Earhart’s: “Comes the Inquisitor” Spoiler Space

Happy holidays! For your winter revels we give you the consensual torture of one of our heroes, the nonconsensual torture of another, and a profoundly uncomfortable elevator encounter. Ho. Ho. Ho.

29 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Comes the Inquisitor” Spoiler Space”

  1. After Coventrygate in “Shadow of Z’ha’dum” we come to the second of JMS’ Great Factual Errors, namely WestEndgate. Of course, the third and last GFE is presumably down to Neil Gaiman, coming as it does in “Day of the Dead” – I presume everyone knows which gaffe I’m talking about…

  2. Overall, this has been one of my favorites since I first saw it. (Although I’m in the camp that can’t stand the “‘known only as … Jack’ – Da da dum! ” bit at the end. But the rest of the episode is excellent.)

    One of many things that’s significant about it is that it realigns Sheridan (= humans), Delenn (= Minbari), and the Vorlons in contrast with In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum, so that now Sheridan and Delenn are together on one side and the Vorlons are now on the other. Up to this point, the Minbari have been functionally much the same as the Vorlons: an ancient people in possession of All the Secrets.

  3. Also (and in response to the podcast): I continue to feel that our hosts’ (and here, their guests’) reading of G’Kar skews a little too positive.

    In That Scene, his belief that he can never forgive is entirely understandable and sympathetic – but it’s also problematic. G’Kar is still trading in collective responsibility, as he did in S1 (and managed not to do for a moment in The Coming of Shadows): all Centauri, whatever their personal level of culpability, are guilty and unforgivable as long as the dead Narn are still dead. This is the same mindset that led G’Kar and the other Narn to feel utterly justified in their acts against the Centauri in S1 ( which is part of why the Narn that G’Kar mourns are dead now) and will lead to the bombing of Centauri Prime in S5.

    The counterpart to this moment is obviously in S5 when G’Kar forgives Londo (whose level of culpability is actually very high). This is pretty clearly tied to The Long Night of Londo Mollari: G’Kar can forgive Londo can (as Vir already can here) feel guilt for what he has done. Similarly, it’s that the Emperor was going to apologize in The Coming of Shadows that’s critical in that episode.

    Basically, while there’s obviously a redemption arc for Londo over the course of the whole series, I feel that there’s also one for G’Kar. Our hosts sometime come across (to me, at least) as if to them, the negative G’Kar of early S1 is an aberration and as if the later G’Kar is somehow the “real” G’Kar who is revealed by events, which isn’t quite how I see it.

    Neither G’Kar or Londo’s redemption is total, incidentally – both G’Kar and Londo remain moral failures to some extent at the end. (In at least one respect, G’Kar is more of a moral failure than Londo.) This is important, I think, because G’Kar and Londo stand in for the Narn and the Centauri, and – admittedly offscreen – JMS notes that neither people will survive over the long term and go beyond the Rim as the humans and Minbari eventually do. Narn and Centauri (as S5 indicates) remain trapped in their mutually reinforcing hatred of one another.

    1. A little harsh but yes there is a tendency to use sympathy for G’Kar and project, if you like, post-Dust G’Kar, back on instances of Shadow atrocity. A bit misleading as I remember Garibaldi having to stop him killing the Centauri ambassador in cold blood.

      I really enjoyed the host’s analysis of the regular cast. It reminded me G’Kar’s story here, and the one around him, is pretty great. I so dislike the A-story of this episode I have a tendency to write it off completely.

    2. “G’Kar is still trading in collective responsibility”

      I agree. As much as I sometimes get critical of contemporary Western culture for excessive individualism, I have trouble getting on board with guilt by categorization. Guilt is individual. Guilt requires the willful violation of a known moral principle. So Delenn bears some guilt for the Minbari War, because she cast the deciding vote, but Lenier does not bear any guilt for that war simply by being Minbari. So I would not have characterized Vir’s reaction the way that our hosts did (if I understood them correctly), as a recognition that he bears guilt for the invasion and so must atone. I certainly do agree that it was a recognition that “sorry” is not enough. Not being personally responsible for the invasion does not mean that Vir has no responsibility to do what is right, and even if his later acts helping the Narns are motivated by a misplaced feeling of collective guilt, what he does is still admirable. (It’s funny, in the non-spoiler section I posted a comment in favor of the idea that the right thing must be done for the right reasons, and here I am praising Vir for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.)

