The Markab ship Kar’ti is ten hours overdue. Ivanova (Claudia Christian) wants to send a Starfury squadron to find it. Lieutenant Keffer’s (Robert Rusler) off-duty flights are brought up. Since he is investigating Shadow vessels and it is important to maintain secrecy, Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) bans him from unauthorized flights. Doctor Franklin (Richard Biggs) is examining a Markab for Markab Doctor Lazarenn (Jim Norton) who has seen four deaths in three days of natural causes.
Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) invites Sheridan to her quarters for a Minbari mealtime Lennier has been preparing for two days. Zeta Squadron arrives at the last reported position of the Kar’ti and finds the vessel adrift. Everyone aboard is dead—203 Markab crew and passengers. In Medlab, Doctor Franklin notices something strange in the last Markab autopsy. Zeta Squadron returns with the ship in tow. Keffer recommends a full medical team inspection. Sheridan is drawn away from the Minbari meal, to Lennier’s chagrin. Arriving in Bay 14, he meets Franklin, who tells him the four Markab who died on the station had succumbed from a plague on their home planet.
Doctor Lazarenn explains that the Drafa Plague is legendary in that it wiped out a sinful civilization in the past. As a result, any appearance of it is kept secret. The Kar’ti was fleeing the Markab home world. It is unknown if the disease can be caught by non-Markab. Another Markab drops dead in the Zocalo, and Delenn tries to comfort his young daughter. Franklin calls a staff meeting to coordinate efforts. He needs an early onset case. Sheridan issues a quarantine order. Franklin fears the disease may be airborne, in which case everyone on the entire station is already exposed. Garibaldi points out that when the truth gets out, the Markab will be victims of violence.
People demand to be allowed to leave the station, but the docking bays are barred. All the Markab on board are brought to Medlab for tests. More victims turn up. Markab Ambassador Fashar (Kim Strauss) confronts Sheridan. He believes the isolation is an accusation of immorality. A dead Pak’ma’ra is found in Brown 17.
The Markab continue to be isolated. Nobody wants to do the autopsies. Delenn wants to be allowed to go into isolation to comfort the Markab. Violence breaks out against the Markab. Over Sheridan’s opposition, Delenn and Lennier volunteer to be sealed in the vault with the Markab. Franklin is taking stims to stay awake. He and Doctor Lazarenn discuss the Black Death of 14th Century Earth
. Lazarenn begins to show plague symptoms—the early onset case Franklin is looking for. Delenn helps the little girl find her mother, but the girl collapses and Delenn realizes the plague is in the vault.
Doctor Lazarenn dies, but Franklin has a breakthrough. He has found something that the Markab and the Pac’ma’ra have in common, which means the plague is limited to those two species. Franklin brings the cure to the vault, but when it opens only Delenn and Lennier are found alive. Delenn falls into Sheridan’s arms. ISN reports that the entire Markab civilization has been wiped out. Franklin hears rumors of outlandish reasons for the event and thinks: nothing changes.
Doctor Lazarenn is powerfully portrayed, but Lennier and Delenn are heartbreaking. The first Drafa Plague was a thousand years ago, making us wonder if the Shadows caused it. The story is filled with Passover references: The ritualized Minbari meal with an empty chair for Valen (Elijah), the Markab ambassador stating that if they pray and are pure the plague will pass over them, the Black Death blamed on the Jews. J. Michael Straczynski said, “Any time there’s a big disease, we get stupid.” Lazarenn says, “That does seem to be the rule. Analyze the situation and choose the solution that makes the least sense.” The Black Death was brought by fleas on rats. So, what did the Europeans do? They killed cats. ISN reports fires breaking out on the Markab home world. The Markab ambassador accuses the humans of poisoning the Markab population just to make them look immoral.
As I write this, 25 years after this episode aired, the coronavirus pandemic is sweeping the planet Earth, aided and abetted by governmental incompetence and human stupidity. A case in point: a nurse recently reported that her job has become, basically, holding people’s hands while they die. A good proportion of them simply cannot understand why they are sick. When told they have Covid 19, they say it can’t be true, because Covid 19 is a hoax—a myth invented for political reasons.