Wednesday, August 8, 2012

B5 Rewatch: Mind War

Well hello there. Thank you for joining me as we continue to make our way through the Babylon 5 rewatch. Today we're looking at the first season's sixth episode, "Mind War."

Spoilers to be had below.

What Happened

Earth Alliance squadron Black Omega tracks down a stolen ship, ordering it to stand down and surrender or be destroyed. The ship does not answer and there is a ripple of light. The fighters making up Black Omega disappear and the stolen ship continues on its way.

Sinclair is called in to deal with a problem and as he gets dressed he speaks with a freshly showered Catherine. He remarks that she seems rather cheerful and she tells him she's gotten an offer for some surveying work and is meeting with the company, Universal Terraform, today. Sinclair wonders if she wants to get involved with a "megacorp" and she says she knows what she's doing. She asks if they'll see each other at lunch and he says he can't he has a meeting.

The stolen ship approaches the station and receives clearance to dock. A man inside presses some controls and responds in the affirmative, saying he is looking forward to his visit.

Talia walks through the corridors with a man who asks her what it's like to be a telepath. She tells him it's a lot like staying in a hotel room where you can just hear the people talking next door. She says the key is not to eavesdrop unless invited to do so. He asks her if it is difficult to block out other people's thoughts and she says it depends on the thoughts. They get in an elevator and she elaborates that strong emotions have a way of slipping through, whether you want them to or not. Garibaldi is also in the elevator, standing behind them, and admiring Talia. He must have a strong thought because after a moment she makes a face of realization and elbows him in the gut. She leaves and Garibaldi watches them go, rubbing his stomach and remarking that he thinks he's in love.

A man and a woman in uniform arrive in the customs area and approach the member of security on duty. The man provides credentials and the guard remarks that he's never met a Psi Cop before. It quickly becomes evident that the man is communicating with the guard telepathically, and he and the woman seem to be speaking in the same way as well. The guard leads them to their requested destination.

Catherine meets with the representative about her surveying job, the man Talia had been walking with. She has clearly been invited to keep the negotiations on track. The man discusses some of the things early scans have found on the planet in question and it seems there are indications that there may be Quantium-40 there, an element used in jumpgate construction. Very rare and very valuable. The man tells Catherine she must keep its potential presence a secret, telling no one, not even the Commander. Catherine looks at him in surprise at that, clearly he is implying he knows about their relationship. She says her personal life has nothing to do with business. He says he knows, he was told to ask so he's asking. When Talia confirms that Catherine's promise of confidentiality is sincere, they seal the deal. Well, almost. The man says the planet in question is in a contested space, so they will need the approval of one more party to proceed. Catherine looks behind her to find that G'Kar has joined the proceedings.

The security guard enters Sinclair's office and tells him he has some VIPs to see him. Sinclair tells him to send them in and the Psi Cops enter. Sinclair starts to answer an unheard question and then stops, looking up and realizing who his visitors are. He orders them to get out of his head, saying if they want to talk to him, talk to him. The man apologizes, saying it saves considerable time. Sinclair doesn't care. He doesn't like people in his head.

He says he thought the Psi Corps had rules about this sort of thing. The woman says there are rules and there are rules. When telepaths go rogue, only Psi Cops can take them down. The man introduces himself as Bester and the woman as Kelsey. He explains that they are looking for a rogue telepath and they believe he is on the station. They want to set up a meeting with Talia, as well as the security and command personnel. Sinclair doesn't want to turn the station upside down just on their say so to look for one man. Bester protests that this is a very dangerous individual. His presence on the station endangers the entire Earth Alliance structure.

The pilot of the stolen ship, meanwhile, is shown to a set of quarters by a real estate agent. She tells him the price and he says they will do. He looks around and plays an introductory message about the station. After a moment though, he cringes and the whole room begins to shake around him. He places his hands on the sides of his head and after a few moments of clear effort things still once more.

Talia has been called in to Sinclair's office to be briefed. Sinclair holds a file with a picture of the man from the stolen ship. Bester says the man they are looking for is named Jason Ironheart. He remarks that he believes Talia knows him. She says Jason was her instructor at the Psi Corps academy. Sinclair asks what Jason's psi rating is and Bester says P-10, like all of their instructors. Ivanova asks Kelsey what she and Bester are rated and Kelsey retorts they are P-12. Someone has to keep an eye on the rest, after all. Ivanova chuffs, quipping the question, "Yes, but who watches the watchmen?" Sinclair gives her a look.

