We’re back on track with our Ninth installment of the Babylon 5 Viewing Club!
The introductory post was here, The Soul Hunter was covered here, and Born to the Purple was covered right here. After that was Infection. Then came The Parliament of Dreams. Following on its heels was Mind War. Then, RTod covered War Prayer. After that, Patrick recapped Sky Full of Stars! Then Dman recapped Death Walker!
It’s very difficult to discuss this show without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot; if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Let’s get to the recap!
So we’re starting in Medlab. Already I reach for the bottle and refill my glass because, oh boy, we’ve got ourselves a Dr. Franklin episode. Uh-oh. There’s a kid. So we’ve got a Dr. Franklin With A Kid episode. He doesn’t have the ability to move! He doesn’t have the ability to act! Together, they fight crime! Well, let’s try to give this episode a chance…
Of course, the kid has something awful… wait, he goes out into the hallway with the parents and there’s a small exchange. The kid will be fine. It just takes a little trivial surgery and… the parents go nuts. No surgery. Nope. None. Animals are cut into. Moral Agents are Not. So It Was Written, So Will It Be Done. The doctor makes some small disagreement and, wham, the parents say “Nope. There’s a period at the end of our sentences.” And That Is That.
It was the dawn of the third age something something.
Ivanova (she’s from Russia (did you know that?)) is at her post and she explains to the Commander that, seriously, she’s earned dibs on the distress call that they just got. Commander Sinclair does that thing where he communicates that he just wants to end the conversation and nods his way into letting Ivanova into doing the recon/rescue of the “Asimov” (hrm, maybe I should google that… nah).
Well, we’re going to take a note from Dman and split the post up into two parts: the subplot portion and the plot plot portion. Ivanova vs. The Raiders is the subplot, let’s dispense with that first: Ivanova finds the Asimov, finds some Raiders, shoots them, finds a lot (A LOT A LOT) more Raiders, and shoots them too. The Asimov gets home safely. Yay. They point out to Ivanova that, seriously, her fighter got beat up bad. She points out that, yeah, she knows. She’s Russian. Now back to the Plot Plot.
Okay, this sets our major dilemma. The doctor goes to Sinclair and says “Order me to save the boy’s life” and Sinclair says “I don’t want to set a precedent.” The doctor throws the fact that Sinclair already set a precedent in the Pilot I haven’t seen and Sinclair says something to the effect of “Yeah, well, nobody’s seen that. I’m not resetting the precedent. BUT FOR THE RECORD, KOSH GOT POISONED AT ONE POINT AND IT WAS TREATABLE IN MED LAB.” (I imagine that that will be important in some future episode.) Anyway, Sinclair tells the doc that, no, I’m not going to order you… yet.
So the doctor goes back to the lab, tries a handful of other things and they all don’t work… but surgery *WILL* work. The doc tries to tell the parents this again and they explain to the doctor that, seriously, surgery will cause the child to lose his soul and loss of a soul is a fate worse than death. Find Another Way.
(I admit to yelling at the television at this point “SCOPE IT! NO SURGERY NECESSARY!” but, apparently, Arthroscopy of the kind I’m thinking of was more of a “oughts” phenomenon than a “nineties” one. If only the show had been written 15 years later, this would have been much easier…)
The doctor gives the child one of those things that was all the rage back in the 90’s: a piece of plastic that lit up when you hold it in your hand. Those and snap bracelets. Pogs! Where was I? Oh, the doctor gives the kid a piece of “industrial gel” but calls it a “Gloppett Egg” and tells the kid to pet it and, tah dah, the industrial gel glows a bit when he does. The kid looks to his parents for approval and they hrumph and haw and say, well, okay… but don’t talk religion to the egg!
Anyway, we’ve now reached an impasse. The doctor is pretty much telling the parents that he doesn’t give a rip about the religious beliefs of folks, the parents are going to Sinclair begging him to tell the doctor to stand down, and the kid is getting worse by the hour. Sinclair says that he needs time to think about it… which, of course, the parents interpret as him saying it the exact same way that people in authority always say it: I’ll Do What I’ll Do. As such, they start hitting up the people who show up in the credits for diplomatic help and this provides one of the most interesting moments in the show.
