"Visitors from Down the Street" Review
First Published: 08/26/99
"Visitors from Down the Street" is a dramatic departure for Crusade and for the writing style of J. Michael Straczynski. This episode includes obvious references to The X-Files and is the most blatant example yet of Joe Staczynski's love of - as he calls it - "turning the show on its ear".
The story opens with the Excalibur's discovery of a life pod with two aliens aboard. The aliens are dressed in 20th Century Earth suits, understand English, and are trying to uncover evidence hidden by their government that humans have been visiting their world and interfering with their development. Captain Gideon has trouble believing the alien "Mulder" and "Scully" because Earth has no record of contact with this species.
Gideon becomes even more confused when the aliens' former boss arrives to take them into custody. This third character seems more at ease with the humans, just like the shadowy agents on The X-Files who work with the aliens.
"Visitors from Down the Street" is not for Babylon 5 purists. Joe Straczynski takes liberty with the show to produce a satirical look at alien conspiracy theories from the other side of the story. The result, while apparently contributing nothing to the Crusade story arc, is an extremely humorous and thought-provoking look at our 20th Century views on alien contact. Few previous episodes of Babylon 5 or Crusade have been this much fun.
This episode seems to have some scientific flaws. Gideon says he doesn't have time to return the aliens to their homeworld, but he supposedly picks them up at the edge of their solar system in a sub-light escape pod. The Excalibur isn't even in hyperspace, so it is apparently in no rush. They should be able to jump to the alien homeworld in a matter of minutes or hours. And they shouldn't need to track the second alien ship to find the homeworld, it should be obvious as being the only inhabited planet within range of the life pod.
The alien probe sent to Earth seems to indicate that their homeworld is improbably close to Earth because they were able to exchange several communications with it. However, on further reflection we must assume that the probe never existed. It was fabricated by the alien government as part of the disinformation conspiracy.
The one other area that troubles this reviewer is the leaky sewage joke. I just don't get it and feel that it doesn't add anything to the episode.
On the brighter side, Lt. Matheson plays a strong second to Captain Gideon in this episode. Also, the final sight gag with the Cigarette Smoking Alien is priceless.
By diverging radically from the standard format of Crusade, "Visitors from Down the Street" provides entertainment, humor, and the trademark Straczynski push to look at issues from different perspectives.