Earhart’s: “GROPOS” Spoiler Space

It’s a slice of life and character study episode, like we’ve had many times already in B5, only it’s in the shadow (ahem) of “The Coming of Shadows.” Whaddaya think about “GROPOS” and how does it fit into the five-year arc?

31 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “GROPOS” Spoiler Space”

  1. Well, we do get a callback to Gropos all the way up in Season Five. It feels a bit cheating, though, and a bit underwhelming. Why does Garibaldi meet who is basically a one-night stand during his night?

    1. Pretty predictable war movie stuff here. The characters you get to know are the ones who are going to be killed.

    2. Just recently watched that episode and you have a point. However, Londo sees Adira, who was a short term fling who is mentioned I think just once between her S1 and S5 appearances. Who do you think Garibaldi should’ve seen?

      1. Who should Garibaldi have seen? In isolation, Jack or Edgars would be better IMO.

        But it’s tricky, because the overall episode needs the Garibaldi (and Londo) subplots to be upbeat, to balance Lennier and to a lesser extent Lochley. Adira is hard to replace for the same reason, even though I was in no hurry to see the character (one of my least favorite in all of B5) return – in isolation, I’d much rather have seen Londo have a verbal duel with Cartagia.

        Also, as it stands, DotD has the virtue of being one of the best episodes of all of B5 from the standpoint of female representation.

      2. Jack or Edgars would have been fine! Of course, the appearance of Miss T.W. would have been delicious in some respects.

        It would have been cool to see Refa or Cartagia return, but when you’ve an episode with Morden in that’s the bad boy quota well filled. I admit I was a bit disappointed with who Morden was initially matched with and then upon getting the senses of what Gaiman was going for, the execution of that left me feeling a bit short.Probably it’s related to my personal feeling on Lennier’s exit which wasn’t foreshadowed like everything else out of the blue. Ed Wasser was of course a real treat.

        1. Talia is definitely in this episode in the alternative universe in which Claudia Christian was in S5 and Ivanova was in the Lochley position.

          1. Pretty much all of these would have been a better option for Garibaldi. I mean I like Dodger well enough in this episode, but i didn’t think she warrented a return appearance.

            I would have done:
            Garibaldi – Edgars
            Londo – Morden
            Lennier – Marcus

            Let Garibaldi discuss the merits and sins of Edgar’s actions (neither of them like telepaths after all,so each might actually see some good in it), Londo and Morden have it out, and Marcus of all people deliver the news that Lennier would betray the Rangers, as they share the aspect of having a poor motivation for joining the rangers.

            And yes, absolutley, if Ivonova had still been around, she would get Talia. That shouldn’t even be a question.

      3. Just a thought. Would a Londo/Marcus pairing have worked? Probably not with the similarities between him and Lochley’s friend. Then, maybe. Turned on it’s head with Jason Cole quipping his way around the scenery, stirring up the Londo of happier days. Until reminded of his departure, at which point Marcus throws up Londo’s own shortcoming. It would be the original odd couple in a bedsitcom from hell!

          1. I can’t reply to the reply to my reply… max quote level?

            Anyway, Marcus is definitely not dead. He was in cryogenic suspension as as the end of the series. Wikipedia has an entry on him, and I quote:

            His corpse was then preserved by Ivanova’s request in cryogenic suspension in the future hope that he might be revived. This was actually not shown in the series, but in the credits of “Sleeping in Light”. The credits showed each character as we first saw them and as we last saw them, and the last image of Cole showed a cryogenic capsule showing that he was preserved at Captain Ivanova’s request.

            Cole’s story concludes in “Space, Time & the Incurable Romantic”, a short story written by JMS and published in Amazing Stories #602. It takes place hundreds of years after the series ends. Cole (still preserved in cryogenic suspension) is revived when the homeworld of those who built the life-energy transfer machine was found. He then proceeds to create a clone of Ivanova by enlisting one of Garibaldi’s descendants to help him. Endowing it with her exact memories by stealing the scans done of her memory, he then strands them on a lush, fertile and uncharted world with the intent of living “happily ever after” together.

  2. Is this the last time we see Lou? I always thought his friendship with the Chief was more believable than Zack’s, and even in this middling episode you see it in the scene when the Chief finds out Dodger is dead, Lou, stays with the Chief and they go off screen together.

  3. I kind of like GROPOS, so I’ll make a case for hugging it to one’s heart like Sheridan should have done the teddy bear at the end of There All the Honor Lies.

    Basically, I think that GROPOS is the last season one episode and one can treasure it for that.

    On one point, I’ll disagree with our hosts: I don’t think the military-intervention aspect of GROPOS shows how much has changed after The Coming of Shadows, because for me, that’s a little too obviously just artfully fitting this story into the existing status quo. It would not have been hard to come up with a different but sufficient reason, to suit an earlier point in the series, for troops to move through the station on their way to being killed. (S1? The Matok-ians are sheltering raiders. Etc.)

