Bester asks Talia to investigate an "underground railroad" of unregistered
Walter Koenig as Bester.
P5 Rating: 8.38
Production number: 207
Original air date: January 25, 1995
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Jim Johnston
A minor character from a previous episode, who turns out not to be so
minor after all.
Michael Garibaldi says, "The Corps got started because of our own fears." The
sudden appearance of real psi abilities in otherwise unremarkable people
caused so much concern among the general population that those showing such
talents were gathered together into a group that could be more easily
controlled -- and Psi-Corps was born. Its members are deeply conditioned to
prevent any psi from using his or her talents to dominate normal people or
disrupt society. But this conditioning isn't absolute, and attitudes molded
early in life can still evolve over a persons lifetime.
Given that psis were forced into this essentially closed society, shunned by
the rest of humanity, it isn't surprising that the loyalties of the telepaths
turned to the Corps itself. Soon Psi-Corps gained control of itself, and
eventually the organization began pursuing its own goals. The leadership
began to exert ever greater control over the lives of the members, in an
effort to enhance the abilities of their people.
The level of control exerted by the Corps over its members grew as they
began seeking to enhance the abilities of their people, extending even to
marriage and reproduction. Eventually the onus became too great and too
pervasive for newly awakened psis to tolerate, and they began seeking ways
to escape. The Psi-Cops exist to counter this, to search for and either
capture or eliminate psi talented people who escaped early detection or who
Now the Corps has become a power in its own right. Though the organization
was intended to keep psis under control, it has itself come under the control
of those very people. As a group, they must feel
seperate and different if not outright superior to the rest of society, and
who have long been held in a position of subservience. They are
organized, ruthless, and determined to pursue their own agenda.
"We created our own monster." -- John Sheridan
- Where have all the unregistered psis been going?
- How long has this "underground railroad" been running?
- We see Ivanova giving Sheridan his morning briefing, and in it she says
that B5 has been running in the red for a while because, "there's been
a lot of Earth Force military transports coming through." Where were
- Has Talia turned completely against the Corps?
- Why, and by whom, was Bester told that Sheridan would be sympathetic
to the Psi-Corps?
- How much did Talia tell Ivanova about the situation, and about
what's happened to her?
- "What am I?" "The future." What does that mean? The future of
telepaths? Of humans in general? Does it refer to Talia's new
powers, to the fact that she's now likely to work against Psi-Corps
from within, or something else? Is there even more to Ironheart's
- Will Bester notice that his gun was never actually fired?
- The core of Psi-Corps indoctrination was summed up by Bester.
You were raised by the Corps,
Clothed by the Corps.
We are your father,
And your mother.
What Psi-Corps has become was also demonstrated by Bester. Standing
with another Psi-Cop, he looks down at a captured rogue telepath who
he has just forcibly mind-scanned. "He's dead," the other Psi-Cop
says. "It doesn't matter," Bester replies, apparently assuming she
was concerned he wouldn't be able to read the man any more. Talia
this, since it happened on Mars Colony, but she does meet a stream of
rogues who are on B5, in transit through the "underground railroad."
From them she learns, first hand and with undeniable truth, that the
experience she has had with the Corps is far from unique. Indeed,
her experiences were mild compared to the stories she hears.
Abductions. Experiments. Breeding programs that don't rely on
volunteers for subjects. And as a telepath speaking to
telepaths, she can't avoid the full truth and force of the events
- How can a Psi-Corps operative turn against the Corps? The impossibility
of it is clear: The highest rated, strongest telepaths are "turned
into" Psi-Cops. When the guardians are stronger than everyone else,
how do you turn against them? Unless you are truly exceptional like
Matthew Stoner in "Soul Mates" you can only
flee, immediately, before someone else scans you and reads your
intention. Matthew Stoner may or may not have eluded the clutches
of Psi-Corps for a time, but in the end he was firmly returned to
them. Talia Winters' whole life experience tells her that she
cannot turn against the Corps, no matter what her
opinions may be about the integrity or intentions of the organization.
But several events changed her mind about this -- and it was not the
tales of woe told by the folks in the underground railroad, though
they undoubtedly inclined her toward rebellion. What allowed her to
rebel was the realization that her shields were much stronger than
she thought they were. A year ago Jason Ironheart, a victim of
Psi-Corps experimentation, visited the station (cf.
He became something
vastly powerful, and departed. But before he left, he gave his onetime
love Talia Winters a gift, the very thing that Psi-Corps was
trying to induce in him: telekinesis. And the strength to keep
that gift secret.
- Talia's telekinetic powers are at least somewhat stronger than
suggested at the end of
She can not only move her penny with her thoughts -- she can cause
it to fly across the room with enough force to embed itself in the
- Telepaths can combine their powers through physical contact. What
are the limits to such unions? Would a hundred linked telepaths
begin to approach some of Ironheart's power, or perhaps become
greater than just a collection of individuals? Does this perhaps
have something to do with the Minbari prophecy suggesting that
humans are destined to walk among the stars? (cf.
Or it could simply be that by touching, the telepaths were able to
help each other focus their individual energies; that's supported by
the railroad leader's comment that what they did shouldn't have
- The "Underground Railroad." The timeline of the underground railroad
stretches back to before B5. There is a group of people that have
actively been working to keep people with psi ability out of
Psi-Corps. Dr. Franklin implied that it was mostly doctors, and it
makes sense that their ability to alter or manipulate medical and
genetic records would make them logical and necessary members. But
there is no reason to assume that the organization is comprised
solely of doctors.
