Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 13-16

This is… ominous.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

13: The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father

I do not like the look of that title. 

This episode is a unique one in the overall series. For one, gives us a glimpse of the Psi Corps’s headquarters. It initially seems to be a day in the life of Bester. Of course, it doesn’t stay that mundane (sorry, I had to use the word!), if one could call any day in Bester’s lifeby that word. A murder investigation quickly takes Bester’s time and takes him to Babylon 5.

The murderer, apparently a Jonathan Harris, is a telepath who can apparently shatter minds if he manages to get to someone without defenses up. He flees to Babylon 5, and after a confrontation over gambling, we see that Harris’s mind is apparently itself possibly split into different personalities. But the plot thickens even more, as we see someone else is following Harris–an unknown quantity who even kills one of Bester’s colleagues. There’s a lot of detective work going on this episode, and several murders. Chen, one of the two other telepaths traveling with Bester, ends up dead as well. 

Eventually, Bester’s deductions and station security manage to combine to find and capture Harris. On the way home, Lauren Ashley, the other telepath with Bester, asks to deal with the “mundane.” Bester agrees, and we see the mundane floating through space, having been shoved out of an airlock. It’s a chilling moment, especially when we get back to Bester and Ashley and see Bester’s approval alongside her hero worship. 

14: Meditations on the Abyss

Delenn sneaks out of her quarters and gets in a… bar fight? She meets with Lennier after he intervenes in the fight. It turns out that she thinks there is more to the attacks happening on the border than she’s even revealed to others. She wants Lennier to investigate and is hiding it from Sheridan because she thinks he won’t send Lennier even if he’s the best one for the job. Lennier reveals that his own Day of the Dead vision told him that he would betray the Rangers, something that is clearly bothering him. Delenn doubts it, but there’s an interesting thread hanging out there.

Meanwhile, Vir! I thought this scene was hilarious as Mollari discovers a bug and then makes a number of colorful comments about the Drazi. But the Drazi seem to be in up to their elbows in everything nefarious. Mollari tells Vir that Vir will be the ambassador once Mollari departs. Mollari’s later stomping on the Drazi ambassador in public is a delight as well. But then Vir confronts the Drazi retailer who bugged the merchandise and, when pressed, comes back with a sword and destroys the guy’s stand. It was an intense moment that certainly shows a change in Vir I didn’t anticipate. But, as has been the case in pretty much every instance of change in a character, I don’t think it’s horribly out of character. This is a real change to a character, not just a convenient plot point that goes against Vir as an established personality.

Captain Enrique Montoya–the cadance and the way he says it echoes “I am Inigo Montoya…” from “The Princess Bride.” I don’t know if this is an intentional reference or not. He’s pretty fricking hardcore, too. He puts Lennier and a Ranger companion through a test without their knowledge as they start to run low on air. He lectures Lennier’s companion on the importance of various virtues for the Rangers. But later, we see Lennier get his what for as well in a turnabout test. Ranger training would be something I would wash out of very quickly. 

Dr. Franklin replaces G’Kar’s eye with one that matches, and also tells him he’s been reading his holy book. Franklin asks to come to one of G’Kar’s talks, and looks, well, at least amused by the insights of G’Kar. The episode ends with a great summary dinner among some of the senior staff… and then a scene showing Garibaldi in a drunken stupor. 

15: Darkness Ascending

Garibaldi dreams and then welcomes Lise into his cabin; Lyta works to sell the rogue telepaths’ services in order to try to find a new homeworld; Lennier and Delenn continue investigating while Sheridan starts to get suspicious; everyone’s cancelling appointments with the Centauri, which flags Mollari’s radar for strange diplomatic behavior. Just another day on Babylon 5. 

Lise is… unimpressed when she finds a half empty bottle of liquor in Garibaldi’s apartment. After a fight, she urges him to prove that he’s in charge of himself regarding alcohol, and he dumps the liquor down the sink. I’m hoping this will lead to a permanent fix. Meanwhile, Lennier has already (!?) rebelled against the Rangers because he wants to continue investigating the attacks. Oh, and Lyta goes to G’Kar to offer her genetic material of as many telepaths as she has access to as a trade for money, starships, and secrecy. Numerous double entendres ensue on the latter one, by the way. Just another day on Babylon 5, right?

…And on Garibaldi’s date with Lise, he spikes his coffee with liquor. Lennier records an attack (this makes me wonder if this counts as his rebellion or not). G’Kar agrees to Lyta’s terms, so the Narn and rogue telepaths will be working together to an extent.

The episode ends with Garibaldi urging Lise to leave because he believes the Alliance will be at war with the Centauri. The recording from Lennier shows Centauri ships attacking the innocent trade vessels. But, as was pointed out earlier, the Narn have access to some Centauri vessels. There’s got to be more going on here.

16: And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder

The Alliance meets sans the Centauri, over Mollari’s protest. Delenn and Sheridan say they have proof the Centauri Republic specifically carried out the attacks. But I wonder how they came to that conclusion simply from seeing Centauri ships. Of course, they then present a bunch of evidence to that effect. We see the evidence being handed to Vir and Mollari as the individuals testify to the gathered Alliance personnel. It’s pretty conclusive, and Mollari and Vir start to doubt the alleged disinformation campaign the homeworld is pushing as the real culprits behind the campaign. But this doesn’t stop Mollari from doubling down when he goes before the Counsel and delivers to them a categorical denial and ultimatum. 

This results in the Counsel telling Mollari that as he leaves the station to go back to Centauri and try to sort things out, he will not be allowed back. The Counsel is “satisfied” with the evidence that the Centauri committed the great crimes against the Alliance peoples. Surprisingly, G’Kar insists on going back to the Centauri homeworld with Mollari, but decides to do so without Mollari’s immediate knowledge. Meanwhile, Zack Allan discovers Garibaldi is an alcoholic as well, and after a stern talking to, helps him get presentable to go talk to Sheridan. 

