7 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Intersections in Real Time” Spoiler Space”

  1. One of my favourite episodes of season four. Though my absolute favourite is Deconstruction, which wouldn’t have even happened if everything had gone as planned.

    Actually, JMS didn’t have the courage to write a full episode with just two men in a room. In the script books he admits that he started getting insecure with his writing, and chickened out about half-way through the script, even though it was the script he had always wanted to write. Included script version, still titled “A Passing Shadow”, has Garibaldi with the Mars resistance in acts three and four.

    But because the scenes in Intersections take their time, dialogue is a bit slower and there are more pauses than in most episodes the episode started getting way too long, 7-8 minutes, which was very unusual for Babylon 5. Soon it appeared that the next episode was getting short about just as much, and the scenes could be moved, resulting in the episode that JMS originally wanted to write. I’m quite sure it also made the episode better and more effective.

    Had season four happened the way originally intended this would have been cleaner case, as this would have been the season cliffhanger and season five would probably have started with the rescue operation. Funny, that this one time PTEN’s weird scheduling policy with postponing final episodes of the season actually worked, there was a four-month break after Intersections, right where there should have been a season break in the original plan.

  2. Wow, this story would’ve been so much less effective if they’d cut away to Garibaldi and the resistance! The main reason that the ending of “Intersections” was such a blow was that we saw NOTHING other than Sheridan and his interrogators.

    Sure, most first-time viewers will expect Sheridan to be rescued regardless, but by leaving no clue as to what was going on outside the cell, it emphasized the looming sense of hopelessness.

  3. I don’t think that there is any episode of Babylon 5 about which I have such strongly positive and negative feelings at the same time,

    To start with the big, shining, positive – much more of a positive today than it was when this was first broadcast: from start to finish, this episode is animated by the assumption that torture is wrong, and defines Sheridan’s captors unequivocally as working for an illegitimate totalitarian regime.

    At the time, this was not particularly remarkable – it was an era in which it was assumed that when governments used torture, they would have the decency to lie about it. But in the world of “enhanced interrogation” that we have come to live in, that’s no longer the case.

    Pop culture has followed suit. It has become wearily familiar to see heroized protagonists in TV and film demonstrate their toughness by torturing information out of some bit-part character. Yes, it’s supposed to make these heroes “dark” and “edgy..” You know what? It doesn’t do that. It’s long since flipped over and become a marker of what the hero in these sorts of productions is supposed to be like – which is to say we have arrived at a point at which our pop culture celebrates torture.

    Against that, Intersections in Real Time is a breath of fresh air.

    So, negatives? These wouldn’t be as strong for me if Intersections in Real Time stood by itself, and we didn’t know who Sheridan was before watching it, and didn’t know what happened to him after it ended.

    But we do, and, well, JMS said it himself: “The message is just that, that we *all* have to choose to resist from time to time, and that one individual can fight the system. And we are all that individual at one time or another.”

    Our hosts read this episode as about how Sheridan despairs a little and as leaving it ambiguous whether or not he’s right to say that you just have to say “no” one more time than your captors. I tend to think that JMS wrote the episode he intended, and that the episode endorses what Sheridan says at that point.

    It must be said that Boxleitner delivers that line excellently. Just as back in season two, when Sheridan said that the first duty of a prisoner is to escape, Boxleitner is so good at portraying Sheridan as someone who simply has no doubt whatsoever about doing the right thing. For him, if it’s right, you should do it, whatever the personal cost. Boxleitner really should have been cast as Superman at some point in his career.

    The problem I have with that, though, is while I believe that for Sheridan, it is that simple, I don’t know that it is:

    “…maybe you can fight the system. As long as just one person refuses to be broken, refuses to bow down.”

    “Refuses.” It’s a problematic word. JMS probably doesn’t mean to do this, but I think, in his desire to portray Sheridan as the archetypal hero, he suggests that people who are broken by torture – who give in and/or suffer psychological damage – simply didn’t “refuse.” And so, in effect, chose to be broken.

