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So, it's that time again.  Mem is reading commentary and writing responses with the episodes much more fresh on her memory this time.  We'll see how long this lasts.  Also, JMS' comments will now be in italics.  I'm trying to find a way I like to set it apart more from my comments.  As usual, all comments taken from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5.  Sound bites are from the Down Below Sound Archive.


The War Prayer:

There is a lot going on in this episode, with not only a main plot, but two subplots that closely tie in.  Nar said it: It's intense, it starts off that way, and doesn't let up.  It tackles the loaded topic of hate crimes without shying away from it.  There's a lot of violence in this episode too, along with a near riot and the breaking of one of the best character's heart.  So, onto the comments.

"Correct; the title of "The War Prayer" is a nod to Twain's piece of the same name, which should be read by *everyone*. Given the growing problems with illiteracy, I try to refer not to pop society so much, as to literature...Tennyson, Twain, even writers whose last names don't begin with T."

I knew I loved that man.  You can't go wrong with Twain references.  Or Tennyson.  Really, I love both of them, so no arguments from me!  I remember reading that piece a long time ago for school, and it's always been very vivid to me, especially with the last line being what it is.  Also, there is a lot of amusing irony to JMS trying to make people more literate through a television show.  I wish shows today had more of that, actually.  Lord knows it might help the state of things. 

"For those out there who still think the skin tab getting through Kosh's encounter suit was an error...we're going to be dealing with that, and some other interesting threads in [this] episode. Sinclair comments on the whole question of how the poison ever got into him...and notes how curious it is that, within weeks of that incident, Dr. Kyle was transferred back to Earth to work directly with the Earth Alliance President on matters of alien immigration, and Lyta Alexander was similarly transferred a week or so after that. The only two people to have personal knowledge of a Vorlon have been shipped off and possibly locked up."

You know, sometimes I've wondered at my ability to spin details that should have been mistakes into plausible things.  It's always good to know that someone else can do the exact same thing while using issues that were beyond his control to his advantage at the same time.  That's just sneaky, JMS.  But considering that's why we love Sinclair, I'm not going to argue.

"Y'know...it's a funny old world. And sometimes it just astonishes you.

About 2 months ago, one of our freelancers turned in a script that has to do with a hate group, in the course of which a guest character -- a Minbari -- is attacked and has her head branded with the symbol of the group.

So you will doubtless understand my astonishment when I turned on DS9 and saw the same thing happen.

Unfortunately, we've already shot that episode, it's in the can, so ther nothing we can do about it now. Further -- and let me be totally clear about this -- there's no way that DS9 could've borrowed the idea from us, or in any way been influence by us, and no way we could've been influenced by them. To get on the air now, they would've had to shoot their episode some time before the writer turned in that draft for our show. And none of us were in any way aware of what was going on there until we saw it the night of the broadcast...and came in the next day with looks of absolute shock.

These things do happen...and when you're dealing with similar general areas -- humans vs. aliens, or one alien group vs. another alien group -- then something like this becomes inevitable. And given the foreheads on Ferengi, and the foreheads on Minbari, the obviousness of that target becomes clear. Still, it's amazing when it happens. And I guess I just wanted it to be clear when this thing airs that the sequence in our show was in the can and done when the DS9 episode aired."

Oops.  You know, that has really got to be a crappy feeling, having your thunder swept out from under you like that without any warning.  Especially when the Home Guard isn't just something that happens in this episode, but is slowly building.  I honestly didn't watch DS9 all that much (Not one of my favorites, really), and I don't remember that episode at all.  Even without some of the other comments though, I could have told you DS9 and B5 would handle things differently, even if the same basic plot is the same.  They're two wildly different series after all, with different aims involved.  It's just one of those 'same idea at the same time and bad timing all around' sort of things.  This far after both series aired, it's really not even important anymore, but interesting.

"We're in discussions to see if there's any way we can cut this from the show...the only problem is that the brand stays on throughout the show. If it were just in one shot, we'd cut the shot and find some other way around it. The only way we can lose it now would be if we literally wiped off the brand by going into every frame in which it appears and digitally removing it from the frame...which is a *real* pain in the butt...but we are considering it."

"The points made above are essentially correct; the brand goes on in the very top of the show, in the teaser, and stay on throughout the episode...and part of the story is dealing with this, and what it means. An offer is made to remove it, but the victim decides *not* to have it removed, because there are lessons in these things...and it becomes almost a badge of defiance.

In addition to the notes here, I've received a whole bunch of email notes saying to leave it in, on the grounds that it *does* happen in real life (or incidents close to it), and how we're handling it *is* very different. (Some indicated that it can illustrate how the two hows handle their themes in different ways.) So it's a tough call ...to change would also mean some re-shooting...but given the responses here, I think it's okay to leave it in place.