Kelsey, undaunted, continues. She explains that a year ago Jason was reassigned to Earth intelligence working on a covert mission. She and Bester refuse to divulge what kind of mission to the others, however. They say that Jason has information that is very sensitive to Earth's government and to their covert operatives on other worlds. They believe he means to sell it to other governments. Talia objects that he would never do anything like that. They ask if she has had any contact with him since leaving the academy. She says just letters, the last one a year ago. They say they will have to scan her to be sure. She asks if that is really necessary and they say yes. Sinclair tries to intervene on her behalf, but as a member of Psi Corps she is required to submit. They scan her and it is clearly not a pleasant experience for Talia. Sinclair tries to put a stop to it but they keep on for a few moments. When they stop, they declare that she was truthful and hasn't seen him. Kelsey remarks that is surprising given their prior involvement.

Talia stumbles to Sinclair's desk and Ivanova offers her a glass of water. Talia gives her a surprised look but accepts it gratefully. Kelsey says that it is only a matter of time before Jason shows up and they are to be informed at once when he does. She forbids them, especially Talia, from attempting any contact with Jason. They dismiss Talia and Ivanova asks what level of physical threat Jason represents. Bester says that's something else they don't need to know. Just find him, he says, and they'll do the rest.

In the corridor, Talia turns a corner and stops short. She turns around to see Jason standing in the shadows behind her. He says hello and tells her he has been looking for her. (In the creepiest way possible.) She turns to go and he implores her to wait. She asks what he did, why are they after him. She asks if he knows what they did to her. He says yes, that's why he waited to approach her. He assures her that she will be safe for a while at least. He says he has to talk to her, that he needs to wait for just a little while. He can't let them find him. If they do he'll have to kill them or they'll have to kill him. Thousands, if not millions, of lives are at stake. He asks for just five minutes to explain and says if she wants him to leave after that, he will.

Catherine follows G'Kar through the Zocolo, clearly thinking his reticence at approving the deal is a way of getting to Sinclair through her. He assures her it is not and that it is actually for her safety. He says the planet in question is not a healthy place and strange things happen there. She thinks he just wants the world for himself, despite the fact that the Narn government doesn't have the resources to exploit a world so far away from their homeworld. He says if she wants to believe that, fine. But he passes on the one thing he has learned about the station: No one there is exactly who he appears. He says his warning is clear and she can ignore it at her own peril. She says she will go above his head if she has to, she has contacts in the Narn regime. He sighs and says that he fears Sinclair will miss her, then, when she fails to return from the planet.

Jason tells Talia that a year ago he volunteered for a Psi Corps experiment, an attempt to make telepaths stronger, to double the known limits. Talia asks why. Jason says whoever has the strongest telepath wins, and they convinced him it was necessary to protect Earth. He says the experiments went on for several months, a multitude of pain and injections. Then one day he woke up and everything was suddenly clear. There were no blocks he couldn't break through. That, he tells her, is when he saw the truth.

He asks her if she remembers the T-K tests she took just before graduating from the Psi Corps academy. She says of course, mentioning a penny she tried to move with her mind. Only she failed. He said exactly. Only one in every thousand humans is a telepath. Only one in every ten thousand telepaths has telekinetic abilities, and most of them are clinically insane. The true purpose of the experiment was to create a stable telekinetic, and it worked with him. But they want to use him as a weapon, and that's why he can't go back, even if it means they kill him.

Garibaldi gets a lead on Jason and reports to Sinclair. He ran a check on incoming vessels and found that one was stolen from sector fifteen, two jumps away. According to Bester, that matches up with Jason's last known whereabouts. So, assuming he is still on the station, he'll need a place to stay. Garibaldi is already on it, checking out all of the quarters rented out within the last twenty-four hours. He wants Jason found and off the station as soon as possible to get the Psi Cops off the station too. They creep him right the frak out. (He's not the only one.) Speak of the devil...Bester comes in and Garibaldi leaves, trying to avoid him. Bester pipes up that just fifty quarters to search narrows things down considerably, revealing he had "overheard" their conversation. Garibaldi looks at him and Bester smirks that whatever Garibaldi is thinking is anatomically impossible. But of course, he is welcome to try, any time, anywhere. The challenge is clear. Garibaldi leaves.

