Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
Babylon 5 was a planned five year science fiction television show. It was unique in that it planned its premise and plot, centered on the Babylon 5 space station. Viewers were drawn to the character arcs, such as the Narn diplomat who sought survival and then vengeance for his people only to become a peaceful religion figure, the Centauri diplomat who sought power and glory for the empire only to become trapped at the highest level of society, and the telepath who went from obedient rank and file member to the woman who helped overthrow the new fascist government that took over Earth as well as the Psi Corps that had controlled telepaths since they were first found on Earth.
The Psi Corps of the Babylon 5 television show was fleshed out in the “Psi Corps Trilogy” of books. These books revealed the implied horrors the show shared about the Corps as standard policy. For an organization built on protecting, training and breeding telepaths – the ultimate in human resources management – it repeated a number of maxims with horrifying results.
Have a Baby for the Corps
This was revealed as a standard line for the Psi Corps. The organization had a goal of finding and protecting telepaths, as well as ensuring their continued survival by making sure everyone had at least one child.
The end result of this was a requirement that everyone who could did have at least one child. And ostensibly for the best interests of the children, most if not all children of telepaths were taken by the Corps to be raised in the dorms. Given the high murder rate of telepaths, death in the line of duty as security guards to the elite and high suicide rate, children wouldn’t face the emotional aftermath of losing a parent if raised by the Corps. And parents were then free to take assignments wherever they wanted or were needed by the Corps, without the restrictions and obligations of childcare.
The demand that everyone have a baby for the Corps was taken to more dramatic ends when combined with the next mantra.
Your Genes Belong to All of Us
Not only is there an obligation to have a baby for the Corps, but the child must be created per eugenic requirements of the Psi Corps. In the ideal case, you get permission to marry and have children with the person you love and have children with equal or greater telepathic ability than yourself. And the laws stated that telepaths could not marry non-telepaths, nor were they supposed to have illegitimate children with “mundanes”. In short, you were lucky if you were allowed to have children with the person you chose.
The view that your genetics do not belong to you mean that you have to have children as the Corps commands. When a good genetic match was identified, you didn’t have a choice about having the child. Your choices were artificial insemination, sexual encounters until a child was produced or marriage. Because the children produced were raised by the Corps, it didn’t matter if the parents later separated or if two lovers had children by other partners as mandated by the Corps.
The end results of this requirement were show in the TV show, where a female P11, the second highest telepathic rating, was told to make a baby with a man who would likely produce a P12. She refused to even consider artificial insemination. She told the story of waking up in her room only to be sedated, discovering a few weeks later she was pregnant. She had refused artificial insemination or sex, so they’d forcibly artificially inseminated her. She fled the Corps hospital as soon as she could walk, though they took the child as soon as it was born.
In the books, even those in the camps were subject to forced reproduction. More on this later.
The Camps, The Corps or the Sleepers
Per the laws of the Babylon 5 universe, human telepaths had three legal options: join the Psi Corps and live by its rules but remain a functional telepath, go to the camps where you’d likely die, and take “sleepers”, the drugs that suppressed telepathic ability.
These drugs caused crippling depression, mood swings and purportedly decreased intelligence. It was implied that these side effects were intentional, so that telepaths would join the Psi Corps so that they didn’t have to continue taking the drugs.
The sleepers were given by Psi Corps members who sometimes added extras to the drugs, such as one outspoken telepath on sleepers who died right after his weekly injection after embarrassing the Corps.
The sleepers thus became one more way to maintain control over telepaths.
Protect the Family
The Psi Corps sees itself as a family. All telepaths are “children” of the Corps, and the Psi Corps is mother and father. This in essence removes agency and freedom for the adults in the guise of paternal protection, while creating the image that all telepaths are brothers and sisters.
The result of the mantra “Protect the Family” is that the immoral acts of forced reproduction, reprogramming of Corps members who are not happy or want to tell the truth and human experimentation are not revealed to the public until the Telepath Wars. Even those in the Psi Corps who have reservations or concerns stay silent, trying to reform the Psi Corps, though many are killed during the “Psi Corps Trilogy”, even before the Telepath Wars.
In short, “Protect the Family” means “keep all the secrets safe, no matter how bad”. And if you can’t or won’t keep it secret, they’ll erase your memory of it, rebuild the personality so you’re OK with it or kill you.
The Horrifying Implications of the Psi Corps
The Psi Corps of the Babylon 5 television show and books describes the dulling and depressing effects of sleepers and weekly injections, the appalling and deliberately degrading conditions of the camps, the personal impact of eugenics and human experimentation on telepaths by other telepaths in the goal of creating better telepaths. What are some of the horrifying implications of these elements when combined?
To Those on Sleepers
If your genes are not your own and the Psi Corps ensures that all telepaths breed at least once, then those on sleepers are certainly included. They cannot marry a mundane (non-telepath), so at best could marry another telepath on sleepers. The children created would be taken by the Corps, though whether at birth or emergence of their own talent isn’t clear. At worse, the men are milked so that their sperm is used for artificial insemination with loyal members of the Corps and the women pushed into having a baby to be raised by an organization they did not want to join.
To the Burnouts
The Babylon 5 TV show discussed how telepaths could burn out and become mind-numbed automatons. The Psi Corps Trilogy includes mention of how children were told to be careful with mental blocks and exertion to avoid becoming the brain-dead shells they could go spoon feed and visit.