File this one away the next time someone asks, "What sort of ways has the BBS discussion actually affected Babylon 5?"
"

Okay, I'll admit it.  This tickles me.  Even in this day and age where the internet has exploded and most people are connected to it some how, you don't hear of a lot of shows directly interacting with their fanbase.  It happens occasionally, like from what I hear about the new My Little Ponies cartoon (which is, admittedly, second hand information so I could be wrong on that), but for the most part there is still that wall between the audience and the production team.  And then to have this sort of connection with JMS in the early nineties, it's just cool.  Why don't more shows have something like this?  I mean, the internet is full of ways to interact with current television shows, but nothing usually quite so frequently or impactful.  RTD, Moffat, see that?  We'd have loved you for that.  But no...  you don't listen to us. 

Ah, well.  At least there was B5.  <3

Also, for my favorite bit of this episode, listen to the sound bite here.  It's one of my favorite Londo moments.  He's such a romantic and tragic character, and this is such a sad moment for him.  He needs snuggles.  Lots of snuggles.  That, and you have to love his comment about his three wives being "Pestilence, famine, and death."  XD  Oh, Londo...



And the Sky Full of Stars:

THERE IS A HOLE IN YOUR MIND.  Because really, how else are you going to start up a conversation?  It is the theme of the arc.  How can you not love it?  This episode actually had quite a bit of unconscious influence on me too.  Seriously, my first chapter fic had a torture device very much like the one in here, and I didn't even realize it until I went back and re-watched the episode long after that chapter had been posted.  I'd totally have given it credit if I'd remembered, lol.  But when you think about it?  Controlled hallucinations are totally the best way to torture characters.  Why isn't this plot device used more often?  Think of the character torture.  Look at how well it worked in this episode and in the DW episode Amy's Choice!  Obviously, we need more sadistic authors out there.  And you don't have that nasty 'the character wakes up and finds it was all just a dream' stigma where what happens doesn't have any effect on the characters at all.  

First of all, let's start with the headlines:

Universe Today Headlines:

    Sports: Zero-G Tennis Results Inside
    Is There Something Living in Hyperspace?
    Homeguard Leader Convicted: Jacob Lester Found Guilty In Attack on Minbari Embassy
    Narns settle Raghesh 3 Controversy
    EA President Promises Balanced Budget by 2260
    Psi Corps in Election Tangle: Did Psi-Corps Violate its Charter by Endorsing Vice-President?
    San Diego Still Considered Too Radioactive for Occupancy:
    A new study published by Earthforce Nuclear Regulatory Office declares San Diego, struck by the American States first act of nuclear terrorism over 100 years ago, still uninhabitable for the next 300 years.
    SPECIAL SECTION: Pros & Cons of Interspecies Mating
    Copyright Trial Continues in Bookzap Flap: Books Downloaded Directly into Brain: Who Owns Them?
    Is There Something Living in Hyperspace? (a repeat)
    New Binary Star Discovered
    Inside: Universe Today: Babylon 5 Edition:
        Classified 5-70
        Crossword 60
        Editorial/Opinion 10-11A
        Lotteries 11C
        Horoscope 8A
        HoloComics 9E

I really love the way JMS plays with the media.  This is one of the 'newspapers' that you see briefly in a shot that the Lurker's Guide paused and typed up.  It's amazing how much they get in there, too, since the majority of it is relevant in some way.  Aside from Zero-G tennis and copyright stuffs, but honestly, when is Zero-G tennis not relevant?  And the copyright trial is actually interesting to contemplate. 

"I would *never* pull a "he wakes up and it was all a dream" on the series. I hate that kind of story."

I can't blame you for that one.  I'm usually not very fond of those myself.

"It has *always* been my sense that the body was slipped out an access airlock in the zero-g cargo area. Every other access -- like the boarding area and standard cargo area -- is under close security to prevent this kind of thing, or the influx of contraband. There's really nowhere to GO from the zero-g section, so it's a little looser. As for how he got the body there...there is an answer, and a reason, and if you look at this episode again after the season is over, even the nitpickers who brought it up will be able to figure it out. I didn't address it in the issue because I didn't think anyone would make a federal case out of this, and for other reasons that will in time become apparent. Several other nits picked at this episode will *also* be clarified by season's end. It's not easy to sit quietly, knowing the answer, and being unable to tell it, but that's simply what I have to do for the time being."

Yes, yes.  That doesn't mean we didn't hate you at the time.  Also, Nar wanted to know how they got Sinclair out of his quarters.  While they never explicitly say, upon further thought, it probably was so easy for Knight 1 and Knight 2 to do it for the same reasons as it was easy for them to slip a body out the airlock.  So be looking forward to it, basically. 

"This was one segment of the battle; there were others going on in other areas as well. It's said that no one ever *saw* the Battle of the Bulge; each saw a small part of it. Same here.

Reality is, no matter how big we would've made it, more would've been wanted. (If anything, it seems that the more we show, the more is wanted.) But all things considered, best to have folks wanting more than wanting less....

(And remember, we're managing to do all this with roughly *half* of TNG's budget. Give us their budget, and I'll show you ALL of the Battle of the Line, and the ENTIRE Earth/Minbari War, PLUS all their home worlds.)

