12 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Ship of Tears” Spoiler Space”

  1. The weapons are deployed quietly and in the heat of cruel battle. Those three or so raw episodes in season 4 are all we see of the exploitation until the story gaps are preyed on for Lyta’s arc in the final.

    And the revelation? Well it feels too forcefully arranged from Garibaldi’s hunch to the exposition. If I re-wrote it I’d have it shown from a telepath perspective, half-dream, to take out all those rough edges. What the realisation means in greater story turns is quite clever, unexpected and exciting.

  2. Yes, the use of the telepaths-on-ice as secret weapons is a bit clunky when you eventually get to it. It’s one of those things where you have the sense that JMS had a list of different plot points for the series as a whole, and was saying to himself “How do I make all this add up to A Plan?” The telepaths are less plausible than necessary, because Endgame needs a secret weapon that paralyzes but does not kill the Clark forces.

    But, of course, at the time the fact that there was so clearly A Plan at all was a striking virtue – we were used to SF shows that overtly made things up as they went along. And Endgame (although it’s far from my favorite episode) is a good solid thrillride that makes you overlook the contrivances.

    I wonder if part of the clunkiness, though, is because of the compression of S4. If I’m remembering correctly, the difficulties with smuggling the telepaths on board the Clarkite cruisers are handwaved with “The Mars resistance did it.” One wonders if JMS had at some point some ideas for fleshing that out (without giving away the twist).

  3. It’s really good to hear you come at these from a different angle than myself.

    Shadow allies: The folk experimenting on Carolyn are the ones who went to work on Londo yeah? My reading that the corpse Franklin brought in was a human telepath, rather than another alien. If so, do you suppose the corpse was a Shadow ally or innocent? Your highlighting a ‘trickle down’ of allies leads me to consider the multitude of servants that no doubt exist. I guess its luck the folk of Centauri Prime were only providing a base. In a different life, Centauri could well have been performing surgery on Carolyn.

    Garibaldi’s disappearance: I want to know what you remember about Mr. Bester and what happened now. Do you remember? What happened after he left Babylon 5? Heh! I wouldn’t be surprised if Bester was behind the choice to use him in the way the Corps did. I suspect a particular reserved cruelty for the Chief.

    1. Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but I think to be a *real* Shadow ally you have to have come to Z’ha’dum or always been there.

      For people who allegedly believe in Darwinian struggle and the virtues of a Hobbesian war against all, the Shadows seem to be remarkably good at inspiring leadership that installs a real sense of team spirit. Much better than the Vorlons. Their subordinates are so loyal that they even want to punish the Centauri for what they did to the Shadows after the Shadows themselves are gone.

      The Shadows are the good bosses of the Babylon 5 universe.

  4. I am totally thumping the Book of G’Quan over here. With the “he will knock four times” rhythm. Repeatedly. Just to watch the veins pop up on G’Kar’s forehead.

    Every time I see the “people tank” props in B5 – first seen in The Long Dark and now stylishly appointed in metallic paisley for telepath use! – I can’t help but think of the Time Squad episode of Blake’s 7. Or the cryo people tanks from the first season finale on TNG. Different productions may differ on details like doors and portholes and gravity and whatnot, but I think we all know what people tanks are gonna look like in the future. *shudder*

    A note on “mundanes”…the note is as follows: I hate that term with the white-hot passion of an exploding sun. I remember ’90s B5 fandom using it to refer to people who didn’t/wouldn’t watch B5, and I hated it. Usage of that term in the real world smack of fandom gatekeeping, which is about two hops away, on a maturity level, from not wanting icky girls and their cooties in your treehouse. I find that my feelings toward Bester using it in fictional story context are about the same, too.

    I found it refreshing and very real that G’Kar can’t forgive Delenn just yet, and yet he will still fight alongside her for the greater good. I just want to bop people on the head with my B5 boxsets and say “Watch this, because there is so much we, now, as real people, could be learning from these sci-fi TV characters from the ’90s.”

    1. It’s not only realistic how G’Kar approaches the question of forgiveness in this scene. It also makes this scene important as a milestone in G’Kar’s overall moral progress.

      G’Kar makes it clear that he can’t forgive Delenn right now – but that forgiveness is possible in the future. This connects this scene with three others (not only those – The Coming of Shadows and The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari are also relevant – but I’ll just talk about three).

      The first scene is, obviously, when he asks Delenn for help in S2 and she refuses, citing his own problematic past. This is why I don’t think her comment to him here about him having changed is as patronizing as our hosts do. For one thing, it’s true.

