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March 12, 2011

Babylon 5: Eyes
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:52 AM * 59 comments

Ostensibly, this is a “story arc” episode, where the consequences of past choices come back to haunt the crew of Babylon 5.  Having sent Bester about his business in Mind War, reinterpreted the Rush Act in By Any Means Necessary, and—as Garibaldi says—rewritten the rulebook repeatedly in recent episodes, Sinclair has powerful enemies looking for revenge.  This is when they try to take it, in the form of that kind of grubby political assassination that disguises itself as a routine enquiry.

Multiple threads from previous episodes all come together in the plot.  The investigator, Ari Ben Zayn, turns out to subscribe to the same theory of secret Minbari allegiance that Knight One and Knight Two did in And the Sky Full of Stars.  Sinclair is questioned about the Raghesh 3 incident from Midnight on the Firing Line, the Deathwalker affair, and the sabotage in Survivors as well as the way he ended the strike in By Any Means Necessary.  It looks like all the chickens are coming home to roost.

But I wasn’t impressed with this episode in that context.  It’s not so much that the attempt to unseat Sinclair fails.  The real problem is that there are no new threads leading forward into the next conflict.  None of the recurring characters changes, in position or in personality, because of the events that occur.  Everyone is right where they were when the action started.  The command crew keep their positions. EarthGov remains divided about Babylon 5 and the aliens. Bester still lurks in the shadows.  Life goes on.

Having said that, I think this episode did have a number of thematic and character-related aspects that are worth dwelling on.

I’m not going to do a detailed plot summary here.  The short version is that an EarthForce officer, Colonel Ari Ben Zayn, and Harriman Grey, his PsiCorps adjunct, are sent to Babylon 5 to investigate Sinclair’s command history and check the crew’s loyalty to EarthForce.  It becomes clear that they are actually on a witch hunt, instigated by Bester and by Sinclair’s enemies in EarthGov, and intend to use Grey to probe for evidence.  Ivanova, refusing to be scanned, considers resigning her commission.  Sinclair challenges PsiCorps’ involvement in the investigation and, when that doesn’t work, gets Grey to scan Ben Zayn as well.  Grey, seeing that the investigation is not an honest one, takes the Babylon 5 crew’s side, and the mission is shut down.  In the meantime, Lennier helps Garibaldi to build a 1990’s motorcycle.

The most interesting thing to me is what we see of Ivanova in the story.  This is when her profound weaknesses as an officer come to the fore.  She’s many things: a competent leader, a good fighter pilot, a dedicated administrator, and a fiercely loyal team player.  But she’s really not a people person, and that costs the command crew in this episode.  Harriman Grey does everything but fall at her feet in an ecstasy of puppy love, but she can’t see past her own fear and anger to the opportunity that presents.  It would have been trivially easy for her to turn him against Ben Zayn before events escalated, but she leaves that kind of thing to Sinclair. This draws out and intensifies the conflict, which, though good television, is bad command tactics.

This is also the episode where Ivanova breaks, in the sense that Garibaldi broke in Survivors—and the way she did not in TKO.  And there’s material for some interesting comparison between the two characters in the way this plays out.

Their breakpoints are the same: the loss of their careers.  Garibaldi was framed for sabotage and stripped of his position.  Ivanova sees the choice between allowing herself to be psionically scanned and resigning her commission, and for her there is no choice.  Sinclair manages to talk her down once, but she’s quick to despair again:

Ivanova: I won’t submit to a scan.
Garibaldi: He’ll charge you with insubordination.
Ivanova: And I’ll be replaced, and dishonorably discharged.  It’s a very Russian ending.  I should have expected it.

Both of them turn to drink when everything seems hopeless.  Now, alcohol is an interesting revealer of personality, both in real life and in fiction.  And the two of them come out very differently when they’ve had a few.  Garibaldi, who’s kind of a professional misanthrope, turns out to be a chummy drunk.  And that rings true, because there are scenes when he’s sober that expose his friendly side as well (for instance, inviting Delenn over for popcorn and cartoons).  But the veritas of vino yields no equivalent warmth in Ivanova; it merely moves her self-defensive aggression1 from the verbal to the physical.

