Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “The Long, Twilight Struggle”

How long were you expecting the Narn-Centauri war to last? Did you catch that reference to mass drivers in “And Now for a Word”? Talk about “TLTS” here, but leaving spoilers for future episodes will end with your jumpgate privileges being revoked, Shadow-style.

11 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “The Long, Twilight Struggle””

  1. I’ve alway wondered whether there was some other meaning of “mass driver” I was unaware of (the opposite of a Minnie Driver perhaps?).

    As I understand it they’re kinetic energy weapons, inert cargoes (say, rocks, in a metal shell for conductivity) accelerated to high speed along a long electromagnetic rail.

    Instead what we see are glowing balls of energy barely accelerated at all down short rails.

    Plus it makes no sense to ban them: they’re the perfect way of launching mineral cargoes to orbit from mining facilities. Unless they mean banned in ships?

    As a futuristic WMD nothing really trumps antimatter especially against planetary targets. I’d have gone with that rather than mass drivers. Perhaps JMS wanted to avoid associations with Star Trek?

    1. Asteroids, not energy balls. The glow was based on this concept:

      “As for the mass drivers, the amount of energy required to move something that big would generate huge amounts of heat, possibly making them even white-hot hence the glow. ”

      A JMS quote on the Lurker’s Guide, which I will nto link here for issues of spoilers.

      And yes, they start at a reletively low velocity (still pretty high compared to, say, a ship) and the planet’s actual gravity well continues toa ccelerate it until it impacts. Also discussed on the Lurker’s guide.

      JMS actually spent alot of time thining about how planetary bombardment would work in the B5 universe.

  2. I assume that what they mean is banned as a means of launching large masses down a gravity well to bombard a planet in wartime. It could well be that the basic technology is not banned for peaceful use.

    As regards antimatter – nothing in the B5 universe (at least, that I can think of) suggests that the technology to create antimatter exists. B5 technology in general stays a little more mundane (a little) than most televised space opera. But the ability to create major impact events on inhabited planets is devastating enough that I can see it being banned.

    It’s so much harder to launch things into orbit than it is to send them the other way that, on the whole, warfare in any semi-realistic space opera should probably turn mostly on who controls the space around a planet, really.

    1. I liked the possibility raised in the episode that mass drivers were being used in a similar manner as Cold War positioning of nukes, part of a MAD-like strategy but not really to be used. It would explain both why the technology is easily accessible and how Londo could be horrified after “justifying” them earlier.

  3. I remember watching this the first time and the concept of mass drivers blowing my mind. That killer scene with Londo staring over the destruction still gives me shivers. Such an emotionally strong episode with fantastic performances tied with great direction and music.

    Did I miss hearing Stephen’s thoughts on this episode in the podcast ep? I remember hearing that he didn’t remember the name Zathras from that season 1 episode – but not if he was squeeing about the episode like the rest of you (and me, and I’m guessing most of us) were. Was the mass destruction inflicted by the mass drivers as horrifyingly impressive and awe-inspiring to him as a new viewer?

    1. Every time I see that scene and the look of horror on Londo’s face, can only hope the technomages prophecy from the start of the season is echoing through his mind. “I see a great hand reaching out of the stars….I hear sounds. The sounds of billions of people calling your name.”
      “My followers?” asks Londo.
      “Your victims.”

  4. When Delenn met Draal she met a Minbari who didn’t reject her. Have we seen anyone other than Lennier accepting her this season? It’s been a while since I watched a season 2 episode that wasn’t “There all the honor lies”, but that episode had Ashan who “answers to other Minbari, not freaks”. It’s no wonder that she was happy to meet an old friend who still accepted her.

    1. You are right, i can’t think of anyone else. It’s funny how he saves the ‘you have changed’ comment until the second time he interacts with her. Well played when David Corwin says ‘that’s funny’ in CnC after they cut away from Draal laughing off screen.

  5. This was indeed a brilliant episode. I am re-watching the series now after many years, so although I know ‘what happens’ I am going to remain spoiler free, a few things were mentioned on the podcast when I stayed past the jumpgate and I regretted it.

    I was chocking and fighting back tears during the battle at Gorash 7. I wonder if we’ll see the ‘jumpoint disruptor’ again, I can’t recall.

    The speech by J’Kar at the end is also momentous, this was one of Andreas Katsulas’ (RIP) best performances.

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