Hi everyone! We’ve been away for a while, but we’re getting towards some of the best episodes Babylon 5 has to offer, so it’s worth getting restarted. We’re on the fourth episode of Season 3.
We open to Sheridan and Brother Theo playing chess and discussing religion, while Ivanova and another monk watch. Theo wins, and introduces Brother Edward, who makes some form of crystal or glass artwork and prefers giving them away rather than selling them.
Meanwhile, Lyta Alexander has returned to the station aboard a Vorlon ship. Cut to opening credits. (Lyta is a telepath on the run from the Psi Corps who came to the station last season and revealed Talia’s buried, treacherous personality.)
Talia explains how she managed to get to Vorlon space. She hazarded her life to contact them, and at the last minute they responded, and brought her to their homeworld. She’s back on the station to work for Kosh, who can protect her from the Psi Corps. Everyone is creeped out by this development.
Meanwhile, Brother Edward is discussing data processing services from a client, and finds a mysterious black rose with his bag.
Delenn shows up in Garibaldi’s office to request increased security for a Minbari trade delegation, and they watch a news broadcast describing a serial killer being sentenced to ‘death of personality’. This is pretty obviously an introduction to the concept (as well as for illustrating the difference between Garibaldi’s and Delenn’s perspectives). Death of personality is a full mindwipe, destroying all a person’s memories and personality, and replacing them with a new, good, altruistic personality that will serve society for the rest of their lives.
It’s supposedly more ‘humane’ than the death penalty, but I find it far worse and more disturbing. Free will is what makes us people. Take away free will and we’re just automatons, walking around. I oppose the death penalty, but I’d prefer the death penalty, that lets someone die as themselves (even if ‘themself’ is a truly abhorrent person), to turning them into someone else by force. It’s a denial of the essence of what makes us sapient beings.
Garibaldi, being a bloody-minded security type, dislikes it for the more mundane reason that he doesn’t find it vengeful enough. Delenn replies with ‘an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind’. “No,” says Garibaldi, “just the bad guys”. Garibaldi has a very simple morality.
Franklin’s medical check-up of Lyta finds that she’s not only healthy, she’s healthier than when she left, and some chronic conditions have resolved themselves.
Brother Edward finds a wall reading “death walks among you”, but when he return with Garibaldi, the words are gone.
Londo accosts Lyta and she rebuffs him. He threatens to expose her to the Psi Corps. She provides a truly epic threat in response: to plant a nightmare in his head so deep it could never be removed , so he would spend every night for the rest of his life screaming. “Who’d notice?” Londo says to himself ruefully.
Between this and mindwipes, you get a good sense of why telepaths can scare the hell out of people. Corps or no Corps, that’s a lot of power to do things that awake our most visceral fears.
Brother Edward interviews Delenn about Minbari religious beliefs. They believe the universe is conscious and searching for meaning through manifesting in sapient beings. Delenn asks Brother Edward about the core of his beliefs. Edward speaks of Jesus Christ spending the night before his crucifixion in the garden of Gethsemane, pleading with God to take this cup from him, to spare him from dying. He chose to stay, and willingly sacrifice himself to atone for the sins of mankind. Edward says he wonders if he would have had the courage to stay.
As Edward leaves the elevator on his way back to his quarters, a Centauri ruins into him. After the Centauri leaves, he hears screaming and pleas for help, and the works “Hey Charlie” and “you killed her”, and sees “death walks among you” again. He finds himself running through water, hears dogs and sirens, and stumbles across a body with a black rose in its mouth. In his memories, he sees himself with a black rose and a knife in his hand. Frightened, he speaks to Brother Theo. He also has the computer cross-reference the things he’s seen. What would be a fairly simple Google search in 2014 apparently takes four hours in 2260, although this can perhaps be rationalized by there being far more information available that can be searched.
Brother Theo comes to Captain Sheridan about the problem. At this point, given the prior content of the episode, it’s quite clear that Brother Edward is someone whose previous identity was subjected to death of personality. Theo asks Sheridan to look into the issue and find out what’s going on before Theo does.
Garibaldi says the lab found no trace of blood on the wall where Edward saw the letters. But Brother Edward’s analysis finds that he was once serial killer Charles Dexter (do I spy a Lovecraft reference?), also known as the Black Rose Killer. Garibaldi gets back to Sheridan with the same information. After the mindwipe Dexter was caught in a fire and presumed dead, which explain why nobody ran across this information before.
Edward is tormented by the discovery that he was a monster. He feels that the mindwipe deprived him of the opportunity for confession and atonement. Theo assures him that God can forgive his sins even if Edward does not remember them, but Edward is not comforted.
Garibaldi finds that Brother Edward wasn’t hallucinating – the words and voices were real, which means that someone is after him, seeking revenge. They deduce that the Centauri he ran into was a telepath, who broke the mindwipe. They find the telepath and, predictably, use Lyta to get the information on Edward’s location from him.
Edward, praying, waits for the people who have hunted him – the families of his victims. Only one man among them still wants to kill him. When Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Theo get there, they find Brother Edward tied to a cross, bloody, with a knife stuck in his back. “Forgive them,” Brother Edward says. Now he knows he had the courage to stay at his Gethsemane, dying for his own sins (or those of his previous personality). He is afraid he cannot be forgiven, and Theo assures him that God will forgive.
Sheridan and Theo discuss justice, revenge, and forgiveness. Edward’s murderer enters as Brother Malcolm, a new member of the order whom Theo specifically requested. Theo reminds Sheridan that “forgiveness is a hard thing, but something ever to strive for”. Sheridan shakes hands with Brother Malcolm.
In the episode’s ending, Lyta stands in Kosh’s quarters. His encounter suit is open, and a glowing light flows between it and her eyes and mouth.
As I see it, there are two issues at the core of this episode. One is the ethics surrounding the death of personality. What justice does it provide to the criminal? To the victims? Is it less or more cruel than the death penalty? I’ve already given my thoughts on this, but I’m curious as to what others think.
The other issue is telepathy. Between the ability to delete someone’s entire being and memories, Lyta’s threat to Londo, and Lyta’s implied ability to utterly destroy the mind of the Centauri telepath she scans, it’s easy to see why people would be frightened of telepaths, whether in the Psi Corps or out of it.
albeit a bit roughly
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