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Babylon 5 Re-watch and analysis with character scores

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  • #16
    All right, we've done the first episode proper, so time for the first chart.
    And here it is.

    To nobody's surprise Sinclair is out and away in front, due to his pivotal role in essentially saving a whole bunch of lives and avoiding a war. Londo is next, mostly for sharing all but top billing with Sinclair and G'Kar, while Ivanova comes next, in third place, with Garibaldi taking fourth and Talia, due to her efforts in saving G'Kar's life, takes fifth spot. The Narn himself languishes at sixth, no doubt shaking his fist angrily at Mollari all the way up there above him, and the other three characters, who have not exactly done a lot this first episode - Delenn, Kosh and Vir - all share the seventh spot.


    • #17

      Title:Soul Hunter”
      Season: 1
      Main Character(s): Delenn, Sinclair, Ivanova, Franklin
      Supporting Characters: Garibaldi
      Premise: A wounded alien is brought to Babylon 5, but Delenn screams that it is a soul hunter and must be removed from the station as they are all in great danger.

      Themes: Religion/faith, insanity, obsession


      Babylon 5

      Delenn’s quarters
      Alien Sector
      Commander’s quarters



      Space battles/encounters: 2 (there are no battles, but I count both times the Soul Hunter ships arrive, However I’m merging the commander’s attempt to tow the first Soul Hunter ship back to the station with its original appearance, as they sort of happen at the same time)

      Writer(s): JMS

      Character Scores:

      Sinclair 120
      Ivanova 10
      Garibaldi 10
      Franklin 15
      G’Kar 0
      Londo 0
      Kosh 0
      Delenn 50
      Vir 0
      Talia 0

      Things to watch: First hint of the connection between Delenn and Sinclair; first appearance of Doctor Franklin (with the episode consequently centred principally around Medbay); first glimpses of the spiritual nature of the Minbari; first mention of their great war leader, Dukat. First hints that Delenn may be more than just an ambassador.

      Interesting factoid: First episode not to feature in any way either G’Kar or Londo.

      Arc Points: 7

      Episode score: 320

      Rating: 8/10

      Rating breakdown: It’s kind of the plot within the plot that gets this episode such a high rating, and though it doesn’t seem much, this is the first real step along the major story arc, and will lead to huge developments. It also introduces, for the first time, the very important subject of religion into this series, and - ground-breakingly at the time - not human religion but that of an alien species. As well as this, it plants seeds of doubt in the viewer’s mind as to Delenn’s real purpose on the station, and whether she is playing a longer game, might even be an enemy in disguise.

      A shuttle brings the new chief medical officer to Babylon 5. Doctor Stephen Franklin mentions to Sinclair that he “ran into” his predecessor, Dr. Kyle, whom we saw in the pilot (there was no doctor in the previous episode, but I suppose given that there were no fatalities or injuries on the station that’s okay; wonder what would have happened had Londo, if not killed then at least wounded G’Kar?) and alludes to the previous CMO working with the president. This is said to be due to the influx of aliens coming to Earth, itself a theme that will echo through the first four seasons. We’ll later find out that his reassignment has everything to do with the fact that he is the only human (other than Lyta, whom nobody knows about and who has gone rogue anyway) who has seen inside a Vorlon’s encounter suit.

      As he welcomes Franklin to the station, Sinclair gets a call to tell him a ship is coming through the jumpgate. It appears to be out of control and on a collision course with Babylon 5. Sinclair goes out in one of the ship’s Starfury fighters to grapple the ship and tow it to the station. The pilot, found to be unconscious, is taken to Medlab, and Delenn, meeting Sinclair on the way, offers her help in possibly identifying the alien. But when she sees what it is she growls “Shak’toth!” and grabs his PPG (his gun), intending to fire on it. He wrestles it away from her, and asks her what the hell is she doing? She explains the alien is what is known as a soul hunter, and where they go, people die. She has had experience of this race, bitter experience.

      She tells him soul hunters are drawn to death, and they have the power to steal a person’s soul, which they collect. They don’t take every soul, only the very best, the ones they are interested in. The Soul Hunter regains consciousness, and reacts angrily to the accusation of his being a thief. He says his people preserve the souls, care for them, talk to them. He fumes about the loss of Dukat, the great Minbari war leader whom his people would not allow the Soul Hunters to take; everything, he says, died with him. The Minbari made a wall of bodies to protect him. Franklin, displaying his scepticism and contempt for such an idea, says the idea of a soul is nonsense. Sinclair tells the Soul Hunter he must leave the station as soon as he is well enough to travel; he’s just causing too much unrest among the aliens, many of whom have left in a hurry as the news about his presence got around.

