Babylon 5: Deathwalker
February 11, 2018 10:30 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Na'Toth, G'Kar's aide, has a chance to avenge her family and fulfill her blood debt when the Dilgar woman who tortured and killed her family arrives on Babylon 5. But this woman, Jhda'dur, is prepared to make a deal... Meanwhile, Talia aides Kosh with an unusual negotiation. "Then listen to the music, not the song" and "There is a hole in your mind..."

-Ritualized revenge promises are common among Narn. G'Kar says that "I myself have several."
-The League of Non-Aligned Worlds (the minor races you see in Council votes) are allied with Earth because Earth came to their aid during the Dilgar War, 30 years prior. (The Minbari-Earth war was 10 years ago.)
-Jha'Dur, alias Deathwalker, is effectively the Dr. Mengele of the Dilgar, and last surviving Dilgar. She has developed an immortality serum ("anti-agatic") that requires murder of someone of the same species as the recipient.
-She believes this will preserve the legacy of the now-dead Dilgar: "You and the rest of your kind take blind comfort in the belief that we are monsters, that you could never do what we did. The key ingredient in the anti-agathic cannot be synthesized. It must be taken from living beings. For one to live forever, another one must die. You will fall upon one another like wolves. It will make what we did pale by comparison. The billions who live forever will be a testimony to my work. And the billions who are murdered to buy that immortality will be the continuance of my work. Not like us? You will become us. That is my monument, Commander."
-The central crisis of the episode is two-fold: can you use the discoveries which resulted from war crimes, and can you allow the chaos that her serum will bring?
-There is a council showdown about whether or not Jha'Dur is to be tried for her crimes, with the Narn wanting a trial on Narn, and the League simply wanting a trial. Because Lennier (representing the absent Delenn) flip-flops during the vote, the League then tries to blow Jha'Dur out of the sky. Eventually that crisis is resolved, only for the Vorlon to step in and kill her. Why? "You are not ready for immortality."
-A particularly stringent Minbari war subcaste, the Windswords, hid and protected Jda'Dur, leading to her recognizing Sinclair as the one with the hole in his mind.
-Kosh is negotiation with a ViCAR (effectively a cyborg), who apparently have no thoughts that Talia can detect. The ViCARs are never seen again, as JMS believed they implied Earth tech was more advanced than he wanted it to be.
-The Vorlon-ViCAR negotiation is opaque to Talia and, eventually, horrifying.
-Vorlons do not like telepaths of non-Vorlon species.
posted by flibbertigibbet (14 comments total)
 
Na'Toth might be my favourite character of the season, to be honest. I probably like this episode more than I should because of it.

I also couldn't decide whether this is a standalone ep, or an arc ep. There's so much setup here.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:00 PM on February 11


Based solely on what we know about the Vorlons at this point in the arc, I'm not sure any episode where Kosh takes such overt and pointed action can be considered strictly standalone.
posted by mordax at 6:39 PM on February 11


I also couldn't decide whether this is a standalone ep, or an arc ep. There's so much setup here.

Without getting spoiler-y about which particular parts, there's also some setup here that for real-world reasons never actually paid off, so it's, hmm. More of a standalone episode than when it first aired, but there's a decent amount of world-building that starts filling in some important lines, and that pays off in various ways. In my personal list, it's one that wouldn't suggest skipping, even though I the 'it's an immortality serum...THAT KILLS' feels a bit like a discarded plot from the Twilight Zone accidentally found its way on-station somehow.

(We're still treating this as sort-of-a-first-watch, right?)
posted by cjelli at 10:01 PM on February 11


The episode we got was fine enough, but it left me also wanting to see the alternate version that centred on Na'Toth fulfilling her oath of vengeance. Caitlin Brown brings so much fury to her scenes that it's a bummer to watch that plot thread peter out.

So far, the aides' personalities are pretty well defined given the lack of screen time they've been getting. But I'd forgotten how little they have to do in this season, compared to later in the show's run.

And re-watching this one knowing what comes later, I had fun realizing who (probably) helped Jhda'dur develop her serum, why they'd do it, and why the Vorlons would put a stop to it. Although the fact that Jhda'dur was living among Minbari adds an interesting wrinkle to that theory...
posted by Banknote of the year at 10:43 PM on February 11


(We're still treating this as sort-of-a-first-watch, right?)

I am, but it's hard. So hard. Understanding is a three-edged sword. The major world-building that happens here is important though - the League, background on the socio-political history of the galaxy, the current political state, and so forth. Plus this is the first big emergence of Kosh, whose presence and lines have been rather limited to this point.

What I find interesting about it is that it's an episode about space Nazis, but not as a current threat; it's more about things like Operation Paperclip and the ethics of using Nazi-derived medical research (with the ironic "twist" of using the anti-agapic requiring the death of another).
posted by nubs at 9:27 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I had fun realizing who (probably) helped Jhda'dur develop her serum, why they'd do it, and why the Vorlons would put a stop to it.

