In the fourth episode of the first season of Babylon, Dr. Franklin’s teacher brings some old artifacts aboard the station, and it goes exactly as you think it would. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
This was.. not that great of an episode? The story itself felt like a combination between two common sci-fi tropes: an ancient civilization that imploded due to an obsession with purity and artifacts from an archaeological dig unearthing something terrible. Once combined, they make for a very strange experience.
I admit that I had fun watching this because it was a delight to yell about it over and over again. “Infection” takes these tropes and tries to craft something both creepy and suspenseful, and sometimes it works. But it’s confusing right off the bat! I don’t know why Nelson had to murder the guy who was checking his cargo. It is an unnecessary element to the story that is never truly dealt with. Sure, Dr. Hendricks is eventually turned over to the authorities, but he’s just not that compelling of an antagonist. Plus, why not show up to Babylon 5 and try to convince Dr. Franklin to help out before resorting to MURDER? It’s just so ridiculous, an escalation that happens before we get to know these characters and which makes them unlikable before they’ve ever gotten to do anything.
As for the story, I still don’t know that I have a grasp on the greater world of Babylon 5 to truly place this episode within a larger portrait of this galaxy. Capitalism must still be a thing, it seems, since money is one of the reasons why Dr. Hendricks is motivated to be an utter turd. We get another glimpse of the strange “underside” of the station that suggests that there is either a fashionable underworld or actual poverty on Babylon 5. But I suspect the actual issue here is that Dr. Hendricks, through Interplanetary Expeditions, also wants to gain an upper hand in the galaxy through technological theft. That’s why it’s so disturbing that EarthForce confiscates all the artifacts. This is not a utopia in any sense, and human prejudice appears to be very much alive, though this is directed toward non-humans. (Is there human-human oppression? Does our history still exist in this world? There is a reference to World War II and Nazis here, so it feels somewhat safe to say that there is a chance that our histories are the same… up to a point.) So, possible future plots about people on Earth wanting to keep Earth just for humans? Maybe?
And maybe this episode is introducing that stuff, but it’s also really cheesy when it resolves the actual conflict at hand, and I like… can’t really fathom how Sinclair just talked that creature into RIPPING OUT ITS OWN HEART? Granted, it was attached to Nelson’s body so I get that it’s not exactly that, but the big confrontation at the end of this episode is not subtle at all. I get that it may not have been intended to be, but it just didn’t stick the landing, at least not for me. These artifacts are more interesting from a biological perspective rather than an ideological one, and I wanted to know more about “living” ships and tools, especially since other species apparently have them. (I totally want to see the Vorlons again, too.)
In the end, my major issue with “Infection” is that it deals with everything at a surface level, and much of this is never given the time it needs to develop into something truly interesting. I wanted more of Dr. Franklin’s past, but didn’t get any. I think it would have been cool to talk about the ethical conundrum of using tools or devices or ships that were living and possibly sentient. Then there’s the subplot with the news reporter, which made no real sense to me. We get another reminder that Garibaldi was fired from 5 other positions, but for the most part, that character felt like they exist just to be annoying. Which is weird! She had a job to do, and the station’s secrecy and stubbornness is not a positive quality. It’s that whole trope where journalists exist just to be a thorn in the side of people who are doing good but cannot be bothered to be held accountable by anyone else. You’re just getting in the way! Don’t question us!
I am a patient viewer, mind you, so I don’t consider this something that’ll detract from experience. I like to give shows a while to hit their stride, but this was Not That Good. In a lot of ways.
The video for “Infection” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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