Divided Loyalties

Genre: SF
Series: Babylon 5

Reviewed by Kathryn A (with spoilers)

First, initial reactions:

As with the underground railroad in "A Race Through Dark Places", Ivanova seemed to be the logical choice for the person they were looking for. Paranoid about being scanned, hating Psi Corps, who better to be a spy than the last person people would suspect of working for the Corps? But I wasn't sure. It seemed too obvious for someone as devious as JMS. And as soon as Ivanova confessed to being a latent telepath I was sure it couldn't be her. (And along the way this vindicated various people's suspicions that Ivanova was a telepath.)

But I was as much taken by surprise as anyone when it turned out to be Talia - and I should have guessed. After all, I was in possession of two pieces of information that weren't in the episode - I'd read the comic, and had seen the revealing scene which showed an unconscious Talia being processed in a machine on the Psi Corps base on Mars - and I'd been told that Andrea Thompson had a part in another TV series - and I never guessed!

But once you know, Talia is obviously a much more logical choice than one of the others. After all, it's much easier to process one of your own, and much easier to place them where you want to put them.

Does this explain why Bester started becoming friendly to Talia, or was that just what it seemed? And if he is part of Bureau 13 (which I suspect), then did he know that Talia was Control or not?

People have argued about the questionable morality of activating Control if it meant the death of the host's personality; that they should have done something different, or that they should have considered beforehand and argued about the morality of basically killing someone to find out if they were a traitor. But there was no other way of finding out, and they weren't even sure if it were true or not. It was like being told that there was an unexploded bomb on the premises, and the only way to find out if there were a bomb (because it was so well-hidden) would be to broadcast the short-range trigger signal and see if something explodes. One person would be dead, but they were doomed the day Psi Corps planted the personality in them in the first place. And at least the threat of that "bomb" would be gone. Of course, that doesn't mean that there might not be some other bomb on a different trigger frequency...

One thing seems certain: whoever Psi Corps next assigns to B5 won't be trustworthy.

A worry: Talia had been keeping Ironheart's gift a secret. That won't be the case any more. Suddenly our Ace-in-the-hole against Psi Corps has changed suits. A bit like a game of Othello. Talia Winters is dead. Worse than dead, someone else has stolen her body, raped her mind and spat on everything she was. Horrible.

A hope: We have Garibaldi's recollection of the recording Kosh made in "Deathwalker". I had assumed it was in order to have a hold over her because she could be a threat because of Ironheart's gift, or simply because she was a telepath and Vorlons were wary of telepaths. But was it a recording of Talia's personality for a rainy day - or what? And what good would it do anyway? You'd have to be able to put it back somehow. And how would Kosh have known anyway?

And, recalling Ironheart's gift, could Ironheart not have known about Control? How could he not have known? And if he knew, did he take steps about it? Could he have?

Afterthoughts (much later):

I have now been persuaded that, in fact, Talia is the least likely person to have been Control - and not just the flub-up in SPIDER IN THE WEB, either - that Control couldn't order its own death - since jms covered that by saying that there was more than one agent called Control. We have the problem with Ironheart, as I said above. We also have the inconsistencies, even within the episode, of what exactly Control was capable of. If Control was able to influence Talia by whispering in her dreams, then why the heck didn't Talia make up with Garibaldi - someone full of valuable information, who was just panting to have her smile at him - rather than chasing after Ivanova, who wouldn't give her the time of day, and probably didn't know as much as Garibaldi did?

Other inconsistencies within the episode - Ivanova resisted Lyta's sending, and Talia was taken completely by surprise. What? As if Talia - who hadn't had great experiences recently with Sheridan, what with him trying to trick her into scanning Morden in SHADOW OF ZAHADUM - would walk into Sheridan's office with her telepathic shields down? And not be able to resist the sending of a fellow P5, even if Talia wasn't something more than that, after Ironheart's gift. And then Ivanova, by contrast, resists Lyta's sending, even though she probably isn't any more than a P1?

I am really convinced now, that Ivanova was meant to be Control, and that jms quickly switched it to Talia when Andrea announced that she was leaving. The bit in the comic was apparently put in after the script had been written, we just happened to get it here before it was shown.

The other thing, which really really gets me, the more I think about it, and to me, marks the beginning of the cracks in Babylon 5, was the way that Talia was offed.

I consider personality erasure to be a fate worse than death. Literally. It would be better to die cleanly, than to be still alive, and yet dead, because the you that you were is no longer there; someone else is possessing your body. And yet that is the fate that is given to Talia: to be Xed (to borrow a term from Madeline L'Engle).

Talia is set up as the ultimate victim: she is become the enemy, with all her talents given over to those she opposes, her mind raped and possessed, completely, utterly, helplessly, hopelessly, pointlessly. jms compared her to Boromir, simply because he died unexpectedly. But he is talking through his hat. If Talia had been like Boromir, she would have (a) transgressed, (b) repented, (c) sacrificed herself and (d) died. Instead, she did nothing wrong, and she was possessed by the enemy.

Definitely anything but a favourite now.