The episode also gives some insight into how she’s become who she is.  She describes being raised by a telepath:

You can’t imagine what it’s like. To share your own mother’s love for you?  To feel it in your thoughts?  No one’s ever been that close to me, Commander.

Before PsiCorps intervened, Ivanova’s mother created an experience of love that no non-telepath3 could reproduce.   Even leaving aside the side-effects of the psi-suppression drugs, her mother’s suicide, her brother’s death and her father’s failures of affection, Susan Ivanova was destined be lonely.  What kind of romantic relationship could stand up to the memory of feeling unconditional love inside her own head?

When I first watched Babylon 5, I wanted to grow up to be like Ivanova.  I still admire her passion and her strength of character, but seeing this episode again causes me to reconsider that ambition.

Ivanova’s failings are highlit by the fact that her antagonist, Harriman Grey, is interesting and well-drawn.  He’s a powerful reminder that the best plots are not created by setting good against evil, but by setting it against another, different good.  Because despite being a member of an unsavory organization and the tool of unscrupulous men, Grey is unambiguously good, as earnest and as honest as the hero of a Heinlein juvenile.  And despite Ivanova’s violently expressed dislike of him (“I’ll twist your head off and use it as a chamber pot!”), he repeatedly tries to reconcile her to being scanned rather than throw her career away.

In the end, it’s Grey who tilts the balance of the conflict.  My favorite moment in the entire episode is a brief shot of him sitting, hand against his temple, watching Sinclair goad Ben Zayn into revealing the real motivation behind the investigation.  And once he reads Ben Zayn, he doesn’t hesitate to choose sides: he accuses his commander of lying, calls his ambition “filthy”, and uses psionic power as a weapon against him.

In contrast to the collision between Ivanova and Grey, the conflict between Sinclair and Ben Zayn is much more crudely drawn.  Ben Zayn is a strawman authoritarian, a caricature of military command.  He tests people like an enemy (offering Garibaldi a drink) and barks orders at the bridge crew.  He uses words like “sack time” and demands prompt responses and short sleep.  One can’t picture him dealing sympathetically with a subrdinate’s refusal to be scanned.

Sinclair, meanwhile, continues to be wise, controlled and clever.  First he tries his usual tactic, making an end-run around rules that get in his way by quoting a different, more useful rule.  But when that fails, he becomes the personified contrast to Ben Zayn’s authoritarian approach, a kind of canonical collborative leader.  Because if the essence of authoritarianism is an expectation of unquestioning obedience from subordinates, then its opposite is an encouragement of independent action by them.  And that’s what Sinclair does with Grey: he essentially steals him from Ben Zayn’s command, encourages him to consider both sides of the conflict equally, and lets him make his own choice.  Of course, Sinclair is then proved right and Ben Zayn not just wrong but crazy.

This cartoonish clash between insane ambition and measured cooperation underlines my growing problem with Sinclair as a character.  He simply does not make mistakes, get things wrong, or doubt himself.  His reaction to the investigation is typical: he has no fear that Ben Zayn will find any instances of bad judgement, fleeting inattention, or simple human error.  Everything he does has been perfect and is defensible.  It’s of a piece with his unfailing wisdom and compassion in interpersonal matters, all delivered in a soothing and avuncular voice.

See, I’m doing a busy and complicated job right now, though it’s several orders of magnitude less judgemental and all-consuming than Sinclair’s.  And I know I’m doing well at it.  But I also know that if someone came looking at my work in detail, they’d find plenty of places where I dropped the ball, or prioritized the wrong thing, or simply made a mistake.  In the light of that, Sinclair’s confidence that his successes aren’t similarly granular strikes me as either glib or deluded.  In any case, it undermines the already fragile realism of his character.

I’m not sure if Sinclair is a Gary Stu or simply cardboard.  I don’t know enough about JMS to tell. What I do know is that I am increasingly treating him as part of the set or the setting rather than a real character in his own right.  At this point, he’s as reliable, as unchanging, and as predictable as the computer on the Enterprise.

