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Date Posted: 12:10:45 08/03/03 Sun
Author: KdS
Subject: River, the Blue Men and psionics (Lots of spec, spoilers to "Ariel")

After watching Ariel last night, I did some thinking about River's powers and the Blue Men.

We know that River is powerfully telepathic (although only receptively so far, unless she has the power and is keeping it quiet) but can't seem to control it. The incident with the medical error at the hospital in Ariel may suggest that she has precognitive abilities, although it's possible that she worked out the situation with the misadministered drug from reading the doctor and patient, combined with any medical knowledge she might have picked up from Simon.

There were strong subtextual implications in Safe that River and Simon's parents may have been aware of what was being done to her and tried to keep it hidden from Simon.

The Blue Men's massacre of the soldiers in Ariel has some interesting mechanics. One of the Blue Men produces a small object which extrudes two arms, but doesn't appear to aim it in any way, and the lead soldier begins to bleed from his mouth and nose. Jayne, Simon and River then hear all the soldiers scream in pain, and we cut back to the Blue Men standing amidst a pile of bodies. Now any weapon which would affect everybody in a room so indiscriminately would also affect the Blue Men, unless they are in some way specifically immune to it. The problem is that a weapon which is so indiscriminate that its users have to be immunised is useless if you want to be any more selective than killing every single person around you. The only other, more logical, possibility is that the Blue Men were using some kind of weapon that could affect an arbitrarily large number of people within range selectively, but didn't have to be aimed. There's nothing that can fit that profile in 21st-century science so far as I know, but there's one immediate possibility in a fictional universe that immediately comes to mind. Psionic attack. (And while I can't give you a citation, I feel sure that bleeding from bodily orifices has been used in several prior series and films as a sign of psi combat. Can anyone help?) The weapon may have been some kind of pseudoscientific psionic focus or amplifier, or a purely symbolic personal fetish.

The Blue Men haven't shown any really obvious sign of telepathy, they didn't seem to know that the soldiers had interacted with River until they mentioned it. However, they may have known before but not wanted to show their power. I wonder if the Blue Men are actually psionically augmented in some way, which suggests a possibility that would introduce ME's trademark moral ambiguity. What if River's current problems aren't down to her treatment at the Academy, but to the interruption of that treatment? I wonder if the Blue Men have had the full dose?

The fact that the Blue Men in Ariel are cold-blooded killers may be a side-effect of their treatment, or it may just be down to their existing personalities and occupations. At any rate, it's interesting.

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