17 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Matters of Honor” Spoiler Space”

  1. I love how this show is open to so many readings.

    The final scene with Morden and the Psi-Cop at EarthGov Central has a particular ‘Black Lodge’ quality, the big bads, creeping eerie together.

  2. Finally we’re here. Season 3! It’s the credits wot make it. That beauty shot of the two Starfuries doing (we think) acrobatics… then one blows the other apart. Sh- er, stuff just got real, yo.

  3. Very good point made by our hosts about how S3 is the only season where JMS got to some as close to doing exactly what he wanted as was feasible under the circumstances of making a real television show.

    It says something that it’s also probably the best season overall, at least for me. I might find S4 more enjoyable as a viewing experience now, but that’s because television has changed – S3 is (I think) clearly stronger when judged by the context into which it was trying to fit.

    And the individual episodes can be incredibly strong: for me, the best sequence of episodes in the whole show is the central run in which the station breaks away from Earth and the best standalone episode in the whole show is Passing Through Gethsemane. And Z’ha’dum is only a little behind Chrysalis for my favorite season finale – and is a definite contender for best cliffhanger in SF TV history. And so much other good stuff: Londo and G’Kar in the elevator, Refa’s end set against upbeat gospel music.

    Even the “bad” episodes (especially the excessively maligned Grey 17 is Missing) aren’t all *that* bad (and B5’s “bad” episodes in general never reach the depths of some other televised science fiction).

    1. I think the biggest problem with “Grey 17” is that the supposed A plot of Grey 17 feels kind of pointless and doesn’t make alot of sense even in itself, whereas the “by default” B plot is the thing actually advancing the story, is actualy really good, because Neroon, but gets a minority of the screen time. It’s kind of like “Acts of Sarifice” where the primary emotional impact of the episode is G’kar’s breakdown when he realizes the Narn are essentially on thier own, but what we all remember is “Boom shuba-lubba.”

    2. Grey 17 at least has the Marcus/Neroon subplot which helps save it. It’s such a mismatch of a to B plot.

      I also LOVE Passing Through Gethsemane. I’m not religious at all and yet it’s one of my top episodes. I’m “almost” looking forward to that podcast as much as Severed Dreams.

      1. I have a pet theory, which I think I’ve trotted out here before, that one of the effects of the new engagement with fans online pioneered by JMS is that where he expressed even mild disappointment with any aspect of an episode at the time, this has an outsize effect on how bad that episode is remembered as being. Grey 17 is Missing is one of those.

        Because even the Zarg plot isn’t all *that* bad. In particular, I think the conceit of the missing level is a lot of fun, and the bizarre craziness of what happens to Garibaldi is the whole point, as the final scene makes clear.

        And Neroon and Marcus is one of my favorite plots from any episode. Because I started in S2, this was my first real look at Neroon, and this episode immediately catapulted him into the position of my favorite guest character.

        Grey 17 is Missing is far from the worst episode even in S3, for me. I like it quite a bit better than Exogenesis or Walkabout.

          1. OK: a quick defense of the Zarg plot.

            First, one immediately has to concede that the monster looks awful, and the direction doesn’t seem to recognize that it should try to come up with some way to compensate. That doesn’t bother me personally (see my pseudonym), but if you’re the sort of viewer for whom that’s a deal-breaker, fair enough.

            Supposing that you’re willing to look past the crapness of the Zarg itself, here are some arguments in favor of the storyline.

            What’s B5 about in S3? A lot of it, especially the central arc, is about fighting to control the station itself. The station, which started off in S1 as “It can be a dangerous place” and was full of mysteries, is now a familiar and comforting space, and the action of S3 turns on the idea that as long as our heroes stay in control of this space, they’re safe for the moment. This isn’t just the central arc: it’s also how the season culminates, with the Shadows attacking the station, counterpointed with Sheridan invading the Shadows’ place of safety, Z’Ha’dum.

            But what if it’s not? What if the station is still the weird space of S1 where anything could happen? The Zarg plot is Grey 17 is Missing is about that – it takes the logic of the season as whole and inverts it. The idea of there being a whole level that no-one’s ever noticed is key: this superficially known and controlled space, isn’t.

            A couple of things play into this. One, it’s a comedy. If you’re not prepared to view the whole thing as played for laughs, then it won’t work. Specifically, you need to be willing to buy into the insane and surreal nonsense as insane and surreal nonsense. But I think there’s no doubt that the Zarg plot is played for laughs, especially by Jerry Doyle. “I hate Grey Sector,” as if craziness like this (ventriloquist’s dummies that fire darts!) is only to be expected if you’re dumb enough to go there. The final scene between Sheridan and Garibaldi ” Am I going too fast for you?” – that whole scene is based on the idea that this bizarre sequence of events doesn’t make sense in the “real world.”

