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January 14, 2011

Babylon 5: Midnight on the Firing Line
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:48 AM * 136 comments

A person, a place, and a problem. Action and movement. Often a time of year or a time of day.
These are not bad things to get into the first chapter. If you can get ‘em onto the first page, even better.
Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

And so we begin. The show starts at shift change on an orbital defense station, with a surprise attack by unidentified ships. That very first scene is like a Tarot card of the series: succession of powers, war from peace, enemies recognized just too late, death.

JMS has a lot to do in this first episode. He’s got to establish as many of the major characters as he can, using as little cardboard as possible. He has to make us feel at home in the setting, both physical and cultural. At the same time, he must get the plot and conflict moving.

These goals sound more contradictory than they are. If he can prove that their conflicts have momentum and history, he’ll be a long way to creating realistic characters out of the funny-looking people in their weird clothes. Answering why? gives him who?, what? and where? if not for free, at least at a deep discount.

He also has to signal to us the audience that this is not episodic SF. We can’t forget what’s happening now, because it’s going to influence what happens next. Actions will have consequences. Promises will be made that must be kept. Remember Chekhov’s rule about plotting? One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it. Chekhov’s guns are promises of plot to come, and Straczynski isn’t shy about strewing them around the characters’ mental spaces.

So here’s a gun of Londo’s:

“In my dream, I am an old man—it’s twenty years from now—and I am dying, my hands wrapped around someone’s throat, and his around mine. We have squeezed the life out of each other. The first time I saw G’Kar, I recognized him as the one from the dream. It will happen. Twenty years from now, we will die with our hands around each other’s throats.”

A second gun; G’Kar’s had it a while:

“I will confess that I look forward to the day when we have cleansed the universe of the Centauri, and carved their bones into little flutes for Narn children. It is a dream I have.”

Another in Londo’s arsenal. It’s new, but it fits right in:

“On the issue of galactic peace, I am long past innocence and fast approaching apathy. It’s all a game, a paper fantasy of names and borders. Only one thing matters, Commander. Blood calls out for blood. If Carn is dead, there will be war. Today, tomorrow, the day after, it doesn’t matter. If it’s the last thing I do, if it’s the last breath I take, there will be war. This I swear to you, Commander. This I swear.”

It’s not just the aliens. Watch Ivanova and Talia juggle this one back and forth:

“What happened back then is not your fault. But it’s part of what you are. And yet, you’re as much of a victim as my mother.”
“I don’t feel like a victim.”
“No, and so far I cannot tell if that is good or bad.”

And here’s a gun lying on the mantlepiece of the entire station:

“[Santiago’s] agenda for the coming term includes creating a closer relationship with the Mars colony, and a greater emphasis on preserving Earth cultures in the face of growing non-Terran influences.”

Of course, somewhere in the midst of all this exposition, the characters have a problem to solve. The Narn Regime has attacked a Centauri agricultural colony. They’re wrong in many ways, from the attack itself to the parading of Londo’s nephew as a hostage. But they’re not cartoon warmongers: they have some claim to the world in question, and grounds for their historic grudge against the Centauri. Does that justify interspecies war?

The characters in the thick of it want to use force to solve the problem: Londo because he blames himself for the fact that his nephew is in danger; Sinclair because he’s afraid that inaction will draw humans into another disastrous war. But both of them are working against orders from their homeworlds.

The solution is political, but with realistically messy and unbalanced politics rather than stage compromises. There is no easy middle for everyone to arrive at and be happy. Since this is storytelling rather than reality, all the threads do come together neatly: Talia’s telepathy averts Londo’s attempt at murder, and the subplot about the raiders gives Sinclair the leverage to force the Narn off of Ragesh 3.

The message is that politics and collaboration can save us from violence. We start the series as JMS means for it to go on, at least for a while.

I’d say that this particular outcome is very much a product of the time that the episode came out. It first aired on January 26, 1994, the day after Bill Clinton’s summed up his first year in office in his State of the Union address. The Northern Irish conflict was still active, but the Downing Street Declaration fostered hope of a negotiated settlement. The former Yugoslavia was at war—Srebenica was fresh in everyone’s mind—but there was also Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution Divorce, a year old and working well. The Maastricht Treaty had just created the European Union, while North America was implementing NAFTA. South Africa had adopted an interim constitution in advance of the first election in which blacks could vote. And the US had recently signed treaties limiting nuclear and chemical weapons.

There were certainly troubles unsolved by diplomacy: the Tamil Tigers had assassinated the Sri Lankan president the previous year; the Zapatistas were just getting started in Mexico; and in the US, negotiation had failed disastrously in Waco. And politics wasn’t pretty: Vince Foster’s suicide the previous July was already fodder for partisan ugliness. Still, the faith was there: diplomacy works. Cooperation and collaboration work. Politics works.

I don’t know that one could express so much optimism now.

The episode closes with one of my favorite pieces of characterization: Delenn sitting with Garibaldi, trying to understand Duck Dodgers and eat popcorn. She manages neither.

Ivanova quotes:

  • “I’m in the middle of fifteen things, all of them annoying.”
  • “I do not like Santiago. I’ve always thought that a leader should have a strong chin. He has no chin. And his vice-president has several. This to me is not a good combination.”
  • “Mr Garibaldi. You’re sitting at my station, using my equipment. Is there a reason for this, or to save time should I just go ahead and snap your hands off at the wrist?”

Index of Babylon 5 posts

Comments on Babylon 5: Midnight on the Firing Line:
#1 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 08:01 PM:

One of the things that I have always liked about B5 was how JMS gave us an economical set up. This was very clearly a microcosm of what the whole series was going to be about and it did it better than most shows ever do with a whole season.

#2 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 10:41 PM:

The main thing I love about B5: He puts guns on the mantelpiece in season 1 that don't go off until season 5, and he obviously knew what he was doing right from the start.


The main thing I hate about B5: As you know, Jim, we are discussing a TV show on Making Light, a blog run by several close friends where we can talk about writing and politics.

