The war that we fight is not against powers and principalities. It is against chaos.
The part of me that is going will very much miss the part of you that is staying.
The war that we fight is not against powers and principalities. It is against chaos.
The part of me that is going will very much miss the part of you that is staying.
This discussion started in the Babylon 5 fan group. There is a rule in the group that disallows all politics and religion that isn’t part of the show from being discussed in the group. If a post strays too far into the real world, the moderators will delete it. I know why moderators do this, but I don’t honestly care. It is unrealistic to expect human beings to be able to separate their beliefs from the entertainment that they enjoy. Especially a show like Babylon 5 or Star Trek, shows that are always tweaking politics and religion in the course of their storytelling. Discuss any episode of the show without straying into weighty matters of philosophy or politics. Go ahead and try.
The long and the short of why I started the article this way is, I have no idea how long the writing I’ve done on the subject will exist within the Facebook group. It just takes one religious zealot, one antitheist, and the thread goes poof. Can you blame me that I want to export the writing so as preserve it?
This image is from the Babylon 5 episode Believers. Here is a link to a synopsis of the episode in case you haven’t seen it or if you don’t want to spend an hour watching the show right now. Also, you should stop reading now if you don’t want any spoilers before you watch the episode, because this article will be full of them.
Still with me? Okay then, here we go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The OP included this statement with the image, “I still remember how outraged I was when I saw it the first time.” A sentiment that I wholeheartedly endorse. When the episode aired back in 1994 I was furious when the credits rolled. As a young parent myself, I couldn’t imagine how any parent could be so blind as to do what they did in the final scenes. The story revolves around a sick child,
Shon, a young alien boy, has developed a “congested blockage in his upper air passages.” When Dr. Franklin explains to Shon’s parents that Shon’s condition can be cured by a fairly routine surgical procedure, the parents seem bewildered. “You will cut him open?” they ask, and explain that the “Chosen of God” cannot be “punctured” — for their souls will escape.
The main conflict of the episode, above, is introduced in the teaser opening. The show starts this way for a reason, and develops the way it does specifically in service to the moral quandary of the problem. “Oh, but his soul!” say his parents. The soul is unmeasurable, unidentifiable. The soul, for the purposes of this episode, is non-existent. The McGuffin, in scriptwriting terms.
There are other episodes of the show where the soul is treated as a physical or at least detectable energy presence. The episode Soul Hunter, eight episodes before this one in the first series, springs immediately to mind as an example of this. So the problem isn’t that there are no souls in the show, or that the writer, David Gerrold, didn’t flesh out the story well enough. It is simply necessary in this episode that the presence of the soul cannot be detected because if it could be verified as being present after the surgery, then there is no moral quandary. There is no story to tell.
When I ran across the thread discussing the episode it already had over 100 comments. However, in reading through the comments I found a near absence of understanding of the purposeful moral dilemma presented by the story. Comments like this one,
Sorry, but I call BS on that one. “Unmeasurable, unidentifiable; AKA, non-existent.” Is nothing more than an argument to silence. For the vast majority of human history things like cells, atoms, and gravity were “Unmeasurable, unidentifiable;” so they were “AKA, non-existent”, right? Just because it is not (yet) measurable does not mean it does not exist.
As I have mentioned a number of times about this episode, the reasons for this particular belief were not addressed. That’s either a failure of Franklin or David Gerrold.
His willingness to blame the writer and actor simply reveals his beliefs on this particular subject. His rejection of the argument is far more revealing of his moral rigidity and lack of understanding of the mechanics of storytelling than it is a truthful observation about the episode and the moral quandary that it contains.
Like the trolley problem, there is no right answer to this problem. In the trolley problem you are asked to choose between taking one life or five under varying circumstances. When the problem is framed one way, you predominantly get an answer that underscores utilitarian ethics; i.e. most people will choose to sacrifice one life to save five. However, when the problem is framed another way, usually requiring the person making the decision to take an active physical role in the decision by pushing a person onto the tracks to stop the trolley, as one example, most people will chose to allow the five people to die.