      An interesting point here. Down in the rats’ maze known as Downbelow, where the thieves and the scammers and the poorest on the station, those who have not the funds to make the trip back home live and work, a hustler is killed. He gets a burial in space. Given that this is, essentially, a military station, it’s curious that not only a civilian but someone who most people would regard as scum and not worth the effort is allowed the full funeral resources of the station to commit their body to the deep vastness of space. Franklin mentions nobody back home could pay for the body to be shipped back, so they bury him in space, but it must cost and even if it doesn’t, they have to assign a shuttle to go out and eject the coffin into space. You have to wonder if they do this for every loser who dies in Downbelow, but it is a nice touch, showing that even the meanest tramp on Babylon 5 at least gets a decent burial.

      It’s also telling that as the “funeral service” (basically it’s just a shuttle dumping a coffin into space; let’s not get too fancy here) gets underway Franklin is busily typing on his pad, and looking down, basically ignoring what’s happening. It’s only when Ivanova bows her head and begins to speak a prayer for the dead man that he - kind of guiltily - folds his hands and bows his head, putting his pad away. You could say that a doctor sees so much death that he might be inured to it, but it could also be because, as we will find out later, he is not a religious man at all, so to him a funeral holds little significance or meaning, the funeral of a stranger even less so.

      Delenn goes to see the Soul Hunter, trying to find out where his collection of souls is. She says she knows no Soul Hunter travels without his collection, and she will find any Minbari ones he has and set them free, so they can be reborn into the next generation of her people. The Soul Hunter scoffs at her belief, then he recognises her, says she was there when Dukat died, that she was one of those who stopped him. Then he asks how is it that a member of the Grey Council is here, holding a lowly ambassadorial position on this station? He calls her satai, which spooks her and she leaves. He breaks out of Medlab and goes after her. He goes to see N’Grath, the alien fixer who can provide, if you can pay. He wants a guide to the station, so that he can find somewhere private to take Delenn.

      Another Soul Hunter ship comes through the jumpgate, and its pilot asks to speak with Sinclair. He explains that the Soul Hunter already here is a loon; he has broken the code of their people. Having failed to capture Dukat’s soul, he went mad, and started taking souls before the people had died, becoming in effect a sort of I guess spiritual serial killer. He’s now got Delenn hooked up to some sort of machine which he says will take her soul. With the aid of the other Soul Hunter Sinclair and Garibaldi find his hiding spot and Sinclair manages to turn the machine on the Soul Hunter himself, killing him and saving Delenn.

      Later, Sinclair finds out that the word satai refers to a member of the Grey Council, the ruling body of the Minbari people. He wonders, as did the Soul Hunter, what such a distinguished person could be doing on Babylon 5, and why she is hiding it. He tells the Soul Hunter that Babylon 5 is off-limits to his kind. Later, Delenn is seen with souls, represented by floating orange spheres like golfballs, as they drift around her and seem to release energy into the air.


      • #18


        Sinclair: “I’m going to try to link up with that ship. If I can’t make it you’ll have to blow that ship before it hits.”
        Ivanova: “Why not destroy it now?”
        Sinclair: “First contact protocol, lieutenant commander: only when conditions present a clear and present danger. If this is new technology, a new race, I want that ship intact.”
        Ivanova: “This is not a clear and present danger? I must read the rule book again!”

        Delenn: “You have to kill it, commander! Put it back into its ship, shoot it into space, fire it into the sun, but you have to kill it! Quickly!”
        Sinclair: “You’re not making any sense! Why? Why should we kill it?”
        Delenn: “You don’t know? You don’t know what that thing is? It is Shak’toth, Commander! It is a soul hunter. Get it off this station, Commander, now! Before it is too late! Before someone dies!”

        Soul Hunter: “Can you feel it?”
        Franklin: “Feel what?”
        Soul Hunter: "Low, quick, muffled, terrified. It comes. It comes. It comes. Quick flash. The deep blue of pain. Dull, muffled, slower now. Over your shoulder it comes. The transition. A shadow. The long exhalation of the spirit. Can you see it, healer? Can you see it? Gone.”

        Soul Hunter: “Minbari. Pale, bloodless. Look in their eyes and see nothing but mirrors. Infinities of reflection. Will not let us help them. No.”

        Franklin: “This is nonsense. Patent superstition. Can’t be done. With the right technology maybe you could copy a personality matrix and produce a clone of someone’s mind, but the idea of taking someone’s soul…”

        Ivanova: “From the stars we came, and to the stars we return, now and till the end of time. We therefore commit his body to the deep.”