      1. I do agree that Vir is not personally responsible in the way that Londo is, but I would argue he’s more responsible than your average Centauri-on-the-street (or in-the-Zocalo). Vir had a front row seat to the invitation of the Shadows. He was even actively complicit, in that he facilitated communications between Londo and Morden. He did make his misgivings known, and maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference if he’d done it more strongly, but maybe it would have. And he certainly could have removed himself from the situation to avoid taking any blame at all.

        I think all those things were going through his head at that moment. Based on what we’ve seen of his character, that seems like the kind of personal guilt he *would* take on. And I think it’s warranted.

          1. If I may pursue a tangent from this theme of responsibility, what of Lennier and the Vorlons? He seems to know *a lot* about what Kosh has to say. All through Delenn? Do you think the two of them might meet as Morden and Vir do, and what goes down there?

  4. I always thought this was an ‘ok’ ep – certainly not one of the best ever, or top ten or anything as others do. I still feel this way, and much prefer Intersections In Realtime from the perspective of a torture/interrogation story.

    But the corresponding ep of B5AudioGuide for this ep is now one of my all-time favourites, due to guest Michael’s bringing up of Professional Wrestling and heel-face turns; B5 and ProWrestling being two of my favourite things. Well done! 😀

    1. It was pretty good for a variety of voices.

      IiRT: much more sophisticated in direction and substance than this. Wondering is it perhaps easier to swallow because of that, and because we have a man being tortured psychologically than a woman tortured also physically.

      I just can’t find the virtue in the A-story. It’s all out women in refrigerators trope. ‘Uncomfortable to watch’, ‘needlessly cruel’, sorry hosts, not ‘good’. If JMS had tried this on today there’s a fair chance he’d be pilloried. I don’t know what pilloried means but it sounds like pillaged, and that’s not good either.

      Charles expressed a love for this episode and I’m keen to read his comments in the hope therapy will be provided. Not electro-shock therapy ofc.

      1. I am having trouble understanding how you see Delenn’s situation in CtI as “woman in refrigerator” when the entire subplot centers around *Delenn’s* motivations and actions. My understanding of “woman in refrigerator” is that the woman has zero agency and is only a plot point to motivate the male lead. I don’t think that’s the case at all here. Even the usual hero-to-the-rescue trope is undercut because when Sheridan charges in to stop Sebastian, he’s taken down immediately and it’s Delenn who stops his torture, says all the things the Vorlons were looking for, and essentially rescues both of them.

        I think IiRT is less shocking and more gripping because torture has some context there. Sheridan is, from EarthGov’s viewpoint, a treasonous criminal and we’d expect Sheridan to be tortured for information and/or coerced into making statements in support of Clark’s regime. We have no warning and no plot reasons up to this point for the Vorlons to suddenly put Delenn through this ordeal – it’s awfully far along in the story for them to be questioning her motives.
        In CtI,

        1. Hmm. Fridging. Andy raises a troubling point.

          I think that this does not conform completely to standard-issue fridging, for the reasons that Shannon points out, and at least one other – the episode focuses enough attention on Delenn for a substantial portion of its length that it counts against the charge that her experiences in this episode exist solely to motivate Sheridan. This comes across for a significant period of time as a “Delenn” episode.

          But. Even if I wouldn’t go as far as “all out” fridging, there are, I think, fridging-like aspects here. What I said above about this being a “Delenn” episode cuts both ways – there’s a definite sense of this swerving and becoming a “Sheridan” episode. One can contrast the Markab episode for how an episode can include Sheridan’s response and still keep him a secondary character. Note that it’s Sheridan who is given the victory/reversal of power in the “as…Jack!” scene. I think the episode would be substantially improved if Delenn had been given that scene (“I have been looking into Earth history and …”)

          Also, there’s a reason why in classic fridging the woman is often killed. Since she exists to motivate the male protagonist, her story is over. Obviously, Delenn is not killed, and her story goes on – but this part of it doesn’t. She never has another significant interaction with the Vorlons that isn’t about Sheridan, and few even that are about Sheridan. Vorlons exist for Sheridan (and Lyta) from now on. And the ramifications of this particular more moment – the first unambiguous statement that the Vorlons can’t be the wise and ultimately benevolent race of Gandalfs that we’ve been led to expect, are felt entirely in the ongoing story of Sheridan’s progress to messiahdom.

          So if not fridging (I would prefer “damsel in distress” for this version of the trope), then a little too close to it for comfort. Some of this is hard to disentangle from something I like about the episode. Sebastian is another mirror of Sheridan, a monster defined by his certainty about right and wrong. Obviously, I like it any time that B5 does that. But it adds another element to the sense that this is a story in a female protagonist has her story displaced by a male protagonist.

