Howdy there! Welcome to another edition of the Babylon 5 rewatch! Today's episode is the tenth in season one, "Believers."
Starting today I am going to be trying out a new format for the rewatch as well. The length of these posts (and the time it takes to watch the episode and make them) have been getting kind of out of hand. It's just such a deeply nuanced show. I always end up feeling like there is so much I miss, of what is going on onscreen and of my reactions to it.
I am fairly confident that no one reading this is doing so as a replacement for actually watching the series and has either already seen all of the episodes or is watching them along with me. So instead of giving a step by step recount of the episode, I am going to try doing a much quicker summary of the main events. Then the commentary will be my reactions to events as they unfold, to the actions of the various characters and dialogue, and my thoughts on the matters and how they apply to (what I remember of) future events. Sort of like an in-depth live-blogging, I guess.
So, without further ado, let us get into it. Spoilers, as always!
Let Me Sum Up
Doctor Franklin and his colleague Doctor Hernandez have been brought a patient, a young boy with a respiratory condition. He can be easily treated with a simple surgery but upon learning of this, the child's parents refuse the operation. It is against their religious beliefs to allow any sort of cutting or puncturing of the flesh. Doctor Hernandez tries to explain to them that their son will die without the surgery but they will not relent. Franklin decides to buy some time by offering up an alternative treatment that he and Hernandez know will likely not do much but that he hopes will allow the parents to come around to giving the surgery a chance.
When it becomes clear that will not happen, Franklin appeals to Sinclair to overrule their objections and declare the child's safety paramount, regardless of the religious beliefs. The parents appeal to the various ambassadors on the station hoping one of them will help advocate for them but no one wants to touch the situation with a ten foot pole. There is a lot of debate about religion and respecting the beliefs of others and Sinclair eventually rules in favor of the parents, forbidding the surgery. Franklin refuses to accept this and decides to do it anyway, with Hernandez assisting. The parents react...poorly to this. In fact, they end up killing the child after his surgery, convinced he is just a shell and no longer their son. By the time Franklin realizes what the parents intend, it is too late to stop them.
Meanwhile, C and C has received a distress call from a starliner that had a fire on board. The fire was stopped but they've lost navigation and communication and are now flying blind in Raider territory. Ivanova takes out a fighter squadron to find the starliner and escort it safely to Babylon 5. They find the ship and begin to bring it in when they encounter a lone raider ship on their way back to the jump gate. They jam its signals so it can't call for backup and it flies off, presumably to get out of range. Against orders, Ivanova tells the rest of the squadron to continue their escort while she breaks off to chase the raider and prevent it from calling reinforcements. She manages to get the Raider, only to run smack into a whole squad of its fellows. Still, she manages to get away and get the starliner to the station intact, allowing the episode to end on at least a small bit of a positive note.
Franklin does have to walk a fine line between reassuring/treating his patients and respecting their cultures and beliefs, doesn't he?
Also, don't they have noninvasive surgery by now? I mean, even in the early nineties, wasn't that something that we were already moving towards developing and refining? It's sometimes really hard to watch futuristic fiction where their future ideas are already behind the technology of the present.
Oh no, Ivanova's not frustrated at all. She's not feeling underutilized or anything.
Hey, let's not knock knitting!
Doctor, your patient's parents have already said that surgery is against their religious beliefs. Explaining that it is a simple procedure will not make it any less a surgery. Although I suppose at least fighting to keep the patient there to give him some kind of treatment is better than not caring.
Yay for Ivanova getting off of the ship to go kick some butt!
Sigh. It does seem like they are going a bit overboard with the parallels of super conservative religion versus modern medicine. It is kind of interesting to see how good Franklin is at playing the game. Also kind of scary, that he can turn it on and off like that.
Oh, let's put Sinclair in the moral pickle now! Spread the uncomfortable feels!
Sigh. Is it really best for a kid to be saved by the doctors when he will then be considered soulless by his family and the rest of his world? In a culture where the soul is a sacred thing to be preserved at all costs? I get what Franklin's trying to do, I really do, but dude. That kid won't thank you for making him a pariah. Part of understanding other cultures is accepting that they don't think like you do. They have an entirely different perspective on how the universe works at the fundamental level. You can't impose your own morality on them. (Okay...pushing my anthropology studies back into the corner now, sorry.)
Whoa, Sinclair. It would make your problem easier if they had an ambassador. Really? Okay, now you've got a death threat against your doctor to consider as well as everything else.
Heh. Going to all of the species that don't like Earth first. Wait. Isn't that all of them? Sigh. Bureaucracy. Oh, god, Kosh. Really? Also, yeah, he's been there, done that. I love the way he talks in riddles. Seriously. Because on one hand I am laughing my ass off at the ridiculousness of it all, but on the other hand, I remember just enough of what's going to happen for some of it to make really scary sense to me.
Thank you Delenn for hitting the crux of the matter! Also, I really have to wonder why the parents would bring their child to seek medical treatment from a species that clearly views things so differently. How can you not expect that they would have different ideas of acceptable treatment?
There is a lot of navel-gazing going on in this episode, isn't there? Although, a large part of this series is about looking at the conflicts of the different beliefs and species and trying to find a middle ground and come to understand each other.
Oh, is Sinclair actually going to ask the kid what he wants? What a novel idea. *headdesk* I kind of love this kid. He knows the gloppit egg is just goo. He also understands that he'll die without the operation, but he truly believes he will lose his spirit if he has it. He also understands that it matters that he believes, even if the people trying to save his life don't.
As much as I hate the thought of letting that kid die, I think Sinclair is making the right call. Of course, you know the show will find a way to save him...
Irate Franklin is irate. Also, rather conceited in his belief being the right one. Damn.
Yup. Franklin is doing the operation anyway. Of course Hernandez is going to encourage him. Sigh. You know, I remember really liking Franklin, but so far on this rewatch he is not my favorite character. Oh, lord. Last minute anxiety that maybe the parents are right. Then Franklin prays.
Maybe the point of this episode is that people (of any species) are rarely ever rational when it comes to religion.
Oh, this poor kid. Damn it Franklin.
Oh, look, a doctor with a god complex. Sigh. I'm just gonna leave that one alone.
Oh my god. Franklin you are so lucky Sinclair didn't punch you for that smirk. I sure as hell would have.
Ouch. That is a painful lesson about one's fallibility. Sigh. Again, I say. That poor damn kid.
Well, looks like Ivanova made it back in one piece. Oops, maybe got a few dings on the ship. Garibaldi is impressed and annoyed. But at least there's one happy ending.
I do like how this episode is a good illustration of the ups and downs of living on the station. For every victory, a defeat. For every believed triumph over superstition, well, a lesson that you can't underestimate the power of another's beliefs and how far they will go to follow them.
I think overall, this episode does do a good job of setting up Franklin's upcoming crisis of faith and self. He had to go through something like this to really understand his place as the head doctor on a station like Babylon 5.
"I think I'll just walk to and fro for a while, maybe over to my console. After that, maybe I'll try pacing fro and to, you know, just for the kick of it." (Ivanova)
"Why do you want to import a steak?" (Sinclair)
"The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote." (Kosh)
"Why help yourself to a barrel full of blame if you can avoid it?" (Sinclair)
"What makes a religion false? If any religion is right then maybe they all have to be right." (Sinclair)
"Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't change anything. It can drive you crazy." (Sinclair)
Well, there you have it. Hopefully I'll see you back here again Monday for the next episode, "Survivors." I think I like this new format, so unless I hear any strenuous objections, I will be sticking with it for future installments of the rewatch.