OverviewBester pursues a murderous telepath, using the pursuit to train two rookiePsi Cops in the finer points of their new jobs.Walter Koenig as Bester.P5 Rating: 8.42Production number: 514Original air date: April 15, 1998DVD release date: April 13, 2004Written by J. Michael StraczynskiDirected by Stephen Furst
Plot PointsVery high on the Corps" list of priorities is thatmundanes believe that nothing ever goes wrong within the Corps. Tothat end, and because they justifiably don"t believe mundane securityforces would be of much use in capturing rogue telepaths, they usethe Psi Cops to track down rogues with a minimum of publicity. The Psi Corps maintains a fleet of large transport shipsin hyperspace, where they"re used to ferry shuttles back and forthbetween jump points. Eventually they"ll be used for some otherunspecified purpose. Nobody outside the Corps is supposed to knowthe ships exist. Psi Corps field operatives must be able to maintain amental block against a telepathic probe for at least one hour toensure that they"re safe against attack by untrained rogues. Even themost powerful rogues, according to Bester, can"t sustain a psi attackfor more than 30 or 40 minutes. Bester"s parents were killed in an accident when he wasbarely a month old. The Corps found him thanks to a random DNAscreening, and raised him from childhood. The Corps is training some of its members in offensiveskills known as "mind shredding." A P10-rated shredder is a dangereven to a P12-rated telepath, and a P12-rated shredder can kill amundane telepathically in a matter of seconds. If a telepath has multiple personalities, each of thepersonalities can exhibit different levels of psi ability. TheCorps" screening program doesn"t detect multiple personalities. Even new Corps trainees are willing to act as judge, jury,and executioner for mundanes who kill telepaths.
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Unanswered QuestionsWhat are the Corps motherships for, aside from ferryingshuttles? What were the circumstances of Bester"s parents" deaths? What is a Pak"ma"ra"s hump?
AnalysisAccording to the Corps propaganda film, 42.5% oftelepaths who leave the Corps commit suicide within nine months ofleaving the Corps. How many of those"suicides" are thanks to the Psi Cops? Even if the Cops don"tkill a significant number of rogues directly, the very fact that arogue is being relentlessly pursued might make suicide or an accidentmore likely. And of course, Gordon only said that the suicides were committed bypeople who"d left the Corps, not rogues; how many of the suicides weretelepaths forced to take sleeper drugs like Ivanova"s mother? Why didn"t anyone in the Corps communicatetelepathically within their own walls? As Bester told Sinclair("Mind War,")telepathic communication saves time. It"s perhaps understandable thatthe Corps would want its members to speak to each other verbally whilein public, to avoid appearing needlessly strange to mundanes, but thatconsideration wouldn"t apply within the walls of a Corps trainingacademy. Perhaps telepathic communication requires more effort thanspeech. Bester believes that to be a telepath is to be somethingspecial, and that telepaths have to stick together and protect oneanother, even more so than mundanes. That"s very similar to Byron"sphilosophy("The Paragon of Animals.") What was Bester doing with the mirror just before hisdeparture for Babylon 5? Since he didn"t glean any useful informationfrom his vision of Harris, it was most likely just an exercise inintuition, a moment of deep concentration to try to figure out somereason why Harris might have committed the murder. The Corps motherships are perhaps not as well-kept asecret as Bester would like to think. There are probably lots ofrogue telepaths who learned of them before leaving the Corps. Forexample, Byron would almost certainly have known about them (he hadgone out on missions with Bester) and thus it"s plausible that someor all of the other members of his group know as well. Since theyhave no particular stake in keeping the ships" existence secret,information about them might well have already leaked out. When Lauren mentioned to Bester that she wished therewere a way to record thoughts, he said, "Give us time." Is the Corpsworking on such a capability? Does that imply that they"ve discovereda technological means for reading other people"s thoughts? If so, theimplications could be far-reaching, not least the possibility thatmundanes could be equipped with simulated telepathy.Abbut"s recording of Talia"s thoughts("Deathwalker")indicates that the process is possible, though perhaps not withoutthe involvement of a living brain. The Corps" inability to detect multiple personalitiesis consistent with Talia"s hidden personality("Divided Loyalties.")Talia was in close contact, even linked briefly, with a group oftelepaths("A Race Through Dark Places")who failed to detect her alternate personality. If different personalities can have different psiabilities, the Corps might not have gotten anything useful out oftheir examination of Talia after she returned to them("Dust to Dust.")Her Ironheart-enhanced psi abilities("Mind War")might have been destroyed along with her original personality. Lauren"s visualization of the attack/block exercise hada subtext she probably didn"t recognize: the attacker was probing withspikes not dissimilar to the spines on a Shadow vessel, while theattacker was encased in what looked like shards of ice, not unlike theice surrounding Sheridan"s vision of the Vorlon in"Into the Fire."Vorlons created human telepaths and the Shadows wanted to destroy orundermine them, which is consistent with that imagery.
