Our long-delayed second installment of the Babylon 5 Viewing Club is finally here (pause for crickets)!
The introductory post was here.
This week: The Soul Hunter!
It’s very difficult to discuss this show without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot; if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the watchin’, see you after the cut!
Rather than write a detailed synopsis (an effort that I expect was over-over-kill), I shall instead link to the Wikipedia synopsis, here.
Here’s the Big Observations for this week:
- Sinclair does his fighter-jock bit again. He also leads the security team to find the deranged Soul Hunter. Our captain once again demonstrates his “lead from the front” philosophy.
- N’Grath, the insectoid alien, represents some sort of major player in B5’s underworld, which gives him enough self-assurance that he’s okay with being in on a plot to assassinate an ambassador of one of the big 5 races.
- Delenn is no ordinary ambassador, she’s a member of the Grey Council. What precisely this means is not yet clear, but it appears to be a Big Deal to the Soul Hunter, who calls her one of “the great leaders”.
- We have three brief descriptions of possible states for the soul, set forth by three different characters:
- Franklin: There is no soul that survives the body. Maybe you can have a Singularity recording of someone’s brain recordings, but you’re a ghost in the machine.
- Delenn: All sentients have immortal souls. When a Minbari (in particular) dies its soul merges with the souls of other dead Minbari (no word yet on what this implies for humans, Narn, Centauri, Vorlons, etc.). Mimbari souls are recycled into future generations, so as individuals advance their own souls, the Minbari as a whole advance.
- Soul Hunter: All sentients have souls, but when someone dies, the soul expires into oblivion. A soul can be captured at the moment it leaves the body before dissolution.
We’re encouraged by the situation at the end of the episode to accept Delenn’s description, at least to some extent. First, because the englobed souls apparently assist Sinclair against the Soul Hunter during the fight, which, granted, implies the souls aren’t too happy with the Soul Hunter’s actions… but it could be argued that the trapped souls don’t like the Soul Hunter killing to preserve the souls, but they’re otherwise okay with their state. Second, however, is that the end scene is clearly intended to invoke the feeling that Delenn is “freeing” those souls. Of course, that could just be the Mimbari ones. The show very carefully does not come down hard on declaring who is correct, here.
You’ll see a lot of this in the series. J. Michael Straczynski sets up a goodly number of conflicts with resolutions that are open to a number of interpretations, which I happen to think is one of the nicest features of the series.
Outstanding question: if the Mimbari are the only race who reincarnate, what does it say about the Soul Hunter englobulating non-Mimbari souls? Would you rather be englobulated than diffuse back into the ether?
Is it ethical – or even morally required – to try and preserve souls before they vanish upon death? (For a different take on this question, see Spider Robinson’s books in the Lifehouse Trilogy.)
Delenn has a big plan of some sort. As the Soul Hunter says, prior to draining her life, “You would plan such a thing? You would do such a thing? Incredible!” (side note: both Mimbari and Soul Hunters appear not to be under Psi Corps rule, as they clearly possess extrasensory powers, implying pretty strongly at this stage that PsiCorp is a human-only affair). The episode implies that maybe Sinclair is involved with this plan, as Delenn says to him while coming out of delirium: “I knew you would come. We were right about you”. Although, one other possibility, there is some link from Sinclair to Delenn from the past that only Delenn knows.
Nerd detail: the doctor arrives aboard the starliner “Asimov”. The ship was named thus because Sir Issac died just before the filming of this episode.