Catherine takes a ship out, planning to go see Sigma 957, the planet she wants to survey.

G'Kar opens a transmission to the Narn military headquarters and requests a heavy transport for a mission to Sigma 957.

Jason, still with Talia, explains that he thought the Psi Corps wanted to develop telekinetics to help with big jobs like construction or defense. The possible applications were unlimited. But that's not what they wanted. They wanted mental control over small objects, the smaller the better. Talia says that doesn't make sense. Jason says no? How about for assassinations? Use a telekinetic to stop a man's heart or crush his windpipe without any fingerprints or without anyone being aware of an attack until it is too late. Talia is appalled and staggered by the implication. Jason says they didn't understand though, how the power really works. He is cut off mid-sentence when he is struck by another one of those quakes we saw earlier. He tells Talia to get out quickly as the room begins to shake. Talia looks around in fear and asks what is going on. He tells her again to get out and she runs.

In the corridor, Sinclair is with the Psi Cops and they feel the shaking as well. Sinclair is taken aback but Bester and Kelsey just look at each other and Kelsey says, "mindquake." Clearly they are used to these events occurring around Jason.

Sinclair has Garibaldi get a fix on the disturbance and they find it is on level sixteen. The only problem is that the entire level is surrounded by some sort of energy field that his men can't get through. Sinclair and Garibaldi agree it is time to confront Bester on what kind of physical threat Jason truly represents. They leave to find him and Talia steps out of the crowd, watching them go.

A jump point appears and Catherine gets an ETA of about two hours to Sigma 957 as she exits.

Sinclair reads Bester the riot act for withholding just how dangerous Jason really was. Bester insists he had his orders but Sinclair isn't having it. He holds them accountable for all of his wounded men and demands the full truth. Bester says that Jason is no longer entirely human. Sinclair asks what he is and Bester says he doesn't know.

Jason, meanwhile, sits in the middle of the wreckage and tries to meditate.

Bester says Jason started to show signs of paranoia and psychosis as the experiment progressed. He managed to escape and kill a researcher. Bester says in his advanced state Jason is a valuable commodity. They couldn't have word of his abilities get out and risk other governments trying to grab him for their own uses. Ivanova is hardly surprised by their lack of morals or their dishonesty. Sinclair wants to know how they planned to stop Jason. Kelsey reveals he was programmed with a failsafe code. If sent to him by a telepath, it will shut him down and put him to sleep. Given how powerful he is, it will take both of them to get through his defenses and deliver the code, and they have to be in line of sight to do it. Bester tells Sinclair they can either do things his way or they will have to kill Jason, likely at the cost of more casualties.

Talia approaches the field in an abandoned corridor. She tries to pass but is blocked. She calls out to Jason and tells him it won't work and that she needs to talk to him. She asks him to let her through. After a moment the field dissolves and allows her to pass, falling back into place behind her. She returns to where she left him and finds him on the floor. He says he thought seeing her would be enough to help him hold it all together, stop the voices. He says he shouldn't have come and put her at risk. He says they all thought Psi Corps was controlled by the government, but that is starting to change. The telepaths are starting to pull the strings now. They make the ultimate blackmailers, after all. He cries as he tells her he sees it all. She starts to comfort him but he tells her there is no more Jason. He is something else now, he is becoming everything.

Catherine arrives at the planet and begins a preliminary atmospheric survey. She launches an environmental probe, dismissing G'Kar's warnings. Behind her there is a strange crackling of light.

Talia finds Sinclair and says she needs to talk to him. She's seen Jason. She says there is a lot to go over and they need to talk privately. They get on an empty transport shuttle and she explains that Jason is changing and he cannot control how his powers are evolving. He didn't mean to hurt anyone, but soon he won't have any choice in the matter. He wants to see Sinclair, alone and unarmed. She knows it is a terrible risk to ask him to take but she fears it is the only hope they have to salvage the situation. Sinclair agrees, asking where and when. She tells him, and Sinclair asks what is between the two of them. Why did Jason come here? She admits that it was to see her. They were lovers once and Jason was everything to her, the perfect model of what it meant to be in the Corps. She explains what it's like when telepaths make love, it's like their souls mix. It's very profound and intense. She says it's the only moment in a telepath's life when they don't hear the voices. She finishes by saying that Jason came to say goodbye to her.

