A Niner Watches Babylon 5 (NO spoilers, please)

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by TheGodBen, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I've always thought that the concept of the Soul Hunters had this gigantic hole. I mean, if someone doesn't believe in an immortal soul, then it's no big leap that they won't believe in an afterlife. But the Soul Hunters can prove that the immortal soul exists, and they still don't believe in an afterlife??!! :wtf:

    I know that the existence of the soul doesn't automatically prove the existence of a heaven, hell, etc. But the Soul Hunters are already a lot closer to those metaphysical concepts because of their profession, so you'd think they would have a more open mind. As it is, they appear to be covering their eyes and ears and chanting, "La la la! I can't hear you! La la la!" Really, it looks like someone has done a serious propaganda number on these guys.
     
  2. JoeD80

    JoeD80 Captain Captain

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    The point is that they *don't* believe in an immortal soul, unless they seal it within their soul globes before the person dies completely. If they don't get to save them at the instant of death, then they are lost forever, which is why the Soul Hunter was pissed at Delenn for stopping the Soul Hunters from saving the previous Minbari leader Dukhat. The Soul Hunters believe the soul ceases, and that's why they are trying to capture the important ones. The Minbari believe the souls go back to the "collective" of Minbari souls, which is why Delenn frees them.
     
  3. Jan

    Jan Commodore Commodore

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    That's exactly it. The Soul Hunters collect something but is it an immortal soul or just a personality matrix?

    The subject of what happens to souls will be discussed again (she says vaguely).

    Jan
     
  4. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I disagree. Though I will admit up-front that the disagreement may be due to differences in how we define the immortal soul.

    My understanding of a soul is that it's supposed to be the person's "essence", separate and distinct from the measurable pattern of brain impulses. It's also capable of existing outside of the body and doesn't need it (hence the "immortal" part).

    The Soul Hunters obviously believe in the first part -- that's what they're capturing. They must believe in the second part. They wouldn't claim that a soul "would be lost to the ether in an insubstantial existence" if it ceased to exist!

    If they simply believe that a soul dies if it's not captured immediately, okay. But they don't talk about the lost souls as if they no longer exist. They talk about them as if they are lost and unretrievable.

    Here's an existential question. If a soul can't exist outside the body, and dies when the brain dies, then how is it even defined differently from the brain? "A difference that makes no difference is no difference."

    To put it another way, if it's irrevocably tied to the body, then you can't capture it and put it somewhere else. All you can do is make a copy. Can the Soul Hunters tell whether they're making a copy or capturing the original? I'll grant that they know the difference, and that they really are capturing the original. Which means that by their own definition, the soul has existence independent of the body, and can continue to exist after death. And could do so even if the Soul Hunters didn't grab it.

    At that point, whether the soul has somewhere to go is a question for the philosphers. I seriously doubt the Soul Hunters have any way of telling. The part I find inconsistent is that, for whatever reason, they aren't even asking that question.
     
  5. Reverend

    Reverend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    ^ As you say it depends on how you define a "soul". The simplest definition, (to steal a line from Star Trek) is "everything that is not of the body." Whether it exists independently of the body or if it is a chunk of recycled schizo universe brain is a matter of belief. The way the Soul hunters see it, whatever it is they think they're preserving cannot exist without a body unless they intervene.
     
  6. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    But what about lines like "lost to the ether in an insubstantial existence"? That says they believe it can exist without a body. Insubstantial existence is still existence, after all.
     
  7. Brian

    Brian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    The Soul Hunter says in this episode:

    Perhaps that "insubstantial existence" is transient, and is the decline/dissipation of a soul into oblivion.
     
  8. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Ah, good call. I'd forgotten that line.

    But at that point we're back to the difference between a pattern of brain electrical impulses and signals (a purely measurable and physical phenomenon) and an "ephemeral soul", which is claimed to be something different, but in reality behaves exactly the same as the electrical pattern, including the ability to be recorded, and fading out at death. There's no discernable difference.

    Do the Soul Hunters have a way to differentiate between the ephemeral soul and the brain pattern/personality matrix? Not according to what they tell us. So all it sounds like is that they've slapped a different label on the brain pattern. Really, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by just claiming they're making recordings.

    And if in reality the soul can exist after death, then the Soul Hunters can't capture it. How can they? They don't believe it exists. By their own admission, their technology only allows them to capture some of the essence (whatever it is) from a living person. If the soul is transcendent, it should be beyond them whether it's in the body or not. So all the Soul Hunter-haters out there have nothing to worry about.
     
  9. Brian

    Brian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    JMS settled this argument back when the episode first aired. When asked, "Who's right, the Soul Hunter or the Minbari?" he replied,

    :D

    He later elaborated:

    So he seems to be succeeding. :techman:
     
  10. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Hear, hear! :techman:

    And please understand that I'm not arguing who's right, the Soul Hunter or the Minbari. Or whether the soul exists or not, or what it is. I'm just pointing out that there are some built-in contradictions in the Soul Hunters' own claims of what they're doing.

