Monday, August 27, 2012

B5 Rewatch: Deathwalker

Hello! Welcome back to the Babylon 5 Rewatch! Today I'll be tackling the ninth episode of season one, "Deathwalker." Spoilers for everything, as always.

What Happened

Talia runs into Ambassador Kosh in the Zocalo and he says he wishes to hire her. He refuses to give her many details about the job, telling her all of the necessary arrangements have already been made. He says he will meet her in Red 3 at the "hour of scampering" and leaves before she can object or turn him down.

Na'Toth enters the customs area and checks on a pending arrival. She learns that the ship she is expecting will be docking momentarily and settles in to wait. While doing so, she notices a hooded figure disembark from a ship and says in surprise, "Deathwalker?" Then she screams it and rushes the figure, attacking. The Deathwalker doesn't put up much of a fight and security arrives, pulling Na'Toth off the injured woman. As she is carried away Na'Toth screams that the woman must die because she is Deathwalker.

Na'Toth's victim is identified as Gyla Lobos, a free trader traveling from Minbari space to Earth. Sinclair asks Garibaldi if Na'Toth gave any reason for attacking Gyla. Garibaldi shakes his head and said she was pretty worked up. All he could get out of her was "Deathwalker." This gives Sinclair pause and it is clear that the term means something significant to both him and Garibaldi.

They go to question Na'Toth about the attack. She claims it is Chon-Kar, a blood oath. The Dilgar attacked the planet where her grandfather's family lived and Deathwalker experimented on them. All of her grandfather's family died due to the experiments, except for her grandfather. He managed to escape back to Narn, but not unscathed. Deathwalker put a machine in his head, Na'Toth claims, and it killed him slowly. At his death her family took the Chon-Kar, or blood oath, to enact vengeance for the deaths.

Sinclair objects that the invasion Na'Toth speaks of happened over thirty years ago. If Deathwalker was still alive, she'd be an old woman by now. Na'Toth says her face is carved into the minds of her family, and she can smell her grandfather's blood on the hands of the woman she attacked. She swears that woman is Deathwalker. Sinclair tells Garibaldi to find out everything he can about the victim. G'Kar apologizes for Na'Toth's behavior and promises to make amends to the victim. He asks for Na'Toth to be released into his custody. Sinclair says that isn't possible but he will agree to house arrest. Na'Toth is escorted to G'Kar's quarters to await further investigation into the matter.

Talia meets with Kosh and says everything seems to be in order. She still doesn't understand something though, and Kosh gives her a cryptic answer before they are joined by a man called Abbut. He claims to be a telepath as well, ranked twenty-three. Kosh asks Talia to scan Abbut and she reports, puzzled, that he has no thoughts at all. It is as if his mind is empty. Kosh says this is excellent and they may begin. Abbut looks around and then says in a mysterious tone, "Crab Nebula." Talia makes a face, realizing this job is likely to be bizarre from start to finish.

Franklin is looking after Na'Toth's victim in the Medlab. They haven't been able to match her species type as of yet, though her vitals seem stable. Sinclair comes to check on her and Franklin says she's better than she should be considering the ferocity of Na'Toth's attack. She appears to have a very fast metabolism and is healing extraordinarily quickly. He laments that he wishes he knew her species, he can't find any match in their files. Sinclair says she is a Dilgar. Franklin is surprised, telling him that Dilgar is a dead race, wiped out when their sun went nova.

Sinclair orders the computer to pull up a history file on Deathwalker. The computer pulls up a picture and a timeline, telling them that Deathwalker was another name for Jha'dur, the leader of the Dilgar Invasion of the Non-Aligned Sectors. They look at the picture and Sinclair says it is from thirty years ago. Franklin says his patient is clearly too young to be Jha'dur and too old to be her daughter. He asks the computer to scan for signs of freezing but nothing comes up. He tells Sinclair he will check MedCorp's files to see if he can figure out a way to make an identification.

Garibaldi arrives and says that they found a Dilgar uniform in the patient's belongings with a name plate reading "Jha'dur." Sinclair says that doesn't prove anything for sure and Garibaldi agrees, but he shows them a syringe containing a strange substance that was also found in the Dilgar's belongings. Franklin takes it for testing. Ivanova radios Sinclair that he has a transmisison from Senator Hidoshi and he heads to take it. He tells Garibaldi to post a full guard detail on the Medlab and keep a tight lid on her presence and possible identity. Just in case.

