As I said last time, “A Voice in the Wilderness” attempts to ramp things up for Babylon 5. The first half of the episode does a pretty good job of setting a higher pace, however the second episode is where things start to fall apart. The promise of the first half of the episode isn’t quite lived up to with the second half, beginning with the revelation of what Garabaldi sees coming through the jumpgate. The last episode ends with the cliffhanger of the security chief uttering in dismay, “What the hell?” as he sees something coming through the gate. After a short “Previously on Babylon 5” sequence, we find out it’s… a Earthforce Heavy Cruiser. For a space station used to housing ships from all alliances, there’s absolutely no logical reason a Heavy Cruiser should have prompted such a reaction from Garabaldi, and thus the disappointing tone is set for this episode.
With the heavy cruiser, the Hyperion, we get Captain Ellis Pierce and a rehash of the struggle for control over the station that occurred back in “Eyes”. The benefit of it happening here is that it is finally resolved for once and for all that Sinclair is in charge of Babylon 5 and nobody else is authorized to remove that power from him, but you would think they would have covered that after Ari Ben Zayn tried to steal control. He just announces he’s taking over and expects everyone to bend to his will. The fact that Sinclair gets swapped out for Sheridan at the end of the season also diminishes this element of the story. If it was Sheridan here, you could say this is foreshadowing of the civil war to come – Sheridan making a stand against an unethical order. Instead, it’s another element of the station’s history that gets wiped clean when Sinclair departs in between seasons. Frankly, Pierce isn’t even that interesting a character. He does give Ivanova a good one-liner, but otherwise it’s a disappointing element of the story that lacks any subtlety or nuance.
Speaking of a lack of subtlety, anyone who doesn’t see how the storyline regarding the Heart of the Machine is going to work out by the end of the episode is blind. Over the course of the episode it’s revealed that the alien that served that purpose is dying. Meanwhile, you have a visiting Minbari whose first words are regarding personal sacrifice. It’s inevitable that Draal is going to be the Heart of the Machine. While I’m accepting of inevitabilities, I’d rather see them come through prophesy or more clever foreshadowing than we get here.
Not all is a loss with this episode, however, as several strong story elements have their foundation laid here, as I mentioned in the first part of the episode. The Machine on Epsilon III will play an important role, sooner rather than later, although we won’t know that for several seasons. We finally meet Lise Hampton, who will be a big player in Garabaldi’s story later on in the saga. While the more lively, comedic Londo once again shows himself here, we learn that he does so at a cost: Delenn owes the Centauri ambassador a favor now – a favor he will most certainly call upon later on.
While this two-parter definitely raises the scope and tone of the series, it doesn’t quite pull off the epic feel that it strives for. It’s one of the show’s few missteps and thankfully not an episode to judge the season or the series on. Later on in the series the strength of this episode will become more visible, but for now it just feels like a poor step.
Londo helping pilot the shuttle to the planet’s surface is a character highlight for the season. It’s a seemingly selfless act that puts him in an important position for both knowledge and control, but that pales in comparison to the hilarity found in his search for a landing thruster.
Draal using the power of the Great Machine to slice open the alien vessel isn’t a highlight as much as it’s interesting as it appears to be similar technology as the Shadows have. Nothing ever comes of this, really, but it’s still an interesting note.
Michael’s dialog with Lise is a nice character moment for Garabaldi. We rarely get to see the human side of Michael in the early seasons and here is a good opportunity, even if it is showing heartbreak.
Delenn’s final scene with Garabaldi is another good piece of foreshadowing for Sinclair. This ties into Michael’s speech about being a hero from earlier in the season, revealing that Delenn knows Sinclair would have tried to become the Heart of the Machine. While Draal’s sacrifice carried no subtlety, the truth is it does relate to Sinclair. Again, it’s unfortunate the character was written out of the series as he was. With so much time building that foundation for the character, a lot is lost, even if we do get the final payoff in a few seasons.
Ivanova: Worst case of testosterone poisoning I’ve ever seen.
Londo: Now, landing thrusters… landing thrusters, hmm. Now if I were a landing thruster, which one of these would I be?
I think I’ve made my feelings on this two-part episode pretty clear: it ramps up the scope of the series, which is needed, but it doesn’t do it as well as other episodes will in the future. Considering it’ll be a while before we have another semi-dud of an episode and that there are some good things to come from these two episodes, they aren’t a total wash, but they are a weaker part of the overall story arc.