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January 23, 2011

Babylon 5: Hate Leads to Suffering
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:07 AM * 47 comments

Ambassador, I have traveled far and seen much. And what I have seen is that all sentient beings are best defined by their capacity and their need for love.
—Shaal Mayan

The next two episodes make a logical pair, in that the events in them spring from the same underlying problem: a growing fear and hatred of aliens in the human community. The roots of the movement are on Earth, but there are branches and fruit on Babylon 5 as well.

It’s interesting, in kind of a painful way, to watch these in the present American political context. The Homeguard and its ilk feed on nativist feeling, playing on fears that alien influences are corrupting human society. It’s a multi-faceted movement, with places for the uneducated and the intellectual alike, rife with conspiracy theories, accusations of treason, and simplistic loyalty tests.

My impression of the mid-Nineties is that the anti-immigrant strain of American life was weaker than it is now. The movement was less evolved, and the ways that these dark sentiments work in polite society were less widely known. So one can almost read the portrayal of the Homeguard as a science fictional prediction, a casting-forward of then-present trends, and then evaluate it against our more recent understanding.

It helps, in doing this, that the episodes don’t suck. This is a relief.

The War Prayer

This starts out looking like another episode with multiple separate narrative strands, like Parliament of Dreams or Mind War. There’s the mystery of the stabbing and branding of the Minbari poet Shaal Mayan, the latest in a series of similar assaults. Meanwhile, Londo is saddled with two teenaged runaways trying to escape arranged marriages. And an old flame of Ivanova’s appears in what at first looks like a rerun of the Sinclair-Sakai reunion.

But then the thing I really love about Babylon 5 happens. Each of the strands, while retaining its own character and momentum, joins to create a greater whole. The young couple are assaulted by the same people who stabbed the poet. While Londo is visiting them in the hospital, it’s Mayan who helps him to change his mind about letting them marry each other. Meanwhile, Ivanova’s romance comes to an abrupt end when she finds out that her ex is an organizer for the anti-alien group.

(After that, plot happens. Maneuvering and gunfights ensue. Right triumphs, and the bad guys are led off of the station in restraints. Bitter words are spoken. There are summaries all over the internet, if you need details.)

It’s not a perfectly balanced episode. Although the two romance subplots run in parallel, so that the right scenes alternate (Mayan reminds Londo how painful it is to live without love; Ivanova discovers that her romance with Malcolm cannot continue; Londo regrets that his shoes are too tight, and that he has forgotten how to dance), they don’t ring off of each other. Ivanova could be a contrast to Aria, showing that choosing one’s own partner doesn’t always work out. Or she could see in herself the seeds of Londo’s profound loneliness, as her career leaves her increasingly unable to form close emotional bonds. A better resonance between the filming of the scenes, or a few lines of dialog, could have strengthened that link in interesting ways.

And I do have some reservations about how the anti-alien faction is portrayed. Not Malcolm; he’s appropriately subtle, smooth and persuasive. It’s Roberts, an early suspect in the assault on the poet, that caught on me. There’s an interesting casting decision here: he’s played by an actor of Asian descent. Since the things he says come most often from white lips at present, it’s a neat and genuinely science fictional choice. But he’s still an unshaven, uneducated character with a marked rural (American) accent and the habit of leaving his mouth open between sentences. Just as Delenn’s particular ways of breaking in Soul Hunter bug me because they play on sexist tropes, so the portrayal of Roberts gets on my nerves for its present-day class markers. It’s unsubtle, and allows Bab 5’s target audience to dismiss him too easily.

Also, when Sinclair is trying to establish his anti-alien credentials for Malcolm at the reception, he says speciesist things in the clear:

I served on the Line, and we had a motto there: the only good alien is a dead alien. It was true then, and it’s true now. The job description says I have to play diplomat. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I found this jarring; I would not expect such an overt statement in that context. As we know now, public appearances are the place for dog-whistles and nudges. That kind of speech would have been more plausibly saved for the private conversation in Ivanova’s quarters.