#3 ::: Adelheid_p ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 10:59 PM:

Ivanova is still God. Anyway, the political context in which Babylon 5 was written is extremely important. I remember discussions with other people where we talked about how much it mirrored the times and presented the moral dilemmas. During the middle 3 years of the series I worked at a dot-com amidst many others who were fans of the show and talk often revolved around it. One couple even named their baby Delenn. (I wonder where she is now?) It still remains the only series that I had to watch when it came on (this was just pre-DVR) and if we had to miss it we definitely taped it. In fact we taped it anyway. My husband would loan out the video tapes to get more people to watch it.

#4 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 11:25 PM:

Adelheid_p @ 3 ....
Anyway, the political context in which Babylon 5 was written is extremely important. I remember discussions with other people where we talked about how much it mirrored the times and presented the moral dilemmas.

I've utterly blanked on the filk singer who wrote it, but the song starting with "Let's be xenophobic / it's really in this year ..." has always reminded me of local (to the singer) foreign policy...

#5 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 11:36 PM:

we#2, skzb: We talk about everything here. (I mostly lurk and listen, but I do that in person, too) We can talk about writing and politics, too. I trust there is enough disk space on the server.

As for talking about TV here, well, it was Patrick and Teresa and the crowd (either here or on Usenet) that turned me on to The West Wing. This was after I had visited the West Wing set.

#6 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 11:37 PM:

Hey hey hey now... you're skipping over the pilot? Either version? And the prequel movie?

#7 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 11:56 PM:

Patrick Connors @5, I'm pretty sure you have simultaneously misunderstood SKZB's complaint and illustrated the necessity for the very thing he was complaining about.

#8 ::: Patrick Rennie ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 12:06 AM:

Like Glenn, I was thrown by not starting with the first movie/pilot. I also know that there's debate about the best watching order for the series, so I'm not actually complaining. Just noting that it threw me.

#9 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:36 AM:

Avram @ 7: Game. Set. Match.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:44 AM:

skzb, Avram:

As the person who started the damn thread, I think I'm entitled to an explanation in the clear, even if you somehow think Patrick isn't. This isn't the Grey Council.

Also, you guys are being rude. Knock it off.

#11 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:52 AM:

I, also, don't get skzb's comment.

#12 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:56 AM:

I'm starting where I started before. I may swing by the backstory later.

Considering how many people in the other thread started somewhere in the middle, be grateful that I chose a beginning. It woulda been more representative if I'd started, say, halfway through season 2 and then picked up bits of 1 later.

#13 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 03:11 AM:

heresiarch @11:

I don't get skzb's comment either, and I am thoroughly pissed off by him and Avram turning it into some kind of bullshit dominance game.

#14 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 04:00 AM:

I rather think skzb was grumping about the sometimes blatant expository dumps that sometimes occur as dialogue, somewhat out of the blue -- hence the "As you know, Bob..." allusion.

But I could just as easily be dead wrong. It happens all the time.

I didn't see B5 until a couple of years ago, when I bought the first season and loaded it on my iPod (I was working nights, and the hours sometimes got very long indeed.) I churned through the first season in about three days, and promptly downloaded the rest. The exposition doesn't bother me even a little bit - it's a complex world, with a lot of backstory necessary to make sense of it, and to make the characters sympathetic.

I do applaud your decision to start with Midnight on the Firing Line, though, Abi -- since the pilot was really kind of cringe-worthy, and sorely needed the not-yet-cast Ivanova to make it watchable.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 05:40 AM:

Thanks, Mac, for explaining that. It makes sense, and doesn't conspire to make me feel like a fool who should just give up and shut up so the smart people can go be cryptic at each other.

I was holding back on the expository dialog rant for the next post. This one was long enough without it.

#16 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 05:41 AM:

@6: Starting with the pilot is one thing, but starting with the prequel movie would be a serious mistake. It gives away *a lot* of things that were major revelations in the main series and is best watched where it was intended to be - ie. *after* you've watched the series.

I've never seen the re-cut pilot but I'm assuming Delenn still looks a lot different to how she does in the series and prequel movie. Personally, I handwave this by assuming that at the time of the pilot she was suffering from a dose of 'Minbari mumps'.

#17 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 06:59 AM:
...but there was also Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, a year old and working well.
The Velvet Revolution took place in November-December 1989. The Velvet Divorce, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, took place on 1st January 1993.
#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 07:08 AM:

Gag Halfrunt @17:

I stand corrected. I've amended the post. Thank you.

#19 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 10:06 AM:

MacAllister (14), Rob Hansen (16): The recut pilot is much, much better than the originally-aired version (which had me turning it off after 10 minutes and not picking up the show again until mid-third season). That said, however, "Midnight on the Firing Line" is a better introduction to the series as it developed and makes a fine pilot in its own right.

And I agree that starting with "In the Beginning" would be a serious mistake.

#20 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 10:28 AM:

Mary Aileen wrote @ #19

...And I agree that starting with "In the Beginning" would be a serious mistake.

In that case it's just as well this moose couldn't find it last night and started straight in with Season 1.

Public Service Announcement: Buy popcorn futures NOW!

This is FUN!

#21 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 12:01 PM:

MacAllister @ 14: Ohhhhhhh. Now that I understand it, Patrick and Avram's exchange is pretty funny.

#22 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 12:12 PM:

I don’t know that one could express so much optimism now.

Which might go a long way toward explaining why the Battlestar Galactica reboot went the way it did.

#23 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:14 PM:

Another major difference between B5 and the BG reboot: The B5 characters act like they are living in space at the end of a very long supply line. I had high hopes for the BG reboot, but I started to lose faith in the--what was it? somewhere in the first five episodes, I think--when the president started talking about how people needed to have Lots of Babies Right Now. Ma'am, you're missing about a dozen steps! What about taking a complete inventory of supplies? A complete inventory of skills--not just official job descriptions, but inventory of who knows how to repair clothes, administer first aid, stop oxygen leaks . . . ? What about taking inventory of the plants aboard that luxury liner with the huge garden in it, and asking some herbalists and gardeners (previously identified from your skills inventory) to mark the ones that had medicinal or culinary uses? And then converting the garden to GROW MORE EDIBLE PLANTS? What about putting growing spaces (dirt or hydroponic) in every possible nook of every ship? And having people with a vital skill hold radio classes to teach that skill? (Why in the hell is the doc doctoring fifty thousand people all by himself?) And in general getting their eggs spread around as many baskets as possible? For crying out loud, when Not!Boomer was leading her boyfriend around while she tried to figure out how to get them off Caprica, why didn't she pick up a couple boxes of garden seeds? Or baby vitamins? Argh! B5 was always showing us people trying to make do, scavenge, and mend. BG forgot about it except when they needed a Very Special Plot Point.

