|Index||5 reviews in total|
For much of the first season of Babylon 5, the series still hadn't
established any sort of over-arching plot to connect the episodes like
it would have in seasons 2 through 5. In some ways, it was as if the
genius behind the series, Michael Staczynski was still trying to feel
for a sense of direction. Because of this, so many of the season one
episodes are self-contained in that they don't connect well with
previous or later episodes. This is pretty much the way of sci-fi shows
like Star Trek, but for B-5, this makes these earlier episodes less
Now this isn't to say that this Soul Hunter episode is bad--it's actually pretty interesting and highly creative. The idea of a race of beings that scavenge souls when a person dies is so unusual that it makes this a memorable show. See it, but don't expect the magic you'll see in later episodes.
While the story seems to be a simple non-arc episode, it actually drops hints at a far more complex story/background of the B5 world. You of course don't know this until you move on to other seasons, so this is one you need to see again after you have explored later B5 episodes. All the seemingly random unconnected side plots and information tidbits all link together. Sheppard is creepy as the Soul Hunter, and the storyline is well paced. I really hated B5 Season 1, mainly because I thought Michael O'Hare was a terrible actor and detracted from the show. Even Bruce Boxleitner could out-act the guy so thats pretty bad. The Soul Hunter threat becomes important later on when you see them again in the B5 "movies".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Intriguing episode of Babylon 5 introduces a new alien, the Shak Tot, also known as Soul Hunters, creatures who "seize souls", for a variety of reasons, to learn from, worship, converse, etc. The whole idea of having your soul "preserved" is a frightening thought which is why the Babylon station becomes deserted and tense as Commander Sinclair decides what to do with their new visitor, whose damaged ship arrived through the jump gate nearly plunging into them. What Sinclair soon learns after a second soul hunter arrives is that their visitor(..who escapes from his isolab temporary holding bay)has become disturbed and whose goal is to take souls, not as the people normally do(..by waiting until death arrives), but through murder, and his target is Minbari ambassador Delenn(Mira Furlan). This episode features Richard Biggs' first appearance as Dr. Stephen Franklin, who heads the medical station on Bablyon 5. Many might recognize Biggs from the epic first season of "War of the Worlds:The Series". This episode is really a showcase for William Morgan Sheppard, a veteran of both television and movies, as the Soul Hunter, whose obsessions, regarding the missed opportunity to capture the soul of the dying leader of Minbari, Dukhat, has driven him off the deep end, the chief motivation behind actually using violence by his own hand to get what he so desires. A lot of the supporting cast aren't present in this episode, since the story so strongly revolves around the Soul Hunter. It does, in fact, give Delenn a chance to be a major factor in the story. The episode has Sinclair and Franklin discussing the whole idea of souls being captured, and how both have a hard time accepting such a concept. We learn that if the Soul Hunters are unable to capture a desired soul by either interference of arriving too late, it is considered a failure of great magnitude.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this well-written (by the "Great Maker" JMS) and well-acted episode
the viewer is introduced to a significant feature of the entire series.
JMS was not reluctant to take on controversial issues that Star Trek
never dared to consider. Veteran actor William Morgan Sheppard
masterfully plays the driven "Soul Hunter" and Mira Furlan as Delenn
matches his passion in opposing him. And, this conflict and its outcome
serves as a portent of events to come in the B5 series.
According to JMS one of the production staff voiced his discomfort about working on this episode, because it leads one to consider what follows death. Talking about the soul at least reflects intellectual integrity of JMS to acknowledge that people of differing backgrounds can hold strong, and irreconcilable, views about the soul. The Minbari view is that all Minbari benefit in some mystical sense from the "souls" of former Minbari who are supposedly reborn or reincarnated into succeeding generations (as in Eastern philosophies).
The Soul Hunters, while believing in the existence of the soul, regard the Minbari belief as wishful thinking. Unless the Soul Hunter intervenes to "save the soul" the soul expires with physical death. The soul to them seems to represent the dreams and ideas of the individual and may not necessarily be equivalent to personality. Dr. Franklin represents the atheistic view (shades of JMS?) that there is no soul, although he seems willing to consider that "personality" is something separate from the physical body and could be captured in a "matrix," whatever that is. I suppose Dr. Franklin would represent the behaviorism view in the field of psychology, which views a person as just the sum of experience and reactions to stimuli.
The one thing all these views have in common is that human (or alien) existence is essentially dualistic (body and "soul"), which as a formal concept in the field of philosophy originated with the ancient Greeks. JMS, of course, does not attempt to define the soul, but instead leaves the matter to the viewer to ponder and discuss. I note especially that JMS did not risk presenting the view of Christian theology, which would have brought even louder howls of protest than what he got over bringing up the subject. In Christian theology human existence is a trinity (body, soul & spirit), and, of the three, soul and spirit survive death but are not reborn into someone or something else. Oddly enough JMS gets closer (though not all the way) to the Christian view in a couple of later episodes. I think I would ask Dr. Franklin, "how do you find meaning in life if you are nothing more than the sum of your parts?"
The universe of Babylon 5 is rich and full of depth. So many cultures,
all with different beliefs on life, death, the soul, the afterlife. The
clash of these ideals is nicely displayed in this episode, and profound
questions are raised about who is right regarding these philosophical
questions in such a heterogeneous universe. And, as with all good
sci-fi, it parallels the human condition with our own wildly differing
ideas on these questions.
This episode is not without its faults, but this can be expected and forgiven in the first season. The conflict between the soul hunter and Delenn was well done, as was the acting by both characters. There are a couple of episodes that could be skipped in season 1; this is not one of them.
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