    So what makes it an S1 episode? Well, it’s the third-to-last story not written by JMS before we hit the long, long stretch of JMS-only episodes. Obviously, it’s one of B5’s most distinctive and impressive features that so much of it is the product of one person’s imagination. It gives it an astonishing coherence as series television. And JMS is obviously very good at what he does: I don’t think that there’s a single episode in my top 10 B5 episodes that’s not by JMS.

    But all good things come with their downside, and with the coherence and generally excellent level of quality once JMS dominates the writing entirely comes a certain inevitable sameness. This is not to say that JMS writes without variety (being very good at what he does), but his variety is, as it were, made up of the same variations.

    Early B5, esp. S1, is a lot more all over the place in terms of quality, but that makes it a lot more all over the place in other ways. It’s got episodes like TKO that don’t quite fit and episodes like Deathwalker that do fit, but which still feel like they should go somewhere after this, but never do. It’s a show that doesn’t quite know what it is, but that means that the viewer doesn’t quite know what it is, either.

    GROPOS is the last story like that for me – where it’s basically: “OK, this is what Babylon 5 is *this* week.” . GROPOS isn’t the last non-JMS story – it’s not even the last DiTillio story. But the other two non-JMS stories are much more strongly rooted in season two: There All the Honor Lies is based strongly in Sheridan (and it’s also depends on intertextual reference to season one, which is to say that it presupposes S1 in a way that S1 itself obviously doesn’t). Knives is a direct sequel to The Coming of Shadows.

    Also, fights in which people swing on light fixtures are fun, damn it!

  4. Wow you guys are so much more sophisticated with your critiques and analysis than I could ever be! About all I could muster about this episode is “meh”

  5. As I said on Twitter, GROPOS is the episode where my previous attempt to rewatch Babylon 5 went to die. I got to The Coming of Shadows, then saw what was next, and put it off until the next day, and the next day, and before I knew it, I was watching something else.

    So this time around, I knew I wouldn’t be watching it alone. Thanks for that.

    I’ve listened to the podcast and your analysis and I have to say, the scenes between Dodger and Garibaldi didn’t strike me as artful and nuanced as it clearly did you. I appreciate your thoughts, though; I hadn’t given the gender-reversal thing much thought.

    One small moment that really grated on me, though, from my recent feminist/progressive mindset: Lou and Garibaldi sharing a knowing joke about the missing dancer from the Dark Star. Ugh. Dead stripper jokes? No, thank you.

    On the conversations between the elder and younger Franklins, though, my own recently improved relationship with my own dad has given me new insight, and I really enjoyed seeing them fight, talk, and come to an understanding. That was sweetly done.

    1. How did you infer the stripper was dead? Just watched GROPOS and can’t say that was my take-away at all… plus hard to imagine Garabaldi lauging about a murder on his turf?

  6. Actually i just realised Franklin’s comment about trying research and ‘not liking it’ is referenced later in Walkabout when his other self accuses him of walking away from things

  7. And in fact ‘not liking it’ may be the understatement of the century – I seem to recall that he destroyed his notes

  8. I notice that all three of you liked the strong Dodger kicking butt. This was the hardest thing for me to accept. It was too much disbelief to suspend. My belief is that we (society and the military) will eventually – certainly before the time of B5 – realize that women and the military do not mix. The social experiment that we are currently conducting in our military is really against nature and cannot be sustained. Women are meant to bring forth life and to nurture it; men are the hunter/killers. As such, women are not the physical equal of men. In that regard, Dodger’s super-human strength that allowed her to easily defeat much bigger and more numerous men (drunk or not) went beyond credulity. I’m not really surprised that the reactions of all three of you was positive for this, since you are of the younger, more propagandized generation in this regard. Millions of years of evolution will eventually overcome this temporary insanity.

    I also thought that the battle plans emanated from a 20th century view of warfare and I don’t think it would pertain to future battles. Did Sheridan actually imply that mine clearance by the sappers would be one-at-a-time, like in World War II? Not likely. The attack on the fortress was equally as anachronistic. During WWII we used Naval Gun Fire Support (ships standing off the beach shelling the soon-to-be invaded shore) to soften up the enemy’s defenses. How come there was no similar orbital bombardment here? Inexcusable! There must be weapons other than mass drivers for this task.

    Chip, you mentioned that General Franklin is a “Flag Officer”. He is not. Army, Marine, and Air Force generals are “General Officers”. Navy (and I assume Coast Guard) Admirals (this may or may not include Commodores (it’s a long story)) are “Flag Officers”.

    You guys also used the word “flyboy” several times. Please get with the times. If that was ever used, it was way back in the old days. Currently, Naval Aviators have the nickname of “Airdales” (might also be spelled the correct way). I do not know the nicknames of the other services, but since Keffer et al. are in the equivalent of the Navy, we should stick to that.

    While bringing all 25,000 troops into the station allowed for the episode’s comic relief, I doubt that would happen in real life. General Franklin would be keenly aware of the inconvenience that this would force on the station’s crew, so he would more likely split the crew into liberty sections. So if they were going to be there for three days, he’d split the troops up into thirds and give each third one day “ashore”. He would also not expect them to be berthed there overnight; they would be expected to sleep back on the ship. If some portion of the troops wanted to take a day or two leave, that could be approved, but they would be expected to find and pay for their own accommodations on the station. The troop ships are not that bad; they are not slave ships! Their purpose is to transport troops in relative comfort. They would have recreation facilities, weight rooms, etc.