Which brings up another issue. The BG scriptwriters really needed a Straczynski to help them with their dangling plot problems. Oh, look, there's a black market in child sex slaves. Here comes our hero to save them. Except that he doesn't. He gets to make a heroic speech to the bad guys, and then he . . . wanders off, I guess. Earlier in the series, they build a Supah Sekrit Stealth Fighter. Which apparently gets misplaced shortly afterwards. I finally gave up when they spent an entire episode on the Sexy Sexy Torture of Sexy Sexy Baltar by the Sexy Sexy Robot Women. When you're reduced to "Hey, look, porn!" you're officially out of ideas.

#24 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:19 PM:

Abi: Sorry, yeah, I was complaining about the "As you know Bob" stuff. Sorry if I was rude.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:23 PM:

Jenny @23:
The B5 characters act like they are living in space at the end of a very long supply line.

Yes, I noticed that. There's one episode where Stephen and his assistant bet a steak on something. That's portrayed as a significant bet. And there's a throwaway conversation between Garibaldi and Ivanova about some coffee plants that have turned up in Hydroponics.

On the other hand, there's the bit where G'Kar is eating some kind of animal head, with a side dish of crayfish (the comedy crawling food bit). But maybe they farm crayfish the way I sprout. And that episode was ill-thought-out anyway. (It's in the next tranche I'll be blogging about.)

#26 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:23 PM:

I'm a little giddy about the B5 rewatch in such erudite company, since I initially watched 'em all, back-to-back, in a fairly short stretch of time. The only person I knew who'd seen the series (and who initially recommended I watch) lived some 1500 miles away.

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:26 PM:

skzb @24:

I could have been more moderate at addressing it.

I think what got my goat was that "As you know, Jim" made it sound like you thought the esteemed Mr. Macdonald had written the post. But I should not have taken it personally, and then been so snappish.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:28 PM:

Mac @26:
I'm a little giddy about the B5 rewatch in such erudite company

Hm. I'd probably class my own emotion as "nervous", as in, "what have I gotten myself into?" Because, as you say, erudite company.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 01:48 PM:

abi @ 25... maybe they farm crayfish the way I sprout

You sprout?
I knew there was something fishy about that abundant mande of yours.

#30 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:03 PM:

Sorry. Mac's right. SKZB was complaining about JMS's tendency towards on-the-nose dialog. I was pointing out that the reason popular writers often include lots of on-the-nose dialog is that otherwise many audience members will misunderstand things.

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:15 PM:

Serge @ 29... It's 'mane', not 'mande', you fool.

#32 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:21 PM:

Serge @ 31....I was wondering about "mande"...and given the setting, thinking that this was Yet Another Thing I'd somehow missed learning about...

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:47 PM:

Joyce Reynolds-Ward @ 32... Fortunately the typo wasn't 'mange'. That being said, I do wonder if Abi was refrring to her son and daughter when she said that she sprouts.

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:53 PM:

Someone just failed out of my fan club. ;-)

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 03:03 PM:

Abi @ 34... :-)

#36 ::: Matthew Ernest ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 04:16 PM:

"On the other hand, there's the bit where G'Kar is eating some kind of animal head, with a side dish of crayfish"

I think that could be explained by the fact that the others were military officers of field grade or less while G'Kar was a planetary ambassador. Even for a relatively impoverished like Narn, the ambassadors might expect to not live like the little people. (At least first-season G'Kar. I bet later G'Kar might have an opinion about earlier G'Kar.)

#37 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 04:29 PM:

Quite so: ambassadors are important people. Especially if you were esteemed, you did *not* live like a pleb. (well, unless you're Delenn, who was trying to keep things semi-incognito.)

The most extreme example of this has to be the decoration in Londo's quarters between the first and second seasons. It starts out boring undecorated B5 Quarters Set, quite hard to distinguish from Delenn's. By season 2, with Londo's star rising at court, it was all plush wall hanging and giant portraits of Londo and everything.

#38 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 04:32 PM:

Serge @ 29: "I knew there was something fishy about that abundant mane of yours."

We all suspected it was synthetic--we just never guessed it was photosynthetic.

#39 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 04:51 PM:

On the other hand, there's the bit where G'Kar is eating some kind of animal head, with a side dish of crayfish (the comedy crawling food bit).

It always seemed to me, in the first season or two, that G'Kar was constantly finding out what the other four major powers were up to and uniting the various unaligned worlds against them. In other words, that he had a real skill for making deals and ferreting out secrets. If there was any sort of black marketeering, or under-the-table trade in rare luxuries going on, I figure he'd have access.

Or possibly the planet where those things he was eating came from is closer to the station than the nearest places where cows and coffee thrive are.

#40 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 04:56 PM:

Mary Aileen: The recut pilot is much, much better than the originally-aired version

I remember JMS speaking at Worldcon. He said "The director and the editor swore to me that you could only cut it the way they'd cut it--that there was no other footage they could use. If I knew then what I know now it'd be different." Clearly he got around to the edit later...

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 08:17 PM:

heresiarch @ 38... Did you know that the Swamp Thing'a girlfriend was called Abi?

#42 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 09:43 PM:

Meanwhile I was cleaning out the garage all day today, so thanks for the explanations.

I tend towards taking the literal meaning of words as presented, and am horrible at reading between the lines, interpreting body language and the like.

It makes for some rather unpleasant kerfluffles at times.

#43 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 12:23 AM:

Jenny Islander@23: I feel the need to point out that they used the Blackbird stealth fighter to scout the Resurrection Ship and plan the attack on it, and that it was destroyed in that battle -- they didn't just forget about it. This is basically a nitpick: I agree with your larger point. Watching the later seasons of BSG I often wondered where they were getting their cigarettes and booze and roomsful of candles and nice tailored suits.

