Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 2: "A Race Through Dark Places"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

If you have any comments on this review, please email me at the address at the bottom.

Episode Information

Title: "A Race Through Dark Places"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Jim Johnston
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: April 20, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


The Psi Cop Bester visits the station searching for an underground railroad of rogue telepaths.

We see Bester using his telepathic abilities to wrench information out of the mind of a telepath: where rogue telepaths are going to escape from Psi Corps. Bester kills the telepath, but determines that the rogues are traveling through B5. We know from season 1 (in "Mind War") that the Psi Corps, and Bester in particular, are very keen on finding rogue telepaths and either bringing them back or neutralizing them.

Bester arrives on B5 and briefs the command staff and Talia about the situation: an underground railroad "transporting" rogue telepaths is operating on the station, and Bester wants their cooperation in stopping it and taking the rogues into custody. Privately, the command staff expresses little enthusiasm at helping Bester, but as Garibaldi points out, they are obligated to enforce Earth Alliance laws.

Bester and Talia talk on the zocalo, with Bester trying to feel out what Talia knows about the attitudes of the command staff. Bester senses the thoughts of some of the rogue telepaths. We see the rogue telepaths planning to kill Bester so that he can't capture them. One of the leaders of the rogues is a man who tipped Garibaldi off to Devereaux in "Chrysalis" at the end of last season. Was that to the telepaths' advantage, or did he really just like the guy Devereaux killed?

Bester imposes on Talia to "ask" her to join him for breakfast to discuss the situation further. Talia reluctantly agrees. She muses in her quarters about her experiences with Bester and Ironheart last season in "Mind War", and we see that she has expanded her telekinetic abilities somewhat since then. She is sure that Bester has scanned her (without permission) since he arrived, so she doesn't understand why he hasn't discovered her telekinetic ability. She seems to think that the ability to protect her thoughts is another gift from Ironheart.

In the morning, while Bester and Talia are at breakfast, the rogue telepaths attack. Bester gets just enough mental warning to defend himself and kills two of the rogues. Talia flees, but is captured and drugged into unconsciousness by some of the rogues. Bester demands that Garibaldi intensify the search for the rogues, now that he has some bodies to help him. He shrugs off questions about Talia's well-being, sure that Talia escaped. Garibaldi flies into a rage that Bester doesn't actually know that Talia is OK.

Meanwhile, the rogues have done nothing to hurt Talia. When she awakens, they begin telling her their stories about why they left Psi Corps. One telepath had a brother who chose to take the sleeper drugs rather than join Psi Corps; when the brother began speaking out too much against Psi Corps, they slipped him some drugs that killed him. A woman with a very strong telepathic rating refused her arranged marriage, so she was drugged and impregnated in her sleep; when the baby was born, they took it away immediately. Talia is increasingly horrified by the stories - and she knows they must be true, because if she wants she can scan the tellers. The rogues believe that the Psi Corps is no longer helping telepaths, but is hurting them. They want Talia to help them.

Dr. Franklin, who turns out to be the head of the underground railroad on B5, tells Sheridan that the rogue telepaths want to meet with him alone. Sheridan agrees. Franklin and the rogue telepaths tell them all the stories of experimentation, drugging, coercion. Sheridan is not unsympathetic, but he is in an impossible situation because he has to follow Earth Alliance laws. However, Talia and the rogues have come up with a way out for Sheridan and the telepaths.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi's investigation of the two dead rogue telepaths indicates that they are hiding out in downbelow. No kidding! Bester agrees to wait and join Garibaldi's security team for a raid. Of course, Bester goes in early.

When Bester arrives and confront the rogue telepaths, Talia appears to join the rogues in defying Bester and the Psi Corps. They join hands in order to combine their abilities to overcome Bester. However, not all of them are devoted to their cause - they fail in overpowering Bester because Talia is working against them. Bester and Talia quickly pull guns and shoot the rogues. Bester congratulates Talia in helping him successfully neutralize the situation, and suggests that they need to leave before Garibaldi's security arrives to ask questions.

Garibaldi leaves, and suddenly we see Sheridan, Talia, and all the rogue telepaths, alive. Sheridan says he saw Bester come in and stand around for a bit, then leave. Talia explains that Bester saw a whole situation in his mind that was projected by the combined abilities of Talia and the rogues. Bester now thinks all the rogues are dead, so they can safely leave the station. Franklin says that B5 is too hot for use in the underground railroad, so his part is finished. Sheridan agrees that if Bester cancels his request for help in the situation, then he has no reason to report any of it to Earth Force or the Psi Corps. Talia wisely points out that Sheridan shouldn't see Bester again, in case Bester scans him.

