Sunday, February 8, 2009

B5 S4 Ep22: The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars

Bruce Boxleitner: Who knew this young little boy would someday be one of the key faces to lead Babylon 5, save the galaxy and aid in creating one of the top ten greatest science fiction sagas ever made?

It's a bit like the Love Boat with the rice and greetings at the beginning here with all of the happy couples. A steady stream of joy to be sure.

The Happy Couple.
It's a welcome home party for Delenn and Sheridan on Babylon 5. G'Kar and Londo follow their entry. Apparently marriages are quite sober and reflective on Centauri. G'Kar and Londo are turning into a bit of a comedic friendship through their differences. Could you ever imagine these two together like this?
The Other Happy Couple.
Babylon 5 has been the last best chance/hope for peace indeed. Here is the season finale of Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 22, The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars. Stephen Furst returns for his second stint as director. Right away I'm less than excited, optimistic, what have you and expecting alot of static shots.
Ah yes, The Real Happy Couple. A flashback to happier times for John and Anna [a.k.a. Bruce and Melissa] would have been nice during the series pre-Z'Ha'Dum. It would have given their relationship a little more depth. We certainly weren't given the chance to care about her as much as we could have. As Boxleitner's wife Gilbert might have been available. I cared for her because I loved Laura Ingalls.
ISN reports on Sheridan's childhood and the various stages of his life and career. I loved the use of Bruce Boxleitner and Melissa Gilbert's wedding photo. It's convenient they married for real. It was the perfect union in real life, if not for the story here, apparently. A panel of political experts give their personal commentaries on the hero that is Sheridan, worthy or not. Watching the ANALysts fire back and forth at each other was a bit like watching one of today's news programs. One speechwriter is rabid in his criticism of Sheridan and it's no surprise he was a former loyalist and speech writer for the late President Clark. No agenda there. Most seem to agree John Sheridan has many hurtles to overcome and much to prove going forward. But you know what they say about opinions and every analyst has one.

A temporal rift interrupts transmissions of historical data taking us 100 years into the future. Date: 2 January 2362. The entire episode appears to be driven by the idea someone is accessing the historical database over a vast time period. There has been 100 years of peace and up next we have another panel of three experts to analyze. Oh boy, bend over, here it comes again. Delenn and Sheridan are placed under the microscope and analysts are not kind concerning their accomplisments. They are given little credit or recognition as the instruments to achieving lasting peace. A University professor from Tokyo also hints to an incident involving their son. It would appear they do have a son. In the span of time since the peace began Sheridan apparently created a "colony" of telepaths on Babylon 5 that would eventually turn against him. The professor believes that incident may have contributed to the Telepath War. The moderator exhibits footage from that period.

The footage extract is from 2262 and Garibaldi appears battered and bloodied and surrounded by a group of telepaths. Sheridan appears on an info channel requiring surrender. Garibaldi would meet his fate and be murdered on that date in 2262. Things are happening fast with the facts in this one and I'm trying to keep up the very best that I can.

The conversation continues as the professors argue the myth of Sheridan's myth since his death in 2182. Though it believed he died on Minbar they give the impression he fabricated another story to fortify his legend. Pundits really are a sick and screwed up bunch. They're almost as bad as politicians. Further, Delenn is still alive in 2262, but the commentators don't believe it to be true. Minbari live roughly 120 years and if she were alive in 2262 that would put her in the range of roughly 140 years. I think Osama Bin Ladin may be 120 years old. The two panelists do believe the Alliance was a force for good despite trashing Sheridan and Delenn's legacy. Nothing like playing the fence and being non-committal. I guess the Alliance just ran itself. Some journalists and some professors just suck! They can be so arrogant, pompous, elitist and completely agenda-driven with no standards of professionalism. An alarm sounds indicating a security breach.

Delenn enters the discussion room aged and gently walking with a walking stick, because walking sticks help you with walking. The make-up department really serves up a convincingly old Delenn. She walks in and tells them John Sheridan "was a good and kind and decent man." She's the best! Stand by your man! They are astonished she has spoken so few words, made such a long journey but is prepared to leave in short. "You came all this way just to say that?" "You came just as far to say less," she delivers. She is a truth teller. She points out how these people do not want the truth. They are self-satisfied in maligning a true hero. They have no comprehension of conviction and strength of belief. This is a great moment when Delenn looks on as if to say, "Shut your pie hole! Before I rip your balls off, chew 'em and spit 'em on your backside you fat bastard! You should be ashamed of yourself. You are a lowly, vile creature!" Okay perhaps Delenn wouldn't be thinking exactly those words, but she looked mighty displeased with those people. Yes I think that about sums up the moment. They cannot even look her in the eyes they are such despicable, clueless, agenda-driven, spineless, glory hounds.

Could someone send her back in time to speak with today's news people. Perhaps she could save them from themselves too and help them understand what the word 'news' means. Wouldn't it be nice to get honest news? Wouldn't it be nice to get information that didn't need to be filtered through our own bullshit scanners? It would be wouldn't it? Unortunately we no longer have news people, but people with political agendas, no class and no integrity for presenting the truth.

