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A Race Through Dark Places, To Even Darker Places

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We now take a short break from discussion of events in the 2170s and 2180s and jump ahead for a bit. I wasn't planning to discuss these pieces yet, but I've been asked about them, and I don't think it's right to wait months - or years - to discuss it, since it is relevant here as well. And as you will see, there is no reason I can't discuss these pieces now - the stage has already been set for it, and so I will take the detour and discuss this now.

This essay does not get into specific details in A Race Through Dark Places - that comes later. This essay is about the episode from 30,000 feet, about the episode's fundamental, narrative dishonesty, as part of a larger pattern throughout canon of similar fundamental, narrative dishonesty.

Before we discuss A Race Through Dark Places, I direct your attention to one of the early chapters of Behind the Gloves, a re-write of Legacies wherein I reinserted canon facts in their proper places, and showed how their reinsertion supports the exact opposite ending for the story.

Part 1 is here.

Please take note of the comments I placed in brackets - the scene intentionally begins after Talia has said whatever she said to Alisa, and intentionally omits that conversation, so that the viewers never hear it: not here, not elsewhere in the episode, and not anywhere in the show at all. This is not an accident - it's intentionally written this way so that viewers only hear Ivanova's point of view, so this point of view can stand as the "only truth" of this episode and the show as a whole, even though it's canonically incomplete and misleading.

Who, exactly, is really "afraid to let [viewers] hear another side"?

This sneakiness reminds me of photo tampering throughout history, though here the issue is specifically one of cropping the image to make it fit neatly into the show's one-sided narrative.

In essence, this is what they did. I am especially fond of that last pic at the bottom. Like the photo-manipulators of that image (likely staged for educational effect), the writers here, in A Race Through Dark Places and in the show as a whole, are "cropping the image" to fit a specific political agenda.

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The fundamental, central premise of A Race Through Dark Places is supposed to be that 1) "The Corps is slavery," 2) Franklin is running an "underground railroad" through the station to rescue telepaths from the Corps by facilitating their passage to "the outer colonies where the Corps can't reach them," 3) Bester is trying to stop them because he represents Evil, and 4) the station's "good guys" have to rise up against him to Save The Day.

Now, what's been cropped out?

Well, first, it's normals, and not "the Corps," who are oppressing telepaths - as I discuss in this early essay here, and a few characters reluctantly admit in this very same episode, along with a healthy dose of mundane guilt and Nazi-reference dogwhistles. This is the truth. But aside from that one line, this truth is cropped out of the entire show. In A Race Through Dark Places, we see rogue telepaths listing a litany of oppressions they've supposedly faced at the hands of the Corps, as reasons they are running away - but if any of the many telepaths in Franklin's pipeline are trying to escape Earth even partly because of oppression, harassment, or violence at the hands of normals, it's been cropped out. Canon is chock full of such examples (hell, Ivanova herself tried to kill a telepath while stationed off-world, faced no disciplinary consequences, and even jokes about it), but to show this complete picture of why telepaths might try to leave EA space, or to escape to the fringes of said space, doesn't fit the show's anti-Corps narrative.

Cropped out.

It's also factually absurd to claim that life in the Corps is in any way akin to Black slavery in the antebellum American South (with other telepaths as the oppressors, not normals, no less!), but you'd never know that because all of that information has been cropped out of the show as a whole. (See my response to Legacies!) It's an absurd lie that relies on complete and utter viewer ignorance to stand - so the show's going to keep you ignorant. It's a classic case of "invoke a (false) parallel to something the viewers will have an intense, gut negative reaction to, and repeat it often enough that they'll believe it. Even if they later hear the truth, they'll disregard it, because unconsciously, the message will stick. Here, when they hear 'Psi Corps,' they'll think about slavery and Nazis."

This is a strategy employed in "real world" propaganda campaigns, as well. Often. It's frighteningly effective. (And guess who perfected it? Actual Nazis.)

A lie, however, even repeated often enough, is still a lie.

Now for the good stuff... where are these telepaths actually going? They are not going to alien space, to live in a foreign sovereign government that accepts Earth Alliance refugees. There is no alien government that accepts Earth Alliance refugees. Alisa was supposed to be the only first, and only, human telepath to live with the Minbari. The Centauri have a mutual extradition treaty. We know about the Narn. And everyone else doesn't give a shit.

There is no Canada. (Sorry Canada.)

They're going to "the outer colonies where the Corps can't reach them." Translation - they're going somewhere so remote, there is no Earth Alliance law enforcement presence at all.

And what do we know about remote places where there is no law enforcement presence? Well, they're run by criminals, of course.

(As a friend of mine once put it, "they're trying to get to Canada, but there is no Canada, and they end up in Somalia.")

