Babylonia!

If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here.

This week, it’s Season 3, Episode 14: “Ship of Tears”, recapped by Katherine!

It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss 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.

Hey, if you use Firefox, there’s a simple plug-in that makes this as easy as highlighting text, search Add Ons for “Leet Key” and you’re good to go.

Katherine’s editorial note: this is one of the few Season 3 episodes I don’t have a strong memory of; I remember the broad strokes, but not details. So I’m going to recap it while re-watching, and you get to see me guess about things.

Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!

In the opening, ISN is back but broadcasting Clark’s propaganda. While testing out new Starfuries, Sheridan picks up a distress call from an Earth ship and checks it out, but it’s a ploy by PsiCop Bester. He replies to Sheridan’s hail before Sheridan’s in visual range, which is an error by Bester as Sheridan deliberately stays out of visual range so Bester can’t scan him. Or else Bester doesn’t care about reading his mind at the moment. Bester chose this method of getting in contact because if he just flew straight to Babylon 5 they’d shoot him down. Bester’s only reason why they should leave him alive is curiosity about why he’s out there; after a pause which makes Bester visibly nervous (satisfying to see), Sheridan agrees to allow him on B5. Which to me seems like a <i>monumentally stupid</i> decision for as trivial a reason as curiosity, given how many secrets the B5 command staff are privy to.

G’Kar pushes Ivanova to follow through on the promise Babylon 5 made to let him in on the alliance they’re building (in return for his provision of Narns as station security personnel during and after the rebellion against Earth). It’s been at least several weeks since then, so the B5 staff have clearly been delaying any follow-through on their end of the bargain.

Bester is met in the docking bay by a security team. The command staff are not pleased with this, but Franklin points out that everything especially incriminating that they know relates to things they’ve already done (exposing Clark’s murder of President Santiago; breaking away from Earth). However, if PsiCorps is working with the Shadows – definitely possible, given that we viewers have seen Morden working with EarthGov in previous episodes – then Bester finding out the station staff are already aware of and resisting the Shadows could be disastrous.

Sheridan asks Ivanova to go in first to talk to Bester. As a latent telepath, she’ll know if he scans her; if he doesn’t, the station staff can reasonably trust him not to scan the rest of them. However, if he scans her, he’ll also know she’s a latent telepath – that doesn’t create an immediate problem, as B5 is independent and PsiCorps has no jurisdiction there, but if B5 ever reunite with Earth it would create serious problems for Ivanova. Sheridan promises that if Bester does read her they’ll keep Bester in the brig until he dies, and Ivanova agrees. She also tells Sheridan about G’Kar’s demand.

Bester decides to be a massive troll in his conversation with Ivanova, which suggests that his overwhelming need to be a dick overpowers even simple self-preservation, as he’s in the power of people who would very much enjoy killing him. He claims that Ivanova and the others hate him out of jealousy and recognition of their own obsolescence compared to telepaths. Which may be true about telepaths in general, but he’s not making the argument because he believes it about himself personally – he’s got to be perfectly aware that people hate him because, as stated, he’s a dick.

Bester says that President Clark is not truly in charge back home, but is being controlled by aliens called…the Shadows. He wants to prevent this because he wants telepaths to be ruling the world, not aliens, and he especially doesn’t like it that the Shadows have infiltrated and are manipulating the PsiCorps. He say he knows of a way to hurt the Shadows.

Sheridan talks to Delenn, acknowledging that they’ve both been putting off letting G’Kar in on their information about the Shadows. Sheridan doesn’t know how to tell him that they deliberately let the Centauri conquer his world and murder his people, in order to avoid tipping off the Shadows. Delenn says she’ll tell G’Kar herself, as the decision was her responsibility, and she and Kosh were the ones who insisted Sheridan keep quiet.

Bester reports there is a ship in Sector 500 carrying supplies for the Shadows, accompanied by six starfighters, and encourages them to capture the ship – not to destroy it. He can help them locate the ship, as hyperspace amplifies telepathic signals; this is an ability telepaths have kept to themselves, as otherwise the military might start putting them in front-line combat. “We’re not expendable. Mundanes are.”

Delenn confesses to G’Kar that she knew the Shadows had returned and were backing the Centauri, and that they deliberately chose not to confirm his story when he returned from Z’ha’dum with information about the Shadows. G’Kar asks who “they” were. She says the Grey Council, of which she was a part at that time. She would not disobey the council’s decision. “So you stayed silent,” G’Kar says with pain, “and with the help of these Shadows the Centauri destroyed my world, enslaved or killed millions of my people.” Delenn says that if they had spoken out it would have changed nothing, and the Shadows would have struck openly and destroyed all of the Narn. “We had to choose between the death of millions and the death of billions.”

