25 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “The Fall of Night” Spoiler Space”

  1. One of the things that’s distinctive about season 2 is that it basically has three season finales: one can see how the season could have ended with a decent sense of closure on any one of The Long Twilight Struggle, Comes the Inquisitor, or The Fall of Night.

    This may just be me, but of the three, I find The Fall of Night probably the weakest as a viewing experience. I’m not usually one to care about special effects, and usually I respect Babylon 5 for what it tried to do with CGI – but I think here it may have pressed its faith a little too far in what is, unfortunately, the climactic moment of the episode. (This is not just now – I thought so at the time, watching on a tiny black-and-white television.). Plus, “Kosh saves Sheridan” just doesn’t have the punch as a Big Moment that it should have, following so soon after The Long Twilight Struggle.

    Which is not to say that The Fall of Night is not good. Nowadays (esp. post-Battlestar Galactica), the stuff with the Nightwatch probably comes across as too heavy-handed and obvious in its historical references.

    But it’s worth remembering that – like all SF futures in American television – Earth is basically the United States, and this is therefore a story about how prejudice against foreigners leads the US into fascist dictatorship. At least in my memory, TV in the ’90s oozed with schmaltz when approaching this kind of topic.

    B5 is far from perfect in its handling of this, and its failings go beyond hitting you over the head with a hammer with “Message!” written on it. I do think that the series would have benefited from exploring the perspective of a convinced Clark believer who wasn’t otherwise an unpleasant thug. As it is, it allows the viewer too easy a way to evade the possibility that he or she might have been one of the bad guys . The military, in particular, seems divided entirely into people who rebel and people who fight for Clark despite their private misgivings because of their respect for civilian oversight of the military. Plus, I find the treatment of the post-Clark era on Earth unconvincing in that things snap back to apparent normal remarkably quickly with some unconvincing talk about “politics” with a few convenient malcontents left around so that S5 can have a villain of the week for its season opener.

    But it was interesting at the time to see a US TV series explore this kind of territory at all. If the proposed B5 reboot ever happens, this is an area that I’d like to see JMS rethink and redo thoroughly, but keep the core intact.

    1. Not saying you are wrong but Sheridan practicing his “apology” speech bit is when I actually fell in love with this show.

      After watching this episode it turns from just a show I happen to watch becuase it’s after Quantum Leap and quickly become my number 1 television.

      1. On the old usenet boards, someone asked JMS how the apology would have gone were it not cancelled by the bombing attempt. The reply was that it would have gone essentially exactly how we saw it rehearsed.

      2. Agreed! His “apology” is one of my favorite all-time scenes/Sheridan character moments in the entire series. I love Star Trek in all its many incarnations to death but you would (probably) NEVER see any of its writers come up with a scene like THAT one (although DS9 came close at times).

  2. Having listened to the podcast:-

    I wouldn’t go as far as “pro-Narn bias,” but I do feel that our hosts might leave more work for Dust to Dust and later episodes to do in G’Kar’s character development. G’Kar’s story is, for me, above all the story of how he becomes the person who can tell Londo in S5 that he can forgive him. G’Kar is still far from being that person at the end of S2.

    On another note, it is, I think, implied later that the Centauri do have some sort of overarching figure above their other gods when we learn in S4 that theirs is the only one of the Maker religions that has multiple deities. (Londo swears by the Great Maker a fair bit.).

    On the actual point, I think it’s a shame that JMS confirmed that Londo was telling the truth, because for me, the most compelling interpretation of that scene is that Londo did see some figure that symbolizes goodness in his religion, and that his denial is him denying (and suppressing) the feelings of doubt and guilt at his actions that this inspired in him.

    1. I had also liked the idea that Londo had been lying (or in denial). But I guess we don’t get to have that one. I’m not sold on the idea that the Vorlons never shaped the Centauri’s perceptions. Seems like a massive oversight on their part, when they went to the trouble to do it to Humans and Drazi. Plus, we know that they did visit the Centauri to tweak their DNA, since the Centauri have telepaths.

      I’ve always gone with the theory that (as our hosts put it) Londo couldn’t see the Vorlon because he had sold his soul to the Shadows. Elric called Londo “touched by darkness” and saw it as a “blemish that will grow.” Maybe he wasn’t just being metaphorical.

      1. The Centari also have prophets, which like telepathy is a form of extra sensory perception, but on a whole different level. Given that I actually think maybe Centari are one of the few races that evolved telepathy naturally. Their telepaths are also notably strong, able to form a bond that spans light years. No similar ability is ever demonstrated in telepaths of other races, not even with the supposed “super weapon” of Lyta. Hell, for all we know the Centari genes are the blueprints the Vorlons used to modify everyone else.

        I’ve long interpreted (since the end of Season 3, at least when we find out what is “really” going on) that perhaps not only did the vorlons not influence and visit Centari prime, but that they may have been one of the Shadows “children” all along. They mention in “Za’Ha’Dum” that it was supposed to be a balance between the two. Perhaps they had carved up the galaxy a bit and claimed races early on in thier development?

