Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "Deathwalker"

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Episode Information

Title: "Deathwalker"
Writer: Larry DiTillio
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: February 8, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


A horrible war criminal arrives at the station with an immortality drug.

An alien female arrives on the station. Na'Toth recognizes her as Deathwalker, a Dilgar general named Jha'dur that performed horrible experiments on sentient beings when the Dilgar invaded the non-aligned worlds some 30 years ago. The victims included Na'Toth's grandfather, so Na'Toth has a blood-oath to kill Deathwalker - Na'Toth jumps Deathwalker and nearly beats her to death before security can intervene.

Sinclair allows G'Kar to supervise Na'Toth's house arrest until charges against Na'Toth are resolved. In private, G'Kar reveals to Na'Toth that the Narn regime had set up negotiations with Deathwalker to purchase her latest biological development; now Na'Toth has complicated matters. G'Kar convinces Na'Toth to delay her blood-oath.

Sinclair and Garibaldi are disturbed by the possibility that Na'Toth's victim is really Deathwalker. Since the alien is still unconscious in medlab, they look for other evidence: she seems too young to be Deathwalker, but her effects include a Dilgar general's uniform and a vial containing an unusual liquid. Dr. Franklin begins analyzing the liquid. Later, DNA analysis confirms that she is Deathwalker.

We get a little bit of background on Deathwalker and the Dilgar invasion. The Dilgar began a large-scale invasion of the non-aligned worlds almost 30 years ago. However, they apparently weren't just out for more land (so to speak). They also committed multiple acts of genocide to the races they conquered and along the way conducted numerous experiments of biological and biogenetic weapons on the species they conquered. Deathwalker was the most infamous of these experimenters. The Earth Alliance made their major military debut on the political scene by allying with the non-aligned worlds and defeating the Dilgar. Those Dilgar that were not killed in the war later died when their star went nova. If the alien is Deathwalker, she is perhaps the last of her race and would be wanted by all of the non-aligned species for war crimes.

Senator Hidoshi from Earth contacts Sinclair and orders him to send the alien woman and her possessions to Earth as soon as she can travel. Sinclair protests that she may be Deathwalker and the possibility should be investigated, but Hidoshi refuses to listen. As events proceed, it becomes clear the Hidoshi knew very well the woman was Deathwalker and didn't necessarily care.

Deathwalker awakens in medlab and demands to see Sinclair immediately. She confirms to him that she is Deathwalker, and that she has spent the time since the Dilgar invasion hiding among a clan of the Minbari warrior class. She reveals that she hasn't aged significantly because she has perfected a serum that stops the aging process and protects a person from all diseases, which provides virtual immortality. She says the serum is still hard to produce, so she's looking for a patron to fund her research. Now we know what Earthgov is intending to do - hide Deathwalker away and have her work on the serum.

Sinclair wants to confirm Deathwalker's story, so he talks to Lennier (since Delenn is off-station). Lennier promises to contact Delenn and ask for information about Deathwalker's connection to the warrior caste.

G'Kar visits Deathwalker in her secure quarters in order to try to patch up the Narn bid for her serum. Deathwalker agrees to sell to the Narn for triple Earth Alliance's bid, along with the head of Na'Toth. G'Kar refuses to go along (although I do have to wonder if his government will be happy with that). I'm not sure why anyone was allowed to visit Deathwalker.

The senior staff on B5 debate what to do with Deathwalker, not that they have much choice in the matter. Ivanova is dubious about Earthgov's motivations. Garibaldi is dubious about Deathwalker's motivations - why would she kill millions, and then decide to make everyone that's left immortal. He suggests they hand Deathwalker over to the non-aligned worlds to rip apart and keep her serum to develop themselves. Franklin says the serum is too complete to figure out without her. Sinclair tries to put the best shine on the situation, saying that now Deathwalker might save millions, making up for those she killed. Garibaldi knows that Sinclair is seeing things a little too rosily, and that if the non-aligned worlds find out Deathwalker is there they will rip the station apart to get her.

Sinclair and Garibaldi lead a small security team in a covert movement to escort Deathwalker to a ship, but the non-aligned worlds' ambassadors have been tipped off. They block the passage of Deathwalker, adamantly stating that Sinclair will have to order them all killed in order to get through. Sinclair agrees to keep Deathwalker on the station and hold a Advisory Council vote about what to do with her.