NotesThe love of Bester"s life is Carolyn Sanderson, who ismost likely still in stasis awaiting removal of her Shadow implants("Ship of Tears.")Whether or not she"s still on Babylon 5 isn"t clear; Sheridan mentionedtransferring her to Earth for further medical study("Rising Star")but that might not have happened yet. "Prisoner"esque signs on the walls at the Corps academy(not a complete list yet): The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father Protect the Family. Obey Trust the Corps Maternis, Paternis (this also appears on the Psi Corps logoduring the training film) Babylon 5 uses its sword and shield logo even on itscommercial sales literature. Text of the cover of the Babcom brochure:Stay in touch withfamily and businessalike with state of theart communications anddelivery services. Letus be your new partner.BABYLON 5FOR THEBUSINESSOF TODAYAND THEHOPE OFTOMORROW One of Harris" documents,visible when Bester examinesthem, is dated 2264, even though the episode takes place in 2262. (Seejms speaks.) Bester"s childhood was recounted differently in comic"The Psi Corps and You."The official Corps propaganda about Bester is that he entered itsranks at age 10. Bester keeps his disabled hand gloved even when he"shome by himself. The rogue"s name was Jonathan Harris. That name mightbe familiar to some fans; anotherJonathanHarrisplayed Dr. Smith on the original "Lost in Space" TV series, whichalso starred Bill Mumy (Lennier) as Will Robinson. However, that"snot the reference here. By coincidence, Jonathan Harris was the nameof the winner of a raffle run by the B5 Fan Club at a convention (the1997 Worldcon in San Antonio.) The raffle"s grand prize was thewinner"s name appearing in an episode. One of the interns, Chen Hikaru, shares a name withHikaru Sulu of the original "Star Trek." Sulu was a colleague andfriend of Chekov, played by Walter Koenig (Bester.) This is the third episode directed by Stephen Furst, whoalso plays Vir. All three of his episodes (this one,"The Illusion of Truth,"and"The Deconstruction of Falling Stars")are told from the points of view of people other than the series" maincharacters. The title sequence was changed for this episode: insteadof the "Babylon 5" title, a Psi Corps logo with the words "Trust theCorps" was substituted. The B5 logo was moved to the back of thestation in the closing FX shot, and JMS"s name was displayed as anormal credit.
jms speaksAbout TNT"s decision to postpone the episodesthe ones following this one until the fall of 1998Re: the schedule...it was brought to our attention that the NBAcoverage would lead to episodes being shunted around and pre-empted fora number of weeks. Obviously this concerned us, and would concernviewers, so we discussed it with TNT, and they came back to us with thenotion that we would continue new episodes until hitting #100, breakfor the NBA games, then come back (starting with another possiblehalf-hour special) afterward at the same time to finish the season.It was either this, or get shuffled around the schedule due tothe NBA, and the former is infinitely preferable. Bester is NOT a nice guy...but not everyone sees him inthat light, which is why I did one episode from inside the Psi Corpsthis season, to show how others in the PC see him....Even Hitler painted roses. Shouldn"t the other Psi Cops have been afraid ofBester?I don"t consider it a mistake at all...you never heard much ofother Psi Cops talking about Bester, and they would have more knowledgeof him than anyone else. As with Dirty Harry, some of the otherofficers above and below him liked him...and he scared the crap out ofothers. Same here. What is a Pak"ma"ra"s hump?I was thinking that the hump is where their mates are...they"resymbiotically bonded, and the female is much smaller than the male,reflecting similar disparities in the insect kingdom.
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About the oddly-dateddocumentOne of his personalities was a Time Lord. And let us also remember, about this guy getting the date wrong onwhat he was writing....HE WAS A NUT.thankyew