Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 3: "Ship of Tears"

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Episode Information

Title: "Ship of Tears"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: September 28, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Bester allies with the station against the Shadows.

At the beginning of the episode, everyone on the station is excited, because ISN is back: their first broadcast since the events in "Severed Dreams". Any growing hopes are quickly squashed, however, as the broadcast shows that ISN is now firmly a propaganda tool for President Clark. The reporter says that ISN's last transmission had been made by saboteurs attempting to overthrow President Clark, and everything is just peachy now.

While Sheridan is out in a Starfury, the station gets a distress call. Sheridan and his wingman check it out, only to find Bester waiting in his own Starfury. Sheridan shrewdly stays out of Bester's line of sight and discomfits Bester when he tells Bester he's "thinking it over" about killing Bester immediately or taking him back to the station to find out what news he has.

Sheridan escorts Bester back to the station, where armed guards meet Bester. The command staff debate what Bester's intentions are. When last they met in "Dust to Dust", the command staff had a lot to hide from Bester: their distrust of Clark, their alliance with General Hague, their cooperation with Delenn and the Minbari. Now, though, all their secrets are out. They still don't trust Bester, though - who would? Sheridan sends Ivanova to see Bester first, figuring that if Bester is going to violate the law and telepathically scan someone, he'll scan the first person he sees. Ivanova's latent abilities (revealed in "Divided Loyalties") will enable her to feel him do so.

Ivanova very unenthusiastically meets Bester, who tries to make some small talk, but gets slapped for speaking of Ivanova's mother. He gets to the point: he has come to realize that aliens are pulling the strings of President Clark and the Psi Corps. He doesn't care about Earthgov, but he doesn't like anyone messing with "my telepaths". He realizes that the command staff of B5 probably know a lot more about the Shadows than he does, so he wants them to ally to fight the Shadows. To sweeten the offer, he knows of a Shadow convoy of "weapons components" that they can capture to strike a blow against the Shadows. Of course, only a very strong telepath like Bester will be able to track down the convoy in hyperspace.

Meanwhile, G'Kar's patience has run out waiting for Sheridan to bring him into the War Council, as promised in return for G'Kar's help in "Point of No Return". He begins bugging Ivanova and anyone who will listen. Delenn and Sheridan regretfully realize they can't keep him in the dark any longer. Every time I watch this episode, I wonder why they are dragging their feet on this issue. Then the episode reminds me why: G'Kar will be told the whole story of the Shadows and the upcoming war, including the fact that Delenn, Kosh, and Sheridan did nothing to stop Narn from being conquered. G'Kar will not be pleased.

Delenn decides that she will tell G'Kar; despite Sheridan's protests, this is fitting, since it was Delenn's actions throughout season two that kept anyone from realizing that the Shadows were propelling the Centauri in their war against the Narn. She invites G'Kar to her quarters and tearfully explains their reasoning: if she had told others about the Shadows, then the Shadows would have moved openly. The Narns would have been annihilated instead of conquered, and the imminent war with the Shadows would have begun sooner than the forces of light were ready for. She says with horror that they had to decide between the death of millions and the death of billions.

G'Kar is understandably upset, but he takes Delenn's explanation more calmly than one might have expected. He remembers his revelation from "Dust to Dust" that "some must be sacrificed if all are to be saved". Delenn is obviously relieved to have this secret off her conscience, even though G'Kar can't forgive her yet.

Sheridan has decided to work with Bester, and takes Bester along on the White Star to capture the convoy. Bester directs them to the convoy, which fortunately is only guarded by Shadow fighters. Just as the White Star dispatches the last of the fighters, a full size Shadow ship shows up. Oddly, it doesn't attack, but leaves. Sheridan shrugs it off, and they tow their prize back to B5.

When they get back to B5 and open up the cargo ship, they find the "weapons components": cryogenically suspended telepaths, most of them frozen with looks of horror on their faces. Bester admits he knew there were telepaths on board, but only after he was told the cargo was "weapons components"; he was afraid Sheridan would refuse the mission if he knew the truth. Bester is horrified to discover that one of the frozen telepaths is his lover, Carolyn, who is pregnant with their child. She was a rogue telepath that was captured and sent for reeducation on Mars, where he fell in love with her. He demands to see her.

