Earhart’s: “In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum” Spoiler Space

Yes, we can now say “Shadows” in the podcast when talking about our sparkly crab ships. But what else does this episode kick-start that pays off down the line? Talk about all the future implications here.

26 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum” Spoiler Space”

  1. What do you think is the inspiration for Delenn’s new look in this episode? The style she adopts here she essentially keeps for the rest of the show’s run with the only real exception being her older self in The Deconstruction of Falling Stars.

    Is it a symbolic link to the shadow war, is it that she has found her backbone again or something else?

    1. Personally I think it’s a combination of circumstances that make her realize that there are More Important Things than doing her hair nicely. She’s just been through the harrowing experience of being closed up with the station’s Markab population and watching every single one of them die and she’s brought Sheridan in on the upcoming Shadow War.

  2. Well, finally. No offence guys, but I think your term “Space Mob” was even more irritating than the one JMS used to use in his online utterances, “Shadowmen.” Which granted may have been a holdover from before he settled on just calling them “Shadows,” but still, it got on my nerves!

    1. That was the term my spouse Steven came up with the first time he saw Mr. Morden. The rest of us were so amused by it, we started using it without thinking about it. So I’m afraid there’s about a zero chance of us stopping using it. I love it. Makes me giggle every time!

      1. I love it too, although I’m glad we can all say “Shadows” now. To this day when I hear the word shadow(s) I always think of B5 regardless of context 🙂

        1. Oh yes. I am SO relieved I don’t have to worry about accidentally spoiling that term every time I talk about the darn show at home! 😀

          But “Space Mob” is too funny to give up entirely.

  3. Also… *ahem* M’luds, I’d like to direct the honourable gentlemen’s attention comments to my previous statements on this episode a few weeks ago in Earhart’s. Regarding Coventry!

    1. Yes, I’d some thoughts on that: the myth-story linked to the saying, “sending someone to Coventry”, meaning refusing to speak to someone. Extending that to the context of Sheridan and Zack, it makes a clumsy sense if we assume the former made up the story on spot to mislead Zack, which explains why he asks if Zack knows his history. It’s clumsy as exposition, hints he might have to bring Zack in at some point, which he does. This theory assumes Sheridan knows the Coventry tale is not the truth or is at least suspicious of its veracity? It works to brush Zack off as ‘a strictly confidential matter.’

      1. That’s a very inventive solution to the problem. Although an evil little voice inside me wonders if clumsy exposition is unusual enough in Babylon 5 for it to work 🙂

  4. Since one of our hosts brought up his politics, I’m going to inject a little bit of politics here. Warning! This will be the comment in which I blame Babylon 5 for the US invasion of Iraq.

    (Not really. But if you’re very fond of George W. Bush, it might be better not to read what follows.)

    For me, this is the first story in which Sheridan the character (as distinct from Boxleitner the actor) is absolutely crucial for it working as well as it does.

    It’s not just that it shows how close Sheridan is to being a negative character. The juxtaposition with the introduction of Nightwatch shows just what kind of negative character Sheridan is. Just put him in a story that’s not contrived so that his absolute certainty that he’s in the right is correct, and Sheridan becomes the worst kind of authoritarian abuser of power.

    The show really needs this moment, for me, to buy it the moral space in which it can so utterly heroize Sheridan later on. There’s something a little off-putting about that, in part because JMS was so keen that the commander of the station should have his own initials and eventually was to equate the struggle of the characters against the Shadows and Clark with his own struggle to keep the show on the air. (“Faith Manages.”)

    I recently (well, fairly recently) rewatched Babylon 5 after many years, and one thing that struck is the extent to which Sheridan resembles the idealized persona that the media projected onto George Bush after 9/11 and in particular in the run-up to and early weeks of the invasion of Iraq. To the extent that I wonder if Boxleitner’s own conservative politics are part of why he was able to play the character so convincingly.

    It’s important for me that B5 somewhere preserves a little room to acknowledge that it’s dangerous to repose too much faith in the “decisive” leader who “just knows” what’s right and doesn’t “overthink” things. At least in reality, even if it’s fine to indulge that in a TV show – as long as you see the contrivances that allow it to work there.

    Note: I’m not saying that JMS’s own politics are conservative or that he supported George Bush. (Neither is the case.) But the part of him that expressed himself in the scene with the academic roundtable in The Deconstruction of Falling Stars maybe shares a bit of territory with those positions.

    1. Oh, no mistaking. Putting aside that we knew Morden is a bad guy, the real monster-of-the-week is John Sheridan. I find your comments intriguing Voord99, problem-reaction-solution and all that, though I’d have cast Clark as Bush? Bush was hated in the UK, as was Blair, from before the invasion, even before the leaked Downing St memos. Blair would be another good comparison for your point, the whole faith-is-fact brigade of loons.

      1. How Clark relates to this is an interesting point. It’s another thing to which the fact that Clark is held so much in the background and we know so little about him is relevant.

        Although one would think that we hear a lot about Clark’s propaganda, the specifics of it are about the false glowing picture that the propaganda paints of the situation on Earth, the false negative picture that it paints of opponents. We never hear much about the picture that it paints of Clark as a person: decisive leader whose not afraid to take the tough decisions? kindly paternal father-figure? saintly self-sacrificing devotee of the people’s welfare?

        So it’s not just the “real” Clark that we don’t know about, it’s also the fake Clark. So he’s not available to be played off against Sheridan.

