Babylon 5: Confessions and Lamentations
August 6, 2018 3:58 PM - Season 2, Episode 18 - Subscribe

A metaphor for AIDS as seen in the 1980s plague has hit the Markab on the station. "What happens? What happens is that we honor the memory of those who are no longer with us by using what we have learned to save others. To exercise faith, and patience, and charity. To reach out to those who are afraid. If we can do that, then their passing will have had meaning and we will grow from it."

-The 'Markab doctor' mentioned last week, Dr. Lazarenn, appears, proclaiming yet another Markab death as 'natural causes'. Franklin is suspicious, as there have been far too many 'natural cause' deaths among the Markab recently.
-It turns out the there is a secret plague about the Markab. Lazarenn was ordered to keep it quiet.
-The plague was first seen centuries ago, among an island known for its immoral excesses (implied to be sexual). Everyone on the island died, but it did not spread beyond that island. In time, it became a byword for a boogieman, the judgment of God, and acts of depravity. Because of this, no Markab wants their family's reputation stained with an admission of Drafa in the family. As such, people with Drafa were allowed to leave (because obviously they didn't have Drafa), spreading the disease.
-Despite this, Markab are dying en masse. It kills within 24 hours. It has never been seen after Markab-alien contact, and so no one knows if it can infect aliens.
-It does eventually infect the Pak'ma'ra (Cthulhu-looking carrion eaters). Everyone is right freaked out and B5 is quarantined. Franklin's staff is too worried about infection to do autopsies, but Lazarenn volunteers -- even though to do so, as a Markab, is a death sentence.
-Sure enough, Lazarenn contracts the disease and Franklin is able to watch its progression in a newly-infected individual. Because of this, he is able to find a cure--but too late. The Markab race is effectively extinct now.
-Turns out only species who use certain types of neurotransmitters can be affected, and all of the primary cast were immune.
-Franklin uses a LOT of stims to deal with the crisis this episode. This is the second time this has been mentioned or seen.
-Minbari believe in service to others being the highest calling. As such, even knowing it might kill them, Delenn and Lennier enter the Markab quarantine zone to minister to the dying, despite Sheridan's anguished pleas not to. They keep on bumping into a little girl looking for her mother, and they try to help. As Franklin arrives with the cure, they are seen standing in the quarantine zone, surrounded by dead, holding each other, absolutely shell-shocked and at the point of breaking down. Everyone but them is dead, including the child.
-Delenn mentions a dream she had as a child lost in a temple: "No harm shall come to children in my house..."
-At the end of the episode, Delenn and Lennier invite Sheridan for a highly ritualized meal for which Lennier stayed up and stayed pure for two solid days. Sheridan keeps napping during it, and Lennier is affronted but Delenn gets him to quiet down.
-Keffer has been told to stop looking for the alien ships he encountered in hyperspace.
posted by flibbertigibbet (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Despite the "metaphor of the week" nature of the episode, the performances are all good, especially the short of Delenn and Lennier clutching each other among the dead.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:00 PM on August 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

And in case someone thinks I am portraying the '90s as being infinitely better for AIDS work than the '80s: not at all. But it was better -- AIDS instead of GRID, Clinton instead of Reagan (the first national AIDS strategy would be unveiled two years AFTER this episode aired, which was still at least a decade late), after Rock Hudson came out as as an AIDS patient in 1985, etc. The 'too shameful to even treat properly' thing seems especially pertinent in the '80s, but is still around.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:28 PM on August 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

I forgot that they killed not just everyone in the station but almost every Markab everywhere, even though Dr Franklin found the vaccine. They found it, but it didn’t matter to anyone. It’s pretty dark for an SF show, especially in the 80s.
posted by corb at 7:46 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just started rewatching the series for the first time in over 15 years. A lot of episodes I vaguely remember but it's mostly new. As soon as Franklin mentioned the multiple deaths this one all came back to me. Especially that shot where Dr. Franklin arrives too late.

I knew that scene was coming. And still.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:51 PM on March 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

This hits differently post-COVID.
posted by Kyol at 6:12 PM on September 3, 2022

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