Later, however, Garibaldi sleeps through a transmission from a White Star with extremely important information regarding the attacks on the freighters. This happens right as the first major conflict between an Alliance member–the Drazi–and the Centauri comes to a head with shots fired. The situation escalates quickly on station, as people of the various Alliance worlds. Then, Sheridan absolutely loses his crap on the gathered delegates and screams at them about how they wanted a war and have now gotten one. 

On Centauri, Mollari and G’Kar get locked in prison as Mollari protests the Regent’s actions. As an aside, Sheridan’s outfit in the scene where he sees Delenn praying is quite… something. I think it’s just a night robe but wow, somebody got carried away with their pattern! 

Anyway, things seem pretty grim right now. I want to pause and just make a few predictions, because it’s fun. 

  1. I think Mollari and G’Kar are going to bust out of prison.
  2. I think Lennier’s “rebellion” hasn’t actually happened yet, and may involve finding out something regarding the Centauri/Alliance war buildup.
  3. Lochley will, at some point, have a hugely necessary piece in the action. She’s barely even shown up in the last several episodes, so I think she’ll have a big part sometime.

Anyway, only 8 episodes left to find out!

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“Invincible” – Getting hooked on a new superhero show (Episode 1 Chat)

PLEASE don’t SPOIL events later in this series! I’ve only seen the first episode and will try to watch the rest ASAP.

Anyway, I just watched the first episode of “Invincible” on Prime Video. I actually watched it twice because after seeing it I wanted to share it with other people and my wife and I watched it later the same day I saw it the first time! What an absolutely fantastic hook in that first episode!

I saw the ads on Amazon and thought oh well, just another superhero show. But then someone whose opinion I think pretty highly of retweeted something positive about the show and I thought I’d give it a try. One episode wouldn’t really be that big a time sink if I didn’t like it.

The show starts off and yeah, it seems like a somewhat generic superhero story. Some security guys standing around shooting the breeze outside the White House. Some heartfelt dialogue between the two (I mean, it actually really hooked me in right away with the story of the stepson coming back), and then bam! Time for action as some clone (?) brothers show up to wreck the White House. Then we have a bunch of heroes show up, and they work together like the Justice League. They’re definitely not the Justice League, right? They have similar outfits, traits, and abilities, but this is all part of the setup for you, the viewer.

There’s some other dude with them who seems way stronger and more powerful, and you quickly learn that he’s his own superhero Omni-Man and the others are the Guardians of the Globe. Again, still feels like standard superhero fare. Omni-Man is definitely not Superman, but he’s from some far off planet where everyone has superpowers and looks like humans. Anyway, he has a son and a wife who’s a “normal” human. The son is waiting for his powers to manifest. It seems like we’ve got a kind of coming-of-age superhero storyline tagged on, right?

That’s how the rest of the episode seems to run. And then there’s a massive, enormous twist.

Huge SPOILERS for episode 1 follow.

We see all the Guardians of the Globe having some great character pieces, enough to hook me even more onto them as characters, even if they really are… er, aren’t stand-ins for the Justice League. But then they all get summoned to headquarters and no one summoned them but Omni-Man shows up and literally tears them all to pieces in the bloodiest fashion possible. Wait, what!? He’s a good guy! He seems a somewhat distracted dad trying to figure things out! But what the heck? Why did he just murder all the good guys? It’s a stunning twist, and watching the show the second time I wonder what it has to do with him saying that he wasn’t ready for his son to get superpowers and how maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t. Maybe that has something to do with what he does to the Guardians? What’s the bigger story? I don’t know, but you better believe I’ll be diving back into the show to find out.

I’m dying to talk about it with other people. Tell me your thoughts on episode 1 here! I can’t wait to watch more. I almost want to just buy all the comics and go!

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1972

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1972 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees.

1972

This year featured one of the more diverse arrays of styles so far in the Hugo reading list. There are two science fantasy novels (Dragonflight and Jack of Shadows), two women authors and incidentally the first time more than one woman author made the list (Anne McAffrey and Ursula K. Le Guin), some radically different New Wave sci-fi (A Time of Changes and To Your Scattered Bodies Go), pseudo time travel (Scattered Bodies…), and a hauntingly thoughtful–if flawed–look at the human psyche (The Lathe of Heaven). The science fantasy books are quite different as well. Anyway, I was deeply disappointed by To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It should have been so much better, but the author didn’t change tone no matter which of the incredible caste of characters he introduced. On the flip side, A Time of Changes is the book that got me to appreciate Silverberg. I have rarely been so moved as I was by that book, and listening to the excellent audiobook is what sold me on it. It’s strange and even uncomfortable at times, but it’s great. Dragonquest looks on the surface like an easy read but has incredible depth. Lathe and Jack were each fine novels, but not as intriguing as some of their authors’ other works.

Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey- Grade: A-
The quiet nature of these books by McCaffrey belies the epic scale of her world and the place she built in Pern. Dragonquest is a science fantasy novel of the best kind. There are dragons, hints of ancient secrets, dire threats, and human striving of the best kind. What makes the novel especially poignant is that the “villain” here is not really a person but a kind of natural threat. In a world with raging pandemics and climate change, the “natural” kind of evil in this novel is especially haunting. The dizzying heights of dragon flight and characterization help offset what would otherwise be a fairly bleak story. McCaffrey’s worldbuilding is especially dense, though in the first book, Dragonflight, it’s even more dense. I expected these books to be fairly breezy reading, but they’re in fact phenomenally deep explorations of a well thought out world that McCaffrey has created. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to like about the characters and plot here, too, but the real star is the world she’s created. Readers who enjoy science fantasy should consider these must-reads.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (Winner)- Grade: C-
Farmer had all of humanity to choose from for his characters, and he chose some truly awesome figures. The problem is that he never gave any one character the time or space to develop properly and show the unique personality of each. The characters should surely speak in radically different voices, have conflicting concerns, and even see the world in quite diverse ways. But instead, each character was a fairly standard science fiction trope with a historical figure’s name slapped onto him or her. Their voices all sounded the same to me on almost every page. The book came very highly recommended from a number of sources. I’m pretty disappointed, to be honest.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin Grade: B-
I thought the premise–a man whose dreams become reality–was a bit tacky, but Le Guin is a master of prose and makes it work as a compelling piece about humanity. Really, that seems to be what all I’ve read from her is about, at its core: human nature. What does it mean to be human? What kind of fears would guide us if we had such a power? Who might try to harness it and why? These are intriguing questions that are just lightly touched throughout the book. The characters, unfortunately, end up largely being stand-ins for various philosophies or ways to explore different ideas. Unlike some of Le Guin’s other works, I never felt connected in any way to the characters. They read more like caricatures than characters. That said, it’s a thoughtful work that I enjoyed greatly.