    2. I’ve had a theory about JMS for several years now. Beneath the reasonable humanist surface, JMS is a closet authoritarian. Over and over in his writing, he seems to think that the best solution is to find “good people” and give them enough power to crush all who oppose them.

      When he wrote for Superman, his solution to inner city crime was to have Supes burn down a crack house, and then lecture the neighbourhood over the fact that they hadn’t formed a mob and burned it down themselves. In Rising Stars, Earth’s problems are solved when the supers finally band together and overpower all the “bad people”. In B5, the Interstellar Alliance works because Sheridan and Delenn have the White Stars.

      What the world really needs is a sufficiently-righteous application of overwhelming violence, then everything will get better.

      1. Interesting and controversial Charles and I wonder if I don’t agree with you. The short part-comical face-off between Morden and Vir for example. If we took the Mordens of this world, the most powerful and corrupt, and had them killed as a warning to the same it might alter the course of justice for the better? Now, we could spar all day about not sinking to their level, harm begets harm, where do we draw the line etc but I wonder, do we have any proof of the consequences? Would this serve as a deterrent as Vir suggests? Is there a precedent, where profoundly visible dark architects have faced hard justice? Nuremberg possibly, though I admit my knowledge is limited and welcome response to those who know better. I’ll go right out and say that Vir is proposing a very selective pro-death penalty stance, one at odds with my learned morals, but, given the scene’s resonance one that not just I feel might have something in it.
        And to return to this in terms of story, would such a tactic have worked if the rot on Centauri Prime was not too grown in? What if a Sheridan-type Centauri, like Londo’s friend last episode, had have Londo executed for his crimes here? Would Justin or the Drakh have had pause?

  5. I hope you all enjoyed the trailer I put together for this episode. If you missed it, it’s in the spoiler-free comments for Knives. I used the original crappy teaser voice-over, though had planned to use my own words:

    Sheridan on water-boarding, Jack Bauer style
    As a criminal goes to Guantanamo
    An Intersection in Real Crime!
    “You must let him go”
    And a man in his trapped in a room
    On the next BABYLON 5
    (Carlos Santana)

  6. According to JMS’s introduction to Matters of Honor in Babylon 5 Script Book Vol. 5 he hadn’t really planned writing complete seasons on his own, but in the beginning of the third season he didn’t have the episode structure so clear anymore far enough ahead that single episodes could be assigned to other writers. In addition he wanted to plant even more foreshadowing and clues, and it wouldn’t be fair to have freelancers write scripts that he would then mostly rewrite. They tried to find alternatives, but in the end also Warner wanted JMS to write everything.

    Fourth and fifth seasons were victims of circumstances, there was not much space for other writers after JMS had to rearrange the planned story threads. Pacing in both seasons suffered greatly, but I also think that the fifth season is way better than usually given credit for. People just tend to say it’s filler based on the maligned first half of the season. Also, the overall tone of the ending would be very different if there was no fifth season.

  7. We care about peace, and how we treat each other… peace can be broken with an idea… we are concerned with attitudes…

    And today the political correctness thought police are stronger than ever. Smart guy, that JMS.

    1. Sorry Charles, but i can’t stand the term ‘politically correct’. I truly believe anyone who uses that term is simply saying ‘your concerns are so far beneath me I don’t even think they are worth discussing’. In other words, I will feel free to say any insensitive and hateful thing I want and if you are unhappy with it then you are being ‘politically correct’.

      1. “And when I hear someone criticize President Clark, I truly believe that they’re simply saying ‘I want aliens to take over Earth’.”

        Dismissing those who disagree with you as “hateful” is just as unthinking as dismissing them as “anarchists” or “traitors” (or in the Cold War days, “commies”).

        1. It’s a complex issue. “Political correctness” had it’s origins in a desire that treated people disrespectfully. So we can’t use the term “retard” to describe someone with learning difficulties and rightly so. Bigoted slurs have no place in the mouths of people most cultivated folks want to be around. Do I want to be around a group of footballers who talk about sexually abusing women in celebratory terms? No, not really. Why should any of us be using hateful language? It’s a right, yes, but is it so very very important that right’s exercised? Some of my favourite comedians use very un-pc language: Bill Hicks, Frankie Boyle, Parker&Stone, and they’ll do this to study and highlight issues around pc-behaviour and non-pc behaviour. So, yes, there’s quite a difference obviously. Political correctness should not rail-road free speech, but it should attach a value tag to it.

          (I do on occasion use the term retard to describe someone who calls someone with learning difficulties a retard. I do it with the spite and venom that word carries.)

          Babylon 5: I should have known this would get political! Bring it on though, I say. As long as we’re all respectful and remember the kittens.

  8. I just started listening to the podcast a couple of weeks ago while rewatching the show and I have to say I am with Shannon and Erika on the Nightwatch. With Ministry of Peace sounding like Orwell and the armbands being reminiscent of Nazi’s there was no doubt in my mind when I first watched this in high school that they were Bad News.

  9. Every time I watch this episode, I note Ed Wasser’s marvelous acting job. And at no point is that finer than after Vir has answered The Question.

    For a brief moment immediately after Vir’s little speech, you see it: Morden KNOWS. You can see the instant where he’s thinking, “Well. Dammit.” It’s ever-so-brief but it’s there and I get a kick out of it every time. (Really the entire minute or so of scene is fantastic, as Wasser flips from charming to commanding and back again.)

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