The problem here, narrowly defined, is medical intervention vs. natural selection. The doctor is required to help his patients. He makes a reference to this fact when he alludes to taking a medical oath to do no harm. The good doctor saw his moral obligation as at least attempting to save the child’s life. The child will end up dead no matter what the doctor does. Of course, neither he nor the audience knows this until the reveal at the end.
The parents knew their child was dying. They expected to find him dead when they were summoned back to the medical lab. When he was instead alive and well, they knew that the doctor had violated their beliefs and saved the child against their wishes. So they acted on their beliefs and did what they thought should have been allowed to happen in the first place.
If the soul is measurable, produce a measurement. If it is definable, define it in a way that can be demonstrated empirically. In this specific episode of Babylon 5 there was no measurement, no definition. In the world that we exist in, believers have been trying to prove the existence of the soul for hundreds of years. They have yet to demonstrate a single method for determining the properties of a soul, and yet few humans will step forward and say they have no soul. Why is this? The soul cannot be shown to be real by any measurement that we humans can attempt, and yet we all still believe that we all have a soul. That it is important we not deny the existence of our own souls.
The doctor is certain that the parents will see reason. He is certain about what his moral path is. The parents are certain that their child should be dead. They are certain of their moral path. The conflict is unresolvable, on purpose. You are supposed to question “what is the moral course?”
Delinn asks the only important question “Whose beliefs are the correct ones?” when she refuses to help the parents stop the operation. Whose beliefs are correct, and how do you demonstrate the correctness of your beliefs? What would have happened if the parents had accepted that their child was healthy but unchanged? If they had taken him home to their planet, would the rest of their people have recognized him as a demon on sight? Or would they have blithely accepted that medicine had saved the boy without loosing his soul? They wouldn’t know that he had been cut unless they could sense the change in his body like a soul hunter would in that other episode.
The boy’s parents did know, because they said goodbye to him minutes before he would have died only to return and find him alive and well. But if they could have accepted him, would anyone else have noticed? This was the lesson I learned from the episode and I’ve carried it with me ever since. You cannot save a child from their parents without removing the child from the parents. The separation has to be physical, and the child has to accept that this is the right thing to do. Without that action, without the agreement of the person you are trying to help, you will simply deliver the lamb to the slaughterer at another time and place, and you might as well have not bothered to make the attempt in the first place.
Act or not act, the outcome is the same in this story. The only question is, what was the moral thing to do? I still side with Dr. Franklin. You, however, are free to disagree.
The avalanche has already started; It is too late for the pebbles to vote.Ambassador Kosh
…and the word is finally out.
***This thread includes huge spoilers for the entire 5 year arc of Babylon 5, including the details of JMS’s earlier draft of the story, as of the start of production on the series.***
OK, doing this in reverse order: I’ve already written the rest of this post (so my fingers are getting rather tired), and am now writing this, the lead paragraph. I have in my possession Babylon 5 Script Book #15, but I’m too exhausted to explain what that is for those who don’t already know, so read this thread if you want to know:
And here is a shameless plug for all of the B5 script books:
The most talked about feature of Script Book #15 is JMS’s 7 page, single spaced synopsis of “the original story arc”, with Sinclair in place during the whole story. It’s a bit of a misnomer to call this the “original arc”, as there were in fact earlier iterations of the story, before it got to this point, but this is where things stood in JMS’s head at the time Season 1 was going into production (but after “The Gathering” was filmed). He wrote the document as sort of a memo to himself, so he could keep the big picture straight. The arc was written out in much greater detail on over 100 3×5 notecards, and on an encrypted file he had on his computer. But this was his summary.
Somehow or other, I volunteered to write out a detailed synopsis of JMS’s 7 page story outline, and post it here for your benefit. That’s what this thread is. I haven’t quoted any of the outline directly. Just explained it in my own words. AFAIK, my synopsizing of JMS’s synopsis is not in violation of his wishes. But if anyone wants to argue for why I should edit / delete this post, I’ll hear you out.
A few things about the synopsis:
I do not actually believe that this is what the show would have looked like if O’Hare had stayed on. There are too many divergences from the story we got that have nothing much to do with Sinclair/Sheridan, that I think JMS decided to change certain things around for reasons having nothing to do with the identity of the lead character, and that would have happened just as easily if O’Hare had stayed.
The story is so big, that there’s a lot left out here, and I’m sure some of the “missing” story elements were in fact included in JMS’s huge pile of index cards. Most of the 7 page synopsis focuses as much on the big picture as it does on the individual characters. The only characters mentioned by name are: Sinclair, Garibaldi, Delenn, Londo, G’Kar, Kosh, and Catherine Sakai. (Notice a trend? Excepting Sakai, all of these are characters who appeared in “The Gathering”, and continued as main characters in the series. It’s possible that this was written when JMS knew that the actors who played Takashima, Dr. Kyle, and Lyta were going to be unavailable, and he hadn’t yet figured out how the replacement characters would fit into the story.) The characters of Santiago, Clark, and Sinclair/Delenn’s son are mentioned, but no names are given for them.
One of the weirdest things is that the series seems to end on a cliffhanger, and the last page and a half of the synopsis details the storyline of a potential spinoff series, Babylon Prime, which resolves most of the major plot threads. The events in the outline seem to be in quasi-chronological order, though it’s sometimes hard to tell, as there’s a lot of jumping back and forth between the various threads. I’ve split up my synopsis of JMS’s synopsis into four parts: Seasons 1 & 2, Seasons 3 & 4, Season 5, and Babylon Prime.
Here we go:
SEASONS 1 & 2
Much of the stuff on the first two seasons matches what we actually saw on screen, including:
-Sinclair trying to figure out the hole in his mind from the Battle of the Line
-The “Babylon Squared” story
-Santiago assassination and Clark taking over
-Delenn undergoing transformation
-The Shadows slowly making their presence felt, and Londo allying with them, and Londo using them to gain influence with the Centauri
-Kosh revealing himself to all when he saves Sinclair’s life at the end of Season 2
Main divergences from what we saw on screen:
-Sinclair stays on, and remains commander of the station throughout the series
-Unclear exactly when this is revealed, but the secret behind Sinclair & the Battle of the Line is not that he becomes Valen (Valen is never mentioned in this outline), but that he is the person who has been prophesied to save the Minbari from dying off. In order to fulfill the prophesy, Delenn must transform to become human and mate with Sinclair. Their son will be some kind of chosen one who will save the Minbari race from extinction(???). Some of the Minbari (warrior caste?) interpret prophesy differently, and think that Sinclair will actually lead the Minbari to doom.
-Not 100% certain on this, but it looks like the Centauri conquest of the Narn doesn’t happen until early/mid-Season 3. It’s also not completely clear whether there is even a Narn/Centauri war as such. The Shadows aid Londo’s ascension by secretly staging a number of incidents, but does this involve a full blown Narn/Centauri war that lasts a season? Not clear. Rather, some time by mid-Season 3, the Shadows help the Centauri conquer the Narn homeworld and decapitate their empire, but I’m not sure if that’s actually the culmination of a lengthy war.
SEASONS 3 & 4
-The Centauri conquer the Narn Empire with the help of the Shadows.
-After the Narn surrender, G’Kar briefly stays on B5 and tries to rally allies against the Centauri, but it doesn’t work. So he returns to the Narn homeworld to join the resistance.
-Catherine Sakai is “mind-raped”, and all memory of her relationship with Sinclair is erased, and this crushes Sinclair. [This seems like some early iteration of the Anna Sheridan / Z’ha’dum story, but there’s no explicit indication of how this happens to Sakai, or who’s responsible.]
-Sinclair & Delenn become romantically involved, and Delenn is pregnant by the end of Season 4.
-Garibaldi returns to drinking, and resigns as chief of security. During Season 4, he’s a mercenary operating out of B5, but there’s no mention of the Psi Corps sleeper / William Edgars / Lise Hampton story.
-There is no mention of an overt war between the Shadows & Vorlons. But they are fighting each other by manipulating the younger races. There is no mention of an order vs. chaos ideological conflict between the two. Just that the Vorlons manipulated the younger races throughout history, and the Shadows rebel against that, and try to set themselves up as rulers of the galaxy.
-The Minbari warrior caste overthrows the Grey Council, and orders the resumption of hostilities with Earth. They also want Sinclair and Delenn dead.
-The Centauri try to move in on B5’s sector of space.
-Londo & the Centauri’s longtime involvement with the Shadows is publicly revealed.
-The Shadows destroy a huge Vorlon ship (hundreds of miles long) which contains a large segment of their population.
-The series ends with the Minbari attacking B5 and destroying it. Sinclair & Delenn escape with their newborn baby. Everyone in the galaxy is after them for one reason or another….including Earth, which has been given info which makes them believe Sinclair is a traitor.
-Sinclair, Delenn, and their allies go back in time to steal Babylon 4, pulling it into the future in order to use it as a base to build a new alliance (army of light?). B4 is renamed Babylon Prime. B Prime can move through space like a starship, and they go off on a mission to clear their names and build the alliance to bring peace to the galaxy.
-The time traveling causes Sinclair, Delenn, and their baby to age rapidly. (I’ll call the baby David, even though his name is never mentioned here.) David grows all the way to adulthood within a few years.
-Londo is Emperor, but controlled by a Keeper, as in the actual show.
-Londo & the Centauri capture Sinclair & Delenn, and are supposed to turn them over to the Shadows, but Londo rebels against the Keeper & the Shadows “at terrible personal cost” (doesn’t say exactly what that cost is).
-David becomes a revered religious symbol.
-Conclusion of the story: B Prime and the Army of Light defeat the Shadows (but there’s nothing about the Shadows leaving the galaxy). No mention of what happens to the Vorlons. Earth defeats the Minbari, and Sinclair’s name is cleared. Delenn leaves Sinclair, in order to return to the Grey Council. David becomes the leader of a new interstellar alliance. Final scene is Sinclair, retired, alone on an otherwise uninhabited world….fishing.
Plot points that are noticeably absent:
There is no mention of an Earth Civil War, or B5 seceding from Earth in Season 3 (though obviously, a lot of that storyline is transplanted into Babylon Prime). While Clark is said to be controlled by the Psi Corps, and Psi Corps is said to be a nefarious group at odds with Sinclair and B5, there’s no mention of the Earth Alliance being transformed into some kind of Orwellian police state. There’s no mention of the Shadows working with Psi Corps or anyone in EarthGov. There’s no mention of any larger teep/normal conflict, beyond Psi Corps just wanting power for itself.
There’s no mention of Sinclair going to Z’ha’dum (and in fact, no mention of Z’ha’dum), and dying there. (Though, as I speculated earlier, some of this storyline may have been there as part of the Sakai mindwipe story, but there are no details given.) There’s no mention of Lorien or any other First Ones beyond the Shadows and Vorlons. There’s no mention of Kosh mentoring Sinclair, or Kosh sacrificing his life. There’s no mention of Marcus, or Morden, or Bester, or any other characters who I haven’t already mentioned.
Still, just because something wasn’t mentioned in this synopsis, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist in some form in JMS’s lengthier treatment of the series that he kept to himself.
I’ll put my money on G’kar/Lando, myself, although the Zathrus/Zathrus ticket does have the definitive plus of being totally incomprehensible on all subjects, making it impossible to pin them down when they contradict themselves (unlike certain Democrat frontrunners)
The first slate is Londo/G’Kar (or, for those who wish to be contrary, G’Kar/Londo is also available.) They bring a combination of military training, a love of freedom, and sartorial excellences. They are also excellent public speakers and true patriots who put their people ahead of their own interests. Should the electorate find themselves not happy with the slate as elected, whoever is in second position will gladly assassinate the other in order to bring about a referendum.
Similarly, the ticket of Zathras and Zathras promises the best in crisis management at a difficult time for our nation. Their wisdom is inscrutable (also incomprehensible), their dedication to detail is almost frightening, and in times of economic belt-tightening by electing one Zathras you elect all Zathras, nine for the price of the One.
And a weary nation sighs its relief….Cafepress – The Joe Store via Archive.org
Either ticket stands more of a chance of being elected than any of the slate of candidates offered up by the Republicans (and that includes unfortunately, Ron Paul, whose yard sign is currently visible in my front yard) which makes this election more of a yawner than most.
I’m currently a lapsed Trekkie, I guess. I don’t have copies of any of the Episodes of any Star Trek Series, in any format, other than the mpg’s that I’m pulling off the air on both The CW Austin and TV Land.
We sold the few laserdisc copies of episodes at the Las Vegas convention The Wife went to. I think she got 25 bucks for the first season of Star Trek and all of the Babylon 5 disks that were made. Compare that to the much larger amount that we spent obtaining those disks, and you begin to understand the disgust I feel right now. C’est la vie.
I’m waiting for everyone to sell off their old copies of the Star Trek DVD’s so that I can get a copy of my own on the cheap.
The fact that I don’t own a copy of Star Trek in any format can be blamed directly on my experiences with attempting to collect a more recent series, Babylon 5. I had a few choice words for Warner Brothers over that debacle.
To Whom it May Concern:
I noticed that the B5 episodes are coming out on DVD. I’d like to state, for the record: I love B5, it is one of the best SF shows ever to see broadcast. I would also like to state, for the record: I will not be buying the DVD’s until season 3 is available due to previous experiences with Warner Bros. and video releases of B5.
We were told, when the laserdisk format episodes were released, that all the episodes would be available in that format, that there wasn’t going to be a release on DVD (I believe they said ‘ever’), and that the widescreen formats DID NOT EXIST (even though we had been assured by those who worked on the production that the shooting was done that way). This was all told to us by representatives of WB.
My wife and I foolishly, in hindsight, bought LD’s as they came out, instead of waiting for them all to be available. WB only released seasons 1 & 5, half of 2, and half of 4. None of 3 ever saw LD format. If you add it up, 40 bucks a disk, 12-14 disks a season, that comes to about $1700 that was wasted on those disks, which are worthless now; worthless, not because the format is dead (I generally watch a laserdisk at least two times a week) but because the series is incomplete, and is missing THE BEST EPISODES.
Time pases, SciFi shows the episodes, and low and behold, the widescreen versions do indeed exist. Now they are releasing the ‘entire series’ again, this time on DVD’s, one season at a time.
As the saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I’ll wait for the episodes I need to make a complete set. I’ll be glad to make a even trade with WB, episode for episode, for all of the B5 that I already own on LD format. From where I’m sitting, ya’ll would be getting quite a bargain…
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I own the Babylon 5 DVD’s, because they were all released in that format. The funds wasted on the Laserdisks have left a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to attempting to collect other television programs in any format.
Just when I was ready to spring for Star Trek DVD’s, the remastered versions show up, as well as the newly conceived format of HD-DVD. And I get that feeling that I’ve wasted money…
So, once again, I’m not buying anything else media related until I know what the eventual result of the format wars will be. When ya’ll (the bigwhigs in the media conglomerations) figure out which end is up, let the rest of us know, will you? Until then, I’m duping on-air copies of programs and burning them to disk myself.
Of course, they could offer to upgrade previously purchased media to the new format (as I suggested they do with the B5 Laserdisks) but I’m sure they don’t see any reason to cut into their profits and offer to make good on their take on intellectual property rights (as in I don’t have the right to duplicate my purchased copies of their intellectual property for my own use)
and guarantee that the average user (me) doesn’t need to duplicate their copy protected material in order to keep using our purchased copies.
Consequently, I don’t see any need to run out and line their pockets with money that I can ill afford to spend right now, purchasing copies of media that will be defunct and in need of replacement a few years down the road.
The cost of digital cable and blank DVD media is a bargain in comparison.
Getting dizzy listening to the major party politics these days? Are you ready for the ramp up to election day, just a few short months away? I don’t know about you, but the pointlessness of 9/10ths of all political arguments reminds me of a scene from an episode of Babylon 5 “Geometry of Shadows“. The following is from a synopsis of it:
Ivanova is meeting with a representative group of Drazi. Five Drazi with purple kerchiefs sit in the gallery to her left, and five of the greens to the right. A leader stands in front of each group.
Ivanova: As you all know, we’re having a bit of a problem here right now — the aforementioned problem being that you keep trying to beat each other senseless with blunt instruments, banging up against the bulkhead, pounding, mugging, jumping, and generally carrying on cranky. Now, while some of the other species wouldn’t mind if you wiped each other out, even they would prefer that you did so quietly. But — this station is dedicated to the goal of finding peaceful solutions to our problems. And we would like to find one here. [This causes quite some murmuring among her audience.] Now you can start by helping me to understand the precise nature of the conflict between the two sides that you’ve set up.
The two leaders react with pained longsuffering expressions. They have to explain something that is so obvious it needs no explanation. They’re dealing with a complete moron.
Purple leader [gesturing at the Green leader]: Green!
Green leader [returning the compliment]: Purple!
Ivanova: No, I understand that there are two factions, but what is your point of contention? Where do you disagree with each other?
Green leader [pointing and speaking more emphatically]: Purple!
Purple leader: Green!
Ivanova: Yes, but who gets to wear the purple sash and who gets to wear the green sash? I mean, is it based on income, or caste, or rank, or…
Green leader: We put green and purple in great barrel! Equal to numbers of Drazi. Then we reach in, we take! Where there was one Drazi people, now there are two! The two fight until there are one!
Ivanova [open-mouthed in astonishment]: That’s it? It’s totally random? Arbitrary? Well then, how do you choose a leader for either side?
Purple leader: One purple and one green carries mark of leadership. He who takes leader cloth is leader. He who takes green is Green, and follows Green leader. He who takes purple is Purple, and follows Purple leader. [Ivanova catches on sufficiently to lip-sync most of the last sentence.]
Ivanova: Okay, so in other words —- [She steps between the leaders and points out the two nearest Purple and Green followers.] Would you two please step forward for a moment — please? [They’re a bit confused, but they comply.] Okay, so what you’re trying to tell me is that if I take this purple sash off of him, [she takes the sash — much to the consternation of the remaining Purples] and put it onto him, [she puts it onto the Green — agitating all the Drazi, but she’s a bit too wrapped up in her question to notice as she turns to face the leaders] that this one thing alone is enough to start a…
…Bedlam ensues.Full synopsis, Lurker’s guide episode entry
So, when you hear people yelling about ‘war records’ or ‘tax cuts’ or anything else political (which involves most everything these days, what with the expansion of gov’t) Just remember: “Who takes green, is green, follows green leader.” It’s just that simple.
Editor’s note, 2019. What I want to know is, why did I think that it was cool to contract government into gov’t? I’ve corrected that display of linguistic fetishism pretty much everywhere else I’ve run across it on the blog, but I left that one here simply as a reminder of this fact; the stuff you think is cool today? It probably won’t be cool tomorrow.
Also? Green vs. Purple as applied to modern US politics used to be amusing, but that was before half of the structurally encoded two-party system that runs the US today turned stark raving nuts and elected someone whose single goal was attempting to destroy the US government. Then it got extremely un-funny. However, it has made the choice of which side to vote for an issue of crystal-clear logic. So, we have that going for us, I guess.
Andreas Katsulas and his characterization of G’kar was, in the end, the most memorable part of Babylon 5 for me. His portrayal of the ambassador for the newly liberated Narn was exactly what was needed to give the series ‘an edge’. Despicable, but at the same time likeable, the character matured with the show into the image of a visionary leader of his people, once again oppressed by their old masters.
His story arc was about the only one that came to a satisfying conclusion.
I’ll never forget the convention in Tulsa where he posed for this picture. (Yes, those are puppets, made by a friend of mine) He made the convention worth attending, all by himself.
This pretty much puts an end to the possibilities of a resurrection of B5. Without the characters of G’kar and Dr. Franklin (played by Richard Biggs who passed away in 2004) A story based on the original characters would be quite hard to tell.
I have found the voice over that Andreas did as G’kar at the end of the Episode “Z’ha’dum” to be quite moving at times. It goes like this:
“It was the end of the Earth year 2260. The War had come to a pause, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around it was as if the Universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, and moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.
G’Quan wrote: ‘There is a darkness greater than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The War we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.’
The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain…”
He will be missed.