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny Grade: C+
After reading this book, I looked it up online and discovered it was written in one draft. I’m impressed, but also somewhat dismayed, because it seems the book could have been much improved with some thorough edits and rewrites. The concepts are there for a truly excellent novel, but it’s hampered by a kind of meandering at points that means I as a reader struggled to follow along with the events. Zelazny’s talent is on display here in glimpses, but it only presents itself in fragments. The Jack of Shadows has power in the shadows, unlike many of the magic users of his world whose power relies on the light or darkness on their side of the planet. It makes for a cool idea, but doesn’t go much beyond a few lines of dialogue and some action scenes. I don’t know what it is about the book, I guess I just wanted more from it.

A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg- Grade: A
I admit part of my score here is likely due to the simply phenomenal reading by Tom Parker. I listened to it from my library and was simply blown away by the quality of this narration. Parker lends the novel a kind of alien/familiar feel that reflects the dichotomies found therein. Yet even if my score is slanted because of that, there’s no denying this is a pretty excellent read. Silverberg here creates a society that sees the revealing of the self as a great crime. Only among certain relationships is it permitted to even begin to reveal oneself to others. The use of words like “I” or “me” is considered horribly obscene. Inside this society, there are priests called “Drainers” who basically act as places people can confess their wrongs and “drain” their souls of them. The multifaceted nature of this is juxtaposed with Silverberg’s central drama, the autobiographical journey of the main character as he discovers the joys of self-revealing, in part due to the use of a drug from a society most people on his planet view as barbarians. Throughout the whole book there are a number of dichotomies. Alien/familiar is the most obvious, as the people of this society are humans but act so inhumanly by denying the self; civil/uncivil is another; pious/pagan another; and the list could go on. It’s a masterfully crafted, thought-provoking science fiction novel that manages to make a rather well-worn Nu Wave sci-fi trope (drug use) into something eloquent and fresh rather than tired and dated.

Links

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 9-12

The best relationship on the show… maybe.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

9: In the Kingdom of the Blind

The opening reveals that there are apparently some highly trained attacks being perpetuated against the allied worlds. Then, we get to travel with Mollari and G’Kar back to the Centauri homeworld as G’Kar checks on the situation back home. It’s clear there’s a huge amount of political intrigue coming here, as we witness the murder of an advisor of Mollari fairly early in the episode. Meanwhile, the sanity of the regent is in question. Later, an assassination attempt on Mollari is foiled by both G’Kar’s work as a bodyguard and a mysterious bug-like alien. 

Back on station, Byron continues to press his case for a homeworld for telepaths. I’m honestly surprised by how vehemently Sheridan opposes the idea. But Byron plays the trump card: the telepaths have essentially gathered all the secrets from all the major players on station and plan to reveal them if their demands are not acceded to. But the situation quickly escalates as some violence erupts against the telepaths, and some telepaths fight back. Byron continues to preach non-violent resistance and meets even more opposition.

The end of this episode is full of unresolved threads, which makes me want to jump into the next episode immediately! The telepaths’ nonresistance is met with threats of violent force. The regent gets attacked by an unknown force. Freighters continue to get destroyed. 

10: A Tragedy of Telepaths

The title of this alone has me going in pretty worried about how the rest of this showdown with the telepaths is going to play out. The ominous voice over from Lochley didn’t exactly assuage my fears, either. This is especially true when she calls Bester. 

G’Kar and Mollari discover that at least some Narn have remained imprisoned. G’Kar’s reaction is so in character. He demands the release of the Narn, and threatens Mollari if he doesn’t do something. Mollari’s protests that he can’t because he’s not emperor yet may hold water for the Centauri, but G’Kar was having none of it and I wouldn’t have either. However, Mollari comes up with a plan and sneaks the Narn off of Centauri. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rogue telepaths and Byron’s demands. When Lochley comes and speaks with Byron, he notes that the telepaths were created to combat the Shadows and now that the war is over, they deserve compensation. It makes me think about reparations, a hot button topic if ever there was one. But to me, it doesn’t seem like the telepaths are entirely or obviously wrong here. If it’s true that they were created in order to fight the Shadows, the fact that they essentially helped win the war through (in some sense) forced circumstances suggest that there is a debt that should be paid to them. And if that reasoning follows, then it seems like real-world applications of that same reasoning could apply. 

Anyway, Bester continues to only care about telepaths, and he brings his own people on board Babylon 5 to try to settle the standoff, and it’s all kinds of ominous. 

11: Phoenix Rising

We finally get more of the backstory between Byron and Bester! And it’s a riveting, if somewhat predictable plotline. Byron committed an atrocity at Bester’s orders. Then, he left. He dedicated himself to pacifism from then on. Bester and Garibaldi also have a showdown, but it just leads to Garibaldi discovering that he has a mental block–cleverly named an “Asimov” after Asimov’s rules of robotics–against harming Bester. But just as Garibaldi seeks Dr. Franklin’s aid on the psychic block, the splinter group of telepaths takes over the sick bay, capturing Franklin, Garibaldi, and others. This splinter group of rogue telepaths threatens to execute hostages–very much against Byron’s wishes.

The situation prompts Byron to action, and he intervenes just in time to save Garibaldi’s life. But he does so only by killing one of the rogue telepaths. He then contacts Lochley with a way to end the standoff. However, when it comes to the transfer of those who caused violence, Bester jumps in and tries to take all the telepaths for himself. Byron refuses to go, leading to another shootout, and Byron decides he is done. He urges Lyta to leave, and then immolates himself and other other rogue telepaths in a chemical spill and flame. 