Catherine continues with her survey and is caught off guard when a large strange ship rises from the planet and opens a jump point, leaving. She asks the computer to identify it and the computer says unknown. Then she is alerted to ninety percent power loss and loss of orbit. The computer estimates two hours until a crash into the planet's atmosphere. Catherine tries to open up a communications transmission but there is not enough power left to do so. She scans for nearby ships but there is nothing. She keeps issuing orders, trying to find a way out of her imminent demise but there isn't enough power to try any of her ideas.

Talia leads Sinclair to Jason. He tells Sinclair that the Psi Corps is dedicated to one thing: control. They want control over everything, the economy, telepaths, the mind itself. But there is something even more powerful that he discovered. Mind over matter. He has been able to control matter down to the molecular level. He says it is a power man is not meant to have, one they are not ready for. Talia says if the Psi Cops catch Jason they will take him back to Earth and dissect him so that they can discover exactly what combination of drugs will release his new powers.

Sinclair says that is exactly why they are saying Jason shouldn't be allowed to leave the station alive and asks why he should trust him. People have already been hurt because of Jason's actions. Jason says it was an accident. At each new level it takes him time to adjust. Sinclair asks about the researcher that Jason killed and Jason explains that he did not want to kill the man, but he was the only person who could replicate the process. There can never be another like him. He reminds Sinclair that if he wanted to, he could vaporize him right here and now. He really means him no harm.

Sinclair says assuming he does believe him, what does Jason want from him? Jason says his help and his trust. He needs to leave the station. He needs time to finish becoming, and then he will be gone.

Sinclair calls Ivanova and asks for Garibaldi. He tells him to have the security team clear a path from Blue 16 to the docking bay. No one can know about it and he doesn't want to run into anyone on the path.

Catherine continues her fall toward the planet when two new ships appear on her scanner. She opens up a channel and begins to broadcast an emergency signal. The answer is quick and they say they know who she is. She asks them to identify themselves and finds she is speaking with Captain Sh'Drog of the Narn Regime. he says they were dispatched to assist her. She asks by who, and he says G'Kar. They link up to her ship with a grapple and escort her back to the station.

Bester asks the guards what's going on and they tell him just a drill, nothing to be concerned about. Bester looks into the mind of one and shares a knowing glance with Kelsey.

Sinclair and Talia escort Jason and they run into Bester and Kelsey. Jason stops and says he refuses to go with them. Sinclair steps in front of him and says that Jason is under his protection. Bester says he doesn't know what he's doing. He and Kelsey begin trying to shut Jason down with the failsafe code. The corridor begins to shake as the distraction makes Jason lose control and another mindquake begins. Sinclair knocks Bester out but Kelsey continues her attempts to subdue Jason. Talia is knocked out by debris from the shaking. Jason says he won't go back and Kelsey pulls out a gun and approaches him. He begs her not to make him do this. He says she cannot harm him. She aims her weapon and he vaporizes her. Talia starts to get up and Sinclair pushes her out of the way of a falling beam. Bester tries to shoot Jason but Jason manages to knock him out.

They get Jason to his ship and return to the bridge. Sinclair asks what Jason is doing and Ivanova says nothing. He's just sitting in his ship in front of the jumpgate. They pick up an energy spike and there is a wave of intensely bright light and the ship disappears, leaving something resembling an aurora in its wake. Talia smiles and steps forward. They all hear Jason and he tells Talia he has become. He says in memory of their love he will give her a gift, the only gift he has to give. She is washed with a bright light and then faints. Sinclair catches her and Jason tells him goodbye, saying he will see him again in a million years.

They show Bester the footage of Jason "becoming" and Bester scoffs that his superiors will never believe it. Sinclair doesn't doubt it. Especially since, he tells Bester, in about an hour a small fire is going to cause that footage to be destroyed. Bester asks what Sinclair suggests he should tell his bosses then. Garibaldi says something close to the truth. Tell them that Jason escaped but his ship exploded before he made it through the jumpgate. Bester asks what if he refuses to play ball? Sinclair says then his report will include how Bester lied to him, endangered the entire station, and through his interference caused the death of his fellow Psi Cop. Sinclair says that Bester's report will also say that Talia was not responsible for her actions in helping Jason, that she was under his mental control. They tell Bester there is a ship leaving in twenty minutes and he will be on it. Bester is disgruntled but accepts their terms and leaves.