      But more significantly, her refusal to help G’Kar was a challenge to him to be a different person. At that point in S2, G’Kar doesn’t have an answer – he makes it about begging and humiliation, because he isn’t a significantly different person from S1 G’Kar yet. So Delenn acknowledging his change now in S3 is acknowledging that yes, he’s now met her challenge. It’s important that she does this explicitly – there might have been a more artful way to write her line of dialogue, but the line itself is a critical element in this scene.

      Another scene from S2 that’s relevant is when G’Kar tells Vir that he can’t forgive. As I argued about that scene, G’Kar is trading in collective responsibility. (So is Vir, of course: Vir is apologizing as a Centauri for what his people did.)

      Delenn is now admitting to a higher degree of culpability for what happened to the Narn than Vir had. To whatever extent Vir could have done something, it was likely to be simply protest and refusal of co-operation – but Delenn has now told G’Kar that she was in a position to take concrete action that might have saved his people and she stood by and did nothing. The fact that G’Kar can forgive her, even if it’s not yet, is a signpost that he’s changed. (Carefully calibrated: Delenn is not Centauri, so he doesn’t have to confront the question of collective guilt yet.)

      The final scene is, of course, when G’Kar tells Londo that he forgives him, and this scene is one of the main milestones on the road to that moment. I am very curious as to what our hosts will say about that moment when we get there.

  5. This was good episode I really liked it. You guys made good points about this episode, I also had issue w/Sheridan referring the human telepaths as weapon maybe Erika was right and he just said he has something against the shadows but we do know he used them in the end of the civil war so maybe he already thought of them as weapons at this point, I give JMS credit here as he gave Sheridan dark side and he isn’t the hero that always does and says the good thing.

    I also love that JMS used what he wrote in early season w/the book of G’Quan in this episode nothing on Babylon 5 is going to waste..

    My fave scenes was Bester sitting on the chair doing Star Trek moment and Sheridan saying get off my chair .great Star Trek moment that also had lost in space thing w/Lennir there geeky heaven lol

  6. About Garibaldi being brainwash by Bester,Beste explained it all in the season 4 episode “the face of the enemy” that it was the shadows idea to kidnap him to turn him to their side and wanted to use the telepaths core to help them and Bester used his connections in the core and was able to get hold on Garibaldi to use him for his mission.

  7. Having listened to the podcast, scattered thoughts:-

    – So little did the fact that this episode sets us up for some exciting cutaways to telepaths concentrating dramatically in Into the Fire register in my memory, that I assumed that “…how well is it deployed?” referred to Endgame. Perhaps for the same reason, the dehumanizing aspect of “a weapon” didn’t strike me as strongly as it did some of our hosts – that’s something that Sheridan does address about their use in S4. But I think I’ve also always fallen in the camp that sees that line as being about telepathy rather than telepaths, as one of our hosts does.

    – JMS’s defence of coincidence on the grounds that real life has coincidences is… well, it’s not as morally problematic as his defence of naming the ship after Cortez, I suppose. But there’s nothing new about the observation that we expect stories as created objects to obey rules that real life doesn’t. (Really not new: this is one of the main strands in Aristotle’s Poetics.). Violating such expectations can work, but this doesn’t. It’s a shame, because just saying “Yes, it’s a plot contrivance that I didn’t conceal as well as I might, but look: it’s important thematically and it really works for the story in every other way” would have been more than OK.

    Actually, I think you can contrast Lochley-as-Sheridan’s-formerly-unmentioned-first-wife, which is for me JMS’s single worst plotting decision in the whole series. I disagree with our hosts that this point is open to the same objection as being a coincidence. JMS justifies it pretty well in plot terms: Sheridan chose Lochley because she combined being someone whose character he knew very well and could trust with being someone who fought on the other side. It’s just that it’s awful in other ways…

  8. I was coming on here after listening to the “Severed Dreams” podcast and was going to make some very eloquent point or other…. but then I saw the news of Jerry Doyle’s passing this morning….

    I don’t feel like geeking out right now.


    P.S. You guys are still wrong about the holy trilogy being a “trilogy”…. I’d love to have that argument but another time OK?

  9. I also loved the other half of the “get the hell out of my seat” scene. Sheridan is sitting in the captain’s chair, and Bester is wandering around the bridge. Sheridan says in a sotto voce, “try not to drool on the controls…” Bester says “you said something, Captain?” To which Sheridan responded, “Mmm…Not a word. Must have been a burp.” And since they spent so much time on the White Star, I would suspect that at least one of the bridge crew was a telepath.

    On the subject of the telepaths, remember that as far as they know, Lyta is a P5 telepath, a relatively low-level commercial teep. We don’t find out until the end of next season that she is way above level 12. And did I just stick this in my head canon or was it stated that anything below P3 was more or less ignored or undetectable? Almost a “mundane” as Bester refers to it…

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