An elderly Minbari named Draal (Louis Turenne) debarks at Babylon Five and asks for Delenn (Mira Furlan). Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) and Ivanova (Claudia Christian) discuss an imminent shuttle launch. The planet below, Epsilon III, is producing unusual seismic readings, so they are sending a geological team to check it out. Sinclair runs into telepath Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson), who complains about Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle), who always seems to be on the transport tube when she boards. Sinclair dismisses her complaint, but the transport tube door opens, and Garibaldi is there. The shuttle is launched, but when it enters the atmosphere, an unusual energy discharge strikes the shuttle, and it spins out of control.
The shuttle stabilizes, but needs help returning to the station. Ivanova orders a Starfury wing to recover the shuttle and bring back the crew. She is disturbed by the idea that the planet about which Babylon Five has been orbiting all this time may be inhabited, but Doctor Tasaki (Jim Ishida), who leads the research team, is intrigued. Sinclair is concerned with negotiations between Ambassador Delenn and Ambassador Mollari (Peter Jurasik) regarding trade routes, which conclude calmly. Mollari and Delenn both hope any discussions with G’Kar (Andreas Katsulis) of the Narn may be less angry in the future as well, but Mollari doubts it.
The planet is producing a stream of energy pulses which seem like a beacon. Ivanova asks Sinclair about Mars, from which they have not heard lately, Delenn is met by Draal, who is a former teacher and old friend. The ISN broadcasts a news item about rioting on Mars and terrorists with heavy weapons. As Sinclair watches the news, he sees the faint image of an unknown alien in his quarters. The next day, everyone is talking about Mars. Garibaldi, who used to live there, is taking it hard.
Delenn and Draal catch up. Draal says Minbar is changing and the people seem lost. He has decided to “go to sea” and she will never see him again. An Earth Central blackout prevents Garibaldi from contacting Mars. He tracks down Talia Winters and asks if she can help him contact an old girlfriend there, Lise Hampton, from whom he is estranged, but worries about her. He knows there is a secret Psi Corps facility on Mars and wonders if she can contact them. She agrees to try.
Ivanova briefs Doctor Tasaki and crew about the shuttle’s next launch to Epsilon III, stressing that they are not to venture too close to the planet. Tasaki, however, disobeys and drops down into the atmosphere. Three missiles are launched from the surface, one of which damages the shuttle, and then more missiles are launched. Ivanova orders the Starfuries to fire on the missiles and the shuttle escapes. Tasaki believes it is an ancient automated defense system, located in a five-mile-deep canyon. Sinclair believes that he and Ivanova have to go down and deal with it, because it may be a First Contact situation and two senior officers are required.
Londo Mollari sees the same alien Sinclair saw. Sinclair and Ivanova take the shuttle into the canyon, avoiding the missiles. They find a landing bay, leave the shuttle wearing breathing apparatus, and explore, finding no sign of life. Talia contacts Psi Corps on Mars and someone agrees to see if Lise Hampton is among the casualties. Sinclair and Ivanova get through some more defense systems and enter a huge chamber filled with a massive machine—miles long and still active. Garibaldi is monitoring their progress when Talia finds him. Lise Hampton is not among the survivors, but so far, the contact cannot access the list of dead.
Sinclair reports. There is an earthquake which forces him and Ivanova to return to the shuttle by a different route. They see the same image of the alien and discover the alien himself hooked up to the machine. He says that unless they help him everyone will die. They manage to disconnect him and bring him back to the station. Garibaldi is shocked by the nature of the ship coming through the jump gate, and Part One ends.
The two-part story was requested and okayed by the Laser Disc/DVD producers after the two-hour pilot did so well at home and overseas. J. Michael Straczynski was sick as a dog with the flu when he wrote it. In fact, the first script was so terrible he tossed it and wrote this one. He did it, still sick, locked in an office, twelve hours a day for six days. I guess on the seventh day he rested. He liked a two-part story because it gave him time for character development. Londo Mollari is not really involved in the main plot but figures prominently in the story. He and Ivanova and others bring a great deal of humor which would not appear in a quick synopsis but provides a break from the amazing events in the A story. Mollari does not finish his recounting to Garibaldi of his first marriage, to a Centauri dancer. His family forced him to divorce her immediately, which we learn later.
The high walkway across the abyss on Epsilon III was not really inspired, or stolen, from the Krell machine in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, but the various kinds of landscapes suggested and the camera angles possible dictated its similarity to that impressive forerunner, which we all remember. Straczynski decided to keep the scene because it worked the best, even though he knew he would be getting grief for it. The Psi Corps facility at Syria Planum on Mars that Garibaldi talks about is mentioned in two other episodes and in the Babylon Five comics, the production of which JMS supervised. Sometimes plot developments were revealed in the comics months or years ahead of their appearance on TV. Each of the races on Babylon Five has a different basic language structure. The music by Christopher Franke is wonderful, and particularly enhances the grandeur of Babylon Five and Epsilon III.