    I would be a lot happier with this if we saw some lasting effect on Sheridan from his ordeal – some reason to think that he didn’t come through it unscarred. But, no, he’s back to his usual self shortly after being rescued. The only effect seems to be that he develops new views about whether he’d look good with a ’90s goatee.


    Sheridan: “You just have to say ‘no, I won’t’ one more time than they can say ‘yes, you will.'”

    “You *just* have to,” more than “they *can*.” “Just” minimizes, and “can” avoids facing up to the consideration that situations in which people are tortured are characterized by an overwhelming imbalance of power between torturer and victim.

    At the end of the day, I’d put it this way: JMS is absolutely right about the desirability of resistance. But he wants to make it seem easy to resist. Not for everybody: the nightmarishness of the situation presented by the captors here is communicated effectively. But he can’t bring himself to make it seem as if it’s not easy for *Sheridan*.

  4. It’s unrealistic that Sheridan doesn’t visibly suffer afterwards, but also necessary.

    B5 is at heart optimistic and inspiring. That line from the interrogator about the “preeminent truth of our age being that you cannot fight the system” is heard all around the world, both at the time B5 was made and today.

    I know Voord thinks Sheridan is unrealistically perfect, but he’s a normal human being and I prefer my heroes not to be the genetically special like Harry Potter or the mutant / god-touched / other-dimensional superheroes.

    Normal human beings need to think “it won’t happen to me”, to dream, to be unrealistic. Why do we rewatch footage of that guy standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square rather than the hundreds or thousands of others who got killed? It’s not realistic, but without our dreams the vast majority of us would silently acquiesce with the tyrants.

    (And obviously a lot of us do anyway – but the number would be even higher if all we saw in the media were the realistic consequences.)

  5. All Caught Up! This was one of my favorite episodes before I enlisted in the military. Afterwards, I can see some holes. I think Erica nailed it when she called the interrogator’s technique a case of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. As she described, there was no follow through on any approach to see if it was gaining any traction before he moved on. While this detracts when I watch it today, it still has one of the best lines from an interrogation scene. Namely, when he summarizes his “confession” and thunders at Sheridan the reality of his situation (as he sees it). I still use the scene today in classes as a show of what people think is supposed to happen. But a bit of “head cannon”, as the podcaster’s put it, might be a warm up. Breaking someone like Sheridan wasn’t going to be easy and EarthGov had to know it going in. So perhaps they had the interrogator throw every approach at him to get an idea of what to focus on later.

    As a note, the only place else I’ve seen the actor portraying the interrogator was in Cheers as a coworker of Cliff. It’s a shame he didn’t get more strong roles like in Babylon 5.

    1. The actor playing the interrogator also had a bit part as “Mr. Papshmir”(?) in Naked Gun 1 & 33 1/3. That’s where I recognized him from. I loved this episode but, wow, what happens to Sheridan (and what could conceivably happen to anybody living in a country that sanctions such torture) almost seems scarier than any horror movie one can imagine, mostly because, while Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, Xenomorphs, etc. are horrifying in their own right, they are easily confined in one’s mind to things that are clearly not real. What Sheridan went through can and *does* really happen IRL and, given the right circumstances, could really happen to anybody anywhere. I too wish that we could have seen some more ramifications of this episode but, then again, I’m not exactly sure what they could have been, given that the Earth Civil War arc needed to be finished by the end of the season and, frankly, Sheridan has already been dead. Anything else is rather minor. I’ve always kind of wondered if the interrogator got punished for his failure to break Sheridan but that’s never followed up on. I would hope that- post- Civil War- he and other interrogators were brought to justice but we don’t know anything about that either.

  6. I still don’t understand why the Drazi revealed himself at the end. The “death” of the Drazi must have caused Sheridan, maybe weakened him a little bit to see an unknown innocent suffer that way. The reveal removes that, and undermines the interrogators’ credibility to boot. What am I missing?

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