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londovir- by iamsab

Episode #11, ENV: Changing the POV

"The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father"

Grade: B-

"I've never seen a dead body before. Not that close, and not one of ours. Do you get used to it?"

"When it's one of ours? No. With mundanes, it's easier. They hate it when we say that, but it's the truth. They kill and enslave and abuse each other with efficiency and enthusiasm. Why should we value their lives when they don't?"


-Bester's chillingly accurate point

We get the most comprehensive peek (outside of the novels) at what motivates Bester in this episode- family unity, a sense of superiority, and perceived necessity ("We may not be pretty," he says in an earlier episode, "but we're better than the alternatives."), which is not entirely without basis in fact.

The disregard for life demonstrated by the major players in this episode is disturbing because it is shared by "heroes" and "villains" alike. The spacing of the mundane accomplice was shocking because it was so matter-of-fact- but equally shocking were Zack's flippant remarks flagrantly condoning the murder of telepaths associated with the Psi Corps.

It may indeed be the case that Bester's more cynical view of teep/mundane relations is closer to the reality than the idealism of Dr. Franklin.
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Yeah, this was a nice episode. Bester was great, and it was nice having an episode without most of the main cast. And the Zack/Bester relationship has got great fanfic potential.

Let me warn you right now - 'Meditations on the Abyss' caused me more tears than anything else in the series. (Strangely enough, since there were many more upsetting things...but I think the understatedness of that first scene is what got to me.) So I might be crying into your LJ tomorrow.
The spacing of the mundane accomplice was shocking because it was so matter-of-fact- but equally shocking were Zack's flippant remarks flagrantly condoning the murder of telepaths associated with the Psi Corps.

Yes, exactly. If Laurel learned that murder can be handled with a shrug, she learned it as much from Zack as from Bester. And I think Zack is meant to be representative of the command staff here; Dr. Franklin, of course, being the character to point out that there are people who think differently, too.

Regarding Bester, I think this episode showcases the dichotomy very well: on the one hand, you have Al the concerned Psi-Cop who doesn't take advantage of a young girl's infatuation, and risks his life to help a schizophrenic telepath who has just attacked him. On the other hand, you have Bester who welcomes his protegé spacing a helpless mundane. And of course this is the episode which makes it canon, even before the novels go into depth about this, that Bester was literally raised by the Corps from before he could talk. The title of the episode isn't just propaganda to him; it's his most cherished truth.
Firstly to introduce myself: I saw you posting over at babylon5, and took at look at your journal. Obviously there's no need for you to add me just because I added you, but I hope you don't mind if I comment occasionally...

I loved the fact that we got to see the "other side" of Bester in this episode; he's my favourite recurring character in the series.

While Zack's attitude is probably representative of much of "mundane" society, I don't think it's entirely true as a reflection of the entire command staff. Admittedly, Ivanova and Garibaldi both have major problems with the Corps (and especially Bester), but they don't necessarily transfer that to all teeps. And while Lochley doesn't *like* Bester, she is prepared to work with him professionally, and to trust him.

Sheridan has tried very hard to make Lyta feel appreciated - not to mention his allowing Byron's people in. He isn't quite as idealistic as Franklin, but he does seem to believe that normals and mundanes can (and should) work together peacefully.

I think also that for most of the characters we know personally, the issue isn't so much "telepaths" as "The Corps". Ivanova and Garibaldi both have a relatively close relationship with Talia; and even Zack really likes Lyta, though it doesn't get far.

If the problem begins in the fear of normals for telepaths, it isn't exactly helped by the attitude of teeps like Byron and Bester that they are automatically far superior to the mundanes. Franklin and Sheridan work hard to help teeps, both professionally and personally, but the teeps don't do much to try and build better relations with the normals.

Hello!

Glad to meet you, virtually speaking.

Okay, about the command staff: I'll grant you Lochley. But not Sheridan. When did he try to make Lyta feel appreciated? In Epiphanies, he threatens to hand her over to the Psi Corps, an organization he despises and calls "fascists", if she disobeys him. Can you see him do this to any of the non-telepaths for a comparable offense? (I don't recall Sheridan threatening Garibaldi with handing him over to Clark when they were at odds.) This after Lyta had risked her life and sanity not just for the cause but for Sheridan personally.

Then there's the fact that nobody of the command staff, save Garibaldi who was already out, was prepared to do anything to help Lyta earn her living, thus bringing her in the position where she had to accept Bester's offer. Zack is the only one who ever tries to socialize with Lyta, and he's got a crush. Frankly, Lyta's bitter attitude towards the lot of them in season 5 didn't suprise me in the least.