The P12s in the Psi Corp can rearrange memories, erase memories and alter personalities in lower level telepaths, as well as mundanes. P12s are used by the government to brain wipe “executed” criminals, erasing their personality and building a servile one that moves on to work in public service. This is seen in the television show when one monk, who used to be a murder, is killed by a young man whose relative he killed, only to have the young man “erased” and his personality replaced by one who becomes an eager young novice monk.
It is implied that burned out telepaths can suffer a similar fate. Jason Mamoa in the books has his mind burned out, and though he was a rogue telepath not wanting to join the Psi Corps, it is implied his personality could be rebuilt and that new entity willingly join the Corps. In the television show, a bedraggled and possibly telepathically stunned telepath shown in season 5 propaganda says how they helped him become a happy, eager member of the Corps. It is likely that P12 Psi Cops develop the skills to perform planned reprogramming by practicing on burned out telepaths. The burned out personalities eagerly have babies for the Corps. If and until they are returned to a functional state, they continue breeding.
The sheer number of medical personnel implied in the books is partially explained by this scenario. Why keep tens of thousands of brain dead people alive if they can’t even be rehabilitated as semi-functional housekeepers, cooks and groundskeepers? Because the fertile women can still have babies for the Corps, raised by the others. And since nearly all children not born to mundane parents are raised by teachers in the dorms, they never think to wonder how they came into the world.
In the Camps
The camps are discussed in the television show but revealed in their full horrors in the Psi Corps trilogy. There is a scene where a captured young P12 woman is taken to a nice building, given a shower and clean clothes, and meets a Psi Cop. He offers her the ability to leave the camp with him and join the Corps, have a family and normal life within the Corps strictures. She refuses. He informs her that they are a good genetic match, he’s to create a baby with her, and now it is only simply a matter of how. He gives her the option of staying in the comfortable quarters until they have a kid, or she can be drugged, restrained or artificially inseminated, but they will make a child to be raised by the Corps, as he himself was raised.
Because this particular man didn’t want to be a rapist, he brings in the woman’s lover and says he, too, will contribute his genes to the Corps, in his own time. The act was intended to break down her will, her feeling that she would only have sex with the man she loved, not the one assigned to her.
The mantras “your genes are not your own” are used in this scene, as well as others. Given the Corps view of quality and maintaining the quantity of telepaths, you can be certain they are ensuring that even those in the camps have children.
One can imagine all fertile men forced to give a sperm sample, to be used in the artificial insemination of other camp members, members of the Corps or the burnouts. The women are forcibly impregnated, since this universe does not include artificial wombs, and surrogacy seems verboten.
So women in the camps are forced to have children to be raised by the Corps, with some given the option to follow their children into the Psi Corps and thus be able to periodically see the children. If they refuse to join, they are sent back to the camps to die. And the Psi Corps has an impressionable young mind to be raised by the Corps, a replacement for the intractable parent.
In the TV show, psi-cop Alfred Bester fell in love with a woman, Carolyn, in the camps. He even got her pregnant, before she disappeared. For a guard to have a relationship with a prisoner would be a challenge, even more so among telepaths. How then could he have had a sexual relationship without being caught? Only if it were tacitly sanctioned, for a P12 psi-cop to make an equally powerful child with the P11/P12 prisoner, in essence, being allowed to make a kid because all your genes belong to us and hopefully use the child as leverage to get her to join the Corps voluntarily to stay with Bester and/or the baby. The only problem was that the processing skipped the check, and she was sent to the Shadows as fodder while pregnant. If she'd had the child and then been shipped off, it would have been part and parcel their procedure of making sure everyone bred before being killed in the camps.
At best, a telepath is allowed to marry and have children with someone they love that is raised by the Psi Corps you can visit. At worst, you’re drugged nearly out of your mind or deliberately suffer in the camps long enough to be forced to pass on your genes in the form of a child taken and raised by the Psi Corps. And that is aside from the drugs, surgeries and other steps taken to try to increase psychic ability and improve the telepath gene pool.
No wonder there was such a large underground of telepaths trying to escape and evade the Psi Corps, when only one in a thousand had such abilities.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on June 18, 2018:
I enjoyed reading this very well written article. The psycore was a great horror on the Babylon 5 show. It was like a miniature version of the Nazis and their need for purification in genetics and control of members. I think the camps were the most terrifying feature of the series. Unfortunately, we have come close to such things, including eugenics programs, penalizing people considered least valuable in our own society at one time (people with mental disabilities, etc.).
Great read. Thanks.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on October 19, 2017:
Someone brought up the odds that after Talia Winters had the sleeper personality awoken, she probably bred with the ex-husband she hated like the Corps wanted because the programmed personality was completely obedient.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on December 09, 2015:
Thank you. The Babylon 5 has aliens that have mind control over the victims they are attached to, ships that use telepaths as jamming devices on other ships that have a human as the CPU, but I realized the Psi Corps was one of the most horrifying things for humans in that universe because it was:
A. Mandated by law
B. Able to MAKE you like it / support it / be unable to resist
Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on December 09, 2015:
Tamara, a very amazing hub, well written and wow the content was exceptional. A hub that grabbed your interest and held it until the last word, really enjoyed it. Linda