        Franklin: “It’s all so brief, isn’t it? The typical human lifespan is almost a hundred years, yet it’s barely a second compared to what’s out there. It wouldn't’ be so bad if life didn’t take so long to figure out. Seems you’re just starting to get it right and then it’s over.”
        Ivanova: “Wouldn’t matter. We could live two hundred years and we’d still be human. We’d still make the same mistakes.”
        Franklin: “You’re a pessimist.”
        Ivanova: “I’m Russian, Doctor. We understand these things.”

        Sinclair: “Two Soul Hunters? Did someone book a convention without telling me?”

        Delenn: “Let me go!”
        Soul Hunter: “Ssh! Do not discomfort your soul!”

        Soul Hunter (to Delenn): “You would do such a thing? Incredible!”

        Soul Hunter (to Sinclair): “Why do you fight for her? Don’t you understand? She is satai! She is satai! I’ve seen her soul. They’re using you!”

        Delenn (to Sinclair): “I knew you would come. We were right about you.”

        Important plot arc points

        This episode does not have too many, but there are a few that will link into the main arc.

        Satai Delenn:

        Arc Level: Green

        Sinclair hears the Soul Hunter call Delenn this, and wonders what it means. He asks the computer to look it up and finds it to be an honorific used in the Minbari tongue which refers to a member of the Grey Council, the ruling body of their people. He is surprised, as Delenn has never mentioned, nor made any allusions towards being a member of the Grey Council. As far as he knows, she is simply a government functionary, an ambassador assigned to Babylon 5. Could she have a dark secret?

        Also, linked to this:

        "They are using you!"

        Arc Level: Red

        The Soul Hunter tells Sinclair this, and asks why he is fighting for the ambassador? How can he know such a thing, and if by "they" he means the Minbari, what are they allegedly using him for? And why? To what end?

        "We were right":

        Arc Level: Red

        When Sinclair rescues her at the last moment, Delenn breathes "I knew you would come. We were right about you." Sinclair wonders what she meant, but this will all be tied in to the revelation as to what happened at the Battle of the Line, and why the Minbari surrendered on the eve of their victory.

        Themes breakdown


        Let’s just lump these two together. Until Deep Space 9 came along - and let’s be honest, it seems likely the idea was stolen from, or at the very least, influenced heavily by Babylon 5 - no series of this nature had really explored religion, or faith, in any meaningful way. God was often mentioned, but you can really put that down to the overly Christian and certainly mostly Catholic nature of America, where pretty much all these shows were made. You’ll notice in the likes of Blake’s Seven, Doctor Who, even Red Dwarf, any British sci fi show, little if any mention is made of God at all. You have of course the likes of H.G. Wells, attributing the defeat of the Martians to the far-sightedness of God in The War of the Worlds, but again, that’s a novel of its time, and such blind obeisance to God would be expected. But as the decades unfolded and one century gave way to another, and another, God goes from being a sort of unseen special guest star in these shows to become not even a bit player in most of them.

        So it’s interesting that Babylon 5 tackled this issue head-on. And it does. To be completely fair to its rival show, Deep Space 9 does, I think, a better job in this area, with the conflict between the Bajoran Prophets/Worm Hole Aliens causing Ben Sisko many headaches and making him do the famous terpischore on the head of a sharp object, but Babylon 5 did not, to its credit (or that of its creator) concentrate on one religion. Every race had their own belief, from the Narn to the Minbari, the Centauri to the Drazi, and each was well researched and fleshed out. The idea was definitely front and centre that our God was and is not the only one, or could not be; later in season two there’s even a shocking… but no. No spoilers ahead of time. Let’s just say that even the existence of our God is not allowed to be taken for granted.

        Here though we see faith of a different kind, of two different kinds in fact, two opposing beliefs. The Soul Hunters believe that the soul dies when the body does, unless it is saved by them. If it is, then they can (they believe) speak to the soul and learn much from them. For the Soul Hunters, preserving the soul in their collection provides the soul with its own afterlife. Minbari, on the other hand, believe that when a person dies their soul goes into a kind of great ether, which then sends the soul back into the main consciousness of all Minbari, a kind of, I don’t know, equivalent maybe of reincarnation, or the scattering of ashes, but the ashes fall on the living and enter them? At any rate, they believe that any soul lost - any soul prevented from re-entering the Minbari, which only Soul Hunters have the power to do - diminishes their people. They also probably think that capture by the Soul Hunters is a living hell for the souls, and are not prepared to allow this.

        That’s why they prevented the soul of their greatest war leader, Dukat, from being taken when the Soul Hunters came for him. His must have been a very important soul, because the Soul Hunters say they only come for the very best, and the Minbari, according to the loopy Soul Hunter, “made a wall of bodies” to stop them taking Dukat’s soul. We can take this to mean they fought, and died, to prevent the thieving of the soul of their leader, gave their lives to ensure his soul would be reabsorbed back into their people, and all he was, all his knowledge and wisdom and prowess, would become part of them.