Nonetheless, as we go deeper into the season, the CGI/action sequences do get bigger and more detailed in many places. In "Signs and Portents" (formerly "Raiding Party"), you'll see three pretty good sized squadrons of ships engaged in a very fast-paced battle that goes on for most of an act and a half, as opposed to just a few scenes in "Sky." Big battles weren't really the *point* in "Sky," it was more about his REACTIONS and his personal fate. There were a number of action/battle shots we had on hand, but decided not to use because we didn't want to dilute the *point* of the scene.

And as stated elsewhere...yes, you'll be seeing the Minbari war cruiser(s) again."

I added this comment, largely because I find it fascinating that such a fantastic series was done in half of Next Gen's budget.  Especially considering that while I do adore Next Gen, I've always thought of B5 as the more visually stunning series.  I'm sure their special effects budget had to go somewhere, but I don't think they used it nearly as effectively as they could of considering how much larger it was than B5.  It also goes to prove that sometimes making do with less is better. 

Also, it's some pretty nice reasoning for that scene of the Battle of the Line.  I like it.

"What? Who, me? Near as I remember, the Question was, "What happened at the Battle of the Line?" Answer: Sinclair was taken aboard the Minbari cruiser, tortured, interrogated, mind-wiped and shoved back into his ship.

The Question *now* is, "WHY was Sinclair taken aboard the Minbari cruiser, tortured, interrogated, mind-wiped and shoved back into his ship?"

That question was not asked heretofore...so how could it be still unanswered?"

Bastard.  Just because we love you for it, doesn't mean you aren't one.  <3

"We'd initially offered Walter [Koenig] the role of Knight Two in "Sky," but when his health prohibited using him, we went to Patrick McGoohan, who loved the script, wanted to do it, but was going to be out of the country at the time of shooting. We then shifted Walter to "Mind War.""

So, this comment was posted before.  It bears repeating.  MIND BLOWN.  It's one of those fascinating 'what if' scenarios.  Once again, given how things turned out, I'd never have changed the way the way the series panned out at all.  Bester is too awesome of a character to pass up for a one-episode character.  However, it would have been cool.  And freaky.  The guy that they got to do it was a great creeper and did a brilliant job at it, but Walter Koenig would have been truly frightening. 

"The CGI won't look as good in slow motion because we step-printed them deliberately, in order to give them a more dream-like appearance. For us, this wasn't about the ships, it was about one of the men in the ship, which is why we kept him in sharp focus, and went to step- printing whenever we went outside (and since we're seeing this from his memory, clearly he wouldn't actually have *seen* most ofthis, it's his *sense* of what happened). You'll get plenty of clear CGI in "Signs and Portents," airing in May."

That I put in here because we made some comments about the CGI of that certain bit.  And it makes sense, when done in a dream sequence.  At the same time... oh, 90's animation.  XD

"This weekend, I was at the Space Frontier Foundation to receive an award for Babylon 5 for Best Vision of the Future, part of which was its recognition of our *deliberate efforts* to get things right. Zero-G maneuvering, civilian use of space, a working O'Neill station, on and on, all the stuff you think happens by "coincidence." And which has not generally HAPPENED on TV before. In attendence were the Delta Clipper team of engineers, astronaut Pete Conrad, leading researchers with NASA, JPL, McDonnell-Douglas, you name it.

And one of the people there, who had been with SDI and the Space Program for 12 years, currently a top-level NASA consultant, pulled me aside and said that after seeing the line about the gravity not letting the body get very far . . . he said he sat down to do the math required to come up with the actual MASS of B5, starting with the 2.5 million tons of actual structure, plus likely vegetation, quarters, occupants, ships docked inside...and when you add it all up, it came to about the same mass as a fairly small moon...and IT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO KEEP THE BODY FROM -- AS STATED IN THE SCRIPT -- GETTING VERY FAR.

The body would drift from the station a bit, get pulled back, hit the hull, bounce, drift a bit, and be pulled back. Or go into a slow elliptical orbit. (He mentioned that in the history of the Apollo program, little bits of debris that would flake off the outside of the ship would remain in proximity to the ship, just on the basis of ITS mass and gravity, and it's not very big.)

A couple of other high-level engineers backed him up, and said that it was quite reasonable."

I think he enjoyed that one.  Erin might snicker at some of the tech on there, but they do at least attempt to do things right.  Which is more than other series can say, lol.  I'd have been fairly smug waving that around disbeliever's faces too.

"'Universe Today' Headline
I lived in San Diego from 1974-1981, and it's actually a great place, so I'm inclined to tweak it once in a while, just for funsies...."

Meanie.  I like San Diego.  I loved living there.  It always makes me want to cry a little inside when he makes references to it being radio active and bombed to smithereens. 



Deathwalker:

Moral fuckery, part 1!  Though really, it's got nothing on Believers.  Still, it's a nice little moral quandary that has no pleasant solution and is only solved by Vorlon trolling.  Really, they saved us on that one, so we should be thanking them.

"The Hour of Scampering is usually around tea-time, according to the Vorlon/Human Translation Dictionary."

We wondered.

"How do Vorlons scamper?
The Vorlons do not scamper terribly well, but no one has yet told them this."