The Vorlon warship fires twice as it emerges from the jumpgate, destroying Jha'Dur's ship with its second shot. Someone asked JMS at the time how come the Vorlons missed first time, and he responded to ask what made anyone think they had?

And which race in the B5 universe can make its ships invisible?
posted by Major Clanger at 6:41 AM on February 14


I think we're trying to keep this as a first watch, Major Clanger, so at this point you are suggesting facts not in evidence. It's a line I'm having a hard time with myself.
posted by nubs at 10:00 AM on February 14


It's a line I'm having a hard time with myself.

Likewise; I don't, to be clear, at all object to keeping this as a first-watch, because Kosh knows I enjoyed watching the series sans spoilers, and looking for the signs and portents of future arcs and plots was a lot of fun.

And of course, once we get to future episodes, we can shift from avoiding foreshadowing to talking about how stuff was foreshadowed, so it's more a matter of waiting until the time is right than it is a matter of not talking about stuff. Still, it's hard to patient when I'm re-watching these early episodes and thinking about stuff future-stuff now.

Turning back to this episode, though: the Operation Paperclip comparison seems particularly apt in light of evolving political position this episode starts to expand on -- the historical ties between the Earth Alliance and the League, the lines drawn between the major powers and how fraught those are. We're filing in the blanks: the Dilgar War was thirty years ago; the Earth-Minbari War just a decade ago; the Narn-Centauri War sufficiently fresh that the Narn invasion of Ragesh 3 back in S1E1 has made the Centauri wary of sparking off another renewed war in response. All of which goes to explaining why the Council exists, and more broadly helps justify Babylon 5 itself, and particularly justifying it as an EA-run station -- the League is alright with it, because of their links to Earth, and none of the other major powers would trust any of the other powers to do this.
posted by cjelli at 10:40 AM on February 14


Someone asked JMS at the time how come the Vorlons missed first time, and he responded to ask what made anyone think they had?

I remember reading that whole exchange back on Usenet, at the time. What was really fun, IIRC, is at the same time someone asked the question, someone else was speculating that the Vorlons were firing at someone else. I think that guy made a lot of speculations that turned out to be correct,.

That group really was a best of Usenet - I wasted more time there than watching the actual show.
posted by happyroach at 11:50 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


And of course, once we get to future episodes, we can shift from avoiding foreshadowing to talking about how stuff was foreshadowed, so it's more a matter of waiting until the time is right than it is a matter of not talking about stuff. Still, it's hard to patient when I'm re-watching these early episodes and thinking about stuff future-stuff now.

Indeed - I am not at all complaining that this is a first watch, because I think one of the joys of B5 is in the concept of "holographic storytelling", where as the audience gets new information, our understanding of past scenes and moments changes; there are layers to some of the things going on in the story, such that our understanding gets deeper over time. But when you already know those things, it's hard to only apply what is known in the moment.

That group really was a best of Usenet - I wasted more time there than watching the actual show.

I too spent way too much time on rastb5; part of another thing that made the show somewhat unique was that the internet was becoming ubiquitous at the same time, and the show creator hung out on the internet and interacted with the community.
posted by nubs at 12:35 PM on February 14


I think we're trying to keep this as a first watch, Major Clanger, so at this point you are suggesting facts not in evidence. It's a line I'm having a hard time with myself.

and

Likewise; I don't, to be clear, at all object to keeping this as a first-watch, because Kosh knows I enjoyed watching the series sans spoilers, and looking for the signs and portents of future arcs and plots was a lot of fun.

I decided to remove the First Watch 'official tag' after the first two or three episodes as I don't think there's anyone, really, who is doing this as a true first watch. Even I'm a couple of seasons ahead of where I'm posting (my next episode is s3e6). So a lot of my feeling on arc-vs-standalone in season 1 is based on gut feel and the advice of my husband and some recappers/skip-guide-writers online.

So there's nothing preventing outright spoilers, but lord knows I'm trying to avoid them in my recaps. Sometimes I'll hint about plotlines that are abandoned (ViCARS, above) as a gentle Guide for the Perplexed, sometimes I won't (y'all can probably guess at least one of them without even trying).

I'll probably create 2 posts for the really big episodes of s1 (Signs and Portents will likely be the first): one all-spoiler, one first-watch.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:25 PM on February 14


If you haven’t seen the whole series, flibbertigibbet, then let’s keep being vague about the spoilers. Because if we’d been talking spoilers, I would have given away new-to-you plot points upthread.

I think we all know who helped Deathwalker, but there's more to come as to why.
posted by Banknote of the year at 5:22 PM on February 14


Yeah, I think we should avoid spoilers until at least the end of S4.
posted by nubs at 6:00 PM on February 14


I'll also point out -- if anyone really wants to discuss the spoilery bits of particular episodes, create a spoilerful post! I don't 'own' the show.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:50 AM on February 16


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