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Super marathon!  We pushed through to the end of the first season, so there will be a lot this time.  I'll probably break this up into two or three posts. As usual, all comments taken from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5.

Signs and Portents:

"Funny story. Saw Ed Wasser ("Morden") the other day, and asked him if he'd had any reaction to his first appearance on the show. Just one, he said. He was in a florist shop, picking out some stuff for a friend who was sick. The proprieter came over, asked, "What do you want?" Ed sorta mumbled about wanting some flowers. "What do you want?" the owner asked again. Ed -- still not getting it -- said he was looking for some nice stuff for a friend who was sick. "Yes, but what do you *want*?" the owner asked. At which point Ed finally twigged to what was going on. He said afterward that it really *is* an unnerving approach, which was kinda the point.

Of course, the owner then added that he thought the scene was from DS9, but what the hell, it's an imperfect universe."

Okay, that just amuses me greatly.  The fact that it took him so long to get it, and then only to realize how unnerving it is made me laugh.  And then there's the whole bit about it being from DS9, but hey.  At least this person remembered the scene?

"One lovely thing about "Signs and Portents," which you picked up on, is something I like to play with; implying one thing while saying the opposite. Look at all the shadow's main representative, Morden, does: he asks people what they want; he gets tossed out of Delenn's quarters; he is pleasant in his demeanor at all times, never yells, always smiles, and is courteous; he takes an action which saves one of our main characters, Londo, from disgrace and resignation, and helps in the process of scragging the bad guys in the episode.

And yet everyone walks away thinking that the shadows are bad. Which was of course the intent...by the way in which they did "good."

Kosh prevents humanity from achieving immortality, scares the hell out of Talia (cf. "Deathwalker",) never gives anyone a straight answer, doesn't seem to mind it if people fear him...and we walk away with the presumption that he is good, by virtue of the way in which he did things that were "bad."

[...] This is something I do a lot in my scripts, which I don't generally see a lot of other people doing. You *really* have to construct the script very carefully to pull something like this off...a little game between me and the audience.

Sneaky Straczynski is very sneaky.  I don't know if I've ever even thought about it like that.  It's so true though.  Kosh is a huge troll, yet everyone likes him.  And the minute Mr. Morden comes in, you get the sense of evil creeper.  WHAT DO YOU WANT?  XD 

"Morden tried to find out what the ambassadors would like. Morden arranged to rescue an important Centauri artifact. Morden helped wipe out the crooks. Morden saved Londo's career, and asked for nothing in return.

And yet we get the sense that Morden is a bad guy.

Kosh destroys our chance for immortality. Refuses to get involved in the affairs of others. Is plainly studying us. Terrorizes one of our main characters, Talia, for unknown reasons.

And yet we get the sense that Kosh is a good guy.

If anyone should ask, I really *love* writing this show...."

More of the same of the above, but put in here as well because of that last line.  I see how it is, JMS.  You just like toying with us.  Then again, after hearing about what he did to a few of the alien extras on the set, I'm so not surprised...  He's a loveable bastard, but a bastard nonetheless.

"Actually, the origin of "What do you want?" comes from encounter groups I've run, and from other kinds of group psychotherapy, such as the original Synanon games; you ask, "Who are you?" over and over, refusing to take the same answer twice, to peel away the fabric of what the person is. It's a slight jump to "What do you want?" (I knew that degree in Psychology would come in handy one of these days.)"

More proof that he really just wants to mess with people's minds.  This is why I don't make friends with people who major in Psychology.  >.>

""jms, what do YOU want?"

I'll have fries with that."

*shakes head*

"I named them Shadows after the Jungian notion of the Shadow, which is the part of the mind which is all desire, and is destructive."

Hm.  Now  that actually is really interesting, especially knowing what we know from later episodes.  There's not much more I can say to that which isn't spoiler-ish though, so I shall just leave it at that.