Lastly: Did you ever consider that all of the command staff, save Ivanova who had of course the backstory with the Corps due to her mother, had any problems with the treatment of telepaths and the existence of Psi Corps before Bester started to bother them personally? In truth, even the pre-Clark Earth was was an apartheid state was far as telepaths were concerned. For several decades before the show starts, telepaths were a minority forced to wear distinctive clothing, barred from a number of professions (including the military), robbed of a number of human rights (including free choice on marriage and procreation), and not even allowed their own representatives in parliament, or as head of the only organization there was for them. (According to the Psi Corps novels, Earth legislation ordered that the head of Psi Corps always had to be a mundane.) These laws weren't news to Sinclair, Garibaldi, Sheridan or anyone else, nor were they secret. They all knew about this growing up, and when they joined Earth Force. As far as we know, they didn't make a single protest against this, or, again, saw anything wrong with this until coming in personal contact with Bester and Talia Winters.

Re: Hello!

Okay, about the command staff: I'll grant you Lochley.

That's actually a really good point about Lochley - she comes across as hard-nosed and cynical, but her by-the-book attitude can lead to real compassion. Yes, she took on the Telepath situation against her will - but she really takes risks to do right by them once they're there.

Makes me wish we could see more of her.

Lochley and compassion

Not only does she show it to the telepaths, but to Garibaldi, too. And I think it's precisely because of her usual no-nonsense, brisk attitude that Garibaldi, at least, can accept it (when he couldn't from a more openly emotional type like Delenn).

Re: Hello!

I entirely agree with you on the failure of any of the mundanes (bar Ivanova) to protest the treatment of telepaths. That's an interesting point, actually - considering how keen they all are as a general rule to foster equality and prevent mistreatment of anyone, you'd think they'd have thought of that. Perhaps it's simply that the attitude of the Psi-Corps seems so superior that no one considers them an oppressed minority.

Although - both Sheridan and Franklin are involved directly with the telepath underground railroad. Sheridan gets involved after "A Race Through Dark Places", IIRC, and is still trying to help those telepaths who choose to be outside the Corps when Byron comes along. So he doesn't like the Corps, but he doesn't generally mistreat individuals, and actually helps the rogues.

While Sheridan doesn't help Lyta find a job, I think it may be a little unfair to blame him. She is still working largely within Psi Corps rules (no unauthorised scans, etc), which means she won't do covert or illegal activities (and fair enough). However, this probably rules out most of the things she could have done for him; it's not like command staff used telepaths on a regular basis before they seceded.

Assuming she wanted to work as a telepath, what could she offer him? And the station was running at a deficit at that stage. I don't suppose they had enough to give her a retainer. Her work traditionally came from commercial deals - the humans can't employ her, since they're bound by Psi Corps rules, and the major alien races have their own telepaths, other than the Narns.

Tossing her out of her room like that was, however, crass in the extreme, and very unkind. I'm not excusing that. It seems most uncharacteristic, too.

When did he try to make Lyta feel appreciated? In Epiphanies, he threatens to hand her over to the Psi Corps, an organization he despises and calls "fascists", if she disobeys him. Can you see him do this to any of the non-telepaths for a comparable offense? (I don't recall Sheridan threatening Garibaldi with handing him over to Clark when they were at odds.) This after Lyta had risked her life and sanity not just for the cause but for Sheridan personally.

Good point. I'd forgotten any such discussion. However, I *do* remember a scene in early Season 5 - I *think* in "A Paragon of Animals" - where he goes out of his way to thank her for providing them with the information they needed. They don't socialise with her, other than Zack, but I think it's a little unfair to dismiss him for having a "crush" on her - for one thing, it seems rather more serious than that (have you seen "Thirdspace"?), and for another, surely liking people is the main reason for spending time with them, whoever you are?

Re: Hello!

Zack: actually, I found his unspoken feelings for Lyta quite touching, but surely you can befriend people without harboring a flame. (Trying to avoid the word crush here.) But Zack apart, the only time we saw people seeking out Lyta's company was when they wanted something of her.

(BTW, just to be fair, this was different with Talia - we did see people other than Ivanova and Garibaldi - both of whom were interested in Talia romantically - hanging out with her, for example, Sinclair taking her to dinner, Sheridan talking to her about her ex. You could say that the experience with Talia might have contributed to Lyta's isolation later.)