This doesn’t damage his value to the greater plot.  The mystery around his time in Minbari custody is interesting for what it will reveal about them, even if I don’t expect it to make him one whit more fallible. But it disappoints me. I wanted to be interested in Sinclair as well as the other characters.

So in the end, I found this episode deeply unsatisfying.  The realistic characterization showed me that my favorite character isn’t the person I thought she was, and the unrealistic characterization finally damaged my suspension of disbelief to the point where I had to find a workaround.  And the plot gets under my skin, too: surely Ben Zayn knew that the Minbari would not accept him as a substitute for Sinclair.  Absent actual detachment from consensus reality, how could he seriously discount the probability that they would unseat him from his newly stolen command?

Although I had a mixed reaction to the main plot, I did find the motorcycle subplot adorable.  Lennier’s deep geekery is a treasure and a delight4, from his research into the history of the vehicle (“sexual prowess and rebellion…?”) to his use of “domo arigato” after spending too long reading the Japanese manual.  Even the inevitable “old stuff that’s contemporaneous with the show’s production date” trope5 doesn’t diminish the charm.

  1. I’m not, by the way, disputing that Ivanova is provoked in the bar brawl.  There are significant, gendered 2 differences in the ways the people around the two characters act in the two episodes, and that does influence their behavior.  But a sober Ivanova can cut someone dead by counting; violence is clearly a choice.
  2. I’m not digging far into the ways in which Ivanova’s characterization is tied to her gender because it’s handled well.  She’s emotional about being scanned, but none of her colleagues lose respect for her for the way she expresses it.  And she’s violent when she’s physically confronted, but she’s by no means out of control when Garibaldi confronts her.
    Ivanova: Are you going to arrest me, Garibaldi?
    Garibaldi: No way.  I want to live to see the future.  I just want to talk with you.  And reason with you.  Recite a few choice passages from my favorite reading for as long as it takes.
    Ivanova: You don’t play fair.  I surrender.
  3. I’ll be watching some of the later events with Talia Winters with new eyes.
  4. I really must get over the pain I feel every time Lennier charms me.  I wish I could forget that closed door.
  5. Gary Seven to the blue courtesy phone, please

The next entry will discuss Legacies

Index of Babylon 5 posts

Comments on Babylon 5: Eyes:
#1 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 12:56 PM:

I just rewatched this episode a few days ago, and it's interesting: I remembered every beat of the motorcycle plot, down to most of the lines. I remembered most of Ivanova's plot, and a fair number of her lines. But the confrontation between what's-his-name and Commander Dude, as it were, had completely slipped my memory. It is all rather too pat; Totally Evil Guy (Sent By Evil Opponents) vs. The Forces Of Goodness And Perfection. Without Ivanova's issues at stake, I would've found the episode downright boring, because it's all a bunch of stalwart stalwarting up against cartoonish villainy. Of course the Good Guys (TM) will win in the end.

...but Ivanova, she's got some legitimate weaknesses and fracture points, and so really the whole face-off between Villainous Dude and Supportive Boss are just sort of...background for her thing. It's a reason for her to be doing interesting things in the foreground, and occasionally we're forced to cut back to My That's An Obvious Scar I Wonder If You're Evil Man and his villainy to keep the plot moving around her.

#2 ::: Becca Stareyes ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 01:28 PM:

I've been re-reading the Lurker's Guide as I do my own rewatch and I wonder how much of the decision to shelve Sinclair after Season 1 until he's needed to tb onpx va gvzr jvgu O4 gb or Inyra naq raq gur cerivbhf Funqbj Jne was because being Calm and Benevolent Mentor-Dude can advance the plot and other characters, but isn't as good at giving anything interesting character-wise for CBMD himself. Which isn't good on a show where you want the base commander to be a main character.

Likewise, I remember reading that in early drafts of Star Wars's script, Obi-Wan survived the movie, but Luacs realized that Obi-Wan didn't have much to do after he confronts Darth Vader, so that he gets more plot mileage from killing him off.

