Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “A Day in the Strife”

Apparently Babylon 5‘s third season isn’t too late for one of those slice-of-life episodes we got much more of a year or two ago. (Er, about 20 years ago.) What did you think of the Evil Probe that Bombs at Midnight? The return of the newly-named Ta’Lon? And poor, poor Vir…?

9 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “A Day in the Strife””

  1. The A-plot is another entry in the list of B5 stories that could perfectly well have been Star Trek stories. In this case, I think it would have been better as a Star Trek story (and, for the record, I don’t actually like most of Star Trek all that much), because it would have suited a show about exploration.

    On the other hand, it’s a classic Sheridan Solves The Problem Because That’s What He Does moment, and I suppose I can view the Star Trek-ness of it as underlining that Sheridan is an updated Captain Kirk.

      1. Well, Picard is defined against Kirk as consciously not-Kirk. (Sisko is then the not-Picard – as he says after punching someone…) Star Trek didn’t try to replicate Kirk until Enterprise – which is to say when it was fading away.

        But Kirk is the inevitable touchstone in American SFTV for the Heroic Space Captain. I’d argue that Sheridan is about the only aesthetically successful update of Kirk in that context, and the fact that Babylon 5 is not Star Trek is something that enables that.

        When I say that he’s an update of Kirk, I mean the Kirk that existed in the ’60s context, not what that character looks like today (= a misogynist who’s too high on his own testosterone to make for a good decision-maker). At the time, the love interest of the week was as natural as the threat of the week in episodic television – it wasn’t a distinctive trait of the character so much as something that naturally adhered to the heroic protagonist. Similarly, Kirk’s manly man act marked him as a Natural Leader, not an *&^%($$, and he was supposed to combine that with being an intellectual. Sheridan’s basically the ’90s version of the required qualities.

        1. It’s interesting to me that Kirk has this reputation for “a girl in every port” but when I went back and watched the series a couple years ago I was struck by how infrequently there is actualy a love interest in the first couple seasons of TOS. That concept of the character seemed to have come completely out of season 3, which was also the weakest season of the series.

          I was also surprised by how frequently he actually does use logic and words rather than his fist to get out of situations.

          1. Those are fair points, I think. Also, even in S3, I do think that one has to approach Kirk’s multiple love interests on the understanding that this was highly episodic television in which each individual story was intended to stand pretty much alone – so that adding up all the different women and asking “What kind of person does this make Kirk?” is imposing a mode of viewing on the show to which it was never intended to be exposed. In a sense, each love interest is supposed not to have happened, or at least not to be relevant, when a new one comes along.

            Basically, Kirk in his original context is a much blander character, more of the perfect commanding officer, than he seems nowadays.

  2. Yeah this main story was always a bit ho-hum – I mean its fine, and the ‘swerve’ at the end is whatever. But its great to see Ta’Lon again, and the G’Kar subplot is interesting enough. Nothing big – but not the worst by any means.

  3. Well it’s better than the DS9 version where the probe tries to take over the station computer and the solution is to lock it in a corner of the computer. And O’Brien calls it a ‘pup’ about 500 times. On the B5 version we have a possible thermonuclear explosion and on the DS9 side we have a puppy in a doghouse. Hmmm

  4. First things first: finding here the opportunity to discuss my favorite SF show *ever* is something that makes me very happy!

    As for this episode, on re-watching I saw how the main narrative thread (i.e. the probe) is kept mostly in the background, while other more interesting events are showcased – and a few hints of future developments are scattered here and there. As it happens in many non-arc episodes in B5, what happens on the sidelines is far more intriguing than what’s the apparent main plot.

    Londo: I love how his dark and light sides are explored here – I positively hate him when he does his best to cut Na’Far to size, and appears to thoroughly enjoy the process, while I feel deep compassion in his conversation with Delenn, and later when he breaks the news to Vir, ending with that “I have always been alone”. There is so much that’s left unspoken in these confrontations, and yet it manages to shout just as loudly as if it were actually voiced.

    G’Kar: I may be a bit biased here, because he’s my overall favorite character, but he’s just great here, and so far from the person who just wanted revenge against the Centauri. What happened to his world has sharpened his focus and underlined his depth: it’s interesting that the way he’s changed is shown through the other Narn’s impassioned plea not to leave, and the brief but intense conversation with Garibaldi.

    Last, on the alien probe itself: it would be interesting to speculate about who sent it, and if it’s something that has been traveling for a long time, maybe created by a race that’s now disappeared, or if it is of more recent creation and how it might figure in some ongoing, long-range plan…

  5. Good show, folks. A few of my thoughts:

    – Crowd scene/workers strike – stuff in admin gets dramas! B5 does this well, turning bureaucratic dullness into enjoyable telly. This isn’t the greatest of those, but when the crew tap those notes it kicks the Binks!
    – How much does Delenn know about Londo’s dilemma/betrayal? As our hosts say she is cold on him. Has she been reading Eye on Centauri? He’s a big player since they last spoke.
    – Na’Far Vs G’Kar scene: emotionally powerful. We see both sides here, feel for the both of them.

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