Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Interludes and Examinations”

Once again, a seemingly throwaway title hides an episode with a lot of punch to it. Did you expect any of the events in this episode and what do you think about them?

Keep all comments to past and current events. Speculate but do not spoil.

15 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Interludes and Examinations””

  1. I’ll be really interested to see what our hosts and other people make of this one.

    The impression I have is that for most people, Kosh’s death is this tremendously affecting moment. It’s never been that for me – more of a “Huh. Plot development.”

    Part of that might be that Rance Howard does turn up the “jes’ plain folks” a little too much to really get to me in either of his appearances. But I think most of it is that for me, Kosh hasn’t actually done that much to inspire my affection. I tend to find the character most effective when he’s a big mystery early on in the show, and that’s not a type of character that’s particularly good at creating pathos (for me, at least).

    1. I agree – I always appreciated the severity of the moment in a ‘Woah Holy crap things are escalating higher and higher!” way. But I never felt sad or any sense of loss – just excitement to see what would happen next!

  2. I wasn’t really emotional after kosh death it was sad moment but as I said in the spoiler zone I felt we needed more scenes between kosh and Sheridan to really get the effect of kosh death and Sheridan reaction, for me the emotional impact was the confrontation between Sheridan and Kosh when Sheridan wanted the vorlons to help him Sheridan’s voice breaking really got me bc it showed him not knowing where to go next and not sure of himself this was the real stuff for me.,

    1. Agreed. I think the confrontation scene might actually have been Boxleitner’s best performance in the entire series, at least for me.

      1. This is not spoiler zone but I can say he had great moments in season 4 too which got to me, but I think we can all agree this was great episode for Sheridan character he wasn’t just the one level hero character here doing hero stuff , here we had him showing deep emotions we had him reacting to the big changes he went trough and Bruce sold it ..

        In a way this episode can be described as soapy bc we had deep reactions from the characters not just Sheridan but Franklin and Londo too, they all went trough deep emotional turmoil.

  3. I fully agree with Nikki’s want of a few more sensei-student scenes. Kosh-go-bye-bye hit me hard the first few times around, but on this viewing, not so much. Let’s face it, he did very little in seasons 2-3 and it feels like many great missed opportunities. Say what you will about pointless enigma, I loved it. Non-voting pebbles, we all know what that means! I’ll be awaiting Steven’s crack about characters in opening credits.

  4. I just have to ask: was this podcast episode recorded before Jerry Doyle passed away, and if not, was there a reason this wasn’t mentioned? Would you be willing to talk a little bit about him next episode? Thanks for doing this great podcast BTW!

    1. This podcast was recorded a couple weeks before Doyle’s death and we weren’t scheduled to record again for another week when it happened. That’s why we decided to include the essay on the website here for those who might need a place to express their thoughts: http://b5audioguide.com/?p=673

      When we recorded “Walkabout” we did take an opportunity to talk about Jerry Doyle a little.

  5. For the second time in a few episodes we’ve got our podcast hosts questioning a relationship in B5 because of a power differential, here Londo and Adira.

    Back in Olden Times relationships across class barriers were considered impossible or undesirable. See for example the novels by Jane Austen.

    In the 20th C we got past this, and it became socially acceptable for rich and poor to fall in love. Now our first reaction is suspicion?

    I am in favour of asking whether a TV/film depiction of a relationship is, deliberately or not, ignoring possible coercion. But I do worry that if we assume by default any difference in status makes a relationship dubious, we’re just going to recreate the social stratification of past eras.

    1. It’s a bit more complex than that, because, by and large, it’s not differences in social status that we (in RL) worry about – it’s hierarchy within organizations. We don’t worry about the possibility of a CEO having a relationship with a server in a restaurant – we do worry about the owner of that restaurant sexually harassing his employees.

      I [over]simplify. The fact that relatively few people do marry outside of their class is a sign that – informally – we’re not as far from a Jane Austen novel as we might flatter ourselves. And it’s not actually that simple in Austen’s society. To take the best-known case: the tension in Pride and Prejudice revolves around the expectation that Darcy will marry *up*, marry a daughter of the titled nobility, who is as much above him as Elizabeth is below him. In other words, it’s about defying the expectation of social mobility, not stasis. Similarly, Persuasion is driven by the fact that naval warfare allows for financial success that can render a previously problematic marriage possibility someone who is extremely desirable.

      But back to current modernity. There are a lot of dimensions to this, but here are a couple that strike me as important.

      The first is obvious: in premodern societies, women were systematically less powerful than men. Any marriage involved a significant power difference that was taken for granted. So to worry about power differences in relationships would have been, within the terms in which people understood gender relations, nonsensical. To oversimplify only a little (but to oversimplify – I’m aware that there are complexities here!), this went unquestioned until the 18th century. Which is to say, until very recently in historical perspective. – we’re basically still working out the implications of the Enlightenment here, as we are in lots of other areas.

