"The billions who live forever will be a testimony to my work, and the billions that are murdered to provide that immortality will be the continuance of that work. That will be my monument!"
REVIEW: Babylon 5 creates its first true monster in Jha'dur, AKA Deathwalker the last member of the Dilgar race, a war criminal who experimented on countless sentients to give herself some measure of immortality, and whose evil goes well beyond being unapologetic. As the episode progresses, we discover her final plan was to ensure her people's legacy, not by turning them into the heroes who gave the universe immortality, but by turning another race into the same monster who would butcher millions to ensure their own survival and dominance. Would humanity succumb to the temptation and start killing sentients to get the x-factor responsible for eternal youth? I bet it would. But we don't find out because Mr. Enigmatic, Ambassador Kosh, has a ship blow her up after 40 minutes of debate and compromise (should she be tried and by whom, should we get her secrets first, and so on) because we're not ready for immortality. (Are the Vorlons? Do they have it already?) Bit of a deus ex machina - the characters don't have to live with the consequences of their choice - but it doesn't take away from Jha'dur's creepy villainy or Sinclair's political wrangling, which is one of my favorite things about the show. The fact that Kosh himself doesn't suffer any consequences is a bit glib, however. I guess the Vorlons are more powerful than Kosh's few discreet appearance would have us believe.
Kosh is also a main player in the B-plot, in which he contracts Talia to telepathically monitor negotiations with a clownish (read: annoying) "human recorder" with an open brain plate and a silly hat. They just speak nonsense phrases until they provoke terrible memories in her and we find out Kosh was recording her greatest fears in case he ever needed to use them against her because Vorlons don't trust telepaths. So it's all rather bizarre and jokey and then turns queasy with a tale of violation (and again, no consequences for Kosh). I don't look for spoilers, but I nevertheless do very cursory research before writing these reviews, and it looks like this never really came up again. I appreciate adding to our store of knowledge about both Kosh and Talia, but it's not a subplot I enjoyed watching, so I'd like it to justify itself a bit better.
But then a lot of B5 is texture. Some details will eventually find a plot use, some won't. The episode is full of examples. The Narn blood oath - Na'Toth never gets to fulfill it or react to Deathwalker's final fate, so it's texture. The way the council works. All the historical details about the conflict with the Dilgar, the Wind Swords, the League of Non-Aligned Worlds and the various relationships between the galactic powers. That G'Kar was a resistance leader, which gives him a very different background from his homologue Londo. Just the announcements on the station's P.A give off small, unimportant details that nevertheless help build this world and enhance the experience. They're worth paying attention to. To echo Kosh: You seek meaning? It seems like everything in this world should have meaning, but it's not always about what's said so much as what it infers, and don't novels function as aggregates of inferences? That's what Babylon 5 aspires to be.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: A blood oath, eh? The Narns have never felt more like Klingons. (DS9's Blood Oath had only aired about a month before.)
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A sound ethical dilemma, but it's all rendered moot at the end, which kind of grates.