In G'Kar's quarters Na'Toth apologizes for shaming him with her behavior. He assures her that she does not shame him and he understands how she is feeling. He says he has his own Chon-Kar, many in fact. Unfortunately, hers is rather complicating present matters. She asks what he means and he tells her that Jha'dur is on the station to bargain with one of their councilors. The Narn have recently learned of a discovery of hers that is of great value to their people.

Of course, now the councilor can't approach Jha'dur without drawing Earth Alliance's attention. Now G'Kar has been tasked with getting to the information. Na'Toth claims she will take the information from Jha'dur as she kills her. G'Kar tells her no. They will get the information and they will ensure that Jha'dur arrives at Earth safely, as they have been ordered. Na'Toth protests and G'Kar tells her this is bigger than her, it is about the whole Narn Regime. She must make this sacrifice, as all Narn are called to sacrifice for their people at one time or another. She reluctantly agrees to hold off on seeking vengeance, but only temporarily. After this assignment is fulfilled, she will resume her Chon-Kar. G'Kar approvingly says he would not expect any less of her. He promises to help her fulfill her vow, even.

Sinclair has a conference with Senator Hidoshi. Hidoshi has heard of the attack on Gyla Lobos and asks if she survived. Sinclair says she did, and that she is recovering. Hidoshi is glad to hear it. He tells Sinclair that this good news and orders him to put Gyla on a transport for Earth immediately. Sinclair balks, saying they have found evidence that she might be the Dilgar war criminal Deathwalker. Hidoshi blinks and puts on a false smile, telling Sinclair that Deathwalker is long since dead. He says this is a priority order. Sinclair begins to object and Hidoshi tells him that this is classified above his head and to just do it before signing off.

Franklin is going over data on the substance Garibaldi found in Jha'dur's belongings. From his reaction it is some pretty impressive stuff. Jha'dur wakes up and sees what he is looking at. She freaks out and runs over to snatch it from him, chastising him for touching her life's work. He tries to calm her down and she demands to see Sinclair immediately. Sinclair is walking through the station and Londo confronts him, asking if the rumors that they have Deathwalker on the station in custody are true. Sinclair gives him an evasive answer about not believing rumors before heading to the Medlab to meet with the woman in question.

He introduces himself to her and tells Franklin to give them the room. She remarks that he knows the way of command, impressed. She comments that the Wind Swords are right to fear him. He asks what she knows about them and she says they sheltered her for many years, in return for certain services. She says they speak of him often, claiming he has a hole in his mind. He changes the subject, asking who she is. She tells him she is Jha'dur, not denying the title of Deathwalker. He asks why she isn't older and she shows him the substance, calling it a universal anti-agapic. It is her life's work, she explains, staving off the aging process, preventing illnesses. It is still difficult to produce in large quantities, but as he can see from her example, it works quite well. Basically it's an immortality serum. She says with the help of Earth she will bring it to all of the worlds of the galaxy.

Kosh and Abbut continue their cryptic conversation, which sounds like absolute nonsense to Talia. Kosh abruptly declares the talks over for the day, saying they will continue the next day at the "hour of longing." Abbut has no objections and Kosh leaves, a bewildered Talia watching him go. She starts to chase after him, telling him that Abbut's mind is still as empty as when they started. Kosh says if she seeks meaning she should listen to the music and not the song. Abbut asks if he can buy her a drink and she asks if he can tell her what the hell they're talking about. He says he could but it's not good to reflect too much and he then lays some major telepath mojo on Talia. She claims fatigue and returns to her quarters to retire for the evening.

Sinclair finds Lennier in the Zocalo, asking for his help with the situation (Delenn is off the station at the moment). He asks if Lennier is familiar with Deathwalker. Lennier says yes and eagerly gives us an info dump on the woman's history. Sinclair stops him saying that Na'Toth claims the woman she attacked is Deathwalker and the woman in question confirmed this. He says that Jha'dur was sheltered by the Wind Swords after the invasion. Lennier says the Wind Swords are the most militant of their castes, but even they would not aid one such as Deathwalker. Sinclair admits that she may have been of service to them somehow and asks Lennier to check with his government. Lennier says he cannot speak to the council without permission but he will contact Delenn. Sinclair asks Lennier to keep the information confidential for the time being and Lennier agrees.