    I think we all agree on my last bit of criticism: the Sergeant Major. His characters was beyond ridiculous. Maybe he would act and talk that way to recruits in bootcamp, but not once out in the fleet.

    1. It’s not a good scene to stand in. Dodger’s superhuman strength is clearly in the same level of fun nonsense as Kung-Fu fighting Centauri. I think it’s not appropriate to deliver an unpopular opinion on the limitations of women. I’ve probably spoken at length with a dozen women in the armed forces and security sectors. They were British, Canadian, Indian and American, and all could knock thugs on their butts. I grew up in a warzone, so saw women soldiers and police regularly cope with the worst. The binary belief system of nature=men/nurture=women may be a simple crock of horse dung. Women have hunted and killed since primitive times, for survival and greed and many other reasons You say women in the military is against nature. Are men being nurses a harm to nurture?

      As to the inconvenience of accommodating so many troops without notice, I agree. I found your reflections on the detail of military history interesting.

    2. I agree, that the presentation of super human strength might have stretched the imagination slightly, on the other hand technique beats pure strength most of the time.
      I think, even if the nature=men/nurture=women was true at some point in our evolution, the great equalizer is our ability as humans to employ technology and our mind to overcome any physical limitations we have. A soldier with a weapon (gun, knife, training and technique) is deadly, independent of sex.

    3. When you say “Women are meant to bring forth life and to nurture it; men are the hunter/killers. As such, women are not the physical equal of men.” What you are really saying is this: “I’m just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder: “Did little demons get inside and type it?” I don’t know! My primitive mind can’t grasp these concepts. “

    4. I’m not sure we can criticise the terms used for the military: it’s in the future, in space, and Earthforce is not an American military force: it’s global.

      As for women in the military? That’s just your opnion, and does not even reflect current thinking in the military today.

  9. Shannon (?) highlighted this as, “another episode about a difficult parent”. It’s tempting to relate this to the major arc difficult parents revealed in Season 4.

    1. Very good point. That thought is more than tempting – it does a lot to redeem some stuff that’s otherwise sentimental and/or clich├ęd (just a little), in this episode and also in TKO. I’m incorporating it into my views (which are, naturally, the correct ones) from now on.

      One might note that it has to matter that Sheridan is the character who decisively does not fit the pattern here, with his super-positive (to the point of schmaltz) relationship with his shameless heartland stereotype of a father.

      1. It was a throw-away remark at the time, but yes, yes, there’s something in it, yes. Ivanova, Garibaldi, Vir, G’Kar…I can’t remember what we heard about Londo’s parents. His wives were sure relative trouble! As for Sheridan, we do meet his sister straight off and then and throughout, his circle of best friends; family, a challenge to the binary choice between parents. Sheridan’s opposite is Londo in many ways, and his choices are more starkly marked.

  10. It’s always struck me as odd that Franklin’s father being a senior military officer in Earthforce never came into play when B5 split from Earth. Though I’m not sure what benefit or leverage it might have given Clark, at the very least you’d expect that General Franklin’s son being a key member of one of the higher-profile bunches of rebels (and who was subsequently directly accused by fauxISN of performing weird experiments on unwilling humans) would have come led to his dad being , I dunno, quietly put out to pasture if not maybe arrested because of his son’s actions (though the situation was not his fault, his potentially, ha ha, Divided Loyalties would be all Clark’s cronies’ paranoia would need). But as far as I know he’s never mentioned again.

  11. A couple points about Gen. Franklin not coming back on the show.

    During the Minbari war, Dr. Franklin was imprisoned for not sharing his notes about the Minbari. I would be very, very surprised if his dad hadn’t been brought to bear to pressure him and it didn’t work, so I think they would have known threatening Gen. Franklin, a prominent military leader would not only be unlikely to sway Dr. Franklin, but also would be likely to cause more desertion/treason among the troops loyal to him.

    On the other hand, I wonder how much Franklin would want to talk about it. I mean all of them have friends fighting on Earth’s side of the civil war, but to be fighting against his own father? Though I agree, it would have been a good story. I’d have loved to see the family dinner after the formation of the Interstellar Alliance.

    Gen. Franklin would likely have been retired after the end of the war. He’s got to be close to the mandatory retirement age as it stands today (Dr. Franklin was apparently born in 2220, so 39 in GROPOS, Even if we assume Dr. Franklin is the oldest, that would put Gen. Franklin at close to 60, and while there are exceptions to mandatory retirement rules, which may not exist in earthforce, they aren’t currently used too often) To put it in context, the current highest military officer in the US, Gen. Martin Dempsey is 63. (Not to say that means he’s the oldest) During the civil war they probably weren’t letting anyone retire since they had lost a chunk.

    I suspect Gen. Franklin quietly retired shortly after the end of the civil war, with full benefits.

    However, I’m curious if there’s b5 fanfic dealing with this issue. Actually, I’m curious if there’s any GOOD b5 fanfic dealing with this issue.

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