No sooner does the flash forward end and a new flash forward continues jumping ahead to 2 January 2762. We are quickly reminded of how truth is conveniently substituted with fiction in our history books. It would appear Babylon 5 was destroyed in 2282. I had my calculator handy to take care of all my mathematical calculations. A new government is rearranging the past to better influence the implementation of current Earth policy and agendas. It really, really is an ugly business. I have come to the conclusion in my current status to distrust Democrats and Republicans from ever doing the right thing. I truly feel we are alone out there. You cannot depend on the government to make your life better. Tax cheats. Liars. Alcohol abusers. These are elected leaders and they couldn't lead their way out of a paper bag though clearly they know what's best for you. A truly despicable bunch. Using holographic figures dfhfhffj [argh! that was The One To Be Pitied being a pain- leave the keyboard alone!]. Let try that again, using holographic figures of Sheridan, Delenn, Garibaldi and Franklin the government representative begins recreating the past into a production we call propaganda. I see alot of it today. The man is deconstructing the truth of our now fallen heroes or stars.

The evil lengths that men will go to. The government knows no bounds. Franklin is reconstructed next and comes off like a mad doctor experimenting on children. With all of the holograms in standby mode Garibaldi is the only one left talking the government rep's ear off. He is doing his damn near best to dissuade him from his actions. The man, Daniel, confides in hologram Garibaldi that war is being prepared to strike at the outer world colonies. The current Earth government of 2762 is planning to strike civilian population centers to demoralize the enemy. Casualties will range in the millions. Holographic Garibaldi hacks the system while delaying Daniel and broadcasts their conversation to the enemy on all available channels.

Jumping forward we arrive at 2 January 3262. Brother Michael visits Brother Alwyn. The two men are tasked with reconstructing the past and discovering truth. It would appear the technological advancements once so readily available and easily accessible have been laid waste by war. It's an interesting take on one possible path to history this entry. Brother Michael has read that one day The Rangers will return to rebuild the "cradle of Sheridan." It's like a postscript to religious text and questions faith without the true knowledge of fact. It's Biblical in approach here. It certainly reflects Christian faith and the work of Jesus and whether or not people believe or not. It questions one's faith. There does appear to be a belief in Valen. Brother Alwyn talks of rebuilding the Earth someday as he looks upon a Ranger uniform. It would seem Alwyn is a Ranger. They come in all shapes and sizes. It's like Friar Tuck the Ranger. It was an interesting segment and that was my take on it.

It looks a little like Twiki from Buck Rogers In The 25th Century.
Great ending. So who was the man with the goatee? He merged with a rather cool kind of Vorlon-type encounter suit that looked like the Twiki lovechild and then departed for the celebrations. Drakh? Vorlon? Technomage? Evolved Human? We're certainly left with some bit of question at this season's conclusion. Perhaps someone out there knows. When did Straczynski and friends learn they would be renewed for a Season Five? I liked Straczynski's final words of reflection through Delenn. Sheridan wonders if they or what they achieved would be remembered in one hundred or even one thousand years.

Delenn: "It doesn't matter. We did what we did because it was right. Not to be remembered. History will attend to itself. It always does." Exactly. Do the right thing and everything else falls into place. The same rule applies to hobbies. You should do things or collect things because you enjoy doing so not because you think they'll be valuable. That never works.
There is certainly a lot of exposition in this installment but it's well written and certainly incredibly thoughtful despite the dropoff in entertainment factor for me from the last four to five entries. Looking at the big picture, J. Michael Straczynski literally takes a peek at how the actions of a heroic few are deconstructed through the magnifying lens of people without all of the facts, but with plenty of hypotheticals and personal biases. The distance of history keeps them safe in their glasshouses. Straczynski lends us a parable of just how professors and media pundits can quickly change perceptions of history through personal deconstruction. The end result is the destruction of truth and it happens all the time. I bet you didn't know the holocaust never happened. Well it didn't, at least to some people out there and they're working hard at changing those facts with the passage of time. Just ask some of the Pope's bishop buddies or the Iranian President and his cohorts. Those planes that flew into the World Trade Center's twin towers- just an illusion. Everyone knows it was an inside job by the US government. Those planes weren't real. They're just part of your overactive TV imaginations, studio trickery of course. Pay no attention to the fellow behind the curtain holding the lever to the truth. It's shameful but there are plenty of seriously disturbed people out there, and frighteningly some who aren't, always willing to alter the facts and the truth. We do love deconstructing history. Please excuse my Christian Bale-like rant. Straczynski paints that kind of miscarriage of truth and it's wonderful to see him insert an aged Delenn in there to call all the weenies on it.
Still, as interesting and thought-provoking a final exercise as it was it's not the best. A pensive, good end to a solid season that finished very strong. There's a bit of happy and a bit of sad in classic Babylon 5 fashion here. Long-running character arcs [Garibaldi and Sheridan in particular] and questions [Delenn's past] were resolved over the course of a whole season. Garibaldi is back and getting laid again. Sheridan is feeling good and in the driver's seat, not to mention happily married to Delenn. G'Kar and Londo have become friends with potential. And thankfully Earth isn't in flames. On the other hand, Marcus is dead and Ivanova is lost and leaving us. So, not exactly your tailor made happy-ending, but plenty of resolution in the event a fifth season did not happen. Plenty of questions that could be left to the imagination if it ended here, but with the renewal of a fifth plenty to explore as well. Babylon 5 continues to defy expectations. My we've come a long way indeed.
Straczynski dedicated the episode "To all the people who predicted that the Babylon Project would fail in its mission. Faith manages." It must have been very satisfying to complete an epic story after four hard fought years after all. Straczynski was determined to make this thing happen and make it happen he did. Good for him. Well done.
Coming soon, Season Five and life after Ivanova and Marcus.
The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars: B-


Havremunken said...

