Babylon 5: S05E11: Phoenix Rising
When JMS indicated to the B5 newsgroups that we should be patient, this was the episode he was talking about. This is the Babylon 5 we have all come to know and love. It was marvellous!
The episode opened when a transport ship with the Psi Corps insignia docks with the Babylon 5. The passengers, Corps officers and bloodhounds disembark and are briefed by their chief, Alfred Bester. The Bloodhounds are to concentrate their efforts on the renegades that are loose. He is content, at least for the moment, that Byron’s bunch is contained in Brown Sector. The rebels meanwhile capture and shoot one of the Bloodhounds.
Later, Lockley accuses Bester of ‘enjoying this’. He tells her that ‘we may not be pretty’, but we are better than the alternatives. Lockley does not like the idea that rogue telepaths are hunted like dogs. Bester tries to explain that if these telepaths are going to behave like animals, they should be treated as such. As they walk down the corridor they come upon a dead Bloodhound with the message ‘Free Byron’ fixed to the wall above his head. Lockley indicates that she thinks this will be a tougher struggle than Bester appreciates. I hope so. Seeing Bester at work is great. He is cunning and ruthless, especially with his own kind. What’s with motto ‘the Corps is mother the Corps is father’. Straying form the Corps is severely bad for your health, I’m glad my mum and dad weren’t like that!
Lockley discusses the problem with Sheridan in his office when they receive a communication from Byron. Sheridan tells Byron that he trusted him and that Byron repaid that trust by killing four people. Byron tells him that the situation has got out of control. He tries to persuade Sheridan that he can help but only if the Psi Corps leave. Bester enters and points out that Byron does not keep his word. Bester tells Byron it is over. Byron responds by telling him that there are other ways, then he hangs up.
Bester retires to his quarters and finds Garibaldi. He greets him as though Garibaldi were an annoying guest. Garibaldi meanwhile points a gun at Bester and demands that he record a confession of how he unlawfully brainwashed Garibaldi to turn on his boss and buddies. Bester looks concerned, possibly even a little worried but he refuses, Garibaldi becomes more agitated and tells Bester that he will shoot unless Bester turns on the recorder and confesses. This was a tense bit. Sure we knew that our pal Baldi will shoot but equally we know that Bester would not sell out the Psi Corps to save his life. He tells Garibaldi that he wont shoot. Garibaldi does not care if he is imprisoned for Bester’s death. The answer is still no…… Garibaldi takes aim and …. and…. and…. Bester smiles one of his most vicious smiles and asks,
“Let me ask you something, Mr. Garibaldi. A purely philosophical question. on a scale of one to ten…how stupid do you think I am? Do you really think I’d let you run around knowing what you know, and leave to free to kill me? I hit you with an Asimov. He was a writer long ago who wrote stories about robots. He came up with a set of rules to prevent them from turning against mankind. The cyber-tecs adopted them in the early pre-ban experiments, and I’ve found them useful myself from time to time. Before we finished adjusting you, I made sure we planted Asimov’s two most important rules in your mind: you cannot harm me directly nor, through inaction, allow harm to come to me. To make it harder for someone else to break the conditioning, I put the block in the part of your brain that controls the neural system. You can want to kill me as much as you want; the same way I can say, ‘I want to raise this hand.’ But it won’t lift up, until I send the impulse. You’re blocked at the point of action, but I left your rage intact. Call it, counterpoint, dramatic irony.”
He finally dismisses Garibaldi like a naughty boy. Garibaldi shoots the recording console in frustration as Bester leaves – nice shoot’n Tex!
Byron discusses the situation with Lyta; she presses Byron about his past with Bester. It turns out that Byron was once Bester’s second in command. He was a strong p12, a Psi Cop. Bester was training the young Byron who was a devoted pupil until he ordered him to destroy a helpless ship because it had been used to transport renegade telepaths. It would have meant killing many innocent people just to make a point. Byron carried out the order knowing that he would be killed otherwise, but he left the Corps. Of course you can’t leave the Corps and so he had been chased by Bester ever since. His salvation came in helping others like him. But, as he pointed out, look at where he has led them. He may after all be good people, but the twerp Byron is rubbish in the leadership stakes.
The rogue telepaths use their captured weapons to attack the Medical centre and take Garibaldi, Franklin and his crew hostage. The teeps are led by a particularly ruthless git. If his demands for the release of Byron and the creation of a homeworld for Telepaths are not met, then Garibaldi will be the first geezer to loose his head.
Byron is outraged by the situation and decides to stop the killing. He asks Lyta to help him through the air ducts to MedLab where he intends to stop the rogues before blood is spilled. In MedLab Franklin objects to the teeps moving a telepath patient and nearly gets his head blown off for his concern. The patient is that little creep Peter whose special powers are to be used in helping keep Zack and his men from advancing further up the corridor. Sure enough, Zack finds Peter flinging various metallic pieces of debris and they fall back.