Guvf jbhyq or n fgebatre nethzrag pbzvat sebz fbzrbar jub unqa’g fgnegrq gur Rnegu-Zvaonev Jne; jub unqa’g pnhfrq gur qrngu bs zvyyvbaf bs uhznaf bire gur qrngu bs n fvatyr Zvaonev. Vs bar Zvaonev qrngu jneenagf n jne, jung jbhyq n zvyyvba Zvaonev qrnguf jneenag? Ubj znal uhzna be Anea yvirf ner jbegu bar Zvaonev yvsr? N uhaqerq? N gubhfnaq? N zvyyvba? V bowrpg gb guvf nethzrag orpnhfr V xabj va zl obarf gung Furevqna jbhyq arire, arire unir nterrq gb vg vs gur pbadhrfg, qrinfgngvba, naq rafynirzrag bs Rnegu jnf gur pbafrdhrapr; gung Qryraa jbhyq arire unir nterrq gb vg vs gur fhssrevat sryy ba gur Zvaonev engure guna gur Anea. Gb gvr vagb Orfgre’f fgngrzrag, Anea ner rkcraqnoyr; Zvaonev ner abg.

G’Kar says he had already discovered much of what Delenn has just told him about the Centauri, but he was not aware that she knew and said nothing. “Had I learned this as my world was being bombed by the Centauri, I would have killed you instantly.” Delenn’s face looks like she’d be okay with letting him. “Some must be sacrificed for all to be saved,” G’Kar says, quoting the vision of his father that Kosh sent to him. “At first I took that as a revelation for the future. Now I see that it is as much about how we got here, as about where we are going. I think that one sentence is the greatest burden I have ever known.” He agrees that Delenn’s assessment of the situation is true; Delenn and Sheridan revealing the Shadows’ presence would have destroyed the Narn, not saved them. Delenn admits him to the council. “Perhaps some day, when all of this is over, you will find it in your heart to forgive me.” “Perhaps,” says G’kar, “but not today.”

The White Star goes to intercept the Shadow-aligned ship. It shoots down the Shadow starfighters, which aren’t too tough, and captures the transport. A large Shadow ship is with the starfighters, but doesn’t attack. Sheridan asks Bester if he knows what is in the captured ship. Bester says he was told it contained weapons supplies.

What the ship actually contains are people, people who appear to be in agony, in cases with PsiCorps logos. The transport pilot appears to have killed itself with acid rather than be captured, and Franklin cannot recognize its species. There are about 100 telepaths all told aboard the ship, in cryogenic syspension. Sheridan confronts Bester about lying; Bester says he assumed that they wouldn’t go out of their way to rescue Psi Corps members. (He is utterly misunderstanding them; they don’t dislike telepaths as people, they dislike the PsiCorps as an organization that acts cruelly towards many people – including telepaths.) Bester was using Exact Words: he <i>was</i> “told” that the ship contained weapons systems, but he later learned that it was carrying telepaths.

The unconscious telepaths have metallic implants in their heads. One of them, a red-haired woman, wakes up and screams in agony. Based on the bracelets the telepaths are wearing, Bester identifies them as “blips” – rogue telepaths who refused to join the Corps or take suppressor drugs. (Refer to what I just said about the Corps treating telepaths badly.) When captured, they are sent to re-education camps. Bester’s face changes in the middle of his examination of the bracelet, and he demands to see the woman who was wearing the bracelet.

Inside her mind, the telepathic woman sees strange aliens (who appear to be the same species as the transport’s pilot) leaning over her, experimenting on her, and then sees a Shadow ship. Her trauma sets off sparks in equipment all over the part of Medlab where she is being kept. She surrounds herself with wires, and seems to have gained some control over parts of the station, but is still in great pain. “Al…Alfred,” she says, seeing Bester. “Help me.” Then she sees his PsiCop badge and abruptly attacks it with lightning. Garibaldi draws his weapon on the woman. Franklin tries to talk to her. Bester mainly just looks stunned; he seems to know the woman, but can’t understand why she is doing this. Garibaldi picks up that the reaction was to his badge, and throws the PsiCop badge towards the woman, who blasts it with lightning. “The machine says kill…to protect,” she says. “The sign hurts us. We cannot hear the machine.” Franklin asks, what machine. “Alive,” she responds. “My mind…I am the machine. We join. We fight. It is dark, terrible. Help me. Please. Make it stop talking in her mind.” Franklin gets close enough to sedate her. “Oh, God,” she says. “What have they done to me?” Bester reads her mind and sees the same things she saw – the aliens experimenting on her, the Shadow ship, and a person within the Shadow ship.