#44 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 02:45 AM:

I think that this fanfic:

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3396972/1/Going_Native

provides a more satisfying ending to BG than the one that aired. It's a crossover with both the original Star Trek and Star Trek: the Next Generation. The author, Rap541, put a lot of thought into how the refugees from the Twelve Colonies and the citizens of the Federation would regard each other--not only privation and grime vs. replicators and holodecks, but also the less obvious differences in technology; the Colonists aren't as poor as they think. Rap541 also used a concept from TOS to put a ticking time bomb in the plot. I don't want to spoil it. Enjoy.

Oh--it's been proofread, the dialogue is excellent, and there are all kinds of fun little details for fans to enjoy.

#45 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 02:46 AM:

I've just discovered that Babylon 5 is available for instant watch via Netflix. THis has just gone from "Huh, I dimly remember these episodes from the twice I watched through first season and once through seasons 2-4..." to "Time to watch along with the commentary!"

I loved this series when I first saw it. (On VHS with commercials imprecisely cut out, in my boyfriend's dorm room...) At the time, I compared it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer a lot. "Look! They're actually doing season arcs! With character development!" In my head, it's a product of the W. Bush administration, even though I know it really aired much earlier. One of the things about the politics in B5 is that they always seem to apply as commentary to something contemporary, even as the times change.

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 05:28 AM:

Fade Manley @45:
One of the things about the politics in B5 is that they always seem to apply as commentary to something contemporary, even as the times change.

Absolutely. It's been one of my intentions from the start to think about the show in terms of present day politics.

We were actually watching this episode when I heard about the Giffords shooting. Watching the story and counterstory build up in layers reminded me of this episode.

I don't know what the next few months are going to hold in realtime, but I'm certain there will be plenty to compare and contrast to Bab 5 as we watch it. I'm interested to see how the comment threads grapple with it (whatever it ends up being).

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 10:44 AM:

What's that about the BeeGees?
("No, Serge. It's 'BG' as in 'Battlestar Galactica'.")
Oh.
Nevermind.

#48 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:20 AM:

Fade Manley @45, "In my head, it's a product of the W. Bush administration, even though I know it really aired much earlier."

Having watched it during the Clinton Administration, I think I remember that I was a bit annoyed how, despite the shows general anti-bigotry themes, some aspects of the whole Clark plotline sounded to me as if they were based on the paranoia of the USAnian hard right.

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 12:41 PM:

Raphael #48: That's what they seemed to be like to me -- with strong echoes of fascism.

For that matter, the Shadows and their representatives gave off a strong whiff of fascism to me as well. Especially Mr Morden.

#50 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 01:27 PM:

Edward R. Murrow is one of JMS's greatest heroes, and the need to push back against fascism in particular as a kind of totalitarianism America is susceptible to is a big thread in JMS's political outlook.

#51 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 01:51 PM:

Okay, I'm going to bring this up now, because I'm itching to, and if I do I won't have to bring it up later.

In the mid-80's JMS worked on a lot of kids' TV, and he was the story editor and head writer for a 1/2 hour live-action science fiction show called "Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future." The show itself was ill-conceived, an attempt to utilize rudimentary CGI and interactive technology that tied in with these toys that kids were supposed to be able to use to shoot at the bad guys while the show aired.

It should have sucked, but JMS and the writers turned it into something amazing. It had an ongoing storyline, a complicated back story, every character was complex and interesting. It had strong women characters. A war-torn post-apocalyptic setting, and people died in every episode, which made it much more realistic than most of that kind of stuff on TV at the time.

What's most interesting to me as a Babylon 5 fan is you can see JMS trying out ideas that would come to full bloom on B5 later on. The bad guys have a fascist youth organization, complete with arm bands. One of the characters even comes from a genetic engineering program called "Babylon 5."

It's another data point in JMS's anti-fascist outlook.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 02:07 PM:

Carrie V @ 51... I was wondering when someone would bring that show up. I never watched it, for some reason, but I did catch the blooper/gag reel. My favorite was the villain saying he had found a photo of Captain Power when he was young, and it was the Beav'.

#53 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 02:20 PM:

On one hand, Captain Power is a weird little curiosity and probably not worth tracking down for most people. But I was 14 when it aired, it pushed all my buttons, and Pilot became one of my heroes, so I have a deep and endearing fondness for the show.

It is quite odd going back to watch it now and seeing all these little B5 flashes come through.

#54 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 02:41 PM:

Serge @47,

Whether you're a boaster or whether you're a toaster,
You're stayin' alive, staying' alive.
Feel the fleet a-shakin' and everything is breakin'
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 04:16 PM:

Jenny @ 44
That's an impressive piece of writing. It works really well - and I never watched BSG and didn't see much of TNG.

#56 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 05:39 PM:

Jenny @ 44 Oh--it's been proofread...

But not well. Baltar's first name is consistently (and to me, gratingly) misspelled from the first sentence.

#57 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 05:52 PM:

#45: In my head, it's a product of the W. Bush administration, even though I know it really aired much earlier.

Sadly, the reverse is actually true-- the W. Administration is a product of Babylon 5.

From: jmsatb5@aol.com (Jms at B5)
Subject: Things You Don't Expect to Hear
To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated
Date: 11/25/2002 11:32:00 PM

So I was talking to Doug Netter this afternoon, who had in turn spoken with Bruce Boxleitner earlier in the day about the year 2 DVD. In the course of that conversation, Bruce mentioned something that Doug in turn mentioned to me.

To wit:

Bruce had been at the White House about a month ago, in the company of wife Melissa Gilbert, president of the Screen Actors Guild, for a discussion with some of the functionaries there concerning acting roles moving north of the Canadian border.

As they're talking, in a long conference room, in the middle of the meeting the door opens and Karl Rove -- main strategist for the Republican Party and power behind the White House throne -- comes in. He says (paraphrased from memory) to Melissa, "I hope you'll forgive me, but I actually here to see Bruce."