#3 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 02:29 PM:

The only part of this episode I remember is the motorcycle subplot, which, like Fade, I remember quite well. I don't even remember Ben Zayn and Grey.

#4 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 05:52 PM:

Oddly, we missed this episode completely the first time I watched B5. (It was the last one on a tape, and we assumed without checking that we'd watched them all. We also missed infection, but that was our Host's earnest wish to never see that episode ever again.)

I found watching it later that it was completely unnecessary. I mean, the Lennier and Garibaldi subplot is cute, but we never see the motorcycle again (A total wasted opportunity, I thought; surely there would prove to be a time when the extra speed it provided Garibaldi within a level could have been a plot point?).

But the other plot (And I never divided Ivanova's side of the conflict from Sinclair's in how I considered the story - which, now I see you doing it, actually helps make more sense of the episode), while, as you say, revealing for Ivanova's character, just didn't convince me it was a real threat, or affect the future.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 08:10 PM:

heresiarch @ 3... Zayn and Grey

Horsing around?

#6 ::: Stepehn Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2011, 09:47 PM:

"he has no fear that Ben Zayn will find any instances of bad judgement, fleeting inattention, or simple human error. Everything he does has been perfect and is defensible."

One nice bit is that Garibaldi *does* worry: saying about something to hide, "maybe we do", and then saying "I know you're a by-the-book guy Jeff, but we rewrote the book a couple of times to make B5 work" (or something like that, quoting from memory). It helps reinforce something I like about this episode, which is that Garibaldi, often presented as the fuck-up, is here the one who keeps a calm head, his wits about him, and pulls Ivonova & Sinclair out of self-destructive cycles (more Ivonova, yeah, but Sinclair too, e.g. his stopping Sinclair from hitting Ben Zayn) and generally does for them what they do for him in "Survivor".

#7 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 01:21 AM:
I’ll be watching some of the later events with Talia Winters with new eyes.

That is an excellent point; I had not connected Ivanova's history with her mother to her relationship with Talia. And that raises some interesting speculation about what Talia gets from the relationship. Ivanova isn't your average blank; she's been close to a telepath before, and may even know how to focus her thoughts for reception.

#8 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 01:38 AM:

abi @0: I will swear that I could hear you working on this post last night*. (Tin-foil hat due for a re-fit, Jacque? ;o) )

I’m not sure if Sinclair is a Gary Stu or simply cardboard. I don’t know enough about JMS to tell.

My vote is for cardboard. Given that Sheridan was a somewhat better-drawn character serving roughly the same function in the story, my feeling is that JMS, aside from Sinclair's issues wrt the Line and the Minbari, just didn't find Sinclair that interesting. I think you're exactly right in that, by the time JMS got around to actuating this thing he'd been working on for so long, Sinclair had kind of become part of the setting. If I was going to pick out a Gary Stu, I'd say the position is split between Ivanova and Garibaldi.

Fade Manley @1: ::giggles::

My That's An Obvious Scar I Wonder If You're Evil Man

I remember reading some while ago something the origin of which I forget about the fictive equivalence in movies and television of facial deformity with moral deficiency. I found myself not only deeply disappointed in the Ben Zayn's comic-opera villany, but by this obvious bigotry in an otherwise pretty conscientiously diverse show.*

Becca Stareyes @2: I think the renovation of the lead character was indeed (as JMS claimed) a happy accident resulting from O'Hare's departure. The departure itself resulted from events IRL, I'm pretty sure. That was JMS's story and, based on other intelligence, I believe him.

Bruce Cohen @7: Somewhere along the line, I got the very strong sense that Ivanova is a telepath, or at least latent. She's just better than most at hiding it.


* My time. This would have been, uh (counts on fingers) 6am Sat your time? Okay, maybe not. (Well, anyway, I sure as hell wouldn't be doing anything requiring actual cognition at 6am.)