G'Kar meets with Jha'dur, apologizing for Na'Toth's attack. He says he is prepared to make her a very generous offer for the anti-agapic on behalf of the Narn Regime. Jha'dur is surprised but impressed that he knows of it, saying the Narn are very clever. If Earth hadn't stopped the Dilgar Invasion, the Dilgar might have helped the Narn wipe the Centauri out completely. G'Kar says she can still help them with the Centauri, promising to triple whatever price Earth Alliance has offered her. She is tempted by the offer. She tells him to grant her one more thing and she will consider it. He says done, name it. Then (of course) she tells him she wants "the head of the animal" that attacked her. Within the hour. G'Kar leaves her quarters, an unsettled look on his face.

Franklin briefs Sinclair, Garibaldi, and Ivanova on his findings. His information from Earth has confirmed that his patient is Jha'dur. He says that gives her claims about her anti-agapic some credibility. Ivanova is impressed, mentioning that the Russian Consortium has been working on something similar for years with no success. Garibaldi doesn't believe it though. He thinks Jha'dur is lying, Franklin says his analysis says she isn't. Sinclair tells them Earth wants her sent there immediately.

This offends Garibaldi to the extreme, he lists some of her crimes, asking what about justice. Clearly, Earth would rather have an immortality serum. Garibaldi then wonders about her motives for providing immortality to the galaxy. Ivanova agrees, thinking once a tyrant, always a tyrant. Still, she says, Earth is better equipped to handle such a sticky situation. Sinclair is of a like mind, giving the order to get her off the station. Franklin and Ivanova leave to make the necessary preparations and Garibaldi asks Sinclair what he's doing. He says he's following orders. Garibaldi argues that the orders stink and Sinclair says yes, but think of what it could mean if she really has discovered what she claims. She can save more lives than she took. Garibaldi says they'd better hope none of the ambassadors find out, they'll tear the station apart if they do.

G'Kar learns of the plan to smuggle Jha'dur off the station. He says they must find a way to stop her. He makes a call to one of the other ambassadors.

Sinclair goes to Jha'dur to inform her of the transportation arrangements. He then asks why she is giving her discovery to Earth. She says it was Earth who turned the tide in stopping her race, it is Earth who should benefit from the conquest. Sinclair says that stopping the Dilgar was an act of preservation. They slaughtered their way indiscriminately through the galaxy. She quips that the Wind Swords told her he was sentimental and scoffs that it is a fatal flaw in a warrior. He persists, wanting to know why she wants to help the race that stopped her own. She says her race is gone, their very name cursed. She is the last of her kind, but her discovery will ensure that the galaxy remembers her race with honor.

They escort her to her shuttle, only to be confronted by a group of ambassadors. One steps forward and demands that Jha'dur be taken into custody and given a trial for her crimes against all of their worlds. He tries to explain that he has orders he must obey and the ambassador says that he will have to kill them all to obey those orders. He looks into her eyes and then says very well. They will convene in three hours to vote on whether or not to hold trial and Jha'dur will be held in maximum security until then. Jha'dur scoffs at him about his fatal flaw and he tells Garibaldi to make sure to increase the security around her.

Talia meets with Kosh and tries to back out of the negotiations. She is feeling in way over her head. He says they have a contract and won't let her out. Abbut arrives and kisses her hand, causing another mental whammy for her.

Sinclair seems glad that Jha'dur's presence has become known to the councilors and ambassadors, though Garibaldi is a bit worried about it blowing up in their faces. Sinclair says that the Narn and Centauri, who both collaborated with the Dilgar, are likely to support Jha'dur, while he and the Minbari will vote against her. That will deadlock the council and leave the decision to the league, which he thinks will definitely vote against her. Garibaldi asks him why he's so sure the Minbari will vote against Jha'dur and he replies that they are an honorable people. He sees no reason for them to vote against a trial.

Everyone is assembled and Sinclair calls them to order. Kalika makes an opening statement, trying to convince the council to approve the league's decision to try Jha'dur as quickly as possible. Sinclair turns to the ambassadors for their votes. As expected, Londo votes no, to the outrage of the league. G'Kar votes yes, but has a condition. The trial must be held on Narn. Kalika objects, and G'Kar says in that case the Narn vote no. Kosh has declined to take part in the proceedings. Sinclair votes yes for Earth and then turns to Lennier. Lennier (repeating instructions he was given by Delenn) says that since the Minbari had no part in the events of the Dilgar Invasion they have no right to judge Jha'dur. The Minbari vote no.

Sinclair, surprised and disappointed, regretfully rules that trial has been declined and says they must find some other solution. The league is, of course, incensed by this ruling. Sinclair tries to offer a compromise and Kalika isn't hearing it. They have always been promised that their worlds would have a voice on the station but now they are being ignored in favor of the very races who helped the Dilgar in the first place. Everyone leaves in a tiff, promising that Sinclair has not heard the last of this.