    And that makes me think they were sold a bill of goods by whoever put them on the task in the first place. :devil:
     
  11. Brian

    Brian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Could be. I just assumed the Soul Hunters were always there. But if they were set to the task by someone, it could have been with the intent of
    preventing certain souls from reincarnating, specficially, certain Minbari souls.

    Hmm.... I never thought of it that way. :evil:
     
  12. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Did I mention B5 has many, many terrible guest stars?

    Because it does. In fairness, many of them really don't have much to work with, especially bad guys.

    The episode comes down hard against the Soul Hunters, though. There don't seem to be any non-Soul Hunters in favour of the practice (it is commented that the alien sector is in a panic over it), and even ignoring the psychotic principal Soul Hunter, Sinclair - who in moral issues tends to be JMS's voicepiece - bans Soul Hunters from the station.

    One could defend the practice, and the episode isn't as strident as some Star Trek episodes (or indeed some B5 episodes) in setting up the other side as bad guys, but it's definitely picked a side.

    Even this is a very partisan definition. We're used to the idea that the soul is something incorporeal basically because efforts to nail down a corporeal essence were all failures, I believe there was a point the soul was located somewhere in the stomach in some cultures.

    The soul, for all intents and purposes, is what distinguishes the living from the dead, in Latin anima, i.e. what animates us. So it's whatever makes us alive and, the assumption goes, is us. The soul is a catch-all word for what makes me breathe and gives me the personality that assumes a Talaxian avatar is inherently funny.

    You could pretty easily tell a sci-fi story about what this property is or what it's supposed to be (I'm not suggesting here there is such a thing, only god and people who did science in school knows what biology is), but the specific word 'soul' probably has too overtly religious connotations - which was doubtless intentional on JMS's part.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2010
  13. Reverend

    Reverend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Whoever said a belief has to be logical and consistent? Soul Hunters are hardly infallible. ;)
     
  14. dragunzng

    dragunzng Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    As someone who watched B5 for the first time just a few years ago and shared the experience on these boards, I'll urge you to stick with the show. It gets very, very, very good. It also get's fairly silly, and most of the acting is pretty bad, but damn, those moments when it hits its stride are some of the most memorable, most heart-wrenching scenes I've ever seen on television.
     
  15. JoeD80

    JoeD80 Captain Captain

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Franklin makes this very point in the episode. He believes all it is is a copy of a personality and not a soul.
     
  16. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I know, but the point is how the Soul Hunters perceive it, not everyone else. As I said, there seem to be some contradictions in what they say, so I'm bringing this up to analyze their perspective.
     
  17. JustKate

    JustKate Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Yay! Another TGB thread!

    No, I am NOT being sarcastic. I always enjoy TheGodBen's threads. I wish I liked B5 better, but I'll check in on this thread from time to time anyway, when I need a small dose of smartassity as a pick-me-up. ;)

    And you never know. He might convert me. It didn't work with ENT, but then again, ENT takes a lot of selling, IMO.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2010
  18. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    A small dose? Surely my ass is smarter than that.


    Born to the Purple (*½)

    Another unsatisfying outing, not even Londo and G'Kar could rescue this episode for me. There story here has been done to death; woman tasked with seducing a man for fun and profit develops feelings for him and ends up betraying her employer due to her feelings for the man. I've seen this a thousand times before, I've seen it just as many times with the roles of the male and female reversed, and I think I've even seen it involving two men. (I can't say I've ever seen it with two women, but that might be because whenever lesbians are on screen I stop focusing on the plot.) Does this episode add anything new to the formula? Not really, just a bunch of aliens, the basic concepts and structure remain the same.

    Londo's character in this episode gets grazed by the bullet of a senseless assassin; he doesn't take his job seriously, he focuses on sex when he should be thinking about the important issue of galactic peace, and his incompetence nearly brings down his empire. I still like Londo, buy many more episodes like this and I'll have to reconsider. As for G'Kar, I did not like the way he reacted at the end of the episode at all, he stormed off in a huff because he was tricked into not causing an empire descend into chaos.

    I have to question how Sinclair is the commander of B5 yet businessmen on the station apparently don't recognise him. Some layperson who is just passing through the station might not know what he looks like, but a businessman based on the station? I don't get it.

    I must have missed something major about Ivanova's backstory because I can't understand the b-story at all. She has to use back-channels in order to talk to her dying father why? I don't understand what's going on, I didn't find it particularly emotional, all it did was distract from the a-plot, not that that's such a crime in this case.

    Commander Greyshirt: 4
     
  19. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Premium Member

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    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    Would you recognize the Mayor of your city by sight?

    She didn't have to do so. She simply chose to be discreet.
     
  20. apenpaap

    apenpaap Commodore Commodore

    Re: A Niner Watches Babylon 5

    I would. He's in the news a lot.