Remember how last week was lame? Really lame? Like “Deep Space 9” lame? Well, as lame as that one was, this one promises to be even lamer, starting off as it does with ‘Generic Star Trek Peril Plot #7: Plauge On The Ship.” However, just to drive home how really, really badly Trek had been doing it in the ‘90s, B5 takes that inauspicious, overused, boring ol’ trope, and turns it into something magnificent. Really!
PLAY BY PLAY
A Markab dies in his quarters. The ranking Markab doctor on the station - Lazaren - does a ‘cause of death’ which seems plausible, but Dr. Franklin needs to concur. Given that there have been four Markab dead in a week, all from ‘natural causes,’ Franklin decides to look deeper, despite the irritation of Dr. Lazaren. He finds that all four are showing signs of some kind of heretofore unknown plague. Around the same time, a Markab freighter bound for the station goes overdue, so Ivonova sends Zeta Squadron out to look for it. They find the ship - and 200 Markab - dead. They tow it back. The Markab on the station refuse to let Sheridan’s people investigate until Franklin confronts Dr. Lazaren, and then it all comes out:
The disease is called “Draffa.” It’s named after an island on the Markab homeworld that was renowned for “Immoral excesses” (Inferred, but not stated to be sexual and deviant in nature). A plague showed up, and everyone on the island died. The disease didn’t spread beyond because of freak weather conditions that kept ships from sailing in or out. This was several centuries back, presumably before the Markab had much in the way of technology. The disease was taken by them to be a punishment from the gods, much the way many people to AIDS to be when it first showed up in the gay community in 1980 (Called “GRID” in those days: “Gay Related Infectious Disease.”). Over time “It became a way to frighten children - be good, or the Dark Angel will visit you and give you Draffa!” The disease is 100% fatal and 100% contagious. It started showing up a year ago, and given the stigma attached to it - “Draffa” is synonymous with immorality - people covered it up. Then people started sneaking away from homeworld, infecting the Markab colonies. By now it’s a full-on pandemic.
Franklin asks Lazaren why he didn’t tell him if he’d known about it for a year, and Lazaren says with real anguish that he was ordered not to. Franklin briefs Sheridan on the situation, and they quarrantine the station. No one knows if it can spread beyond the Markab themselves, or if it’s airborn, spread by touch, or what. Franklin puts the whole station medical staff to work, but they’re kinda’ cowardly and nobody wants to do the autopsies. Lazaren volunteers, and Franklin lets him go - grudgingly - because he knows more than anyone else on the station. Since theres’ only 24 hours from symptoms to death, they need to monitor someone in the very early stages as well, and it’s kind of an unstated assumption that Lazaren is sacrificing himself in the hopes they’ll learn something useful.
Meanwhile, riots break out on the station as people assume the Markab have doomed them all. Things get worse when Draffa jumps species, and Pak’ma’ra start turning up dead, too. The Markab decide to seal themselves up in an ‘isolation zone’ and pray and fast and stuff and hope the gods will forgive them. This is not put forward as a wise idea. Delenn and Lennier insist on going in and offering aid and comfort to the sick and dying. Sheridan grudgingly allows it, but he’s clearly not too happy about it. Delenn keeps bumping in to a little Markab girl, first when her father dies, later when she gets separated from her mom. There’s this great scene where she beams when the girl is reunited with her mother, and then her face just crashes when the little girl staggers and she realizes the kid is doomed. It’s very well acted. There’s a lot of really good acting in this ep.
Franklin is using Stims to stay awake and focused. Lazaren is fading fast. He overhears something Franklin says in a test, and says “The yellow cells might be the key…they…”
Franklin: “What did you say?”
Lazaren: [Long pause] “I’m sorry old friend, I’m afraid I can’t stay any longer. Please give my love to…” [Dies]. Franklin freaks out