Mark Watches ‘Babylon 5’: S02E08 – A Race Through Dark Places

In the eighth episode of the second season of Babylon 5, my soul left my body during this episode. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of fascism, consent, nonconsensual medical procedures, and sexual assault

Holy shit. Just… what do I say? How do I deal with an episode this huge and upsetting and disturbing? WHAT IS THIS SHOW DOING TO ME.

Delenn

I’ll start with a couple “lighter” items, though, because H E L P. Oh my god, can we talk about how great Sheridan and Delenn’s scenes are? I’m glad the show is now going to start exploring Delenn’s transformation in a little more detail. Here, most of it is cultural rather than talking about the physical points, and I appreciated that. It’s weird to think about it, but I hadn’t ever seen Delenn sit down and have a meal with someone. Right??? There was that scene last season with the banquet (and drunk Mollari), but otherwise, this was a first. What exactly do the Minbari eat? What’s their cuisine like? Is she adapting to human cuisine, or does she still eat what the Minbari usually do?

While many of those questions aren’t answered, there is a hint that Sheridan and Delenn might have some chemistry with one another. WHICH IS VERY INTERESTING. There are, more or less, three pairings across “A Race Through Dark Places” that explore characters getting to know one another and what that actually means, and this one is probably the one most divorced from any sort of conflict. I AM INTRIGUED.

Rent

I’m fascinated by the decision to have capitalism still exist within the framework of this show, and Sheridan’s battle against paying rent was SO ENTERTAINING. And look, I totally agree with him and his refusal to pay those credits because it’s absurd, unfair, and a sign of how badly run the budget must be. For something that is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, it is always easier to take that out of larger allocations. And yet, governments across the world always seem to go after individuals and those with the most to lose. Granted, I’m sure Ivanova and Sheridan have a fine salary with Earth Force, but STILL. They do so much, and I feel it’s absolutely fair that their lodgings remain part of their compensation for their job. Part of me feels like Sheridan’s solution is a neat little reference to Sinclair’s resolution of the workers’ rights issue last season. He twists the rules and hopes that’ll help him get away with this issue while also adding a bit of poetic justice to it all. Right???

Psi Corps

I’m curious if the reason for the episodes being switched in this batch is because of how well this story flows after Talia’s discovery at the end of “Spider in the Web.” Talia got confirmation that a Psi Corps officer was involved in something intensely immortal and awful, but she chose to lie to Sheridan about what she witnessed in Abel’s mind. Here, though, Talia’s denial is tested so much so that she has to admit that the organization that raised her is not who they say they are. There’s a fascinating contrast between this episode and the last one: compare Talia’s story about the first mentor she had in Psi Corps with any of the stories that the “rogue” telepaths tell here. It seems very certain that there are two organizations being discussed, but that’s not the case. For those who obey Psi Corps, who are loyal to them as an organization, the Psi Corps must be an incredibly comfortable and nurturing place to grow up in. But that’s the distinction here: anyone who disagrees with them becomes collateral damage. An experiment. 

And the things that Psi Corps did to some of these people—which we saw before in Jason Ironheart—was real hard to hear. Experimentation, forcing them to develop higher psi levels, nonconsensual impregnations and stealing their babies… GOOD LORD. It’s just… how do you even talk about that without sounding trite? The way the show communicates all of this to the audience, though, is brilliant. There are so many scenes in this episode in which people get to know someone else: Sheridan and Delenn; Talia and Bester; Talia and Ivanova (HELP ME); and then, the victims of Psi Corps’ horrific policies tell Talia the truth. It’s notable, too, that while she initially refuses to scan any of these people because she’s in denial, it appears that she ultimately scans no one because she believes them. She believes their stories, and then decides to join forces with them to manipulate Bester into believing they died and are no longer a problem.

AND WHAT A FUCKING SCENE, Y’ALL. After Dr. Franklin revealed that he had set up this system (and I do feel uncomfortable about the show co-opting the notion of an underground railroad; I think a better term could have been used rather than one that referenced such a specific reality), I thought that was all she needed. Someone who wasn’t even a telepath had found a way to help these people, so how could she ignore them? Dr. Franklin surely had medical evidence of what had been done to these people. That’s why the fake betrayal was so shocking to see. Y’ALL, I WAS SO WORRIED THAT TALIA HAD DONE SOMETHING COMPLETELY UNFORGIVABLE. WHEW. Y’all need to apologize to me IN LETTER FORM for making me suffer for those two minutes, because WHAT THE FUCK. 

This is such an incredible step forward for Talia’s character. She has to change at this point, and I’m fascinated by how the show might address this from here on out. Bester’s surely coming back, and the Psi Corps continues their descent into a pseudo-fascist organization. But I’m not gonna lie: the most thrilling development out of all of this is the growth of Talia’s friendship with Ivanova. YES, PLEASE, I WANT IT FOREVER AND EVER, THANK YOU.

The video for “A Race Through Dark Places” can be downloaded here for $0.99. 

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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