Television 

Five Thoughts on Babylon 5‘s “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”

By | October 25th, 2021
Posted in Television | % Comments

22 weeks ago, peace seemed so distant, so impossible. 22 weeks ago, there was hope, yes, but also knowledge that it was a tenuous hope, surrounded on all sides by death, terror, and violence. 22 weeks ago, the future was uncertain…it isn’t anymore. Welcome my friends. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2261. The place: Babylon 5.

Spoilers ahead.

1. So Does This Mean Babylon 5 is a comedy?

Technically, we’re ending season 4 on a wedding. Sure, the episode OPENS with the wedding party instead of finishing but it’s still in the final episode and the last scene is of the couple in bed sharing a moment of happiness and contemplation. We even have a gag routine with Londo revealing perhaps a little too much about why the Centauri are the way they are. Weddings are solemn events so you know things can’t get worse? Alrighty there Mr. Molari.

Now, my “comedy” idea is pretty instantly blasted to pieces once the ISN broadcast changes to the pundit-o-sphere show and it takes all my energy not to tear out my hair at this fictional broadcast of fictional news events featuring fictional people discussing the actions of other fictional people. It’s just…god damn did Straczynski capture what made (and makes) TV news punditry so fucking infuriating.

It’s not a debate, not even a conversation, it’s just everyone jockeying to talk louder than everyone else, though, astutely, it is the “political commentator” who had ties to the Clark administration who is the most aggressive, dismissive, and argues in bad faith the entire time with that shit eating grin of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. Ugh. And remember, this is still coming from an era commenting mostly on CNN (Fox News & MSNBC are about a year old by the time this episode airs.) This is TAME compared to now.

I could keep going but dita  LookS li~3 mY &)3-?(!pK)_ ~~~~~~~~———————————————————————————————————-

2. ACCESSING RECORDS – 2362

When one gazes upon the past from a perch far enough away from it’s events to properly vet the people who acted and were acted upon, one is able to see clearly the whole of the picture, rather than the disparate pieces which were illuminated in real time, disjointed and disconnected to the point of being a snake, a fan, and a tree trunk in the mind’s eye rather than the elephant it actually was.1

1. What’s fascinating about this act is how it approaches people as symbols. Because we’re 100 years in the future, Sheridan & Delenn are only remembered by what records remain, as the people who knew them and not just their legacy or images, are all long gone. The Interstellar Alliance has a vested interest in making Sheridan & Delenn a positive symbol while the academics are reacting in opposition to that rosy picture of Delenn & Sheridan out of a natural skepticism. It’s like how George Washington is held up in the US. He’s not a perfect paragon of freedom nor is he a monster. He is a human who did great and terrible things, but that contradiction is inconvenient, and the farther away from that person’s time we get, and the farther from the person themself we get, the more those edges are sanded away, until only a smooth idol remains, one to be used and abused for our current ends.

When we take this view, the lives of Sheridan and Delenn become not as those of the people they were, nor the attitudes they held, but as the sum of their actions and our judgement of the vids we have.2

2. While I am a little annoyed by JMS’s critique of academia’s re-evaluation of revered figures far after their deaths, which I think is a worthwhile pursuit this scene perfectly captures the insufferability of listening to academic debates where, much like the pundits, they really only wanna hear themselves speak rather than reckoning with the whole of the historical figures they’re discussing. Again, I think the debate itself misses the mark with regards to the critique of those who reject the “great men and women” theory entirely but I get how he’s trying to illuminate how rejecting the agency of people in power in favor of ascribing all their successes and failures to outside factors diminishes them and their choices, good and bad.

Continued below

Thus, as the faces of the founding of the Interstellar Alliance, we can accurately judge the present day nature of this ongoing arrangement by the actions and motivations, ascribed and written, of these two and no others, therefore constructing a counter-shibboleth to the messy whole that were the real people behind the public perception.3

3. I would have liked to see a more good faith discussion of the Interstellar Alliance using the actions of its first leaders but with the time allotted to this act, there really isn’t enough space to do that effectively. What we got was still a fun look at how we use re-evaluations of historical figures to critique the present and an extrapolation into how 100 years feels both very close and so far away.

3. ACCESSING RECORDS – 2762

From the Office of the Ministry of GoodFact, to be released on all frequencies:

Attention. All Pure people of Earth. As it is known far and wide, the Interstellar Alliance was founded upon mutual understanding, compassion, and a desire for peace an iron fist, subterfuge, and replacing good, clean, EARTH bodies with alien organs & DNA. We know this because the Alliance HIDES behind FakeNews and BadFact, while we provide only GoodFact. See for yourselves the falsified holo-vid GoodFact conversions they DON’T want you to see.

Loading HoloVid…GoodFact_edit_5.7.mp5 not found…Displaying RealFact.mp5…

This moment owned and might be my fav Garibaldi moment all season.

Sheridan: It’s funny. No matter how many times I study history, I cannot help but be amazed by how circular it is. It goes round and round and round and you think you’ve broken the cycle but one day, it happens again, just with different faces. Sad to think about, no?

Garibaldi: People suck, John. No doubt about it. They’ll always suck. They’re scared of what’s different and bloodsuckers who want power will use that every time. All we can do is make sure we keep pointing it out and figuring out new ways to beat those fears back.

