This is a guest post by our very own Katherine!
Season 3, Episode 7: Exogenesis
Two people watch a ship arrive at Babylon 5. “They’re finally here.” Later, they calmly watch a man scream in pain as an bug-like alien organism inserts itself into his back, but are alarmed when this kills him. They and a companion run away, leaving the body.
The B5 staff are celebrating Corwin’s promotion to Lieutenant. The other members of the command staff ask Ivanova why she didn’t invite Marcus; she claims she didn’t think it was appropriate. The next day, Sheridan asks Ivanova to find out if Corwin can be trusted with being brought into the conspiracy re: Earth and the Shadows.
Marcus finds a friend of his, Duncan, sleeping, and wakes him by quoting Shakespeare. Duncan is ill but refuses to see a doctor. Later Marcus meet with a contact who advises
of problems in Earth space, and of Shadow vessels gathering to create a border on the edge of Centauri space; Marcus asks him to look into the latter. Also, a package Marcus is awaiting should be at the station in about a week. Marcus decides to connect with another contact who has fallen out of touch, a man named Samuel. He finds Samuel with a new group of people; he’s uncommunicative and doesn’t want to work with Marcus any more. Later, we see Duncan getting an alien organism like the one in the opening scene attached to his spine, watched by the same people as in the opening.
At a MedLab meeting, one doctor reports a body with no apparent cause of death. Franklin examines the man and finds an small, transparent alien organism attached to his spine (as well as traces of drugs in his system, but not enough to cause an OD). He studies the organism and finds it can attach to and exist in any life-form, but does not resemble any known parasite.
Marcus finds that Duncan has given up his usual market stall, and asks Garibaldi about it, but Garibaldi dismisses it. So Marcus gets Dr. Franklin to help him. They find another man with the alien organism attaching to him, but are captured by armed men, including Marcus’s former contact. Franklin concludes the alien organisms take control of people, but Marcus wonders why they would take over lurkers and loaners rather than people of influence.
Duncan is with the men holding Dr. Franklin and Marcus captive, and he’s now healthy, saying the alien organism has done this for him. He says he is/was Duncan, and the other part of him is Vindrizi; ‘they’ cannot allow interference. They want Marcus to watch the process so he can see how it works; Franklin says he knows how it works based on the dead body in MedLab. Duncan claims that the main failed to survive the ‘merging’ due to the drugs in his system. They want Dr. Franklin to help them; if not, others unsuited to the merging will die, as will the strange aliens.
While they’re imprisoned, Marcus asks Franklin’s opinion of Ivanova; he’s clearly interested in her. Franklin is stunned by his priorities, and says he’s not even remotely Ivanova’s type. Their captors demand Dr. Franklin help a dying man without removing the alien organism. Marcus convinces his captors to activate his weapon, a kind of fighting stick, and escapes (the gate wasn’t locked?). He tries to call Security via Franklin’s link; it’s genetically locked, but the command crew picks up that someone tried to use the link and send a security team. Marcus goes in to rescue Franklin. Duncan tells him that they weren’t taken over; they volunteered to merge with the organisms. They didn’t think anyone would understand, which is why they tried to keep things quiet. The organisms were created half a million years ago as living records of all their experiences, but they need hosts, so they offer symbiosis to the dying or people who have nothing to live for. Franklin and Marcus believe the organisms are controlling the people, so Duncan reverses his symbiosis so that he can tell Marcus this is the truth, from someone he can trust. Franklin agrees to work with them, but he wants complete medical checks of everyone involved, statements from all of them, and approval and supervision from MedLab of any additional volunteers. It’s a reasonable level of regulation, and the people agree.
In the episode’s secondary storyline, Ivanova invites Corwin to come by her quarters for coffee and talk; he gets a kind of deer-in-headlights look. He’s not sure if it’s a date or not, and deliberates over buying flowers. When Ivanova responds to the roses with “Where the hell did those come from?!”, he claims to have found them just lying by the door. She says whoever bought the roses must have spent a lot and be a real dope – and that it’s incredibly romantic and sweet. In the course of conversation, she asks Corwin if he’s all right with bending the rules, and what he would do if there was a conflict between following orders and doing what was right for Earth. He says it’s not a decision he could make on his own; the chain of command needs to be respected. He would report any officer who he observed trying to get other people to speak out or act against Earthdome. That’s enough for Ivanova.
Duncan leaves the station to see the galaxy, find some of the things he saw during the symbiosis. Marcus is sorry for depriving him of what he had. Ivanova, Franklin, and Garibaldi discuss the symbionts, with the suspicious Garibaldi wondering why they don’t share their knowledge. Franklin says Marcus is good under pressure, and lets Ivanova know Marcus is interested in her. Ivanova jumps to the conclusion that Marcus sent the roses, and gives them “back” to him; he interprets it as a sign of interest.
This is one of Season 3’s weaker episodes, sandwiched between some fantastic ones. I like the fundamental concept of having alien beings that merge with people being a positive rather than a malevolent force, but the entire conflict is caused by the symbionts acting incredibly suspiciously and refusing to explain anything for most of the episode: when all of the people who have merged with them are acting strangely, leaving behind all previous pursuits, and refusing to communicate or explain, it’s reasonable to assume that something is wrong. Franklin’s seen a lot of strange things; if they’d come to him in the first place and explained their objectives, he’d likely have agreed to help them and at least one death could have been avoided. Still, it was fun to see more of Marcus, and the bit between him and Ivanova at the end is great.