In the third episode of the fifth season of Babylon 5, THIS IS ALL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Babylon 5.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of genocide, trauma
Lord, this is a tough one, and I know that having so little of the story is part of the reason that I’m worried about where this is headed. “The Paragon of Animals” feels deliberately uncomfortable, though, and it’s written in a way that makes me question what it is The Alliance is doing and what Byron is doing, too. And I have complicated thoughts on this!
Let me first start by saying that the least complicated thoughts I have are all about Garibaldi. As he stands in season 5, he’s in a position that resembles his time as the Chief of Security, but there’s a detachment, a separation if you will, from the people he works with. I don’t feel like he’s as close to Sheridan and the others as he used to be. And I get that! Especially after the events of season 4. There will probably always be a distance there. Still, it is canon that while Garibaldi was manipulated by Bester and the Psi Corps, this was done by gently nudging Garibaldi towards his eventual fate. He did have issues with authority already; he wasn’t too sure of Sheridan’s role as the leader, either. So, with that in mind, the context provided here makes it clear he doesn’t quite believe in the Alliance itself, or at least many of its lofty, moral goals. Garibaldi is a pragmatic person, and his suggestion of using the telepaths for their own ends fits neatly within his beliefs. They are a means to an end, and he’s perhaps exactly the sort of person Byron is criticizing throughout this episode.
Thus, this episode is complicated because it provides two competing notions. Garibaldi pushes Lyta to make contact with the rogue telepaths living onboard the station after he is rightly rejected. And I don’t feel like Byron was being unreasonable! It is true that telepaths are often just asked to do things for other people; rarely do we see characters asking what they can do for telepaths. Even Sheridan, who is polite and thankful towards Lyta here, doesn’t exactly offer anything at all beyond allowed the rogue telepaths a place to live. So Byron’s rejection, if mean, is justified. Why should these people offer up their abilities if there’s so little in return? Plus, I can’t ignore that after Garibaldi finds out how traumatized Lyta was after being in someone’s mind WHILE THEY DIED, he basically asks her to put aside her own trauma to help him? Ugh, dude, there is a time and place for asking for favors, and right after that kind of confession is NOT THE RIGHT TIME.
But then we see exactly what happens when Byron does help out the Alliance. Granted, it was clear that he did so because he wants to recruit Lyta to join his movement, and that’s a whole separate thing I want to get to. But the intel that he provides to Lyta allows the Alliance to avoid an ambush and liberate the Enfili. Her actions had demonstrably good results, and she gets to see that. So, I’m thinking that this was a moment for Lyta to recognize her self worth, rather than her agreeing with Garibaldi that telepaths should work for the Alliance. I say that because Lyta’s struggle over the course of this show has been with her value. She used to have bigger quarters, which got downsized, and she used to play an important role in the resistance, but what does she do now? If the Alliance is celebrating their victory, but doing so without her, does that mean Byron is right about how these people will continue to treat her? Who is she now that she got conscripted into the Psi Corps? While she hasn’t fully switched sides, her courting of Byron’s ideas is an important step.
But where will she land? How do we get to that point we saw in “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”? I can feel the conflict brewing over the course of this episode, can see the ways in which desires and needs of telepaths and mundanes are in direct competition with one another. Does Byron plan on integrating himself in the Alliance to later have a means of using that to his advantage? It’s hard to tell because I don’t disagree with his assertion that the telepaths deserve the right of self-determination, that telepaths deserve not to be treated like tools or things to be used.
One other thing: G’Kar is a goddamn delight in this episode, and I love the little insight into writing and inspiration. But also: all my best shit comes through rewriting/editing! I rarely have good first drafts of fiction stuff, so I felt a kinship with G’Kar, who re-tooled the Declaration of Principles over and over again, even after it had already been signed by all the other parties. BLESS. I’m just happy to see him so happy.
The video for “The Paragon of Animals” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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