Let's look at Mars. Mars is largely run by criminals (and I'm not just looking at you, New Vegas), even though it's practically next to Earth. (Shit, this is where Edgars based his mega-corporation and cooked up his mass genocide and slavery plot, which was thwarted not because the police on Mars did or could do anything about it, but because the Corps stepped in and stopped it.)

Europa, a little further out, is a wretched hive of scum and villainy (WRONG SHOW!):

Garibaldi (in Believers): "Years ago, I worked security in the Europa ice-mining operation. A cesspool. Murders, theft, dust peddling. Half the Command was in on it. The other half didn't care. Except for me. Ever try to uphold the law when nobody cares?"

Lovely place. And we still haven't left the Sol system.

There's Io, where Ivanova threw a telepath out a window and didn't even get a slap on the wrist.

And if we leave the Sol system, it only gets better! Deadly Relations has a lengthy section about a colony named Beta where there is a Corps presence, but a serial killer starts killing telepaths anyway, even Psi Cops, the local Corps personnel are too scared to do anything about it, and the local mundane police aren't helping because they support the serial killer in ridding their planet of teeps. In fact, the whole colony was founded by people who hated telepaths so much, they decided to fly off into the deepest reaches of space where they could be absolutely sure no telepaths would ever reach them.

Lovely planet you have there... it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.

And we don't even have to leave Earth to see horrible things happen to unregistered or runaway telepaths. Take what happened to Talia's grandmother and great-grandmother - they were on the run from the Corps, but wound up enslaved, raped, and (in the case of Talia's great-grandmother) murdered. Take what happened to Fatima Cristoban years later (trafficked, raped and murdered within merely two days of running away from school), a fate that former chief of MetaPol Sandoval Bey describes as typical for teenagers who run away. As that scene explicitly shows, there are normals who pay good money to rape and murder telepath teens - and not even off-world, "where the Corps can't reach them." This is Amsterdam.

But wait, you say! Maybe there is a paradise planet out there somewhere, where normals and telepaths all get along wonderfully and everyone's happy! Well, if there is, canon sure has never named or described it. If such a planet existed, why would Byron have gone through all that trouble to push for telepaths to have a planet of their own, rather than for increased immigration to this wonderful place that already existed? Why wouldn't anyone try to go to this planet during or after the Telepath War? Why isn't this planet a model for normal-telepath peace and love everywhere?

Because it doesn't exist. The telepaths in Franklin's pipeline are in deep shit, and are going to be in even worse trouble when they reach their final destination (if they ever do). The only person in that episode who knows this, however, is Bester, and he never gets to say so on-screen because to include that information would contradict the over-simplified anti-Corps narrative the show is pushing. It would muddy the moral waters. How would Franklin react were he to learn that rather than rescuing telepaths from "metaphorical slavery," he was actually assisting smugglers who take vulnerable people's life savings and traffic them into literal slavery?

Cropped out. The writers would have you believe that Bester is there as a "slave catcher," when the reality is dramatically different. He's not there to enforce the law and keep telepaths in slavery, he's there to enforce the law and rescue telepaths from slavery, and to shut down the pipeline. (I will address the (two) rogue telepaths' allegations in later essays. The first is here.) The station is technically under EA jurisdiction, but it's remote, and there is no Corps presence even though 250,000 humans and aliens live there - Talia is literally the only telepath legally living on the entire station.

And we know what happens in remote parts of space - people break the law, people like our dear friend Franklin. (It's only by Writing Magic that Talia isn't murdered by mundanes within a few days of showing up on the station - remember that telepath kid who was killed by a mundane within hours of showing up on Babylon 5? And he was a Psi Cop intern - a P12 - while Talia's only a P5. Telepaths on remote colonies are kinda like this.)

But of course, thanks to Writing Magic and deus ex machina, not only do mundanes never kill Talia, the show's command staff gets away with the pipeline and everything else - as always - because The Good Guys Always Win, even if they're not right, or good. (Much more on this later.)

The meta-narrative of the show holds that "good" telepaths are victims (of oppression only by other telepaths!), who often need the assistance of Good Guy Mundane Heroes to step in and save them from the Big Scary Bad Telepaths (who are either "slave catchers" or "Nazis" depending on how the writers are feeling at that moment... they "dogwhistle" both at once in the same episodes). It doesn't matter that Talia says "I don't feel like a victim" - she's "good," so sooner or later she's going to have an epiphany that all along, she really was! Wow!

In A Race Through Dark Places, as throughout the show as a whole, all context and all facts that contradict this over-simplified picture must be cropped out, facts must be cherry-picked, and deus ex machina must be invoked to maintain the underlying Big Lie.

Ever try to uphold the law when nobody cares?