At the meeting of the Council, the League of Non-Aligned Worlds proposes that Deathwalker be tried for her war crimes on the station. The Centauri, who collaborated with the Dilgar, vote no. The Narns vote yes, but only if the trial takes place on Narn - when the League refuses this, G'Kar changes the Narn vote to no. The Vorlon abstain. Earth Alliance votes yes. Lennier casts the Minbari vote: no. Sinclair realizes this is because the Minbari are embarrassed that the warrior caste protected her. The League withdraws from the Council and all the ambassadors storm out.

One by one, ships from the various non-aligned worlds arrive at the station, demanding that Deathwalker be turned over to them. In a delaying tactic, Ivanova gets the various races deciding who has the best claim to her. Sinclair meets with only the ambassadors from the non-aligned worlds and reveals his information on the immortality serum. He proposes that scientists from Earth and the non-aligned worlds jointly develop the serum, then afterward the non-aligned worlds will be able to try Deathwalker for her crimes. The non-aligned worlds agree.

Sinclair again orders that Deathwalker be prepared to be sent to Earth. Deathwalker voices her doubt that Earth will ever let her go, but Sinclair promises to enforce the agreement. Deathwalker takes exception to his righteous attitude and reveals the final twist to her plan: the ingredients of the immortality serum cannot be completely fabricated. The most critical ingredient must be removed from living beings. She promises that humans and the other species will become the monsters they denounce the Dilgar as being, since they will be eager to kill each other in order to make themselves immortal. Sinclair is nearly beside himself with disgust and rage, but orders Deathwalker escorted to her ship.

Sinclair and Garibaldi join the other ambassadors watching Deathwalker's ship leave on the viewing screen. Just before the ship reaches the jumpgate, a Vorlon ship comes through and blasts Deathwalker's ship to smithereens. Kosh had come into the room, and he says they are not ready for immortality.

A subplot throughout the episode was Kosh hiring Talia to monitor some unusual negotiations. Kosh and his associate spoke nonsensical phrases, and Talia began getting flashes of visions and feelings. This finally culminates in Talia reliving the most frightening experience of her life, which Kosh's associate seems to record for Kosh. Sinclair and Garibaldi later speculate that Kosh was storing up something to use against Talia in the future, since Vorlons are known to be wary of telepaths.

This episode is awash in politics and moral gray areas, which is well-done and compelling. First we have the Earth Alliance trying to sneak Deathwalker off the station - they clearly knew something about the immortality serum, but how much did they know about the "secret ingredient"? It's interesting that after this original plan is stopped, Sinclair apparently doesn't notify Earthgov about what has happened. He seems to be acting on his own regarding the compromise with the non-aligned worlds. Given the positive outcome for Earth, I can't think Earthgov would be upset with him.

The Vorlons' intervention in events is really the cherry on top of the episode. It gives the viewer the distinct impression that the other species are just kids at play, and when that play goes to far, the Vorlons step in to apply a little discipline. This is the first and most obvious example of the Vorlons' attitude toward the younger races. Of course, one could ask (and the characters will ask), what gives the Vorlons the right to make those decisions? For now, they have power that no one can stop, so they can do what they want.

The "secret ingredient" to the immortality serum really makes its existence the ultimate moral quandary. I think it's good that we didn't get specifics of exactly how a living being was needed to make the serum (for example, why wouldn't using a non-sentient animal be sufficient?), because that wasn't the point of the story and would have just gotten things bogged down in details.

I think that Deathwalker was right: even in the best case that all the governments agreed to ban the production of the serum on ethical grounds, once the knowledge exists, it will be used. One can imagine a black market where rich people would pay someone to kill beings to make them the serum. Heck, I could even imagine scenarios where a desperate parent might sell himself in return for a big payoff to take care of his kids. And would that be wrong? Does a person have a right to sell his life like that?

And what if some governments didn't ban the serum? What if some species decided they were worthy to be immortal and started a campaign to conquer their neighbors in order to harvest the "secret ingredient"? The existence of an immortality serum that must be produced in such a way is simply a recipe for galactic disaster. And it's a recipe for a fascinating episode.

The politics involved in the vote over putting Deathwalker on trial were also interesting. The League of Non-Aligned Worlds only gets one vote, so they can easily be outnumbered. It's amazing how political associations decades in the past can still influence present politics, such as in the case of the Narn, Centauri, and even the Minbari.

The subplot involving Talia and Kosh wasn't really very interesting and was rather distracting compared to the seriousness of the real plot. Sinclair and Garibaldi say Vorlons are wary of telepaths, but as we find out later in the series, Vorlons are themselves extremely powerful telepaths. Consequently, I'm not sure why Kosh would need insurance against Talia, when she's a lowly P5. As we will learn later, it's the Shadows that have a justified fear of telepaths.

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