15 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Sic Transit Vir””

  1. This is the episode I’ve been waiting for since I found your podcast and checked when it would come out.

    I wish we had actually seen Vir’s time on Minbar, but otherwise I love this episode.

  2. Delenn’s ‘am I not seeing you now?’ to John is delivered with a smile and knowing. When I was about nine, I moved schools. Well you know how you have your culture and language with your school pals and a move can mean having to assimilate a lot of new stuff. In my first few weeks I’d several girls come to me and ask “will you see me?” Not up on the lingo, I responded as Delenn, but with genuine capital huh. “Of course I can see you you’re right in front of me?” Thus it was I earned my rep as a troublemaker, and if I’d known I would spend my life as a single bloke, maybe I’d have…no, who am I kidding, will you see me, what sort of fragging question is that?

  3. Like the podcast says, this episode had a really weird tone in how characters talked about and reacted to genocide.

    But for all that I just love Lyndisty -anyway – silly but serious, quirky but conservative, innocent but genocidally racist. Way more interesting than the usual TV monsters you can see coming from a million miles away.

    I read her as having grown up inside a bubble, accepting everything she sees and hears as right and proper without ever questioning it. Which is why I can just about buy Vir holding out hope for her at the end of the episode.

  4. Gosh, yous were a bit hard on this episode. Personally I loved it.

    The Babcom system activating in command quarters: it’s happened several times before. I think? I can only think of one example: In SE2, Ivanova interrupts Sheridan, and blonde Nightwatch naked girl.

    If that’s the only example, perhaps there’s a special patch-in for iffy set-up sex jokes? It’s a different type of Babcom.

    1. That was Dral hologram system not the station babcom remember Sheridan used it when he gave his free Babylon speech in served dreams..

      There was the 1st time Dral showed up and Sheridan was in the shower and Sheridan had to click on something to agree to take Ivanova call, so yea her showing up w/out Sheridan saying yeas to the call was a bit off but maybe as you suggested there is some kinda pass trough call that will show up in the captain’s room w/out him acknowledge the call? Ivanova just was In rush and used it, now she prob regretted that no one want to see her his captain doing it lol

  5. STV’s comedy doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s intentionally far from being a comedic romp, something a story centred on Vir could have been and as a plot disastrously could have been.

    The script and the delivery are as sombrely toned as if the events might have happened around Sheridan or Franklin. Lyndisty comes over as naive, from a bad, spoiled family, not rent-a-goon a knows-her-place/typical Centauri woman, which JMS & Peter David have established in parallel with some Arab state women? The silly Abraham Lincolni is delivered with gravitas rather than punchline. Then there’s the moment folk seem to have the most problem with: thousands of dead narns. This storyteller’s illusion lasts for all of five seconds. It’s set up as perfect but grossly tasteless joke. The punchline is Londo’s pride with Vir, which is not funny, it’s disgusting and appalling. Londo goes from pride to disappointment. I submit it to you STV is no comedy, but a horror, and it knows fine well what it’s doing.

    STV is about bigotry and perhaps how it disguises itself as comedy: the Germans seeing the Jews as rats, before them, the WW1 b.s. stories of Germans bayoneting babies. The accepted-by-some lies and abuse of Brexit Britain, believing it’s fine nobility in racist attacks of the last month. The idea that a type of life is pestilence, that’s what Londo and his like think all the time as true and Vir simply cannot stand the slaughter that has come of thinking like that. STV walks some common ground with Art Spiegelman’s Maus, in that JMS (and crew) are exploiting well-assumed comedy territory to flush out the misery of tyranny. It’s the bigotry of everyday being hit here. The comedy of the common thug. When Britain sunk an Argetinian sub in the Falklands causing over 300 deaths and The Sun’s front page was ‘Gotcha!’ The plot marks out those beats. Taken as plot-only this is not unlike the ugliness of Fox News covering shooting sprees with smiles and stardom. None of this is there in the detail of the episode, it’s just the issue JMS is working with.

    When it comes to naked Ivanova, I’m not sure there’s enough to call it a sub-plot, though it is resolved as such. It doesn’t under-cut the main story any more than usual. This, along with Sheridan and Delenn’s asides are just life. We live with this horror everyday and if we’re not directly affected we carry on as usual. These sub-plots are fine. STV is no Passing Through Gethsemane or Coming of Shadows, but it’s definitely worth a B+.

    1. To expand on the comedy-bigotry issue, exhibit A: Londo Mollari, played by cuddly Peter Jurasik, who looks ridiculous and pulls all manner of wonderful prat-falls. Let’s face it, we all love Londo, and are often uncomfortable about that. If we get very reductive about Londo’s culpability in genocide, we can find other comparisons in his style as a dangerous bully and a joker. Donald Trump maybe? Dubyah Bush? Nigel Farage, Boris Johnston? All of them have made a career in politics out of playing themselves as cartoons, non-humans, larger than life, where the simple rules of what to say and how to act don’t apply. “It’s politically correctness gone mad!” they often yell, before putting an assistant in hospital or moving families out of their home, or calling on a nation to be bombed. STV relates to Londo in those terms, long-overdue, but specifically takes Vir as the inverse of that. He’s a cartoon creature in a hell-world, but he’s caring, concerned and takes his conscience seriously. He’s taken off his cartoon skin for responsibility. Despite his protestations of “if you knew Londo like I do”, he does see Londo as a monster too. This is the coming of age story it says, and if I say anymore than that, I’ll have to go into spoiler territory.