I honestly found myself thinking like Bester here! “I don’t understand at all” (or something to that effect). Why did Byron decide that it was better to kill himself than to continue a standoff or try to let the B5 personnel and Bester fight over jurisdiction longer? I don’t understand. 

Byron apparently telepathically sent Lyta numerous contacts, safe houses, etc. before he died. So it’s not a totally hopeless end. The episode ends with Garibaldi staring into a drink. I wonder what will happen to him next. And that’s worth considering–because Garibaldi, the man in consummate control of his life–has been in a spiral of having things happen to him rather than because of him. It’s certainly a fertile place for more plot, and I hope we get some closure between him and Bester, or at least for him. 

12: The Ragged Edge

“I have always said this about you [G’Kar]: Nothing improves your company like the lack of it.” – Mollari 

These two are one of the best dynamic duos in television. I don’t care about your wrong opinions; this is a fact. Whether it’s their early rivalry which causes hilarity, the later, deep emotional catastrophe of their relationship, or their period now as they work together, it’s all excellent. Now, G’Kar finds that the book he’s been writing for the whole series (and presumably before) has been disseminated into the general population of the Narn, and they have essentially turned it into a new holy text, with him as a new saint. Honestly, not a surprising direction. He initialyl resists, until a warrior friend of him convinces him to be the leader he doesn’t want to be. 

Garibaldi, meanwhile, goes on a secret mission to the Drazi world to investigate the attacks on freighters. He runs into an old friend, Tafiq, whom I liked almost immediately. But… it was nice knowing Tafiq for about two seconds. I hope he shows up in the novels at some point! I honestly have to laugh a little because I thought Tafiq was truly awesome and then he just gets blown away. Garibaldi gets caught flat-footed multiple times in this episode, too, which is unusual. Back on Babylon 5, Garibaldi is convinced that the attacks on the freighters go well beyond the Drazi and others. Then we have Mollari pop in on the briefing and reveal that these others were apparently some kind of Centauri, but Sheridan et al. hide this information from Mollari. 

G’Kar is almost immediately embroiled in a controversy of interpreting his words. He notes that his words about distrusting Centauri were written when he was at a different stage, but his followers insist that because the book was inspired by “the universe,” it must be holy and therefore without error. G’Kar then humorously corrects the student. Yet it is important to note that he doesn’t dispute it being inspired. Here I want to point out a tangent again which is that though J. Michael Straczynski, the writer of Babylon 5, is an atheist, he has remarkable depth when it comes to discussing religion. I’m certain that the care with which this scene was conveyed was on purpose. Straczynski deftly notes the difficulty with divergent interpretations and even apparent contradictions in a supposed holy book, but he doesn’t insist that there can be no resolution of these difficulties. 

The episode ends with Dr. Franklin telling Sheridan that he’s leaving the station due to a major promotion, and Garibaldi apparently drinking himself into a stupor. The clear intent seems to be that Garibaldi may be relapsing into alcoholism, and it’s a tough scene as he sleeps through Franklin calling him to tell him about his decision to leave. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Presidential Biographies: William Howard Taft #27

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with William Howard Taft, the twenty-seventh President of the United States. The biography I chose with my selection process (reading reviews online and utilizing and this website- My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies) was actually twofold. Initially, I read The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould. It was tough going, and I felt like I didn’t understand a lot of what was discussed in the historical context in which it was placed. Much hype (in some circles) was on about The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a kind of dual biography intermingling Taft and Roosevelt, much as they were in their own lives. That massive volume was much more readable and, more importantly, gave me the context I needed to feel more comfortable understanding Taft’s Presidency. 

Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on that biography, and proceed to present my official ranking for the DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!! The full list of the rankings with all the Presidents as well as comments on their careers, updated as I read through this list, may be found here.

William Howard Taft- The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould

Taft grew up in a comfortable home that pushed him to work hard to better himself. He graduated 2nd in his class from Yale and went to Cincinnati Law School where he got an education that pushed him to increasing heights. He became a lawyer and a judge, eventually rising to be appointed as a Federal Judge. In that post, in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, he surprised many with several decisions striking down monopoly-like practices in what would become a strong record of antitrust work throughout his life. 

An amiable man who was fiercely dedicated to his wife, these aspects served him well as President McKinley opted to send him to the Philippines. Taft tried to work closely with the Filipinos to try to push towards American governance and eventual independence. In this role, he performed very well and was generally liked by both the Filipino elites and the general populace.

Roosevelt was impressed by Taft, having met a few times before, and appointed him Secretary of War. This role, however, was much less about war than it was a kind of advisory role for Roosevelt as well as a way to use Taft on the campaign trail. Roosevelt routinely dispatched Taft to essentially be his mouthpiece during various foreign affair problems of his Presidency. As Secretary of War, Taft was sent to Cuba to reassure Cubans that the U.S. was not intending occupation, to Panama to help consolidate Roosevelt’s imperialistic move to acquire rights to a Canal, to Japan, and back to the Philippines. 

Taft had his eyes on the Supreme Court most of his life, but first ended up in the White House, largely against his wishes. His popularity–and Roosevelt’s–all but assured his nomination as an ideological successor to Roosevelt. In office, one of the largest fights Taft had was over tariffs. Desiring to end some of the protectionist policies that he felt were hampering trade with the United States (among other things), Taft endeavored to bring about tariff reform, a project that would seemingly occupy much of his energy throughout his Presidency. He did ultimately manage to get congress to pass some reforms, but the way these reforms passed all but assured some protectionism would continue and took the teeth out of Taft’s ultimate goals. 

Taft also began to grow apart from Roosevelt, seemingly due to the ego of each of them preventing them from being the first to reach out to the other. Roosevelt felt he was owed by Taft, while Taft felt that his new position as President meant he didn’t have to defer to Roosevelt in all things. The erosion of this relationship was possibly spurred by Roosevelt’s increasingly progressive stances and surely due to Taft’s botching of Roosevelt’s conservationist goals, particularly in regards to mining of public lands. This rift would, unfortunately, push the two apart after they’d worked so closely together for nearly a decade before.

Another blunder of Taft’s administration was his capitulation to racist interests in refusing to appoint African Americans to various posts. It gained Taft support of many southerners who were initially skeptical of him, but also set back civil rights quite a bit and effectively meant during his administration that if complaints were loud enough about a black appointee, Taft would remove that person from office. This awful situation is surely a blight upon Taft’s legacy.

After a contentious campaign for re-election which effectively split the Republican vote between Roosevelt (Progressive ticket) and Taft (Republican ticket), Woodrow Wilson was elected president. Taft initially went back to Yale before being appointed to the Supreme Court, fulfilling his life-long ambition. In the Supreme Court, Taft wrote opinions which allowed private schools, though made them regulated (a kind of mixed win/loss for the Catholic school presenting the suit); supported businesses against taxation that was aimed at preventing child labor (another strange decision); wrote a rare dissent in support of minimum wage for women; and was involved in many more decisions that would shape policy for some time to come.

Taft’s Presidency and legacy is a mixed bag, filled with some successes and some failures. His decisions shaped the direction of the country in several ways, but these were also of varying import and moral and legal quality. Taft was not the most fascinating President ever, but was a dedicated family man who, it seems, largely stuck to the principles he started off with, for better or worse. 

William Howard Taft’s Original Ranking in THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES (Full and Updated List Here)

William Howard Taft (27th President – Original Ranking #14)- Taft’s long-term impact is not difficult to judge, but it is difficult to qualify it within terms of his Presidency. Much of his impact comes from his acts as a judge, including as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His history of antitrust regulation helped usher in regulations of industries that continue to be challenged and sometimes held to this day. Later in life, as Chief Justice, many of the decisions his court would make deviated from industry regulation, though he remained seemingly antitrust his whole life. Taft was arguable one of the more amiable Presidents in U.S. history, assuming much about one’s status alongside his. On a personal note, his devotion to his wife and family is touching and a good example among many poor examples in the Presidency. As President, Taft would help reform foreign policy in ways that favored skill over nepotism, while also effectively maintaining and somewhat expanding the more imperial aspects of Roosevelt’s Presidency. Domestically, Taft’s refusal to appoint African Americans to posts undercut any kind of progression on civil rights issues and set back the progress Roosevelt made in that sphere. He also pushed to reform Tariffs and try to end some aspects of protectionism, which he met with mixed success. Overall, Taft was a President with both good and bad in policy, and his successes were about even with his failures. 

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 5-8

Yes, now bow. Good! Now to the right!

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

5: Learning Curve

There’s a great intro in this one, in which we get some insight into the training of the Rangers, along with some delightful back and forth between Turval of the religious caste and Durhan of the warrior class. Garibaldi and Captain Lochley also have a confrontation, which results in Lochley giving a spirited defense of her position during the civil war.

Delenn then meets with Durhan and Turval to discuss training of the Rangers. It’s a cool scene, in which Delenn urges them to use the great differences amidst the recruits to use the P’ak’ma’ra to be a kind of secret courier service for the Rangers due to their outcast status.

Another main part of the plot is the attempt by Trace, a criminal mastermind, to take over the underworld of Babylon 5. I have to say, my initial thoughts on this underworld aspect was that it’s going to be nothing but a side story for the main episode. And, in a way, it is. Trace is taken in and his momentary rule is over. But the way it plays out is as a foil for the Rangers on station, and as insight into the culture both of the Rangers and the Minbari, allowing us to see their moment of terror. It’s a great character piece for the side characters that are brought along, while also giving us more insight into the overall culture of the Rangers.

Station security and Garibaldi are sort of a side show here, as Garibaldi sets up some telepaths to help with station security and Zack basically just follows orders. They have a great conversation towards the end of the episode. Then, we see Delenn and Sheridan closing out the episode, upset about… something? Did I miss something?

6: Strange Relations

I found the title of this one particularly appropriate in retrospect. 

Lyta is apparently getting supplies for the rogue telepaths, but even though it seems she’s trying to sneak them out, she does so with Dr. Franklin’s blessing. Why? Because Dr. Franklin is a decent human being. Byron seems quite thankful, but speaks in what he calls “parables.” The conversation between Byron and Lyta is cut short by some telepathic portent which seems to suggest they’re all in trouble. They identify “Bloodhound” units and say “He’s here,” which I immediately figured had to mean Bester. And of course, there’s the man himself. 

This, of course, sets us up for finally seeing a confrontation between Garibaldi and Bester, but it’s short lived. Captain Lochley intervenes by punching Garibaldi and having security haul him off. She presses Sheridan on keeping his own rules, and then later discovers Garibaldi has accessed her top secret personnel files. That leads to a great one liner: “If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em” as she goes to confront Garibaldi. As she does, though, Lyta gets into a psychic confrontation with Bester and his Bloodhounds. Lyta comes out on top, but only for the moment. It buys time for Byron and the others to flee. It’s a suspenseful moment. And then the transition into the Garibaldi/Lochley confrontation gives us two people who are equally salty about the world. And in that latter confrontation, Lochley reveals that she and Sheridan were married!? What!? 

Zack Allan is once again the tool of Earth. His morals are something of an enigma. He’s a follower more than a leader. But he occasionally pushes back. I was disappointed to see him helping round up the rogue telepaths. Franklin discusses Delenn’s idea for having him pursue medicine related to aliens with Lochley, and she apparently sees it is a way around the problem. Delenn, apparently full of ideas, floats having G’Kar guard Mollari. G’Kar suddenly accepts the nomination. Lochley holds up the extradition of the telepaths to Earth with a 60 day quarantine period ordered by the Doctor. 

So, strange relations indeed: Lochley and Sheridan; Bester and Garibaldi; Lochley and Bester; Lyta and Byron; Byron and Lochley; G’Kar and Mollari; etc. I loved this episode. It had an absolute whirlwind of events in it, and seems to be setting up for something bigger. 

And… what a close for the episode. The telepaths apparently like Gothic looking settings, as they stand amidst numerous candles singing “We will all come together in a better place…” It’s a surprisingly joyous moment from people who have, so far, been largely non-emotive. It was moving, far beyond what I expected. 

7: Secrets of the Soul

Dr. Franklin is trying to compile a complete list of pathogens/viruses/etc. for the member species of the Alliance, which seems… an extraordinary project. I mean, this is the kind of project that would be a massive team of researchers, and they’re giving it to the main doctor on Babylon 5 who also has to run the station’s medical team? I cannot even imagine this. It does, however, give us some fascinating insights into some of the member species that we haven’t really seen before. For example, the concept of a “geritocracy” governing the Hyach was unexpected. I didn’t expect to so quickly get such a far-reaching look into the Hyach people, and then we see a massive twist. Apparently the Hyach had parallel evolution of two species, and then we see the Hyach killed off the parallel species entirely. And, it turns out, they needed the Hyach-Doh, the parallel species, to keep reproducing and have their species continue. Thus, the Hyach are all dying off because they killed of the Hyach-Doh. Dr. Franklin is upset, to say the least. He points out that they are, in a sense, “accomplice after the fact” to the genocide, because they have hidden and covered up their history. The Hyach let Franklin go, but he says its “not my place to speak for the dead… The only forgiveness can come from the Hyach-Doh. Too bad you killed them all.” It shows the torn moral fabric Franklin. Can he truly hold the modern Hyachs responsible for the killings centuries ago? Or merely hold them responsible for the cover up? I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this storyline. 

The other story in this episode is of Byron, Lyta, and Zack. Zack apparently thinks he can control Lyta, and when he tries to do so, she gives him a rude awakening. Meanwhile, after Byron defuses a violent confrontation with nonviolent resistance, he and Lyta kiss. But this is only a little before the rogue telepaths are departing from Babylon 5. After a violent outbreak against one of the telepaths, the rogues begin to take revenge, leading to Byron being arrested. But he’s released after being cleared. In the meantime, however, the small time criminal who harassed and beat one of the telepaths was killed–apparently through telekinesis from the perspective of we viewers, but there’s no proof it was the telepaths. Lyta and Byron get intimate, and in the process, break some of the barriers the Vorlons maybe put in place on Lyta, revealing some huge cloning project of the Vorlons? Maybe? The other telepaths look on as Lyta and Byron’s psychic energy apparently awakens them during their lovemaking. Apparently, what was revealed was that the Vorlons were the ones who created telepaths on all the different worlds, to create, a Byron puts it, “cannon fodder” for their war with the shadows. The revelation is so disturbing to Byron that he decides to force the Alliance to give the telepaths their own world as recompense for their service to the allied worlds against the Shadows.

8: Day of the Dead

Rebo and Zooty seem like a major sideshow in this episode. I’m wondering if Penn Jillette just wanted to be on an episode of Babylon 5. Also, the notion that humor is a universal phenomenon even across species is absurd. Humor isn’t even universal among humans! But the notion of universal humor came from Sheridan, so I’m not sure how seriously we’re supposed to be taking it. 

Anyway, the main plot of this episode is centered around the Day of the Dead according to the Brakiri. After ceding part of Babylon 5 to the Brakiri for the sake of their religious observance, it gets taken over by some strange energy field that appears to bring back the dead. It gives us a bit of closure on a few relationships, as well as a coupe character moments. 

Honestly, I’m baffled by this episode. It seems entirely out of place. I can’t figure out what was important or not. The line from Kosh seems like it’ll last. The closing line from Zooty is nonsensical. I don’t get it.

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 13: “Nemesis” by James Swallow

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Nemesis by James Swallow

I admit it: I was skeptical of this book. I had seen multiple complaints that its content was pointless, or that it was largely unrelated to the wider plot of the Horus Heresy. But a Twitter friend convinced me that it was worth diving into, and that, along with my insistent desire to read entire lists and not skip books, made me dive in. And I have to say, I’m very glad I did. Nemesis is a fantastic read with a lot of cool lore and moments in it. 

The core of the book are two stories: on the one side, we see the Imperium’s development of the Officio Assassinorium, a branch of their military dedicated to assassinations; on the other side, the Word Bearers attempt to send in a Nemesis weapon to kill the Emperor himself. This is all centered around investigations from non-Space Marine characters trying to figure out what’s happening and set in the broader context of worlds pulling apart over the Heresy. There’s a lot of action in the novel, but what made it great was its world building and the context already mentioned.

The planet Dagonet is seen as a central part of its region’s response to the Heresy. They swear allegiance to Horus, causing concern on other planets nearby like Iesta Veracrux, another planet where some of the action takes place. Dagonet sided with Horus, having had historically closer ties to Horus than to the Emperor. Horus apparently liberated the planet some time ago, and is more popular even than the Emperor. This bit of world building was included in a brief conversation between people on Iesta Veracrux, but it was couched in the narrative of having refugees show up from the sister planet and fears over what it might mean for the wider region. I thought this was a great way to do the world building and also set the conflict of the Horus Heresy against a much broader backdrop. 

The story itself is exciting, even if the outcome is somewhat of a foregone conclusion. It seems obvious that the assassins from both sides will fail, but they made the buildup interesting enough and the side characters deep enough to maintain my interest throughout. I know I’ve complained about having so many “normal” person perspectives in the Horus Heresy so far, but that was largely in novels that were supposed to be centered on entire Legions of Space Marines and seemed more focused on a random person on the street than on the Astartes. Here, care was taken to make the non-superhumans the center of the plot, and with that, the technique thrived. We see “normal” people worried about what’s happening in their wider and yet narrower worlds. 

The conclusion, as Horus burns the people of Dagonet, whether they were on his side or not, is a chilling moment that shows how far he’s fallen. It also means that the worlds involved are likely not to feature much in the coming Heresy. But I don’t mind that. One-off plots in wider universes can be good if done well. Nemesis was great. 

Nemesis is a thrilling read with some fascinating plot points and some of the best world development of any of the novels so far. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it to others, even though it doesn’t have a major impact on the overall Heresy, according to other readers. 

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1971

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1971 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. I included a brief overview discussion of the year’s nominees at the beginning. As always, there will be SPOILERS for the books discussed.