ROFL.  Nice one, JMS. That amused me greatly.

""Understanding is a three-edged sword."
The three edges: your side, my side, and the truth in between."

Gotta love them Vorlons.

"Your statement about the serum being a means of getting to the truth or her truth at the very least is quite correct. And appropos to current reality. We look back at the Nazis, and others, and say, "Well, WE could never do that." But of course we could. Fine tune your attention to the frequency of misery and inhumanity, and in short order you'll pick up Rwanda, and Bosnia and a host of others. Our capacity for greatness is as substantial as our capacity for evil. And we must constantly be reminded of that duality; to pretend it simply isn't there, or is somebody else's problem, inevitably leads to tragedy. (For those interested, btw, I would encourage you to check out a short story by Mark Twain, called "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg." I think you will find it *most* illuminating.)"

This quote.  Urgh.  "Our capacity for greatness is as substantial as our capacity for evil" has always resonated with me.  And the reality is that such a serum would be legitimately terrifying if it actually existed.  Like the Philosopher's Stone in Fullmetal Alchemist, there would still be people who would try to make it, no matter the cost.  I have no problem believing Jha'dur's comments that we would tear each other apart to create the serum.

"Jim, your thesis comes from the underlying assumption that, as in the Trek universe, All Things Must Be Done Fairly, the government must in the end be wise and fair and sensible.

That ain't our universe. That ain't even *this* universe.

Sinclair must follow orders. He didn't want to escort Deathwalker off and on to Earth, those were his marching orders. *The same marching orders would be given to an ambassador representing Earth*. So your career diplomat would be in exactly the same position. What, do you think that career diplomats are independent agents of goodness? They all work for SOMEone, representing their interests.

Earth put in the majority of the money required to build and operate B5. They have the right, as such, to appoint a provisional governor, nad (and) that is the function that Sinclair mainly serves. He runs this place, AND he is responsible for maintaining good relations with other representatives. He is also on a short leash. And in some cases, as in "By Any Means Necessary," other people are sent in to handle certain kinds of negotiations.

Yes, it is a conflict of interest. So what? Do you think Earth cares much about that? Is it awkward? Yes, of course. It *should* put him in moral quandries. The Earth Government is constantly getting him into binds. What they wanted him to do in "Deathwalker" was more or less of a dubious nature. But in the end, he found a fairly moral solution to the problem. That's what he does. He finds anhonorable way out of very difficult and morally ambiguous situations. What you suggest is that we remove the moral ambiguities. Ehhh. I find that boring as hell.

Do the other species like it? Of course not. Okay, so what're they going to do? Boycott B5? And let other species take advantage of all the economic and political benefits the station provides? Let others grow in familiarity and form alliances that might in time turn against them? Not a chance. Fair or not, it's the only game in town.

So I don't buy your solution because I don't think it's a problem. You do. That's life. Political situations are rarely fair, or logical, or ethical. If politics were based on ethics this would be a MUCH better world. But politics are generally based on who has the power, and the money, and the guts."

And this is why we like B5.  It doesn't white wash things like people want them too.  Instead, it throws the moral ambiguities out there that make people uncomfortable and you don't always get a black and white answer.  And it's interesting from a character standpoint, because you've got Sinclair in a right fix.  He's a very ethical and good man, who is caught up in a no-win situation and is doing his best to find a solution that will appease everyone and his conscience.  In the end, his conscience is the one that has to be compromised.  Luckily for him, the Vorlons decided that they weren't ready for immortality yet.  XD

"Talia, like all Psi Corps members, wears gloves because she has to, when in public, to minimize physical contact and accidental scans. As for others wearing gloves...sometimes it's a fashion statement ... and other times, well, space is very very cold...."

Aka, really, someone in the costume department just likes gloves.  XD  I've always liked the fact that telepaths have to wear gloves in the Psi Corps.  It's a great little detail that is used brilliantly as the series progresses.  Telepaths are stronger with skin connecting to skin, so gloves help prevent that contact.

""Kosh's voice-the rumblings and bells and stuff, not the translation- seemed to be missing a lot of the lower tones and bass that I remembered hearing previously."

He had a cold."

Again, this just amuses the hell out of me.

"Re: B5's roster of strong women characters...this is something of a bugaboo/obsession with me. I *love* writing strong women. (For that matter, I love strong-willed, independent, smart women in real life as well; I love being outsmarted, love it when someone can go toe-to- toe with me on something.) Generally, and this isn't entirely intentional, women on shows I work on tend to get some of the best lines, as is often the case with Ivanova. It's not a case of being "one of the boys," but being one of the *people*. There's a subtle difference.

The women I write are often very close to many of the women I've been involved with over the years. So far, no one's sued...."

Now, if only more male writers would come around to this point of view.  And personally, I love the fact he throws in Women Who Are In Charge at us as much as possible.  While I'm not that big of a Buffy and Angel fan, from what I understand Joss Whedon has similar thoughts on the subject.  So, obviously, it can be done.  We just need to get everyone else caught up with where humanity should be by now.  And besides, you get such great lines like this one.