All in all, this is a decent episode. It’s another non-JMS script—by D.C. Fontana, as a matter of fact. But I think the increase in quality is as much because there’s something to talk about that stretches wider than Babylon 5’s hull, and will last longer than the credits.

And the Sky Full of Stars

This episode is another flavor of typical Babylon 5: a discovery of past events and a sowing of seeds for future ones.

Although it deals with the same forces as The War Prayer—anti-alien fanatics from Earth—it tackles the matter from an entirely different angle. Like so many xenophobic movements, the Homeguard has an inward-turning side, sniffing for traitors among “our own side”. In this case, they’re after Sinclair.

It’s not at all clear how they manage to spirit him out of his quarters, which should be secure. But they do, and then come the two hunts that course through the episode: where is Sinclair? and what happened to the lost 24 hours after he was captured by the Minbari? This kind of a quest storyline is much like a strip show: hard to summarize beyond telling the end, and heavily dependent for its interest on what is revealed and who is doing the reveal.

What’s revealed is that Sinclair was not, as the conspiracy theorists suspect, “fixed some milk and cookies and asked to work for” the Minbari during the lost time. He was interrogated and examined by a group of hooded figures. Somewhere in the process, he unveiled one of them and discovered it was Delenn. But he was never turned, or even solicited to turn.

While Sinclair is being examined, we also get a good insight into Knight One, his interrogator. He’s a third kind of xenophobe, neither Roberts’s uneducated bigot nor Malcolm’s businessman of unrest. This one is a conspiracy theorist and an authoritarian. He fancies himself a cerebral man who has come to his position through intellectual analysis. But there’s a nicely played smirk of pride when he describes how the Minbari “took one look at our defense and realized what it would cost them to invade Earth.” In the end, his position is much the same as the other two, albeit more elegantly phrased:

Look at Earth, Commander. Alien civilizations. Alien migration. Aliens buying up real estate by the square mile. Alien funding of Babylon 5. What they couldn’t take by force they’re corrupting, inch by inch.

In our present, he’d be one of the credentialed types who give the Birthers a respectable face, the kind who knows the Constitution well but only uses it to prove what he already believes. He’s a stranger to Ockham’s razor and the kind of intellectual humility that would allow him to grasp anything that contradicts his conspiracy. In short, he is all too believable.

As always, I wish that this episode had drawn more parallels between situations, in this case, between Sinclair’s treatment at the hands of the Minbari and what he gets from the Knights. But that’s just not Babylon 5 storytelling.

What is classic Babylon 5 storytelling is the swift dispersal of plot seeds at the end. Sinclair visits Delenn and lies to her: he says he doesn’t remember anything about the missing time. Another member of the Grey Council tells Delenn that if Sinclair does recover his memories, he has to die. And Sinclair records what he now remembers and his intention to investigate the matter further. All of these things will grow into longer plot points later on.

(Also, now that we’re watching for whether Delenn is portrayed as a strong character or a weak one in a crisis: note that in this episode she walks up to Sinclair while he’s hallucinating and talks him down. She stares down the business end of his PPG in the process, knowing he’s been firing at his friends, and does no more than flinch when he shoots a man behind her.)


The next entry will look at Deathwalker and Believers.

Index of Babylon 5 posts

Comments on Babylon 5: Hate Leads to Suffering:
#1 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 08:42 AM:

I agree that anti-immigrant sentiment has ramped up in the US since the 90s. The big impetus was 9/11 ("We must secure our borders"), though the more recent bad economy has also contributed.

>As we know now, public appearances are the place for dog-whistles and nudges.

I don't think that was always true, and I can't guarantee that it will be true in the future. On the other hand, I'm not familiar enough with Bab5 to have an opinion about whether dog-whistling would be more plausible there, and I can't imagine a path from the present which would lead to blunter political speech.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 08:44 AM:

Your remark about Sinclair speaking "in the clear" reminds me of the single most annoying thing for me about B5: people are CONSTANTLY strolling through the Zocalo or sitting in restaurants or whatever, speaking in a normal conversational tone about matters that should be highly confidential.

