Babylon 5: Deathwalker

b5With a title like Deathwalker, I’d expect to be watching a fantasy movie.  Ironically Sarah Douglas plays the titular character, so that jives.  She was one of the primary villains in Conan but for me will always be Ursa, from Superman II.  (She is also associated with Doctor Who though not in a way you’d expect!)  So here again we have a situation where the title tells us what the main thrust of the episode is, but there’s a second plot thread that might be more important, if less interesting.

First of all, Deathwalker is another episode that was not written by JMS so there may not be as much to watch out for.  That said, “not much” does not mean there’s nothing!  The episode focuses on the last of the Dilgar, Jha’dur, who has been in hiding on the Minbair homeworld, sheltered by the Wind Swords, the warrior caste of Minbari responsible for the assassination attempt on Kosh’s life in The Gathering.  This seems like a bad bunch to say the least.  She has developed a formula for eternal youth but it comes at a high cost.  She effectively pits all the races against one another as they vie for the serum, ultimately giving it to Earth, the race that defeated her people.  She wants to have her revenge rather sadistically; she wants to make humans become monsters, since we won the war against her kind.  But on her way to Earth, a Vorlon ship appears and erases her and her serum from existence.  Kosh comes to the council chamber to let everyone know that they are not ready for immortality.  Garibaldi states humorously that “God works in mysterious ways, but he’s a conman compared to the Vorlon”.   In so doing, Garibaldi has given us something to think about: the whole episode has a subplot around Kosh.

Kosh asks Talia to be present for a negotiation but she finds the entire dialogue meaningless and tiresome.  Random phrases pass between Kosh and this Vicar, but without meaning.  However, specific events trigger strange emotional responses in Talia.  At the conclusion, she asks Kosh what it was all about, to which he replies: “Reflection, surprise, terror.  For the Future” and walks away.  The thing is, in each case, it is exactly as he describes: Talia sees her reflection, gets a surprise, and is terrified.  Then the “Vicar” produces a data crystal and gives it to Kosh.  So what’s it all for?  Is this a red herring considering this is not a JMS episode or is there something more to it?   Will we understand at some point?

If Kosh is right, understanding is a three-edged sword.  Ah, but then, that doesn’t help much either, does it?  ML

The view from across the pond:

Understanding is a three-edged sword.

I’m all for setting up mysteries and having story arcs carrying on across multiple episodes of a science-fiction series, but when this dissolves into a bunch of silly riddles that might or might not lead to anything then we’re getting Lost.  Even if this does all pan out into something significant, the various details are spread too thinly for it to mean much in the end.

Let’s look at the subplot first, because it best illustrates my point.  Along comes Abbut in his very silly hat, has a non-conference with Kosh, the annoying guy who can’t open his invisible mouth without speaking in riddles, and extracts some thoughts from Talia.  If there is a point to all that then any explanation is lacking from the episode itself.  Perhaps we are supposed to bear it in mind for future, but that’s too Lost for me.  This kind of approach needs careful handling, and there always has to be some payoff within the episode itself.  You can’t just hurl a load of questions at the viewers and expect them to hold a whole bunch of them in their heads and actually be interested in the answers when they pop up in some later episode.  A hanging thread is fine.  The whole ball of yarn thrown at us… not so much.  Abbut turns out to be an icky spaghetti-headed Vicar, as in ViCaR, a walking recorder of thoughts.  Nowadays I suppose he would be called DaViD, or maybe Ray Blu.   But these unconnected subplots are getting on my nerves.

“Listen to the music, not the song”.  Give me a break.

The main plot is much more interesting, albeit a fairly straightforward Nazi parallel.  It throws up some meaty ethical issues along the way.  G’Kar can secure immortality for his race, but would have to kill his friend to achieve that.  Is it ok to work with a monster, for the benefit of the human race?  Do the ends justify the means?  Then we have the twist: immortality comes at a cost:

For one to live together, another must die. You will fall upon each other like wolves.

After a lot of fairly tedious diplomacy, with a lot of diplomats going rhubarb rhubarb in the background of shots, everything gets resolved and the oddly named J’adore Jha’dur leaves the station, only to get blown out of the sky in an instant.  So what was the point of all that then?  In the end both storylines this episode were a bunch of twists and turns leading to nothing at all.

Oh, and somebody needs to find something to do with Lennier that justifies his existence in the main cast of characters.  Here he exists merely to take messages back and forth to Delenn.  All his lines could have been given to her, with minimal tweaking.

So far we are veering back and forth between great episodes, and stinkers like this.  Let’s hope B5 doesn’t get any more Lost than it already is.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Babylon 5, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Babylon 5: Deathwalker

  1. DrAcrossthePond says:

    You know, it never dawned on me that her name was pronounced like you wrote it. That’s a crazy thing, but probably worth thinking about.
    Incidentally, I do say that the non-JMS ones always feel a little weak. Luckily by season 2, they are pretty much gone and by the time another shows up, it’s Neil Gaiman’s. ML

    Liked by 1 person

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