Hey :)

As always with the "special"/"different" episodes, opinions are divided. Some consider this the best episode of the show, others think it is way too far out, and most people think it is somewhere inbetween. I loved the segment where old Delenn kicked ass and took numbers, and it kind of had a ring of truth to it. JMS once said that if you - the viewer - wanted to jump in and argue with the talking heads, then he had achieved what he wanted. And he certainly did with me. :)

The glimpses into the future are interesting. We learn about the telepath situation, Captain Lochley, Garibaldi's situation, the destruction of the station, Sheridan's death according to Lorien's schedule.. It is also cool (IMHO) to witness how - a 1000 years later - our story has evolved into something like a religion, at least to contemporary rangers. And poor weak-spirited future munk who was devastated by the Marcus story. :)

The figure watching these events from the future was as you guessed an evolved human. A million years later we're at the level of the vorlons, taking pure energy form as we want, leaving earth for the last time as the Sun goes supernova (an event hinted at by jms not to happen for natural reasons). This was the last human to leave earth ("the cradle", as they repeatedly referred to it), before heading out to our new homeworld (guess which one!).

An interesting and inspiring look into the future (or the past, from our vorlon-human-ranger-friends perspective), with some interesting predictions for the future. Sheridan taken bodily into heaven? Telepath colony, referred to as the biggest mistake of his career? Garibaldi getting some sweet PPG love? And of course the destruction of the station..

But then, by now, you should know that with jms, it's not about where you go, it's about how you get there. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, just to answer your question, JMS learned that they would get an extension right as they were filming the last episodes of season 4. Actually, Deconstruction has a weird production number because it was actually filmed in the Season 5 block, and that's why Ivanova doesn't appear--they'd already filmed the last episode of the series! So the final episode of Season 5 was filmed before or during the time they learned they would be renewed, and then JMS wrote and filmed Deconstruction to fill the gap, because the other ep really is the last episode of the show.

Though I've experimented with people I've showed this series to the first time and showed the last episode here, before Season 5. It works there, too.

Anyway, opinions are... mostly negative about the first half of Season 5. It turns out that JMS lost--literally, the information was thrown out--the notes he had on what he was going to do with Season 5, and he had to rewrite the whole thing in a couple weeks. So the first ten episodes or so are kinda shaky. But there are some exceptions (The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari is great, as is Day of the Dead) and the second half of the season is excellent. Faith manages!

Oh, and if you're interested, there's a B5 rewatch community over on Livejournal. We're only up to Infection, so if you want to come hang out there when you're done with your first time through, or to comment on some of the Season 1 episodes, please stop by! It's

bytehead said...

I think the end time line was one million years, not 1000. Because it was brought up that the sun would go nova before it's time.

Also, the telepath who "became" told Sheridan that he wouldn't see him (and from THE last episode, I think he was referencing Sheridan himself) again for another million years.

Havremunken said...

bytehead: Sorry to be a nitpicker, but Ironheart actually said that to Sinclair - then again, at the point he said that to Sinclair, noone knew there was going to be a Sheridan yet. :)

The 1000 years later was a reference to the post-burn rangers collecting information. You are of course right about the evolved human - this happened a million years in the future, seen from the perspective of our characters.

The history of the future as seen from this episode (taken from memory):

100 years in the future: Delenn still alive. Alliance is seen as good, but not all good.

500 years in the future: Civil war on earth, "The Great Burn". Garibaldi gives the good guys the edge. Earth is set back thousands of years.

1000 years in the future: Rangers are rebuilding earth. Our story has become mythology.

1000000 years in the future: Sun goes nova due to someone opening a large number of jump points inside of it. Humanity leaves earth for the last time and goes ... to the vorlon homeworld? I guess noone knows for sure. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

As always so many great thoughts here....y'all left me thinking about this episode even more. It was definitely a heady epiosde and I know I still didn't get everything while I watched it though once.

You'r epoint about "it's not where you go, it's how you get there" is so on the money about Babylon 5 and even points to the question of where the evolved human was going.

Anyway, I'll definitely visit that feed- thanks for the head's up.

So many numbers in this one, so little time... : )

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

One small note friends...I have absolutely no Babylon 5 in the bag at the moment. I haven't seen a single episode of Babylon 5, and, well, finding the time is difficult to say the least but I do hope to get on it soon enough. Live long and prosper!

Havremunken said...

My RSS reader is patiently waiting for you to get to S5. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

ha! Ah the pressure.