SJ Review #102

Episode: 102 - Soul Hunter
Jim Johnston
W. Morgan Sheppard (Soul Hunter #1)
John Snyder (Soul Hunter #2)

When Sinclair saves a crippled ship from colliding with the space station, he is not expecting to find a creature inside that the Minbari call 'Shag Toth', or a Soul Hunter...

Whilst "Midnight on the Firing Line", episode 101, was more functional than anything else, "Soul Hunter" goes a step further, showing that Babylon 5 is capable of covering some very interesting philosophical subjects in an intelligent and interesting manner.

This episode very clearly shows what Babylon 5 is capable of when it is good, and it is only the second episode of the first season!

The acting is superb throughout, particularly that of Sheppard, as the Soul Hunter. Richard Biggs also makes an impressive debut as Doctor Franklin; he is certainly a vast improvement in Johnny Sekka. The other regulars acquit themselves admirably, as well. The only performances that let the episode down are those of the lurkers, who are absolutely dreadful - thankfully their scenes are very short and do not spoil the episode to any great extent. Still, most non-acting people could act better than the two incompetents the B5 team found for those scenes...

The special effects appear to take a leap forward in this episode. The sequence when Sinclair struggles to save the Soul Hunter's ship is nail-biting, and utilises real physics and innovative camera-work to great effect. The music is also well written for this particular scene - whilst Christopher Franke still is no way near the quality he achieves in later seasons, his unusual style is already giving the show a distinctive aural flavour. The CGI at the end of the episode is similarly impressive.

102's script is a vast improvement on the pilot and the first episode. It captures the individual characters extremely well - the Soul Hunter is particularly effective Perhaps the best thing about this script is the way it is structured so that the Soul Hunters do not come across as the stereotypical Nasty Alien. The dialogue is also very well crafted towards the end of the episode, when it seems that Sinclair may be under threat from the Soul Hunters, due to the cunningly ambiguous writing. This careful scripting and intelligent plotting makes up what is to become a beacon attached to every good Babylon 5 episode.

This is a superb episode, one that should appeal both to avid fans and science fiction viewers generally. As filler episodes go, this one sets high standards early on in the season.

Rating: 8/10 - A wonderful episode, let down by the lurkers' acting and a couple of strangely unnecessary continuity errors. Very intelligent SF.

Best Quote:
Franklin: It's all so brief, isn't it? Typical human lifespan is almost 100 years, but it's barely a second compared to what's out there....wouldn't be so bad if life didn't take so long to figure out - seems you just start to get it right's over.

Points For Discussion:
Why didn't the Soul Hunter have more guards, if it was such a threat.
On what grounds was Sinclair holding the Soul Hunter?
Could a Soul Hunter somewhere have Valen's soul?
Do Soul Hunter's *really* collect souls, or is it just a false belief?
Do Minbari souls really carry on into the next generation?
What was Delenn planning?
Why does Delenn's blood drip *up* at one point?

Future Arc:
We learn a little about the death of Dukhat... Delenn is a Satai, a member of the mysterious Grey Council. Delenn was present at Dukhat's death... Delenn and, possibly, the Minbari, have an incredible plan they are to carry out. This may refer to the Babylon 4 incident, the chrysalis transformation, or any number of things. We discover that the Minbari are using Sinclair for some purpose...

Simon Jones, reviewer.

1998 Simon Jones.