Babylon 5: The Deconstruction of Falling Stars

Babylon 5 Artwork

Artwork by Katie Marriott

When we wrapped up last week, it was hard to imagine where a final episode could go during a season that not only wrapped things up well, it even gave us a voice-over epilogue. Rather than trying to prolong the finale with more  random stuff, what The Deconstruction of Falling Stars ends up doing is providing us a fictional look at the impact of the series without ever leaving the confines of the universe it belongs to.  Look at it this way: some shows end and are followed by a short documentary that looks at the impact of the show.  This episode gives us a documentary within the universe and looks at the impact Babylon 5 had on the rest of the universe.

The episode opens up with Sheridan and Delenn returning to the station after the recent defeat of Clark and having started the Interstellar Alliance.  Not long thereafter, we see someone watching them.  This unseen viewer might be ominous but there is no “threat” in this episode.  It is us, the viewer, watching the documentary and learning about the impact the station had on “reality”.  But first, Sheridan passes a comment to Delenn: “In 100 years it won’t matter who we were; they probably won’t even remember.”  Delenn replies, “That’s true!”  The episode is then broken into segments looking at…

Jan 2nd 2262: a news broadcast covers the story of John J. Sheridan and debates the merits of the Interstellar Alliance.  It’s an interesting commentary because it plays very much like any of our current news “shows”, where people talk over one another and then yell at each other when one let the other speak, only to demand the same respect.  It’s well done but ends with the debate about whether or not Sheridan’s actions will matter for the future.   To find out, we jump 100 years to…

2362:  here, another debate rages about what sort of a man Sheridan was.  Delenn shows up to prove that Minbari can outlive Vulcans.  She declares that Sheridan was a good man.  Then she is asked a truly great question: “you came all this way to say only that?”  She replies, “you came just as far, to say less!”  She claims these pundits ignore what is inconvenient and invent what they want for the sake of being heard.  This show is so timely, it’s amazing to me.  What is interesting about this segment is the preview we get of next season.  Sheridan references “Captain Lockley” and we get a scene of what appears to be Garibaldi getting shot during a hostage crisis.  Is that to be the final end of Michael?  Then we jump ahead 500 years to…

2762: Scientist Daniel is recreating holograms of our heroes in the hopes to “deconstruct” who they were due to a new threat.  Garibaldi, Stephen, Sheridan and Delenn are Holodeck’d into existence and they learn that Earthgov is split and there’s another force that is putting Earth on the cusp of another civil war.  While this sequence is now too far removed from the events of Babylon 5, Garibaldi’s victory is immensely fun, watching as he hacks the system and then forces Daniel to “kiss [his] ass goodbye!”  Watching Daniel run away screaming is great but followed by the heart felt scene as the four holographic recreations stand together before the base is blown up.  We then jump 1000 years into he future to see the events of…

3362:  Something called The Great Burn has wiped out everything on Earth but the Rangers still live and plan to rebuild.  The message seems to be little more than that the Rangers are still around 1000 years later, but again, I find this too far removed and found this sequence tedious and very talky.  The only thing I did take from it is from a minor reference in one of the earliest episodes, Infection, when Sinclair said it would all be for nothing unless they go to the stars.  It’s a subtle reminder that because they took to the stars, mankind survived.  (This is important when coupled with the dedication at the end: to all those who predicted that the Babylon project would fail in its mission.  That was the very point of what the interviewer was asking: if it could succeed and if it was worth it!)

We are finally going to find out what this is all about in the end and we get the big reveal.  It is one million years since the events of Babylon 5.  Humans have evolved to beings of light and can live in encounter suits like Vorlons.  Our viewer says this is how the world ends, “swallowed in fire” and then poetically leaves “the cradle for the last time” before the sun goes nova and wipes out the Earth forever.  The final moment gives us a lot to unpack.  Kosh had said it would all end “in fire”.  Is this the fire that he predicted?  And is Jason Ironheart here somewhere?  Is that who is watching these videos, perhaps, now no longer needing to look like any specific person?  In episode 6 of season 1, Ironheart told Sinclair he’d see us again in “one million years”.  Maybe… or maybe it’s all a dream?  The final scene is John and Delenn in bed talking, wondering about what he said earlier: if they will indeed be remembered at all.

