Monday, December 07, 2015

Babylon 5: Deathwalker

I am re-watching the entire Babylon 5 television series. I had not seen a single episode since B5 completed its tumultuous run. Does J. Michael Straczynski still have the touch? Come along and find out.

In Valen's Name: Na'Toth attacks an alien, recently arrived from Minbari space, accusing her of being the war criminal "Deathwalker" from the Dilgar War 30 years prior. Deathwalker was a cruel and sadistic mass murderer and medical experimenter along the lines of Josef Mengele. Rumors spread throughout the station, and it is soon revealed that the woman in question is indeed Deathwalker, the last of her species (Earth Alliance's entry into the war turned the tide and drove the Dilgar back to their home system, where their sun conveniently went nova). And here things become tricky. The League of Non-Aligned Worlds demand she be tried for her crimes, but the Narn, Centauri and even Minbari had collaborated with either Deathwalker or the Dilgar during the war (despite being victimized and/or repulsed by the Dilgar's ruthless tactics) and block the trial. To make matters worse, Deathwalker claims to have invented an elixir that grants immunity from age or disease. All the major powers are locked in a bidding war for it, as Deathwalker's ageless appearance seems to validate her claims. Prior to departing the station, Deathwalker gloats that the elixir can only be created through the death of living beings, so essentially one must die for another to live forever. Thus, whichever race gains the secret to her elixir will become savage and hated throughout the galaxy for farming other races to fuel their immortality. As she flies away, a Vorlon warship pops out of hyperspace and blows her up. The end.

What Jayme Says: Talk about a heavy-handed metaphor. There are no heroes here among the alien races, as even Earth tries to gain control of the elixir despite Deathwalker's abhorrent history. That's cool. I like morally ambiguous, no-win scenarios as much as anyone, but the show takes the cheap way out with the Vorlons eliminating the macgffin, justifying their intervention by saying the younger races aren't ready for immortality. No mention of moral or ethical concerns is mentioned by the Vorlons, so I can only assume had they deemed one of the younger races "ready" then enslavement and harvest of other species' lives would've been hunky-dory with them? And that doesn't even being to address the fact that all the proof Deathwalker offered that her little vial of elixis was genuine was the fact that she appeared 30 years younger than she actually was. I mean, maybe she'd found a really good plastic surgeon and filled that vial with her own piss in a grand "F- you" gesture? It's just absurd. Every one of the alien races is ready to go to war at the drop of a hat over this Deathwalker, a decision based solely on rumor and speculation. What a mess. The subplot of the episode, of Vorlon Ambassador Kosh hiring telepath Talia Winters to mentally scan a cyborg (who is secretly recording said telepathic scans) is weird and intriguing but ultimately irrelevant. It's a particularly attractive piece of parsley garnishing the main dish.

All in all, very much a by-the-numbers, wrap-it-up-in-45-minutes episode. Skip it and you don't miss much, other than the fact that Vorlons are weird and powerful. Yet we already knew that.

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1 comment:

  1. Sinclair's decisions in "Deathwalker" had a more pivotal importance in the episode "Eyes" (series 1). That's what makes this debut season so interesting: plot elements are spread implicitly throughout every single episode... except perhaps "Infection". The subplot is like an exercise in style and is meant to better introduce the characters, like other episodes written by DiTillio ("TKO", "Born to the Purple" & of course "Eyes"). Interesting review by the way ;)

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