    2. I’m going to chime in and agree with Andy here. I think this episode is a good deal stronger than our hosts do, and he’s articulated some reasons to think so better that I could.

      I’ll add one observation that reinforces his. I think Chip was quite right that the actor plays Lyndisty as an ingenue, and quite wrong that this is a problem. I think it’s the best thing about the episode and Lyndisty is one of JMS’s most memorable creations: Madeline Bassett as genocidal monster. Very dark humor, but (at least for me) very effective.

      It nails something that we tend to occlude about real-world parallels. Especially the Nazis. Nazi Germany wasn’t actually [expletive deleted] Mordor. Its self-image was utterly sentimentalized, *especially* in the way in which women were presented. Schmaltz isn’t at odds with genocide. Quite the contrary: it is the construction of such sentimentalized images of women – which includes women who buy into them and enact them – that helps to bring about horrific acts of violence against alleged threats.

      1. I think a lot of the caricatures of the Nazi’s is driven by the desire of the US and its allies to deny their own culpability. Even after descriptions of the concentration camps were published in the US the St. Louis was turned back and the Jewish refugees aboard denied entry because immigration quotas had already been met.

        1. What you just Wrote about the holocaust and Jews refugees can be said now about the Syrian refugees, shows you how Babylon 5 can be fit to these days kinda depressing .

          Needs to be said that at the time Babylon 5 was produced during the 90’s we had two events of genocide one in1994 Rhonda and in Kosovo and maybe JMS was trying in a rush job to reflect that.

  6. Im with the hosts, while I recall enjoying the comedy bits in earlier viewings, they just seemed predictable and a bit out of place. Infact the comedy throughout has been seeming that way – perhaps Im just getting old and grouchy šŸ˜‰

    As for the romance, its never been my thing, I never liked it on the initial viewing and still don’t like it. Especially the whole ‘nearly kiss’ thing. #mrRomance over here šŸ˜‰


  7. There’s more wordplay in the title than you noticed. Not only is it a play on “Sic transit gloria mundi” (“So passes the glory of the world,” not just “sic transit gloria” as you mentioned in the podcast), but “vir” is Latin for “man.” So “Sic Transit Vir” means both “So passes Vir” (the character) but “So passes the man.”

  8. I’d always assumed the Centauri were based on the Europeans but JMS has linked their creation to the British Empire. Horatio Nelson maybe? Then I made a connection around this whole cartoon bigot theme, and got massively excited. Strap in.

    Here’s my theory. Londo Mollari = Horatio Bottomley.

    Who?? Well, let me walk you through. Bottomley (H.B.) born in 1870 was a wheeler dealer who made deals and bankrupted companies. He was involved in publishing. H.B. came from the underclass: he was an orphan raised in borstal and a self-made man. An early contract was to print the Hansard (Parliamentary) records ended in disaster. He had a paper called The Sun (not today’s version), and another called The Financial Times (the very same.) H.B. is forgotten today, but you all know him by another name.

    In the 1700s, Swift’s friend, John Arbuthnot, creates John Bull, and the character is played around with by William Hogarth and other creatives. In 1906, Horatio Bottomley writes and edits a new newspaper, the first real toilet tabloid, with the same name. John Bull, the chubby patriotic Englishman walking his bulldog, becomes it’s mascot. The nationwide personification of the UK has a starring role of full-page illustration on most every cover. And strangely enough, Bottomley and Bull look perfectly similar, and peacock hair aside, so does Londo.

    The John Bull newspaper caters to the lowest common denominator and is selling well. Then we get to the outbreak of WW1 and Bottomley’s real rise to power. The paper espouses a nasty streak of Jingoism. The Germans are animals, scum, lower than life, they eat babies and dogs and want our women! John Bull’s ratings go through the roof. They become THE paper that supports the troops and H.B., a national treasure spoken of in Whitehall. There’s a genuine encouragement to keep going, and the criticism of the government certainly played its part in the replacement of PM Asquith and Lloyd George’s war economy an munitions factories. The people demand Bottomley be installed in the war cabinet. They wanted him as the next PM. After 340 well-paid speaking gigs during the war, Bottomley is summoned to Downing Street.

    You maybe haven’t heard of him, because after the war he was jailed for profiting and racketeering off a war bonds fraud scheme. The people of Britain that once loved him were ashamed of him. I reckon his name has been wilfully forgotten: national guilt. The John Bull paper pretty much disappeared too after an immediate rebranding. I don’t know if JMS was aware of H.B., but certainly was John Bull. The traits of the acceptability of the cartoon criminal found in Londo are all over HB’s style and mannerisms, the friendly fellow looking out for his country, for the everyday Centauri.

    Quick plug because I’ve earned it: I’ve a ten page comic about Bottomley in the graphic novel, ‘To End All Wars.’ The book got two Eisner nominations so it’s well worth a look. I’ve linked my name atop this post to an article I was asked to write about Bottomley for the curious among you. And of course would love to hear what yous think of this.

    1. It always bugged me B5’s ‘really bad guy’ could be presented in such affectionate light. Having understood H.B. the two make perfect sense together, creating a major Eureka! moment for me. Hope I didn’t go on too much or obscure the theory.

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