And yes, Sheridan helps throughout the show. But let me play devil's advocate here and risk a little provoking statement for the sake of argument. Helping people who are powerless (save for their gifts which can be useful to you) is one thing; it sure leaves you feeling noble and good about yourself. Accepting these people if they're not powerless but actually in a position of power where they can make demands on you, bargain with you, is something quite different, all the more if you add the contrast between people treating you as their hero and people making it clear they don't like you any more than you like them, that they in fact consider you useful at best or an expendable bigot at worst. That they resent you for the position you and your people foisted on them throughout the last decades. It's the difference between helping slaves on the run and putting up with black guys with cash and claims of property who give you the feeling they just might take over the neighborhood.

Getting along with pretty Talia, or early pretty Lyta, vulnerable women both? Getting along with some poor helpless refuges, be it the ones Franklin helped or Byron's original crowd? Sure. But getting along with ruthless, sarcastic Mr. Bester, or later, scary-as-hell Lyta who is actually becoming quite a lot like her enemy Bester in her methods of interrogation and wants to be rewarded for her help, who is no damsel in distress anymore? Or even with Byron, self-styled martyr that he was, once he starts making demands instead of requests? Quite different.

Jumping in a minute...

... to say that the posts on this entry have been excellent. I'm enjoying them quite a bit.

Now to your point:

Getting along with pretty Talia, or early pretty Lyta, vulnerable women both? Getting along with some poor helpless refuges, be it the ones Franklin helped or Byron's original crowd? Sure. But getting along with ruthless, sarcastic Mr. Bester, or later, scary-as-hell Lyta who is actually becoming quite a lot like her enemy Bester in her methods of interrogation and wants to be rewarded for her help, who is no damsel in distress anymore? Or even with Byron, self-styled martyr that he was, once he starts making demands instead of requests? Quite different.

I'm not sure it is entirely fair to demand that the command staff get along with Scary!Lyta, Bester, or Byron. Your analogy regarding black guys with cash and property doesn't quite hold, because those black guys aren't doing anything illegal when they bring their grievances to the public. Scary!Lyta, Bester, and Byron, on the other hand, violated the minds of other sentient beings, something that I understand to be illegal and certainly immoral. What you're asking of Sheridan, et. al. is the equivalent of demanding that we accept looters and rioters if they are members of minority groups. Treating them fairly under the law is one thing- but "accepting" them shouldn't be a requirement.

Re: Jumping in a minute...

You've got a point about Sheridan & Co. not having to tolerate looting and rioting in the neighborhood. (Though Sheridan isn't above encouraging a little theft if it suits his purposes - see his way of tricking Talia into performing a scan on Morden, something she did not want to do.) However, to play with the analogy a little further, they knew about the unjust social and legal conditions with which the looters grew up and are forced to live, and do nothing about them.

No, helping rogues flee doesn't count. It's treating symptoms, not the cause. And it's treating Psi Corps as the cause, instead of the legal situation for telepaths on Earth which created Psi Corps to begin with, and again, said legal situation is not new; Sheridan et all grew up with it. So instead of complaining about gang A (Corps), giving some money to annual charities (fleeing telepaths), and encouraging gang A (Byron & Co.) because they might be counterweight against A, until they, too, start making demands, how about using your newly aquired leverage to push for some legal reforms instead?

Re: Hello!

You make some really interesting points - this is a fun debate :D

I can see what you mean about dealing with telepaths in positions of weakness versus telepaths in positions of power; that's certainly a good point. However, the attitude of station personnel to EgoTrip!Bester isn't that different to their attitude towards, say, Lianna Kemmer (1.11 - "Survivors"); Orin Zento (1.12 - "By Any Means Necessary"); Neroon (1.17 - "Legacies"); General Franklin (2.10 - "GROPOS") or Mr Welles (2.22 - "The Fall of Night"). I think it's more a case of them not liking people who turn up and throw their weight around than anything else.

Similarly, although Lyta has at least some justification for her anger, her aggressive and rather superior attitude makes it almost inevitable that she's going to have a run-in with the station personnel.

The extent to which Lyta is justified in her actions is something I debate fairly frequently with another B5 fan friend. I tend to feel that she over-reacts to events, and, for instance, gets very het up over "risking her life" to fight the Shadows, and later Earth. She *does* risk her life; but so does everyone else involved. Heck, Sheridan *died* to try and defeat the Shadows - and he wasn't just doing it for himself, either. I feel that she consistently underestimates the sacrifices made by others, and the amount of stress the station is under, and judges her own conditions based on that. However, I'm not saying she had an easy time - just that it may not have been as exceptional as she thought.