That said, Nar had a point with this episode.  This is where we learn that in their spare time Vorlons like to troll people.  Seriously, between the ending and what Kosh does to Talia, there was a lot of trolling going around.  And for some reason, it's easy to picture Kosh with the troll head meme.  XD



Believers:

So.  This episode.  It is a moral mind fuck.  And I do not use this term lightly; it really is a moral mind fuck that is quite disturbing in a lot of ways.  Most of my flist is familiar with Torchwood, so let me put it this way: Imagine Children of Earth, but instead of actively condemning the politicians for giving in and handing over the children, it's written in such a way that this is given as an absolutely plausibly and good moral decision based on the fact it's all they can do to save lives.  The ending is left open so that neither Jack's nor their way is condemned, yet still neither of them win.  Which is basically what this episode does, though the moral issue is completely different. 

Perhaps if I had seen this episode later in life, I would like it more.  As it was, I was...  Damn.  I just did the math for when this was first aired.  I've been saying thirteen or so (which I was for part of the series, at least), but really I was nine when the first season came out.  So yeah, this episode fucked with my little nine year old head.  I thought I was older, lol, though I really shouldn't be surprised considering how bad I am with dates.  Really, can you blame me for hating this episode as I do?  When I was younger, this episode really disturbed me, and I had to have a few long discussions with my parents about it before I could settle down on the matter.  Which isn't to say this is not a fantastic and brilliant episode, because really it is.  And I would be one of the first to say that it's one of the must see episodes from the series.  It does what a lot of people would be terrified to do in the television/movie industry even today.  That doesn't mean I have to like it. 

"By the way, here's something interesting: an outline got turned in this week for an episode which I won't identify just now. Came in from one of our writers, based on an assigned premise. It's something you've never seen done in ANY SF-TV series, and I don't think has ever been done in TV overall. A very daring little story.

Word finally came back from our liaison with PTEN. "Number one, this is absolutely against the demographics on the show. Number two, no studio or network executive in his right *mind* would EVER approve this story in a million years. Number three...it's a hell of a story, I love it, let's do it."

This has been emblematic of our relationship with PTEN: they've left us alone, and are trusting us in our storytelling. We want to go right out to the very edge, and they're letting us, which is wonderful. They've been, and continue to be, terrific to work with.

If the end of this particular story doesn't absolutely floor you, nothing will."

WE LOVE YOU, PTEN!!!  Why, oh, why, did you have to die?  TNT, while it did save Babylon 5 at first, also screwed the series over royally and we won't even go into Crusade.  >.>  Also, this pretty much sums up the episode in a nutshell.  I haven't seen it done in any series before or since, so really, JMS isn't being overly ambitious with that statement.

"When I developed the basic Believers story, and was looking for someone to assign it to, David was the first person we went to. He asked me at the time why him...he's more generally associated with humorous stuff. I had my reasons. See, lately, David adopted a young boy, about the same age as Shon. So about halfway into the outline, David called and said, "NOW I understand." I knew that having a child of his own now would mean that the story would be a lot more personal. Especially the end scene, which I knew would have to be done *very* carefully. I think David did a great job, and under his guidance it turned into a very moving episode. And with any luck, he'll write more down the road."

Have I mentioned JMS can be a bastard at times?  God, I'd have hated him if he did that to me.  Still, it makes for good stories, so I'm not going to argue, lol.

"I know from pfingle eggs...I let David have the reference because... well, I don't know anymore...I think water torture was involved."

Yes, JMS, we are well aware of your feelings toward cute things.  Claiming water torture is a bit extreme though.  XD

"Excuse me....

You don't think that "Believers" was SF. Tough.

No, it didn't have warp gates, or tachyon emitters, or lots of technobabble...it was about people. And the dilemmas they face.

Part of what has screwed up so much of SF-TV is this sense that you must utterly divorce yourself from current issues, from current problems, from taking on issues of today and extrapolating them into the future, by way of aliens or SF constructs. And that is *precisely* why so much of contemporary SF-TV is barren and lifeless and irrelevant...and *precisely* why such series as the original Star Trek, and Outer Limits, and Twilight Zone are with us today.

Like Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry and Joe Stefano and Reginald Rose and Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin and a bunch of other writers whose typewriters I'm not fit to touch, my goal in part is to simply tell good stories within an SF setting. And by SF I mean speculative fiction, which sometimes touches on hard-SF aspects, and sometimes doesn't. Speculative fiction means you look at how society changes, how cultures interact with one another, how belief systems come into conflict. And as someone else here noted recently, anthropology and sociology are also sciences; soft sciences, to be sure, but sciences nonetheless.

It's been pointed out that TV-SF is generally 20-30 years behind print SF. This whole conversation proves the point quite succinctly. In the 1960s or so, along came the New Wave of SF, which eschewed hardware for stories about the human condition set against an SF background. And the fanzines and prozines and techno-loving pundits of hard-SF declared it heresy, said it wasn't SF, this is crap. And eventually they were steamrolled, and print SF grew up a little. Now the argument has come to settle here. Well, fine. So be it.

