So after two-and-a-half great episodes in a row, we’re right back to crap city. A lot of people consider this the worst B5 episode every. They’re wrong. It isn’t even the worst B5 episode we’ve seen thus far in the first season. It is pretty terrible, though, and yet there is one thing to like.
PLAY BY PLAY
Garibaldi’s old friend, Walker Smith, visits the station. He’s a washed up prize fighter who got blacklisted, and he hopes that by competing in an alien combat sport - the Mutai - he’ll get enough notoriety to get his career going again. It works. Yawn.
MEANWHILE, in the vastly more interesting subplot, Rabbi Yosef Koslov visits the station to ask Ivonova why she hasn’t sat Shiva for her father yet. That’s right, she’s Jewish! How cool is that? After some hemming and hawing and emotional dysfunction, she does.
I know that’s a pretty threadbare play-by-play, but there really isn’t anything more than that. And it takes 44 minutes. Really.
There’s no getting around it, this is a pretty bad and wildly uneven episode. The A story about the boxer is boring, stupid, violent, and pointless. The B story about Susan and her grief is vastly more interesting and entertaining, but it’s hard not to wince as the dissonance between the two halves of the story. This is made worse by the director’s decision to cut back and forth between the ludicrously long, padded out fight scene and the Shiva service. I get what he was going for, I might have even tried it myself were I in his state, but it just didn’t work. Still and all, the director is clearly aware he’s working with a turd here, and does his best with it.
I can’t tell you how much I love, love, love, love the whole Jewish subplot. Totally love it. Why? Because traditionally in American SF up to this point, religion has been a taboo. It was either completely ignored for fear of offending Christians in the audience (“How dare they drag Jesus into their crazy little monster show!”) or because the producers were agnostic and didn’t want it (“How dare they attempt to drag Jesus into our crazy little monster show!”). There were passing references - the Robinson family praying on Lost in Space one time, Admiral Nelson quoting Jonah in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and the “Sun Worshipers” episode of Trek, but Religion was generally ignored. If it was mentioned at all, it was some hokey space religion that generally served as a vehicle of scorn: Either “These stupid aliens still believe in God” or “Huh. The gods are aliens/computers/space probes sent out by earth 300 years ago. Whoda’ thunk it?”
The idea that human religion not only still exists in the 23rd century, but exists in a recognizable form, and is still an important aspect in society was just…I can not tell you how heartwarming that was to me as a believer. More importantly still, I love that they chose Judaism to showcase, since Christianity is so widespread as to seem almost generic in these proceedings. All too often “Christianity” is used interchangeably for whatever the author or producers consider randomly positive or negative traits. If they’re liberals, and the subject comes up, then “Christianity” represents positive “Spirituality,” and if they’re liberals in a pissy mood, then “Christianity” represents superstition and fear. Christianity is so huge and so fractured that from a dramatic perspective, it can mean whatever anyone wants it to. The problem is vastly worse when dealing with Buddhism or any other trendy Asian religion. Judaism, however, is not beplauged with this. Judaism is Judaism, and has been recognizable in its present form since about 200 AD and will still be recognizable in its present form in the year 3800 AD. There’s no doubletalk or backpedaling here: There are religious Jews in the future, and God bless this show for saying it!
We already knew that Sinclair was educated by Jesuits - he mentioned that a couple weeks back - and “Parliament of Dreams” made it very clear that many - most - religions had survived. Franklin’s behavior in “Believers” betrays some religious beliefs within him that conflict with his more rational side, just like it does at one time or another with all of us. These people are still people, they’re in starships and space stations, and hanging out with us, but there’s no fundamental disconnect from our society or