So not only does B5 have laughably inadequate surveillance/security from a technological standpoint, its employees also have laughably bad training. Seriously, if I talked about a patient's case the way these guys talk about the latest sensitive diplomatic situation, I'd get fired and probably lose my license.

That said, these 2 are pretty good episodes and are making it easier for me to hang on through the first season.

#3 ::: Becca Stareyes ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 09:16 AM:

I always wondered about the poor alien ambassador Sinclair accosted in The War Prayer. At least with Delenn, Londo and G'Kar, Sinclair had a working relationship with them. They might be furious if Sinclair tried to use them as his bait without their consent, but it would also be something he could ask of them*. But there's no sign that anyone told the alien ambassador what was going on until afterward, after Earth's representative goes all xenophobe on her and she nearly gets killed by terrorists. Even establishing it in dialog after the fact (Sinclair telling her that she was damn convincing or something) might have gotten rid of the 'yuck' feeling I had.

* For that matter, both Londo and Delenn would have a vested interest given that their people were assaulted. On the other hand, picking fights with a major alien government might be even too dumb for them.

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 09:59 AM:

Becca Stareyes @3:

I think that was Ambassador Kalika of the Abbai, who turns up in Deathwalker as the de-facto leader of the Non-Aligned Worlds. If it's not her, it's certainly another of her species.

Earth helped the non-aligned species to drive the Dilgar off of their worlds. I'm fairly sure Sinclair will have managed to smooth the matter over.

I agree that it was icky to not show that moment. But at least she was shown keeping her head during the firefight after Sinclair refused to kill her.

#5 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 10:50 AM:

Interesting that you talk about viewing Babylon 5 through today's eyes, with regard to hatred and anti-immigration sentiment. Of course, the parallels will get stronger (or, depending on how you define things, too strong) later, with the Nightwatch.

And it's a perfect opportunity for me to link to JMS's story about how Karl Rove and George W. Bush loved Babylon 5. Draw your own conclusions.

#6 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 11:11 AM:

And I do have some reservations about how the anti-alien faction is portrayed. Not Malcolm; he’s appropriately subtle, smooth and persuasive. It’s Roberts, an early suspect in the assault on the poet, that caught on me. There’s an interesting casting decision here: he’s played by an actor of Asian descent. Since the things he says come most often from white lips at present, it’s a neat and genuinely science fictional choice. But he’s still an unshaven, uneducated character with a marked rural (American) accent and the habit of leaving his mouth open between sentences. Just as Delenn’s particular ways of breaking in Soul Hunter bug me because they play on sexist tropes, so the portrayal of Roberts gets on my nerves for its present-day class markers. It’s unsubtle, and allows Bab 5’s target audience to dismiss him too easily.

I thought it was a nice change from "all asians are brains"[0] trope that's dreadfully persistent through so much fiction.

[0] One of the alternate versions being, of course "all asians are strange and exotic flowers" :(

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 11:22 AM:

xeger @6:

I agree that it's better than the "smart Asian" stereotype yet again. I simply think that uneducated poverty probably talks a little differently on a 23rd century space station than it does in rural 20th century America.

#8 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 11:31 AM:

abi @7: Yes, but can the network execs trust a non-SF-trained audience to know that? Having him talk that way may be like the incluing differences you disliked -- avoiding dogwhistles that will miss the notice of the people the network execs want to make sure keep watching.

In other words, some un-SF-trained viewers might not realize he's supposed to be uneducated poor unless he talks like a redneck.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 12:07 PM:

xcegert @ 6... I don't know if it was due to be retired anyway, but I wonder if the Inscrutable Asian was tossed out because of George Takei.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 12:08 PM:

xeger... Not sure what happened there with your name's spelling. My knuckles must have been more knotted than knormal.

#11 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 12:38 PM:

One quick nitpick: ISTR that the B5 weapons are "PPG", not "RPG". (Or did that change after S1? Must actually watch the eps again.)

#12 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 12:40 PM:

You are correct, it's a PPG. I misheard something. Fixed.