G’Kar offers his deepest sympathies but… what can you do for the Narn? The Narn do not intervene lightly, you see. Londo offers his deepest sympathies but points out the amount of paperwork and comes out and asks “Just how much Justice can you afford?”. Kosh, of all entities, entertains an audience and drops some science on them: “the avalanche has already started; It is too late for the pebbles to vote.” Finally, we stop by and see DeLenn and she says that she would totally support the people who are right and she has no idea whether the parents are right or whether the doctor is and so she can’t advocate either… not knowing who is right.
And so we’re back to Sinclair and Garibaldi and Sinclair explains that the folks back home on Earth refuse to intervene as well… so he does the obvious thing and he goes and talks to the boy. The boy himself lays out the problem quite eloquently: He does not want to die but he wants to follow the dictates of his culture’s religious faith. Yeah, kiddo… that’s what we want as well. We’re stuck having to choose one or the other. Oh, and the kid knows that the Gloppett Egg is Horse Hockey. Smart kid.
Which tells Sinclair everything that he needs to know. Sinclair tells the doctor that he’s choosing to side with the parents. The doctor, as expected, goes nuts and starts pulling out every dirty argument he has. Sinclair saw this coming and deflects them all handily. Hey, he doesn’t like it any more than the doctor but… it’s not their call to make. Humans can’t go around pushing their religious views on all of the other races.
The parents thank Sinclair for his objectivity and there’s this seriously touching scene where the parents and the child are talking and saying their goodbyes without acknowledging that they are saying their goodbyes. “When you were hatched, I could hold you in one hand and I was so proud of you” and I’m getting all misty just thinking about it. (When I watched this episode the first time, I was a bit tipsy and I absolutely lost it. Sobbing in my chair watching this interchange between the parents and the kid… dang, You never saw this stuff from Picard, I tell you what.) This little exchange between the parents and the kids changed the episode for me… I had seen them as ignorant backwater aliens who should have known better. This scene? They were parents who love their child to distraction and are making the hardest decision they’ve ever had to make and they’re doing their darnedest to make the right one. No matter what.
The parents leave and the doctor says “Good, now it’s my turn to make the right decision” and he gets ready to operate.
The operation is, of course, a simple one and is, of course, successful as these things tend to be measured by humans. When the parents come back into medlab, they see the kid all bright and shiny and obviously better… which tells them that something has gone terribly wrong and they start chanting protective wards and back out of the lab.
Sinclair is livid and the doctor has all of the certainty of a guy who just did what he knows to have been the right thing and they have a pretty interesting argument about medical ethics. “Who asked you to play God?” “EVERY SINGLE PATIENT THAT WALKS IN MY DOOR!” and this argument is interrupted by a summon to the medlab. They go back down and they find the parents are calm and not chanting anything and they explain to the doctor that they know that he was only doing what human doctors do and, while they cannot forgive the unforgivable, they understand that he wasn’t trying to hurt anybody, he was only trying to help. Hey, the kid even has a traveling robe. Sweet.
The doctor chooses this moment to be all smirky.
A while later, we see the doctor doing some light wikipedia searches on the whole traveling robe thing and FREAKS OUT and runs down the hallway to find… yep. The parents have killed the kid. “Don’t grieve,” they tell the doctor. “His soul was already gone. We just ended the misery of the shell.”
And so we’re back in Sinclair’s office and the doc asks “Do you want my resignation?” “Not this time,” Sinclair says. And gives one of those morals that adults know but we don’t tell kids: “Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t change anything.”
Oh, and that’s the point of the Ivanova sub-plot. It makes it so this episode doesn’t end on a *TOTAL* downer. She survived insurmountable odds.
Glad someone did.
Anyhow, this was a great episode. It make the doctor interesting (something I was sure wasn’t going to happen), it had an important discussion of the ethics of medicine, the ethics of culture/religion, and we saw some very interesting interplay between the main races and the less advanced ones… but, knowing what I know about G’Kar, I’m suspicious that they could have made a decent episode where he decided to advocate on behalf of the parents. He’s a religious leader of sorts (we see this in a couple of episodes) and it might have been interesting to see that tension… but, alas. It was not to be.
What did y’all think?