Is this a good episode?  Arguable really.  I don’t think it needed to be “good” but it was significant.  It’s a wrap up of sorts, a critical assessment… or maybe it’s just a dream.  Whatever the truth, it has it’s place and ends a truly outstanding season; the season the ended the Shadow War, and the war to reclaim Earth.  Do we dare hope that next season will be as good?  Let’s just say “faith manages!”   ML

The view from across the pond:

How will history view the big decisions of world leaders today? How will they be remembered? Not very kindly, I would guess, but even heroes aren’t always remembered kindly, let alone the real-life villains, and that’s very much the subject of this rather odd episode of Babylon 5. We are at the end of the fourth season and Sheridan has just achieved something remarkable, liberating Earth from the clutches of a cruel dictator and setting up a new interstellar alliance against all odds. Surely he will be remembered as a great historical figure, right?

A quick google shows that this was added in at the last minute, with the original finale to Season 4 held back to end Season 5, when the show was picked up for one more series at the eleventh hour. This doesn’t entirely bode well, because one wonders how disposable those extra 21 episodes are going to be in order to fit between two episodes that were originally concurrent. This coda episode was filmed as part of the Season 5 production block, a fact that is betrayed by Garibaldi’s ever diminishing hair.

The framing device is an obvious approach: somebody looking back on the past from far into the future. It is a future where the sun is about to go nova, which certainly shouldn’t be happening by natural causes in just a million years (I know, the word “just” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence, but it’s the truth). That hints at some kind of unnatural destruction of the solar system, but I doubt this will be covered during the next season of B5, so it’s probably a redundant plot point.

Man-from-the-future first wants to take a look at the year 2262, and I’m not surprised he tunes out of that quickly. Political arguments are irritating enough to watch as it is, without watching one from a time that is not your own. I did not enjoy this segment. What’s the point of watching some political commentators talking rubbish about the events we have just seen? It’s just annoying.

Then we go ahead one hundred years to 2362, to another infuriating television programme with more people talking rubbish. This time they are historians talking rubbish, trying to re-evaluate history:

“If you look at the social dynamics around them they actually didn’t do anything.”

Yeah, keep thinking that. It might sell some books. This was a depressingly accurate representation of so many “historians”, who are sometimes more interested in twisting history into their own shapes to make a name for themselves rather than engaging in careful research. Delenn hit the nail on the head:

“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…”

It was an amazing performance from Mila Furlan, and I also loved how one of the “historians” started to challenge her, stopped himself pretty quickly and then looked ashamed of himself like a naughty child. So he should.

Next up is 2762, and my favourite segment of all. At last we move past the annoying television shows to a real world situation. OK, it’s just a Star Trek holodeck-gone-wrong episode in miniature, but this time we’re on the side of the rogue holograms, who just happen to be recreations of our heroes. It was depressing enough when JMS sold us a future where xenophobia is still so rife, little having apparently been learnt since WW2, but to move the story on 500 years and show us another xenophobic future is even more depressing.

“We have lost our uniqueness. We have been polluted with too many outsider ideas.”

Luckily Garibaldi is there to spoil their plans of yet another war of hatred. You’ve got to love how he changes the outcome of a war five centuries after his own death!

The last look at future history before returning to the very far-flung future is 3262, with an Earth that has devolved back to the middle ages, with little in the way of technology and nobody reaching for the stars any more. Based on what we have seen, that’s probably for the best. A religion has grown up around Sheridan, which of course is nonsense, but JMS has something very interesting to say on the importance of faith:

“Faith sustains us in the hour when reason tells us that we cannot continue, that the whole of our lives is without meaning.”

Maybe that’s the importance of religion, in the end. The act of faith is arguably more important than the details of what exactly you believe in. And life doesn’t have to be a battle between faith and reason:

“Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You can travel further with both than you can with just one.”

Never were truer words spoken in a sci-fi show. Half the world limps along with only their left shoe on, while the other half limps along with just the right. Put both on and the human race might just break into a run and I don’t think we’ll stop running until we’ve reached those distant stars.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Babylon 5, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Babylon 5: The Deconstruction of Falling Stars

  1. scifimike70 says:

    It’s wrap-up episodes like this that make us contemplate how many other famous shows today will wrap up specific story arcs. In retrospect with what I learned from Dr. Who’s The Key To Time and Red Dwarf’s Back To Earth, things may either lead into something else, like the Doctor and Romana having their next series of journeys determined by the randomizer, or considerably settle down as with the Red Dwarf crew after Lister woke up from his dreamed reconciliation with Kochanski. It felt like somewhere in between with this one for Babylon 5. But I remember being very impressed too. Thank you both for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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