        In ways, they sound almost like a kind of spiritual version of the Borg, don’t they: adding the best of the souls of their people to their own lives and thriving on that. With major differences of course, the main one being that it’s not the souls of others they crave, but those of their own people, and they believe this is a natural process; they do not force or guide it, compel a soul to return. They have no power to do so, and had they, it’s likely they would not exercise it, as the Minbari seem to treasure life above all things. They just expect this to happen, and this belief will in fact have an earth-shattering consequence for some of the characters down the line.

        But Soul Hunters, even if they’re seen as thieves and robbers by other races (they, unlike the Minbari, do not harvest only Minbari souls, but any they believe worthy of their attention) still have their own code. They do not kill. They wait, they watch, they observe, and when the moment calls to them, they come. This one, though, has disgraced his order by deciding to do away with all that tedious waiting and just go right in for, literally, the kill. He is not prepared to be patient: he wants Delenn’s soul now! He has a personal redemption in mind: he holds himself responsible for losing Dukat’s soul, and the failure has affected his mind. He now believes if he can substitute it for one of the Grey Council, why, that’s almost as good, and he will be made whole.

        Sinclair has his faith challenged. We’re not told necessarily what if any religion the commander is, though he does mention God during the series, so we can imagine he is at least some sort of Christian. But what he sees when the Soul Hunter is trying to take Delenn’s soul, when the collection of souls rise against the Soul Hunter, challenges any faith he might have, and makes him question what is real. Franklin, the eternal sceptic, does not believe a word of it, and is quite dismissive of the Soul Hunter’s claims, calling such a feat impossible. Interestingly, he does not say that he does not believe a soul exists, just that it would be, in his belief, impossible to capture one.


        • #19

          Ivanova’s faith is shown when she is the only one to say a prayer for the dead guy from Downbelow; she bows her head and looks respectful as the coffin is ejected into space, and it’s only her semi-reverential demeanour that guilts Franklin into putting down his work and joining her. Finally, we can say that faith of another kind is shown here too, as Delenn, rescued by Sinclair, tells the commander that her - their - faith in him was justified. What this means we will not learn till later, but it’s clear that a new bond has developed between the two, and that they will henceforth be more friends than just colleagues. The Minbari, we learn some considerable time later, have a phrase: “Faith manages.” At times, over the next few seasons, that will be hard to believe.


          It’s easy to imagine going mad, stuck in a huge metal cylinder spinning endlessly through the eternal black night of space, and certainly there is such a thing as going space crazy. But the insanity shown here is not as a result of someone who can no longer take life on the station, or in space; it is the slow fracturing of a mind that comes with the realisation of failure. The Soul Hunter believes his thwarted attempt to save the soul of Dukat has led him into other mistakes, other losses, and his mission is suffering. To his mind, the only way to redress this is to find a soul as pure and important as that of the Minbari war leader, and when he spins out of control towards Babylon 5, he is unaware that, for him, the answer to his problems resides there. When he sees Delenn and recognises her, he knows why he has come here. His mind, straining at the edges of sanity, concocts the plan to take her soul, and tells him that if he does this, all will be well.

          On another, slightly related note, Franklin has a warning for the commander afterwards. Though Sinclair will not tell him what he saw in the room (if he believes himself that he saw anything) the doctor does advise him to say nothing to anyone. “That kind of talk,” he warns, “can get you sent on a very long vacation!”


          The Soul Hunter is certainly obsessed. Obsessed with atoning for what he sees as his failure, obsessed with saving souls to the point that he no longer sticks to the rules, has decided to transgress the tenets of his order so as to bring about the resolution he requires. Obsession isn’t always fuelled by insanity, but when it is it can be difficult to break out of. Ahab with Moby Dick, and reflecting this, Khan with Kirk. Hitler (and others) with power and hatred, even on a more spiritual and gentle level, Ghandi with his country’s freedom. Bobby Sands with justice for his people, or Peter Sutcliffe’s determination to “clean up Yorkshire” by killing prostitutes, just as his earlier namesake from the nineteenth century did. It is, as Chicago once wrote, a hard habit to break.

          It quite often leads to disaster, either for the one obsessed or those he is focused on. In this case it almost does for Delenn, but in the end it is the Soul Hunter’s obsession that leads to his own end, and as a by-product of that, the release/jailbreak of his collection of souls. Obsession will be another key theme in Babylon 5, and will take many forms, from the desire to see justice done to perhaps the destruction of all life.