** This is one of the reasons I loved Ham Tyler in the original V. Didn't hurt that Ironside came by that scar honestly.

#9 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 01:51 AM:

Never estimate the influence of acting in the delineation of a character. Bruce Boxleitner is not exactly Olivier (well, neither was Olivier, I suppose) but Michael O'Hare, who really has only about four default positions, acting-wise, makes him look subtle and nuanced. It makes more sense, when you see him after he's left B5, for Sinclaire to appear oracular and faultless, which makes me wonder if JMS meant it to be that way. The downside is, watching the first season for the first time last month, I damned near gave up on the series because I found Sinclair so un-faceted.

(I've been watching ahead, so now I actually know what you're talking about.)

#10 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 03:21 AM:

Jacque @8: Somehow I got the impression as well that Ivanova is a latent telepath of some sort, if apparently so low-level that it was able to slip through the screening that caught Grey. I mean, to the level of "I thought this was canon", and now I'm wondering if I built up too strong a conclusion from various bits of hinting through the series.

And I am with you on the "disappointed that facial scarring means evil" side of things. Though I actually sort of slotted it below the general disappointment of "people who oppose the protagonists must be evil." One of the things that I do like about Babylon 5 as it goes along is the extent to which conflict gains complexity. It strikes me as sort of unsettling to run a fictional universe with the assumption that anyone who ever questions a decision made by the protagonists must be a Bad Person, or at best Misguided. I love this show, but especially in early seasons, I spend a lot of time sort of uneasily wondering who watches the watchers*, as the command staff conspires to merrily thwart anyone who'd ever disagree with their decisions. It does seem to get better as it goes along, on that point.

* Though frankly, I've never been able to take that saying half so seriously, despite its great utility as shorthand for a broad concept, since reading it in context. Juvenal had many a witty saying, and a hell of a lot of them that are cheerfully quoted as Ancient Wisdom are coming from the mouths of not particularly sympathetic or wise characters in his satires. Much like quoting the advice of Polonius as Wisdom From Shakespeare.

#11 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 04:05 AM:

Jacque, 8, and Fade Manley, 10: I'm not sure whether you're re-watching or watching for the first time, so I'll ROT13:

Fur fnlf va fb znal jbeqf gung fur vf n yngrag gryrcngu, yngr va frnfba gjb, "Qvivqrq Yblnygvrf". Gur frnfba svir cybgyvar jvgu Oleba jnf bevtvanyyl zrnag gb srngher ure vafgrnq bs Ylgn (Oleba'f fvzvynevgvrf gb Znephf jrer vagragvbany).

#12 ::: Shinydan Howells ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 09:54 AM:

At the time, British TV critic Marcus Berkmann was making very similar criticisms of Sinclair, referring to him as Commander Plywood. He put the blame squarely at the feet of Michael O'Hare, and while I didn't have access to a telly at the time, it put me off watching until season 2 started.

Full disclosure; I was a Daily Mail reader in the '90s, although it was mostly for the cartoons.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 10:09 AM:

There must be something wrong with me.
("As a matter of fact...")
I liked Sinclair.

#14 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 10:18 AM:

Add me to the list of people who remembered the motorcycle and Ivanova's mother, but nothing else.

I didn't feel strongly either way about Sinclair on first airing, beyond thinking that Picard would wipe the floor with him. Then when he Did His Thing, I retconned the woodenness into a sign that he was the kind of guy who would Do That Thing.

#15 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 10:29 AM:

Coming in in the middle as I did, by the time I saw the first season, I'd already seen Sinclair Do His Thing, so I didn't need the retconning. (I wonder what I would have thought of him if I'd watched things in order the first time? No way to tell, of course.)

#16 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 10:44 AM:

Interesting crossover about the facial-scarring question at Boing Boing:

Note the two that Cory calls 'properly scary villains'. I can't help feeling that Mr Dalton didn't come by that scar in a childhood fishing accident [though of course he may have done].

#17 ::: Stepehn Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 11:26 AM:

David Goldfarb #11: I didn't know that the original plan for season 5 was sbe gur Oelba fgbel gb or nobhg Vibabin abg Ylgn. That would have been much more interesting, I think. And I think this is part of a pattern: several of JMS's original ideas were cooler then what he ultimately put on screen, often because actors left, although sometimes (so far as I can see) he overreacted to actors leaving, and changed cool story lines more than he had to.

