Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) explains to a reporter named Mary Ann Cramer (Patricia Healy) from Interstellar Network News (ISN) that Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) is out in a Starfury and can’t be interviewed right now. She thinks he’s avoiding her. In Medlab, Doctor Franklin (Richard Biggs) is surprised by a visit from an old Professor of his, Dr. Vance Hendricks (David McCallum), who offers him an interstellar archeological adventure. In Customs, Nelson Drake (Marshall Teague) kills a Customs Agent who accuses him of smuggling.
Commander Sinclair and Garibaldi learn about the agent’s death from a heart attack, though Garibaldi is suspicious. Dr. Franklin orders an autopsy. Hendricks introduces Drake as his partner and shows the doctor some artifacts from the long-dead planet Ikarra VII. The doctor scans them and discovers they are organic. Hendricks hopes they will provide a breakthrough in organic technology for Earth and the doctor excitedly agrees to help. Later, when Nelson touches one of the artifacts, streams of energy throw him against the wall.
Ivanova (Claudia Christian) points out to Sinclair that some strange energy fluctuations have been detected. Sinclair is not happy about being interviewed by the ISN, because his honesty has gotten him in trouble before. Doctor Franklin begins to think of Hendricks as more of a scavenger and grave robber working for a big company rather than as an independent scientist. Garibaldi meets with the reporter but when asked about being fired from his last five jobs for unspecified personal problems, he runs off. In Medlab, Nelson is transforming and an artifact bonds to his chest. When the doctor comes in, Nelson hits him with an energy pulse. When Sinclair and Garibaldi see him the next day, they wonder if those artifacts really went through customs.
They confront Hendricks, who blames Nelson for everything, but thinks the artifacts are taking a host body to carry out their programming. He offers to help. In Downbelow, Nelson kills two Lurkers, and his energy discharge is detected. Garibaldi updates Sinclair and goes in pursuit with a team. The reporter walks in and asks about the attack. Ivanova forces her to leave. Garibaldi’s team finds Drake, now almost entirely transformed into an alien warrior. Their weapons are useless. The creature burns through a wall to escape. In Medlab, Franklin and Hendricks find a storage device among the artifacts. Franklin slips something into his pocket.
The staff is realizing that the alien’s weapon needs time to recharge, but that is happening more quickly. Garibaldi clears the central corridor of civilians. Franklin explains to Sinclair that the Ikarrans, after suffering many invasions, designed weapons to defeat anyone but Ikarrans, defined in religious and military terms. Eventually there was no one pure enough not to kill. Sinclair realizes they must blow out part of the hull and suck the creature into space. He sets out to lure Nelson into a docking bay. Sinclair speaks to the weapon, mocking it as a failure and pointing out that Ikarra is now a dead world. The weapon pursues him, shouting that it must protect Ikarra. Just before ordering the docking bay depressurized, killing himself, Sinclair tells the weapon to access the memories of Nelson, who has seen the desert world, dead for a thousand years. The weapon deactivates, releasing Nelson.
Franklin confronts Hendricks with the death of the Customs Guard, and Nelson, now conscious, confirms that Hendricks bypassed Customs. The organization behind the archeological dig is really a weapons manufacturer. Hendricks offers a bribe to Franklin, who calls in Security. Garibaldi visits Sinclair in his quarters. He criticizes Sinclair for risking his life, as veterans of the Earth-Minbari War need a hero. In the marketplace, Ivanova meets Franklin, who wonders if the fate of the Ikarrans could befall Earth. Ivanova doubts it until two Terran Security Officers show up with orders from Earthforce to confiscate the artifacts. Sinclair finally meets Cramer for the interview. She asks if space is worth the expense. He replies that the sun will nova some day and if the human race doesn’t move out into the stars it will all be for nothing.
This was the first episode filmed and shows it in the less than perfect characterization. It was nice to see a young David McCallum, and he was as brilliant as you would expect. The Ikarran devices are Organic Era Artifacts, like those of the Vorlons and possibly the Minbari. In the Babylon Five Universe, the levels of civilization are pre-sentient, primitive, archaic, industrial, atomic, information, stellar, galactic, gravitic, organic, ultratech and ascendant. One of the elements in the artifacts is Okudazin, named for Michael Okuda of Star Trek fame. At one point, Hendricks gets Franklin’s attention by saying there is a Martian War Machine outside who wants to talk about the common cold. Garibaldi tells Sinclair that people look for something worth dying for because it’s easier than finding something worth living for. Franklin quotes the first rule of the fanatic: when you become obsessed with the enemy, you become the enemy.