Your comment about them being reluctant to get close to a teep after what happened with Talia is an interesting one. I wonder how much that would have affected them - where there's one Control, there can be others, and you don't want to risk that again... I also suspect that her status as liason with the Vorlons - and her later revelations about the unprecedented scale of her abilities - would have tended to put people off making friends with her. You don't want to try getting close to really dangerous people, and Lyta's right at the top of that list...

*Have* you seen Thirdspace? I mentioned it in the last post, and it has some very significant insights into Lyta's situation - and into Zack's feelings, too. There's one *terrible* scene in a turbolift...

I think that in some ways, Lyta is a difficult example to use in a debate about treatment of telepaths. She's never really a part of the Psi Corps - only in the pilot; by Divided Loyalties, she's on the run. She's also closely linked with the Vorlons, and clearly a super-teep. These factors make it harder to use her as a point of comparison. On the other hand, she's the teep we see most of, so she's our best-known case.

Re: Hello!

Thirdspace: No, I haven't seen it, unfortunately.

Sacrifices: yes, of course everyone else makes them, too. But again, no one BUT Lyta gets treated by their supposed friends in a similar fashion. And again, take Garibaldi in season 4, before it was discovered he was under the influence, so to speak. (I.e. the way he is treated is based on the assumption he's acting on his own free will and possibly post-traumatic stress syndrome.) When he has his fall-out with Sheridan and quits, his friends still try to stay in contact with him. He's no longer part of the command staff but (correct me if I'm wrong) seems to occupy the same quarters till he leaves for Mars. And he never gets threatened with being handed over to Clark.

Meanwhile, Lyta certainly had had her share of trauma as well. What Kosh II did with her is a rather obvious analogy to repeated rape. And she at this point has never turned against Sheridan or any of the command staff, has done everything she can to help them. But she gets spoken to only when her services are needed (except for Zack), kicked out of her quarters, and one wonders whether Sheridan and the others even noticed she was wearing the Psi Corps insignia again after Bester's mid-of-season visit, or wondered why, given that Lyta had made it abundantly clear she had broken with the Corps.

Mind you: I think most of this is more subconscious on the part of Sheridan & Co. than anything else. But I think that somewhere in that subconscious, there is the feeling that Garibaldi is one of us, and Lyta, no matter how helpful (and even then slightly scary due to unknown extent of Vorlon manipulation)... is not.

To bring up Bester again for a moment, and the Corps telepaths in general: they have been brought up to expect nothing but hostility from mundanes. They then encourage it with their behaviour. And the hostility they do get, which they might or might not have gotten in any case, in turn reinforces the original doctrine and belief. It's a vicious circle. Now people like Franklin might be able to break it - I think Bester was genuinenly startled for a moment when Franklin invited him to read his thoughts, to check whether Franklin genuinenly meant what he said. But unfortunately, I don't think that people like Sheridan, well meaning as they might be, could.

Re: Hello!

I think, much as I hate to admit it, that you're totally right here... The others *don't* really accept her, and they don't pay her much attention. I'd forgotten that they did actually spend time with Talia, which helps to highlight the contrasts. And, again, the contrast with Garibaldi is a good one.

To bring up Bester again for a moment, and the Corps telepaths in general: they have been brought up to expect nothing but hostility from mundanes. They then encourage it with their behaviour. And the hostility they do get, which they might or might not have gotten in any case, in turn reinforces the original doctrine and belief. It's a vicious circle.

This is very much my perception, too. Which is why I don't really blame Sheridan et al for not trying to work with the Corps. They've had no good responses at all from the teeps, they disapprove of their "human rights record", as it were, and the aggression isn't going away.

I think Sheridan genuinely hoped that Byron would be able to break away from that Psi Corps arrogance - as a rogue - and help to build a different relationship between teeps and normals. But Byron very quickly displays exactly the same dislike and contempt of "mundanes"; he is really *so much* like Bester.

The Psi Corps began in, what, about 2150? I forget the exact date, since I don't have the book on hand. By 2260, attitudes and behaviours are probably too ingrained for the Corps to become any less aggressive. They've indoctrinated generations of teeps with talk about the coming war, and the worthlessness of mundanes; while those outside often fear and dislike the teeps, they aren't generally talking in terms of a war.

But in a situation like that, how do you create a peace? That's at least what Sheridan was trying to do, even if he didn't succeed too well...