|Episode:||21|||||Writer:||J. Michael Straczynski|||||Air Date:||17-Aug-1994|
Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm rewatching The Quality of Mercy, the penultimate episode of Babylon 5 season one! But the Lurker's Guide Master List claims that it fits better before TKO and Legacies as they have more of a connection to the season finale, and I'm willing to go with that.
So this is how the end of season one looks to me:
20 - Babylon SquaredI'm tempted to change my mind and put it back to the airing order so that I don't have to watch TKO at all... but TKO aired after Chrysalis in the UK so either way I can't escape it!
21 - The Quality of Mercy
14 - TKO
17 - Legacies
22 - Chrysalis
I'll be recapping the whole episode and throwing in my comments along the way, but I'll also be throwing in SPOILERS for earlier episodes so be warned. Everything that comes after it is safe though, even TKO, not that it's really possible to spoil that any worse that it already is.
Babylon Squared, like I'm doing.
This random meeting gives Londo an idea: he'll take Lennier on a tour of the station to give the naive attaché some real world experience. That way he can forge good relations and go to the casino at the same time! Lennier has... concerns, but Londo's a whirlwind of personality driven by frustration and alcohol so the poor guy has no chance.
The station is expected to be self-supporting, which means they shouldn't be diverting medicine and supplies to people who can't pay for treatment. Not that Ivanova's going to stop him, she just wants to be in the loop. Hang on... wasn't Commander Sinclair asking the government for more money a few episodes ago? They definitely weren't bringing in enough cash to be self-supporting back then.
But an off-handed comment by Ivanova gets Franklin wondering why he's only got half the patients queuing up today and he decides to investigate.
Grail wasn't a great episode but he was one of the better parts of it.
Garibaldi wants to space their serial killer, flush him out of an airlock for the sake of the gene pool, but he's going to be disappointed. Wellington points out that their only legal options are to either send him to Earth, lock him away in the brig, or wipe his personality and implant false memories.
There's a nice well-acted sensible discussion here as they work out what they can do and what they should do within the system they operate in, but in the end their only real choice is the mindwipe. Which means that telepath Talia Winters is going to make a couple of trips to the killer's messed up head to verify that his personality has been erased, and she hates doing that more than Ivanova hates mornings.
Franklin thinks she's a con artist and this assessment pisses off Rosen's daughter Janice, who crept in while they were talking. Franklin explains that he has a problem here because if she's tricking people into thinking she can heal them, they won't be seeking treatment from an actual doctor. But Janice wants him gone and he agrees for now, so that he can drag the storyline out for the entire length of the episode.
Born to the Purple. This is where he met Adira, the love of his life, who then immediately vanished from the series.
Lennier would like to do nothing more than escape Londo's clutches and bolt for the door, but Londo's determined to make him join in with his fun... and pay for it too, as he claims to have accidentally left his money at home.
He asks if there's any alcohol in it and Londo assures him it's fine. Lennier's a trusting type so he takes his word for it, mentioning that he only asked because Minbari go into a violent homicidal rage if they drink (and they nearly wiped out humanity due to their anger issues when they were sober). Fortunately Londo manages to get the glass away from his lips at the last possible moment to prevent a one-man interstellar war from breaking out. And he's learned an important fact about another race!
He's discovered that her mother is an actual doctor, or at least she used to be. Rosen was obsessed with treating people to the point where she started taking stims to stay up nights working. This became an addiction and eventually cost a patient their life. So she spent a few years looking for undiscovered alien healing technology in the hope that she could... win back her licence I guess? And she actually found it, apparently.
The reason Rosen's not back on Earth showing off the amazing healing device she miraculously discovered is that Janice has being lying to her about how much money they have. She doesn't think she can afford the ticket yet, but really Janice has been keeping her here because healing people is making her happy.
I think he's very rude here by the way, as his assistant asks him a question and he just ignores it and walks out. After she went to the trouble of getting all the information in that file for him as well!
She explains that it was designed as a means of corporal punishment, to drain a person of life and use it to cure the terminally ill. Which I guess explains why she can't just plug the thing into a wall socket. Though give Lennier a couple hours and I bet he'll have that thing rigged to use a Minbari power source, like he did with Garibaldi's Kawasaki Ninja a few episodes back.
Though hang on, corporal punishment... that's an interesting thing to mention when the other plot line is about a serial killer.
But back to Dr. Franklin and Dr. Rosen's conversation. Turns out that she deliberately avoided giving Franklin proof that the machine works because then Janice would learn what the treatments are doing to her. Seems that mother and daughter are both lying to each other. He's not keen on her continuing to use the machine, but she reveals that she's dying anyway so it doesn't matter how much of her life she gives up. So Franklin actually agrees to let her carry on studying the machine and helping the sick, as long as she comes to him for regular check ups.
