar and throw him out an airlock.

Sheridan: Commander! Did you threaten to grab hold of this man by the collar and throw him out an airlock?
Ivanova: Yes I did.
Sheridan: Well, I'm shocked. Shocked and dismayed. I'd remind you that we are short on supplies here. We can't afford to take perfectly good clothing and throw it out into space. Always take the jacket off first, I've told you that before. Sorry, she meant to say: "Stripped naked and thrown out an airlock." I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Randall decides to start over from the beginning. He didn't think Sheridan would let him onboard. Sheridan reminds him that President Clark instituted the embargo, not Babylon 5. And everyone is welcome here. Just not with the cameras. Sheridan calls ISN Clark's personal Propaganda Machine and Randall agrees, claiming that he a few others stayed on to try and get bits of the truth out when Clark's people weren't looking. He can't promise that the story he does will be objective or fair, but he does promise to get parts of the truth out there. Besides, he's already there, and if they send him home with nothing, ISN will be perfectly happy to just make it up. Sheridan reluctantly agrees.

Garibaldi is finishing up with a client when Lennier comes up to see how he's doing. Garibaldi explains that he's taking the chance to make his own life, asks about Delenn, and quickly changes the subject when Sheridan comes up. Sheridan himself arrives shortly after, Randall in tow. He asks Lennier to show the reporter around, since Minbari do not lie, he'll be certain that he's being given an honest rundown. Lennier is uncertain, but agrees and leads Randall off. Sheridan and Garibaldi share an uncomfortable glance, before the captain leaves. Looking at a picture of his client's merchandise, Garibaldi has another flash.

He sits restrained to a chair while a disembodied voice repeats over and over, "You work for no one but us."

In a transport tube, Randall is asking Lennier about the ships outside. Lennier explains that they were damaged in the war and stopped here to make repairs. The tube opens on Downbelow and Lennier explains that this is where the poor and homeless usually wind up. They are aften taken advantage of by less scrupulous individuals, but Sheridan stops it when he can, and has programs to try and give them honest work. As they look around, Franklin rushes by with a patient on a gurney. He can't stop, but agrees to talk to Randall later. During the pause, Franklin gets a message about the cryo units.


The tour continues in the Zocalo where Londo is loudly complaining to Sheridan about the temperature in his quarters.

Londo: When I said my quarters were cold, I did not mean "Oh, I think it's a little chilly in here, perhaps I'll throw an extra blanket on the bed." No, I said it was cold, as in " Oh, look. My left arm has snapped off like an icicle and shattered on the floor." This is highly inappropritate, Captain!
Sheridan: You're right. There are several other parts of your body I'd much rather see snapped off.
Londo: Ah, I see, well your sense of humor is very funny!
* snapshot*

Sheridan and Delenn come to have a sit-down interview with Randall, where he asks questions about theri split from Earth. Sheridan tells him it was a last resort and they will rejoin the Earth Alliance once President Clark has recinded the illegal orders and steps down. And he affirms that Clark was responsible for the death of President Santiago. "With Clark, anything that gets in the way just...disappears." Randal then turns to Delenn and the relationship she and Sheridan have forged, though questions about them marrying are met with "no comment". Randall notes that they have the odds agains them, but they aren't worried about that.

Randall: And if others don't understand?
Delenn: If they don't understand, we will make them understand.
Randall: Then you're not concerned about the possible repercussions??
Delenn: It will be a struggle, but still...
Sheridan: There is no force in this galaxy that can stop what we have done here together. Nothing will be able to stop us.
* snapshot*

Later, Randall finds Garibaldi, and asks to talk. Garibaldi was here right from the start, and has a unique perspective on Babylon 5, and Randall wants to get his view before he leaves. He offers a few minutes to talk about anything he wants to. Garibaldi looks contemplative.

After Randall is gone and the special is about to air, Ivanova and Sheridan decide to have dinner in his office as they watch. Ivanova still has a bad feeling, but Sheridan feels it was the best they could have given, and as Delenn comes in, he goes to turn the monitor on.

The broadcast opens with a few smaller items:

  • Earthforce has retaken 75% of Mars Colony, and Clark has declared a full two extra hours before curfew to celebrate.
  • The new senate's Committee on Anti-Earth Activities heard testimony from various prominent individuals, reportedly confirming Clarks claim that alien influences have infiltrated nearly every level of Earth society.
  • A tri-vid producer "confesses" to assisting alien governments in undermining EarthGov with messages hidden in his works, and names several others as his accomplices.
  • A brief "On This Day In History" segment

Finally the main show starts. Randall introduces himself and explains how he was sent to Babylon 5, how he had to convince his superiors, who thought it was a bad idea.

