An interesting episode, this offers two effective stories that converge quite nicely and some strong material for several of the regulars.
Old war memories are resurrected for Sinclair and Garibaldi by the latest arrival to the station: a Minbari war cruiser, which comes out of the jumpgate with its gun ports opened. It's a near-replica of the incident which started the Earth/Minbari War more than a decade previously. The war cruiser, commanded by Shai Alit Neroon (John Vickery), has come with the body of the general who led the assault on The Line - the assault which destroyed Sinclair's squadron.
Tensions rise even further during the ceremonial viewing of the body. When the casket is opened, it is discovered that the body is missing. Now Neroon is spoiling to re-launch the Earth/Minbari War over the incident. It's the sort of situation where Sinclair's diplomatic skills ordinarily would thrive... if only the commander wasn't having to force down every emotion he has just to keep from coming to blows with the Minbari warrior every time they're in a room together.
Meanwhile, Ivanova and Talia discover a young girl with strong telepathic abilities living as a petty thief in Down Below. Even as Talia prepares to send the girl to the Psi Corps, Ivanova pushes the girl to find other options - options which involve meetings with several alien ambassadors.
Writer D. C. Fontana's last script for the series was The War Prayer, a dreadful installment that put me in mind of all the worst tendencies of the various Star Trek spinoffs. As bad as The War Prayer was, it was still somewhat redeemed by Fontana's strong scripting of Sinclair, in one of the earliest episodes to indicate the presence of the anger buried beneath the commander's genial surface.
The good news: Fontana still writes Sinclair very, very well. The better news: Legacies is a far better script than The War Prayer, with an interesting story that truly feeds off the history of the Babylon 5 universe.
I noted in my review of Babylon Squared that it was probably the last look we would get at Michael O'Hare's comic abilities, and that it was an episode that showcased how much his comic timing and his screen rapport with Jerry Doyle would be missed. Well, Legacies spotlights something else about O'Hare and Sinclair that will be missed. O'Hare does a superb job with Sinclair whenever Sinclair is called upon to show an edgier side to his character. That side is frequently on display here.
From the opening minutes of the show, Sinclair is on edge. Neroon's arrival vividly brings back the single worst day of his life. When we flash back to And the Sky Full of Stars, watching Sinclair's squadron being taken out by the Minbari on The Line, we know that he is seeing it just as vividly as we are.
The scenes between Sinclair and Neroon are wonderfully scripted and performed by the two actors. I was particularly impressed with their first encounter in Sinclair's office. Sinclair attempts to be diplomatic at first. However, Neroon - still furious over the Minbari surrender - pushes all the right buttons with his antagonism, and Sinclair ends the scene battling with his own instincts to avoid making good on his threat in And the Sky Full of Stars. He is clearly fighting against himself not to "strangle (Neroon) with his own bare hands."
O'Hare plays these flashes of buried hate and anger extremely well. It is a great pity that we will never get to see the character eventually deal with that anger. Given his fate in Season Three, he clearly must have dealt with it at some point, but we never really see the process. I accept that there is truth in J. Michael Straczynski's stated reasons for the Sinclair replacement. The character is characterized almost entirely around the Minbari, to the exclusion of most of the program's other facets. Nevertheless, I still find Sinclair, when properly written, a fascinating and complex character. For all the story details that were helped by the replacement (and there were several), I cannot help but feel that when Sinclair was moved offstage, the series lost more than it gained.
Of course, this episode also introduces a major new player in the series arc: John Vickery's Neroon. Neroon embodies the warrior caste in much the way Delenn embodies the religious caste. He is, at heart, an honorable man - something that is even demonstrated here, though not as clearly as it will be later in the series. However, he carries a huge amount of bitterness over the surrender, and his anger seems determined to find an outlet against any source he can find. He is angry at Delenn and the religious caste for ordering the surrender; he is angry at Sinclair and the humans because they were his enemy, and he had to surrender to them even though he knew the Minbari had beaten them. Vickery is splendid in the role, and it is easy to see why both character and actor became a major part of the Babylon 5 story.
Other regulars also fare well. Delenn spends much of the episode walking a tightrope, outwardly supporting Neroon while trying to quell his harshest instincts. Mira Furlan shines as always, particularly when she gets to reveal Delenn's iron core in her final scene with Neroon. The mystery surrounding Delenn, Sinclair, and the missing 24 hours gets one more piece added at the very end of this episode, as well, leading nicely into the forthcoming season finale.
Ivanova's relationship with Talia grows a bit closer in this episode, through their mutual caring for the telepath girl. As in Midnight on the Firing Line, Claudia Christian and Andrea Thompson work well together, and this is probably Thompson's most genuine performance across a full episode to date. Julie Caitlin Brown gets a hilarious scene as Na'Toth, making her offer to the telepath and misinterpreting Ivanova's sarcastic, "Why don't you check her teeth?" as good advice.
Finally, Garibaldi gets a great scene with Neroon, as he threatens the Pak'ma'ra with stomach pumping. Garibaldi's sadistic streak plus Neroon's anger... no one's checking anybody's worst tendencies here, making for a good, blackly comic scene.
Grace Una, as Alise the nascent Telepath, delivers one of the worst performances seen to date in Babylon 5. She makes the Babylon 4 crew look like understudies to Olivier by comparison. I would cite specific line deliveries where she made me cringe... but to do so would be to transcribe her every scene in the episode. In her favor, she is cute, and she's a decent reactor, with some nice facial expressions. But her line delivery is woeful, and seriously hobbles a genuinely well-written subplot.
This is a very good episode overall, somewhat weakened by a poor guest performance. This is more than made up for, however, by the episode's many strengths: strong performances from all the regulars; the introduction of a complex and marvelously acted new character; the first real development of the Talia/Ivanova relationship since Midnight; and the last real character development Sinclair is likely to get in the series.
Legacies is a generally well-written, tightly-constructed episode. After The War Prayer, I dreaded the thought of another D. C. Fontana Babylon 5 script. After Legacies, I'm hoping she writes for the show more often.
(would be an "8" but for Grace Una's performance)