Babylon 5: S04E08: The Illusion of Truth
This episode was so good I fell asleep. I only appreciated it properly after seeing it twice.
Ivanova and Sheridan are chatting when Sheridan reveals that he hasn’t seen or heard from his father much since they broke away from Earth (in the third series). There had been no word since the embargo.
Zack causes a ruckus in the docking bay when he forces open a crate belonging to an ISN news crew. In Sheridan’s office, Dan Randall introduces himself and asks for permission to do a story on Babylon 5. Since it is widely regarded that ISN is simply a propaganda tool for President Clark, and that Randall could therefore never do an objective piece, permission would be refused. Randall argued that although there would be quite a lot of propaganda, that he was more loyal to the truth than President Clark, there would be opportunities for the truth to slip out. He persuades a reluctant Sheridan to support his request for full co-operation.
The reporter interviews Sheridan and Delenn and then asks Lennier if he will show the reporter around Babylon 5. He then interviews a disgruntled Garibaldi who vents a few of his own feelings about Babylon 5 and, in particular, Sheridan. Randall is given free reign to interview whoever he wants.
When the report is due to be aired on ISN, Sheridan, Delenn and Ivanova settle down to watch. The rest of this episode of Babylon 5 is then devoted to the ISN news story. It is read by Dan Randall who begins by saying that everything on Babylon 5 seems to be normal, but inside, the residents are living in filth and squalor. He says that the best quarters are reserved for aliens.
The report then goes on to say that the alien races are in control etc. etc. I was tempted at this point to think, yeah, ok Mr. Straczynski, we all know ISN are peddling propaganda, we don’t need to see the rest of the episode devoted to it.
BUT, as Randall had said, he was able to get some points of truth out and it was these subtle points that made the episode worth watching. For instance, news of Sheridan’s father was mentioned. His father, a diplomat, had gone missing and the family home was burned to the ground. This information was superfluous to the report and Randall did not need to mention it.
He also let it be known that Clark had reinstated the Earth Senate, which had begun investigating alleged alien influence in the entertainment industry and extracting confessions from collaborators such as scriptwriters.
President Clark’s extreme xenophobia was also clearly indicated. The report centred on the alien activity on Babylon 5, and in particular how Sheridan was exhibiting symptoms of Minbari War Syndrome, where veterans suffer an inferiority complex feeling that other races are better than humans.
Most telling of all was the way the report placed Sheridan as a rather pathetic figure being toyed with by the aliens. The Earth Alliance is in no fit state to attack the Army of Light at the moment, especially after such an impressive victory over the Vorlons and Shadows so it would not have been prudent for Clark to encourage any form of force against Babylon 5. It was much better, I suppose, to encourage pity.
The final scene (which apparently follows the script exactly) is of a pissed off Ivanova turning off ISN at the end of the report and leaving, Delenn moves to comfort Sheridan then leaves hurriedly, and a final shot of Sheridan looking very glum indeed. No words are said.
A cracker! 37,338 out of 10. Loved the whole necessary evil vibe – very cleverly written. What did you think?
The “The Illusion of Truth” episode review is © 1999 – 2001 Tony Fawl
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