Randall: But the first rule of journalism is you go where the story is. Still, nothing could have prepared us for what we found.

He begins with shots of the exterior, focusing on a White Star being repaired, before switching to footage of Downbelow. He claims that this is where most of the humans on the station live, in squalid, filthy conditions while the good quarters are kept for Sheridan, his command staff and a few privileged aliens. He portrays the Minbari as being the overlords of this place now, and that any who dissent are carted away by Dr. Franklin. Next, we see Londo and Sheridan, Randall's narration explaining that alien governments are calling the shots here, and that Sheridan appears to be their servant.

To explain why Randall turns to Dr. William Indiri, the psychological dean of Harvard University, to talk about something called "Minbari War Syndrome". Indiri explains that many veterans of the Earth-Minbari War have a kind of inferiority complex regarding aliens. The Minbari had an overwhelming technological advantage, and that would cause some disturbed individuals to begin seeing them as inheritance superior. Randall asks if this could cause someone to completely turn against their own world, and Indiri says, "It is theoretically possible, yes." He remarks on the first contact with the Centauri, which caused many to question long-cherished beliefs, and even become violent in some cases.

Randall: The second rule journalism is no one does anything without a reason. They may not admit it, even to themselves, but the reason is there. To understand what's been happening on Babylon 5 since their break from Earth, you first have to understand why.

He then plays recording of the encounter he had with Franklin in Downbelow, where he overheard the message about the cryo units.

Break for commercial

Randall returns to the White Star outside the station, clearly a warship, and part of a fleet Sheridan and Delenn are putting together (using station resources). Also, not long before their secession, the station was upgraded with new, state-of-the-art weapons, which were used against Earth ships during the break. Another piece of the puzzle, but how does it all fit together.

Randall: Where is the key, the Rosetta Stone, that will unlock the mystery, the mystery that is Babylon 5? Is it hidden, or is it right out in the open?

The story then cuts to the interview with Sheridan and Delenn, starting with the part about their relationship and how others will see them.

Randall: Then you're not concerned about the possible repercussions??
Delenn: It will be a struggle.
Randall: A struggle against Earth?
Delenn: Of course. If they don't understand, we will make them understand.
Sheridan: Anything that gets in the way disappears.
Randall: There's a lot of people back home who might be concerned with what you're saying. It sounds as if you putting the mingling of human and Minbari above the safety of your own world.
Sheridan: There is no force in this galaxy that can stop what we have done here together. Nothing will be able to stop us.

Randall then shows what Garibaldi said. Michael explains that he wasn't comfortable with the situation since Sheridan is different since he got back from alien space. He doesn't listen to anyone...except Delenn. Randall then shows footage he got when he sneaked his crew into the cryo area. Babylon 5 is not supposed to operate more than four or five at a time, but there are currently twenty or thirty in use. And the people inside have no record of ever arriving on the station, so who are they and where did they come from?

Randall gives a quick recap of what he's shown, downtrodden humans who can't escape, who can be "disappeared" and taken by medical staff, while alien ships are maintained and made ready outside.

Randall: So what's the next target for this so-called "last best hope for peace"? We're finally prepared to answer that question. We believe that answer will shock some of you, horrify others, and anger all of you.

Break for commercial

When we come back, Randall has one more clip. He shows an interview he had with Dr. Franklin, who explains the need to be careful with the various races and treatments that they need. Randall asks if they ever use the cryo units, and Franklin says they do in extreme cases. But he says they don;t have any patients in cryo at the moment.

Randall: Rule #3: People only lie when they have something to hide.

He turns again to Dr. Indiri and asks his opinion about he saw. Indiri finds it troubling because there have been cases where those with Minbari War Syndrome have attempted to mutilate themselves to look or even become more alien. He theorizes that Sheridan is mentally disturbed, which might make it easier for aliens to influence him.

Randall posits the theory that Sheridan is on a quest to make an entire race of human-minbari hybrids. He notes that it's already happened; Delenn did it, why not everyone else? And if everyone refuses, he has a fleet ready to force the issue.

Showing a picture of Delenn, he asks, "Is this the face of humanity's future? Sheridan's future?" Randall then says that ultimately it's not Sheridan's fault, he's just the victim of a mind weakened by a combination of his experiences in the war, the stress of command and the loss of his family's home, which burned to the ground lot long ago, that aliens were able to take advantage of. But Randall offers his opinion that the situation on Babylon 5 is deteriorating rapidly, and expresses hope that one day Sheridan may receive proper care and treatment and one day return to them as a healthy, productive citizen.