            Two, it’s a skewed version of horror. I’m personally the sort of person who likes to talk and think about horror and its tropes, but hates watching actual horror movies (because I’m uncomfortable with graphic violence and gore). So for me, this is perfect. Specifically, there’s a kind of horror that’s about taking familiar, safe spaces and making them unsettling (see above). This is where it connects with comedy, which is also often about taking the familiar and destabilizing it.

            Here we get Robert Englund, but instead of playing someone genuinely threatening, he spouts utter and complete nonsense. In SF visual media, the inescapable touchstone for horror is always going to be Alien – but while Grey 17 is Missing is definitely “Babylon 5 does Alien,” I think there’s something clever about doing it in such a madcap, surreal way rather than playing it straight.

            Obviously, there’s also a problem there – if you do Alien, then you are inviting comparisons with perhaps the most brilliantly effective combination of visual design, its realization in practical effects, and direction in all of SF cinematic history. And, yes, it has to be conceded: the Zarg itself looks completely crap.

          2. @Voord99
            I appreciate your defense, and I suspect we’ll pick this up again when we get to the episode. But what you put forward as positives is what kills the story for me. Half of what you say would have made for an amazing episode (What if the station really isn’t safe? What if there’s a spooky section where nobody goes because something spooky is making spooky stuff be spooky?)
            But that only works if you keep it spooky. Making G17 the zone of goofy nonsense ruined it. Maybe it was the writing (I saw JMS at a con saying that his best episodes took the least time to write, while the worst took a long time, and he specifically cited Grey 17 Is Missing as an episode that took a long time to write). Maybe it was the execution (the dummy could have given us a serious Creepy Doll moment if it had been done well). But whatever the reason, it failed hard.

            If you like horror, but not gore, there have been some outstanding recent movies that were terrifying and practically bloodless. The Conjuring (2013) scared the living poop out of me (Seriously, I’m having shakes right now just thinking about a pair of clapping hands). The Babadook (2014) was almost as scary as The Conjuring, and also serves as a highly-intelligent reflection on coping with grief (I recommended it to my psychology students. I also made a Babadook ringtone for my phone that my wife finds disturbing). If you want to take it down a notch, I found Mama (2013) to be a spooky and effective, but not terribly frightening, ghost story.

  4. This is connected to the discussion in the spoiler-free section about the White Star design. Too bad it’s the spoiler-free section.

    So JMS always thought the White Star looked like a plucked chicken? Well that explain the Mack and Bo conversation in “A View from the Gallery.”

  5. Continuing slightly from the spoiler-free space, the White Star set is in constant change in early season 3. It looks a bit different when it’s seen in its two first appearances, until it was properly redesigned for Messages from Earth with the episode’s director Mike Vejar. And then there are things that serve really no purpose, but Vejar thought just look cool.

    JMS has said that he didn’t actually want to write the whole season 3, but he couldn’t give out the stories to anyone else, as he could no longer tell where one episode ends and another one begins, and it wouldn’t be fair to outsource scripts and then heavily rewrite them to get the details and tone right. In the end Warner wanted him to write everything as well. At this point JMS was the sole writer in the production, story editor Larry DiTillio had parted after the second season.

    JMS has also said that season 3 is his favourite. It’s the only one that was basically done without any outside interference (save for the small union crisis that managed to ruin the Exogenesis script), and could stick to the original plan as closely as possible. With first season there’s always something to prove, with second season there was a new lead and again something to prove, and also some studio meddling (*cough*Keffer) in the beginning of the season. Fourth and fifth seasons had to be rearranged because of the PTEN collapse.

    The story of Marcus is actually finished in a short story “Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic”, written by JMS and published in Amazing Stories magazine in 2000. The story tells what happens when Marcus is revived from the cryogenic suspension in the future. The six published short stories are all considered canon, and four of them were written by JMS. While the stories have never been officially republished as far as I know and the original magazines may be hard to find the stories themselves are quite easy to find around the Internets.

    1. Re: the changing White Star interior.
      It’s too bad that they got rid of the blobby things at the top of the consoles (I think they’re supposed to be spinal columns) instead of tweaking them to make them look better (less blobby). This is a very minor complaint, but the fact that the ships are partly Vorlon only gets a little bit of screen time in future episodes. Keeping more organic-looking parts would have helped remind us that White Stars are (at least partially) living beings.

      Re: the Marcus short stories.
      AAAAAAA!!! I didn’t know those existed!!! I have to go find them NOW!!!

      1. JMS has said he’d rather fans didn’t, but ask that they write a letter to get them printed as a collection. As he’s a house commodities these days getting that published should be fairly easy?

          1. I think it was someone at Del-Rey. I couldn’t find the original post on searching, but another listing I think someone else. At any rate, it’s 2003, so I tweeted JMS. Will let you know if I hear back.

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