          1. I hesitated before placing it as fridging, and see it might have been better couching it as fridging-type.

            Sheridan’s appearance as comes validates Delenn through her response, signifies her as a rounded character (which we know). There are other male tales being moved along:

            1) Sebastian/Jack
            What is going on here? It seems the Vorlons didn’t change this guy. Nor, by end, Sheridan and Delenn’s love seemed to convince him of their fitness, more the threat they’ll tell Kosh, who may or may not be aware of his ‘interpretation’ of the test. It seems a big inconsistency in Jack’s character logic that they pass. Another reading suggests it’s part of a repeated pattern of abuse, Seb bullied by Vorlons bullies Delenn.
            As a writer I’ve never been happy with the conflict reveals character stuff. I don’t deny those connections, but it sits uneasy as it does. Plenty lazy writing uses this for justification.

            2) Kosh / The Vorlons
            A few concessions in my reading of this story. Vorlons may be gender-less their behaviour’s alike a mad militant feminist view of men: mysogyny, bombing, the work of Shon Yu…I have some problems remembering whether Sebastian was brought in by Kosh, or by some Vorlon…waterboard club. Yes, this serves that reveal but because it’s underwhelming/overwhelming and because the Vorlons are just damn enigmatic, I don’t really have a clear view what’s going on. Is Kosh aware of what transpired in the chamber, aware of the dangers of employing a serial killer to vet one/two resistance leaders, and if so, was this a turning point for him?

          2. In Sebastian, we’re treated to a profiling of a serial killer that’s quite…fashionable…fancy cloak and hat, groomed, throwing out hip Prisoner quotes, even the rhythmic tapping of the cane…well it’s all a bit problematic isn’t it. Yes, he probably was a member of the royal court, but hold on, aren’t serial killers dull, boring pricks? The glamour attached to Sebastian, dead man defrosted, reminds of those lone shooter poster profiles Fox glossily runs on the hour. Wayne Alexander is playing this ripper too well. Sebastian’s employment as a tester-for-idols may have begun with merit, but his success feels badly judged, it feels like a failure.

            A request: in future spoiler sections of the podcast, could we refer to the Vorlon by his full title, ‘that bastard Kosh’?

          3. @Andy Luke

            “Yes, he probably was a member of the royal court, but hold on, aren’t serial killers dull, boring pricks?”

            There is actually a wide variety when it comes to serial killers. Richard Trenton Chase was an off-putting weirdo. Andrei Chikatilo was meek and modest and looked like someone’s grandfather. Edmund Kemper was a lurching creepy giant. Ted Bundy was a smooth handsome charmer.

            There is also a category of serial killer known as “mission-oriented” killers. They are motivated to commit their crimes out of the belief that they are making the world a better place by ridding the world of “bad people” such as prostitutes, homosexuals, or members of religious or racial categories. So what we see as Jack’s self-concept , and also his psychopathic charm, do fit the psychological literature on serial killers.

  5. Re. the discussion about whether or not it had to be Sheridan that came to Delenn’s aid: I always assumed that Sheriden was also being tested. If you’re going to check out the One Who Is, surely you’d also want to question the One Who Will Be?

    1. I agree. It seems pretty clear to me that this was a test meant for both of them. Sebastian even acts like he was expecting Sheridan.

      1. Interesting theory, which I kept in mind when re-watching.

        “How will I know who it is?”
        “You will know, if you survive.”

        Maybe Kosh’s point is Sebastian isn’t the Inquisitor, rather the coming war is?

        “Where is Delenn” is Seb’s fourth line, and the questions on themes of religion, followers and crusades seem specific to her. She has seen Bab5’s resident angel-being, near exclusively at this point. Seb’s longest,crappest pub quiz ever isn’t really applicable to Sheridan as he is here, tho surely as by s4.
        Then, enter Sheridan and all change. It seems Seb expected his interference in some form. More certainly he seems to know a lot about Sheridan, his relationship with Delenn, and others. Unless it’s confidence trickstery?

        “I have been in the service of the Vorlons for centuries, looking for you”, he tells them. The One Who Will Be. “Know this: you are the right people.” Pure Vorlon twattery.

        Also:
        1.Mira Furlan is fucking awesome.

        2.There is no 14b Heresford Lane in London. There is a 14 Heresford St, and if you bring it up on Streetview, there’s something unusual.

  6. Yes, I love this episode. Wayne Alexander’s performance is excellent, the Vir/G’Kar scene never fails to get me, and some of the issues dealt with are complex and intriguing.

