Comes The Inquisitor

Genre: SF
Series: Babylon 5

Reviewed by Kathryn A (with spoilers)

This was my other favourite. I can well see why JMS compared it to "And The Sky Full Of Stars", though I'm not sure which of the two I like better.

At the start, I was certain of two things:

  1. Delenn would pass the test.
  2. There would be a twist in the test.

I actually thought that the twist would be something like she would succeed by failing: that she would take off the manacles, admit failure, and thus be proved humble enough to pass. But I didn't find that satisfactory; if they had done exactly that, it would have been too weak. It was only a guess. All that I was sure of was that whatever the Inquisitor appeared to be testing for, it would really be something else, something unexpected. So I was very pleased with what it turned out to be: something better and deeper than I had imagined, and something I agreed with: that if you put any Cause before the people close to you, then you've lost the way. The ends do not justify the means, because the means influence the ends; attitude is just as important as action.

The revelation of the identity of the Inquisitor was not tacky or gratuitous (as some people would think if they were told without having seen the episode). It was fitting. It was poetic justice. He was the perfect Inquisitor, having been guilty of the same sin he was testing for, and knowing the abhorrence of it.

And this also put another layer on the love (platonic or not, who cares?) between Sheridan and Delenn which we've been seeing building up more obviously in the last few episodes, particularly in "Confessions and Lamentations" but touches also in other episodes. Now they know they're willing to die for each other.

Some, of course, argue against the Inquisitor's methods - but there are several reasons for it.

  1. If the test is willingness to die alone and unpraised for another, then it has to be real: they have to not know that that is the test, and they have to know that the threat of death is real. And the threat is real - because it was quite clear from Kosh's statement at the start that this was a test to destruction - those who fail, die. [So, indeed, it was a twist like I thought it was - at the start, she would rather die than fail, but at the end, she would rather fail by dieing, than to see Sheridan die instead of her: her task, her mission, was less important than his life.]
  2. It wasn't just Kosh who needed to know that they were the right people at the right place at the right time - they themselves needed to know it - know it in their guts, not just as an intellectual conviction that could waver when the going got tough.

Getting back to point (1), it seems his aims were threefold (or more, probably): (a) to see if Delenn would doubt herself enough to give up and take off the manacles, (b) to see if she had any friends who cared more for her than for the Cause, and (c) to see if she cared more for a friend than for the Cause.

Note that Lennier came for her first, but he left her when she told him to. Perhaps if he had stayed, he might have been the one whose life was threatened. Or perhaps the Inquisitor was waiting for Sheridan in particular - who knows? But when Sheridan arrived, the next phase of the test began. It's also interesting to note that Lennier begged Sheridan to ask Kosh to intervene - but instead Sheridan came himself to rescue her. Did he go to Kosh first? I doubt it.