Lennier apologizes to Sinclair, upset that he is the cause of such an evil woman escaping her fate. Sinclair says that the Wind Swords did shelter Jha'dur then, as she claimed. The Minbari government knew about it. Lennier says no, not at first. But when they went to war with Earth, the Wind Swords came to the council with weapons made by Jha'dur. That's when they found out, but they couldn't reveal it. Now they can't bear the shame of admitting a secret kept so long. He gives Sinclair a sad look and leaves.

In C and C Ivanova is notified that something has arrived through the jump gate. A ship appears, it is a Drazi Space Hawk. The Drazi demands immediate extradition of Jha'dur or they will attack the station. It moves into firing range, charging its weapons. Ivanova responds that the station's gunnery is trained on their ship and if they proceed they will be fired upon as soon as they are in range. The Drazi scowls but backs down. Then another ship comes through. They get reports that more ships are coming. Sinclair tells Ivanova to stall them.

Sinclair goes to Kalika, asking her to call off the league's ships. She is not inclined to do so, saying she doesn't put much stock in Babylon 5's diplomacy at the moment. In fact, she fears they will be severing ties with the place very soon. Sinclair tells her there is something she needs to know before making that decision.

Sinclair returns to C and C and asks Ivanova for an update. She has managed to get the ships' captains into a debate over who has claim to Jha'dur. They won't be attacking until they settle that matter, at least. Sinclair approves, saying it should give them the time they need. The ships begin to move out of firing range and Ivanova asks Sinclair what he did. He tells her he played a wild card, but they aren't out of the woods yet. He tells her to stay on alert and leaves for a closed discussion with the league.

Talia continues to sit in on Kosh and Abbut's meeting. After one coded phrase Kosh turns to her and asks if she understands. She sees a vision of herself walking through a dark corridor and being attacked by a shadowed figure. She grabs her head and screams. Kosh says their business is completed and Abbut tells Talia she did swell. He takes off his hat, revealing that his brain is actually exposed and connected to a mechanical device of some kind. He pulls a data crystal out of a slot and hands it to Kosh before leaving. Talia shakily asks what Abbut is, and what was on the data crystal? Kosh of course doesn't give her a straight answer. She is left very unsettled.

Sinclair explains to Kalika and a few other councilors about Jha'dur's serum. While they see the benefit of the serum, they don't feel that it outweighs Jha'dur's crimes. Sinclair agrees, but has a compromise. Earth is prepared to help Jha'dur develop the serum. Sinclair wants the league to recommend their own coalition of scientists to work with her. When they are satisfied that the serum is ready she will be turned over to the league for trial. They want to know if the Alliance and council will honor the decision. Sinclair says once the news is public, Earth will have no choice but to comply, and the council is out of it, this is between Earth and the league. Kalika says it is a fair and wise solution.

Sinclair and Garibaldi go to escort Jha'dur off the station. Sinclair tells her he is glad Na'Toth didn't kill her, he's looking forward to her trial. She scoffs that Earth will never permit the charade to come to fruition. Sinclair says he will make sure they have to. She tells him it will cost him his command. That is just the way of things. In the scale of things, her people have won. Sinclair doesn't see it that way. She tells him they take comfort in the belief that the Dilgar are monsters, that they could never do what her people did. But. The key ingredient in the serum cannot be synthesized. It must be taken from a living being. For one to become immortal, another must die. She believes the people of the galaxy will fall upon each other like wolves. The billions who become immortal will be a monument to her work and the billions who die to see it happen a continuance of her work. His people, so proud to not be like her, will become her.

Sinclair and many others watch without pleasure as Jha'dur's ship heads for the jump gate. They are surprised when Kosh joins them. Just before the ship gets to the gate, it activates and a Vorlon ship comes through. It fires at Jha'dur's ship, destroying it. Sinclair turns to Kosh, asking him why. He tells them they are not ready for immortality and leaves.

Garibaldi and Sinclair discuss the situation later and Sinclair is having a bit of a morality crisis. He asks if things will always be like this, a power struggle between the mighty and the weak. Garibaldi shrugs and says that seems to be the way it goes for everyone. Except for Sinclair. Maybe that's why Garibaldi likes him so much.

