9 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Phoenix Rising” Spoiler Space”

  1. ‘We shall all come together’ must be everyone’s favoured of the Byron spin-off singles. It wouldn’t look out of place on a later Smiths album. The first, I’ve completely forgotten.

    This weak titled piece contentiously felt like part one. In follow-up, we have Lyta’s deal-making, some graffiti and…? PR sets us up to see at least part of the telepath war, and walks away. I don’t have a problem as a historian or sociologist, because this appears to be in line with (JMS’s treatment of) the pace of a like-war. As a fan of good stories, I found the decision to drop it here jarring. Perhaps it is for the best.

    The real power arc at work is Garibaldi. Here’s someone whose pride is in security, of which the antithesis is that of a hostage. In Season 4, Garibaldi betrays his own will and now, the Asimov block repeats the betrayal with a few key differences. As story catalyst, the med-bay hijack is an outward manifestation of these inward fears. As Chief Garibaldi adjusts to life-changing events, this moment psychologically imprints, and so the cycle repeats. The risk is made clear too, that this could be a death sentence for him, and indirectly, Bester is complicit in bringing the siege to pass. If the metaphor and Garibaldi’s caving in are too perfect that they’re contrived, well the series arc gives us an earned survival to thriving to, well, King of Mars.

  2. – I’m a defender of the Byron arc, but I have to wonder if at the end of the day it’s something that’s more interesting to talk about than enjoyable actually to watch.

    One additional problem to add to the heap is that centering the story on Byron means that the center absolutely has to hold: Byron has to be someone that the viewer wants to see onscreen. And one thing about Byron = Marcus II, is that Byron actually is only superficially like Marcus (accent, hair length, height). In personality, they’re quite different: Byron is a humorless egotist who’s quite certain that he’s the most important person in the room. He’s unlikeable. Can one name one appealing trait that Byron has aside from his ideals?

    Maybe it would help if he and his followers actually looked as bedraggled and dirty as their situation might suggest, instead of looking as if some actors had wandered in from filming Melrose Place. That might make Byron seem less smug, and more defiant in adversity.

    But I do think that the arc improves if one gives up on liking Byron and accept that he is the “crazy hippy cult leader” whom you should find alienating. A positive outcome (the better postwar situation of telepaths) arises from disturbing origins. I sometimes wonder if Byron is the atheist JMS’s idea of what the historical Jesus might have been like.

    – I’ve read Keyes’ Psi Corps trilogy, and while it does give you Garibaldi’s revenge in plot terms, it doesn’t give you it on the level of the reader’s emotional experience, because Keyes engineers things so that one ends on an odd and paradoxical triumph for Bester (whom he overall portrays quite sympathetically, especially in the third novel – in which, obviously, Garibaldi “wins”).

    The first novel also shows some of the joins in the B5 history that JMS was able to occlude by leaving them in the vaguely defined past. It seems like an intrusion from a completely different type of novel when first contact with the Centauri intrudes on the To-Ride-Pegasus-style future history with telepaths.

  3. It sets up Lyta’s future story arc well (though I’m not crazy about where it goes), but I’m disappointed that we never actually got to see (or read about?) the actual Telepath War and Garibaldi actually resolving his business with Bester. Although it seems like a movie and/or miniseries is out of the realm of possibility now, has JMS ever talked about writing a novel and/or novel series to fill in this gap? I felt like they similarly dropped the ball on showing us the Drakh War, though I know it was somewhat covered in PD’s Centauri Trilogy novels.

    1. Wasn’t the Drakh “war”, in terms of actual large scale combat, covered by the telemovie A Call to Arms? That’s when the Drakh stopped being sneaky and revealed their giant battlefleet, which was promptly destroyed the first time they ran into actual opposition.

      After that IIRC they spent the next twenty years skulking around on Centauri Prime. Not very melodramatic, but a lot safer and playing to their strengths.

      1. As Cassandra used to like to point out, it’s a problematic area for plausibility, because you would expect the IA to be doing more about the Drakh in those 20 years.

        We know that JMS was going to resolve the plague/Drakh story fairly rapidly in Crusade, and that it wasn’t really going to be there for the planned five years — putting that exact time limit on the plague was a clever piece of misdirection. (One of the best things about Crusade, even in its meagre and mutilated state, is that you can see how JMS was using the expectations created by B5.)

        So I’m inclined to suspect that Crusade was going to feature an apparent total victory over the Drakh, to explain why they could hide on Centauri Prime for years without (as far as one can tell from War without End) anyone suspecting.

  4. Another thought that I had is that Byron parallels G’kar and that the Byron arc adumbrates important themes of the second act of the season. Especially when Byron says “I should have taught them better.”

    G’kar’s going to be revealed a failure as a moral teacher this season. He never succeeds in bringing the rest of the Narn along with him in the moral progress that he has made, and that’s one of the reasons for the bombing of Centauri Prime. Both Byron and G’kar are against violent retaliation, even for genuine wrongs.

    (Supporting this, G’kar and Byron have not similar trajectories: both are figures who have revelations that cause them to reject their former lives and beliefs.)

    Obviously, this is one of the cases where the similarities open up important differences. To a much greater extent, the story makes clear that while G’kar fails, it may be that he simply could not have succeeded. That is, much more of the balance of blame falls on Byron personally than G’kar.

    Second, the thing that G’Kar fails to teach is much more coherent than what Byron teaches. Our hosts have done an excellent job of pulling out the contradictions in Byron’s position, such as the ways in which he still thinks like Bester despite ostensibly rejecting him. Byron may believe in non-violence, but it’s not central to his confused blend of telepath separatist liberationist resentments, and he never takes the additional step of embracing *forgiveness* in the way that G’kar does.

    (Which clarifies why Byron’s followers aren’t convinced, maybe. I have a vague idea that Byron may actually say at some point that the reason why they shouldn’t use violence is because as telepaths, they’re better than mundanes who do that sort of thing, but in any case, that’s the answer that’s implied by his “not our way” stuff to the question of why *shouldn’t* they strike back violently.)

    Third, I think the story much more clearly endorses that G’kar is right than that Byron is. Part of the whole “positive development from problematic beginnings” aspect of making Byron’s cult the seed of the Telepath War is that non-violence is exactly what doesn’t happen as a tactic to achieve change. The positive development that Byron is responsible for initiating doesn’t conform to Byron’s ideals. It’s not about separating telepaths from normals in their own world, but more importantly, it’s achieved through terrorism.

    “Remember Byron”? They actually don’t, not the real Byron. This is about how collective memory misrepresents, but those misrepresentations can be more real and powerful than the actual reality.

    Meanwhile, it is very clear that the Narn who join with the Drazi and Brakiri to devastate Centauri Prime are doing the wrong thing.*

    *I will be curious to see how our hosts react when they get to The Fall of Centauri Prime. Part of why I tended to give them a hard time for what I saw as over-heroization of G’kar and over-villainization of Londo in S1 is that much of their characterizations of the Narn-Centauri conflict in the early part of the show seemed to me to be something that would have to culminate in seeing what happens to Centauri Prime in S5 as morally unproblematic poetic justice, something to celebrate. Which isn’t the way JMS presents it when it happens — at least I don’t think so.

    Matthew 5.38-48! There is nothing in which B5 is more the show in which an atheist explores Christian ideas than this. Like the absolute rejection of torture in Intersections in Real Time, this is one of the areas in which, for me, B5’s moral perspective seems more striking and important now than it did in the ‘90s. Not that I didn’t agree with it then, but I didn’t have the same visceral sense that I do now that forbearance and forgiveness are things that American culture has tremendous difficulty not seeing as weak, and of just how strong the tendency of American popular culture is to identify strength with revenge narratives in which the bad guy strikes the first blow, but the hero responds with overwhelming force.

    See, I don’t *really* think B5 is responsible for the Iraq War. 🙂

    1. Now that you mention it… it could be a possibility that the American people got confused between “Iraq” and “Drakh” and so decided that Saddam Hussein had a keeper on him and… never mind, my brain has gone to a very silly place. Grading too many exams in one sitting is bad for the synapses.

  5. Speaking of events in the B5verse that are referred to but not shown, Bester mentioned Asimov’s rules being programmed into robots “in the pre-ban years.” So there’s a ban on robots? Clearly Earth is okay with AIs (especially chatty sarcastic AIs who speak in the voice of Harlan Ellison), but not robots.

    I think we can interpret this to mean that, at some point between now and contact with the Centauri, there was a Robot Uprising that had to be put down, leading to a ban. I blame Skynet.

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