Written by J. Michael Straczynski and Larry DiTillio
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
J. Michael Straczynski was usually good at blurring the lines between good and evil, giving fans things to consider that were deeper than much of what was on television at the time. Deathwalker, on the surface, is an episode that seems simplistic in terms of good vs. evil. However, there is a greater depth to what’s happening than what it appears at first.
The Vorlon ambassador, Kosh approaches the station’s resident psychic, Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson), to work for him. He’s cryptic about what he’s hiring her for, but all the clearances have already been arranged. He asks Talia to scan a man known as Abbut (Cosie Costa), with whom Kosh is apparently doing business. When she scans him, she says he has no thoughts; it’s like his mind is empty. He’s also a stronger telepath than Talia is.
Meanwhile, as she’s waiting for a transport, Narn attache Na’Toth (Caitlin Brown) spots a war criminal known as “Deathwalker.” At least, she thinks that is who it is. Apparently, this Deathwalker killed Na’Toth’s grandfather while doing medical experiments on him. After she is arrested for attacking the suspected war criminal, Narn Ambassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) asks for Na’Toth to be released into his custody. Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) agrees, but places her under house arrest and confines her to G’Kar’s quarters.
Doctor Franklin (Richard Biggs) is attending to the victim (Sarah Douglas) in MedLab. He can’t understand her species but notices that she is rapidly healing. Commander Sinclair thinks she is a Dilgar, which is the race that Deathwalker was part of. The Dilgar were thought to have died off after the Dilgar Invasion of the Non-Aligned Sectors and their sun going nova. Security Chief Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) finds a Dilgar uniform with the insignia for Deathwalker on it among her clothing.
Although Sinclair is warned off of the investigation, when the victim awakens, she admits to being Jha’Dur; Deathwalker. She claims to have the key to immortality in a vial she has with her and is offering it up to the people of Earth. Sinclair doesn’t understand why she would offer it to the people her race tried to conquer. The other sentient races demand an Assembly to consider a trial for Jha’Dur as they all have an interest in her crimes.
Jha’Dur is a very interesting character. It’s easy to just look at her as a space Josef Mengele. Apparently, during the war, she conducted hideous experiments on people of all races. Many of the non-aligned worlds have claims against her, yet Earth’s government, and even the Narn government, would like to see this serum she has developed. None of them care that it might be the result of those hideous experiments. Jha’Dur is right when she tells Commander Sinclair that they will all be fighting over it in the quest for immortality and not caring that to do so they must live at the expense of another. It’s her form of revenge for losing the war and the destruction of her species, even if it can be argued that they did it to themselves. She is evil incarnate, motivated purely by revenge with no redeeming qualities. Yet, instead of blasting her out of the airlock, everyone wants a piece of what she has, no matter the cost.
It’s also learned that the Minbari were sheltering her. This begs the question of “why?” The Minbari try to show themselves to be an enlightened species, outside of the Earth-Minbari War. Why would they hide a war criminal responsible for atrocities they normally would not stomach? This is not answered, but it gives more depth to the situation for the future. At the same time, there is the challenge of diplomacy between all of the races with a claim against Deathwalker. Minbari Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) is not present, and Lennier (Bill Mumy) must be her stand-in, only he does not have the same convictions that she does. He is merely following orders, where her presence would be more of a challenge. Perhaps this is why she was recalled to Minbar when Deathwalker decided to let people know she was still alive.
Then there is Talia and her encounter with Kosh. Andrea Thompson is great in the role, although most of it seems to be looking pained and perplexed. She conveys through her body language the pain she is experiencing as Kosh and Abbut conduct “business” which really is a ruse. Abbut is a cybernetic creature that is capable of recording another being’s thoughts. Apparently, Kosh wanted to trigger a traumatic memory in Talia, and have it recorded for his future use. This begs the question of what Kosh is up to, particularly since no one can tell what he really looks like inside that encounter suit. Not being able to see a face and “read” him makes him all the more cryptic and ambivalent.
However, the Vorlons end up taking matters into their own hands. They destroy the ship Jha’Dur is in en route to Earth, seemingly having decided for everyone that the immortality serum she possesses is something these races are not ready for. There seems to be no diplomatic retaliation for this, just a general acceptance that somehow the Vorlons know more about the universe and the other races must accept it. If there’s one moment that fell flat in the episode, it’s this one. I think there would have been a lot more backlash against the Vorlons, not just from Earth, but from others who sought the serum and immortality, or even the races that wanted to see her go to trial eventually.
I suspect the central theme this week was “do the ends justify the means?” both in an overt way in the dealings with Deathwalker and immortality as well as in a subtle way where Kosh has a recording of Talia’s thoughts. We don’t know the end result of that, yet, but it’s good at raising the questions no one is yet asking.
Previous episode of the series (link): Babylon 5: And The Sky Full of Stars
Next episode of the series (link): Babylon 5: Believers
Categories: Babylon 5, Season One - B5, Television Reviews
I love the way that this question of what’s really going on beneath the surface is weaved in to so many episodes.
It’ true and you don’t catch that the first time through. It’ sonly on subsequent viewings you have these “a-ha!” moments.