Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Exogenesis"

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Episode Information

Title: "Exogenesis"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Kevin Cremin
Rating (out of 4 stars): * 1/2
Reviewed on: August 18, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Strange alien parasites are taking over the bodies of people on B5.

At the beginning of the episode, we watch as two people observe a man laying on the floor - the man has some kind of creature apparently sinking into his back. The man dies, and the other two people must run off to avoid being caught by security. The body is eventually brought to Franklin's attention because there's no obvious cause of death. When Franklin does an autopsy, he finds some kind of alien parasite wrapped around the victim's spine.

Meanwhile, Marcus is continuing his intelligence-gathering activities, for which he employs some of the lurkers on B5. One of them, Samuel, has told Marcus he's too busy to help anymore, and when Marcus pursues the issue, he finds Samuel's new friends to be suspicious. Also, Marcus's elderly and infirm lurker friend, Duncan, has disappeared inexplicably. In another scene, we see Duncan being taken over by one of the parasites.

Marcus brings these oddities to Garibaldi's attention, but surprisingly Garibaldi blows him off, saying he's too busy to check into something that's probably meaningless. Is this the same Garibaldi that went to great lengths to help and/or avenge his own informants in the season 1 episodes "Grail" and "Chrysalis"? And the same obsessive-compulsive Garibaldi that likes to know everything going on on the station, such as in season 2's "A Race Through Dark Places" and "Knives"? Frankly, it seems to be a contrivance of the episode to have Garibaldi ignore Marcus.

A comment by Garibaldi makes Marcus go to Franklin for help in tracking down what happened to Duncan, at least. They visit Duncan's quarters, only to find him gone but some kind of tunnel bored into the wall of his quarters. Marcus and Franklin follow the tunnel, only to be captured by Samuel and some of the other people, all of whom we suspect have been taken over by parasites. The people don't really offer any explanation, but lock up Marcus and Franklin. They do talk as if they have been taken over, referring to things "it" tells them.

Sometime later, the people take Franklin to help one of their friends, who has not adapted well to the take-over process. While Franklin is gone, Marcus cooks up one of the dumbest distractions for his guards and escapes. He finds Franklin, and they get the drop on the other people and demand an explanation.

Duncan shows up and provides most of the explanation. The parasites are a race known as the Vindrizi. The Vindrizi were created to preserve knowledge within their memories, in case of another dark age. However, they can only survive in the long term if they infest another person. So the group of infested people on B5 have been looking for volunteers to host a parasite: the reward is that you will be preserving knowledge, plus the physical body of the person seems to be restored to health. The deaths that have occurred have been volunteers who were too old or ill or otherwise had physical problems. The Vindrizi want Franklin to help them find healthy volunteers.

Marcus is skeptical of Duncan's story, since Duncan has been infested. The parasite painfully removes himself from Duncan's body, and Duncan verifies the story. However, the parasite cannot re-infest Duncan, so he can no longer help them. Franklin agrees to oversee the infestation of healthy volunteers.

The secondary plot in this episode is that bridge officer Corwin has been promoted to full lieutenant, and Sheridan tells Ivanova to find out if Corwin would be a good recruit to their secret alliance to root out corruption in Earthgov. This plot is played mostly for laughs, as Corwin thinks Ivanova's invitation to talk is a date and buys her flowers that he then pretends to have found outsider her door. Through their conversation, Ivanova decides that Corwin is too bound by the chain of command and the new ideas that Earthgov has been pushing.

Frankly, this episode is one of B5's worst. A lot of it has to do with the writing of the A-plot, although the poor special effects of the parasites don't help (How is it that alien parasites can always infest people in just moments and not even leave a mark?). The logic of the plot is seriously lacking.

The purpose of the Vindrizi is admirable and believable. However, if they've been around for thousands of years, why haven't they developed a more effective way of finding healthy volunteers and infesting them safely? By the end of the episode, we get the feeling that the Vindrizi realize they need Franklin's help to find healthy volunteers - what took them so long? And if they knew that from the beginning, then why didn't the initial infested humans arrive on the station, explain the situation to the B5 command staff, and try to get cooperation?

With this approach, they could have let Franklin study a living infested person, and then have him ensure that the volunteer really was a volunteer and monitor the whole process. As the episode actually proceeded, the infested people were extremely closed-mouthed about what they were doing an why, just dropping vague hints about what "it" was telling them. And then Duncan was forced to lose his parasite to confirm all the information. I suppose all of that is more dramatic and mysterious, but it seems silly.

Additional smaller problems with this plot. Why on Earth would the infested people tunnel into Duncan's quarters? If he was a volunteer, shouldn't he have gone wherever they wanted? And since the infested people just look like people, they don't have to hide themselves.

As I mentioned before, Marcus's distraction to get out of his confinement was ridiculous. I can't believe the infested people were that stupid as to follow his instructions to activate his fighting pike. It's hard to take them seriously as a threat when they are so dumb.

The nice point of this plot was that we find out that Marcus has a crush on Ivanova, which I mentioned that I thought was sparked by her actions in "Voices of Authority". He confesses the crush to Franklin, who says he's not her type. However, Franklin does try to push Ivanova into considering giving Marcus a chance. Ivanova is not inclined to do so and thinks he's the mysterious person who left the flowers for her - she stalks off and throws them back at him, but he thinks she's just giving him flowers! Ha.

Ultimately, the parasite plot is also unfulfilling because it bears absolutely no connection to the overall plot in the series. That's not crucial to a good episode, but it could have helped raise this poor episode to something more.

The secondary plot concerning Corwin is some nice background on how finding new allies would be done. However, I'm not convinced that Ivanova conducted her "interview" in the most effective manner. I felt like she was leading Corwin into the "party line" answers, which of course he would give even if he didn't believe in them, just to cover his butt. I should give Ivanova a break, though, since this kind of thing was not really something she's trained for.

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