March 18, 2012

Babble On, Part #11: "Deathwalker"

An intergalactic war criminal known as "Deathwalker" arrives on Babylon 5, and is immediately almost beaten to death by Narn diplomatic attache Na'Toth. As rumours spread of Deathwalker's presence on the station, the various alien governments begin plans to extradite her for her numerous war crimes. When Deathwalker's latest scientific discovery is revealed - the secret to everlasting life - the diplomatic fray becomes considerable more complicated. Meanwhile, Ambassador Kosh hires telepath Talia Winters to monitor a bizarre business exchange with a mystery man named Abbut.

"Deathwalker" is, sadly another fairly dreadful episode of Babylon 5, although at the outset I must confess it contains one of my all-time favourite lines of dialogue (Kosh's "Then the willows must scuttle carefully"). Sarah Douglas of Conan the Destroyer and Superman II fame plays the titular war criminal, and she's taken it as an excuse to ham it up and generally chew the scenery. With a war criminal so out-and-out villainous, it's difficult for the episode to generate any kind of suspense or moral ambiguity. The episode's final "kicker" - the means by which Deathwalker's miracle drug works - is played like it's a moment of abject horror. Unfortunately it comes out as more than a little trite and melodramatic.

The episode's subplot, in which Talia Winters gets confused monitoring a business exchange between Kosh and Abbut, is simply tedious to watch. It's clearly intended to be quite humorous, however the jokes fall very flat. Cosie Costa plays the mysterious Abbut, who wears a ridiculous hat and boasts an annoying personality. It's a relief he never returns, as he's one of the least watchable characters in the series so far. The worst part of the sequence, which is only apparent much further into the series' future, is that the whole plot thread is a set-up for an episode that never actually happens: Andrea Thompson quit the series before they reached it.

Ultimately "Deathwalker" feels like one of those Babylon 5 episodes that's written like bad Star Trek. I wish I could claim it had some silver lining, or brief aspect of merit, but it's sadly not the case. This episode is straight-out awful from cold open to denoument - and that leaves us running at three good episodes out of nine, or 33%.

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