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Season 5 - Telepaths

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  • Season 5 - Telepaths

    Evening everyone, and happy new year.

    I was replying to a post regarding the worst episodes of B5 and got away from the subject somewhat by discussing the episode 'The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father'. It led me to wonder why the telepath arc in Season 5 didn't really resonate with me. I've just watched Ship of Tears again and that really allows you to see the layers to Bester. Like him or loathe him, like all the other characters, he's complex. You peel away one layer to discover another. With Byron I never really felt that, and whilst I sympathised with their plight I couldn't feel for him.

    For me, I think it would have been nice to have fleshed out a couple of his colleagues a bit more so they weren't all background characters. I know it would have been hard to fit yet more characters in, but I think it would have helped.

    I'm working my way through the whole series again so I'll be getting to S5 and I'll get a chance to review it again, but I'm curious to see what other people felt about this arc is Season 5 and to see what all your thoughts are, in a non-telepathic way!!
    I'm a pessimist: that way you're never disappointed but frequently, pleasantly surprised

  • #2
    As I understand it, one of the plot points with the telepaths was meant to be their impact on Ivanova. Byron was supposed to be reminiscent of Marcus, so between her coming to grips with her own telepathy and working through her grief for Marcus, she would become infatuated with Byron.

    If my understanding is correct, then I can see why the departure of Claudia would really through a monkey wrench into their existence. They were meant to be cult like (including the unsettling song), and Ivanova was meant to fall for Byron. It would have created a lot of tension as her interests became conflicted between Sheridan and Earthforce on the one side, and Byron and the telepaths on the other. Ivanova would have been a major connecting point for us, as the audience, to the group. In the season as it aired we only had Lyta as the connecting point, and both the worshipful follower and love interest roles fell to her. Although I liked a lot of aspects of Lyta's character, I never was as invested in her as I was with the other characters including Ivanova, so, for me at least, having Lyta as the only connection really made it feel like the telepath colony was just kind of hanging there. It seems to me that their role wasn't meant to be fully realized characters, but instead to be a foil against which our main characters could be tested/developed. Without Ivanova it became unbalanced. Too much foil and not enough character.
    "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."


    • #3
      Just posted this in the worst episode thread

      My favourite scene with Byron was the one where he was on fire. Would it have killed JMS to have him running around for a few minutes while burning yelling hot hot hot.


      • #4
        Through the years in such threads I got the impression, that people don't like Byron's idealism and naivetÚ, but also the whole telepath group. Is it perhaps, because it's hard to identify with them and their request for a planet, which as WorkerCaste above discusses, would have been easier to come to terms with through the eyes of a character people care about? But since Lyta was not as a widely appreciated character as Ivanova, I would argue, that as much as normals loathe telepaths in the B5 world, a high number of viewers might have much the same view on them.
        Babylon 5 Animations


        • #5
          For me it is the whole whiny hippie thing. Really, did these guys break out of the secret Psi-Corps facility at Haight-Ashbury?

          No sympathy for the characters and the way they were portrayed. Bad choices and bad writing by JMS here. I have difficulty believing anyone would follow Byron to a free donut.

          I get the whole Ivanova connection might have given us a predisposition for liking them, but c'mon Ironheart was way more believable as someone who was renouncing violence.


          • #6
            Ironheart was great! (another "character development" Star Trek copied from B5 with Kes from Voyager)
            As for Byron - he had his moments but this Jesus-thing didn't work for me. And I couldn't stand his poetry - much too corny. I really can't imagine Ivanova falling in love with this guy...


            • #7
              What's always surprised me is how so many folks don't see how understandable Byron's reaction to finding out that the telepaths had been created. The Psi-Corps had brainwashed him (and Bester, of course) that the discrimination and mistrust that they endured from 'mundanes' was because they were special, better - but obviously he was always aware of that mistrust and hatred emanating from the minds of everybody around him.

              Then he found out about the Vorlon's tampering and his first reaction was that they could have been normal, they could have had regular lives. It always reminded me of how an abused child would be angry to find out that somebody knew what they'd endured but done nothing. His lashing out was an automatic angry reaction. Yeah, he overreacted and went about wanting a planet in exactly the wrong way but if all my life I knew, with no possibility of error that people hated and feared me and then found out that it didn't need to be that way, I'd probably go off half-cocked myself.

              "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization we're seeing now.


              • #8
                I understand Byron's reaction to it completely after everything they've endured. The telepaths had been persecuted by both the 'mundane's' and their own kind, they'd never been given the option to live a normal life and have probably had to live in fear of everything: Fear of what normal's may do to them, fear of being caught by the Corp and fear of becoming like the Corp.

                Every other race in B5 seems to treat their telepaths with respect, except Human's. As Garibaldi says, we've created our own monster out of fear, but never thought about how scared they may be themselves. Byron wanting a place for them to call home where they can be themselves isn't out of the question, and certainly when they find out how they came to be I can understand why they became angry. It seemed like everyone was against them and it wasn't their fault. As much as I like Sheridan, his motives for giving them sanctuary aren't just because he's a kind hearted guy, he has a motive, like everyone around them.

