"The Devil Take the Hindmost" Plot Summary:
When Rev Bem's old teacher Thaddeus Blake begs his help protecting a group of Wayists from slavers, Dylan and the Magog take the Maru to their rescue. They bring weapons and plan to encourage the Hegira to fight, but when they arrive, they learn that the Hegira have genetic memory -- their descendants remember everything that has ever happened to the ancestors. As Thaddeus points out, if Dylan teaches these Wayists to fight, their innocence will be lost forever, for all their descendants will remember how it feels to kill. Dylan insists that that would be preferable to all their descendants growing up slaves, but Blake destroys all the force lances brought on the Maru.
Tiama, a Hegira woman, believes Dylan is their savior and asks him to father a child with her so that his offspring will pass on his commitment to helping her people. He refuses, but agrees to teach the Hegira how to fight using arrows and spears. Recalling that one nova bomb could have saved the Commonwealth had he chosen to use it, Dylan will not reject violence now as a means of protection. Rev Bem insists that mercy and hope are the strongest weapons at his disposal; still, for Rev himself, faith is the only thing keeping the Hegira alive, for without the Way guiding his actions, he would infest and eat them all.
When the slavers come, Thaddeus insists on trying to preach peace to them and is killed by them for his efforts. The slavers flee in fear of the Magog, but Dylan believes they will return. Tiama drugs Rev Bem in order to steal his genetic material and impregnate herself, though she knows bearing his offspring will kill her; she believes the young Magog will retain her memories and become the defenders of the Hegira. Dylan wants to destroy the infants before they can be born and start eating everyone on the planet, but Rev Bem insists that they must have faith long enough to see what sort of Magog Tiama produces. When the babies devour their way through her, Rev Bem tries to teach them the Way. Meanwhile, Dylan prepares the Hegira for the slavers' return.
When the inevitable arrives, Dylan leads the slavers into a trap where the young Magog feed on them. But the Magog don't stop there; they try to infest the Hegira, saying they want to pass on the life and the memories that were passed on to them. Dylan is prepared to use force to stop them, yet the Hegira offer themselves to the Magog, believing it is the only way their culture and memories can survive free from slavery.
Back on the ship, Beka and Tyr plot a little smuggling during a mission to rescue a group of Than, but Beka ends up feeding the helpless aliens with the contraband she has managed to hide from Andromeda and the others. When the captain gets back, he compliments her on a job well done and says he wants to talk about the things he's witnessed. Tyr hears rumors that Rev Bem's genes have become the foundation of a race of warrior priests and admits he's envious. The Magog says they could save paradise only by introducing the serpent.
An engrossing, disturbing episode with a very black sense of humor, "The Devil Take the Hindmost" places Dylan Hunt in a position that would have been all too familiar to James T. Kirk. As in Star Trek's "The Apple," the captain finds a species untainted by slaughter, but at the cost of their freedom. As their story unfolds, we learn more about Wayism, like some facts about the Anointed -- a Magog who learned about Jesus, Buddha, and other human religious leaders from the man who carried his children (a gimmick this series has borrowed from Octavia Butler's classic short story "Bloodchild," but that doesn't make it any less effective). When the human died birthing the Magog, the Anointed raised them in The Way, which incorporates Taoism, the Talmud, and dozens of other human religions.
Offspring are the theme of the episode, and Thaddeus Blake treats the Hegira as his children. He decides for them that learning to fight would destroy them, though Tiama and others have already made the choice to learn. Thaddeus pays for his idealism with his life; though his former student Rev Bem mourns him, few of his more recent followers seem devastated. They turn instead to Dylan as a savior, a role with which the captain is distinctly uncomfortable, though he is determined not to repeat past mistakes by insisting there must be a way other than violence.
Unfortunately this conflict is played out as a struggle between faith and empowerment, when for Dylan in particular it's a lot more complicated. He's the sole representative of the Commonwealth, the galaxy's last, best hope for peace, yet the only way to show slavers he means business is to teach his followers to wage war, even if it's against their own religion. Though he doesn't follow The Way, Dylan has a great deal of faith -- more than anyone else we've seen on this series except Rev Bem, who is dependent on his belief system as an antidote to his brutal instincts, and possibly Trance, who may know far more about the realities underlying the divine than anyone else.
Dylan isn't religious, but he certainly believes people are placed in situations for a reason and that moral responsibility sometimes entails difficult choices. Here as in "Angel Dark, Demon Bright," he takes the hard road -- instead of martyring himself to his cause like Thaddeus, he compromises, then must stand by and watch as the Hegira make what looks to him like a deal with the devil -- or in this case the Magog. In some ways his position reminds me of that of Benjamin Sisko, unwilling Emissary to Prophets he doesn't want to accept as such. He's not only being asked to respect the choices of others, but to participate actively in the development of a faith not his own. He may not want to be a messiah, but as the sole remaining officer of the Commonwealth, he may not be able to fulfill the mission he's set for himself without talking and acting like one.
The Hegira presumably are named for Mohammed's flight from Mecca, from which the Muslim calendar is dated. The quote opening this episode speaks of the preciousness of innocence, but it's hard to tell whether the hegira of Thaddeus' followers dates from their merger with the Magog or the earlier loss of technology and skills that left them stranded and helpless to attacks by slavers. It's also hard to read Rev Bem when Tyr asks how he feels about becoming the progenitor of a race of killer priests (and how odd that Tyr would admit to jealousy rather than sheer horror at this potential new Magog menace). Rev Bem doesn't condemn Tiama essentially for raping him, nor does he seem sorry to have fathered offspring, though he does regret her death as he regrets the death of his mother in giving him life. For all the discussions of faith and hope, ambivalence seems the order of the day -- and the universe.