I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who said that SF is anything I point to and say, "That's SF." Go pick up a copy of "A Canticle for Liebowitz," one of the real singular masterpieces of the science fiction genre, and it won't fit the narrow criteria you've set up for what qualifies as SF by your lights.

There is a tendency among the more radical hard-SF proponents to stamp their feet and hold their breath until they turn blue, to threaten that unless the book changes or the field comes around or the series cottens to *their* specific, narrow version of what SF is -- and that definition changes from person to person -- they'll take their ball and their bat and go home. Fine and good. And the millions who come to take their place in the bleachers and on the field will get to have all the fun.

Some of our episodes will fit your definition of SF. Some will not. This worries me not at all."

Actually, it surprises and baffles me that someone didn't think this was scifi.  Not to mention it's extremely relevant even today (just think of abortion).  And I, for one, am glad that Babylon 5 doesn't shy away from religious themes, which is at the heart of this episode.  I'll admit it, I'm generally a lot more religious than most scifi fans tend to be.  That said, it was always just a little disappointing to me when I grew up and found that most other scifi really avoids religious and spiritual plots.  Babylon 5, you have set my standards too high.  Me being religious is probably one of the reasons I dislike this episode so much, because it's a very, very personal issue.  This sort of moral dilemma is really at the heart of what science fiction is supposed to do.  It's supposed to make you think, to push boundaries, and to make you uncomfortable.  Which is exactly what this story does, making it feel very scifi to me.  I would probably end up taking the side of the parents if forced to chose, and that's no easy choice, nor, potentially, a popular one.

"I'm not quite sure if we're talking about the same thing; the two parents never said that the kid would die if he underwent the surgery, only that his soul would escape. This would leave him "soul-dead," for lack of a better phrase. And how are we to tell that they weren't right? I don't think it's quite as cut and dried as you seem to present. (And again, they were acting very much out of their real beliefs of how the universe operates. If someone here is injured, and declared brain dead, most folks think it's okay to pull the plug...even though one could make the argument that there's still a living soul in the body. This is the opposite situation; one may argue that there is still a mind somewhere in the body, but the soul is dead or gone. The phrase they use is that they put the shell out of its misery. To their mind, he was dead already.)"

Now, see, this is exactly why this episode is so fucked up, and so incredibly brilliant at the same time.  And again, very much relevant and applicable to the current day.

"Actually, I disagree when you say that the doctor was right. Says who? Not the parents. Not the episode. Nobody was really right, when you come down to it, except maybe Sinclair, who made the correct call. You say the boy was okay at the end...the parents didn't think so. Who's to say if there was or wasn't a soul inside?

I think David's script walked a very fine line and really didn't endorse either side. (I've had people send me email upset because we showed that the parents were right, and others because we said the doctor was right, and others because neither was right and the ambiguity bothered them.)"

The latter is pretty much the reason it bothered me when I was nine, and still bothers me today.  >.>  Yeah, I'll be one of the first to admit that I was probably far too young to be watching this show.  Didn't stop me in the slightest, and I can tell you I cried myself to sleep after a couple episodes.  The thing is, my parents talked to me about it when it made me upset, which I think is a lot of what parents don't do today.  Given the choice between watching Babylon 5 when I was too young and having that parental support, or either not having B5 or finding it on my own, I'd take the former every time.  It's as I was cautioning one of my co-workers who has a thirteen year old that likes anime and manga.  The absolute last thing you ever want to do to a kid is ban something that they have easy access to.  Anime and manga is now huge enough that they're going to get into whether you want them to or not.  Instead, you limit and you monitor every step of the way (which is, again, what my parents did for me: watching it with me and making sure I didn't get into anything too deep), so that they have a more controlled entrance into things you might not want them to see.  You can't shelter kids, but you can help them.  Sadly, most parents don't want to put forth that effort.  Sigh. 

Sorry.  Didn't mean to go off on a rant there... ^_^;;;

"Afterthought: I just wandered into the kitchen, still ranting (as I am wont to do), explained it to Kathryn...who brought me up short (as *she* is wont to do) by pointing out the antecedent to BOTH stories. The ultimate "hard choice" example in SF-TV is of course "The City on the Edge of Forever," fromST. There are only two choices, both hard: either Edith Keeler dies, or the Nazis win WW II. Kirk *has* to let her die; there's no other choice.

It is, at the same moment, gratifying and annoying to have someone around who's smarter than I am...."

There are so many, many things about this statement that I love.  So many.  Also, I love that episode of Star Trek.  The both stories he's talking about, btw, is Believers and one he also wrote for Twilight Zone with more moral quandaries.  I didn't post a couple of those comments because he's basically saying the same thing he did earlier when people are continuing to be particularly dense about it.  XD

So yeah.  It's a dense episode that I still haven't quite forgiven them for, but hey.  That bitterness is totally that of my nine year old self, so I'm all for admitting it's a good episode regardless. 

And, because it's one of Cy's favorite parts, Ivanova on knitting.



