Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “A View from the Gallery”

Mack and Bo are your guides to the mysterious world of Babylon 5 (and Babylon 5). And yet, you’ve presumably seen four seasons and change, so you pretty much know the place already, right? What did you think of their observations, the unusual format of the show, and what spoo tastes like? (Spoilers for the rest of Season 5 go in the other thread, please!)

8 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “A View from the Gallery””

  1. I wrote this for the Downbelow podcast and have cleaned it up for B5AG.

    If it hadn’t been for telepathic Bo
    And subtlety a long time ago
    Where did the ‘floaters’ come from, where did they go?
    By consoles and crates ‘lil Mack and Bo!

    If it hadn’t been for Franklin and Bo
    Or watching the ships, the colours they blow
    Air guitar broom, where did blue collar go?
    O’Connor’s over-acting really does blow.

    If he was less needy to be liked (see under Bo),
    Mack would have been married a long time ago
    There’s Zack and Garibaldi, hey where did they go?
    Feels like a special effects bottle episode.

    JMS doesn’t do well in this Midwinter storm
    Janet Greek’s all over the place and usually strong
    ‘Floaters’ have concept, but like the enemy no arc
    I might have had more fun poking a shark!

    If it hadn’t been for Mack and Bo
    I could see Joshua Cox in a leading role
    Where did they come from, where did they go?
    Written in a day not by Peter David, d’oh.

    Dialogue top heavy with exposition so
    Assumes far too little of viewers, a definite no-no
    And the aliens come from, oh Byron, I don’t know
    Vader’s Imperial Guard, that’s a different show!

    Since when is Delenn a damsel in distress?
    When Mack is checking out her butt in that blue and white dress
    This could have ran SO well, instead it’s SO slow
    And I’m not doing thirteen verses of Cotton-Eye Joe

    If it hadn’t been for G’Kar and Londo
    (Who also got married not so long ago)
    This is so clumsy I think I will go
    To kitchen and stab myself like Cotton-Eye Joe

    If View from the Gallery had made me care
    It wouldn’t feel like an attack by a bear
    Mack and Bo over here, now they’re over there
    Where did you come from Bo, take him and go

    If it hadn’t been for Chip, Erika and Shannon
    I’m not even sure this episode is head canon
    My bed’s where I come from, my bed’s where I go
    Which is more direction than you get from Mack and….wait it’s afternoon and I still have to work? oh you’re kidding, gorram hard work too, hard bloody work, bye, bye, byebye.

  2. I didn’t have as much of an issue with the Random rampaging aliens. Between the Jack-in-the-box and Sheridan and Ta’lon being kidnapped by those Grey’s in season 2 & 3 made rando rampaging aliens a feature of the universe to me.

    1. Agreed; the B5 universe has always been implied to be mostly unknown, and all the events we’ve seen are for our own local “neighborhood.”

      The part where this gets confusing, though, is when you consider the reach of the Vorlons and Shadows. They’re always said to have left the galaxy, and Z’ha’dum was on the edge of the galaxy, but it seems that it takes days just to get a few dozen light years between the local empires.

      Could it be assumed that the Vorlons and Shadows had a galactic reach, and we only saw a tiny corner of their conflict?

  3. On re-watching I think this is a good episode and does not suffer from being episodic rather than contributing to the overall arc. I think of it as character driven, in that the alien attack is just a story mechanism to show the cast under pressure.

    And I think it’s nearly all great. Mack and Bo themselves are not quite Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, since they’re well aware of what is going on, but the story does have a similar feel. The two actors do a great job in making the dialogue ? banter ? believable.

    It’s also a good episode to really introduce Lochley. We get to see her as a commander, and her dealing with people outside the chain of command. She’s clearly neither Sheridan nor Ivanova, but still effective.

    The other characters are (almost) all good, and I particularly like how Delenn persuades Bo and Mack not to take her to the lifepod. That could easily have been played as Delenn bafflling and confusing Bo and Mack, but instead she treats them as equals.

    Two bad things. One is the contrived setup, in that not only are all the White Stars away from the station, but so are all the Alliance warships that have been guarding Babylon 5 since independence. But once you’ve overlooked that, the rest of the story works.

    The other is the speech Franklin gives about preserving all life, which is far too dramatic and overblown. (Yes, Byron is also dramatic and overblown. But Byron always talks like that, so it’s in character.)

  4. I’m a bit late to the comments on this one, but, since it is my single least favorite episode of the entire show…

    One thing that was noticeable about our hosts’ episode this week was the tension between saying that this episode gives us “a different look” at B5, and saying that it tells what we already know about the main characters.

    These can’t really both be true. (Different people were saying them on the podcast, so no-one was contradicting himself.herself but the contrast between the points of view really pulled out, so I’m pulling it out here.)

    For me, I’m solidly with the second point of view. Show, don’t tell? This is show *and* tell. JMS has been showing us for years, but now he uses Mack and Bo to tell us as well that Sheridan is a great man, that Delenn is wonderful, that Franklin is a fiery idealist.

    I think the problem is this: if you’re going to do this sort of story, you need to do it as a radical recentering of the narrative. The big touchstone for this sort of thing is Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and that play is largely about how Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are the main characters in their own narrative even though we the audience know that they really aren’t.

    (Not that it starts with Stoppard. In fact, Sophocles’ Antigone was basically playing this same trick for its original audience.)

    Or take Lower Decks, since it’s the obvious point of comparison. One thing that makes Lower Decks so much better than AVftG is that it *does* give a different perspective. We see that the characters that we’ve been watching for years aren’t the characters that their subordinates see: the fun-loving Lothario Riker, everybody’s friend, is seen as intimidating and off-putting; the irascible, honor-obsessed Worf is a kind mentor who takes a quasi-parental role with the people under his command.

    JMS, I think, fundamentally doesn’t want to recenter the narrative at all. In particular, he doesn’t want to decenter Sheridan, whom he has put not only at the center of this particular story, but as the heroic figure at the center of *all of human history.*

    Which is fine, but it makes this particular device unsuitable for this particular story. JMS ends up just retrenching things that at this point do not need to be retrenched. Contrast the earlier “TV journalism” stories. Those worked, because JMS could present the manufactured media versions of the story as, to varying degrees, “wrong.” But, since Mack and Bo’s version is “right,” and since for JMS there can be no such thing as “a” right version of the B5 story, only *the* right version, Mack and Bo can add nothing of significance.

    Add to this the problem that this is all rather classist. The B5 story, that has our heroes at the center, assigns that central position to the officer class. (Politics of elites!) Tell the same story from the perspective of two working-class characters without recentering as being *about* those working-class characters, and it comes across as the story of how lucky the little people are to have the wonderful heroic big people to look after them, because the upper-middle class people are just braver and nobler and more moral and just more goshdarnit heroic than they are.

    And layered on top of that is that Mack and Bo are stand-ins for the audience, and the heroes, especially Sheridan, are stand-ins for JMS. Among other things, AVftG comes across as the story of how we, the little people watching B5, are so lucky to have JMS to make this story for us.

    No, still not a fan.

  5. I wish I could see it through your eyes, Hugh, but I’m in agreement with Voord99 that this is the worst episode of B5. Definitely one for watching with a lover, not a divorcer!

    Voord99, as ever, your analysis is brilliant and clear. Where else can I find you on the webs? Many aVftG dark gunk chakras are unblocked. Given the tidal shifts in Season 5 story set-up, Mack & Bo could have worked, could have worked brilliantly: Lochley’s arrival and Sheridan’s inauguration seen through their eyes? To dare! But no, JMS is both ingrained and unsure in the B5-verse.

    I was disgusted with the classist (not classicist) notes too. Here was a great opportunity to show of the techie SF B5 is praised for, and we get ‘I’m not sure what this even does.’

    No like this https://youtu.be/7T3SXyvY1CU?t=1m19s

    1. Honestly, you can mostly find me commenting on other podcasts. I’ve thought of starting a blog, but I’m not sure that I miss 2003 all *that* much.

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