He then tells Bruce, "I just wanted to tell you that I'm a big science fiction fan, and that Babylon 5 is the best science fiction television series *ever*."

Then there's a pause, and he adds....

"And the President thinks so too."

Upon hearing this, I went to lie down for a spell, but I fully expect to be back on my feet by Spring, latest.

jms

-----

Leave it to Karl Rove and George W. Bush to watch the show and draw all the wrong conclusions from it.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 06:45 PM:

Glenn Hauman @ 57... Leave it to Karl Rove and George W. Bush to watch the show and draw all the wrong conclusions from it

...and I think that one of Dubya's favorite movies is "Field of Dreams", about a man with father issues.

#59 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 09:05 PM:

@56: Holy crap, I never noticed! I guess my brain filtered it out, like the the duplicate word in this sentence.

#60 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 09:33 PM:

@ 59: I wish my brain could filter it out. A lone tyop I can overlook but I bounced off that one in the second paragraph and couldn't continue. I just cannot see that spelling and hear the correct pronunciation. Perhaps I'll copy it elsewhere and find/replace Gaius for Gauis.

#61 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 09:59 PM:

Paul Duncanson (60): If it helps, after the initial page, Baltar's first name isn't used again in the first ten chapters. (That's as far as I've gotten. It's good so far.)

#62 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 10:45 PM:

The author's got a pretty good sense for the differences between the two cultures, and it seems as if she's even changing writing styles as she shifts viewpoints between Federation and Colonial characters. But I'm being driven nuts by the space after every open-quote. Seriously, every single one. How the hell does that even happen, and not get noticed or corrected?

#63 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:08 PM:

@Avram #62: Fanfiction dot net has this serial glitch where it kriffs up some random thing for a few months, then that goes away, and then something else goes haywire. At one point it was spaces after every open quote. Another time the site removed every hyphen.

#64 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:10 PM:

G'kar's remark about the flutes was the line that sold B5 to me. Not only did it sound like something you would not have heard on that other show about the space station (which in the UK had been on for a couple of seasons, already), but the delivery was such a contrast to the content, it knocked my brain out.

I've still got my B5 tapes, but I no longer have a working VHS player to play them. Oh, what to do? I wonder if either of them are fixable cheaply....

#65 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:33 PM:

I see he's 14 chapters into a sequel. Looks interesting.

#66 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:33 PM:

*kriffs up some random thing in every story or chapter that is posted to the site.

Usually it's such a headache to take the story down, manually correct whatever-it-is, and repost that most people don't bother.

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 11:59 PM:

Not reading these, because I haven't seen the shows, but a nitpick: Clinton's first State of the Union address would have been in 1993, not 1994 (quick internet research shows this to be true). And the show was broadcast first in 1994 -- so perhaps it was after his second SOTU address?

#68 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 12:26 AM:

Tom @67:

Clinton was elected in 1992, so he was newly inaugurated in January of 1993. According to Wikipedia:

Since 1989, in recognition that the responsibility of reporting the State of the Union formally belongs to the president who held office during the past year, newly inaugurated Presidents have not officially called their first speech before Congress a "State of the Union" message.
#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 01:06 AM:

NelC @ 64... that other show about the space station

Does anybody remember the title of the episode in which Dr.Bashir is on a date with a brittle-boned woman, and they go to a Promenade restaurant that has a Klingon chef?

#70 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 04:34 AM:

you can see JMS trying out ideas that would come to full bloom on B5 later on. The bad guys have a fascist youth organization, complete with arm bands

That idea may not have been entirely original to JMS.

that other show about the space station

I watched B5 for the first time immediately after watching DS9 for the first time, and also while sleep-deprived, sea-sick, and under the influence of large amounts of hyoscine hydrobromide.
I am sure you will understand why it took me a while to get into B5, and I never really got into DS9 at all. (I also spent a few episodes of B5 wondering when the shape-shifter guy was going to show up again.)

#71 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 04:57 AM:

Back last thread, somebody asked if it was something in the water. I wonder if it's something in the news?

If memory serves, when B5 launched, Clinton had been in office two years, and the US was still sort of staggering to its feet after Bush I.

#72 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 04:59 AM:

Ahem. You know, Jacque, if you would just read before you post, you'd see that other, wiser heads had got there first....

#73 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 06:59 AM:

abi @68 -- perhaps he didn't call it that, but all the internet references I checked before posting called it that! I tend to agree with the idea, but I don't think it's the way things get remembered....

#74 ::: Braxis ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 08:36 AM:

@Serge (69)

Memory Alpha suggests this is the episode you are looking for.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 09:17 AM:

Braxis @ 79...

"There's nothing worse than half-dead racht"

Yes, "Melora" is the episode. I got a big laugh out of the white-garbed Klingon chef making amends for the initial quality of his food by playing the violin while they're enjoying his better... ah... grub.

#76 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:01 AM:

On the subject of stories about interesting places Galactica might have ended up, here's another possibility that I think several people here might appreciate:

http://www.altogetherelsewhere.net/multiverse/ekphugion.html

It was just...not, by any stretch of the imagination, Captain Korsakoff's day. Or even his year. But the icing on the proverbial Winterfair tart came when an entire bloody fleet just suddenly appeared in Sergyar's general vicinity, thousands of kilometers from the nearest wormhole jump.

#77 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 11:14 AM:

Hm, B5. Brings back memories, it does.

Not entirely surprisingly, one extremely common expression among the (then-)local B5 fans became "elevator scene!" (there's quite a lot of excellent short scenes set waiting for, or riding in, elevators).

#78 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 11:22 AM:

More real world political stuff:

The initial airing of the B5 pilot, originally scheduled for February sweeps, was delayed in New York and a hefty amount of the surrounding markets.

The original air date was Friday, February 26, 1993-- the day of the World Trade Center bombing, which knocked out the broadcast transmission tower.

At the time, some wags were suggesting the bomb was planted by Paramount.

#79 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 12:32 PM:

Glenn Hauman@78: I was wondering how the transmission tower was knocked out (given that the bomb detonated in a parking garage low down in the structure). After a bit of research, it seems that the answer is that the transmitter lost power (like everything else in the building, because the bomb severed the main power cable). So far as I know, the antenna tower was fine; there was just no signal being sent to it.

