Babylon 5

Series Rewatch: Babylon 5 – The Quality of Mercy

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Lorraine Senna

At first, this seems like a terrific stand-alone episode of the series. Like many others, however, there’s a lot to this episode that will have implications down the line. It can be appreciated better by watching it again after having viewed the entire series.

CentauriAmbassador Mollari (Peter Jurasik) is tasked by the Centauri Emperor with doing more to forge better relations with other races. He decides to get to know Lennier (Bill Mumy) better, and teach him things about Babylon 5 that Lennier cannot know from just reading. He takes Lennier to a bar that is something like a strip bar. When Londo learns that Lennier studied probability, he teaches him poker. Lennier is winning, but not as much as he could be if he didn’t keep revealing his hand. Londo, however, is caught cheating.

Lennier: There’s no alcohol in here, is there?

Ambassador Londo Mollari: Alcohol? No, of course not. Here, drink up.

Lennier: Because my people do not react well at all to alcohol. Even a small quantity causes psychotic impulses and violent, homicidal rages.

[Londo stops him from drinking]

Ambassador Londo Mollari: Ahh ahh ahh… my mistake. *Alcohol*…

Meanwhile, Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) attends the sentencing of the man who murdered one of his officers. He thinks Karl Mueller (Mark Rolston) has killed before, many times, but has no proof. Of the three possible sentences he can receive, none are really practical. The only option is to have the telepath, Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) enter his mind to see what is there, then perform a “mindwipe” where his personality is completely deleted and replaced. She is reluctant since she’s been in the mind of a murderer before and doesn’t want to do it again.

When Talia enters his mind, she finds that Garibaldi was right. He has killed so many she can’t even see the number. He sees all the people he’s killed as the symphony that will sing him to sleep when it’s time to die. When they are transporting him for the mindwipe, he escapes.

Ivanova (Claudia Christian) investigates the work Doctor Franklin (Richard Biggs) is doing at a Free Clinic in Down Below, a section of the Station where those less fortunate live. She chides him for going against regulations but then pitches in to help him. Doctor Franklin isn’t seeing the same number of patients he has in the past. He finds another healer, Dr. Laura Rosen (June Lockhart), who is working with people using alien technology to heal them. He thinks she is a fraud and asks Garibaldi to check into her background.

Doctor Franklin then meets with Dr. Rosen’s daughter, Janice (Kate McNeil), and learns her background. Doctor Rosen was driven from the profession after she became addicted to stims and made a mistake in which someone died. She sees what she’s doing now as a means of vindication and a way back to her old life. Janice is just trying to keep her mother working as a healer to make her happy. He monitors her during a session and sees that the machine she is using transfers life energy from one being to another. She agrees that if she dies before she can fully understand how the machine works, she will pass the machine on to Doctor Franklin.

Andrea Thompson would, unfortunately, leave the show before all that she’s seen and done could payoff. However, that is not the case with what’s set up here with Richard Biggs. There’s a bit of foreshadowing of Doctor Franklin’s future with Dr. Rosen’s past addiction to stims. The machine she is using will also play a pivotal role in the future. Here, it all syncs together in the end as Mueller takes Dr. Rosen hostage and uses the machine on himself to his own detriment.

The actors work well together here and manage to depict this society in space where people’s lives continually intersect in unexpected ways. On first viewing, it would seem the two main stories with Talia and Doctor Franklin aren’t connected in any way, yet in the end, they are. It also introduces subjects, then drops them, only to fall back to them at a later date.

Doctor Franklin’s arrogance again comes through here as it was in the episode Believers. He once again seems to think that his way is the only way. You’d think he would have learned something from that episode, but it takes repeated doses of the same medicine for him to grasp that there are ways to treat and cure people that are outside of his knowledge. Once he warms up to Doctor Rosen, however, he seems to enjoy that his very strenuous job might now give him time for other things, including hitting on the Doctor’s daughter.

It was a different role, at the time, for June Lockhart, who was most known for Lost in Space and Lassie. Her character is a one-shot appearance, but she is a capable, multi-dimensional woman rather than “just the mom” who has little else to do.

Londo and Lennier are the comic relief of this episode and they are a lot of fun. Lennier is, as always, the seemingly innocent one to someone else’s machinations. Both of the actors seem to be having fun with the material they are given in this episode.

The Quality of Mercy is great as both a stand-alone episode as well as a contribution to the overall story arc. It just doesn’t seem that way on first viewing, which makes the strong argument that you need to view the series all the way through at least twice to fully appreciate it.

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