1971- Sometimes people ask me why I enjoy reading lists so much. Being handed a bunch of choices made by someone else isn’t always the most enjoyable thing, as any high school student can tell you. The reason I like lists is because it forces me to read things I may otherwise never have encountered. 1971 is a year that proved that for me again. The Year of the Quiet Sun is an absolutely fantastic book that I’m sure I never would have read otherwise. I liked it so much that I even wrote a longer post on it in my Vintage Sci-Fi series. The other books this year are widely variant in my enjoyment of them. My third time through Ringworld made me both like and dislike aspects of it more than ever before. I may try more of the series soon. Tau Zero was… not great, yet again. I don’t know if I’ve liked almost anything by Poul Anderson. He may be outside my taste. Star Light by Hal Clement is a great example of the pitfalls of hard sci-fi. Tower of Glass is another great Silverberg novel, exploring themes that go far beyond the surface.

Ringworld by Larry Niven (Winner) Grade: C+
I’ve now read this book twice and a third time on audiobook for various lists. The audiobook helped me really focus in on certain parts of it that I’d kind of skimmed before. I think the first half or so of the book is quite strong. Niven makes compelling aliens that are different enough from humans to seem truly alien–a gift he displays in other books as well. But once all the initial drama is out of the way and the mysterious nature of Ringworld is revealed… it all seems kind of ho hum from there. The immediacy of the breakdown of civilization on Ringworld is difficult to believe and somewhat forced. The strong sense of mystery when the Ringworld is first revealed is a letdown in its payoff. And the characters don’t hold interest after a while. But the first half was such compelling reading that slogging through the incredibly uneven back half is at least partially forgiven. I’m thinking I may finally go and get the next couple to read them, just to see if we get a better payoff for the ideas Niven developed earlier in the book. So, I guess my overall thoughts are that this was a mixed bag. The hard sci-fi elements were fascinating, and I loved the ideas for various aliens. But once the plot truly got rolling, it seemed to fizzle out instead of all come together.

Tau Zero by Poul Anderson Grade: D+
It’s hard sci-fi with all the ups and downs of the subgenre. Fewer ups than downs are present. It’s a good example of the things that can go wrong with hard sci-fi. Anderson actually pauses for paragraphs at a time to explain to his readers concepts like relativity. Perhaps that was necessary or seen as stylistically acceptable when it was written, but it disrupts the flow of the novel repeatedly. Is this an intro to physics textbook or a novel? It’s hard to tell. The plot isn’t terrible interesting, either. A colonization ship runs into a problem with a nebula; science and fake science ensues to try to solve it. Much misogyny is the name of the game when it comes to character interactions. Women are vessels for sexually explicit fantasies. The book is barely readable, in my opinion, and notable perhaps only for its helping establish the subgenre as something to be pursued. Easy to pass up now, and I’ve read it twice! Curse my commitment to reading lists! But it pays off sometimes (see below, The Year of the Quiet Sun).

Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg Grade: A
I read this book a second time as I came up on time to write this review, and I’m glad I did. I can safely say that the first time I read it, I didn’t understand it. I mean, I got the general idea of it as a kind of play on the Tower of Babel and the like, but I don’t think I got it. This time, I think I did, though, as always, the author may disagree with my reading. Anyway, the general plot is that there’s a possible alien intelligence trying to communicate with Earth from a star that doesn’t seem capable of supporting life, and the word’s richest man is building an enormous tower to try to communicate with these alleged aliens. Krug, the wealthy man, became so by creating Androids, who have since been assigned hierarchy based upon their abilities. What he doesn’t know (nor do any humans, apparently) is that the androids have made their own religion, turning Krug into a god, complete with a kind of Trinitarian theology and scripture. The androids dream of freedom, and throughout the book this is a major driving force of the plot. But when their freedom isn’t granted, the androids rebel, ultimately tearing down the tower, though some who remain loyal to Krug send him on his spaceship in cryo-sleep to see the aliens. None of these threads are tied off. Indeed, the book is full of loose threads at the end, but I didn’t mind. It forces you as a reader to sit and think about it. This is a book that I keep thinking more about every time I consider it. There’s so much going on in it, and I loved it.

The Year of the Quiet Sun by Wilson Tucker (My Winner) Grade: A
I’d not read Wilson Tucker before I dug this gem out of a pile somewhere online. It seems intensely out of print–no ebook edition (a problem I’ve run into more than once on this quest, to be fair), and many copies prohibitively expensive. Finally found an edition that collected it with a few other novels. Anyway, this book is stuffed with themes. Whether intentional or not, the way that the main character’s work and person is connected to many, many aspects of this time travel novel make it a wellspring of reflection. Brian Chaney, the main character, translated an ancient work that appears to show the book of Revelation is not, in fact, from the time of Christ but rather a few hundred years before. This side piece of information looms large on reflecting the major themes of the novel itself, but it’s done so subtly that it is easy to miss. Alongside this, Chaney is sent to a disturbingly possible future and the bleakness is so thick that the book is probably not for the faint of heart. It’s not flawless, as it has a decent helping of misogyny and the characters are rather thin. But overall, the novel is one of those I can’t stop thinking about, even weeks after finishing it. For that, it ranks among the masterworks for me. I couldn’t contain my thoughts on this fabulous book by Wilson Tucker in a single paragraph, so I wrote a lengthy reflection shortly after finishing it.

Star Light by Hal Clement Grade: C+
Hard science fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres of sci-fi. I just love having all the science piled on–whether real or fake–to dress up the plot in a veneer of lab coats and testable predictions. That’s not sarcasm–I truly do love this sub-genre. But there is a huge, common pitfall in hard sci-fi: it is easy to allow the plot to be reduced to a vehicle for the introduction of science. This is no different from the pitfall of other sub-genres, but it seems extremely common in hard sci-fi. Star Light falls headfirst into that pitfall, and perhaps does so willingly as Hal Clement delightfully waxes eloquent on various scientific concepts–both real and imaginary–throughout the novel to the extent that it became difficult, in my opinion, to focus on the characters and the plot in any meaningful way. It’s not a bad novel, and it kept me turning the pages, but it wasn’t anything fantastic. Due to the intense, constant focus on the science, there was little development of characters or even background for them. It’s fine, but not great. The edition linked includes both Star Light and Mission of Gravity. The former is superior, in my opinion.

