In 1985, there was a movie called St. Elmo’s Fire. My cousin loved the soundtrack and back then, we were together a lot, so I heard it often. One song had a line in it that disturbed me; a simple lyric: “Time goes on, People touch and they’re gone, And you and I will never love again, Like we did then.” As a young lad of 13, the idea of people coming and going in our lives made me sad – I still have a hard time listening to this haunting lyric! I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to anyone. But time and life happen and invariably even the best of friends sometimes become part of the fading tapestry of memory. The main point here is that I really do not like goodbyes. Yet I love the gentle ending to this series and I think that’s because stories make that a little easier. We can part with our “friends” knowing that we can relive that sweet sorrow as often as we like, because we can always pick up that book or watch that show again. It never has to be a permanent goodbye, where real life is rarely as certain.
I have loved this series each and every time I’ve watched it but by the time of these final episodes, it’s progressively harder to keep it together even though I know I’ll revisit it again one day. But before we mourn the parting of our friends, let’s bask in the glow of Michael Garibaldi’s marriage and his systematic defeat of the Board of Edgars Industries who had the brazen foolhardiness to send an assassin to get rid of our favorite head of security. It’s a punch-the-air moment! Let’s also take a moment to enjoy seeing Number One again, where we learn that her name is Tessa and she will replace Michael as Sheridan’s new head of Interstellar Alliance Security. And let’s enjoy Stephen’s little victory at getting just over an hour of fun with Tessa. But alas, for me, this episode, for all it’s joy, makes me sad. As Andrea Bocelli might say, it’s time to say goodbye.
G’Kar, as always, has amazing words of wisdom to impart. First with John, who he finally actually calls “John”, he considers “these walls”:
“I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we’ve exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.”
I think as chapters of our lives bring us to different places, it’s important to remember that we carry those memories with us and there’s a part of us that remains with those places. Babylon 5 became a part of me and I’d like to think, through our personal ponderings and mental meanderings, we’ve become a part of it as well.
G’Kar then goes to find Lyta. The man everyone wants, and the woman no one wants, get to discussing the future. Lyta does not believe G’Kar is traveling with her because he wants to. Again, he explains: “We are all the sum of our tears. Too little and the ground is not fertile, and nothing can grow there. Too much, the best of us is washed away. My rains have come and gone .. for now. Yours are just beginning.” Watching them go breaks my heart. We have two episodes left; not having either of them around for it is a bit of a heavy burden indeed.
Then Michael leaves with Lise but not before cementing the friendship with John and Delenn. He explains that he views them as family. He even mentions Londo as part of that, reminding us that the two of them also shared a bond. Sometimes even family parts company. It doesn’t have to be a negative parting, but it is still sad! And off he goes with Lise to start a family of his own. I wish them well.
It leaves us to relish in a beautiful denouement to a great series. We have one episode left with our friends, then the finale, which is a different sort of affair altogether. But Delenn also offers wisdom when she tells John that she had never walked the length of the station. She decides then and there to do it. John asks, “now?” to which she reminds us, “now is all we have!” Perhaps there will come a day in the none-too-distant future where I will debate about that 5 mile (year) long series and debate if I want to watch it yet again. And maybe I will hear Delenn’s voice reminding me, “now is all we have”.
More importantly than that, knowing that there will be more goodbyes in life, it’s important to enjoy the friendships while they are here. One day we will say goodbye, but until then, we can enjoy that time; live in the now, after all, it’s all we have. ML
The view from across the pond:
With only two episodes to go, and one of those a holdover from the previous season, I have had to resign myself to the fact that I’m not going to get the big telepath war that I was expecting this season to focus on. I have also had to accept that JMS has got a bit Lost and has introduced so many plot threads that he is leaving several of them dangling. But I’ll try not to focus too much on what is not happening here, and look instead at what is.
True to the endlessly odd structure of Babylon 5, we have had our season finale in the 18th episode, and since then it has been a tidying up exercise, with a series of departures as people move on with their lives. The only source of drama as such this week is the attempt on the lives of Garibaldi and Lise. It’s not exactly a huge storyline, but it has its moments. When Zack figured out that the assassin has access to the security channel, I was expecting he might feed him with false information while secretly communicating on another channel, but in the end he had a solution that was much simpler and better than that: a loud noise in his ear. What he couldn’t have anticipated was a second assassin, completely unconnected to the first. Although it had been set up by G’Kar’s rejection of his follower, it still came as a surprise because we are so used to A plots and B plots in Babylon 5 that when the two suddenly intersect we aren’t looking for that.
Speaking of that moment of rejection from G’Kar, it made me wonder if JMS was perhaps thinking about the B5 fans, or perhaps even the convention circuit. Was this an allegory for a certain kind of sci-fi fan who thinks he owns his heroes?
“Without us you are nothing.”
G’Kar of course had all the best speeches of the episode. JMS has a wonderful way of using G’Kar’s dialogue to philosophise, and of all the gems of truth we have been given over the last one hundred or so episodes, this one must shine as one of the brightest:
“We are all the sum of our tears. Too little and the ground is not fertile. Nothing can grow there. Too much and the best of us are washed away.”
So it’s goodbye to G’Kar, the greatest character B5 had to offer, and possibly the greatest sci-fi character of all time. It’s also goodbye to Lyta, leaving behind so much unfulfilled potential, as I discussed last week. And finally it’s goodbye to Garibaldi, getting his life back on track with the help of the love of his life, and enjoying one last, delightful victory over corruption. Just like Lyta, he departs with an unsettled score, taking dangling plot threads with him. His replacement on Babylon 5 is Tessa, the former “number one” in the Mars resistance, who is such a great character that it makes me sad that I can’t watch Season Six with Tessa as the security chief. That would have been fun.
So who’s left? Unless Londo’s plight is wrapped up in a rush, he has already gone and takes yet another frustratingly dangling plot thread with him. That leaves Sheridan, Delenn and Franklin, all of whom we know are departing soon, Vir, who is staying as the new Centauri ambassador, and Lochley and Zack, who are presumably also staying where they are. I can’t shake the feeling that all that remains is a mopping up exercise while this series limps off into the sunset. I just hope JMS has a few final surprises up his sleeve. RP