If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here.
This week, it’s Season 2, Episode 18: “Confessions and Lamentations”
It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), or referring to the pilot.
If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. Hey, if you use Firefox, there’s a simple plug-in that makes this as easy as highlighting text.
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
Open! Ships, lots of ships, hanging outside B5. Traffic problems? Cut to bridge, Ivanova says a Markab ship is overdue, she’s asking Sheridan if she can send some Star Furies out to check, he gives the thumbs up. Ivanova spills the beans on Keffer, apparently he’s been spending some of his non-duty time flying his Star Fury around where he saw some “strange ship in hyperspace”, Sheridan ixnays any more unofficial flights without prior approval from chief honcho. Cut!
Franklin is in a dead alien’s quarters. There’s an alien Dr. Lazarenn in residence already, but Franklin notes that four of these aliens (they’re “Markab”, a non-aligned species) have died in the last few days, all of “natural causes”, which is… odd. He heads out. Markab doctor extinguishes a candle. Cut to intro!
Back from intro, Ivanova is briefing the Star Furies on the overdue ship. It’s a transport, no known goofy cargo. She dismisses the squadron to go searching, but keeps Keffer back to let him know his wings are clipped for flying around in hyperspace looking for strange ships. He argues, she gives Don’t Mess With Me, Kiddo, he acquiesces.
Cut to Delenn and Sheridan having dinner, payback. Lennier has been cooking for two days. Well, cooking and blessing. Very ritualized chef duties. Sheridan wants to dig in, but apparently there are rituals to eating too. Including pauses, meditation…
Sheridan is going to he at this for a while, looks like.
Cut to Star Furies, they’ve found the overdue transport. Keffer tries to raise ’em on the com system, no answer. No lifesigns, which is worrisome on a ship that should have 203 folks on board. Oh, the lifeforms are there all right, but they’re all dead. This can’t be good.
Over to Franklin in medlab autopsying one of the dead Markabs. He looks Like He’s Found Something. He calls up Medlab 2 to see if the other bodies have been sent back to their homeworld yet. Nope. Good, bring ’em to me, I think there is a problem.
Back to Keffer, bringing the transport through the Jump Gate. He’s calling for a medical team. Better let the Captain know…
… over to the Captain, who fell asleep during the ritual dinner. Duties call, he gets to escape. Lennier is grumpy, don’t blame him if he’s been working for two days on the dinner! Sheridan makes his way to a gate, there is a Markab guy (same one we saw earlier with Franklin?) there giving Offended that the ship is being investigated. Sheridan isn’t impressed. The alien demands privacy. The doctor interrupts this little diplomatic scuffle with high righteousness. Franklin says that his follow-up autopsy indicated that the Markabs all died of some plague, and wants to know why it’s being covered up. Dr. Lazarenn says it’s 100% contagious, and 100% fatal. Cut to commercial.
Back from commercial, B5 personnel are on board the ship with lots of bodies. Dr. Lazarenn and Franklin are Corridor Walking. Franklin wants to know why Dr. Lazarenn was trying to cover it up. The disease appeared once before, centuries ago, killing off an entire island. The disease has become a bogeyman among his people, you’re considered cursed if you get it, moral people are supposedly unaffected. It re-appeared about a year ago, killing a man, and infecting his family, who believed that they wouldn’t get the disease because they were moral. It spread. None of the victims would admit they were sick, spreading it further. Some looked upon the disease as a judgement of their homeworld and left, carrying it elsewhere. He’s been forbidden to talk about it, the species leadership is afraid they’ll be replaced if they admit the disease is even happening. Dr. Lazarenn has been working on a cure, but not getting much help. So far there is no indicator that the disease can spread to non-Markabs.
Cut to a wandering Markab child, who finds her father, dead of the disease. Delenn finds her.
Cut back to Franklin, briefing the whole command crew. The disease shows no symptoms during the incubation period (anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of days), and then boom, you’re dead in 24 hours. No cure. Franklin wants to assume the Markabs are all infected, and suggests that it might be airborne and it’s possible the whole station is infected. Sheridan defers to the doc, what’s the plan? Franklin wants to bring every Markab in for a physical. Sheridan issues an Executive Order, putting the whole station under quarantine. Ivanova wants to know if they’re going to say why, he says he can’t imagine keeping it quiet. Random Command Staffer asks if they’re going to quarantine the Markabs, specifically, Franklin says no… if the disease is airborne, quarantine won’t help, and if it isn’t, sequestering the Markabs might just accelerate how fast <em>they</em> get infected. Garibaldi points out that once it gets out there might be plague on board, the Markab’s might be singled out by a scared station populace, and if they’re all together, he can protect them. Sheridan decides not to decide yet, revokes all station security personnel leave, so that Garibaldi has more bodies. Cut!
Out on the station, quarantine signs are up, the Markabs are being tested. Some of the security personnel come upon Markabs already dead of the disease. Ambassador V’shar (sp?) of the Markabs is arguing with Sheridan. The ambassador implies that maybe it’s the human’s “immorality” that is infecting his people, and suggests that he’ll just pack up all his folks and leave B5. Franklin interrupts via video, but Sheridan is saying the Markabs can’t leave while they’re under quarantine. The ambassador says he’s sequestering all his folks, who will pray and repent, away from humans. Sheridan points out that this would infect the Markabs faster, but the Ambassador isn’t in the mood for science-based medicine and leaves. Franklin wants Sheridan and Garibaldi down below. What’s up? Tests confirm the disease is airborne, it’s probably all over the station by now, but worse news he’s found a dead Pakmar. No signs of cause of death, but Franklin’s worried it may have jumped the species line. Cut!