"David: you hit it *exactly* on the head. Again, as you point out, stuff here operates on a lot of different levels. I try, where I can, to make a given scene do more than one thing. The hall argument is a good example of this. The script stipulated a human being stuck between G'Kar and Londo. Not any other race. Had to be a human. Because that becomes emblematic of how we're stuck between the two sides in the war, something which is *very* strongly brought home in the next batch of episodes.

Obviously, the first most important thing in that scene is just the gag, the humor. It has to work on that level, and that's how it came to me first: just the gag. Then, when it came time to write it, that's when I start poking at things to see if I can layer on another level of meaning, and I saw a way to do a little (very little) visual foreshadowing of stuff to come. Didn't matter if anybody ever noticed it or not; it was never really intended to be of much note, just a little item that becomes a nice bit of irony later."

And this is one of the reasons we love JMS, even in our mumblings.  LAYERS.  I like layers.  <3  And it is an amusing scene.

"Overall, though, I've always told Chris to push it...to go absolutely as far with the music as he wants. If it goes too far, we can always pull it back or duck it down a little. Basically, I'm a rock-and-roll kind of guy...I like my music loud, and I like a LOT of it. This show is often wall-to-wall music. Chris often composes as much as 20-25 minutes of new music per episode; most hour shows have maybe 13-16 minutes of music per hour episode. And he is often called upon by us to do some VERY long cues. Often, TV music is just there to cover a transition (10-20 seconds), or establish a mood at the top or bottom of a scene, and get out (1 minute to 1 minute-30 seconds average). We have many, MANY cues on this show that go 2, 3, even 4 minutes. I think we actually had a 6 minute cue at one point in one episode. Check act 3 of "Signs and Portents" and see how much music we crammed into that act; it's almost non-stop."

Ah, music talk.  That's actually something I've been noticing a lot this time around, is all the music.  It makes it rather startling when there is a scene that goes without, as with when Garibaldi was searching the cargo in Chrysalis.  Which was brilliant, because this was the starting of an extremely tense couple of scenes, and you're left being unsettled because something you're used to having is suddenly not there.  More on Chrysalis later though.

Over all thoughts on the episode: Mr. Morden!  Oh, Morden.  There is so, so much going on here than just the introduction of a new character, and it's awesome.  Also SPACE BATHROOMS.  Yeah.  I know.  That scene should not have impressed me as much as it did, but the space bathrooms were interesting.  It's always nice seeing Ivanova be the one to take out her Starfury, too.  I like Ivanova kicking butt, both physically and leading in battle. 


"Through a miscommunication, Warners thought TKO was in the slot in which we'd placed Quality [of Mercy], so that went out to TV Guide, and it's now too late to change the order back. Doesn't matter; neither are really arc-stories, though it was hoped to hold back some of Susan's development in TKO just a tad longer."

lol.  That's a bit of an oops.  I can see why Quality of Mercy would be better a bit earlier on in the season, if just because the machine in that episode comes into play again a bit later, and having some more time between uses would have been nice.  But I also won't say no to more Susan character development.  At the same time, TKO is a much weaker episode compaired to Quality of Mercy, so having it in the middle rather than the second to last episode is a mixed blessing.

"Now, on the samovar issue...whatever your background, if your family grew up in Russia and has been there for several hundred years or more -- and the Ivanov family has been there since at LEAST the 1800s -- you do become part of the culture. That, as I always understood it, was part of the reason for making sure children learned hebrew, yiddish *and* the dominant language of the culture, to give their kids a fighting chance in a difficult world. It's not so much a case of the culture assimiliating the individual (though certainly that happens as well), but the individual INCORPORATING the culture.

Ivanova is jewish. Ivanova is russian. Of the two, she tends to see herself as a russian first. There's no value statement there, that's just the way she is. Her parents were both russian, going back many generations on both sides. Some in her family tree were jewish, and some were not; there was some intermarrying. That may be part of why she sees herself as more russian than jewish, but it may be just a quirk.

