The thing happened. The thing that Spoiler Space in the podcast was made for. The thing that we spent so much time analyzing hints and signals from previous seasons finally happened here.
But maybe this isn’t the best place to talk about it because it’s not a spoiler anymore! So here’s the place to talk about the things that happened in “Objects at Rest” that are covered in the spinoff media…
23 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Objects at Rest” Spoiler Space”
Lennier’s mistake can be read as an involuntary manifestation of a neurological condition similar to an epileptic fit. Epilepsy, for example, doesn’t mutually come with a clear biological cause or a social trigger. As it, and other neuro-conditions emerge, roots and patterns appear. By not explaining the biological angle further, it fits with JMS’s theme of not tying everything up: the story goes on. This presents it’s own frustrations. We never learn further details of Lennier’s illness, or whether he learns to understand it. This is the beginning of a character arc that simply stops dead. Which is why it’s so bloody annoying. We get to examine a social model of disability through plausible cause and triggers from Lennier’s diary, and how Delenn and others deal with it. It feels particularly cold because Lennier is not part of that dialogue with the audience. I’ve not re-watched at this time, suffice to say it seems a mighty mis-step.
I much prefer to think of that moment as a test of character. B5 has always emphasised choice and responsibility. To me, saying that Lennier acted involuntarily weakens a major theme of the show. The new character arc is how he will live after that moment.
Hah! It’s a challenge to write a spoilertastic comment now, but here it is.
– Structurally speaking, Objects at Rest is maybe the single most interesting episode in all of B5. It has to both be a season finale, and in a way a series finale, and not, at the same time, and JMS responds to this by structuring it in a very unusual way.
Series finale? The problem is that Sleeping in Light, for obvious reasons, doesn’t work well as a finale for a series that includes S5. So Objects at Rest has to do a good job of being the closure to the show that Babylon 5 is *now*, that includes S5. That’s what That Scene (Sheridan’s fly-by, with the faces of the replacements) is about.
Under any normal circumstances, That Scene would be the climax to the episode, and probably the entire five years. You’d have a brief coda after that to wrap things up, probably not unlike the Sheridan and Delenn conversation that we get at the very end.
But in fact there’s loads of plot after That Scene. The most important thing in the episode from a plot standpoint, Lennier’s betrayal, happens in the next bit, and is left pointedly without closure. And OK, you could see things ending when they reach Minbar – the “journey” is over, which is a nice little closural device that’s gotten used almost certainly for as long as we’ve been telling stories. But, no, we have more stuff with Londo (whose own story reached its closure a while back now), and that too is pointedly without closure.
Nothing else in Babylon 5 does this sort of thing, and it’s particularly striking given that JMS generally writes Babylon 5 to a very strict model articulated by the commercial breaks – the climax is before the last commercial break, and what follows is a brief coda.
I’d go so far as to call the effect unsettling, because the false closure (That Scene) is so *happy* (if also drenched in nostalgia), and Franke’s amazing score. And then the stuff that reveals that the closure is false – Lennier, Londo (especially the shot of the vase with the Keeper inside it, which “should” be setup for a future episode) – is so very not happy at all.
It doesn’t work perfectly, because I don’t think anything could quite solve the problem posed by ending the show with S4 and then inserting S5 before coming back to a finale written and shot for S4. But it’s a really solid example of making lemonade out of lemons and exploiting the potential in a less than ideal situation.
Obviously I enjoy Sleeping in Light more, because I am not totally without resemblance to a normal human being. But I think Objects at Rest actually shows off JMS’s skill as a writer to better advantage. It’s really impressive how well he makes something work that shouldn’t work at all.
– This episode also ends G’Kar’s story, with his recorded message to Ta’Lon. I wanted to observe that it’s a key piece of evidence for my argument that G’Kar is morally superior to Londo in general, but not in one critical way, which is that he never fully deals with his own culpability (both direct, but also in that he represented the attitudes of Narns in general) from back in S1.
G’Kar comes close at various points, but he never quite does it, and I think this is a central part of why (in The Wheel of Fire) he turns out to be (as he recognizes) an obstacle to his people’s capacity to move beyond their hatred of the Centauri – which is to say, why he is ultimately a moral success as an individual, but a moral failure as a teacher of others.
This scene is perhaps the closest he comes to confronting what he used to be , with his “I think you will find [recordings of S1 G’Kar] amusing.” It works really well for me, because Katsulas communicates a sense that he really is a different person from the old G’Kar, but that very fact means that he stands outside the old G’Kar, viewing him with detachment, but doesn’t feel the continuity of self with that earlier G’Kar that would enable him to feel guilty.
Just thought I would mention a few things that were discussed in spoiler space.
The plan was for Lyta only to appear in the Crusade episode “Path of Sorrows”, which did air, not “Value Judgments”, which was only ever due to feature Bester. JMS confirms this on the lurker’s guide page (http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/guide/504.html). I don’t think Lennier was ever due to appear in that episode but various posts online seem to confirm that the plan was for Lennier to die during the Telepath War (and presumably during the proposed film).
I believe Lennier’s involvement is mentioned in the Crusade show bible, which was available via the B5 Fan Club.
A suggestion for the very last episode podcast: the Babylon 5 quiz for new show watchers. Sample questions:
Who is God?
How do you respond to who are you? or what do you want?
A: Mind your own business
What are those four winged fighters flying around the station?
A: Starfuries. Bonus points for “and Thunderbolts later on”
I’d like to offer a nitpick-y correction: Lyta and Lennier’s appearance was supposed to be in the Crusade episode “The Path of Sorrows”. The captured and drugged rebel telepath that Matheson was guarding was supposed to be Lyta, but the actress was unavailable. This is mentioned in the Lurker’s Guide notes for that episode.
(Sorry for the redundant comment, I’d written the note but forgot to post it, and when I did, I found Phil already mentioned it.)
[This is more comment in response to Dan Carlson’s post in the non-spoiler thread. But talking about the absence of closure in Lennier’s story involves revealing how little Sleeping in Light reveals, so I thought it should go here.]
I can see that someone might find the absence of further detail about where Lennier’s story goes very unsatisfying. But I’ll defend it. YMMV on whether you buy this.
Basically, my defense is what I say above here: Objects at Rest is structurally a weird and interesting episode, reaching its climax with That Scene (whose effect is based on more than That Shot…), and then going on anyway with material that frustrates closure. The degree to which closure is absent ramps up.
Lennier’s action pays off a long-running, if not very prominent, plot thread, but (as you say) leaves rather a lot unanswered about what happens next. For me, however, it’s binary at this point. Either Lennier redeems himself, or he doesn’t. In the first case, “how” is interesting (and we clearly don’t have the time to show it); in the second, “how” is basically not as important as the fact of failure.
Sleeping in Light reveals what we need to know – Lennier came to a bad and tragic end (of some sort). At the end of the day, Lennier isn’t that important a character in Babylon 5, and I don’t personally find this more unsatisfying than G’Kar just sort of going off with Lyta. Leaving Lennier’s tragic end vague adds to its ominous character, which works for me.
But is there an absence of closure? Absolutely. And then this ramps up. The story material with Londo and the Keeper in the vase is pretty much all set-up for a story that we will never see.
(And were clearly not intended ever to see. Our hosts expressed frustration with a sense that JMS was breaking an implicit bargain that this would be a complete story by setting up so much, which they felt was for spinoff material. This doesn’t bother me as much. For me, War Without End and The Deconstruction of Falling Stars make it clear that Babylon 5 owes a lot to the “future history” tradition of midcentury SF, and that’s how I see this sort of thing: it’s not about spinoffs so much as about creating the impression of a universe that extends in time past this particular story.)
OK, so if you buy my argument that this is a part of how Objects at Rest works, so what? What’s it doing?
Our hosts commented about the meaning of That Scene being “Things go on.” Yes, and moving as it is, it’s simplistic. Because it’s all about saying that “Things go on, and isn’t that wonderful and triumphant.” The rest of the episode is about “Things go on — and sometimes that’s bad.”
Closure is one of the most dangerous things about stories, and happy endings are one of the most dangerous things of all.
Erika, Shannon, Chip, can I just say how much I love you guys? And to say thanks for committing to this podcast for the long haul, and giving Babylon 5 the care and thoughtful consideration it deserves. It has meant so much to me , so even though I am not a regular visitor to your discussions, I am listening. You have got me thinking, re-thinking, agreeing, disagreeing, and in the end I am an even bigger fan of B5 than I was before. Thank you all.
Ben, thank YOU.
Would the Telepath War have worked in a future B5 series? I’m having trouble seeing how. In itself it would be a rather grim story with a pre-ordained ending of Lyta overthrowing the Psi Corp – is that enough for a season? And if not, what else could be fitted in around it two years after the end of B5 but still 3 years before A Call to Arms and the Drakh?
The Telepath War was always the one thing that JMS carefully stepped around. There are brief references in books and Crusade, but that’s about it. He obviously thought about doing something else with it, but I don’t think it was ever going to be a major part in any series.
The B5 Movies script book has some JMS’s very incomplete notes (or just ideas), written in early 2000s, about a possible movie called Wars of the Mind. It would have taken place about two years after season five (2264) and centered around the Telepath War. It would have featured most if not all of the series main cast, and also Lyta’s and Lennier’s death on-screen, in an explosion at the Psi Corps facility. Presumably the same explosion that’s seen in Matheson’s flashback in Crusade episode The Path of Sorrows.
Too bad the rest of the Crusade script books still haven’t appeared, my What the Hell Happened? Vol 1 has been waiting for those three other volumes for years. Knowing how the script drafts were chosen for B5 books (e.g. War Without End has an earlied draft with Draal) The Path of Sorrows would probably have an earlier version with Lyta, and perhaps even that Lennier cameo.
Thanks for that. Yes, a movie would have worked for length.
One problem would have been the limits of CGI in the late 1990s/early 2000s when it comes to portraying telepaths in combat. (Which, given the title Mind War, would have been something I’d expect a lot of.) Books like the Psi Corp trilogy and non-B5 fantasy/scifi such as the Saga of the Exiles books by Julian May can describe what these powerful telepaths are doing without regard to budget. In B5 we got, hmm, Jason Ironheart in season 1 and a couple of trainees duelling in the Psi Corp episode of season 5.
I remember at the time JMS commenting online about a possible telepath war movie, and saying he didn’t think he’d even want to consider it seriously until after all the StarWars prequels were done and dusted because competing with that for an epic sci-fi space movie would be too hard. Its possible that the FireFly movie Serenity was a testament that it was true (as a huge fan of B5, Firefly and Serenity – but of course not the SW prequels) 😉
Hello to the Podcasters! Thank you so much, I’m going to miss you – will have to relisten and rewatch again!!! Meanwhile, I do hope you will eventually tackle Crusade, I would like to watch it with someone!
Meanwhile, I am SOOO glad JMS seeded in ongoing plot ideas to these finales. B5 is unlike any other TV show of its time with the “novel for television” and like so many great novels (Lord Of The Rings…) the world doesn’t end with the last page, the intrigue doesn’t end with the last episode.
So, I am now SOOOO happy to be reading the Canon novels. Right now in the Centauri trilogy and of course it deals with the Sheridan/Delenn son / urn plot point, and it makes me very happy to have that reference to the show. So, where you find it a fault that there is a dangling thread, I find it a strength.
Much the same way that dangling plot points from episode to episode might seem like a detrimental thing to the “suits” at Paramount who want stand-alone trek like shows. For those of us who move into the canon novels and comics and short stories, these easter eggs give us no end of pleasure. I guess I should say “me” not “we” because there might be other novel readers out there who wish the show was a sealed entity with no spill over to the novels, but I’m doubtful.
anyway, awesome podcast – thanks for the fine analysis and great discussion and FOR KEEPING IT FOCUSED! So many podcasts devolve into long digressions that don’t make the point. You do! And we are grateful (that was the royal we!)
Yes, the Centauri novels are great, especially in continuing plots from these last episodes. We see exactly how Sheridan and Delenn’s son is freed in these novels (with a truly puntastic line).
I hope the podcast does continue with episodes about some of the key novels and comics.
I’ve always wondered, was the fantastic finale theme written first for SinL then adopted for OatR, or vice versa?
I hope the gang do Crusade eventually (after a suitable mourning period) if only so I can get straight in my head what the best episode order is. It’s a nightmare! There’s production order, airdate order and IMS’ “intended” (or rationalised after the fact) order.
I agree with Crusade. That’s a series I’ve tried to watch, but I am always confused by which is best order – and then I just end up reading the Techomage books and re-watching B5. I would dearly love an audio guide to Crusade that I can truly follow along with!!!
Never read the Technomage books. They worth it?
Also, on a book-related note, something just occurred to me. Future Delenn says “our son is safe.” Does that mean he’s free of the Keeper? Because in the book he’s freed of the Keeper after the head Drakh dies (a sort of Lost Boys head vampire thing). But that couldn’t have happened yet because otherwise Londo’s would die too, and then he wouldn’t need to fight G’kar..?
So what am I misremembering, or forgetting?
The books are soooooooo excellent. I have NEVER enjoyed TV tie in books. They often are just hollow rehash, or adventures that are fine, but don’t extend the show. The trilogies and the two stand alones for B5 are essential in my opinion. The only ones that were sort of separate, but great for filling in information, were the Psi Corps books. But, the Centauri and the Technomage books feel like feature films from the series. The Anna book and the Sinclair books are similarly great immersions into B5 canon separate from the series.
Having said that, David’s keeper dies AFTER Londo dies. Shiv’Kala comes to Vir and intends to enslave him, but fails (don’t want to spoil too much) and is thus killed.
I think the Anna book and the technomages are my favourite because they are so epic. Anna is like a retelling of Alien through B5 lens. Technomages is sort of like Lord Of The Rings quest and then you get an alternate telling of the events at Z’ha’dum – which I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED. It made watching Z’ha’dum so much more enjoyable.
I just read Centauri trilogy (for first time). Now I’m in my 2nd Anna book, then going to go to 3rd part of Technomage (which includes the character of Anna as a Ship component, so amazing!). The gifts keep giving with B5 rewatches and re-reads.
to clarify there is only one Anna book and one Sinclair book. I am in my 2nd “reading” of Anna book…
Rolf Miller: You’re some kind of big shot, brainy guy back in school.
Max Eilerson: The term is “prodigy.” Seven letters, three syllables. I can see why it might give you problems.
Crusade Audioguide 2020!