      A second thing that I think is relevant is that, in my CEO/server example above, the CEO is more powerful than the server, but the CEO is not the server’s *boss* – he doesn’t have that particular form of power. This reflects the rise of the complex modern market economy, which enmeshes us in hierarchical institutions. The large majority of us have bosses, and, except in very small institutions, the bosses have bosses (who usually have their own bosses, and so on).

      And – for most of us – this is the only way to make a living. Relatively few people can casually just walk away from their job. Different eras are prone to different abuses, and the prevalence of this type of power makes this form of abuse a particular problem. [Insert topical Roger Ailes reference here.]

      Part of why we are so concerned about this sort of thing at the moment is that social mores have changed here very rapidly in less than half the span of a human lifetime.. Everyone is shocked by that panel in one of the early X-Men comics from the ’60s in which Professor X muses on his feelings for Jean Grey. But look at films from the same era like The Nutty Professor and Nanny and the Professor. It was not only possible, it was normal and expected for faculty (who were of course overwhelmingly male) to marry their students. (There is an article to be written about how Lee and Kirby, neither of whom went to college, recycled tropes from fictional midcentury college stories in prose and onscreen in Silver Age superhero comics right as those tropes were about to become hopelessly outdated.)

      So, to drag this back to Babylon 5 – this sort of thing is arguably a weak point of the series. The problem is to my mind not that the Centauri behave this way: the show is clear that they are parallel to our own premodern societies. The problem is that all the other races don’t object to it, and one can’t say that it’s because they never have a problem with the Centauri in other respects.

      And when I say “other races,” I mostly mean humans. The problem with Londo feeling that he is in love with a slave (whom he does not actually own himself and whom he is unaware is a slave when he meets her) is smaller than the problem that slavery is apparently legal, or at least tolerated, on Babylon 5.

      The Ivanova-Corwin comedy misunderstanding in early S3 is also a larger problem. Apparently Earthforce has no rules against fraternization of this type, even though the US military (to whose practices JMS appeals when asked to justify details about Earthforce) certainly had them when the show was being made.

  6. I see the treatment of Centauri slavery as another example of B5 being more realistic than Star Trek.

    The modern day equivalent would be Iran’s treatment of women as second class citizens. We in the west don’t approve, but we’re not willing to invade Iran to make the problem go away, or even break all diplomatic contact with Iran. And yes western countries do express their displeasure, but it’s not the kind of dramatic action that would show up in a TV series.

    In Star Trek, the captain of the Enterprise would find some clever way to convince the Centauri that Slavery is Wrong. In Babylon 5, the Centauri have to be tolerated because nobody (well, maybe the Vorlons) is strong enough to make them stop enslaving people.

    1. It’s a good point that the humans are not in a position to force the Centauri to change. (And, given that Adira is owned by a non-Centauri in Born to the Purple, I think it’s unclear to what extent the legal basis for Adira’s slavery is Centauri law in any case – although it’s been a while since I last saw Born to the Purple.)

      But I think it’s a harder question why it has to be legal on Babylon 5 itself. Once on the station, you’re subject to Earth law, as the show makes clear in several episodes. (Aside from stuff connected with the ambassadors, where diplomatic immunity presumably applies, although I don’t think this is ever stated.) So if slavery is legal on Babylon 5, and not legal on Earth, then at some point there has to have been a conscious decision to carve out a slavery exception In the Earth law governing the station.

      It is one thing to be unable to abolish slavery in a foreign power, it is quite another thing not to be able to tell ordinary citizens of other powers (diplomats are another matter) that they can bring their slaves onto the station and have their slave status recognized.

      But, as I said, it may be a matter of “unofficially tolerated” rather than “legal” – although even then, someone has to have at some point made the decision to create an unofficial exception to the law.

      Still, given that the story will later have an “Underground Railroad” for telepaths and allude to Abraham Lincoln in the context of the occupation of Narn, it might have been nice to remember how these parallels would apply to actual, you know, *slaves*.

      1. I agree that it would have been good to further explore slavery in the B5 universe. There were quite a number of ideas that got dropped into the show, especially in the early part, that were basically forgotten (anybody remember that, in The Gathering, we are told that B5 has certain rules about interspecies dating?).

        I can easily see someone making the decision to tolerate slavery on the station, despite it being illegal on Earth. The point of B5 was to be a great gathering place for commerce and diplomacy, and that would be imperiled if we told the other races that they must leave their slaves at home, or we’d confiscate (emancipate) them in the name of human morality.

        Maybe someone more knowledgeable than I am in Civil War history could help me out. When the US was divided into slave and free states, there was considerable conflict over the issue of fugitive slaves ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Clause ), but what about non-fugitive slaves who were temporarily passing through a free state? If a slaveowner traveled north to do business, and brought a slave along, would the local authorities “confiscate” that slave? Or would they just turn a blind eye if the slave decided that now was a great time to run for it? Or what? Interstate commerce still had to take place, even if there was deep division over the legal and moral standing of slavery.

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