Survivors:

I suppose this isn't a very memorable episode for me, though I enjoy it and like it.  I don't know why, just never seem to remember what it's about.  ^_^;;;  It is a good episode, too. 

"What's most ironic about the freelance situation is that you often have people who say, "Straczynski oughta use more freelance writers, they bring in perspectives he doesn't have." They cite the "moment of perfect beauty" in Peter's script ["There All the Honor Lies"], Londo's "my shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance," ["The War Prayer"] the alien abductor courtroom scene in Grail, Deathwalker's comments about how she plans to create her monument...all of which are scenes or sections I wrote and inserted into scripts by other people. (One of my best lines for G'Kar is one I'm not credited for, in Zicree's script, "The universe runs on the complex interweaving of three elements: energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest." I actually saw some messages noting that jms never seems to be able to write something that succinct. Well, actually...I did.)"

Irony.  This statement is full of it.  XD  I don't know if I'd like being a freelancer, what with it being implicit that the head writer/producer would get to mess around with it.  They'd have to, to make the series flow.  I'm sure that (for the most part, practical jokes and one-upsmanship not withstanding.  I'm looking at you, teddy bear) the writers are usually told of such changes, especially on a set where the writers are encouraged and expected to take part of filming like Babylon 5 was, but still.  I'm not sure how I'd feel about that.  I think I'd do what JMS did... which was to make sure he was in charge of most things concerning the writing of his baby.  XD

"The *reason* we had Garibaldi go through all the hoops he went through before finally falling into the bottle is because simply having Liana show up and depress Garibaldi isn't, frankly, sufficient motivation. I don't buy it. We wanted to strip away everything he had, and leave him with only *himself*. So we took away his job, his reputation, his money, his home, neutralized his friends wherever possible...it was deliberate and systematic to peel him down to the bare essentials, to just Garibaldi. Take him all the way down before taking him back up again. Because it's more dramatically interesting. It's more logical that it would take something this major to drive him back into the bottle after staying sober all this time. I'm sorry, I don't accept your suggestion that Liana's "anger and accusations" would "drive him over the edge as he deals with his guilt." He's BEEN dealing with his guilt, and her showing up wouldn't be enough to drive him back into the bottle again. I'm sorry, but as a producer or a story editor, I wouldn't buy that from a writer as being sufficient motivation. Particularly not a character who's as strong and as bull-headed as Garibaldi."

"What do I know about alcoholics, to portray them? Well, aside from a degree in clinical psychology, and some internship work in the area, I come from a family with alcoholism going back at least four generations, and I'm talking *heavy duty*. I am, in fact, the first male Straczynski in my branch of this particular stunted tree NOT to have this problem.

I have had far, far, far more experience with this area than I care to recite...and from that perspective, I have no problem with Garibaldi's portrayal.
"

I'm going to tend to agree with that, especially considering the fifth season.  If anything, I think they went really lightly on Garibaldi in this episode, which is the opposite of what this person was trying to point out to JMS. 

Hm...  Actually, not a lot to say about this episode.  It's fairly straight forward.  Some great Ivanova moments and a scene between Garibaldi and Londo that I particularly adore, though.  So it was a good one, in my book. 



By Any Means Necessary:

Again, another episode I don't watch frequently.  Nar summed it up by saying that the subplot was a bit more interesting than the main plot.  Which isn't to say the main plot wasn't interesting, but not as gripping as some of the other episodes have been.

"As for happy endings...you want some variety, I think; we had a tough ending in "Believers," a bittersweet ending in "Survivors," and here things worked out for G'Kar and Connoly, but in a way did *not* work out for Sinclair. He's going to be hearing about this decision of his again, in the not too distant future. He's getting further and further behind the eight-ball with some of these decisions, and he's going to get hammered about it."

Consequences.  Like religion, it's fantastic when shows don't shy away from them. 

"Kathryn's last name is Drennan. Her full credit is Kathryn M. Drennan. Not Straczynski. Probably displaying considerable wisdom on her part. Ten thousand letters, no vowels."

Once again, this just amuses me. 

"One thing I can mention now, since it's nearly finished: see, I have this real problem with nepotism. Specifically...I hate it. As a result, I make people I know work twice as hard. The closer the tie, the more the person has to work to prove him or herself.

Kathryn Drennan, my Spousal Overunit, is also a writer, and has written for many other shows, primarily in animation, but with some forays into other areas. (She was co-author on the Night Gallery series of articles I wrote for Twilight Zone Magazine, as one fr'instance, and was a producer with public televison for some time.)

Anyway, she desperately wanted to write a B5 script. But because of my feelings about nepotism, I refused to give her an assignment. (I can be a REAL pain in the ass.) Something similar happened when I was working on The Real Ghostbusters; she loved the show, and wanted to write for it. I put her through the wringer: she had to submit written premises, just like any other freelance writer, which were then sent on to the producers for final approval. They did not know of any relation between her and me; they based their approval only on the merits of the story. Period. And she ended up writing two episodes: "Egon's Dragon" and "The Man Who Never Reached Home." (The former is considered a favorite by many viewers of the show.) Only long after we finished production did the exec producers on TRGBs learn that there was a relationship there; it was all based on the quality of the work.

But in the case of B5, I *am* the exec producer, so it became more difficult. At first I said simply no. Finally, I set into place a number of conditions/provisions. NOT because she wouldn't do a great script, but only because I don't like the look of nepotism; I hate it, and I hate the way this town operates on the principles of nepotism. The conditions were that she had to write the script completely on spec, no assignment; not a spec outline, which is shorter, but a spec *script*. It would then have to pass muster in-house; if even one person thought it wasn't up to snuff, it got deep sixed. And revisions would not be handled by me, for the most part; she would have to work with Larry, who has a reputation (as Katherine Lawrence can attest) to not pulling his punches. No favoritism. Then the script would have to pass muster with Warners. IF, after all that, the script was approved, then it would be bought, and not a moment before. If anywhere along the line it didn't meet one of those criteria...then it would be a 50 page learning experience and nothing more.

Well, I'm pleased to say that it *did* pass muster with everyone, and "By Any Means Necessary" is now over halfway through production, with a number of people -- including Michael O'Hare -- saying it's their favorite so far, mainly for very odd reasons. The premise is one that ST would never, EVER do, which is one thing I like about it; it also shows us more on the inner workings of B5, the blue-collar types who keep the whole place operational...and what happens when that falls apart. The B story gets into a confrontation between G'Kar and Londo when Londo interferes in an important Narn religious observation."

I never realized that one was written by his spouse.  :o  And really, the whole G'kar and Londo thing was just brilliant.  It was an extremely amusing subplot.  Plus, Sneaky Sinclair is sneaky, and really, that's when we love him best.  <3



So, that's about it for this watch-a-long.  Which, btw, if you're interested in joining just let me know.  They've been fairly spur of the moment things so far, but there's no reason why we can't have more people. 

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
narwhale_callin
Feb. 21st, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
We will meet in Red 5 at the hour of trolling.



**resists urge to now make a HOLE IN YOUR MIND icon** <_<
narwhale_callin
Feb. 21st, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
Also, will comment properly later, fyi.
dragonofmemory
Feb. 21st, 2012 01:11 am (UTC)
I just want to say your icon amuses me greatly. XD

I need some B5 icons. Sadly, good pictures are hard to find. T_T
narwhale_callin
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:08 am (UTC)
I figured that if we were gonna keep talking about B-5 all the time, I'd need to make myself an icon for the occasion.

Are the ones you found stealable? I'm debating whether or not I want the HOLE IN YOUR MIND one.
dragonofmemory
Feb. 21st, 2012 12:37 pm (UTC)
It is always good to dress for the occasion.

I didn't see any notice to the contrary and it's a contest comm. I mostly commented and credited, since I didn't see general disclaimers.
narwhale_callin
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:14 am (UTC)
After looking at your profile picture collection.
My god. What have I done. I made you get B-5 icons. (And yet I'm still left wondering why you never had any before now.)

Also, your Bester icon is TOTALLY AWESOME. Super jealous.
dragonofmemory
Feb. 21st, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
Re: After looking at your profile picture collection.
I didn't have any before because every time I looked I couldn't find any. This time when I searched, I found awesome com.

I know, isn't it? How can you not love Bester? <3
narwhale_callin
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
Re: After looking at your profile picture collection.
**makes inappropriate fangirl squeal noises at Bester icon**

HIS EYES ARE LIKE SEX ARROWS. DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE BUT DON'T CARE. TIGERS LEAPING.
dragonofmemory
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
Re: After looking at your profile picture collection.
It is definitely a fun icon. Evil Bester likes his coffee like he likes his Psi rating - stronger than anyone else's. XD

You and those tigers... O_o
narwhale_callin
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
Re: After looking at your profile picture collection.
Lord, you now have the equivalent of the Brigadier eyebrow icon except B-5 flavoured.

They make for mighty similes.
dragonofmemory
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
Re: After looking at your profile picture collection.
Yup. Garibaldi is just awesome like that. You don't mess with him. And you don't make him go to Grey Sector, because then he gets cranky. Well, crankier.
dragonofmemory
Feb. 21st, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
Also, in a quest to find something usable, I found these:

http://babylon5contest.livejournal.com/354533.html
dragonofmemory
Feb. 27th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Okay, so my mother and I have been watching bit of the season 3. You are in for one hell of a ride. It gets so intense. <3
narwhale_callin
Feb. 27th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
Is the proper reaction supposed to be fear?

**SCARED FACE** D:
dragonofmemory
Feb. 27th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)
The proper reaction is to be prepared for the awesome epic-ness. There is nothing to be afraid of. The Corps is Mother. The Corps is Father. XD
narwhale_callin
Feb. 27th, 2012 03:07 am (UTC)
THE CORPS ISN'T HELPING. D:
dragonofmemory
Feb. 27th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
Sorry. Can't talk. Heart being broken by the episode that made me cry myself to sleep when I was 12. Because after watching Sleeping in Light, my mother and I are apparently that masochistic.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )