23 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Born to the Purple” spoiler space”

  1. Just curious are you going to stick with covering one episode per podcast?

    If you do, man this is going to be a long voyage!

    There are some episodes especially in season one that really don’t deserve covering in such detail (TKO anyone?)

    1. The plan is indeed to cover one episode per podcast, with the exception of two-parters which will get one (certainly longer) episode. And we’re not running with a fixed time frame other than we prefer under an hour, so some episodes might be shorter than others if we find we don’t have a whole lot to say. But we might surprise you and find interesting things even in episodes that might generally be considered weak 🙂

      And yes, long-term project, we know.

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply Shannon. Just a note to tell all three of you how much I enjoy this podcast as well as the Doctor Who related podcast’s you three do.

        I will now watch Born To The Purple to get ready for the next show and I figure I can endure TKO one more time if you guys can!

  2. I had forgotten just how well this episode introduces us to Londo’s character flaws and motivations that are exploited by Morden later on.

    This will be a long but rewarding journey. How I’d love to watch more than an episode a fortnight, but the joy I get from staying aligned to your fabulous commentary keeps me restrained.

  3. This one has one of my most favorite lines:

    “What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?”

    Often set as my computer start-up *.wav. Currently considering it as someone’s ringtone…

  4. This episode really nailed down JMS’s intentions for Londo. Tragic, and genuinely touching romantic scenes earlier in the episode. I enjoyed the previous episodes, but I think this one most clearly signalled a long-term plan for the story, and made me hungry for more of the show.

  5. Sooooo much more enjoyable than the stupid Soul Hunter. As others have said this is critical for helping to establish Londo’s motivations and of course is critical later on. Some of the sappyness especially at the end is a bit much and made me roll my eyes but overall an enjoyable story. Also getting to finally see a telepath do a bit more than just business negotiations and how and when even a pure psicorp embracer is willing to break the rules is good to see. The side story with Garibaldi and Ivanova is ok, not being too boring or too thrilling and I guess helps slowly develop those characters a bit more.

  6. Maybe this is too obvious but my first impressions of the Centauri were reminiscent of Ancient Roman Empire and what it would have been like if they had made it to space (and what might have happen to their empire after all this time). They also seem to to have been given stereotypical qualities that would be seen as unfavorable esp. by a sci-fi fan base apparently setting them up to be villainous.
    Honestly, it is one of the difficulties I had with this show…I couldn’t really find a character or race that I could root for. A couple of times in this podcast you guys mention Earth being represented as “realistically” for the time period, I’m not sure if you are meaning as a show made in the 90’s or what humanity would be like in the future because if this is someone’s vision (JMS) of humanity’s future I find it very average. The fact that humans still seem to be stuck in the same trappings. But maybe that is the point, the journey if you will, having us stuck as a race between the Minbari and Cantauri in our evolution.
    Anyways…enjoyed the episode and you guys…thanks 🙂

    1. You’re right, I think: JMS states somewhere (if I recall correctly) that his vision of humans is that in the short term we won’t change all that much, and B5’s human arc is built around the idea that xenophobia and the capacity of authoritarianism to exploit it aren’t things that will easily go away. The implied point of contrast is, as usual with B5, probably Star Trek, and especially TNG.

      It’s not just humans who have feet of clay: even the species that is initially designated “wise” and “advanced,” the Vorlons, turns out in B5 fundamentally to be no better than anyone else.
      Whether or not one likes this is obviously deeply personal, and I appreciate that it may just be something that you personally don’t respond to.

      Let me try to explain why I do like that the characters (except Sheridan…) have serious flaws, and the societies that shaped them have flaws. It makes their triumphs worth something: “Even for people like us.” And its probably why, especially as I get older, Londo becomes ever more my favorite character.

      What I actually don’t personally like about B5 is when JMS pushes his other take on this, which he also does: “that’s what humans do: we build communities/we fight and don’t give in/ etc.”

      That’s an area in which B5 shows its roots in SF of the Astounding era a little too much for my tastes. See Asimov’s comments on why he turned to human-only futures in response to Campbell’s tendencies towards “human exceptionalism.”

    2. I think you have a good point. I always thought of Star Trek as the future I’d want to live in and B5 as the future that’s probable. Trek is fun, but highly optimistic. (Do you really think we can eliminate money, war, poverty, prejudice, etc in just 2.5 centuries?) B5 shows us a universe where we still have the same issues we have now. Just consider original Trek takes place right after B5 in the late 2260s.

  7. [Spoilers for later episodes that affect the Centauri.]

    A minor point, but I’ll make it: Born to the Purple nicely illustrates the tension in first-season B5, which is still significantly an episodic show in which stuff in one episode doesn’t necessarily affect the next, but which is groping towards something more coherent than that.

