Zocalo: Spoiler-Free Discussion of “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”

We get a series of glimpses into the future of the “Babylon 5” universe in this episode, technically the second of four finales. You can talk about how well it stuck its landing for you here, but avoid the details from Season 5!

7 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-Free Discussion of “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars””

  1. I get why a lot of people don’t like this episode. It’s a very low-key, intellectual approach to the entire myth arc of B5. I didn’t understand this episode very well either the fist time I watched it. And even now that I appreciate it more, it’s certainly not a favorite by any means.

    “Historians exercise great power and some of them know it. They recreate the past, changing it to fit their own interpretations. Thus, they change the future as well.” — God-Emperor Leto II, quoted in “Heretics of Dune”

    I’d be shocked if JMS hadn’t read Frank Herbert’s work, and even though I’m sure it wasn’t a conscious decision, “Deconstruction of Falling Stars” basically has the same attitude. The entire purpose is to show how the events of the past season were viewed in the future. Each of the eras was deconstructing part of the myth.

    Which then means that as a whole, the episode is a DE-deconstruction (reconstruction? Or meta-deconstruction?) of the myths and actions of Sheridan and Delenn.

  2. There was another obscure casting gag with the guest characters, beyond the one mentioned on the podcast. The english-accented moderator of the discussion in the 100-years-later section would go on to voice the God King in the breakout iOS video-game series “Infinity Blade.” He was also apparently Alfred in the “The Batman” animated series of the mid-2000s, but I never saw that one. A shame William Edgars wasn’t around.

  3. I love this episode. In fact, this is my favourite of the whole show. I love how it visits the come-down following their victory. This covers similar territories to those in the entire Dune with its repeating cycles, controlling religions and peophecies.

  4. One of my favourite episodes.

    Section 1: Our hosts said that they thought that the pundits section seemed dated. I agree. It’s gotten worse since then. An otherwise-positive visit with my parents this summer contained the off-note that my father has various cable news shows on for hours at a time. I cut the cord many years ago, so it had been a long time since I’d seen talking heads going at it. It was so painful. If there is any format for discussion that is *less* intelligent that Twitter, it is watching idiots shouting talking points over each other. Watching this episode, I was surprised at how few interruptions there were.

    Section 2: Speaking as an academic, this is my favourite section. A room full of egocentric yahoos posturing and puffing themselves up jabbering on about things they do not understand, trying to make themselves look superior by tearing others down. Its like JMS had accompanied me to an academic conference. The only thing that seemed unrealistic about it to me was that all three yahoos had enough sense to be shamed in the light of Delenn’s gaze. For a closer approximation of blind academic ego, that guy who tried to say “well of course you would say that” should have shamelessly continued to tear Delenn down to her face, fueled by his sense of self-importance.
    (And if this section had been filmed now, one of them would have had to scream at Delenn that she’s no better than a Shadow because of her Minbari privilege.)

    Section 3: Orwell doubleplusgood. Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Straczynskiwrite newspeak.

    Section 4: Part of my enjoyment here is that I love Canticle for Leibowitz. I saw this episode, and went and looked up the book when I found out what JMS was riffing on. Both the book and the episode have a much better take than the tired discredited trope of science and religion being locked in a zero-sum death struggle. Also, I had a student who reminds me of Brother Michael, so I relate. He also had a tendency to overreact and have recurring crises of faith, and I had to bring him back to reality.

  5. Okay, here’s my thing on the “Great Man Theory” of history. I mentioned a while ago that I come at this having gotten a doctorate with a combined specialization in social and personality psychology. Social psychologists tend to explain behaviour in terms of factors outside of the individual, while personality psychologists tend to explain behaviour in terms of factors within the individual. I was trained to look for person-by-situation interactions; meaning that behaviour is influenced by the combined influence of both internal and external factors. So when I hear people badmouthing “Great Man Theory” in favour of “social forces” explanations, the territory seems familiar.

    The central question here is: what drives history? On the one hand we have those (not currently the dominant faction) who have said that history is nothing but “the biography of great men” (Thomas Carlyle). On the other side we have those who say that history is nothing but the outworking of various social forces (Tolstoy said that “Kings are the slaves of history”). Note the use of the words “nothing but” in both of those descriptions. It is the “nothing but” reductionism that is the problem. The reality is that it is both the social and the individual. Of course “great men” are shaped by their context, and cannot influence history without social factors. Julius Caesar could never have seized power in Rome without the factors in Rome that made it possible. Put Julius Caesar into a different context, and we would have a different outcome. But that does not mean that we could take any random Roman, put that person in the same situation, and get the same outcome. Julius Caesar shaped history.

    And so did Sheridan and Delenn. Aside from their moral failure, the greatest error of the academics in this episode is that they went right to the “nothing but.” Had they said that the personalities of Sheridan and Delenn interacted in complex ways with a variety of situational factors and the efforts of many other individuals, together creating and sustaining the Interstellar Alliance, there would have been no problem.

  6. Since it’s the end of a season, I will put on my old geezer hat once more and tell y’all about what we did while waiting for the next in the bad old days 🙂 We had to wait months, I tell you. Months!

    Some of us played roleplaying or tabletop games, or even just bought the books for something to read.

    The first was “The Babylon Project” a roleplaying game by Chameleon Eclectic. It came out in 1997, ie the time of season 4. It was followed by a second “Earthforce Sourcebook” which combined roleplaying material and tabletop space combat.

    Should you happen to run across a copy of either, they’re now spoiler free. There’s some background info about the history leading up to the construction of B5, and background info on Earthforce military and spaceships. But I wouldn’t recommend them unless you really want to collect everything B5 related.

    Second was “Babylon 5 Wars” a set of rules for tabletop space combat, released by Agents of Gaming just as the original TV series came to an end. All the content was approved by Warner Bros, so could be considered canon.

    There was also a line of miniature spaceships, which were in the 50-150mm range for the bigger ships, nowhere near the size of say those Star Wars spaceships in shops now.

    B5 Wars obviously has a lot of info about spaceships in B5, with many models that never appeared on screen. There’s also some information about the alien races themselves, to explain how their cultures influenced their military. The artwork is beautiful. The models are nice if you want an armada of B5 ships that fits on your desk.

    There are at least 8 of these books, and some do contain spoilers for season 5 and later. The core rules, Earth-Minbari, Narn, Centauri, and League of Non-Aligned Worlds books are now spoiler free.

    In the 2000s Mongoose Publishing, who are British rather than American, bought the B5 licenses and produced both “The Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game” and “A Call to Arms”, a set of rules for tabletop space combat with the same range of miniatures.

    These books are very detailed, with lots of background info, and once again content approved by Warner Bros . Because of the publication date, they are full of spoilers. For example, the Crusade supplement includes plot summaries of the three episodes that were written but not filmed.

    Even so, if you’re a B5 fan I recommend grabbing the roleplaying game books if you run across a copy. Read carefully if you don’t want to wait until our hosts finish Crusade 🙂

    And lastly I will blow my own trumpet. I co-wrote yet another rulebook for tabletop space combat with Babylon 5 ships, which is a free download from

    And yes it does contain spoilers for season 5 and Crusade.

  7. Crap, no preview button on comments 🙁 so I didn’t realize the download link vanished. Google for “Fleet Book Babylon 5”

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