Delenn: Even when we repeat our past mistakes in the short run, we learn in the long. Nothing lasts forever, it’s true, but what we do now still matters and, if in the future, what we build has some small, positive effect, it will all be worth it. We build now so our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children can fail, safe in knowing that their failures, and their successes, will be different from our own.

Franklin: I mean, that’s the point of what we did, isn’t it? To give us the room to grow, to build, to fail, and to try to build again and again OUR way? History is a cycle but it never looks quite the same. And who knows? We may not be the ones to break those cycles but if we can ensure a longer peace in this one, and in two, three cycles, they can break it, having been inspired by us? Hell, that’s a world I’d gladly fight for.

4. ACCESSING RECORDS – 3262

In the Year of the Lord 543, there came a conversation between two Brothers of the cloth surrounding the story of The Harrowing: Saint Sheridan’s journey into the bowels of Z’Ha’Dum and subsequent resurrection at the hands of The First One (3:22 – 4:2.) Recorded in “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” (Book 4, Chapter 22 of Chronicler Joseph Michael Straczynski’s seminal exegetical work on the Lone Station in the Night,) the brothers traded thoughts, of myth and faith and destruction and all things goodly, until Brother Michael retired for the night.

Illuminated and expanded upon below are the responses of the Scribe Rosener:

Saint Delenn in her later years. Image first captured by Stephen Furst

Brother Alwyn’s dismissal of Brother Michael’s skepticism is, to the enlightened scholars of JMS’s chronicles, unsurprising, but his response is worthy of examination. We are in a unique position to know the story as gospel truth but for those, such as the young Michael, who only has accounts pieced together from second, third, fourth-hand stories, some whole, some partial, from hundreds of years prior, it is no more truth than the stories of the fabled, irradiated city of “Sandy Ego.”

Continued below

When he asks whether or not Saint Sheridan, Saint Delenn, or other actually existed, he is asking how we can trust anything that old, anything that has survived this much, to not be incomplete, fantastical, or simply misinterpreted? How can we have faith in them as truth? It is hard enough understanding the completeness of what is going on now, let alone the lives of figures a thousand years ago. How does Brother Alwyn answer? Simply. He knows the way facts turn to stories turns to myths and, finally, to religion. Just as there was once another Rome, one just as living and breathing and varied but now only understood in conjured images and embellishment, these people were once real in one form or another.

Their reality, their wholeness, can never be recreated nor understood, however. It has been too long, though I would argue even those who lived alongside but distant never understood the fullness of them beyond stories and myths, no matter how “real” those stories were. Time destroys reality and leaves only behind stories. Just because we do not understand what part of those stories were literally true, which were figurative or modified, and which were wholesale constructed, does not negate their usefulness or the truths within. Life is far more than what we can see outside our windows, after all.

Brother Alwyn imparts this to Brother Michael by following the teachings. By listening and allowing for the uncertainty for it is said:

And Delenn spoke to the gathered, the slanderers and the unthinking, admonishing them for their vanities, for their emptiness. “You do not wish to know…anything. You wish…only to speak. That which you know you ignore because it is inconvenient. That which you do not know, you invent! But none of that matters. Except that he was a good man. A kind man who cared about the world, even when the world cared nothing for him.” One of the gathered attempted to speak. With a fiery eye and a face of rage, Delenn bored into the gathered and he fell silent forevermore.

5. RECORDS COMPLETE. FINAL ADDENDUM, PLAYING. – 1,002,262

“The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” embraces the idea of the long arc of history. Some may argue it is a naïve approach but I like to think that the show is optimistic. Baked into the heart of these scenes is the idea that humanity will likely screw up over and over and over again. That progress is not a straight line nor even an arc but instead a jagged mess of false starts, failed approaches, and backsliding. However, it’s also full of turning points that offer hope for a future that retains the lessons learned in the past and is able to build and build something better and better each time we get back up.

After a season that moved at a breakneck pace, it’s fitting we get a finale that technically moves through 1,000,000 years in 42 minutes. I love that this is where we are left with one season to go. I love the risks this took, the questions it posed, the teases it hid, and the strangeness of it all. Glued to my seat and caught off guard by each change, I cannot think of a better way to close our season 4 and the second to last season of this seminal show.

That about does it for now. Thank you for joining me on this journey for the first time, the fourth time, or anywhere in between (or beyond.) It is bittersweet knowing there remains a single season. Nevertheless, I am ready to return next year to close out this journey with you all. And who knows? Perhaps by that point the new show will be gearing up to air and we’ll get to take a different journey together.

Until then, stay safe, stay hopeful, remember that there is a Gaffer on the show named “The” John Smith, and keep fighting so that we can do right by others. And perhaps, one day, we’ll find ourselves on the station where everything changed in the year of destruction and rebirth.

This is Elias. Signing out.

Best Line of the Night:

Brother Alwyn: And if they do not come today but they come tomorrow is your life a lie then? I cannot help you, Brother Michael. That is what faith is for. Faith sustains us in the hour when reason tells us that we cannot continue. That the whole of our lives is without meaning.

Continued below

Brother Michael: Then why were we born able to reason if reason’s useless?

Brother Alwyn: Not useless, but it’s also not enough. Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You can travel further with both than you can with just one.

And Just a Small Message from the Past:


//TAGS | 2021 Summer TV Binge | Babylon 5

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after wining the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and really needs to update his profile photo again.

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