Two examples:

1 (spoilers through the end of S1): Gur genvgbe jub fubbgf Tnevonyqv jnf fhccbfrq gb or gur frpbaq-va-pbzznaq (sebz gur Cvybg), Yg. Pzqe. Gnxnfuvzn (jub jbhyq unir riraghnyyl orra *ercynprq* ol n tehag sebz bcf anzrq Fhfna Vibabin). Jura gur npgbe cynlvat Gnxnfuvzn yrsg, WZF qvqa'g xrrc gur cybg jvgu gur KB, ohg fjvgpurq vg gb Tnevonyvq'f frpbaq-va-pbzznaq, jub jnf bayl va 3 be fb rcvfbqrf. Gur erfhyg: zhpu, zhpu yrff pbby fgbelyvar.

2 (spoilers through at least S4, basically for the whole thing): Gur nep gung raqrq hc orvat *fcyvg* orgjrra Ylgn naq Gnyvn jnf nyy fhccbfrq gb or gur fnzr punenpgre. Vs lbh xvaqn fdhvag naq gel gb frr vg nf nyy gur fnzr -- fb gung [punenpgre] trgf fybjyl qvfrapunagrq jvgu CfvPbecf va F2 naq vf gura fybjyl sbeprq onpx vagb vg va F4 -- vg vf n zhpu zber cbjreshy fgbel guna jung jnf riraghnyyl chg ba fperra.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 12:23 PM:

Stephen @ 17... Lbh zvtug jnag gb punatr gur fcryyvat bs lbhe anzr. :-)

#19 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 01:16 PM:

Serge #18: Bbcf.

#20 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 01:21 PM:

alex @ 16: "I can't help feeling that Mr Dalton didn't come by that scar in a childhood fishing accident [though of course he may have done]."

And yet despite Dalton's scar, it's De Gracy's shadowed pale eyes that put the shiver in me.

#21 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 06:39 PM:

Fade Manley@10, that was an interesting footnote.

And hey, while Polonius was a lousy father and his advice to his son was lame and impersonal, at least it wasn't malicious - it beats quoting "first let's kill all the lawyers" as Wisdom from Shakespeare...

Somewhat related to that, one of the nicer filks I heard at Consonance last weekend was (I think Kathleen Sloan?) doing "Things to do in Denmark when you're dead", telling Hamlet from the point of view of the ghost.

#22 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 07:03 PM:

David Goldfarb @11: Ah, yes. So I'm not hallucinating. Thank you. For the record, I'm re-watching up through about the third quarter of season 4. I just couldn't make it any further than that. When Season 5 came along, it was either unavailable (moved from PTEN to Turner, or something?) or I Just Couldn't Take It Anymore.

#23 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 07:13 PM:

Serge @13: I liked Sinclair.

Me, too.

Stepehn Frug: @17 Makes me pine wistfully for the hundredth time for a proper remake with all the character arcs intact.

#24 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 08:39 PM:

Fade Manley #10, Bill Stewart #21: Much less invoking "methinks (s)he doth protest too much"... without remembering that it came from Iago trying to frame Desdemona!

#25 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 11:51 PM:

I liked Sinclair, too, but I can see why others don't. And, Sinclair clearly had the scriptwriter on his side.

#26 ::: Soap Lady ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 12:27 AM:

I rather liked Harriman Grey. He was an early example of a "good" telepath and I was sorry he only made one appearance. His crush on Ivanova was cute, probably obvious to anyone but her.

Shame he never showed up again. Perhaps he survived the Telepath War and was able to realize his dream to be a pilot.

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 01:41 AM:

Soap Lady @26:

I liked Grey too. A good character, well played. I actually went and checked to see if he reappeared, and was disappointed when he didn't.

(And all you Sinclair fans? Heretics. Every one of you.)