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 12:54 PM:

Lila, #2: One well-known way to have an un-overheard conversation is to do it quietly, in public, in an area with a lot of background noise. This is a common convention in spy novels, and in other stories in which people are keeping secrets.

Of course, I think the real explanation for what you're complaining about is that it's a TV show, and they needed both visual interest and a conversation that would be clearly understandable to the viewers. So it gets done in a public setting, and without keeping the voices down. Sometimes you just have to break the fourth wall in analyzing visual media.

#14 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 01:01 PM:

Lila, 2: I justified that by pretending they all had individual cones of silence, possibly as a function of their links (or whatever the ambassadorial types used instead of links).

#15 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 03:36 PM:

TexAnne 14, in the pilot, there's a scene where G'Kar and Lyta Alexander have a conversation under a sort of Cone of Silence force field. (It's not called that, but I forget how they referred to it.) That technology is never shown again that I can recall. Maybe the portable Cones get invented between then and Season 1.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 05:49 PM:

Anybody remembers Star Trek's "Balance of Terror" where everybody goes into silent-running mode? The Romulans even go so far as the whisper to each other on their own bridge. Silly, but, heck, the story is a visually rendered one, and with limited time to convey that they reallyreallyreally must be vewy quiet.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 06:30 PM:
But he’s still an unshaven, uneducated character with a marked rural (American) accent and the habit of leaving his mouth open between sentences.

I think this is one of those dog whistles that's been long in use here in the US to show class distinction, often in ways that allow denying concurrent racism. Just yesterday I saw a rather obnoxious use of the technique in an otherwise interesting and well-written show. It was the pilot of "Fairly Legal", in which the protagonist is an ex-lawyer turned mediator who is trying to save her father's law firm in San Francisco just after his death. In one subplot two young black men are accused of menacing a rich young white man with a gun. One of the blacks is a gang member who admits he pointed a gun at the man, and is willing to plead guilty; he wants to get his friend, who has a full scholarship to Yale, off from the charge so it won't prevent him from going to college. Just to prove that the friend is a good person, he speaks in a neutral American accent with educated word choice, while his gang-involved buddy speaks with an underclass Black accent and ghetto speech rhythms.

This bit of classism was especially annoying because the show was otherwise very well-made. It was directed and edited tightly, with a fast pace that was at odds with the more usual flab of American TV drama.

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 06:42 PM:

Lila @2:

IME people with jobs that require considerations of security often do flap their mouths in the most unprofessional way in public. I have heard students in classified government instruction courses discussing the details of secret electronics equipment they were learning about while eating lunch in an unsecured cafeteria surrounded by people with no clearance at all for classified information.

Bruce Adelson @ 11:

Otherwise known as a Pulsed Plasma Gun. Was anyone else annoyed at the fact that even in the 22nd century the technology isn't up to building a high-voltage charger circuit that doesn't whine at the audible frequencies normally used by dentist drills1?

1. I have a large flash gun I bought many years ago for use in very large rooms with high ceilings. When it recharges it makes a whine that used to make my teeth itch, and doesn't now only because I can no longer hear those high frequencies. If Eva is nearby she has to cover her ears because she can still hear into what for everyone else is supersonics.

#19 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 08:30 PM:

I think it was "Phased" rather than "Pulsed". Not that it really matters.

#20 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 08:37 PM:

Serge @16, well, they've gotta whisper to cut the risk of accidentally triggering any of the voice-activated computer systems. Yeah, that's the ticket.

#21 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 01:22 AM:

I just wanted to note that JMS has been a Californian a long time, and all through my growing up in the Los Angeles area, it wasn't staggeringly uncommon to hear really awful, virulent racist garbage, particularly about Hispanics. And Orange County is after all one of the seed beds for this round of riffs on racist panics, along with the interior Southwest. Also fairly sure that I first heard of "sundown towns" in JMS-participating threads on GEnie. Tapping that vein struck me as insightful at the time, and only more so now.

#22 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 10:38 AM:

I always liked the little whine as the PPG powered up. It worked as a trademark of the show.

I'm reminded of the stunners they used in Minority Report. There's no reason for an energy weapon to be twirled around and cocked, but it worked because it looked cool.