The leader of the rogue telepaths asks Talia to go with them, but she still feels like she doesn't have anywhere to go outside of Psi Corps. She thinks that she is able to keep Bester from scanning the truth in her mind, although she doesn't really understand how. The rogue tells her that her abilities really are special and powerful, because otherwise their plan to fool Bester wouldn't have succeeded.

Once Talia escorts Bester off the station, she is so ebullient at the course of events that she visits Ivanova to celebrate. Ivanova is willing to accept her, if she is willing to reject the Corps, which she is now willing to do.

Throughout the episode were two subplots. First, Delenn has decided that she needs to learn more about human culture, and she has asked Sheridan to enlighten her. She asks Sheridan to dinner - just to talk. She shows up in a dress that makes Sheridan's (and everyone else's) jaw drop. They spend the entire evening talking and laughing. We've seen before that Sheridan doesn't necessarily hold a grudge against the Minbari, but clearly Delenn shows him a whole new side of Minbari culture - as hopefully he is showing her a new side of human culture. Delenn's stated purpose in her transformation is to be a bridge between the two cultures, but we know that privately Delenn feels it's much more urgent for the Minbari to develop closer ties to humans. Does she also feel it's important for her to develop closer ties to Sheridan? After all, she could have perhaps asked Ivanova for the same favor, as she has with adjusting to being human, but she didn't.

The second subplot involved Earth Force's determination that Sheridan's and Ivanova's quarters are larger than regulation, and so they should either pay rent for the difference, or move. Sheridan is outraged and refuses to do either - and orders Ivanova to do the same. The result is that they are locked out of their quarters until they comply. Sheridan ultimately takes a Sinclair-esque approach to resolve the situation: he allocates money from the station's combat-readiness budget to pay their rents. This subplot is good for some laughs, especially when Sheridan is positively bubbly from his evening with Delenn and keeps Ivanova from getting to sleep by re-telling jokes.

This episode is pivotal for Talia's attitude toward the Psi Corps. She's no longer making a personal decision to like/dislike the Corps or leave the Corp (such as the possibility Stoner offered her in the previous episode, "Soul Mates"). Here she takes personal action in defiance of the Corps and Bester. Although she chooses to remain in the Corps herself, she could now be considered to be an agent for the rogues working within the Corps. What else will she do to help the rogues or work against the Corps?

How far will Talia's abilities grow? She easily block's Bester's scans - this is amusing, especially at the end of the episode, because Bester is obviously disconcerted that he can't just scan her, but can't really say anything about it. She can project an elaborate scene into Bester's mind. She can move small objects telekinetically. Are these things she can improve with practice?

The ruse to fool Bester is clever, but risky. Talia keeps Sheridan away from Bester so Bester won't scan the truth, but what if Bester were to go "fishing" in some security guards' minds to confirm the discovery of the bodies downbelow? Or what if he insisted on meeting with Sheridan for some reason, only to be put off - he might become suspicious. If Bester ever returns to the station, he might scan the truth from Sheridan. Or one of the rogues could later fall into Bester's hands so that he would find out about Talia's complicity. Talia herself was way too smug in blocking Bester after the ruse succeeded. I had also thought after "A Spider in the Web" that Talia was such a nonviolent person that it's pretty unbelievable to see her whip out a gun and shoot several people in the projected scene.

The Psi Corps is truly a despicable organization. This episode gives us ample evidence of abuses perpetrated upon its members on an individual scale, along with what we've learned in other episodes. We also have evidence that Psi Corps may be manipulating events on a much larger scale (the assassin in "A Spider in the Web", Ironheart's warnings in "Mind War"). What is Psi Corps' ultimate goal? Who is calling the shots?

It's interesting to note that none of the educated, thoughtful characters in the series (Sheridan, Ivanova, Garibaldi, Franklin) really like what the Psi Corps has become. They realize that the Psi Corps was originally created out of fear and paranoia, that was probably unjustified, but now it has taken on a life of its own. Of course, what can Earth Alliance do about it now? It would be interesting to get more information on how telepaths are handled by other species. We only really learned about Minbari telepaths (in last season's "Legacies"), which are treated as "true seekers" - surely the Minbari don't worry about the invasion of privacy by such people. Even so, the Minbari must have secrets, like any other people, so how do they handle it?

There's a nice character scene where Garibaldi comes to Ivanova to get information on the telepath underground railroad. He knows about Ivanova's feelings about Psi Corps, so it's natural for him to assume she's in on the railroad. When he finds out she isn't, he's truly surprised. Franklin's role in the railroad surprised me quite a bit, until we learned about the extent of the experimentation being done on telepaths - that would definitely go against Franklin's principles.

Return to my Babylon 5 reviews page.