Talia comes up to them and asks Sinclair if he has a moment. She thinks she might be having a problem with Kosh, she tells them. She explains about her job and its nonsensical nature and the images she kept getting in her head. Four years ago she was assigned to scan a serial killer on Mars and it was an extremely frightening experience. The thoughts that she saw were memories from that, but they were forced to the surface rather than her recalling them naturally.

Sinclair asks who the meetings were with and she tells him it was Abbut. Garibaldi seems to know him and tells her that he is a Vicker. A slang term for cyberorganics, they can record things, including thoughts. They think she was set up by Kosh, and she asks why. The Vorlons fear telepaths, Sinclair tells her. If they know what she fears most, they can use it against her if they need to. Talia leaves, extremely disturbed by this revelation.


You know, I wholly failed to anticipate a big difficulty of reviewing this series: the visual aspect. So much of what these stories are about is conveyed in visuals, from the appearances of each alien race, to the layout and decor of the station, to footage of the ships and other special effects. I just feel like there is a lot of what makes this show awesome that I am totally failing to convey.

Getting to the actual episode, it kind of boggles my mind that Franklin and Sinclair are initially so resistant to the idea that Jha'dur might be who Na'Toth claims just because she doesn't "look old enough." Hell, the first thing Franklin notices about her is her jumped up metabolism, which means Dilgar bodies work differently than human bodies, or than other bodies that Franklin is apparently familiar with. Is it that strange to think they age more slowly as well? I can't decide if this is really poor writing or a really clever way to point out that even the best of the humans we meet on this series have a hard time thinking outside of their own experience sometimes. It just seems like an unnecessary point to get hung up on to me. Also, in the era of space travel, and presumably advanced medicine, is thirty years really that much?

I mean, I guess I can see where in the grand scheme of things, it is necessary to be skeptical of long-lived races because we are talking about an immortality serum here. Setting aside the, um, less than likely concept of a universal serum that would work on all the races, this is a weird plot line. I mean seriously, who actually wants to be immortal? Granted in a situation where you have more than one planet available to colonize, I guess overpopulation becomes a non-issue, but still. Also, for me, immortality is something much more closely associated with fantasy than with science fiction. I mean, I have seen examples of an "immortal" race working where that's just how the race's biology works, but those are usually compensated with reproductive limitations.

Though I will admit I guess I can see how the different governments would be falling all over themselves to get their hands on that kind of development. Still. As a basic story line, the whole thing seemed a little off to me. I kind of feel like this entire episode was meant to just be some set up of just how powerful Kosh and the Vorlons are and just how much about them we don't know, as well as a warning that we should definitely be wary.

I did like the fact that Sinclair was thrown in the middle of a direct conflict between what Earth wanted and the desires of the rest of the races he, as commander of the station, is beholden to. I think it is becoming clear to him that in order for Babylon 5 to function as it is meant to, it needs to be run with some autonomy from Earth's chain of command. Otherwise, you get a situation like this one, where it is too easy for Earth to abuse Sinclair's power by simply pulling rank on him.

The Narn culture really is kind of fascinating to me. They are clearly a very war-like culture, with high value placed on honor and duty to the people as a whole. But they also seem to have a strong practical streak. I really liked the interactions between G'Kar and Na'Toth that we got here. I also love that G'Kar doesn't appear to consider for even one moment granting Jha'dur's request for Na'Toth's head, orders and sacrifice be damned. I do wonder how Jha'dur's death at the hands of the Vorlon affects Na'Toth. Is her Chon-Kar satisfied with Jha'dur's death even though she had nothing to do with it? Hmm.

This is the episode where no one like their orders. Sinclair, G'Kar, and Lennier all had to deal with carrying out orders they found morally reprehensible in this one. That is so very much a pattern on this series. I like to think that one of the benefits of living on Babylon 5 is that one's viewpoint is expanded beyond their own race and their own worldview, granting a better understanding of the bigger picture. It goes a long way towards explaining how very often the people on the homeworlds give orders that the people on the station find to be so very missing the point.

I love Kosh's time designations. Is that a Vorlon thing or part of the code with Abbut, I wonder?

Favorite Quotes

"I'll delay the Chon-Kar. But I will not abandon it!" (Na'Toth)
"You would not be Narn if you did. I am proud of you." (G'Kar)

"Delicious irony, don't you think? That those who cursed us will have to thank us for the rest of time?" (Jha'dur)


That's all for today! Join me again on Wednesday, won't you, for the next episode, "Believers." I think I might play around with a slightly different format for the posts for that one. Just a heads up.

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