        It would fit with Londo not seeing anything, the Centari lust for conquest, and Morden’s extra goading of Londo in Signs and Portents. He’s quite a bit more forceful with Londo than he is with the others, remarking, ‘Is that it ambasador? Is that really all?” It’s almost as if he was targeting the Centari a bit more than the others, like he especially wanted Londo to reveal dreams of power and conquest, while when the others told him to leave them alone he did so without question. There’s also the technomages being a powerful sign among the Centari because they were present at the forming of the republic. Sph mentions the technomage trilogy below and Kosh’s musings about the Xon/Centari conflict, but we also find out in that same trilogy that the Technomages were, in fact, created as agents of the Shadows.

        1. That’s an impressive assemblage of evidence, Akrovah. It all does fit together very well.

          I’m not entirely *keen* on it being the truth, because I do like seeing Signs and Portents as an episode in which the frustrations of that particular day pushed Londo into the speech that Morden latches onto – and on another day, who knows what might have happened?

          But damn, your case is convincing.

          1. Lol. The bad day that nearly destroyed the galaxy? That does have a nice ring to it, but I still think Morden had a but more in mind for Londo from the start. Londo and G-kar were both frustrated by their earlier encounter at the elevator, and G’kar shows just as much impatience with Morden at first, but when he asks Morden to leave, Morden turns to leave, no further question. But with Londo he simply doesn’t let it go.

          2. Out of “replies,” but this is a reply to Akrovah. I suppose if I had to defend my preferred reading of Signs and Portents, I’d fall back on:-

            – Drama: the drawing-out of the Londo scene is because it’s crucial and to provide a set of little moments where the conversation might have gone a different way.

            – Morden’s goals: he’s pushing until he gets an answer that he feels is honest, that expresses what his interlocutor really, really, deep-down, wants. It’s a genuine inquiry, and Morden isn’t looking for someone who will be useful so much as he’ s looking for someone who is authentically compatible in their outlook on life with the Shadows’ philosophical position. So he pushes G’Kar until it becomes clear that G’Kar honestly doesn’t think of anything beyond revenge on the Centauri and – almost as an afterthought – the safety of his people. So Morden spots that Londo isn’t being honest (even with himself) in his initial responses and pushes Londo until he gets an honest answer.

            This is all without having watched the episode again recently, which I’d really have to do. But in any case I don’t have to defend my preferred reading, and I think – unfortunately – that you make a strong case that the details of the B5 universe support the idea that the Centauri simply weren’t visited by the Vorlons.

            Part of why I find my reading of the scene attractive is that I really like the symmetry in the overall story, in which Londo’s actions at the end are entirely motivated by that little almost-an-afterthought in G’Kar’s answer: the safety of his people. While at the same time, Londo at the end appears on the outside to be entirely motivated by the answer that he gave: restoring the Centauri empire.

            As I think I commented when our hosts discussed Signs and Portents, Morden makes his own mistake here that will lead to his own death – he’s right that the answer that Londo gives is the truth about Londo, but he’s wrong that it’s the entire truth about Londo. Morden repeats the mistake in Chrysalis, when he overlooks the significance of Londo’s initial shocked response to the mass killing of Narns. Basically, Morden reads Londo as the stock villain of space opera convention, a role that Londo himself will to some extent consciously play in late S2-S3, and underrates Londo’s complexity: Morden proves to be an unskilled reader of the story of which he is a part.

            But I think I can salvage all that even if I accept your reading, Textual support is textual support, and you have an awful lot of it!

        2. Holy Vorlon, Brahman!
          Certainly the notion Londo saw nothing because the Centauri are polytheists is nonsense. Many humans are polytheist and my memory tells me other races are too. We just don’t hear of the plurality from B5’s many polytheist voices. Well, JMS says Kosh’s appearing to so many causes a strain. It follows appearing to many as many as thousands of deities would really hurt. Gods these days, I can’t keep track of them!

          And on that tangent, Passing Through Gethsemane was originally due to be in Series 2. Not sure how far that would have went but another layer on the spin for sure. The Kosh-spin. I suppose you could have called them Koshplayers, following Jewish Vorlon Kosh..er diet.

          1. There’s probably a serious problem of Eurocentrism in the narrative’s tacit assumption that the message of Christian imagery is a human universal, I’m afraid.

            In Greek mythology a male winged figure would presumably be Eros, which would suggest a *somewhat* different idea of the response that the Vorlons wished to create to their appearances…

  3. Regarding Londo saying he didn’t see anything when Kosh grabbed Sheridan. Two things, first off, I always thought he did see Kosh as an Angelic figure from his world, but he knows the Vorlons are on the opposite side of the Shadows who are supporting him. To admit to the others that Kosh is an ‘Angel’ would be to admit to himself that he is fighting with the wrong side.

    Secondly the way Centripetal force works, the floor of the farm is moving sideways at a fixed speed to produce artificial gravity. If Sheridan had fallen all the way and made contact it would not have been like falling from a great height on Earth, it would have been like being thrown out of a plane just above the ground and then bouncing and sliding in that direction until he sped up to match the speed of the surface. I don’t remember the exact calculated speed but it is something like hitting the ground at 60 mph and tumbling until you come to a stop. Even hitting the lake at that speed would be very damaging or deadly.

