In the sixth episode of the third season of Babylon 5, a telepath-inducing drug spreads through the station, bringing the attention of the Psi-Corps. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of drug addiction, consent.
What the FUCK, y’all. This show never goes in the direction I think it’s going in! WHY IS IT LIKE THIS!!!!
Both of the plots in “Dust to Dust” are a LOT to deal with, and both of them are reliant on a whole lot of serialization to understand. In the case of Bester, the show builds off of his multiple appearances at this point, and thus, his role in this episode is different than usual. It has to be. Given what Bester has done to these people—especially in light of his last visit to the station!!—the crew have to treat him with care. He doesn’t care about the law or consent or personal privacy, and I certainly did not believe him when he said that he nothing to do with the program that put Talia Winters. (ALSO: THAT LINE ABOUT HER BEING DISSECTED. NO. WHY MUST YOU HURT ME LIKE THIS.) So, I get Ivanova’s reaction to Bester and the extremity of her reaction. This isn’t just about her issues with Psi-Corps or with telepaths. This is personal. Bester and his organization took someone away from her that she could have loved. What would they be willing to do to all of them if they learned the truth of the Rangers? Of their resistance effort? Killing Bester was realistic for Ivanova, at least in the sense that she WOULD be willing to sacrifice her own career to save others.
But despite that Bester willingly allows himself to be injected with a drug that suppresses his telepathic abilities, HE’S STILL TERRIFYING. I expected him to be off his game without his telepathy, but this show brilliant demonstrates that his ability is just a tool; it’s Bester’s core philosophy and behavior that’s toxic and frightening. In a way, he comes across as more frightening than before because of how certain he is throughout this episode. He walks into every room sure of the fact that he’s going to get exactly what he wants. Granted, the final scene of the episode reveals that there was an ulterior motive the entire time, but I think this goes beyond that. Bester thrives off fear and paranoia, and he knows it. He knows his job inspires it, as does the uniform he wears. And in his own twisted way, I bet he does truly believe that he’s doing what’s best. UGH, IT’S TOO REAL! This is too familiar! Y’all, the whole bit where the Psi-Corps actually created the very drug that they’re criminalizing? NOT FICTION, OKAY.
This episode is just viciously uncomfortable. With the Night Watch and the Ministry of Peace ramping up their attacks on civil liberties (please stop being relevant, Babylon 5, I am begging you), the Psi-Corps just feels like another arm of suppression, one Bester is gleefully willing to be a part of. There’s also that chilling moment where Bester points to Garibaldi’s uniform as a casual reminder that he also sometimes relies on intimidation, manipulation, and paranoia in order to achieve his ends. Granted, I don’t think he’s operating at the same level as Bester, but he IS in law enforcement, and I appreciate that this is mentioned, too. Which is a perfect segue to the OTHER major plot in “Dust to Dust.”
There are parallels drawn here, but they’re meant to be reflected on. As Bester refers to Garibaldi’s uniform, he asks Garibaldi a question that we can ask ourselves: what power does a uniform convey? Who gives it that power, and how often do figures in power abuse this? There is a similar question asked of G’Kar, but it comes in a different context and involves equivalencies and violence. I’m fascinated by how “Dust to Dust” is the vehicle by which G’Kar learns the truth about Londo’s role in the destruction of the Narn because of where it ends up. G’Kar’s need for revenge has been well-established at this point, despite that he’s successfully avoided getting that revenge a few times. (Or, in the case of the elevator, that chance was simply denied him.) He comes close, but for various reasons, it hasn’t happened yet.
So G’Kar’s test of Dust leads him naturally to a place in which he can enact revenge, and I can’t deny that it’s a TERRIFYING weapon. Y’all, it’s so personal. Which is the point! This isn’t just psychic warfare; it’s a chance for violence to have a sense of poetic justice. When G’Kar is high on Dust, he seeks out Londo so he can inflict his own personal suffering on to him. And I get why that’s attractive to G’Kar! It absolutely makes sense within his characterization that he would want to do this to Londo. It would allow Londo to finally understand how he feels, how the Narns feel about what has been done to them.
I admit that I’m still eager to see how Londo deals with knowing all of this, but I understand why the focus shifts to G’Kar instead. Ambassador Kosh’s nudging of G’Kar is a HUGE moment, and it happens right when G’Kar learns something that would seemingly justify his revenge. But that is when Kosh appears as G’Kar’s father and an angel-like creature, and the message Kosh imparts is striking: don’t forget the greater war. The war with the Shadows is more important that this battle, even if this battle seems important at the time. This appearance causes a complete shift in G’Kar’s temperament. He accepts his fate, which in this case includes a sixty-day sentence in the brig. He doesn’t fight at ALL, and the peace in his being feels so surreal. How long is this going to last? At what point does he shed this for the war against the Shadows??? I want to see if this vision will have the effect that Kosh intended it to have.
HE’S IN JAIL, Y’ALL.
The video for “Dust to Dust” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff