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Friday, October 08, 2004


I concur with Mark Shea--Babylon 5 is the finest science-fiction television show ever. Period. End of story. Sure, some seasons were better than others, but overall, it blew everything bearing the Trek trademark away.

One of the interesting aspects of the show is a consistent willingness to explore moral issues, quandaries and decisions. Perhaps the most consistently haunting episode for our day and age is the one entitled "Deathwalker."

Quick, as non-geeky-as-possible synopsis: "Deathwalker" is the nickname borne by the chief bioweapons scientist for a particularly nasty race of would-be conquerors who were barely defeated by the Good Guys, led by the lads of Terra. The nickname was given to her by her few surviving victims, who watched as she experimented on millions of beings on a large number of planets, many of which were left utterly destroyed. DW is believed to be dead, but turns up at the B5 space station, where she is in the midst of offering a Faustian bargain to the government of Earth: during the course of her hideous experiments, she stumbled upon the recipe for immortality--a serum that stops aging and restores youth.

Ah, but there's a catch (see Faust): the only way the serum can be obtained is through destroying the living--it cannot be synthesized in the lab. DW taunts Our Hero with the observation that that's not a bug, it's a feature:

"You and the rest of your kind take blind confidence in the belief that we are monsters--that you could never do what we did. The key ingredient in the serum cannot be synthesized; it must be taken from living beings. For one to live forever, another one must die. You will fall upon one another like wolves. It will make what we did pale by comparison. The billions who live forever will be a testimony to my work, and the billions who were murdered to buy that immortality will be the continuance of my work. Not like us? You will become us. That's my monument, Commander."

Indeed, the powers that be on Earth prove tempted, but that temptation...well, see the episode for yourself for the resolution.

Anyway, the episode happened came to mind because of a recent political ad just hitting the airwaves. Just sixty years ago we thought Mengele was a monster. How much further do we have to go before we begin to see our striking resemblance to the Nazi Doctor in the mirror?

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