Bester is arguing with Sheridan in his usual comically vicious manner. He points out that he still has jurisdiction over this situation and wonders off to capture more of his lost children. Sheridan broadcasts a message over BabCom to the rogue telepaths that he will not give in to terrorism. Garibaldi looks at his captors and recognises that he is probably done for.
He tells the chief thug that the teeps will not get sympathy for their cause if they kill innocent people but the thug aims his PPG at Garibaldi and just as he is about to pull the trigger Byron appears and shoots the vicious git (not Garibaldi, the thug). Even though he looks like the male equivalent of a hippie chick, I was pretty pleased to see Byron. I suppose all the people who had heard the rumour that Baldi was going to ‘get his’ in this episode were fairly pleased too.
Sheridan and Lockley are surprised to see a message from Byron telling them that the situation is resolved. He asks that if he and the people who are directly responsible for the violence surrender, then the rest of his people should be allowed to leave – WITHOUT interference from Bester and his bloodhounds. Sheridan and Lockley agree provided they have proof that the innocent are indeed innocent and that none of the perpetrators of the violence are able to get away.
Bester is furious, he wants to have his cake AND eat it. He finds that Lockley has contacted Earth Gov. to wrestle jurisdiction for the surrender back to Babylon 5. Bester is helpless, but at least he will get Byron – he is really pissed off. Sheridan has done it to him yet again. Come on Bester, you can’t let Sheridan get away with this. Show us what you’rer made of – but mind you don’t step in yourself!
Frustrated and angry, Bester goes to Brown Sector and, telepathically, he asks Byron to surrender to the Corps. Byron refuses despite Bester’s sickly sweet efforts to persuade him otherwise. Byron and his followers have a sort of group hug and leave to surrender themselves to Sheridan. Bester collects his Psi Cops and tells them to mobilise – he will not leave without Byron.
At the surrender point Babylon 5 security and Byron’s bunch face each other when Bester and his bloodhounds appear. Bester protests at not being allowed to receive the teeps into custody. Byron’s people become agitated and open fire on Bester and the Psi Cops. A vicious battle ensues. Firearms and fisticuffs are used on both sides. A tense peace is called after Byron is shot in the arm and a disturbing leak of fluid (most certainly flammable) seeps from a damaged pipe. Lockley shouts for everyone to hold their fire.
Byron tells Sheridan that they cannot go back now, that they are not what they once were – there has been too much blood spilled. He asks Lyta to go as she once promised. Lyta protests exclaiming her love for him. ‘How can I leave you’, she says. In a touching last embrace he asks her to be strong for him one last time. She does as he asks. Then Byron starts to sing his bloody stupid ‘huggy, huggy’ song and aims his PPG at the flammable liquid. As millions of Babylon 5 fans all over the world pray for Byron to quickly put us out of our misery, Lockley and the others escape. Byron then meets a fiery end as he shoots. He and his baddy teep pals are no more as the whole corridor is engulfed in flame.
As the bodies are carried away Sheridan confronts Bester. Bester is not pleased with the outcome. He genuinely believes that the Corps and Byron’s bunch were basically on the same side, that they were not supposed to fight each other. He doesn’t understand. Bester has a problem with why some telepaths would prefer to die rather than return to the warm, soft bosom of the Psi Corps. Bester believes that the telepaths are better than ‘mundane’s’, that they are special.
Sheridan leaves Bester to contemplate his confusion and Franklin catches up inquiring as to the whereabouts of Garibaldi. He is worried about the strain of Bester’s presence and the hostage situation that Garibaldi was exposed to. Across the corridor Bester looks on as the remaining goody telepaths embark on their outward journey. Lyta tells them that she has useful survival information and that tomorrow, they will begin again. She concludes that they must ‘Remember Byron’.
Garibaldi is in his quarters he takes a bottle of whiskey and pours out a glass. As he does so a news bulletin reports in the background that on Earth the Psi Corps HQ was bombed and the message ‘Remember Byron’ was left at the scene. Garibaldi pauses and then takes a well-deserved swig of whiskey. WAIT A MINUTE! Baldi is a reformed alki!!! Oh NO! Obviously things have got too much for him. Poor slob, I know that things have been a bit rough lately, but surely he doesn’t have to resort to becoming an old lush?! – Again! I know that over the last couple of years I’ve given Baldi a hard time, but just as you get to like the geezer again, he goes and does something stupid!
I’d rate this episode a great 37,459 out of 10 (although i mentally renamed the episode ‘Sleeping in Crap’). What did you think?
The “Phoenix Rising” episode review is © 1999 – 2001 Tony Fawl
and not for reproduction without the authors express permission
Discuss this episode in the Babylon 5 & Crusade Forum
The BABYLON 5 names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of J. Michael Straczynski, TNT and Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.