Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Dust to Dust"

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Episode Information

Title: "Dust to Dust"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: David Eagle
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: August 17, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Bester visits the station to chase down a dangerous drug dealer.

Garibaldi and Ivanova receive a message from the Psi Cop Bester, saying that he will be arriving on the station shortly. Sheridan convenes the war council, and they discuss how they definitely know things they don't want Bester to know, but they can't trust Bester not to scan them without permission. Ivanova is in favor of killing Bester (or at least wounding him a little bit) to protect themselves, but Sheridan is against it.

Delenn comes up with a plan that certainly takes Bester aback: when Bester arrives in Sheridan's office, each command officer has a Minbari telepath with them. Together, the Minbari telepaths can block anything Bester tries. Sheridan tells Bester that he can agree to having the Minbari telepaths continue to accompany them, or he can agree to take the sleeper drugs that temporarily block his telepathic abilities. Bester scoffs at their distrust, but agrees to the sleepers.

Once the drugs have had time to take effect, Bester briefs them on his mission: a dealer of the drug "dust" is suspected to be on the station. A human who takes dust has his latent telepathic abilities turned on and can then telepathically live out the entire life experiences of another person. The victim (who has his mind read) is temporarily injured by this process; if the victim is a telepath, he is permanently injured (Or killed? We don't know.). The B5 staff doesn't want to credit Bester with any good intentions, but Franklin has recently had some dust cases come to MedLab, so chances are that Bester is right.

As Bester says, can they think of anyone on the station who would want to buy an untraceable, easily smuggle-able weapon? Right on cue, we switch to a scene of G'Kar buying a sample of dust, provisional to a future large purchase. The drug hasn't been tested at all on Narns, so it's not clear what, if any, effect it will have. It's also not clear whether G'Kar hopes to have Narns use the drug to steal secrets from the Centauri, or to get the Centauri hooked on the drug.

Garibaldi and Bester question some of the local crime bosses, and get a lead on when the big dust shipment is arriving. They secrete a security team around the cargo area where the dust is arriving, and then when all the key criminals are in place, the security team quickly takes them down. Bester seems almost human as he hopes that they got to the dust before anyone else got hurt.

G'Kar decides to test the dust on himself. The drug gives him pretty messed-up vision and drives him to a rage so that he makes his way to Londo's quarters. He knocks Vir into unconsciousness, and then proceeds to beat up Londo.

As Londo begs for his life, G'Kar finally invades his thoughts. He discovers that Londo's original assignment to B5 was only because no one else wanted the job. G'Kar mocks Londo telepathically, and then forces Londo to reveal all his secrets. G'Kar goes through Londo's life, including his initial meeting with Morden, the later meetings that spelled the doom for the Narn, and Londo's prophetic dreams. G'Kar had always thought Londo had some role in the Centauri's fight against his people, but he is almost insane with anger that Londo played the pivot in all of the terrible things that have happened to the Narn in the past few years.

G'Kar finally exhausts Londo's memories and begins having his own vision. He sees his father hanging from a tree, which I believe is how we were told he died (last season in "And Now for a Word"). His father asks him to honor his name. Another old Narn appears to G'Kar, telling him that the Centauri are a dying people and that if the Narn continue to fight them, the Narn will die, too. He tells G'Kar that the Narn need to stop fighting because of hatred, but that they need to fight to save one another. The Narn says that in order for the Narn to survive, some must be sacrificed, or they will all die. The angelic vision of G'Lan (which G'Kar saw Kosh as at the end of season 2 in "The Fall of Night") appears, telling G'Kar to choose now to change his ways.

G'Kar returns to his own mind, and the drug seems to have worn off. He is overwrought and sobbing from the experience, while Vir and Londo are unconscious; we see Kosh leave Londo's quarters, unknown to G'Kar. G'Kar is charged and brought to trial for the assault, and he pleads guilty. He is sentenced to the station prison for 60 days, but despite the punishment, he seems more at peace with himself than ever before.

Some Psi Cops arrive to pick up Bester and the dust dealer, but the B5 staff manages to disappear before they have the chance to be scanned. The cap on the entire episode is Bester and the Psi Cop discussing how their development of dust as a means to find more telepaths just didn't really work, but at least they kept it from getting into alien hands.

This episode marks a turning point for G'Kar. We have seen him already changing into a more mature, rational leader for his people. But now he has had what he believes to be a spiritual revelation. How will he interpret his vision? Who does he believe must be sacrificed - some Narns to save all the Narns, or all the Narns in order to save all of the non-Shadow races? How will he turn the Narns away from their pure hate of the Centauri?

G'Kar's "vision" is complete manipulation by Kosh. I think that G'Kar's invasion of Londo's memory was caused by the drug, but then Kosh used his telepathy to take over and create the vision. In the vision, the description of the Centauri as a dying people echoes Kosh's comment to Sinclair in season 1 in "Midnight on the Firing Line". Kosh making telepathic contact during a traumatic experience was also his modus operandi with Sheridan last season in "All Alone in the Night". Does Kosh really think G'Kar can make a big difference in what the Narn believe and what they do? How does Kosh hope for any such efforts on G'Kar's behalf to help the war against the Shadows? Clearly, the suggestion of sacrifice seems to be urging G'Kar to convince the Narn to fight the Shadows even if it means their own extinction. Was changing G'Kar's attitude something that Kosh originally planned to do somehow, or did he take advantage of G'Kar's drugged state to try to tip the scales against the Shadows even more?

The plot involving Bester catching the dust dealer was relatively pedestrian, but Bester's presence is always good for some snappy dialog. I did enjoy Garibaldi's look when Bester pretended to be scanning a criminal, even though he had taken the sleeper drugs. Bester's comment about he and Garibaldi making a good team is some nice foreshadowing of events in season 4.

JMS has said that Bester has to be right sometimes, which was the case here - at least about having a dangerous drug trafficker on the station. If Bester was always wrong, he would lose creditability as a character. One would wonder how he could keep his job and continue to be a threat if he was always mistaken or screwing things up. This situation also makes the case for why Psi Cops might be needed - to handle this kinds of extremely dangerous and serious situations. If only they didn't think of themselves as being above the restrictions on normal humans, or even telepaths! The B5 staff managed to find a way to keep their secrets hidden from Bester, but now Bester definitely knows they have secrets worth hiding. Will he make any attempt to uncover what they are hiding? Will he report to anyone that the B5 staff used Minbari telepaths as a safeguard? If nothing else, this shows a pretty close relationship between the B5 staff and Delenn and/or the Minbari.

A minor plot in the episode was Vir returning for a visit from his post on Minbar (which he was assigned to in "A Day in the Strife"). Vir is enjoying the posting, and does seem to be running the risk of "going native", which Londo had said was the problem with the first Centauri ambassador on Minbar. It's amusing to watch Londo change Vir's report on the Minbari from a positive, accurate report into a more twisted, paranoid report.

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