Babylon 5 #101: Phoenix Rising

"Every race to develop telepaths has had to find some way to control them, through laws, religion, drugs, or extermination. We may not be pretty, but we're a hell of a lot better than the alternatives."
IN THIS ONE... The telepath insurrection comes to a violent end. Garibaldi, unable to kill Bester, falls off the wagon.

REVIEW: I suppose I could be snarky and say the best thing about this episode is that it finally puts an end to the whole Byron saga, but it's got rather more going for it than that. Chief among its strengths is Bester, in rare form, toying with an "Asimoved" Garibaldi who wants to wring a confession out of him, or else kill him, but manages neither because of psychic blocks. (Advice: Next time, record the conversation yourself, without permission.) While I don't know how "lost" Garibaldi looks in his scene with Franklin later (if you're going to put it in the dialog, make sure to get the appropriate performance from the actor), this ultimately sends him back to the bottle. Pure despair? Or a surprise twist in which alcohol breaks down the walls Bester erected? (Maybe I'm thinking about the compound's effect on the Keeper here, but the logic might hold.)

Byron's connection to Bester is no real surprise, as there seemed to be something personal driving the PsiCop all along. Bester was the monster who made Byron commit atrocities against "mundanes" and turned him off violence forever. But not against calling us "mundanes". Cough, cough. It's hard to care because Byron is such a non-character - he just does things that are required of the plot or quotes great writers; perhaps being in other people's heads means having no thoughts of your own - but at least we get sequences with badass-looking PsiCorps Starfuries. If Byron isn't much of a character, his groupies gone bad are even more badly sketched in. The boss sports an even more egregious mullet, basically because we need as many long-haired telepaths as possible in the story to make the super-obvious "twist" work in the scene repeated from The Deconstruction of Falling Stars. I'm sorry, that was a superficial comment. But then, there's little that ISN'T superficial about these idiot who commit terrorist acts in the name of a peacemonger, and start shooting at everyone, even their valuable hostages, if they so much as speak. JMS' expertise is talkers. He writes his brutes as blunt weapons incapable of multiple dimensions.

But while most of the episode sustains some kind of interest, everything goes off the rails at the end. Not the peace Byron manages to broker. That works well enough. The culprits will be punished, but not by the PsiCops, and all the goodie telepaths will get to leave. But there's the matter of the terrorists surrendering... armed to the teeth! That's just stupid, and of course, it leads to another bloody fire fight. And then Byron and his group choose immolation rather than give themselves up, with a long speech leading up to it, giving ample time for everyone in the room to either escape or prevent them from committing mass suicide. Except no one ever interrupts anyone on Babylon 5. Byron's death would be tragic if it wasn't so welcome. Now we can look forward to seeing his name on graffiti across the entire galaxy. Remember Byron. Remember Byron. You know, I'd really rather forget all about him and his overwrought plot line. And they haven't remembered a damn thing about him if they're already committing sabotage on Earth in his name at the end.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Thanks to Bester, not a complete dud. The melodramatic ending tries its best to kill any good feeling you might have though.


Anonymous said...

"Byron's death would be tragic if it wasn't so welcome."


I hope they misspell Byron's name in all the graffiti.

Madeley said...


Siskoid said...



Ryan Lohner said...

It's quite fitting that filming the end of the Byron story was plagued with technical difficulties, with the explosion effects refusing to play ball when they were supposed to go off, and then going off on their own between filming. The ultimate result was that they completely ran out of explosives without getting any usable shots out of them, and had to go with a cheap compositing effect that looks like something out of season 1.

Now that it's over, I highly recommend checking out the anime film Steamboy. Not only is it just a plain great movie, but the English dub features the quite cathartic use of Byron's actor as a weaselly sidekick who ends up whacked on the head with a huge wrench, and then getting half his face burned off by a blast of steam. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy in real life, but that role just was not good for him.

LiamKav said...

The thing I'll always remember about Cylon was how he waged war with the Twelve Colonies of humanity. Fun times.

Anonymous said...


(for normal humans only)

Anonymous said...


LiamKav said...

I've now go to this episode after reading all the comments people have made about later episodes talking about Garibaldi's alcoholism, and I'm still not buying it. Partly for the reasons Siskoid says. He finds out he can't kill Bester. He is annoyed. He's also practical, so he goes straight to Franklin to see if there's anything that can be done. He seems fine while talking to him. Shit then goes down, and for some reason rather than resuming the conversation (or, better yet, having a chat with Lyta who now has very strong reasons for wanting to put Bester in the ground), he goes and buys some booze instead. It just... comes out of nowhere.

I dunno. It just seems a shame that whenever you have a reformed alcoholic in a cast, it usually turns into a Bester's Gun and he has to fall off the wagon. Also, I wonder how it would have been if they'd integrated it into season 4, perhaps as a sign that he was not himself. As it is, Garibaldi basically spends the last year and a half on the show not acting like himself.

Simon (formerly Johnny Sorrow) said...

(With apologies to Johnny Depp)


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