Babylon 5: The Illusion of Truth
April 6, 2019 1:10 PM - Season 4, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Garibaldi starts his new career. ISN is now effectively the Clark government's propaganda arm. For reasons that beggar belief, Sheridan lets an ISN crew onto the station, believing the staff can outsmart the editors. Sheridan is incredibly wrong. [responding to allegations that Ivanova threatened to throw a journalist out of an airlock] "I'm shocked! Shocked and dismayed... May I 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 of an airlock'. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused."

-Garinaldi is now a private eye. His knowledge of alien customs and his natural and trained bullshit detection abilities help him not get hosed by untrustworthy clients looking to recover property. Garibaldi and Sheridan are still very unfriendly; Garibaldi is willing to talk to Lennier.
-The war room is now empty. Sheridan muses that he wants to get his dad off Earth.
-Franklin notes the cryotubes holding the Shadow-implanted telepaths are malfunctioning and the telepaths need to be moved. Sheridan agrees.
-Two ISN reporters try to smuggle their gear aboard the station, but Zach Allen catches them. They are detained, but the reporter -- sigh -- manages to convince Sheridan that his report will have a kernel of truth, even on a propaganda station.
-Sheridan tells the staff to keep their answers short and to the point, lest their answers be misconstrued.
-Lennier is tasked with guiding the reporters, since Minbari cannot lie.
-The cameramen see downbelow; ask about damaged ships and who pays for their repairs; catch Franklin talking about the telepath-containing cryotubes; Londo complaining vocally to Sheridan, and with typically bombacious gestures, about the cold in his chambers.
-The reporter interview Sheridan and Delenn about why B5 declared independence, that they would be happy to return to Earthgov if Clark steps down; why they think Clark killed Santiago; and their relationship. Yes, there is resistance to a cross-species relationship, but "nothing will stop us."
-The reporter also asks Garibaldi for his thoughts...
-The ISN programme airs. A lot of the preamble strongly sets the suggestion as Cold War era, with HUAC parallels, and mentions that Mars is 75% under Earth control now. It suggests that the Minbari control B5 and keep humans (only really seen in the Downbelow segments, destitute) as thralls. Those who resist are cryofrozen for their crime. A psychologist suggests that Sheridan has 'Minbari war syndrome', an inferiority complex stemming from the Battle of the Line, and that's why he 'loves' Delenn and has betrayed Earth. The interview with Sheridan and Delenn is edited to make it look like he is prioritizing their relationship above all else. Delenn's transformation? Illegal experimentation to make humans look more alien. Garibaldi's interview airs, a damning report that Sheridan is changed and now has a god complex. The interview ends with the suggestion that Sheridan is to be pitied, but B5 is a danger to Earthgov.
-Oh, and by the way? The ISN report mentions that Sheridan's family farm burned to the ground and his father is missing. This is clearly meant to get Sheridan to comply, for the good of his father.
-Sheridan and Ivanova are pissed; Delenn is uncharacteristically worried.
posted by flibbertigibbet (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god this episode. I just hate it. Pure Idiot Ball plot.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

From a character standpoint, it was for sure an Idiot Ball plot, but it was also (for me, at least, at the time when it originally aired) a memorable and striking example of a Documentary Episode twisted into propaganda.
posted by Pryde at 5:20 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

damn this episode was hard to watch in 2021. (Though before November 2020, it probably would have felt even worse.)

I do like the way they ended it. No verbal reactions after the broadcast, not even any soundtrack music to cover the silence. Everyone just quietly, awkwardly leaves the room. We're left looking at an empty room for a bit. Then Sheridan comes back in: he forgot to turn off the screen (it's 1998 and screens in the future don't even have an auto-sleep function). Sheridan comes up to camera, punches his link and the screen goes black. End credits.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:03 PM on May 8, 2021

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