#28 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 02:18 AM:

It's funny; I remember being deeply distrustful of Sheridan when he showed up, since the character Wasn't Sinclair, and I also remember mocking Sinclair for being Captain Cardboard while I was watching the show. I liked the character as a prop, without being particularly fond of him as a character. He got good lines, and moved the plot along, and supported the characters I liked, so that was generally enough to justify his place on the show.

I've never yet watched season 5, because the person who was showing me the whole thing said it wasn't good enough to bother with right away, and then I broke up with him anyway and didn't have access to the episodes. I suppose I'll get to it this time around, if only to keep up with the rewatch discussions.

And, peripherally on the matter of quotes taken from context... Juvenal is terribly, horribly quotable. And especially in his earlier satires, all of his speakers are terrible, horrible people, saying such catchy things. It was quite the shock, reading through 'em the first time, to keep coming across familiar and comfortable lines in the mouths of slimy bastards and sneering villains and whiny hypocrites.

#29 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 04:15 AM:

Stepehn @ 19 Oops

It's your name. You spell it however you like. Ivanova's name, however, is another matter.

#30 ::: Antongarou ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 06:40 AM:

Fade Manley @28:there was never a fifth season, and he closed it off so well in season 4 I'm not sure it's a shame

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 10:04 AM:

abi @ 27... You Sheridan-loving splitter!

#32 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 10:29 AM:

Jacque (23): I wouldn't want *all* of the character arcs in place as originally planned. Learning that Ivanova had been slated for the role Lyta played in the Byron storyline was what reconciled me to losing Ivanova for the 5th Season. Because that would have been an *awful* thing to do to one of my favorite characters. (My other two co-equal favorites were Marcus and Delenn. Two of the three were gone by 5th Season. Bummer.)

#33 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 11:27 AM:

#24 ::: David Harmon

...Much less invoking "methinks (s)he doth protest too much"... without remembering that it came from Iago trying to frame Desdemona!

No, Hamlet about Gertrude (his mother).

#34 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 12:42 PM:

#s 24 and 33, actually it was Gertrude who said it, referring to the Player Queen in the re-enactment of Hamlet's father's murder. And it goes "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

#35 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 01:01 PM:

I have to say that when an aggressive, authoritarian military officer with a duelling scar on his face turns up on TV as a bad guy, you don't generally expect him to be called ben something. Von something, yes.

#36 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 01:25 PM:

@27: Oo! Oh boy! I'm a heretic! ::puffs up:: abi said so. *struts*

(I always wanted to be a heretic.)

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 01:38 PM:

Jacque @ 36... But do you follow the gourd of Sinclair, or his sandal?

#38 ::: CCClaudia ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 06:37 PM:

4. I really must get over the pain I feel every time Lennier charms me. I wish I could forget that closed door.


(ie, I'm afraid I've forgotten that closed door so comprehensively I don't know what you're talking about. Can somebody please explain?)

#39 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 07:12 PM:

Without wanting to put too much of a spoiler: The one in season 5, on board the Minbari ship. (If you need more details, I'll put some in ROT13.)

#40 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 09:41 PM:

The real tragedy of the closed door is that he was warned -- it was predicted by Morden in the "Day of the Dead" episode. But he wouldn't listen.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 09:59 PM:

By the way, I couldn't help but smile whenever Lennier showed up. I mean, the actor was a kid in "Lost in Space"...

#42 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 10:06 PM:

Serge @41: Have you seen the tray card art for one of Bill Mumy's albums (In the Current, I think, but possibly When Dreams Come True or Dying to be Heard -- those are the only 3 I have)?

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 10:44 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 42... No, I had never seen it. Now, if Lennier played the guitar, what would be G'kar's instrument?

#44 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2011, 10:53 PM:

Serge @43: I suddenly imagined G'Kar with a triangle and a gleeful, pixielike, malicious smile ... cannot unsee. Londo either plays tuba (truth in personality) or first violin (for ego).

Though if they're a rock band I like Garibaldi for drums and G'Kar for keys. Lennier would be the kind of introverted lead guitarist who pulls amazing solos out of nowhere while playing with his head down, out of the spotlights.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 07:28 AM:

Elliott Mason @ 44... What? No tambourine for Delenn?