(And to the protest of, "Well, you created her," yes, I did. But there comes a time, if you've done your job right as a writer, when the character more or less takes over, and starts telling YOU who and what he or she is. There are times I mentally turn to Ivanova and say, "Okay, what do *you* think?" And she talks to me in my head, as do all of my characters. It's part of making your characters real.)

When she went off to boarding school overseas -- part of an ongoing international system put into place by EarthGov to help its various member nations get along with one another -- she identified most strongly with that russian aspect in relation to those around her. She learned to speak English without a perceptible accent.

The samovar is a valued and valuable part of russian life. It is the family hearth, on one level, a possession passed on from generation to generation. Knowing that Ivanova was not terribly religious herself, he would generally not leave her any of his personal religious artifacts, but would dnate them to the local synagogue, while some, like a menorah, might go to other relatives. People who could appreciate them and use them. The samovar is a very personal object; to the correspondent with a fiance who is russian...*I* am byeloruss, white-russian, one-and-a-half generation American born. And I can tell you that the biggest fights I've ever seen over bequeaths were over a) money, and b) the samovar.

The problem with this discussion is that it has very little to do with who Susan Ivanova *is*, and more to do with the politics of what a russian or a jew or a russian jew *should be*. She is what she is, like it or not."

I'm wondering why this person asked at all, considering Ivanova states in the episode that she doesn't consider herself a jew anymore, but hey.  It's one of those times that I wish I had the discussion that JMS was responding to.  It seems like it's mostly over reacting though.  I do like what JMS says about asking the characters though.  Really, that's how characters work.  At least, that's how they work in my head too, at any rate.  I'm not really the one who has the final say on what they will or will not do, they are.  Also, now I kind of want to see Ivanova using the samovar.  It was pretty.  XD

"What was that Harlan Ellison book Ivanova was reading?
The book is Harlan's autobiography, which he plans to write around the year 2000, and yes, that's his photo. (He borrowed the prop when we were finished and casually carried it with him to a few places, just to make people nuts thinking there was a book out they'd missed....)"

And now you're helping other people mess with everyone else's minds.  Still, almost want to do that now, get a mock up of like, a fake Harry Potter book and carry it around with me to see how many fans flip out.  XD

"As I've noted before, over the long haul, as you watch episodes, you will see things you didn't see before. Sometimes they're clues, and sometimes they're comments which now read a different way than they did the first time you saw them. There's been a number of the latter very subtly sprinkled through the episodes aired so far...lines that everyone jumped on as meaning one thing, but which will mean something else, and lines which nobody thought much of the first time out...but which will elicit a wince of irony later on.

There's a corker in "TKO," but at the moment, it's absolutely invisible. It's not a clue, it's not necessary for the story, it's just one of those things that, after you've seen all the rest of this season's episodes, you will go "Ouch," when you see it next."

>.>  Yes, I see it.  And yes, we hate you for it.  And love you for it.  Both at the same time.

"There's a Billy Joel song, where one particular lyric (and I'm quoting from memory) says, "You still have a pain inside you / That you carry with a certain pride / It's the only part / Of a broken heart / You could ever save." That's Ivanova.

She's had her heart stomped on a lot. And she's been holding it in. Even with her father's death, she sucked in the pain, fought back the tears. There is one episode, which will be right at the end of the year, where she finds she can't run from her pain anymore...can't run from the tears...and deals with them in a scene that's very moving and absolutely brings tears to the eyes."

Just admit it, JMS.  You like tormenting characters every bit as much as I do.  You also like tormenting people for pscyology.  In some ways, you're worse than me.  Still, it works for me.

Episode overall:  The A plot to this one was really kind of meh.  We could do with out it, which is sad considering how much I adore Garibaldi.  All episodes with him should be awesome.  But the whole Ivanova sitting Shiva plot was very good and well done in my opinion.  She needed ALL THE HUGS.  And I loved the outfit she wore to it as well. 


