The EAS Schwarzkopf arrives at Babylon Five, heading an Earthforce task force. It is commanded by General Richard Franklin (Paul Winfield), the father of Doctor Franklin (Richard Biggs). He is greeted by Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) who is asked to quarter 25,000 troops for several days. Once that is set up, the General will see his son. Commander Ivanova (Claudia Christian) and Chief Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) are overwhelmed by the crowd, even though the troops are efficiently handled by Sergeant Major Plug (Ryan Cutrona).
General Franklin briefs Sheridan, Ivanova, and Garibaldi. The troops will be leaving for Akdor to assist the Sh’lassen Triumvirate in supressing a rebellion, but this is a military secret at the moment. Sheridan has been to Akdor and the General needs to confer with him, and also to upgrade the station’s defense grid. Sheridan and his staff are uneasy about this. Gropos (Ground Pounders or infantry) are billeted with station pilot Warren Keffer (Robert Rusler). At first there is the usual tension between Gropos and Flyboys, but Kessler stands up to one appropriately named Large (Ken Foree) and they make friends.
General Franklin visits his son. Naturally the Old Man starts to criticize him, saying he should be treating humans instead of aliens, yadda yadda, and they come to words. Ivanova brings Marines to Medlab for sleeping arrangements and Franklin angrily objects. Ivanova invites him to meet her at the Eclipse Café to talk. He bares his soul about his father and she warns him that one day the Old Man won’t be around anymore, thinking about the death of her own estranged father and hinting that the upcoming excursion may be more dangerous than she is allowed to say.
Delenn tells Garibaldi she is frightened by the soldiers. Sure enough, when he leaves, she is harassed by a trio of drunken Marines. A female Marine called Dodger (Marie Marshall) comes to her defense, and Garibaldi returns as well. Dodger thanks him. Sheridan discusses Operation Sudden Death with General Franklin. Sheridan thinks the Sh’lassen are lying about the strength of the rebel fortress. But the planet is strategic for the Narn-Centauri Conflict and Earth must have a presence there. Helping them with the rebellion is the price of permission. Dodger ends up in Garibaldi’s quarters, making out, but he stops short of involvement. But she is only looking for a one-night stand and storms out.
General Franklin goes to see his son and eventually they embrace. Garibaldi talks to Dodger in the casino, but a brawl breaks out and they are both too busy to talk more. General Franklin puts an end to it by ordering all the troops back to the ship. Sheridan says goodbye to the General, the General says goodbye to his son, Garibaldi says goodbye to Dodger. ISN reports from Akdor. The General is interviewed and calls the operation a success, though the price was high. All the troops befriended by station personnel are dead.
It’s difficult to write a five-year TV series without indulging in TV clichés. In the first year, we had the obligatory prize-fight story. This is the obligatory war-story, including the conflict between the military father and the pacifist son, the bar-room brawl, and the War is Hell end-trope. We did, however, learn the source of Franklin’s particular arrogant and pugnacious humanitarianism. An actor of Paul Winfield’s caliber helps this go down smoothly. And we learn a bit more about Garibaldi, who is so weighed down with guilt that he can’t accept no-strings-attached sex. Mostly, we see that the Narn-Centauri conflict, thanks to the Shadows, is capable of involving the entire galaxy.