7 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Passing Through Gethsemane””

  1. Pleas excuse the tangent but this episode is important to me as a New Zealander. The unnamed ‘business person’ is a Kiwi, she used to present the Crimewatch show here in the 1980s, she was at the time this aired still very well know here, I got such a fright when I first watched this episode!

  2. An absolutely superb episode. But not quite perfect.

    One flaw is probably the price of having Brad Dourif, so it’s a price worth paying. But it would have been nice to have seen Brother Edward before this.

    Secondly, Edward’s articulation of his problem (how can you confess your sins if you don’t know what they are?) is philosophically (and I’m pretty sure theologically, but it’s not my area) seems a but ham-handed to me, and I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to frame the issue that could keep it as an inescapable crisis for the man.

    If I ever meet JMS, I’ll ask him if *Ed*ward = *Oed*ipus was deliberate.

  3. (Was going to post this in the spoiler thread, because it was sparked by some of the discussion there, but there’s no reason to confine it to the jaded and decadent long-time B5 watchers.)

    I think it’s intriguing to pull out some of the implications behind a society adopting the death of personality – how that society has to think about criminal justice, and what questions about the punishment there are that we haven’t had answered.

    First, it’s a flaw that we’ve never seen how it applies to a “normal” murderer (crime of passion, etc.) – both in Passing Through Gethsemane and The Quality of Mercy, the subject is a mentally-ill serial killer.

    But this does suggest that this is a society that is comfortable with simply eliminating someone who arguably cannot be held responsible for their actions (and would probably not get the death penalty today even in the few countries that still have it). This isn’t unlikely – given the choice between locking someone up for their entire life, and simply wiping a personality that can never be other than a danger to society, one can see how seductive the idea of creating a new, productive, member of society would be. But it’s still especially consistent with a society that would find Clark’s fascist-style rhetoric about aliens appealing.

    On the other hand, it also suggests a society that places little moral value on whether or not a person can and should take responsibility for their actions.

    One might speculate that this is a consequence of telepathy (but it wouldn’t have to be the magic power of telepathy – this is more relevant to us in 2016 than it was at the time of broadcast). Once it becomes possible to alter the personality of someone permanently and predictably, it perhaps seems irrelevant whether or not the original personality takes responsibility for what it has done.

    (There are questions here that one would like to have seen explored: can one willingly have a telepath alter one’s own personality, to make oneself more industrious, for instance? What does it do to the conception of the self to live in a society where one can do that?)

    What other crimes are considered suitable for the death of personality? What other mental illnesses? Where are the lines drawn, and why there? My guess based on the show is that it has to be only murder (and perhaps other very serious crimes) – certainly, petty theft and other less serious crimes are not dealt with this in this way. But why not? It would be fascinating to get some information about the political arguments over expanding the death of personality (or not).

    Finally, how plausible a deterrent is it? (Plausible, not effective: I’m asking whether or not people would believe that it was a deterrent in the same way that supporters of the death penalty believe that it is, even though opponents disagree.)

    To me, personally, for whatever reason it doesn’t trigger my self-preservation instinct in the same way as the thought of actual death – I can see that it’s the same thing, but it doesn’t feel like the same thing. That’s not just me. The presupposition behind the death of personality is that in some sense the new personality is the same person who is repaying the crimes of the old personality – who is therefore not dead. By the same token, though, that should mean that it should feel like less of a deterrent. Which suggests a society in which deterrence plays less of a role in debates over punishment than it does in ours.

    1. I have to say I find the idea of death of personality humanely appealing; in practice I guess it ain’t going to work. It’s open to corrupt usage by law-makers and enforcers, and the same revenger we get in this episode. ‘Sheridan’s dilemna’ would be an all common one if we have the same news media’s fetish for poster-murderers. Can you imagine Charles Manson or George Bush sweeping up the leaves at your local parish? It would have to happen somewhere much more remote than Babylon 5. If death of personality worked, it would be karma in action. I can’t see that the mind/body debate holds weighty sway, exempting the cases of the falsely tried.
      I’m reminded JMS throws up a vulgarly compelling argument for the death penalty in Season 2 when Vir reveals to Morden what he wants. I prefer this version.
      Btw, I’ve recently started watching the original Twilight Zone. Gorram, the resemblance between Rod Serling and Ed Wasser’s uncanny!

    2. I have the opposite emotional reaction. The idea of mindwipe hits me as a fate worse than death. Everything that makes me who I am is just deleted, and this body keeps walking around with an artificial personality. No deal. Just put a bullet to my head; it would be more humane than a mind-rape followed by a walking death.

      1. That is the attitude I have when envisaging it done to someone else – it’s deeply disturbing to imagine a different person walking around in a body that I know.

        But only then: I have no strong reaction when imagining it done to me. It’s as if, on the one hand, it feels enough like the end of myself that I think that I personally won’t care, but on the other hand it doesn’t feel enough like death to spark the actual fear of death.

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