"In an earlier version of the story, it was indeed Kosh who appeared out of nowhere and scragged the Feeder, saying, "Some things we do not allow," but it seemed kinda un-Kosh-like on one level, and it repeated the Deathwalker finish, so it was dropped."

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiinteresting.  I think I agree with that, not being very Kosh-like.  It would have been bad ass though, having Kosh just waltz in and take care of that shit.  XD

"I don't think I've really said that much about "Grail." The trick, though, is that I don't approach the episodes in quite the same way that a viewer does. I have somewhat different agendas and goals, and there are times when hassles in *doing* the episode -- which in no way affect the show itself - - affects my *perception* of the episode.

I did a small screening of "Grail" here about a week ago, to get some other reactions, and they were all very positive; they enjoyed the episode quite a bit. (Similarly, there were people who thought that "Infection" was one of the best of the season.) There is *no one* who is harsher in critiquing the episodes than I am. I want each one to be absolutely perfect. And sometimes that means that I see flaws that no one else ever will.

In any event, I definitely want people to come at this from an open minded point of view. For reasons that have nothing to do with Christy's script, it still isn't one of my all-time favorite episodes; if I said otherwise, I'd be lying through my teeth. But different opinions are what makes horse races, and as stated, most of those who've seen it so far *do* like it, so at the moment I'm considerably outnumbered...."

How intriguing.  I certainly understand the feeling, as Nar has told me several times that fics have written that I have hated for various reasons are ones she adored.  However, I really liked this episode a lot.  I liked the reverence that the Minbari show the seeker, I like the search for the grail that was done in a very low key sort of way (he obviously knew it wasn't on Babylon 5, but he was using the station to make contacts with other alien races that might have seen it), and I liked the character Jinxo and his 'curse'.  I'm kind of curious as to what it was that effected his perception of the episode.  Infection is definitely not the best of the season though.  >.>

"The hardest part is always writing Kosh, because you have to be very careful how much you use him, and what he says. Too much and he loses his sense of mystery, and you don't want him spouting fortune- cookie type aphorisms. He has a very deliberate way of speaking in which everything, every smallest nuance and inflection means something, but sometimes not what it appears to mean, or comes at it from a very different angle than normal conversation. So I go as minimalist as possible, to get the meaning down to the smallest number of words possible. And in one scene, one of only two he appears in, I got him down to *one word*, and that one word -- and it's a totally inoffensive, neutral word on its own terms -- should scare the hell out of *everybody*."


heh.  Sorry.  Much love for Kosh, really.  Even if most the time I always think of the Babylon Park parody...  XD

"Yeah, it was a bit of *really* perverse humor...Jinxo survives all five Babylon stations, and leaves thinking all is well...on a ship named the Marie Celeste?

We're a sick bunch, but we're fun."

...  Yes, you are a sick bunch, yet at the same time, I really can't deny the second half of the statement either.  XD

Final thoughts: As stated, I do like this episode quite a lot.  It doesn't have the punch of some episodes, but its quietness is good in it's own way too.  Also, the judge was awesome.  Just remember, Nar.  When it gets quiet, that's when the monster attacks. 


"BTW...about the time we were delivering "Eyes," somebody on one of the nets was going on and on about how "B5 continuity *stinks*...I'll bet we NEVER hear about Deathwalker again, or the strike, or the Vorlons killing Deathwalker, or Raghesh 3...."

And seeing what was at that moment on my TV, I wanted to reach through the computer monitor, roll up my forefinger, and *plink* that person right upside the nose.

Unfortunately, I have not yet found a modem program that supports this feature.

But Ron is promising me something by the Fall...."

Wow, I'd hate to hear what this person thought of Trek continueity.  Still, that must have been a very nice 'I told you so'.  XD

"The other thing about "Eyes," btw, is that it's not something dumped in outta nowhere to make a conflict; it's the direct payoff of events that take place throughout the season where Sinclair breaks or bends the rules. Lots of people on the various nets said, "Yeah, there he goes, breaking the rules in the strike, but is this every gonna pay off? No, probably not." If we're consistent with reality, and with our story, and Sinclair's broken some rules, and pissed off some people back home, then it is *inevitable* that this will eventually come home to roost in the form of an investigation."

Cause and effect.  It's kind of nice to see that brought home every so often.  Especially when other series are currently ignoring this rule of thumb, that actions have consequences. 

"There's another reason why Macauley was used as Tragedy in a dream mainly centered around Psi Corps; it's not really something anybody needs to see or catch. After "Revelations," it'll be clearer."

You sneak.

This episode.  It has a good A plot, but really, the sub plot is so awesome that you remember that one more.  Cause really, Lennier is just adorable.  He's a history nerd, who goes nuts over Garibaldi's motorcycle, and you just want to snuggle him for it.  Especially when he's taught himself Japanese just to really understand the bike.  It's like... a motorcyle, a symbol of badass-ness, and Lennier turns all nerdy on it.  And that final scene of them riding it through the station is really just epic.


"From cradle to grave, the Minbari are taught that there is no greater goal, no nobler thing than to serve. They are raised to be totally self-sacrificing. The only exception is when someone in the religious caste believes he or she has received a calling, which if sincerely felt cannot be contravened (since usually this too involves serving). So for a Minbari telepath, this is their means by which they may serve, and they are given great respect. It never even occurs to them to do otherwise.

Lately, there has been a bit of a change brewing; "a self-involvement above the needs of others" (as someone notes in "Voice") that has begun creeping into the Minbari race. And they're not happy about it."

That's always been something I liked about the Minbari, is how they are taught to serve, even if it's having a few issues in the reality of it.  Seriously, we could use some of that in schools.  >.> 

Er... wow.  JMS doesn't say much about this episode.  Just a few notes really.  Still, it's a fem slashy episode, with lots of Talia and Ivanova goodness.  Plus, NEROON.  Oh, Neroon.  I've always liked him quite a lot and he goes through quite a lot of changes over the series.  He's one of the most dynamic minor characters, certainly, and I love watching his journey. 

Anyway, once again, if anyone else is interested in joining us for our watchalongs, just let me know.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
Hey, it's not my fault I've received more education in Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc) than I have in Judeo-Christian religions. What else would my mind jump to?

lol, the Mr. Morden story at the florist is hilarious. XD

the shadow's main representative, Mr. Morden

HA! I knew it!

Oooo, layers! Layers are always very good, and very difficult to achieve. Those are marks of true literary writers, the ones that can pull off layers.

I didn't know he had a degree in psychology! Psychology + writing = we don't stand a chance in hell. He will screw with our minds because he knows how they work. I am so very afraid. (Also, that makes his thing with telepaths rather...Rather.)

Hahahaha, I love the fake book prop messing with people's minds. XD


"It's when you can't hear the bats, that's when the bats are coming. Other than that, I have no birthday advice." <--best B-Day card I ever got for someone.

I totally did not catch the Marie Celeste reference. Those sick bastards. XD

Especially when other series are currently ignoring this rule of thumb, that actions have consequences.


Wow, did we really watch that much over the course of two days? Well, I guess we did. It was two days. 0_0
Mar. 21st, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
The Mr. Morden story really is funny. Just wait until we get to know him a bit more, because I've got a few stories about him from the con. XD

Yeah, he's definitely a Psychology degree. We really don't stand a chance. XD Wait till you get more into the Psicorps. They really mess with your mind then. That and the media episodes.

Tentacle monsters are hilarious times. Then again, tentacle porn is some of the only porn that is interesting to me just because I end up laughing hysterically through it all, if nothing else.

I missed the Marie Celeste reference too. We obviously need to pay more attention. XD


Yeeeeeeeeeah, that was kind of what I was thinking of too. -_-;;; Again, why we should just let JMS be the head writer of Who. He would fix these problems.

Yeah, we really did. We watched like, the second half of the first season, then three of the second season. ^^;;;
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )