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Recap / Babylon Five S 01 E 06 Mind War

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When Psi Corps comes calling...
Season 1, Episode 6:

Mind War

You cannot harm one who has dreamed a dream as I have.
-Jason Ironheart


In deep space a small transport is being pursued by Earth Alliance squadron Black Omega, but with a sudden flash of light, the fighters vanish, leaving the transport free to dock with Babylon 5. Its pilot, a man named Jason Ironheart, says he's looking forward to his visit.

Aboard the station Jeffrey Sinclair and Catherine Sakai are talking. She is about to receive a contract for another survey, but Jeff is a little worried about it, a fact that amuses her.

Some time later, a pair of Psi Cops, Alfred Bester and his partner Kelsey, telepathic law enforcement officers, arrive on the station. Without saying any spoken words they demand to see Commander Sinclair and are shown to his office.

Catherine has just received her assignment, survey a planet called Sigma-957. There are expected to be large deposits of Quantium-40 there, the material used to construct jumpgates. She agrees to the terms of the contract, but there is one more party who needs to give their consent before she can go. She turns around to see G'Kar behind her.


The Psi Cops arrive in Sinclair's office, who is annoyed when they attempt to thought-speak with him. He insists they talk normally. The Psi Cops say they are on a mission to track down Jason Ironheart, who has run away from the Corps, and has knowledge that could compromise Earth security. Meanwhile, Ironheart is renting a small flat on the station when he has a sudden headache...which causes the entire room to tremble. Back in Sinclair's office the command staff has been assembled, as well as Talia Winters. Ironheart was her instructor at the Psi Corps academy, and Bester and Kelsey want to know if she's been in contact with him. She says she hasn't but they insist on doing a painful deep scan of her mind. Once they have verified she has had no contact they leave, telling them not to approach or speak to him, just find him.


As Talia leaves, Ironheart appears before her, asking her for the chance to explain.

Catherine is talking to G'Kar, who, while he has given his his consent, is advising her not to go. He says it it not a healthy place, that strange things happen there, and other things that Catherine takes as a threat. She threatens to go over his head then heads off to prepare for her flight. G'Kar later requests a heavily-armed fighter be sent to Sigma-957.

Ironheart has brought Talia to his flat and is explaining that he volunteered for a project to attempt to increase his telepathic abilities. He was subject to numerous and painful treatments until one day he found his powers had expanded beyond anything they ever dreamed possible. He had become quite possibly the single most powerful telepath in the galaxy, and it was then that he discovered what the project was really for. They were trying to create a stable telekinetic, not for large things, like telekinetic shielding as he thought, but small things, the smaller the better, for example a assassin that could literally shut off parts of the target's body without leaving a trace. Talia is horrified by the implications, but before they can continue, Ironheart has another of his episodes which shakes the entire section and throws up some kind of telekinetic field around the area.

An irate Sinclair berates the Psi Cops for withholding vital information and thus endangering the station. He demands the entire truth this time, and Bester reluctantly tells him. They were under orders to keep it quiet in case alien governments find out about the project. They also have a telepathic code they can send to put him to sleep, but they need line of sight to send it.

Talia approaches the barrier, asking to be let in, which he does. He admits he came to the station to see her, and that he has learned more about the Corps than they would like. Psi Corps is slowly starting to take over behind the scenes. He also tells her that one final change is coming for him.

Later, Talia finds Sinclair and asks him to come with her. She explains what she knows and tells him about her history with Ironheart. They were lovers.

At Sigma-957, Catherine's up-to-now routine survey is interrupted when an immense ship of alien design appears and flies across her path, then vanishing into some kind of fold in space. Her computer cannot identify it, but her power levels are dropping and she is beginning to lose her orbit.

As Sinclair arrives in Ironheart's room, he tells the commander that Psi Corps is about one thing: control, and that was the ultimate motive for this project, but it went further than they ever thought possible. He now has the ability to manipulate energy, giving him control over smaller and smaller particles. He needs to get away, for if the Corps manage to catch him they'll take him back and try to find out what caused it. At length, Sinclair agrees to help him escape.

As Catherine's ship begins to enter the planet's atmosphere, the Narn fighters G'Kar requested arrive and move to lend assistance.

Garibaldi arranges for one of the main corridors to be cleared, but one of the security guards is confronted by the Psi Cops and they are able to read his thoughts and figure out that they will be moving Ironheart. They confront them in the corridor, and their attempts to send the code distract him, allowing his powers to get away from him. Eventually, he vaporizes Kelsey with his mind, and knocks Bester out by flinging him across the hall. They finally get him to his ship and send him out, but as it floats in space another flash of light is seen and the fully realized being that used to be Jason Ironheart appears. He gives Talia a gift before disappearing into the cosmos.

As Bester and Sinclair view the visual record, he comments that his superiors will not believe any of it, especially since Sinclair is going to arrange for the record to be deleted. He suggests that they reports something close to the truth, Ironheart attempted to escape, but his ship exploded before he reached the jumpgate. Also that Talia was not acting of her own accord. If he doesn't Sinclair's report will say how Bester's interference endangered the station, and led to Kelsey's death.

In her quarters, Talia is testing her gift: moving a penny with her mind.

Now returned, Catherine asks G'Kar why, and he responds, "Why not?" Her death would only distress the commander, which is not to G'Kar's benefit, so, why not? She then asks what it was she encountered, he answers by picking up an ant and asking if an ant would have any more idea what he was.

"There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They are vast, timeless ... They are a mystery, and I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe— that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Ms. Sakai, they walk near Sigma-957. They must walk there alone."

This episode contains examples of:

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ironheart undergoes said ascension.
  • Alien Geometry: The ship at Sigma-957.
  • Dirty Mind-Reading: While in the transport tube, Garibaldi starts checking Talia out while behind her where she can't see him. She starts overhearing his mind and promptly elbows him in the stomach.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This is first time we see the Psi Cops, and the only time where they routinely expect to use telepathic communication with mundanes. In later episodes, even in private, they speak normally (ie, out loud.)
  • Energy Beings: Ironheart's final form.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: The damaged area of the station includes several broken pipes leaking steam.
  • Foreshadowing: The beings at Sigma-957 are a race of First Ones. We'll see their ship twice more in the series.
    • As unlikely as it seems, we get to see a payoff for Ironheart's promise to come back in a million years. The season 4 finale reveals that by that time, humanity has become similar to the Vorlons, and ready for Ironheart to live among again.
    • Garibaldi´s second, Jack, makes his first appearance in this episode, being the security guard to meet with the Psi Cops. It turns out that he is working with the fascist government conspiracy and later shoots Garibaldi at the end of the season. Isn´t it interesting to see his enthusiasm when he states that he "never met a psi cop before"?
    • A possible one: when the Psi Cops perform a deep telepathic scan, they put up their hands (donning black leather gloves), looking like a spider surveying its prey. Later in season 5, we get a "depiction" of a telepathic "battle" where one telepath blocks and the other attempts to penetrate the block. The one doing the penetrating is depicted with psychic "tendrils" resembling the legs of a Shadow vessel (which, in turn, resemble black spiders).
  • Friendship Moment: After Talia's deep scan, courtesy of Bester and Kelsey, it is Ivanova, ever distrusting of telepaths and the Psi-Corps, who silently offers her a glass of water. This also serves as Foreshadowing both for Ivanova's own Character Arc and for her developing friendship with Talia.
  • Hidden Depths: This is the first episode to hint at the more heroic Warrior Poet that G'Kar later becomes.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Ironheart tells Sinclair that he could reduce him to his component atoms if he wished, with only a thought, though in this case it's not intended as a threat, rather a statement of just how extensive his powers have become.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: In the episode's last scene, G'Kar points out that, ultimately, this is the reason anyone does anything. The trope itself is averted in this episode, however; G'Kar's actions do ultimately work out the way he'd intended.
  • Mind over Matter: Ironheart's power, but it goes beyond to mind over energy.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Ironheart killed the researcher who performed the procedure on him, so that no others could be made like him:
    "This is a power we were never meant to have. We're not ready for it."
  • Not Hyperbole: His If I Wanted You Dead... boast? That's what he actually does to Kelsey later.
  • Pet the Dog: G'Kar saving Catherine with no benefit to himself is our first sign that he's more than the simple antagonist he first appears to be.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: Jason Ironheart.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: If you still see G'Kar as an antagonist at this point, his decision to send ships to save Catherine, supported by his reasoning that he gains nothing from either her death or from how it will negatively affect Commander Sinclair. It was within his power, cost him little or nothing to do, and so he did it.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: The energy surge at the episode's climax.
  • Reality Warper: Ironheart's powers have made him this by the end.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Ivanova's rant on the Psi Cops' justification of withholding information as a "calculated risk" is hilarious and so scathing that all Kelsey could do afterwards is just to glare at her, her nostrils flaring from the burn. It's also a hint to Ivanova's comedic potential later in the series as a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Shout-Out: Psi Cop Alfred Bester is, of course, named after Alfred Bester. According to one of the Expanded Universe novels, this was even done in-universe.
    • His final "Be seeing you" to Sinclair - and the associated gesture - are both shout outs to The Prisoner.
  • Starfish Aliens: G'Kar describes the beings who walk near Sigma-957 as this.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Walkers of Sigma-957, as G'Kar explains to Catherine Sakai.
  • They Would Cut You Up: This is what Jason Ironheart is afraid of, though it's not really his own fate that worries him most; more what they’ll do with what they learn from his remains.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: Ivanova asks this of the Psi Cops. Also counts as Foreshadowing - later episodes will make pretty damn clear that no one is watching these watchmen.