Alfred Bester – Psi-Cop, freedom fighter, hero & villain

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I mean, being a freedom fighter, a – a force for good, it’s – it’s a wonderful thing. You get to make your own hours, looks good on a resume, but the pay – sucks.

– Alfred Bester (Walter Koenig)
Babylon 5
4×04 Moments in Transition

 

Alfred Bester was brilliantly portrayed by Walter Koenig in Babylon 5. He was the recurring guest character you always hoped would be in the next episode because you knew it would be a good one. He was fascinating in his mystery, entertaining in his comedy and downright frightening in his fascist-style sense of supremacy. I have chosen this quote because while it was said in relation to something else it actually had a lot of relevance to Bester himself. 

Despite the fact that the Psi-Corp, the blanket organization for the telepaths, is entirely self sufficient and is an entity within the Earth Alliance already, Bester wants to have more power. It’s difficult to pinpoint just what Bester’s motivation is for wanting to have an Earth Alliance controlled by telepaths. The most obvious answer is that Bester is a supremacist in his views as he sees himself and his telepaths as the future of humanity and therefore have a right to lead humanity with mundanes (non-telepaths) as second class citizens. In many ways this view he has of humanity’s future resembles apartheid in South Africa between the whites and blacks. 

Taking this further however it can be argued that Bester is in fact a freedom fighter because of his ambition hence my selection of the quote. The truth is despite the power of the Psi-Corps it is still an organization to control telepaths including Bester. The Psi-Corps still has to answer to the President’s office as is seen several times throughout the series and it is hinted that this is a source of frustration to them. The very existence of the Psi-Corps serves to segregate mundanes from ‘teeps’ and therefore probably fostered Bester’s superiority complex. It is really a case of chicken and the egg. Either way it is an interesting view on civil rights and agencies/charities that support one group which while may begin with a positive goal still serves to breed segregation. 

Whatever it was intended to be, Bester was a thrilling character to see on screen and was wonderfully portrayed by Walter Koenig. Despite his Star Trek background Koenig’s performance ensured that people were not seeing Chekov on screen but a new character altogether. This was a real testament to his acting.

Thanks for reading…  

 

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One thought on “Alfred Bester – Psi-Cop, freedom fighter, hero & villain”

  1. Interesting post you have here Tony. I’m halfway through season five of Babylon 5. The last show I watched in its entirety was DS9 and I have to say that B5 is superior in almost every aspect. I think part of it is B5 has a well defined plot whereas DS9 was arc, dabble in this dabble in that, arc, etc thus making it difficult to keep the viewer engaged. Liked your write-up. Not sure if you already did, but it might be interesting to do a comparison between Bester and Gul Dukat. Both have some quite similar and compelling characteristics.

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