Garibaldi asks Sinclair if he is going to tell the senator about Jason's warning about the Psi Corps. Sinclair isn't sure. Jason wasn't exactly in his right mind. Even if it is true, without any proof, and with Jason gone, it is just his word against theirs. But, he tells Garibaldi, they can (and will) keep their eyes open. Garibaldi agrees. He then asks after Talia and Sinclair says she is doing as well as can be expected. She is healthy, but depressed. Garibaldi wonders what Jason meant about giving Talia a gift.

Talia sits in her quarters, looking at a penny on the table before her. She takes a deep breath and the penny begins to move.

Catherine returns from her expedition and finds G'Kar. He is glad to see her safely returned. She says thanks to him, and then asks why. He says why not. She presses him and he says it seemed like a good idea at the time. There is no profit to be had in her untimely demise and it would distress the Commander greatly. He shrugs it off and reminds her again, no one on the station is what they appear. With that, he bids her good day.

She tells him while she was out there she saw something and asks what it was. He tells her there are things in the universe billions of years older than the other races. If they are aware of of them at all, it is as ants, and they cannot communicate with them. His people have tried. He says they have learned to either stay out of their way or be stepped on. They are a mystery. Catherine seems very unsettled by his explanation as she ponders his words.


Ladies and gentlemen, we have a twofer! This episode really starts to get into the meat of not one but two aspects of the series' overarching mythology, excellent!

Primarily, we get a closer look at the Psi Corps and the fact that they are not even remotely the benevolent helpers of humanity that they wish to be seen as. If they really were to take over, we've got some serious potential for the kind of totalitarian Big Brother society that we are so trained to resist as a culture. We also get to meet Bester. Ah, Bester. You ass. Yeah, we'll be getting to see him again. He's as lovely as he seems at first blush, too. But, with Jason's appearance we see that a) the Psi Corps are slowly starting to take over Earth, b) they are definitely up to no good and they believe they know better than everyone else, despite ample evidence to the contrary, and c) Talia, who started out as kind of a poster child for law-abiding telepaths, is something of a wild card. She has swallowed the company line all of her life, but she is starting to open her eyes and see that what she has always accepted as truth may not exactly be the case.

There is also the fact that Sinclair and the command staff of Babylon 5 have been put in the unique position of getting a heads-up on what's going on. Despite the fact that the telepaths' power and influence is mostly limited to Earth at the moment, this is very important to the series. The station has slowly begun to be set up as a tipping point not just for relations between Earth and the other races of the galaxy, but also for the future of Earth as well. The stances that Sinclair and his people take will matter to more than just the residents of the station.

The other piece of lore we get is the introduction of this vast and ancient mystery race, and the fact that the Narn do have some knowledge of it. As G'Kar said, for the moment, they have no way of communicating with whoever these beings are, so really all they can do is try to stay out of their way. At first glance the whole encounter plays out as a bit of a reminder that what we've seen of the galaxy so far is certainly not all there is to be seen. But as brief as it is, that encounter is so so much more important. It will just take time for us to fully realize how.

I really do love G'Kar's "no one here is what they seem" line. It's an apt description of pretty much every main character on the show, but it's also a good metaphor for the series itself. I think this episode is where I really started to fall in love with G'Kar's character. Everything he does in "Mind War" just shines so brightly and really highlights how fascinating and multifaceted he is.

There is one other moment I have to mention and that is the one shared by Ivanova and Talia after she was scanned by the Psi Cops. It has been made clear before what Ivanova thinks of the Psi Corps and its representatives, and it is reinforced in this episode. Yet. In that moment, she made the choice to side with Talia against Bester and Kelsey, because she saw that Talia, maybe, wasn't the enemy. It's a small moment, as I said, but a key one for the character.

Favorite Quotes

"Call me crazy, but don't you think it might have helped for us to know what we were facing?" (Ivanova)
"We were doing what we thought was best." (Kelsey)
"You were wrong." (Sinclair)

"You're not helping the situation." (Kelsey)
"Lady, you are the situation." (Ivanova)

"I told you before, no one here is entirely what they appear. If I surprised you, all the better." (G'Kar)

"They are a mystery, and I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe. That we have not yet explained everything." (G'Kar)

There we have it. So ends another week of the rewatch. Please stop back by on Monday for the next episode, "The War Prayer."

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