#80 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 01:17 PM:

Ajay @70, an idea doesn't have to be original to an author in order that the recurrence of that idea in the author's work might indicate that it hold a particular fascination for that author.

#81 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 01:35 PM:

Is there any chance we could have a heads up of which eps will be covered in the next batch. So that those of us using this opportunity can be in perfect sync with the re-watch?

#82 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 02:00 PM:

Braxis @ 74: As opposed to not being the droids you're looking for?

Serge @75: Pity Braxis didn't manage to post again @79, for a real time-travel moment.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 02:09 PM:

dcb @ 82... Hey, what are Tony Newman and Doug Phillips doing here?

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 02:10 PM:

Bjorn @81:

Next re-watch will cover Soul Hunter, Born to the Purple, Infection, Parliament of Dreams, and Mind War, and will probably be posted at the end of the week.

It's a largish clump for some specific reasons, not all of them good. There may be ranting.

#85 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 02:13 PM:

Tom @73:

I wasn't even in the US at the time, so I defer to your memory of the event; I've revised the sentence.

I am amused that the historical paragraph has the most corrections in the entire entry.

#86 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 02:48 PM:

"Woo . . . hoo?"

That always makes me snicker.

#87 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 03:07 PM:

Abi @ 84... Next re-watch will cover Soul Hunter

Starring William Morgan Sheppard, aka Max Headroom's book-loving punk, Reg.

#88 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 03:39 PM:

Avram@80:

Yes, indeed. That was what I'd hoped to point out, that the idea wasn't even new to JMS when the Nightwatch came along. (Jumping far ahead of ourselves, now.)

#89 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 04:30 PM:

Fragano@49, the Shadows never struck me as particularly fascist. I suspect the similarity is simply because historically, fascist governments in the real world have tended to be warlike, and the Shadows *like* (other people to) war.

I don't see any fundamental reason why fascist states need to be warlike: I think it's an accident of history. Mussolini never really managed any significant invasions on his own (he used them almost entirely as morale boosters, a very conventional political reason to go to war with minor states that can't fight back): it's only because he was caught up in That Reich Thing that he was essentially forced into it. (Nazi Germany, of course, went to war for a number of reasons other than morale boosting, mostly tied up with their demented racial theories and their during-and-post-WWI history.)

I'd be inclined to call the Earth Alliance in s3 and s4 a developing isolationist fascist state: it's even got racial purity madness and heaps of WWII comparisons. But it's not expansionist and it's not invasive.

#90 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 04:34 PM:

Nix #89:

It could be. There's something about their affect which strikes me as fascistic.

Mussolini, btw, managed to invade Ethiopia all on his own, not to mention Greece (though he discovered that the Greeks could fight back rather better than Haile Selassie).

#91 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 07:22 PM:

Fragano: yes indeed, but Mussolini was consciously trying to invade 'little states' that couldn't fight back or inflict significant casualties: i.e., he was using them as morale boosters (which, as Thatcher discovered in the 80s, can be fearfully effective).

It all fell apart when Italy's ally dragged it into war with major powers. You get the impression that Mussolini never really wanted that.

#92 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 08:01 PM:

Matthew, #36: I bet later G'Kar might have an opinion about earlier G'Kar.

No takers. :-) But then, that was one of the best things about B5 -- pretty much everybody got major character arcs.

Raphael, #48: You caught that too, huh? And then came 9/11, and (a version of) the Nightwatch came into RL existence... IMO, much of B5 was intended as a cautionary tale, and not enough people got the hint.

Glenn, #57: ... *no words*

ddb, #79: Nothing in your explanation contradicts the usage of "knocked out the transmission tower". Idiomatically, that phrasing can be used to describe any sort of malfunction which prevents the machinery in question from working; it doesn't have to have been physically damaged.


#93 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 08:27 PM:

Nix @89 I don't see any fundamental reason why fascist states need to be warlike

If you take away (most) of the militarism from fascism, then what's left seems to me a fairly standard 20th century nationalist one party states and or autocracies. Or to put it another way, early attempts at this form of government found too much military aggression destabilising, and later versions reduced this tendency.

On the other hand, if we take away the militarism and overt symbolism of the fascist states, don't we just have regular tyrannies as seen throughout history, but with 20th century organisation, communication and infrastructure?

#94 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 08:32 PM:

abi @85 -- history's a lot more verifiable than opinion, he says with snark-filter firmly in place.

#95 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:03 PM:

First time I've seen the re-cut pilot. It does seem to move along better than the original did last time I tried to watch it.

I miss Stewart Copeland's score though. Don't dislike Franke's. It's just that I liked it, and I've had a soft spot in my heart for Copeland ever since The Equalizer.

#96 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:23 PM:

Favorite lines so far:

Londo: "Nice shark." Bite, bite. "Pretty shark."*

And:

G'Kar: "But what does that have to do with—"

Sinclair: "Nanotechnology? Glad you asked..."

I'd completely forgotten those, and they set me to giggling gleefully all over again.

---
* BTW, I believe that Peter Jurasik's teeth were unaltered. He comes by those fangs naturally, I think.

#97 ::: mdh ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 12:28 AM:

I watched a bunch when B5 was first on, but how did you know I -just- downloaded the series to watch again? Synchronicity, thanks!

#98 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 12:37 AM:

As I recall, the Shadows favored a competitive war of all-against-all, in which the strong would survive and the weak be culled. That sounds like the Social Darwinist aspect of fascism, along with the hatred of weakness and obsession with strength and masculinity.

However, the fascists were also totalitarians, wanting all activity controlled under the central authority of a strong leader. That doesn't sound like the Shadows, who were described as being chaotic in contrast to the orderly Vorlons.

#99 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 03:16 AM:

I viewed the Shadows as being far more like anarchists. War of all against all, leaderless, "total freedom" - they were a cautionary tale against anarchy. Nothing like fascists.

#100 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 03:41 AM:

eyelessgame, I agree completely. To cross universes, "they're anarchists, Finn."

