In the sixth episode of the first season of Babylon 5, YES. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent, medical experimentation
This really felt like the first episode of Babylon 5 that has congealed into something both entertaining and indicative of what might be coming on this show. Both the main plot and the subplot are interesting, hint at bigger stories to come, and also contain an element that seems characteristic of the show: no easy answers. LET US DISCUSS.
Actually, if there’s anything that might be a giant neon sign to hint at the greater theme of Babylon 5, it is likely found in G’Kar’s words to Catherine: nothing on this station is what it seems. We know that to be the case with Sinclair, for example, who still holds some secret meaning to the Minbari. (And in that case, Sinclair himself doesn’t even know that he is not what he seems!) The motivations, alliances, and influences at work in this universe are confusing, secretive, and nebulous, and I’ve noticed that this appears to be a common motif thus far. This is all way more complicated than it seems, but Catherine thinks that she’s got it figured out. When Catherine’s work brings her information of a possible scouting location, she believes that G’Kar’s warnings about Sigma 957 are part of some devious plan. And look, I completely understand why that is her reaction! I don’t exactly trust G’Kar myself, and it’s easy to believe that the Narn just want Sigma 957 to themselves. So when G’Kar contacted his people to send an fighter ship to her location, I figured this was all a trap, a chance for the Narn to take advantage of whatever Catherine found.
JUST KIDDING, THERE’S SOME REALLY FUCKED UP SHIP/UNKNOWN ORIGIN THAT IS OLDER THAN PRETTY MUCH ALL LIFE THAT LIVES THERE. What the fuck, y’all??? It’s such a delightful twist on expectations! G’Kar knew what was there, and he knew that Catherine would eventually need help, so he just helped her. Perhaps there is an ulterior motive to this, but the fun of this plot comes from what is suggested. Maybe G’Kar isn’t such an awful person; maybe there are moral layers to him that I’ve just not seen; maybe the Narn are not what I think either. (And granted, I must acknowledge I don’t know that much about them in just six episodes and a film.) But this idea of ancient beings who roam space and are basically impossible to understand is SO FUCKING COOL. Can we please have more of this??? One thing that’s been great about the show is how many non-humanoid creatures we’ve gotten, and I feel like these ancient beings are also SUPER WEIRD. yes. Yes. YES.
Thank y’all for not spoiling Walter Koenig’s appearance on this show, and I DESPERATELY WANT MORE. And while Koenig’s performance as Psi Cop Bester is one of the reasons I enjoyed “Mind War” as much as I did, this story finally felt like one of the more complete and thrilling ones. The premiere introduced us to Talia, but it also gave us the first bit of information on how fucked up the Psi-Corps has been, since they drove Ivanova’s mother to death with their policies. Here, though, there’s no imagining just how rigid and invasive this organization is. Without ever asking, they constantly violate the consent of everyone around them in the name of law enforcement. It’s all justified because they’re trying to keep the world “safe,” and here we are, twenty-five years later, and law enforcement officials at the city, county, state, and federal level are STILL USING THE SAME BULLSHIT LOGIC in order to violate the rights of citizens. They’re a haunting, violent force throughout this episode, and Koenig’s acting helps demonstrate how much joy Bester and his Psi-Cop partner feel as the continue to violate everyone they come in contact with.
At the heart of this story, though, is Jason Ironheart, Talia’s old teacher at Psi-Corps. If Koenig’s performance had not been enough to sell me on the idea, then Psi-Corps’ experimentation on Jason certainly would have done it. Combined, however, they paint a picture of domination and terror. This is not a fluffy world of diplomacy, even if Babylon 5 exists to bring peace to the world. Rather, I’m getting a sense for how volatile the galaxy is, how desperate many species are to have the upper hand when it comes to power. Thus, whichever side controls the most powerful telepaths might have the definitive advantage. It lends a feeling to the worldbuilding as a whole: at any given moment, the galaxy might tip into war if one party gets just enough power.
Which is where Jason comes in. He exists as evidence that the experiments to give telepaths the power of telekinesis has succeeded, but it has come at great cost to Jason and some of the people around him. William Allen Young plays Jason with a frightened paranoia, and it’s for good reason: the Psi-Corps are hunting him down because they know that Jason is a sign of the violent potential of their experimental program. Oh, they don’t want to help him; they’re far more interested in exploiting him, which very well could lead to his death and inevitable dissection as nothing more than a medical anomaly.
He’s also intimately tied to his past through Talia. I do wonder if they had a relationship while she was in school, if only because that power dynamic can be kinda sketchy, but it wasn’t addressed within the script. Rather, the show only hints at what their past is like, suggesting that both were once incredibly close. It’s why he seeks her out over anyone else! He trusts her to help him with his predicament, and that act alone helps to build this sense of history. I did find myself curious as to what Talia truly felt about the Psi-Corps. Since joining the crew of Babylon 5, she’s had two major confrontations that exposed the horrific nature of this organization. Here, she watches Koenig and his partner try to murder Jason, even though his condition is LITERALLY Psi-Corps’ fault. It’s a clear and obvious example of injustice. And while she clearly disagrees with it, I wanna see if she stands up to Psi-Corps in the future. How is Jason’s gift to Talia—which grants her the beginnings of telekinesis—going to affect her?
This was a really solid episode, and I hope to see more like it in the future!
The video for “Mind War” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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