    I mentioned earlier that I use this episode when teaching social psychology. Specifically, I use Sebastian’s “who are you,” and his insistence that Delenn is not allowed to answer in any way that connects her to others. The question cannot be answered, because the self is social. Give it a try. Answer the question “who are you” in a way that makes no reference to other people. So you can’t use your name or your family. You can’t use any social groups (race, religion, political affiliation, nationality, clubs, etc). You can’t use your values or beliefs, since you got those beliefs from someone (even if it was a book written by someone). You can’t even use physical characteristics (“Tall” only works when compared against shorter people. “Dark-hair” only works when compared against people with different hair) or skills (“Good at chess”? That takes someone to teach you chess, play against you, and be not as good at it as you) or personality variables (“Introverted” requires extroverts to be a meaningful term).

    Speaking of psychology, I seem to be the only one who finds this funny. In personality psychology, the “dispositional perspective” describes personality in terms of a list of psychological variables, on which a person can have a higher or lower score. The two major approaches within this perspective are the trait approach (which focuses on identity-related variables such as extroversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness) and the motives approach (which focuses on the relative strength of psychological needs such as achievement motivation and power motivation). So one of our two major approaches defines personality by asking “who are you”, while the other asks “what do you want”.

    Our hosts ask whether it makes a difference that John and Delenn are a romantic couple, instead of friends. Minor note. I’ve always found Sebastian’s quote at the end, about no greater love than someone laying down his life for his brother, odd. It is a biblical reference (John 15:13), but not a precise one. Every English translation of that passage that I’ve seen render it “friends” instead of “brother.” No translation says “brother.” I wonder what JMS had in mind, changing it like that.

  7. I took this as
    1: Vorlons vs Kosh – KOSH may believe in Del’enn, but to assume that the Vorlons agree with him is unlikely, (and given the Vorlons as we get to know them), this is a telegraph of who they are.
    2. Perhaps they do not think Del’enn has ‘suffered’ for this cause – her rationales are ambiguous; serving light, serving good. They wanted her distilling her reasons into specifics.
    3. She has been so damn lost and almost ‘soft’. So hardening her is in their interests.

    It’s one of my favourites and one of the worst….

  8. “What do you want?” is a primal easy question and the answer(s).
    “Who are you?” is a more complex inward self analysis not easy to answer honestly or in few words.
    It might be as impossible test to answer acceptably, if I might juxtapose it with as in the episode Infection where the Dr rhetorically asks, “There’s one problem, commander. How do you define a “pure” Ikarran, or a pure human? No one is pure, no one.” Though a end of a worlds enhabitance is a bit more of a negative outcome to a hard or impossible question to answer.

  9. A couple of thoughts:

    1. The “Jack the Ripper” aspect of the episode overriding everything else in the popular consciousness is similar to the “Ivanova Dance” episode. Lots of other interesting things going on other than the one thing, but they tend to get lost.

    2. Wrestling terms! Wrestling is often seen a low-brow entertainment, but they’re working with the fundamentals of stories and heroes. The Face Turn is a perfect reference for G’Kar. This episode is also the beginning (or another step) in the Heel Turn for the Vorlons.

    3. Thanks to Lynn for pointing out that torture as a form of entertainment is something that should be used sparingly. I find that a lot of modern entertainment has thrown in torture as a blase thing that isn’t a big deal (24, Game of Thrones, the “Torture Porn” genre…). I feel like I’m being “priced out of the market” because I won’t watch people being tortured, even if it’s only fictional, for entertainment.

  10. Sorry for joining the discussion so late. I only recently discovered the podcast.

    This was not a test. This was a process to get Delenn and Sheridan some perspective. I was anxiously awaiting Spoiler Space during this podcast. The thing to remember is that the Vorlon’s know what is going to happen up until the time that Sinclair goes back in time with Babylon 4.

    This was about hardening Delenn and Sheridan and making sure they would do what the Vorlons want.

  11. I don’t think that the Vorlons are evil, per se, as characterized in this podcast.

    I always thought of the Vorlon’s and Shadow’s motives in more of the old AD&D alignment system. When we were set up to believe that the struggle was between good and evil, it was really, as we all know now, Order Vs. Chaos. My big takeaway from conclusion of the Shadow War arch was that the Vorlons, were ostensibly Lawful Neutral and the Shadows, Chaotic Neutral. They both had their agenda and waged their proxy wars, and this time around it got out of control. Neither side had a true ‘respect for persons’ for the younger races. Kosh, himself, may have been good, Ulkesh, not so much, now whether he was LN or LE, is not as clear.

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