The command staff ask Bester about the woman apparently knowing him. He says she is “the single bright light of my existence.” She is his lover, and carrying his child; her name is Caroline. His marriage is a loveless one, arranged by the Corps to breed more powerful telepaths. Caroline was a “blip” at the re-education centre; he fell in love with her. He didn’t have the authority to get her out of the camp, though. When he learned she was pregnant, he continually urged her to join the Corps or take the sleeper medication, but she refused. That was four weeks ago. Bester tells them he saw the Shadow ship inside her mind. Ivanova says Delenn has told them the Shadow ships are organic technology, and use living beings as their central operating system, and it dawns on her that this was the purpose of these telepaths. They were “weapons”, in that sense. The command staff still aren’t sure why the Shadows would use telepaths in particular, though. Sheridan says he doesn’t know if they can help her; the technology implanted in her brain is far beyond their knowledge. Bester says he’ll wait as long as it takes; he’d promised to take care of her. “If you can save her, I’ll do anything you want to help. Your war is now my war.”

G’kar enters the alliance war council room for the first time. “I am honoured to be among you. This is a great day, a very great day indeed.” Two new allies have joined the war.

Bester returns to the PsiCorps. Ivanova doesn’t trust him, and says – accurately – that as soon as the war is over he will turn on them. Meanwhile, Garibaldi flips through the copy of the Book of G’Quan that G’kar had given him and uses a translator to read a passage. He calls Sheridan and the others in excitement.

The last time the Shadows attacked was a thousand years ago. Narn was used as a base by them at that time. Garibaldi points to a specific passage in the Book of G’Quan: “And the spirit of darkness moved upon the land. It screamed in the dreams of the mindwalkers and they fell, destroyed by it, to their children and their children’s children. Then did the darkness come to Narn, until it was driven out by the last of the surviving mindwalkers.” The Shadows are weak against telepaths. That’s why Caroline said, “We cannot hear the machine” – telepaths can somehow interfere with the interface between Shadow ships and their human operating systems. That’s why the Shadow ship chose not to confront the White Star with Bester aboard. The Shadows are using telepaths as components to their ships in order to be able to counter enemy telepaths.   “We have a weapon,” says Sheridan. “By God, people, we have a weapon.”

And just in time – the Shadows have begun open attacks against other species.

All I remembered about this episode was that the ship contained telepaths, and one of them was Bester’s lover. I hadn’t remembered that this was the episode with the conversation between Delenn and G’kar. Or that it was the episode when Shadows started open attacks. Or that Bester outright allied with Babylon 5. All in all, a fantastic episode, in terms of both character and plot. After a few breather episodes following the breakaway from Earth, the real war has begun in earnest.


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Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution. ...more →

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4 thoughts on “Babylonia!

  1. I’m now Not Reading even as I copy and paste, because I’m *four* episodes behind.

    I desperately hope to get caught up before the end of this weekend, so that I can actively participate with something useful to say.

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  2. I half-agree with your ROT-13 section

    Qryraa qvq vaqrrq onynapr gur yvsr bs bar Zvaonev ntnvafg gur jubyr bs uhznavgl, ohg V qba’g guvax fur fgnaqf ol gung qrpvfvba. Vaqrrq, V’z cerggl fher fur ertneqf vg nf “znqarff” abj. Gung jbhyq znxr ure havdhryl dhnyvsvrq gb erpbtavfr gung gung arrqf bs gur znal bhgjrvtu gur arrqf bs gur srj.

    V qb nterr gubhtu gung vg frrzf irel hayvxryl gung Qryraa be Furevqna jbhyq unir npprcgrq gur pbadhrfg bs Zvaone be Rnegu.

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  3. This is a good episode.

    The convo between Delenn and G’Kar is great, and always moves me. It’s similar to one where Sherriden has to decide to release Morden or not, and while thinking it over, recalls the WW2 bombing of British cities. The Brits had broken the codes and knew what cities were going to be hit, but did nothing: to do so would disclose to the Germans that they had broken the code. War is like that. Some die, some are sent to die, and some are sacrificed so that others might live.

    And I love Walter Koening in this show. He’s such a nasty guy!

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  4. We finally caught up with this one today. (A few minutes ago, to be precise.)

    Bester being flipped was something that I absolutely positively did *NOT* see coming. And, immediately, I started hoping to see what would happen with Bester as an ally rather than as opposition and, dang it, looking forward to him above and beyond the whole “Ooooh, it’s a Bester episode” thing.

    The scene where Bester sat in the captain’s chair? That was funny in 2015. I can only imagine that it’d’ve been uproarious in 1996.

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