    On the one hand, Londo and G’Kar’s sexist male bonding moment, while perfectly in character for both by itself, seems to take place in a timeline in which Midnight on the Firing Line never happened.

    Similarly, this episode contains a classic MacGuffin to drive its plot: the Purple Files that all Centauri noble houses keep on all other Centauri noble houses. This, again, is not at all incongruous by itself. DiTillio has come up with a practice that nicely suits Centauri culture. But, given how much Centauri politicking there is in later episodes, this is a gun that really should have gone off at some point.

  8. I believe that all characters ever written whether they are aliens, animals, artificial, etc. are all representative of aspects of humanity because frankly they could not be otherwise since they were written by humans. It is all speculation and choices made by the author to represent what they want to represent. So when I compared the Centauri to the Roman Empire that was what I was thinking. I believe all races and species are just different collections of human traits.
    I didn’t expect the Earth population to be idealistic at this point or any point for that matter but it seemed to me that almost nothing was different including the media and other social and personal issues as represented up to this point in the season. Since you brought up TNG, the character of Barclay (to me) was well out of place in TNG but I feel could have been well represented within B5. I don’t have a problem with there being flaws per sae, I guess, having just watched B5 for the first time this year and only once all the way through at this point in the series I felt It was difficult for me to find a character I could relate to, NOT that the Earth characters are good or well portrayed but that for me are unrelatable.
    If I look to towards the end of the series, I find Londo an excellent character because he actually grows and at least realizes his mistakes and feels regret. Most of the characters do grow as the series progresses and I appreciate that.

    1. You’re absolutely right that SF aliens are always basically humans, seeing as it’s humans that are telling the story. In fact, SF (including B5) doesn’t usually manage to have aliens that have mentalities as distinct from the culture in which the story originates as those of other (real) human cultures, especially in the past.

      This also applies to the future, so you’re right that one would expect the actual future to be more different than this. But the show is after all aimed at an audience of contemporary humans, not the Far-Future Humans of Tomorrow (!)

      On your Centauri = Romans point: I think that’s basically correct. In particular, that they call themselves the Republic despite having an emperor is modeled on ancient Rome, and Cartagia is a thinly-veiled analogue to Caligula.

      There are other aspects of the Centauri that draw on other sources: male costuming is strongly 18th-century Europe, and the dueling clubs suggest 19th-century Germany. The long-running vendetta with former subjects (the Narn) is suggestive of modern ethnic and national conflicts. Turkey and Greece in the 19th-early 20th centuries might be the closest analogy, but there are (unfortunately…) many examples of entrenched problems that share something (to varying degrees) with the Narn-Centauri conflict.

      Media is an interesting question (and a fair one: JMS is a former reporter who made the media a significant theme in B5). I’d split the question into media technology vs. the behavior of people working in the media.

      On the first point (technology), well… the show has certainly dated! In fact, the reception of the show offscreen, with JMS’ engagement with fans on USENET, and the development of fan sites , displayed much more of what was developing in the ’90s than what happened on screen did. I think one just has to decide to accept this (or not). B5 is a classic space opera, and there’s something more than a little valvepunk about most space opera genre conventions anyway.

      I’m not sure that it has dated so much in its presentation of how media works, how it creates narratives through selecting what to present, and how those narratives are susceptible to manipulation by power for malign ends. B5 tends towards melodramatic caricature here (it is a space opera!), but I think it’s basically on the right track as far as I’m concerned. YMMV.

      I’ll throw out one area where I think B5’s presentation of human society definitely breaks down. I think the widespread existence of known telepaths would transform the way we think more than it seems to have done.

  9. Regarding the continuing Michael O’Hare/Sinclair debate …

    I would like to come in strongly on the Sinclair side! Though I hold nothing against Sheridan – he worked well for the way the show was written in the post-Sinclair era – there is something about the subtlety of performance from Michael O’Hare that I liked from the beginning of the show. Sheridan chewed the scenery. Sinclair was understated to the point where I always knew there was something behind the facade that I wanted to know more about. That was much more enticing to me. I was always sad to see him go – even sadder to learn later the reason.

    In my days in the B5 Fan Club Chatroom, we were often visited by O’Hare’s wife. She didn’t talk about it, but I’d always got the sense that there was more to the departure than we knew.

  10. Love this podcast, helping me to rediscover this great series.

    Would love a discussion on the various aspect ratios of each episode- it was so noticeable in Soul Hunter (and it crops up again in later eps too). Maybe this is part of the reason we won’t see it on blu-ray?

    1. Hi, Rodney!

      Yes, according to those with more tech savvy than me, it would take massive work and effort to get the series up to speed for Blu-Ray, or maybe it’s impossible. We’ll hopefully have the opportunity to talk about some of this in a future interview with someone who knows what he’s talking about.