Of course, Carolyn is the telepath that Franklin happened to have brought to MedLab to study what has been done to them. She has some kind of implanted circuitry in her brain, but appears to wake up from suspension normally. She begins having visions (probably replaying memories) of aliens operating on her and panics. Besides her very strong telepathic abilities, she is somehow able to manipulate circuitry and connect herself to the station's computer system. She takes over MedLab.

Garibaldi, Franklin, and Bester cautiously enter MedLab. Carolyn recognizes Bester, and she complains about the pain and the voices talking to her. Then she sees Bester's Psi Corps badge and shoots some kind of energy beam at him - it misses, but he's shocked that she would attack him. Franklin manages to soothe her for long enough to get close enough to sedate her. Just before she goes under, she telepathically sends Bester her memories.

Bester reveals at least some of what he learned: Carolyn and the others were in fact operated on to install the circuitry in their brains. They were being prepared to be joined with Shadow ships: literally "weapons components". (We learned in "Messages from Earth" that a person was needed as the central processor in Shadow ships.) Carolyn has been returned to cryogenic suspension. Bester vows to help Sheridan and the others anyway he can, as long as they do their best to figure out how to save Carolyn.

After Bester leaves, the other speculate about why the Shadow ship didn't attack the White Star. Garibaldi remembers something that he read in the Book of G'Quan (given to him by G'Kar in "Voices of Authority"). Fittingly, Garibaldi reveals the connection at G'Kar's first visit to the new War Council headquarters on the station: G'Quan wrote that the Shadows destroyed all Narn telepaths. Clearly, the Shadows are afraid of telepaths because of some weakness - hence, the Shadow ship did not attack while Bester was on the White Star. Now the War Council has to figure out what that weakness is and how they can exploit it.

The episode ends on an ominous note, as Ivanova receives news that the Shadows are now attacking minor worlds openly.

The last bit at the end of the episode regarding the Shadows' vulnerability to telepaths is probably the most important point in the episode. Is the presence of a telepath sufficient to stop them? That seems unlikely. So what would a telepath have to do to stop them or injure them? How strong of a telepath is needed? Unfortunately, the station has a distinct shortage of telepaths. Perhaps the other races, especially the Minbari, can provide some, but we've only really been told about them in regard to the Minbari. A notable exception is Lyta, who is now working for Kosh. We have evidence (such as her pulling information from a Centauri telepath's mind in "Passing Through Gethsemane") that she may be much stronger now than she was at the beginning of the series. Could she help them? Would Kosh allow it? Is that possibly why Kosh took her under his wing, so to speak?

With the revelation regarding telepaths, the Shadows motive for taking over Psi Corps behind the scenes becomes clear. Are they hoping to just keep human telepaths out of the way, use them for their own purposes, or keep them under a close watch so they can be eliminated if necessary? Possibly a bit of all of these, since some human telepaths were going to be sent to merge with Shadow ships.

We see a different side of Bester in this episode, since he feels so strongly about his lover. This humanizes his character somewhat, as he is willing to damn the consequences and do anything to save her. However, it's also somewhat pathetic: he got her better food? She almost sounds like a pet to him. He says he couldn't get her out of the Psi Corps, but that seems hard to swallow.

Bester as an ally of the War Council should provide them useful information from Earth, especially since now the normal lines of communication have been virtually shut down. If Franklin doesn't come up with some way to help Bester's lover soon, what will Bester do?

A final question regarding Bester: just what are his plans for "his telepaths"? He states right out that he believes telepaths are the next stage of evolution for humans. Does he have plans to take over Psi Corps somehow, or is he going to try to do something working from behind the scenes?

On another episode plot point, Delenn's discussion with G'Kar about what she knew of the Shadows and the Centauri is a long-awaited pay-off. Delenn has had to make a lot of decisions that must have been extremely difficult, but even so she has to pay the price for them. However, her accomplice was very obviously missing: Kosh. Sure, Delenn advocated not revealing information about the Shadows too soon, but Kosh was right there with her (such as when Sheridan captured Morden last season in "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum"). Who's to say whether Delenn or Kosh ultimately made the decision to withhold information? Perhaps Delenn chose not to have Kosh accompany her to reveal the truth to G'Kar, but Kosh has certainly been absent a lot recently. On the other hand, Kosh did soften up G'Kar for this revelation by giving him his revelatory vision in "Dust to Dust". What would G'Kar do if he ever found out Kosh had manipulated him in that way? He might not take that so fatalistically.

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