#23 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 06:48 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @1, "As we know now, public appearances are the place for dog-whistles and nudges.

I don't think that was always true, and I can't guarantee that it will be true in the future. On the other hand, I'm not familiar enough with Bab5 to have an opinion about whether dog-whistling would be more plausible there, and I can't imagine a path from the present which would lead to blunter political speech."

I agree. I'd say the point here is that you and abi are used to living in societies where in theory, the debates over most forms of bigotry are over, and the bigots lost. In most parts of North American and British society today, in theory it's a social norm that people aren't supposed to be bigots. (As you know, practice is often different). If the Earth of the 23rd century in B5, as a society, still treats the question of whether aliens should be generally distrusted as up for debate, you would expect a lot fewer nudges and dogwhistles.

abi @7, "I simply think that uneducated poverty probably talks a little differently on a 23rd century space station than it does in rural 20th century America."

It's still one of my biggest problems with the politics of B5 that the Earth Alliance is too recognizably the late 20th century USA.

#24 ::: Curmudgeon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 07:29 PM:

1. Ivanova getting rid of her BF is the first shot in the pattern of most characters on the station being stripped of their old social networks and forging new, replacement, bonds with others on the station.

Mayan's interaction with Delenn partially echoes this theme as this is the last time Delenn is ever seen to interact with socially with other Minbari. From this point forward, the closest thing she has to a Minbari friend is Lennier.

Every major character begins their arc by bringing existing social ties and baggage to the station and representing that baggage to the B5 community. They all lose their ties to their cultures at some point, and most of the survivors eventually return to their home cultures to evangelize the power of the bonds they formed on the station.

2. Violent racists are a recurring feature whenever our heroes deal with anyone not closely associated with the B5 project or the Rangers. There are very few off-station notables of any species who aren't portrayed as evil. Humanity, in particular, is portrayed as being full of very violent xenophobes with the sole exceptions being the station crew and the Rangers. Why a society that's portrayed as despising aliens would build B5 in the first place is something that was never completely justified.

3. Given that every attempt at love shown in the series ends tragically, a point could be made that having the hopelessly naive Mayan expound on love's virtues is an implied message that only the hopelessly naive should believe in such things.

4. These episodes demonstrate why the setup used to justify Sinclair's placement on B5 is too clever by half. He got the job as station commander because the Minbari vetoed every other candidate. However, given his position that the only good alien is a dead alien, why would the other powers tolerate him at all?

The meeting where somebody proposed, for example, to the Narn government that the Regime participate in a diplomatic project along side a human representative who believes the only good alien is a dead alien would have been—how shall I put this—rather interesting. “Thanks, but no thanks” doesn't begin to cover it.

5. Speaking of alien influence over humanity: half of Sinclair's job is running the station, but the other half is representing EA's interests to the rest of the galaxy in the B5 council. By fusing the two positions and coming to a station funding agreement that gave the Minbari a veto over who ran B5, EarthGov did sell out humanity's interests by allowing the Minbari to choose who would be EA's diplomatic face to the rest of the galaxy.

That's a gun on the mantelpiece that never really went off.


@Lila, #2:

B5 draws very heavily from the dramatic conventions of theater. In some ways, it's akin to a play presented for television. As I see it, secret public conversations are basically held in stage whispers. Everyone else in the background--named characters or extras--is essentially animate scenery not privy to what's being said.

What gets jarring is when JMS uses this dramatic convention on so many occasions but violates it whenever the plot requires someone to be overheard. Non-traditional conventions are nice only as long as they're applied consistently.

@Will Frank, #5:

The fact that JMS was seemingly pleased at that endorsement did raise an eyebrow.

@TexAnne, #14:

The ambassadors won't wear links or anything equivalent. They're only reachable by hardwired comms or word of mouth. The technology to make cell phones got lost somewhere between 2011 and the 2260s. :-)

@Raphael, #23:

Word from JMS is that the Clark regime was modeled on the Clinton administration. Make of that what you will.