#46 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 08:22 AM:

Serge, 45: Delenn is obviously the piano player.

#47 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 09:01 AM:

I see G'kar with a trombone, for some reason. Vir has the tamborine, but it just looks like it's glued to his hand and he's trying to get rid of it. Londo with the tuba, definitely. But it's rusting and bits are falling off as he plays, which enrages him.

Delenn as the soulful lead singer who doesn't actually sing, but just emotes. Sheridan, while not with the band, crowd surfs with abandon. Lorien's handling the laser show.

Kosh is the amp.

Lennier on synthesizer. Just holding down one key, but the other hand is sliding so many slides and turning so many knobs that the music is magical.

Zack and Zathras are the roadies.

Sinclair is on the sound board. He makes tiny adjustments in between minute-long pauses wherein he seems to be sniffing the music. His changes are undetectable.

Ivanova is security. She doesn't move, or need to. She just stands and stares at the front row.

Morden's selling drugs to kids in the parking lot.

#48 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 09:37 AM:

Nangleator @45: I just laughed so hard I think I pulled something. :->

#49 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 11:56 AM:

Another one for "I remember the whole motorbike strand, and the emotional highpoints of the Ivanova stuff, but nothing at all of what's supposedly The Plot".

And I like Sinclair. Calm and benevolent mentor dudes are easy to like, like puppies.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 12:40 PM:

Paul A @ 49... I'll try not to think of a K9 version of B5.

#51 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 01:52 PM:

Serge @ 50: C'est quoi, un caneuf?

#52 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 02:13 PM:

praisegod, 51: C'est comme un canif, mais bon à manger.

#53 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 03:16 PM:

Re the face of a villain, one of the classic ripostes is to mention the radio performer Fred Allen, whose face was referred to as "Villainy's Ledger", complete with a powder burn scar (the result of an accident with a prop).

He was also known as a devout Catholic, a devoted family man and the ideal boss.

#54 ::: CCClaudia ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 03:48 PM:

David (39), thanks. I remember now.

#55 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 09:02 PM:

Serge @37:

"'e's not the Messiah, 'e's The One!"

#56 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2011, 10:38 PM:

One thing I've been noticing on this re-watch is that all the episodes with major insights into Ivanova - the one where her father is dying, the one where Uncle Yossel visits for the memorial service, and this one - have been written by the same writer... and it's not JMS, it's Larry DiTillio. Makes me wonder to what extent he was being permitted to shape a lead character, and to what extent he was just presenting bits of backstory he'd been fed by JMS.

#57 ::: Kaleberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2011, 12:18 AM:

Another Sinclair fan here. He may have seemed a bit wooden to some, but I think this was a case of "still waters run deep". In light of his later role in the series, this made a lot of sense. He reminded me of a lot of ML Montgomery's male characters.

Besides, when you are being audited, and especially when you are being audited by a telepath, the last thing you want is feelings of doubt.

#58 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2011, 01:00 AM:
especially when you are being audited by a telepath

I am so glad that's not an option for the IRS :-)

#59 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2011, 12:26 AM:

I've just finished my own rewatch -- or rather, my rewatch of seasons 1-4 and watching season 5 mostly for the first time. When the show originally aired, I didn't have cable TV, so I missed most of season 5 when the show moved from broadcast TV to cable; I saw a few of the early episodes of the season in tapes borrowed from my aunt, but her VCR broke not long after season 5 started airing.


Having heard from several people, here and elsewhere over the years, that season 5 was a letdown after the high quality of seaons 3-4, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. There were minor annoying elements in the Byron/Lyta story, but even the worst episodes of season 5 were IMO considerably better than the average level of season 1 -- maybe better than average for season 2, as well -- and I'd rank not only "Day of the Dead" and the finale, but most of the episodes in the Centauri Prime sequence, as among the best of the whole series.

It probably helps that G'Kar is by far my favorite character in the show, and I like the way he continues to develop in season 5.

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