Wait... so now there's a convicted serial killer, an execution device that heals terminally ill people, and a terminally ill person in this episode? Interesting.
Garibaldi's men did manage to shoot him in the back, but he's got serial killer strength so it's barely even slowed him down.
Mild-mannered Lennier takes this opportunity to demonstrate another skill he excelled at in his time at the temple: ass-whooping. He takes down one assailant with a variety of kicks and then moves to cover Londo and encourage him to make a swift exit.
He phones up his assistant to ask her to notify him if any serial killers turn up, and she replies that he'd be the only patient they've had all day. Then he hangs up on her mid-sentence and runs out of the room! I don't know how the woman puts up with him.
What's extra weird about this that she seems to be inflicting the symptoms of her illness onto him, so either the machine is deliberately damaging his body in a way that mimics her condition, or it's using space magic to swap the condition over. The more I think about it, the more I don't like it, so I'm going to stop thinking now.
With the machine turned up to its full potential Mueller is dead within seconds and Rosen has lost a another patient.
The episode seemed like it might have been building towards tackling the morality of the death penalty or their sci-fi mindwipe punishment, but in the end this is as close as it gets.
Londo: "I am prepared to give you one commander, as soon as the room stops spinning."Lennier soon comes forward and claims responsibility for everything, lying that it was his mistake that caused the incident. They both have diplomatic immunity so there'll be no charges placed against them, but they will have to pay for the considerable property damage they caused.
Sinclair: "This station creates gravity through rotation, it never stops spinning.
In return he wants to know what the tentacle was. Londo explains it to him with a TV friendly visual demonstration, revealing that the statue he's holding is the goddess of passion... a hermaphrodite with both male and female characteristics. The tentacles are a male characteristic. So now Lennier's learned something about his race too, and decides to swear an vow of silence concerning the entire conversation.
The fact that the ambassadors are learning basic facts about the other major races decades after first contact says a lot about how important Babylon 5 station is. They've been here a year or two now, so understanding isn't coming immediately, but being able to go out to a strip club with each other and play some poker helps!
Sorry Rosen, but your instincts are way off this time. There's been two kinds of love interests in the series so far: those who have had two episodes and then vanished (Catherine Sakai, Lise Hampton) and those who have disappeared entirely after their first appearance (Adira, Ironheart). From what I remember, Janice is definitely a category B.
So now I have to ask myself, which is the better episode, Babylon 5's Quality of Mercy, or Star Trek's Errand of Mercy? Actually I shouldn't do that as it's been ages since I last watched original Star Trek and I can't even remember which one Errand of Mercy is.
But I did remember being pretty unimpressed by The Quality of Mercy first time around, so I was happy to find that it's actually pretty decent. I'd put it in the mid-tier for season one, above episodes like The War Prayer and Mind War, but below Believers, Deathwalker and anything with a bit of the main story arcs in them. Not bad considering that it was writer JMS's least favourite script so far. Mostly because he was so sick with the flu at the time that he doesn't remember writing it.
The episodes reveals a bit more about how criminals are punished on Babylon 5, introducing the concept of 'death of personality'. Mueller is an utterly hateable, unquestionably guilty mass murderer without a hint of regret for his actions, and the story examines what our people would do about someone like that. Garibaldi represents one extreme, as he doesn't just want him dead, he wants him to suffer horrific pain in the process. On the other extreme there's Dr. Franklin, who isn't even comfortable with a non-lethal mindwipe, but is willing to assist with it in the least painful way that he can when it's the only alternative. And that's about as much examination as the subject gets by the end. Still, it's nice to see people discuss these things like adults.
Plus I appreciate how the episode fills in a bit more info on how telepaths are used in criminal cases, seeing as you'd think that they could just scan a person's brain and immediately say 'yep, they did it, no trial required!' But this spells out that anything a telepath sees while inside a defendant's mind is inadmissible as evidence, and who'd want to go into a murderer's mind anyway? I can apparently thank the internet for this, as JMS took the time to add extra information into the script to clear up some confusion he was encountering on Usenet. I guess that happened after the draft he doesn't remember writing.
I should mention that this is a bit of a Lost in Space reunion, with the original Will Robinson and his mother in the episode together... except for the fact that the two are never reunited on screen. Their plotlines turned out to be entirely unrelated in the end.
It's also an episode of television where an ambassador literally whips his dick out on screen during a poker game to help him cheat and nearly causes a diplomatic incident. So there's that.
COMING SOONBabylon 5 will return with TKO. But not for a while, as first I'll be watching Deep Space Nine's Dramatis Personae.
Comments are welcome!