Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 5: "The Paragon of Animals"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Paragon of Animals"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Mike Vejar
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: May 12, 2010

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Sheridan and the other members of the Interstellar Alliance argue over the need for a Declaration of Principles, until Sheridan has to use the White Star fleet to make his point.

Sheridan and Delenn have enlisted G'Kar to write a Declaration of Principles for the Interstellar Alliance, since his inauguration oath for Sheridan in "No Compromises" was so well-done. However, the ambassadors from the other races in the Alliance do not see the need for the declaration, even though the major races of Earth, Minbar, Centauri Prime, and Narn have signed on. They see the Declaration as an insult, since there's no need to tell them to "be nice" to each other - they do that naturally.

Garibaldi asks Sheridan for permission to employ some of the rogue telepaths (led by Byron, as we saw in "No Compromises") as intelligence-gathering agents. Sheridan isn't thrilled with the idea, but agrees for Garibaldi to gather his own information by talking to Byron. Byron turns Garibaldi down before he can speak a word, having read Garibaldi's intentions telepathically. When Garibaldi asks for a chance to discuss it anyway, Byron gives an insulting display of just how much a telepath can learn about a person without trying and how much he doesn't want to help Garibaldi. Garibaldi leaves without success, but no less determined to gain what he sees as an intelligence tool that other races are using to their advantage.

Meanwhile, we get glimpses of a planet under attack, whose populace has contacted a Ranger in the hope of getting help from the new Alliance. The Ranger's White Star arrives at B5 in horrible condition, with the Ranger near death. Lyta scans the Ranger in order to learn his important message before he dies; she's also inadvertently in his mind at the moment of his death, which is apparently a very horrible feeling. She relays the message to Delenn: a race called the Enphili have been under periodic attacks by some kind of raiding aliens, who take their resources. This time, they have decided to fight back, and now they are being bombed into extinction. They request help from the Alliance.

Sheridan of course feels for the Enphili, but he's mostly annoyed that he's already going to have to use the White Star fleet in force to protect Alliance interests. Delenn suggests that he send as many ships as possible, to drive home the point, and possibly avert the fight by the show of force. They inform the Drazi ambassador of their intentions, since the Enphili are close to the Drazi; we know something's up when the ambassador rushes off, and Byron appears nearby, having scanned him.

Garibaldi begs Lyta to ask Byron to reconsider working as intelligence agents for him. Lyta isn't inclined to cooperate, but Garibaldi puts his heart into convincing her, so the the Alliance will have a chance to succeed.

When Lyta visits Byron, he reads her instantly, even though she's blocking him from telepathic access. He sees that she's always been a follower, taking other people's orders, and demonstrates it to her rather cruelly. But then he completely changes his demeanor, and politely asks her to stay and talk. He explains that he wants to lead telepaths to a better world, where they can be themselves in peace. Lyta pretty much shrugs this off and relays Garibaldi's request. Byran acquiesces rapidly, explicitly saying he's doing it as a favor for her. He even throws in compromising information he scanned from the Drazi ambassador: they are the ones attacking the Enphili, and they plan to ambush the White Star fleet.

Lyta promptly reports this information to Sheridan, who is furious (at the Drazi) and quickly devises a plan to out the Drazi and stop the fight. He calls a meeting of the ambassadors, ostensibly to watch the defense of the Enphili homeworld. The White Star fleet has gone to the world ahead of the Drazi fleet, so the Drazi fleet will themselves be ambushed shortly. The Drazi ambassador tries to leave to contact his government and stop his fleet, but Sheridan and Delenn feign innocence and keep the ambassador from leaving until he admits the truth. The Drazi attack is averted, no more fighting takes place, and the Enphili are safe. And as a bonus, Sheridan has had his point made about the need for the Declaration of Principles. All races sign the Declaration.

The main plot of this episode seems to be about saving the Enphili, and Sheridan getting the other races to sign on to the Declaration of Principles, so I'll talk about it first (despite the fact that I think the threads linking to the telepaths are actually more important). This plot was set up pretty well, but it was telegraphed a bit. Since the other races' ambassadors were protesting way too much that they didn't have to sing the Declaration, it was clear that one of them was going to get into trouble. The character of the Drazi is well-suited to be the aggressor here, because they've always been quick to look for advantages for themselves. Thus, the plot became a bit convenient for Sheridan to make his point.

Sheridan and Delenn work well together with him as President, and her making pointed suggestions to him in private. I certainly don't think she's going to control Sheridan, but they make a good team. Sheridan has gotten over the doubt he had in his abilities to make tough decisions that would affect many worlds, like he used to have in seasons 2 and 3.

I thought it was a bit odd that the Enphili, such a provincial people, had already heard about the Alliance and believed in it enough to call on it for help. Hasn't it only been in existence for a few months? I suppose the Rangers have been out there for much longer.

Incidentally, G'Kar demonstrates again his excellent writing ability. It's very nice that Sheridan's reading of the Declaration transitions into G'Kar's voice, since it's much more effective. The Alliance is certainly starting out with the best of intentions!

The related plot concerning the telepaths is much more interesting and important for the future, since we and the characters all know that there is trouble coming with the telepaths and Psi Corps. It's a bit ironic that Garibaldi is the one to suggest employing the telepaths, since he's had such bad experiences with them. However, I suppose that means he knows very well what they are capable of.

Byron and his telepaths are an odd bunch, and I'm not sure if it's the specific personality of him and the others, or because they are "different". Byron certainly seemed rude to Garibaldi, especially since Garibaldi was operating on Sheridan's behalf, and Sheridan is the one who decided to shelter the telepaths.

On further thought, I was thinking that Byron was not initially rude, just curt: saying no to Garibaldi before Garibaldi had a chance to say anything verbally. Was Byron just acting like he would with the other telepaths, telepathically receiving the conversation and then answering? Maybe. He only got really rude when Garibaldi refused to take "no" for an answer. If Byron was just following "telepath etiquette", then what right does Garibaldi or another "normal" have to complain or be uncomfortable? Why should telepaths have to change their culture and behavior just to please "normals"? It might make their situation a little easier, but clearly they are making a point to be themselves.

On a related note: do Byron and the other telepaths on the station really broadcast their thoughts and read each other's thoughts freely and constantly? That would be a very different way of interacting with others and would require a complete redefinition of what privacy is. On broad terms, I would think that experiencing other people's thoughts all the time would encourage empathy, because you would know when someone else is in pain or sad or angry, and you would know right away if you were the cause of those feelings. It should also encourage tolerance, because surely one couldn't control all of one's fleeting thoughts of annoyance and dislike that everyone experiences on a daily bases when interacting with others. Do the telepaths have any means or inclination of providing privacy between individuals? If you're having an affair with someone, are all of your intimate thoughts immediately broadcast to everyone? For that matter, if you become attracted to another telepath, would they know right away? Byron's new culture of telepaths could end up being radically different from the culture of "normals". And I think that's part of his goal.

Lyta has finally connected with Byron and the other telepaths; I find it odd that she hadn't looked them up before now - perhaps she thought that since she was back in the Psi Corps they would not be friendly. Lyta has been drifting for awhile, most recently hanging on to Sheridan's goals with re-taking Earth and now helping the Alliance, but not really dedicating herself to them. Sheridan (or Delenn) hasn't taken her under his wing, but now I think Byron has. He's already done a favor for her, and although she seems pretty cold to him, she does seem intrigued by his vision for telepaths. Will she become another follower of his?

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