Summary and analysis by Dallascaper

John seems like a levelheaded guy most of the time. However, his desire to return to Earth is so strong, it clouds his judgment sometimes. Such is the case when the naive human is suckered into meeting a mysterious wizard named Haloth. To John's disappointment, Haloth's isn't able to send John back to Earth, but the old wizard promises to arrange a meeting between John and Crais. John feels an honest explanation of what happened on the day he arrived would give Crais a reason to cease his pursuit of the human. That may be a good idea, but kiss and make up is not what Haloth has in mind.

Transforming from an old wizard to a powerful, malevolent being named Maldis, Haloth reveals his true intentions. Maldis is a vampire, a creature that feeds on the life essence of his victims. John and Crais don't know it, but their real bodies are still on Moya and the command carrier, respectively. Their spirits are locked in Maldis' chamber where they will be consumed for lunch. The anger John and Crais show for each other only makes their essence more palatable for Maldis, which is why he lets them fight it out. For much of the time, it's a game of cat and mouse, with Crais the cat. John, the scientist-pacifist, attempts to convince Crais that fighting each other only strengthens Maldis. Crais, blinded by revenge, sees John as prey that must pay for the death of his brother.

His back against the wall, John finally decides to defend himself and it's all out war between the two combatants. Unfortunately, this plays perfectly into Maldis' hands. Only when it is too late does John realize the scope of Maldis' true plans and how his actions inadvertently may cost the lives of untold millions.

What Maldis doesn't take into consideration is Zhaan. She has spent many cycles developing a state of peace and stability. She has the ability to enter Maldis' realm and defeat him, but to do so would mean unleashing her dark and violent side. This could unravel many cycles of training and leave Zhaan vulnerable to her own dark impulses. With the help of a former high priest, Liko, Zhaan taps her dark side and prepares for battle with Maldis. It's a battle to save John and the rest of Moya's crew, but it must take place in Maldis' realm, his world, and on his terms.

Analysis:

One of the things that separates a good episodes from one that isn't so great is character development. Establishing who an important character is and why they behave the way they do is critical. It is particularly important this occurs early in the series and That Old Black Magic scores direct hits with both Crais and Zhaan.

Until now, we have seen Crais only in The Premiere. In that episode he was a standard, two-dimensional bad guy written to add drama to the show. Crais may be a more complex character than I originally thought. By Maldis bringing Crais to his lair and allowing him to interact with Crichton, we learn more about the Peacekeeper captain. Of course, he spends much of this episode hunting Crichton, just as expected. I find what Maldis said about Crais very interesting, though. Maldis indicated that Crais had nearly accepted John's explanation for what happened to Tauvo. According to Maldis, Crais was ready to cease the pursuit of John and return to Peacekeeper space. Maldis made sure this didn't happen, but it shows Crais is not a mindless bad guy - the man is open to reason. It didn't help John in this episode, but Crais' willingness to listen to the human could play a roll in future episodes. Of course, the fact that Crais committed murder and is now a renegade captain only adds to his complex character.

It comes as no surprise that, by the end of the episode, Maldis is defeated and John is safe. Zhaan, with help from Liko, manages to save John. But it is clear that victory comes at a price for Zhaan. She must resurrect her dark nature, suppressed for many cycles, to battle Maldis. Once the deed is done, she can't simply put it back, as John painfully discovers as the episode ends. This is not a Star Trek, everyone is happy ending. There is a sense that Zhaan's stability will be tested in future episodes with no guarantee that her good side will prevail.

Should add that Maldis is a little over-the-top as a bad guy. But his is fun to watch most of the time and deserved everything Zhaan gave him in the end.

TOBM is not a perfect episode, but it is entertaining and the character development is interesting. It's an important story for the groundwork it lays for future episodes.

 

 

 

Originally aired in the US June 11, 1999

Written by Richard Manning

Directed By Brendan Maher

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