The ambassador is ushering all his folks into self-imposed religious quarantine, the little kid we just met is going in. Heartstrings are meant to be tugged. In medlab, Franklin is issuing orders. Nobody wants to go into the exam room with the dead Pakmara. Franklin is about to go, Dr. Lazarenn shows up and offers. Franklin agrees, why not, Dr. Lazarenn knows the disease better than anybody else, in he goes.
Cut to Ivanova on com to Sheridan, saying there have been incidences of violence against Markabs. Four thousand of the resident five thousand Markabs have entered the isolation zone, the rest have been hiding, but if they get found by freaked out xenophobic folks, she’s afraid they’ll just be killed. Sheridan tells her to have Garibaldi put some more folks on patrol. Sheridan is about to take a break, Delenn is at the door. She’s been monitoring the situation and would like to be allowed into the isolation area, she’s spoken to the Markab ambassador and he agreed (guess Mimbari are okay in the immorality department). Why? She’s in full-on Florence Nightengale mode. Sheridan argues, if he lets her go in she can’t come out. Well, if the disease is cross-species, it isn’t going to matter, and if it isn’t, she might be able to do some good. He agrees. There’s A Moment. Delenn gets a little touchy-feely. She turns to go, he says “… when you <em>do</em> see me again… call me ‘John’.”
Cut to a few station lowlifes beating the crud out of a Markab. Garibaldi shows up and breaks it up, drags the Markab off. Back to Delenn, she’s going into the isolation zone with Lennier. In medlab, Franklin and Dr. Lazarenn are taking through the iso ward glass. Lazarenn looks like he’s got a sore throat, that’s bad news. He asks Franklin about the Black Death. Franklin muses about how irrational humans were during the plague, killing cats because they were regarded as minions of the devil, while the cats were actually keeping down the rat population, helping prevent the spread of the disease. Dr. Lazarenn wryly observes that seems to be a repeatable strategy: analyze the problem, find what’s most likely to make things worse, and then do that… and then he collapses. Nope, he stays mostly on his feet. Well, you wanted to see someone in the early stages of the infection, here’s your chance. Fade cut.
Lennier and Delenn are ministering to Markab in the iso ward. Some look sick. Hm, wouldn’t that spark some sort of reaction if it really <em>was</em> thought to be a sign of immorality? She finds the little kid, who is now missing her mama. Geeze, let’s make this as depressing an episode as we can, eh? Delenn asks Lennier to help find the child’s mother, but all they have to go on is her name is “Mama”. Lennier trusts in Faith and goes off looking.
Cut to medlab, Franklin and Co. are following the procession of the disease. Dr. Lazarenn is reporting on his own symptoms. Sometimes there isn’t an answer, Stephen. Up comes a medlab worker, the autopsy on the Pakmara, it’s the plague, it jumped species. Cue Ominous Music. Franklin gets Decisive… maybe there’s no answer, Dr. Lazarenn, but I’m going to act like there is, dammit. If the Pakmara got sick before humans or Narns there might be something about the Pakmara that is similar to the Markab that will give them a clue, get working on that, people! “Don’t you know what this means?” objects Debbie Downer. It means we have more information than we had five minutes ago! Get to work!
Delenn is chatting with our little probably-orphan Annie. She tells Delenn Anecdotes About Faith and Fear. Lennier comes up with Mama. Hey, success, a bright ray of hope this episode. Then the girl stumbles a bit. Dark episode, all right.
Franklin is Working Hard, and the computer is Giving Him Nothing. Dr. Lazarenn is still alive, he wakes up long enough to give Franklin a bit of advice that just might be a clue, and then dies. Franklin beats up on some inanimate objects, but then inanimate object The Computer reports back on Dr. Lazarenn’s clue, and there might be something there. That’ll teach you to beat up on inanimate objects, Doc! Cut.
Back from cut, Franklin is reporting to Sheridan. We’ve got technical-medical-futurespeak analysis. Pakmara and Markab are at risk because their cells manufacture neurotransmitters a certain way, humans don’t work that way, so unless the disease mutates they’re good. Franklin has a theoretical treatment, but it hasn’t been tested yet. He’s got 500 doses. That’s a pretty big sample of test cases, doc. Off they go to the isolation zone. They arrive and enter, and there are grave faces. Delenn and Lennier are still alive, but all the Markabs have died, they’re surrounded by bodies. Good work, Doc. Too late. Kobyashi Maru time. Delenn calls Sheridan “John” and collapses onto his chest, crying. Cut.
Back from break, Sheridan and Delenn are talking about the cure, which apparently works and can prevent the disease next time. Cut to somewhere else in the station, ISN News reporter is saying that medical ships have arrived at the Markab homeworld to find the entire population of two billion dead, as well as several million others on colonies. Although its expected that some Markabs in isolated areas may have survived, for all real purposes, we have a death of a species, here. Franklin looks depressed. Bartender cracks Tasteless Joke, says he heard a rumor it was the Vorlons that poisoned that place, “you know how they are”. Franklin mutters, “Nothing changes”, walks away from the bar. Fade out.