When Roy Doltrice appeared on screen, I remembered that he was the commissioner from the pilot episode Breakaway. I could not help but wonder where he had been hiding all this time. Wherever it was, he should have stayed there. But his presence was a reminder of his role in Babylon 5, which made me realize that this series shares some commonalities with B5. Things like the self-contained world, hanger bays and the train-car tubes used to get around the city. They also both seem to have floating cameras to give the members of the base a chance to see what’s going on in random places (as we saw in the last episode too.) At least B5 has the courtesy of showing us those floating cameras. If this series were a bit more continuity-conscious, it might have been the first really detailed science fiction world to hit our TVs. But many scifi shows could make these claims so it’s probably a mediocre observation. However, this episode is far from mediocre. It’s a pretty straightforward affair but it pulls off a Twilight Zone-like ending that left me numb for several minutes!
When an alien ship is detected heading to Alpha, the crew investigate. They find a remake of Star Trek’s Space Seed with a number of people in cryo-sleep, including screen legend Christopher Lee, looking suspiciously like his Middle Earth counterpart, Saruman. Helena and Victor examine the sleepers to the best of their abilities using their computers, but since they are in individual caskets, the Alphans decide the only way to properly study the seemingly-dead crew is to open the sleep chambers. Shame they didn’t know what happened when Kirk did that!
My first thought at this point was: did Helena go to the same medical school as Dr. McCoy? Has she never heard of airborne pathogens? Maybe my post-2020, Covid-aware mind has viruses on the brain, but I would have been very reluctant to open those seals without protection first. Ironically, the humans are fine, but the occupant of the casket that they are tampering with gets vaporized. When the others awaken, they accept Koenig’s apology, offer them Babylon 5’s Glopet Eggs as a gift, and then tell their story. Their planet, Kaldor, was dying and they are looking for a home. They are on their way to Earth; it will take 75 more years to reach it in suspended animation. When Doltrice’s Commissioner Simmonds finds this out, he wants Koenig to commandeer the alien ship to at least get 6 humans back home. Koenig won’t hear of it but the alien captain offers one person the opportunity to travel with them in the now-vacant casket. Koenig says he will only let the computer decide who it should be so that the decision is fair.
Simmonds is a jerk, determined to get home at any cost and takes over the base, threatening to allow everyone to freeze to death if he isn’t selected. Koenig reluctantly accepts, knowing that Simmonds has no real function on the base anyway; he’s a politician not a useful member of society! But Simmonds doesn’t trust the Kaldorians and fails to give them time to configure the suspended animation chamber for his biology. After a brief sleep, now off the moon, he awakens and immediately believes he is near earth and attempts to communicate. The Alphans hear the message, but are powerless to do anything about it, as the ship is too far away to attempt to chase. Simmonds is trapped in a casket on a 75 year journey to Earth…. To compound the zinger ending, Koenig reveals that the computer did select Simmonds after all!
This episode was another of season one’s refreshingly realistic stories. There is no alien menace, just friends from another world. The threat comes from the greedy human. His departure has reduced the crew now to 296, but it also serves as another reminder of what we saw in recent episodes: the question still lingers as to whether Earth survived the Moon being ripped out of orbit. Simmonds wants to go home, but 75 years means even if Earth is intact, the people he knew and loved would be dead. And that’s assuming the Earth is even close to habitable when he arrives. It’s another sobering realization that the Alphans really do represent all that may still exist of humanity.
I have said it before and I’ll reiterate it here: this series is really holding my interest and I am enjoying it immensely. It’s not perfect and makes some silly mistakes, but I blame that more on the era it was made than anything else. It’s refreshingly believable in many ways… not so much the basic premise of the series, but you can’t have everything, can you? ML