                I just feel that Byron came across as flat and unengaging, and I agree, I can't see Ivanova falling for someone like him. There was the telepath played by Jeff Combs in Season 1, Jason Ironheart, Bester, the young girl who Ivanova and Talia fought over... all of those characters, like them or loathe them, had depth and I never felt that connection with Byron even thought I sympathised with their plight... and I can't match the characteristics of Byron to those of Marcus either unfortunately.

                If Ivanova had been around then we probably would have felt a greater connection as we would have seen the ramifications acted out with the core group of characters we'd come to feel for, whereas Lyta was always kept at arms length and couldn't connect with the others, despite everything she had done for them.

                That was heavy, lets lighten it up... it's all the fault of the damn Vorlons! Good riddance to those peskly meddlers!
                I'm a pessimist: that way you're never disappointed but frequently, pleasantly surprised


                • #9
                  Originally posted by I, Zathras View Post
                  That was heavy, lets lighten it up... it's all the fault of the damn Vorlons! Good riddance to those peskly meddlers!
                  Yah! I never trusted them, anyway! Poor DeathWalker!

                  (but honestly, I'd take Byron over Hariman Gray (Combs' character) any day!! )
                  "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization we're seeing now.


                  • #10
                    My theory why Byron wasn't liked: JMS set it up that Zack was interested in Lyta.

                    Did the geek get the girl? Nope, the angsty pretty boy did.

                    Which rather pisses off geeks world wide.


                    • #11
                      No one ever seems to stop and consider that perhaps Byron and the telepaths weren't supposed to be liked.

                      What came across to me was that JMS was introducing a group of people with whom I did not instictively have sympathy but who had been placed in a position with which I did, particularly once the "Vorlons creating telepaths" revelation came along.

                      As part of that overall story arc, we would see a well-loved character drawn towards a group that we didn't like and didn't trust, and especially towards its leader. This would have created tension and emotion that was not there in practice because, as an audience, we just didn't care as much about Lyta as we did about Ivanova, and Lyta's attraction of Byron was the obvious move.

                      With Ivanova on board, Lyta would still have been drawn towards Byron and the group anyway, but in a different way, and it would have drawn out elements of the "Ivanova as latent telepath" storyline introduced all the way back in season 2.

                      The fact that the telepath story arc didn't work so well, for me, was not that it was badly written, but that JMS didn't have the pieces on the board to pull it off when the time came ... he needed to Queen, but didn't have a pawn left, essentially.
                      The Optimist: The glass is half full
                      The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
                      The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be


                      • #12
                        Whenever I watch Season 5 I constantly have to remind myself of Sinclair's desire for a gun, a shot of whiskey, and an asprin.

                        The Telepath War made me lose all sympathy for the whiney hippies. All the campfire singing and deep poetry reading was enough to make anyone want to call Bester to come get his kids.

                        Personally, B5 is the greatest sci-fi series ever but Season 5 was a stinker.

                        I would have rather had Season 5 devoted to doing a better job of tieing up the loose ends and launching Crusade instead of going into another war.
                        Ranger Code

                        We walk in the places no others will enter.
                        We do not break away from combat.
                        We stand on the bridge and no one may pass.
                        We do not retreat whatever the reason.
                        We live for The One, we die for The One.


                        • #13
                          We haven't seen the telepath war. Lyta started the telepath war a couple of years after Byron's death. All we saw was the catalyst.

                          BTW, when did the term 'hippie' become pejorative? And why?

                          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization we're seeing now.


                          • #14
                            Probably at the same time as the word trekkie.

                            As for season five, the telepath plot was hardly the only focus, although this telepath plot had also been building for five years. It's not like these threads suddenly showed up to the fifth season and said "I will drag you down." The Psi Corps desire to develop weapons such as the bloodhounds is set up as early as Mind War; the underground in season 2 and the beginnings of a telepath colony that are even hinted at in Chrysalis leads directly back to Byron's group; the Vorlon/Shadow telepath connections were always there in the background; this wasn't "another war" it was tied into the same war, made especially clear in Fall of Centauri Prime with the weapons left behind comment from Lyta. I think the telepaths of season five were integral to the whole five year story. Anyway, season five has much else to commend it IMO, especially the G'Kar scenes
                            Last edited by JoeD80; 01-07-2011, 07:43 PM.


                            • #15
                              Hippies? Does anyone even remember what the hippies were about? They were about fun and light and music and freedom from old prejudice. (No, not a hippie myself, but still.) Byron's telepaths share some of those features, but calling them hippies is silly (and so is using hippie as a pejorative). They're just a cult of partially well-meaning, partially fanatical people.

                              As I've said elsewhere, I think we needed to see more of these people as individuals. JMS himself has said that a large part of the attraction of such cults is the sense of community - but you can't portray that without telling us more about the people involved, about that feeling of suddenly having all these friends.
                              Jonas Kyratzes | Lands of Dream