Dr. Franklin was a member before he came to Babylon 5. When Jason
Ironheart came to B5 he brought with him another rogue, who disappeared
into downbelow while Jason went through his spectacular confrontation
with Bester and his subsequent transformation. This unnamed telepath
(who we've met before, in
apparently contacted Dr. Franklin. Between them, they extended the
underground railroad through B5 -- though where the rogues were going
after B5 is unclear. Nor is it clear that Dr. Franklin will
actually put a stop to the railroad. Dr. Franklin's answers to Captain
Sheridan's demand that he put a stop to it were quite evasive. The
telepaths actually at the station agreed to leave, which they intended
to do anyway. Dr. Franklin admitted that his part in it was over,
and that others would have to take over -- but he never actually said
it would stop.
Ironically, the person Garibaldi first suspected was aiding the
railroad was Ivanova. He was wrong. She wasn't connected to it.
But neither was Talia at the time. Now Talia is talking to Ivanova.
What did they discuss, alone and late at night in Ivanova's quarters?
- Did Ironheart's unnamed friend have ulterior motives when he put
Garibaldi onto Devereaux' trail in
There's evidence the Corps was involved in Santiago's death (cf.
so it's plausible the man knew something of the plot, and wanted to
foil it without revealing himself.
- Along similar lines, Bester's request to Talia that she keep an eye
on Sheridan and the others for their reactions to President Santiago's
death implies that he knows something other than an accident occurred,
even that he (or someone he's associated with) was involved. His
offhand comment that he'd been told Sheridan would be sympathetic
to the Psi-Corps also implies that there may be more to Sheridan's
appointment as head of Babylon 5 than meets the eye.
- "Who'd have thought?" John Sheridan asks Ambassador Delenn. He was
speaking at the time about the common trait of laughter, shared by
humans and Minbari, but he could equally have been speaking of the
whole scene. A human ship captain, commanding a giant station
on the fringe of human controlled space, having a quiet dinner with
the Minbari ambassador -- who also happens to be a member of their
ruling body and who is also, to some degree "half-human." Moreover,
she has apparently chosen him to teach her about humanity on a
personal level. How personal this can get... who can say?
- Finally, there is a telepath who can
operate on the side of the "good guys." True, there are all the
telepaths who have passed through the "underground railroad," but
they are untrained or at best, trained but fleeing. Talia is fully
trained and Psi-Corps doesn't know that she has turned--and she is
strong enough to maintain her independence. It's likely she will be
a very important player now, and her personality may develop in new
directions now that she isn't under the heavy hand of Psi-Corps.
- This episode takes place in March, 2259, three months into
Sheridan's tour of duty with B5.
- There is a subthread in this episode about lack of sleep. Bester gets
Talia out of bed, Talia gets Ivanova out of bed, and Ivanova and
Sheridan spend a night sacked out in his office (he in his chair, she
on the couch). Coincidence?
- "Knock Knock" (who's there) "Kosh" (Kosh who?) "Gesundheit!"
- Judy Levitt, who plays the Psi Cop opposite Bester in the
scene on Mars, is Walter Koenig's wife.
- Production gaffe: In the scene outside Earhart's, when Delenn is asking
Sheridan to dinner, a boom microphone is visible for an instant at the
top of the screen.
- Favorite line in the next new episode, from Sheridan: "I'm not saying
what I'm saying. I'm not saying what I'm *thinking*. For that matter,
I'm not even *thinking* what I'm thinking."
- BTW, just to note a little something you might not notice in the
show...we've adopted the tradition of putting the symbol for a given
ship onto the bar in Earhart's, as many real contemporary officers'
clubs and airforce/naval base clubs put the logos or markings of big
planes or ships that come through there. The Cortez symbol is the
most visible among the various emblems you can see in a shot of the
bar in "A Race Through Dark Places." It comes at the moment we follow
*another* old military tradition.
- As for the sound mix...yeah, we put a great deal of work
into that aspect, for the surround effect. If you fire up "Race"
there's a LOT going on in that one. It takes a great deal of time, but
it's worth it.
- Yes, originally, "Soul Mates" was to air after "Race." At that
time, PTEN was initially going to show just 6 new episodes, and we would
have come in after the rerun break with "Race," then "Soul." When the
ratings came in and looked good, they didn't want to interfere with
the growth, and indicated they wanted to show 7 new eps in the first
batch. "Race," as you can see, was a very complex episode visually, and
the only way to get it ready to run #7 in the first batch would've been
to compromise the integrity of the show, and we simply won't do that for
ANY reason. "Soul Mates," on the other hand, required very little in
the way of post production, so that was moved forward into the #7 slot.
- Q: How many telepaths does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
- I always have to have a title before I begin writing, since the
title always influences the feel of the show. I try to design one
that is literary, or refers to a literary influence; it should have a
certain rhythm, and avoid coming at the subject of the episode too
dead-on. For instance, one could call the recent Psi Cop episode with
Bester, "Capture" or "Chase." But I wanted it to be evocative, to
conjure up the image of people slipping through the shadows, pursued by
others, and to continue this season's trend toward titles that indicate
a coming night. Hence, "A Race Through Dark Places."
- No repeat of Bester's salute from "Mind War"
Also, bear in mind that Bester's parting shot in "Mind War" was
exactly that, in essence an "Up yours" but subtle. There was no
reason for that to be given to anyone in "Race."
- Correct, the penny was/is a keepsake.
- Where did Ivanova's outfit in the last scene come from?
I think it came out of the Victoria's Secrets catalog....
Originally compiled by Dave Zimmerman