#25 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 07:46 PM:

Curmudgeon, 24: Did you miss the part where I was *handwaving* to make a *stupid thing* go away? Do not deny me my handwaving! The ambassadors have portable cones of silence!

#26 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 04:13 AM:

Curmudgeon@24: Why do you think that JMS was pleased at the endorsement? My impression (at the time I first read the article, and now) is that he had to lie down due to being appalled to the depths of his soul.

#27 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 11:05 AM:

Curmudgeon @ 24 ...
1. Ivanova getting rid of her BF is the first shot in the pattern of most characters on the station being stripped of their old social networks and forging new, replacement, bonds with others on the station.

Are you watching the same show as the rest of us? The guy that showed up was a 7-or-8 years ago _ex-boyfriend_ of Ivonova...

#28 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 11:35 AM:

Curmudgeon @24: The meeting where somebody proposed, for example, to the Narn government that the Regime participate in a diplomatic project along side a human representative who believes the only good alien is a dead alien would have been—how shall I put this—rather interesting. “Thanks, but no thanks” doesn't begin to cover it.

Uh...Sinclair expressed that view in order to get next to the terrorist group that was assaulting non-humans on B5. I thought it was pretty clear that he didn't actually hold that view.

#29 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 12:32 PM:

Curmudgeon @ #24: Mayan's interaction with Delenn partially echoes this theme as this is the last time Delenn is ever seen to interact with socially with other Minbari. From this point forward, the closest thing she has to a Minbari friend is Lennier.

So you're not counting her mentor/teacher from "Voice in the Wilderness"?

#30 ::: Curmudgeon ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 02:35 PM:

My opinions and ways of thinking are too unorthodox from those of normal people for me to participate here without being unduly disruptive.

As this is normally a polite community, I have no place being here.

My apologies for having intruded.

#31 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 02:49 PM:

Curmudgeon: I apologize. My intent was minor, nitpicky disagreement. I am truly sorry if I made you feel unwelcome.

#32 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 03:16 PM:

#20 ::: Avram: (re: whispering on the bridge of a cloaked Romulan ship)

"Serge @16, well, they've gotta whisper to cut the risk of accidentally triggering any of the voice-activated computer systems. Yeah, that's the ticket. "

Or the stress was high, and people were whispering due to emotional reasons.

It'd be funny for somebody (a Vulcan?) to speak loudly in such circumstances, due to not having those reactions.

#33 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 04:07 PM:

Barry @32: (re: whispering on the bridge of a cloaked Romulan ship)It'd be funny for somebody (a Vulcan?) to speak loudly in such circumstances, due to not having those reactions.

I can easily see this as a bit in The Big Bang Theory, with Sheldon playing the part of the Vulcan.

#34 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 05:56 PM:

These episodes demonstrate why the setup used to justify Sinclair's placement on B5 is too clever by half. He got the job as station commander because the Minbari vetoed every other candidate. However, given his position that the only good alien is a dead alien, why would the other powers tolerate him at all?

Well, the obvious answer (consistent with Sinclair's claim to believe that, which as has already been pointed out, is deliberate deception on his part) was that since diplomacy is the job, he did it well enough to be accepted by the aliens, while hiding his true feelings about them. As long as you don't give aliens much credit for the ability to discern hidden emotions of a different species[1], I guess that's sort of credible. Or maybe the bigot just wasn't bright enough to think it through.

By fusing the two positions and coming to a station funding agreement that gave the Minbari a veto over who ran B5, EarthGov did sell out humanity's interests by allowing the Minbari to choose who would be EA's diplomatic face to the rest of the galaxy.

The Minbari might have had a veto, but they didn't get to actually choose candidates; we don't know what would have happened if EA had run out of acceptable-to-them candidates before the Minbari stopped vetoing. Mutual acceptability isn't a guarantee of subversion.


[1] Which should be much harder, except for the medium-imposed fact that all the major species are improbably physiologically similar to humans and each other.

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2011, 04:27 PM:

Curmudgeon @30:

I'm sure you did not intend to reinvent the troll trope of "my opinions are too interesting/brave/strong/true for this community to handle" there. The answer is what it usually is: it's not your opinions that have caused tension on the threads so much as your ways of expressing and discussing them.

