In previous entries in this series, I have praised Babylon 5 for treating its women characters like people, and not like stereotypes or plot devices. But even a great show like B5 is not perfect, and its treatment of Talia Winters is one of the show’s biggest failures.
Talia Winters is the resident commercial telepath assigned to the Babylon 5 space station. She was taken by the Psi Corps as a small child, raised to be loyal to other telepaths rather than to humanity as a whole, and now uses her telepathic abilities to ensure good faith in business dealings. And despite having more episodes centered around her in the first season than any other character but Commander Sinclair, she receives some of the least real development of any character.
In one episode, we learn that while Talia was still a student at the Psi Corps Academy, she became lovers with one of her instructors. In another episode, we learn than while Talia was still an Academy, she mentored by an older student named Matthew, and later placed into an arranged marriage with him. In another episode, we learn that as an Academy student, she was mentored by an older student named Abby. In a later episode, we learn than as an Academy student, she was mentored by an older student named Lyta (who will get another column for herself).
These might seem like character development, except that each of these parts of Talia’s background are introduced in an episode where they are relevant, and then never mentioned again. Did Psicorp have a policy of giving each student a series of student mentors? We don’t know, because each of these mentors is described as if they were the onyl student mentor that Talia had at the Academy. Talia’s background isn’t really hers, it is whatever the episode at hand needs.
Talia could have been an interesting character. Instead, she was just a plot device.