    1. I think it is in the Centari Prime trilogy we actually get Londo recalling this event in a bit more detail, and if I remember right it’s not necessarily that he sees “nothing” but that it was just an indistinct blob of light rather than a well defined figure.

      1. Which is, of course, what the real Vorlon form as seen in S4 would look like when seen at a distance. More support for your position.

  4. The episode is indeed so jam-packed that its length caused problems. Usually JMS aimed to be about three minutes long so that there’s some room to tighten up the pacing in editing. During the shooting of The Fall of Night it became clear that they were going to end up three minutes short, because the guest actors were unusually good and the scenes were slightly faster than estimated. So, the scene where Welles tries to recruit Ivanova is a filler, written by JMS during the shoot. It’s not even included in the script published in the script books. Also, unrelated to the time issue but worth noting anyway, the bar scene with Lennier and Vir was written and filmed for Comes the Inquisitor but moved when it didn’t really fit in that episode.

    There’s one interesting possible theory on why Londo saw nothing. There’s a small offhand remark in the second Technomage book, which might imply that it may have been the Xon that the Vorlons had picked for manipulation instead of the Centauri. The Xon were briefly mentioned back in The Parliament of Dreams as another sentient species on Centauri Prime, that was wiped out by the Centauri.

    Full quote (starring Kosh):

    “Yet long had he watched the younger races, long had he guided them, though they did not know it. Wars had come and gone, aeons had passed, races had lived and died. There had been progress, surely. Where he had been able to instill canon, discipline, the younger races gained wisdom, matured. Yet for each of the seeds he sowed, chaos sowed its opposite. Violence, lawlessness abounded. A race made a hard-earned step forward only to slide back toward anarchy, or to be destroyed by its neighbor. The Xon had flourished only to be massacred by the Centauri. The Humans had united in a planetary government only to fall into a pointless war with the Minbari.”

    1. Between you and Akrovah, I think this is becoming my head-canon. Back when the Vorlons and Shadows were establishing their “balance,” they divided a planet on which there were two separate sapient species. The Vorlons got the Xon and the Shadows got the Centauri. The Shadows influenced the Centauri indirectly, but did not completely incorporate them into the fold as they did with races like the Drakh, due to the Shadows’ vulnerability to telepathy and the strength of Centauri ESPers.

      Boom. Done. Head-canon established.

    2. And this head canon could also explain why the Vorlons left Mars and Narn alone along with the other places the Shadows had bases a thousand years ago. Not that we need Vorlon head canon, really, cos they are psycho. :}

  5. Thanks so much for the off-screen info! I rarely have time to consume extras like this. (I don’t even always read the Lurker’s Guide–I know! Terrible!) But I’m always FASCINATED by whatever other folks point out, so I appreciate these tidbits greatly!

  6. Whenever I want to appear knowledgable about Babylon 5, I reach for “The Babylon File” (two volumes) by Andy Lane. It’s an unauthorised guide, and the author is British, so it has its own distinctive take on the show. Lots of interesting stuff, highly recommended if you can find a copy.

    1. Yeah, some great analysis! May I recommend the JMS Speaks on Kosh from the Lurker’s Guide for this episode. It’s particularly poetic, and puts me in mind of Grant Morrisson’s writing. On ‘the reaction the Vorlons want’, was it really a matter of charity to save Sheridan? John suspects manipulation. Kosh’s streaking is seen by all the ambassadors, B5’s power politic, imprints conditions to trust their Koshsense in a war against Shadows, the Vorlon git!

      On that Vir & Lennier scene, you can read loads into their words.

      Looks like our old pals the kick-boxing Centauri tried to take Sheridan out. They must have been angry because he’s wearing that black belt.

      And if you think I’m going to stop there, well…you’d think I don’t have work to go to!

  7. I wondered what Kosh and Delenn where saying in their Zen Garden aside. I suspect she was updating him on the White Star line, and he was telling her he was happy with Lennier not to bring back Sebastian. Marvel No-Prizes all round.

    Was wondering what people had to say on the appeasement theme in this story. In 30s Britain the Nazis were made very comfortable, individually and as social groups. They had close links with the intelligence services (MI5, see also Londo/Garibaldi) and met with diplomatic guests (Conservative party, monarchy too perhaps, see also Lantz)
    We might also consider whether there was a policy on behalf of the Minbari towards the Vorlons.

    1. That joins, of course, a lot of other ways in which World War II and its origins are referenced in B5, and not only in this episode (although peculiarly intensely here).

      This is, in hindsight, identifiable as very “US in the ’90s”: awareness of the passing of the generation who fought in WWII (and other things: the ’92 and ’96 elections, in which a baby-boomer defeated two WWII veterans) sparked a wave of nostalgia for the ’30s and ’40s which one can summarize under the heading of “Greatest Generation.”

      The U.K. is different, I think, because the presence of the war in popular culture was much more continuously strong in the decades following the war. I’d cite how boys’ comics before 2000 A.D. were dominated by WWII (and a fair amount of 2000 A.D, is just retelling WWII stories in SF guise). Also, Dad’s Army, ‘Allo, ‘Allo etc.

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