I left a long comment on the other one setting out how the way you were expressing your views about Delenn were making it difficult for the discussion to continue. I suggested ways you might be able to bring the conversation into a place where others could address your assertions. You did not reply.

In this thread, you simply made a few factual errors, forgetting that Sinclair was pretending to be a bigot and that Malcolm was Ivanova's ex rather than her current partner. The productive response to that is straightforward: acknowledge, reconsider, see if thesis holds up anyway. Your response is to blame the "unorthodoxy" of your views and bow out.

If you're not interested in interacting with other people whose read of the series differs from yours, yes, you're probably better off not joining the conversation. But don't blame the community, or your views. This is an issue of style, not substance.

#36 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 07:56 AM:

Caught up! (Now watch, the next post will arrive before I get around to watching the next two episodes.)

And now that I'm here, I don't think I have anything insightful to say about these particular episodes, so instead I'll make a shallow remark about the disc labels on the DVDs I'm watching. I don't think whoever designed them was trying very hard to match the images to the contents: Disc 2's label features the distinctive mug of a villain who only appears on Disc 1. Disc 1's label features a character who isn't even in this season. (To be fair, it's an appropriate species for one of the episodes on the disc, but still blatantly the wrong individual.)

#37 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 08:10 AM:

Okay, what is it with the extremely ill-omened ship names? "Agamemnon" is marginal--true, he had a bad ending, but he was a famous warrior. But "Marie Celeste" and "Icarus"???

(rot-13d for spoilers: Ntnzrzaba vf gur fuvc Furevqna pbzznaqf orsber gnxvat pbzznaq bs O5; Znevr Pryrfgr vf gur fuvc gung gnxrf Wvakb/Gubznf ba uvf dhrfg sbe gur Tenvy; Vpnehf vf Naan Furevqna'f erfrnepu irffry.)

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 08:15 AM:

Lila @37:

Well, yes, but in "Believers", the ship Ivanova shepherds back to B5 is the Asimov.

#39 ::: Braxis ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 09:59 AM:

Paul A @36:

Staying in the shallow end - do the disc menus still have the eerie character morphing effect on continuous loop?

#40 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 10:20 AM:

Braxis (39): Eerie character morphing effect, yes, but it didn't look like continuous loop to me. Not that I sat and watched that once the menu proper came up.

#41 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 12:21 PM:

Wasn't "Hood" listed as a ship in Star Trek?

Hood and Potemkin are the most obvious non-USN ship-names used in canon sources, though Exeter and Kongo are also non-USN, and Intrepid was used by both the USN and the RN. But if I wanted to pick a British name, there are better. Nelson, perhaps? Likewise for Potemkin, also well-known for the wrong reason.

It's maybe easier to check such things nowadays.

#43 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 11:13 PM:

Braxis @ #39, Mary Aileen @ #40:

Yes, it does have the character morphing, and since Braxis asked I've let it run long enough to discover it does indeed loop (normally, I don't stick around the menu screen that long).

#44 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 11:16 PM:

Another shallow observation:

I'm pretty sure that we've now seen all the episodes that contributed footage to the title sequence. (There's only one shot I haven't placed, and I have a feeling it's from 'The Gathering'.)

#45 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2011, 07:48 PM:

Okay. Based on this, I'm skipping a few episodes and starting again with The War Prayer.

#46 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 05:13 PM:

Okay. I enjoyed these two episodes measurably more than their predecessors. Not giving up yet...

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 04:14 AM:

Lizzy @46:

The first season is best described as 'weak with interesting moments'. You've seen or skipped the really poor set now; there will be occasional ones that fall back to nearly that level of meh (like the one I just wrote up, "Eyes", which is skippable unless you are keen on insights into Ivanova or 1990's motorcycles).

I think you would really enjoy the later seasons of Babylon 5, particularly G'Kar's story arc. I'd encourage you to persevere or, if you can't face it, read summaries of Season 1 and start again with Season 2.

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