"Byron, the Vorlons changed me. More than you could possibly know. I don't know what it'll do once you get past my barriers and I get past yours. It could burn you." "Then let it burn."
REVIEW: Babylon 5 has generally done medical mystery stories better than the competition, not cheapening Doc Franklin's stories with technobabble endings, and keeping things low-tech and understandable to a lay audience. That's true here too, but I'm not sure I entirely buy the medical dilemma it spins into. We start with the promise of a medical tour of the station's aliens (the Pak'ma'ra are JMS' new favorite sons, and are pretty funny), but we stop at the lesser-known Hyach. In fact, I don't even remember them from background scenes. Were they created for this episode? And if so, we're a far cry from when the Markab got the plague in Confessions and Lamentations. The dilemma is this: Franklin discovers they've been hiding and revising their species' medical history to hide the fact a genocide was committed on a cousin species centuries ago. Now they're dying because their own species needed the other's gene pool to bolster itself. I think there's an Enterprise episode that describes evolution in similar terms, and it's just as wrong, but even if I buy the premise, Franklin's reticence to help doesn't make sense to me. He would blame people today for the crimes of people 1200-800 years ago, based on the fact they've been hiding information about those crimes. If only they admitted it, there wouldn't be a problem. The fact they need to share the information if the resources of several Alliance worlds can be brought into play to save their race is more compelling - he should have led with that - but Franklin's ethics are too strong for him to even conditionally turn his back on an entire people. Regardless, I don't think this problem is likely to be mentioned again, or the Hyach to play any big part in what's left of the series, so it's hard to stay invested.
Meanwhile, more telepaths and telekinetics are arriving on the station to join Byron's colony, and violence explodes despite the latter's protestations. JMS writes him as Gandhi or Jesus (hey, that's Sheridan's shtick!), preaching peace and literally turning the other cheek. When a young, stammering teek is bullied by yet more thugs down below - I can't help but feel JMS is repeating himself here - the telepaths take revenge (again) and if Byron is right about one thing, it's that anything that makes the normals fear telepaths will lead to more violence and hardship. I'm wondering if Zack is kept from intervening more decisively by telepathic powers. He keeps acting like he's got a massive headache whenever Byron is around. It seems to indicate something.
At any rate, a secret about telepaths is revealed by the end of the episodes that makes Byron turn against his own pacifist philosophy (believe it or not). Let's talk about that scene. Over the course of the last couple episodes, Byron and Lyta have been moving closer to each other romantically. She's really taken in by his extended literary quotes, fabulous hair and whatever cheeseball music is pushing the relationship (I like the soft piano used all through this episode, but check the glittering fairy dust in their scenes for where it gets way off track). When they finally become intimate in a rip-off each others' clothes (Lyta has no underwear, as per the rules of movie and TV sex scenes) in a crowded room kind of way, she's afraid what the Vorlons did to her will make telepathic sex dangerous. Well, it's certainly a powerful experience, one that awakens all the other telepaths so they can share it. JMS' voyeur agenda is really skeeving me out. As the barriers come down and everyone experiences a clip show of Lyta's greatest hits, one new memory resurfaces that proves the Vorlons manipulated all the lesser races' genetic codes to create telepaths that could be used against the Shadows. How Byron turns this coitus interruptus into a call for a holy war is a little beyond me. Thinking that having been "made" makes the "users" (and in the absence of the Vorlons, this must apply to the parent race, humanity) responsible for... what? I can't even explore this line of thought because it doesn't really make sense. Humanity was just as much a pawn of the First Ones as the telepaths were. And where the Vorlons are concerned, what's the difference between them and natural mutation/evolution? They might as well be forces of nature in the scheme of things. With Byron the only telepathic colonists developed in the slightest, he sort of has to play every role in his community, which means he ditches his own established character to turn into a warrior-king. Well... that's a problem.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Motivations are all out of whack in this episode that yes, features a major (if not exactly surprising) revelation, but also a forgettable one.