  11. Hi all,

    Just jumping in here as a long time B5 fan having discovered this podcast and taking the opportunity to re-watch for the first time in years! I’m sure I’ll catch up with the podcast pretty soon!

    Great to see the beginning of Londo’s arc here, and also a great plotline between Ivanova and Garibaldi. As mentioned on the podcast it’s the first time Garibaldi gets to put his smarts to work, and it also helps to open up the so-far stereotypical cold Russian that we’ll all come to love. These scenes were the overall highlight for me.

    And yes when young me first watched this show I really thought Gerry Doyle was Bruce Willis! He even has the same hair arc as Willis!!

    Really looking forward to dusting off more of my B5 DVD’s in the coming months. I think fortnightly is a workable pace for those times when real life gets in the way. Thanks to you all for a great podcast – it’s really fun to listen to you guys enthuse over this great show.

    Oh and I can see it would take a lot to get these up to Blu-ray quality, my HD TV really shows up the animated scenes as being much lower resolution, but still really great for the time (thinking of Star Trek’s model work which was great but static). If the rumours of JMS rebooting the franchise are true, then who knows what we’ll get?!


  12. Well, your gratuitous bashing of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” aside (ahem! grumble, grumble.. .), I enjoyed your discussion of this episode. I really do like Peter Jurasik’s fine work as Londo in this episode, and I thought Erika’s insight, that this episode shows us who Londo would be under normal circumstances, was very helpful.

    I was distracted by the fact that no one in mass media sci-fi seemed to be able to anticipate digital copies of files, so the whole “gotta get those files back” plot really just doesn’t work anymore.

    I was surprised to learn that I’d been conflating this episode in my mind with some later one involving two young Centauris in love (I think, unless I’m just hallucinating?).

  13. “What do you want, you moonfaced assasin of joy”

    I almost knew you’d start with that line. It’s so epic and unintentionally foreshadowing.

  14. For years I labored under the delusion that Adira was Salma Hayek. Sigh.

    Mirror “Just Don’t give away the homeworld.” Love that part.

    Did anybody else notice the nametag of the guy who hits on the Narn lady reads “Butz”?

    I really liked the methane breathing Super Mantis. Being able to see straight through the entire head when its moving around is another cringeworthy moment though. Happy/sad they got rid of it.

    Papa Ivanova: “I’m using my last minute to spew exposition!”
    Ivanova: “I’ll waste more of your life by translating the little Russian you say!”

  15. Okay, I’ve just found this podcast so I’m playing catchup.

    I’ve got to disagree with your comments about Talia.

    The Psi Corps have all these rules and ethical standards, but they very much seem a front- because they’re unenforcable by non-telepaths. I mean, can we know if Talia was only reading surface thoughts? Other than the test for telepathy and the P-level system, we know nothing much about the ability of non-telepaths to police telepaths. We know that the main policing body, the PsiCops don’t really bother with following the rules. I see no reason to believe that Bester was an exception in the organization. We know from the PsiCorps trilogy that he was as much a victim of the Corps as anyone else.

    If Talia was really the rule-follower that you guys imply she was, it wasn’t because of the Psi-Corps upbringing, but the implanted personality, and if that’s the case it makes the issues in “Mind War” really problematic.

    That said, all of that is dependent on knowing more about the corps which isn’t really available by this point in the show.

  16. New listener here (I’m backlogging the episodes and commenting as the mood strikes me).

    I absolutely love the character of Londo Mollari, and this is very much the first episode where we see him start to evolve into the rich and complex character he ends up as by the end of the series. I also love the way he interacts with Adira in this episode, as it makes it clear for really the first time that the Londo Mollari that most of the public sees is very much a facade, crafted largely as a way for him to avoid having to actually think about how sad and pointless his life truly is.

    In listening to the discussion, it struck me that Londo and G’Kar do very much act out-of-character in this episode in terms of the way that they interact with one another, which is strange only in that we never get any in-story explanation for it.

    I also really like the way that Sinclair ends up handling the diplomatic subplot that runs through the episode as its “B plot” because it’s a nice callback to his actions in Midnight on the Firing Line and, to be honest, a bit of foreshadowing in terms of the way that John Sheridan will end up occasionally dealing with the “politics of diplomacy” both during his tenure as commander of Babylon 5 and afterwards.

    Ivanova is, quite honestly, my favorite character in the series (even beating out Londo, whom I absolutely adore), and her personal storyline in this episode is amazingly well-written, plotted, and acted, and you really get a sense of just who this woman really is and the fronts that she, like Londo, puts up for most of the world.

  17. It’s weird. I am in the middle of my first rewatch, (since I just saw the series for the first time last year), and I always conflate this episode with The Geometry of Shadows, because of the Drazi plot with the purple and green sashes.

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