As the program ends, Ivanova leaves while Sheridan stares out at the station's interior. Delenn goes and touches his arm, then walks out while Sheridan comes and turns the monitor off.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Garibaldi's client is looking for a large statue of a Drazi deity. Garibaldi gets suspicious because Drazi art isn't worth very much, but a statue like this is large enough to use as a hiding place.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In-universe. ISN uses manipulative editing techniques to paint Sheridan as a mentally unstable rogue who is being exploited by sinister alien interests.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Randall makes so that Franklin appears to telling one.
    • Garibaldi's client, trying to spin this story about a "family heirloom" that goes back generations, but Garibaldi figures out pretty quick that it's actually being used as a stash.
  • Call-Back:
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Played with. As the ISN broadcast is about to begin, Sheridan turns on the monitor, commenting that "it'll probably be a commercial". In the original US broadcast, the show then cut to an actual commercial break.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Culture Police: The Clark Regime uses such things as the Committee on Anti-Earth Activities to keep pop culture in check. One of its victims "voluntarily" confesses to using the media as a channel for propaganda — which, of course, is totally not what ISN is doing at all.
  • Do You Want to Haggle?: After getting down to what his client is really after, Garibaldi spends a few seconds haggling over his cut of whatever's inside the statue.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A Hollywood-type producer being accused of using his medium to promote seditious and anti-Earth propaganda.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: After Zack shoots the lock on the crate, one of the security guys tells him it was a nice shot. Zack just says to be sure that was what he was aiming at.
  • False Confession: The above mentioned producer. He's clearly being forced to make an admission and he looks like he been treated harshly, thin, ragged, with a dark look in his expression.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: This one shakes it up a bit, having one actual event (Gugarin's space flight) and three fictional ones (the creation of Bill Clinton's creation of the Commission On the Future in 1999, the laying of the foundation of the first lunar colony on 2018 and the creation of the Psi Corps in 2161).
  • Fascists' Bed Time: The ISN broadcast mentions that the curfews are being extended a couple hours to celebrate victories on Mars.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Sheridan would rather face the Vorlons and Shadows than reporters.
  • Fantastic Racism: A mild example. After telling how the first contact with aliens caused some to think they were closer to God than we were, Indiri amends that with the Centauri that coudln't possibly be the case.
  • Foil: The shameless Propaganda Machine flunky Dan Randall is one to the far more even-handed Cynthia Torqueman from Season Two
  • Foreshadowing: Sheridan mentioning the strangers snooping around Sheridan's family hints that something is about to happen.
  • Funny Background Event: Right before recording of the interview begins, Delenn can be seen shooing a makeup person away.
  • Idiot Ball: For people who have been warned that there will be a propaganda offensive against them, and who have been watching the Clark-controlled ISN for nearly a year now, the command staff and Sheridan in particular seem remarkably lacking in smarts.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sheridan's interactions with his monitor just prior to and after the broadcast.
  • Longing Look: During their joint interview, Sheridan spends most of the time he's not talking gazing at Delenn with the dopiest, most besotted expression ever seen on a sentient being's face.
  • Malicious Slander: Practically everything Randall says on the air.
  • Manipulative Editing/Twisting the Words: The ISN broadcast is a solid half-hour of these tropes.
    • The episode has actually been used in college journalism courses to demonstrate how effective this can be, which JMS has said is one of the things he's proudest of about the show.
  • Morton's Fork: With Randall on station, Sheridan is faced with either cooperating and facing the possibility of a hatchet job, or sending him away and practically guaranteeing it.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In-Universe, Dr. Indiri mentions extreme cases of Minbari War Syndrome led to self mutilation and cases which are "are too extreme for your audience to hear", leaving the broadcast audience to project their worst fears in speculation.
  • Police State: We all know this is what Earth has become, but now we start to really delve into it.
  • Propaganda Machine: ISN is reporting what Clark needs to be true rather than what is true.
  • Red Button Interactive: Several times a red button appears which would allow ISN viewers to download the program. Could be a case of Technology Marches On as the series was produced before there was DVR.
  • Self-Harm: Dr. Indiri explains that extreme cases of Minbari War Syndrome have led to this, with victims attempting to make themselves look more alien, and believes that Sheridan is trying to extend this to the entire human race.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: ISN tries to portray Sheridan as an extreme case of one.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Zack does this to find out what's inside the crates when Randall is less than cooperative.
  • Show Within a Show
  • Tempting Fate: "What can they do to us?" John, John, you just had to say it!
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Ivanova threatens a reporter with this. Sheridan scolds her quite thoroughly for not being specific - "...sorry, she meant to say, 'Stripped naked and thrown out an airlock. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.'"
  • You're Insane!: After Zack shoots his crates, Randall tells Zack he's crazy.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: