18 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Signs and Portents” Spoiler Space”

  1. Oh yeah! So great to see Mr Morden’s arrival, and his abstract questioning of the ambassadors. Knowing who he represents makes this all the more enjoyable, especially the final encounter with Kosh – who survived with some damage to his encounter suit! I wish we could have seen what happened.

    I could visualize those Shadows creeping around behind Morden at every turn, and the the final reveal of the Shadow ship was so great!!

    Not too sure about the physic Lady Ladira, but she did have lots of cryptic messages about people being killed by Shadows!

    The opening is great too, Ivanova’s 4:30 wake up call and overly talkative Siri-esque digital assistant! “Why does my mouth always taste like old carpet in the morning” – “unknown, checking medical logs”.

    “In space it’s always dark” – Sinclair’s wisdom at it’s height!!

    The raider attack on the station was cool, along with Sinclair’s tactical solution to take them out! Nice reveal that the Minbari got Sinclair the job of B5 Commander too. I know there’s been plenty of discussion already about where that arc would have gone if O’Hare had been able to continue, but for me this makes it all the more shocking when he’s replaced by Sheridan – and the Minbari are certainly not pleased about it!

  2. One thing that I think is brilliant about Signs and Portents is that the Shadows make their fundamental mistake with Londo right here in the very first episode.

    “What do you want?” The Shadows think that Londo’s answer is the whole truth and says everything they need to know about him. But in fact it’s not: it’s the part of what he wants that his frustrations with the current situation brings out. Everything that’s happened to him and to the Centauri boils over and produces his outburst to Morden. Jurasik communicates this brilliantly in his performance. (I think it’s impossible to overstate how much Babylon 5 owes to the casting of Jurasik and Katsulas in these two key interacting roles.)

    It’s not that the answer isn’t true. It is what Londo wants. But it’s not the sum total of his desires. And in the critical episodes in season 4, it turns out that a fuller truth would be if Londo had given the last part of G’Kar’s answer: what he wants above all is the safety of his people. (Which in turn becomes tragic in S5.)

    You can trace that the Shadows haven’t grasped that they don’t know everything they need to know about Londo in Morden’s subsequent interactions with him. Especially: “What do you care? They’re Narns, your hereditary enemies.”

  3. Strange but good little episode, and not nearly as earth-shaking as I remembered it being. I remembered the ambassadors’ interactions with Morden being much more sinister than they actually are. It’s not as though he said, “What do you want? Name it, it’s yours. Rub the lamp.” (So to speak.) He went around being cryptic and taking whatever answer he got. Strange way to operate. I appreciate Voord’s comment above, as it brings out the ambiguities of the situation.

  4. So I too was anticipating this episode so much that at the end of it I was a little bit “huh, is that all that happened” – despite this being about the 5th time I’m watching this show. But I think ultimately it comes down to what Chip said – this is the beginning of the shadow war, and while the groundwork it lays isn’t earth shattering – its exactly this subtle inconspicuous action that sets things in motion that is why the show is so great. Very little happens out of the blue of the Babylon5 and the slow moving lead up is necessary to make things not only believable but with depth and complexity.

    I also was never comfortable with Delenn’s glowing forehead triangle and glad that, like her pain-giving magic device from The Gathering, that it is not seen again.

    Also throwing my hat in for the Mr Morden love. Lets enjoy him while he lasts đŸ˜€

    1. I think that’s a good point, Bed. Only in retrospect does Morden’s activity mean anything – and maybe only the first time one “gets it” can it feel like an “Oh, WOW” moment.

      And the podcast did help me appreciate how Morden’s interrogative tour is as much about building the ambassadors’ characters as it is The Big Story. Good points, you three.

  5. I remember watching this episode when it first aired. I started watching B5 at about episode 4 or 5 (The silly one with the alien tech and David McCallum.) and when I reached here I still viewed the show as being episodic, a la Star Trek. Then, at the end when the giant space spider appeared out of nowhere, destroyed the baddies and disappeared in a matter of seconds, the only thing I could say was “WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT!?!?” From that moment, I was hooked and will always love this episode.

  6. Django stole my thunder. My girlfriend’s twin started watching B5 before the rest of my group of friends. She got the rest of us to watch it with her. I can’t remember which exactly of the prior episodes was my first one, or if I watch them all.

    However, it was THIS episode that hooked me! There was just something about this “Mr. Morden” that caught my attention. Also, the creepy spider looking ship that just came out of no where and lowered the boom on the raiders. WTF?

    The Morden presents Londo with the Eye.

    This is the episode I realized we had something special here.

  7. Not really a spoiler, but it’s easy to forget that Earth is “officially” one of the bad guys in all this. We see all the other races answers to the question but (IIRC) not Earths… I wonder who replied and what it was? Or maybe Earth was already onboard… what was the timescale of the Mars dig that found the shadow ship?

      1. Particularly given Morden’s involvement with the assasination of President Santiago and clark’s rise to power. Granted we do not find that out until Season 3, but it makes it very clear to me that Earth was already on board by this point.

  8. I just listened to the podcast after watching this episode for the second time.

    The first time I saw it I had a bit of an idea about the shadows. I knew that much of the show would be about a war against these things called “shadows”, but nothing more. I got really excited when watching it. “Killed by shadows? Is this… what’s the name of the episode? Same as the season! This has got to be it. I just watched a random episode and now the myth arc is actually starting!”

    Until we saw the character searching for other first ones I assumed that the sigma-ship had been a shadow-ship.

    On my second viewing I love the episode even more. Londo was originally the only character whos answer I remembered. Delenn and Kosh provided a real rewatch bonus.

    I’ve found that many of Kosh’s cryptic lines make sense on rewatch, but his answer is right up there with “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote”. The first time I watched it I responded with a flat “What.” both times.

    As for Delenn, Mimbar had been under Vorlon influence. Of course she would throw Morden out, since he’s with the shadows. As the shadow war progressed (and I was paying most attention to the Centauri-Narn war) I got a bit confused the first time about when and where Delenn found out that the shadows had returned. How she knew that Morden was with the shadows is still a mystery to me, but she clearly knew about it.

    My only complaint is that Vir was nowhere to be seen. After seeing how his character developed (I can’t wait for you to do a podcast about Sic Transit Vir) I think it would’ve provided a nice rewatch bonus to have him around in some way.

  9. I first watched this episode on tape, which ended before the shadow ship showed. Sigh.

    What with the talk about “excess population” at the beginning and “These visions of the future can change” at the end, the episode sort of mirrors a Christmas Carol.

    Think about it.

    Also this is the first view of the triluminary being assembled.
    Not impressive in any way shape or form. But I ask you, if Delen has it because it was on B4 when it gets to the first shadow war. And Sinclair has it because Delen had it, where did it come from?

  10. I have to partially disagree with Chip regarding Lady Ladira’s vision. I agree that Sincalir believed he was averting it in War Without End, but I agree it is, in fact, the decomissionin gof Babylon 5. Watch Sleeping in Light and yes, it does include a shuttle leaving just before the station detonates. It is not the same shot, but it is the same sequence of events.

    Sorry Chip, but you are wrong in the context of how the series was finished. Yes, what you describe is what was intended originally, but the trap door I thought was quite effective and still kept the prophecy “true.” As for the trest of the vision with “fire pain death.” I think fire pain and death surround the station quite well throughout the course fo the series. But if you need something morespecific there is of course the bomber episode in Season 3.

    I am completely on board with Shannon in her interpretation on this one.

  11. And anyone else notice the look on lady Ladria’s face when she says “The shadows have come, for us all.” The look she gives Londo gives me chills. She knows what he has just started and is terrified by what she sees.

    After the series ended I spent a good month watching it over from the beginning before joining the adult world and getting a job. When I got to that point the shudder that went down my spine could have been felt on the richter scale.

  12. I’ve just started with the podcast. Once thing I noticed on rewatch is G’Kar got what he “wanted” as well after the Shadow War ended. In fact everyone who ever answered the question got what they asked for, even Vir.

  13. In your discussion, you guys divided the episode’s narrative into an A plot (the stuff with the Raiders) and a B plot (the stuff with Morden and his question to the Ambassadors), but, personally, I really don’t see it that way at all and never have, for a couple of very specific reasons.

    The first reason is that, without the plotline involving the Raiders, you can’t actually get to the heart of what Morden is asking the Ambassadors and the ‘right’ answer that he finally gets, since the Shadows’ recovery of the Eye is very much the first step in responding to Londo’s tirade, and without the Raiders’ presence in the episode, you just don’t have that.

    The second reason is that, although you didn’t touch on it, the fact that the Raiders have a ship capable of manufacturing jump-points is a sign and a portent for the introduction of the White Star and the ships that it spawns since it’s the first instance of humans not having to rely on fixed jump gates to move about the universe, which does very much tie into the overall arc of the series given how crucial the existence of the White Star and its ‘lineage ships’ becomes, both in the Shadow War and beyond.

    Another thing that you guys didn’t touch on but that I noticed almost immediately upon watching the episode for the first time is that we’re introduced to the Shadows before we see their ship appear at the conclusion of the episode. It also doesn’t take much of a leap in logic to connect Ladira’s talk about “shadows” with what happens with Morden and Kosh (at least it didn’t for me), which I happen to think is rather clever – and deliberate – of JMS speaking purely as a writer myself.

    The fact that the Minbari specifically vetoed every other command candidate except for Sinclair is also a nice way to build up the mystery surrounding what happened to him at the Battle of the Line and is nice foreshadowing for where we end up going with the character down the road even after he’s no longer a major player in the series week-to-week.

    I think that if you don’t try to ‘parse’ the plot threads of the episode into an A story and a B story but instead view them as different parts of a singular multifaceted storyline that plays directly into the larger 5-year narrative of the series (which is honestly how I think JMS intended them to be seen), Signs and Portents becomes much more enjoyable as a ‘piece’.

    1. I think you’re off base on the jump point issue–EarthForce’s big ships (bigger than the Hyperion for example) were always capable of creating their own jump points. The B5 staff would have been more surprised if the raiders’ capabilities were unprecedented. It was a matter of expense, not technological advancement.

      The surprise that the White Stars could make their own jump points was due to their size–although they don’t look THAT much smaller than the raider carrier.

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