#101 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 06:35 AM:

the Shadows never struck me as particularly fascist. I suspect the similarity is simply because historically, fascist governments in the real world have tended to be warlike, and the Shadows *like* (other people to) war.

Yes, they're more like Europeans c. 1900 - they believe that if a race stays peaceful too long it gets weak and flabby, and you only make progress and improve yourself if you've got a war to fight. "Now God be thanked who has matched us with His hour, and caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping" is the sort of poem a Shadow would like. A thousand years of hibernation underground on a desolate world, and finally! A war to fight!

If anything, though, it's the other lot - the Vorlon - who are closer to fascism, with their obsession with obedience and hierarchy.

#102 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 11:40 AM:

Lee@92: But the machinery named, the transmitting tower, was fully functional, not damaged in any way.

And this description leads to confusion about the scope of the damage from the attack.

#103 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 12:16 PM:

I'm enough of a fan of B5 that I bought the 3D software they used, and shaped my career around it. As a 3D artist, the graphics are sometimes a bit painful to see, although the animation in the later seasons' battles are still works of art. And the artistic design of the spacecraft of all different races is still impressive.

As a video editor, there is much to be learned from episodes like Severed Dreams and Z'ha'dum. Not a wasted word. Not an ounce of fat, there.

I had the pleasure of addicting my wife to the show, and watching her reactions to all the big reveals. We're both still blown away by the Sinclair one.

#104 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 01:45 PM:

ddb, #102: Okay, let's try a smaller-scale example. If all the telephones in your house are the type of cordless which plugs into the wall rather than a telephone jack -- or if your only telephone service is VOIP -- and the power goes out, you're hosed. It doesn't matter that your equipment is still undamaged and fully functional; without power it doesn't work. Whatever caused the power outage has knocked out your phone, albeit as a secondary effect.

Similarly, in the incident under discussion, the attack knocked out the transmission tower. This is a perfectly cromulent usage, and does not necessarily imply (as you appear to think it does) that the tower was damaged in the attack.

#105 ::: twif ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 01:46 PM:

B5 ranks with farscape as my favorite tv sci-fi series. one of the things i truly appreciate about B5 is the realistic complexity of the universe. particularly the alien species. there are no unified mono-cultures, no black hats. every culture is dealing with internal politics as well as the inter-species politics.

have the series on DVD and dive back into it about once a year.

#106 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 02:11 PM:

Eyelessgame @99 and Nix @100, but that's not an accurate description of anarchy or of anarchists. Anarchists are generally anti-militarist, for example, and would hardly favor a world (or galaxy) of perpetual war-making. "War is the health of the state," they say.

#107 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 02:54 PM:

Lee@104: "The phone" is common short-hand for "my phone service", but "the TV tower" isn't short-hand I'm familiar with for "the entire TV transmitting infrastructure".

I wouldn't have quibbled at "knocked the station off the air" (or "the transmitter" either), I don't think (once you start thinking about phrasing, it's hard to recapture the initial un-sensitized state!).

Your usage obviously took me by surprise, and did lead me to consider damage to the tower as the first thing that came to mind. I suspect it of being idiosyncratic or at least not terribly common for the meaning you were conveying.

#108 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 02:57 PM:

Nix@91: Are you referring to the Falklands War?

#109 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 06:03 PM:

Avram, I don't disagree with what you say as far as the stated goals or ideals of anarchists... the problem being, of course, that in anarchy, there is no one to enforce said ideals, or prevent said undesirable war. So when enthusiastic anarchists, like the Shadows, show up and want to impose anarchy on the rest of us by force...

Which is why more of us aren't anarchists, I think.

#110 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 06:10 PM:

Lee @92,

"Raphael, #48: You caught that too, huh? And then came 9/11, and (a version of) the Nightwatch came into RL existence... IMO, much of B5 was intended as a cautionary tale, and not enough people got the hint."

Of course B5 is (in more than one way) a cautionary tale, but I'm not sure I completely understand how you read my comment. What I was getting at is that, back during the Clinton Administration, I was a bit annoyed by the Clark plotline because, with so much attention going to those militia types who talked about how the Clintons were about to introduce to New World Order under the UN one world government and all that, making a show partly about a fictional president who became a dictator came almost across as pandering to the USA's extreme right to me. I'm sure it wasn't intentional- JMS had been working on the concepts for the show since long before 1993, after all- but it kind of hit the wrong note for me at the time. It didn't keep me from liking B5, though.

#111 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 07:11 PM:

Harry@108, yes. One war -- one remote war -- was all that stood between 'might lose the next election' and 'landslide success'.

#112 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 07:15 PM:

eyelessgame@109, I don't think the Shadows are anarchists themselves, necessarily. They *do* want a breakdown of order among everyone else at intervals (while they themselves show no internal dissension to the outside world at all). There's a reason they only spur a war sometimes, thuough: you need to rebuild populations and salt a few new mutations before you hit your targets with another great big pulse of selection.

#113 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 08:22 PM:

Nix@111: If I recall correctly, it was the Argentine government, not the British government, that invaded the Falkland Islands in the hope of obtaining a boost in popularity at home -- the military junta's political position at the time being even more precarious than Margaret Thatcher's. Having the resultant popularity boost go to the Thatcher government intstead was probably not the junta's intention; but then again, neither was losing the war.

#114 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 09:34 PM:

ISTM that the Shadows themselves aren't fascists because the Shadows don't govern anyone. But the inter-species conflict they foment pushes the manipulated species into fascist-like governments. Clark and Cartagia both illustrate this tendency.

Also @89, I don't think it's an accident that fascists are warlike. They need enemies to justify the necessity for unquestioning obedience, and a fifth column (a term coined by a Falangist, IIRC) is much scarier when there's a first through fourth columns for them to be working with.

Umberto Eco's _Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt_ expresses it thus:

To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.

This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson's The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

How xenophobia maps onto B5 is obvious; there's an early episode where a Minbari poet (IIRC) is actually attacked by what I guess should be called human supremacists. But is there an analog to the Jews, the outsiders in the middle of society, always the first to be suspected of working with the enemy to undermine the state? Telepaths might play that role, if not for the fact that they're actually an arm of the state instead.

#115 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 09:58 PM:

Chris, 114: Do we know why the PsiCorps was founded? Can we blame an out-group that finds collaboration better than extermination?

#116 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 10:03 PM:

Eyelessgame @109, on the contrary, modern warfare relies upon rigid hierarchies and powerful state to command the output of large industries. It would be impossible in an anarchist society. Guerilla warfare might still be possible, but that's most useful defensively. Organizing a big army, issuing commands, those are inherently non-anarchistic things.

Seriously, the Shadows are not anarchists, not in the politically conscious sense of the word.

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 10:05 PM:

TexAnne @ 115... I seem to remember Sinclair saying that the PsiCorps was founded to protect telepaths.

#118 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 10:11 PM:

Serge, 117: So, a person with a suspicious turn of mind might indeed think that the founders thought that collaboration was better than the alternative.

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 10:45 PM:

TexAnne @ 118... Its been a long time since I watched it so memory may be playing tricks on me. I think it was more like an association, or a league. set up for their legal and physical self-protection, but it then accumulated political power. Like I said though, I saw that episode long ago.

#120 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 01:17 AM:

Debra @113, On the Falklands War, it's been argued that British policy before the war was suggesting that the Thatcher government was willing to let an attack succeed. That soon gets into conspiracy theories, but had the Argentine government waited a year, they might have got away with it.

#121 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 05:06 AM:

Further to 120, you should probably take into account that British victory was by no means certain, before or during the war. At the height of the conflict the Royal Navy was losing a ship almost every day. You can't sustain that sort of thing for very long.
And no one in history had ever won a war fought at the end of an eight-thousand-mile supply line, with the nearest friendly land four thousand miles away. The point about fighting a short victorious war to boost your re-election chances is that you have to be pretty certain it's going to be victorious before you start.

#122 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 12:52 PM:

TexAnne @115: I cannot speak to their canonicity or otherwise, but the three novels about Bester ("The Psi Corps Trilogy" is the name of the omnibus volume I have) by J. Gregory Keyes are really awesome in themselves, and deepen my understanding of his character and the Corps in ways I adored. They're certainly part of my fanon, at least.

They deal with the fact that Bester shows up on-screen not by recapping endlessly what he did in the show, but by FTBing and picking up after he leaves, then showing how what happened to him on the show affects the greater arcs and plots. Because, from his POV, most of what happens in the eps are pretty peripheral. :->

#123 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 02:49 PM:

TexAnne @ 115 and Serge @ 117:

As I recall, the PsiCorps was founded out of fear as a way of isolating and controlling telepaths. The telepaths then learned from each other, formed their own tight-knit community, and gained their own political power.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 03:38 PM:

KeithS... I stand corrected. (By the way, after the character of Talia Winter left, the actress moved here to Albuquerque, where she was a TV anchor for a few years.)

#125 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 04:31 PM:

Elliott Mason #122: FTBing

?

#126 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 06:38 PM:

Earl Cooley@125

Possibly Fill-The-Blanking.

#127 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 08:04 PM:

Earl Cooley III@125 inquired about my use of the acronym: FTBing

Fade(ing) To Black.

#128 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 12:48 AM:

Elliott Mason@122: I believe that Keyes wrote the trilogy from an outline by Straczynski, and that therefore they are in fact canon. (I can recall JMS saying that all the B5 novels were going to be canon, but I don't think that worked out.)

#129 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 01:53 AM:

#128: All of the Del Rey novels are canon, as they came from JMS plots. Some of the Dell novels are, most notably "To Dream in the City of Sorrows" written by Katherine Drennan (JMS's wife at the time) which gives much background on Sinclair, Marcus, and the Rangers. That one's 100%, although all novels have canon elements.

Even the comics are pretty much canon across the board, which is rare. And as far as I'm concerned, very much appreciated.

#130 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 12:56 PM:

Glenn Haumann:

JMS has also been heard to say that most of the novels are only as canon as you want them to be.

Somewhere, I recall someone quoting his opinion on the Dell novels as To Dream in the City of Sorrows is 90% or more what he had in mind, and the Shadow Within is around 70% so.

#131 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 01:16 PM:

Lenora Rose (130): That's my recollection as well. I'm fairly sure I saw that before the Psi Corps series and Peter David's Centauri series were published. In the introduction to To Dream in the City of Sorrows, perhaps? (I don't have the book handy to check.)

#132 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2011, 01:51 AM:

Oh. That's who skzb is. Duh. Without really thinking about it, I just assumed it was just xkcd's cousin. :o)

#133 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2011, 06:51 PM:

Jenny @ 44 it's been proofread

Could someone please tell the proofreader that 'conscious'!= 'conscience'?

There were other things (as others have pointed out) that seemed mostly typos, but that one kept coming back...

#134 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2011, 08:57 PM:

133
A spellchecker is not a poorfwriter; it only tells you that the spelling is a real word, not that it's the wrong word. (I dumped the whole thing into Word and did my own editing, fixing the obvious stuff.)

#135 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 06:25 PM:

One thing that frustrated me about B5 was the episodes where some Bad Guys are down in the badly-lit basement levels of the ship and murder/kidnap/steal/hide contraband/ etc. when nobody's down there to see them - and the ship doesn't have video recorders or sound recorders or automated THUD detectors to tell Security that it's happening, or even motion-activated lighting systems. They didn't even bother acknowledging it with "there's the camera - shoot it so nobody sees!", much less "hack into the ship computer to reprogram the Larsen Localizers".

This was the late 1990s - didn't London have closed-circuit surveillance cameras getting installed by then? David Brin's The Transparent Society came out in 1998. You'd think B5 would be at least as well protected as a 7-11 store from centuries earlier...

#136 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 10:24 PM:

Bill Stewart @ 135 ...
This was the late 1990s - didn't London have closed-circuit surveillance cameras getting installed by then? David Brin's The Transparent Society came out in 1998. You'd think B5 would be at least as well protected as a 7-11 store from centuries earlier...

I'd figured it was the same general problem you have in most areas of dubious safety -- the monitors and cameras get taken out more quickly than they can be replaced, or than anybody is willing to put effort into replacing.

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