"The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote."
REVIEW: Having a doctor in the cast inevitably requires at least some plots about medical ethics, something I learned long ago from Star Trek. As far as these things go, Believers is a heavy discussion on religious rights vs. medical oaths, and it still very relevant today with the absurdly increasing anti-vaccination sentiment a prime example of belief trumping science and putting public health in jeopardy, though the more obvious parallel is religions that refuse life-saving blood transfusions. The parents in this story refuse their son's surgery because piercing the body will release his soul, and their orthodoxy is presented in other ways the more secular among us will recognize from other orthodoxies. What follows is a 40-minute ethical conversation.
If that sounds dull, it isn't. Noted SF writer David Gerrold wrote this one and really debated the ideas from top to bottom. Obviously, the parents have beliefs we do not share (unless there are "Children of Time" reading this), and if there's a bias, it's that no one else on the station shares them either. We can merely respect them. Or can we? There is bias here, seeing as any religion of the "chosen" sounds supremely arrogant (but arrogance is certainly the theme of Believers), and these loving parents end up rejecting their son when Franklin and his over-acting colleague indeed do operate on him, and end up killing him ceremoniously. Franklin has his beliefs too, and they are in complete opposition to the parents' wishes, but he's right when he asks if his beliefs are any less legitimate than theirs. Except he is outside their culture, and though each ambassador in turn refuses to give the believers' protection for various reasons, some political, some, like the Minbari, appropriately belief-based (and Kosh's bitterness is an especially chilling justification), it's Sinclair's solution that's perhaps the best. He asks the boy himself what to do, and Shon is a product of his culture; he cannot be convinced of another world view and prefers death to losing his soul. Franklin was arrogant to think he could change any of the Onteen's minds, somehow "fix" a culture/religion and bring it in line with his modern science. He embraced the concept of "playing god", so much easier to do when you don't believe in capital "G" God. There's something sweet too about Shon patronizing Franklin about his placebo egg, knowing the truth but not wanting to offend what he perceived as Franklin's beliefs. See, the kid had some wisdom and should act as an example to others, so it's only right Sinclair listened to him and that, in the end, he got the fate he preferred.
The B-plot isn't quite as involving. Ivanova is stir crazy standing by a window all day and begs Sinclair to let her go and escort a lost ship out of a dangerous part of space. She's just lucky Sinclair didn't want to do it himself, that's right up his alley. This thread is also about arrogance, because she leaves her squadron to fight a raider, and ends up in front of a whole armada. And... that's it. Next we see her, she's back on the station safe and sound and so is her squadron and the missing ship. It's like there's a scene missing there (is there a hole in my mind?). I appreciate the need for a little action in such a heavy and intellectual episode, but the subplot just isn't catered to enough to be worth the trouble. And speaking of flaws... I know I said I wasn't going to bring up the DVDs' technical problems every time, but Believers has to be the blurriest episode yet. You see, it's not just the FX sequences. Every time there's a dissolve between two scenes - effects or no - those scenes will be zoomed-in and blurry. And this director loved his dissolves. I hope most episodes stick to hard cuts!
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A heavy ethical drama that's worthy if a little predictable, but the abortive B-story hardly relieves the viewer of the episode's heaviness.