7 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Endgame” Spoiler Space”

  1. Several things about this episode don’t hang together for me.

    Why did Clark kill himself at the right moment, and what would Sheridan have done if the Clarke regime had decided to ignore the outcome of the space war and instead remained in power on the ground?

    Planetary invasions are very hard. Unless Sheridan had several million million troops available to him, his only options if the Clark regime refused to collapse on cue would be to bomb Earth into submission. Sheridan doesn’t have planetary bombings in his nature (see below), so the end situation when Sheridan’s fleet arrives in Earth orbit is, at best, a stalemate between two powers–Sheridan, in space, and Clark, on the ground–who can’t meaningfully harm each other. Clark’s death, therefore, is an act without motivation done only because the plot needs to advance in a certain way.

    Secondly, after Clark’s death, Sheridan made no attempt to extort meaningful reforms from Earthgov when he had the chance. Once Clark set the Earth’s defenses against the planet, Sheridan had Earthgov over a barrel. He could have–and should have–demanded pretty much anything as a price for destroying Earth’s defense platforms. Unfortunately for Earth, Sheridan didn’t have the fortitude to use the threat of extermination as a club to beat Earthgov into cleaning up all of Clark’s mess.

    Once Clark tried to depopulate the planet, Sheridan had an opportunity to force EarthGov to wipe out Clark’s support structure (specifically Psicorp) and dispose of other annoyances (e.g. Bester) and yet he did nothing. His failure to clean up when he had the chance laid the groundwork for Bester’s continued machinations, likely caused the downfall of Garibaldi (and all that implies), allowed the telepath war, and quite probably led to the second EA civil war. Granted, these exact outcomes are not necessarily foreseeable but it takes no special abilities to see that removing Clark while leaving his cronies untouched was, at best, a job left unfinished.

    As we also see in season 5 (cursed be its name), cleanup is NOT Sheridan’s strongpoint…

    1. You make some interesting points, but I don’t entirely agree.

      First, I figure that planetary invasions don’t have to happen World War II style. When you control the high ground of orbit, you can pick exactly where to land the exact number of troops you need, while the ground forces have limited mobility and limited resupply ability. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it wouldn’t have to be as ugly as an orbital bombardment either.

      (The Centauri bombing of Narn is different because of the precedent of a guerilla war. The Narns were willing to go to any lengths to protect their home. Clark wanted power and legitimacy, and a guerilla war wouldn’t have gotten him that, he’d have already lost.)

      Second, there was no time in this episode to have any negotiations. That comes in the next episode, I think Sheridan DID have Earthgov over a barrel, he got them to grant independence to Mars. The more changes Sheridan pushed for, the more he would’ve been a military dictator, and that’s exactly what he was trying to avoid. His stated goal from previous episodes was to remove the current dictator and then let democracy sort out the rest. (Idealistic, certainly, but reasonable.)

      I think that some of the cleanup was already effectively demonstrated with Ivanova’s relentless pursuit of the EarthForce ships that had attacked civilians. And we also see that just because some people supported the government, that doesn’t automatically make them bad guys. General Lefcourt’s arguments were quite reasonable. Maybe we would’ve seen more cleanup if season 5 had been a certainty all along.

      But you key point still holds: from here on out, the theme of B5 is “fighting is easy, governing is hard.” Although it’s certainly not as whiz-bang exciting as season four, and I’m not a huge fan of the telepaths, I think that B5 did a pretty good job of developing that angle. I think season five is unfairly maligned just because it’s not as kickass as season four.

    2. Something to remember is that JMS is not subtle about his historical and literary sources (Red Scare, WWII, Orwell, Walter Miller, etc). Clark is Hitler. Hitler committed suicide when he was surrounded and losing. Clark was surrounded and losing. Therefore Clark committed suicide.

      And I agree with Dan. Pointing a metaphorical gun at the metaphorical head of the planet and saying “I’m in charge now and we’ll do this MY way” just swaps one tyrant for another. The fact that Sheridan would be a benevolent Hitler who forces the kinds of changes that we want does not make it any better. Every tyrant thinks that they are doing what is right, and that the people they punish are the bad people. G’Kar understood this, which is why he refused the throne.

  2. I haven’t watched the episode recently, but my memory is that the planetary defenses were about to fire pretty much immediately. In fact, story-wise, isn’t the point pretty much to create the big dramatic climax?

    So I don’t think Sheridan had time to negotiate, or time indeed to do anything except commit suicide by ramming (until, of course, General Whatever played by That Character Actor Who Plays A Lot of Generals saves the day in his schmaltzy, gosh, aren’t we all really good guys fashion).

    As for planetary invasion, I think we know so little about Clark, his motives, the actual strength of his regime, that I’m OK with handwaving his suicide as “For reasons known only to a character who is close to a blank.”

    But how might it have played out? The thing is, I think, that Sheridan achieves an awful lot of his war aims simply by having space superiority. That frees Mars, Proxima, and all the other colonies, and removes any threat to Babylon 5.

    At that point, it settles down into a state of siege. Presumably Earth can support itself indefinitely (it’s a planet, after all). But any satellites (communications, etc.) that Earth has in orbit are gone or can be destroyed at will – we don’t know how important that would be in the Babylon 5 universe, but it may not be negligible. More importantly, being defeated so showily and having a permanent reminder of it in the inability of Earth spacecraft to leave the planet without being shot down is inevitably a big blow to the Clark regime. Especially when at any moment planetary bombardment is a possibility. We know that Sheridan would never do that – but the people of Earth don’t, and knowing that you can be destroyed at any moment by an attacker against whom you have no effective way to retaliate puts a lot of psychological pressure.

    So the long-term survival of Clark under such conditions might not be a certainty. His underlings do have motive to oust him and open negotiations with Sheridan.

    In any case, though, JMS has only one episode in which to finish the series, as far as he knows.

  3. The episode was custom-made to be directed by John Copeland, because it’s has so much action and CGI. Copeland was always involved in editing the episodes, he did much of the action and effects parts, while JMS concentrated on the drama. The final cut was always producer’s cut, not director’s cut.

    While Endgame is definitely packed I feel it works a lot better than Into the Fire or Moments of Transition, the other two big climax episodes of the season. Originally the Earth civil war arc was supposed to end around four or five episodes into season five. According to the script books, the civil war itself was not accelerated much, it was always supposed to be fast-paced to create a sense of urgency. Compression happened mainly earlier, from the lead-up to the war, and from the Minbari civil war, with the most visible seam for the plots being in Moments of Transition.

    The thing about Marcus getting frozen probably comes from late season 3. Jason Carter had been pranked that Marcus will die before the end of the season. Naturally Carter was afraid of losing his job, especially after seeing the part of Grey 17 script where Neroon delivers “death blow”. Later part of the script where Lennier finds Marcus alive even says “You can relax now, Jason”, and JMS talked with Carter promising that Marcus won’t ever be killed. In Rising Star script there’s a med-tech line that Marcus still has some residual brain activity and he has been frozen. The line was shot but ultimately cut, because JMS felt that it was a cop-out, but in Sleeping in Light character montage Marcus is clearly seen in cryo.

    1. With all the “display screens” projected on people’s faces, I had assumed it was a Vejar episode. I blew that call.

  4. I wonder if Patrick McCormack as General Lefcourt would have worked for the Tracy Scoggins / Captain Lochley role in season 5? Instead of Sheridan and Lochley *telling* us which side Lochley was on in the Civil War, we’d have known right away.

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