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 1-4

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Babylon 5, Season 5: Episodes 1-4

1: No Compromises

A new commander is on station, again. Sheridan and the new Captain Elizabeth Lochley have a brief discussion about the station and what leadership of it entails. Lochley notes as Sheridan leaves that he didn’t ask which side she was in in the recent conflict, and Sheridan just notes that she’s right. His priorities are clearly much more on healing and moving on as President of the Alliance than having anything to do with Babylon 5.

Not long after, Lochley is approached by someone naming himself Byron (a reference to Lord Byron?) who appears to have some mysterious power. Byron asks Lochley to meet him later. She does, but not on her own. She discovers that Byron is apparently a kind of rogue telepath who is seeking a place to call home for himself and many others of his kind. Meanwhile, a mysterious murder and threat against Sheridan occur as a guy who looks like the broker for the Shadows (kind of) walks around. Turns out he’s there to try to kill Sheridan before he manages to be sworn in as the President of the Alliance. 

After failing in his attempt to kill Sheridan the first time, the man manages to steal a fighter to come back around for a second attempt. G’Kar speaks eloquently on the rights of those in the Alliance and the many faiths represented by the Alliance as well even as the fighter pulls up behind Sheridan. Girabaldi saves the day in his own fighter. G’Kar summarily swears Sheridan in in a humorous moment that helps break the tension some in the meantime. 

The episode closes with Girabaldi coming back to speak with Lochley about the events while also introducing himself as the new head of covert intelligence for the Alliance. Lochley tells him she was on the “side of Earth” when it came to the near civil war. It’s an ominous start to a new era on Babylon 5. 

2: The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari

Delenn learns that Lennier has requested a permanent transfer back home. Londo Mollari is trying to bring some excellent liquor past security, but he falls down insensate once he drinks it. Please tell me we’re not losing both Londo and Marcus within just a few episodes! Lennier tells Delenn that he feels unneeded at this point–clearly a bit jealous of Delenn and Sheridan’s relationship. But he explains that he’s uncomfortable now. He does everything to suggest (but does not say) that he’s going off to join the Rangers in hopes of Delenn falling in love with him.

Mollari apparently had a heart attack. He wasn’t poisoned, but his survival is in great doubt. Delenn telepathically communicates with him (I think?) enough to set him off on a dream journey. Throughout this dream sequence, he is visited by other main characters. Vir tells him in his dream that his problem is himself–his heart can no longer bear the weight of his conscience. G’Kar then confronts him with his own guilt over teh destruction of the Narn, repeating time and again “You said nothing.” Suddenly we see Mollari placed on the whipping post that G’Kar himself endured, and it is G’Kar counting the lashes. In the “real world,” Dr. Franklin and others work desperately to save Mollari’s life. Mollari also cries out just as G’Kar did. Finally, Mollari firmly states that he does not want to die. The G’Kar figure continues to press Mollari for “just one word.” Finally, we see that Mollari’s problem is he cannot deal with the guilt and cannot bring himself to apologize for his actions. He breaks down, bitterly weeping as he yells “I’m sorry!” 

Mollari wakes, and the first person he sees is G’Kar. He says “I’m sorry” to G’Kar, and the Narn smiles, turns, and walks away. We close with Lennier leaving B5. For me, this central story of Mollari’s dream and coming to realize he must repent is extremely powerful. I was initially worried we’d be seeing some silly flashback montage like Star Trek: TNG’s “Shades of Grey” (my review of that debacle). But instead, we get flashbacks, yes, but with new material added and the struggle of Mollari to grow past himself. It’s a wonderful moment, even if it does drag towards the beginning. The payoff is great. 

3: The Paragon of Animals

Sheridan and others attempt to get the members of the Alliance to sign onto a Declaration of Principles. There’s utter chaos over the debate, and Girabaldi privately weighs in to Sheridan saying that he thinks there needs to be more force behind the alliance anyway. Then, we skip over to some people in a dire situation who voice their opinion that the only hope is the Rangers. 

Girabaldi goes to find Byron because he’s managed to sell the main Alliance members to reach out the the telepaths. He quickly gets that meeting, but then Byron summarily dismisses Girabaldi without even allowing him to make an argument, because he’s already heard it all through his mind. Immediately after this, a White Star ship shows up at B5 with a horribly injured Ranger on board. Delenn pushes to use a telepath to discover what the Ranger was doing, and Lyta reads his memories to see the Enfili desperately hoping to join the Alliance in order to get its aid and survive. From this point, I’m already thinking the Drazi are more involved than they’re letting on–it wouldn’t make sense for any people to be totally uninterested in raids on border nations that are close to their own. And we’ve seen so far that Babylon 5 usually has a reason for things that don’t make sense.

Girabaldi convinces Lyta to go talk to the telepaths and G’Kar drops off his draft of the Declaration of Principles for Sheridan. It’s a beautiful statement that ultimately culminates in the notion that “we are one.” Byron confronts Lyta’s doubts about being a telepath head-on, but frees her to think more of herself while also agreeing to provide some help to the alliance because Lyta does want that help. And, here we go–the Drazi have some huge nefarious plan to destroy the White Star fleet and attempt to throw off any possible interference from the greater Alliance. Sheridan’s thank you to Lyta, even as an afterthought, clearly has a big impact on her. She’s becoming a more interesting character, which I’m totally on board for. Also, can we talk about how much the Rangers miss Marcus!? *Silently weeping.*

The confrontation with the Drazi among all the other members of the alliance is a great, masterful stroke. I loved it. We see them all rushing to sign the Declaration of Principles as Lyta looks on, apparently pleased at the great good she’s done. The tension-breaking humor of having G’Kar come in and bring another Declaration as he rushes off to get everyone to sign the new one was another great scene. Lyta goes to speak with Byron, and Sheridan agrees to work with the telepaths. I hope this means more great things and not some more nefarious plotting!

These guys are awesome.

4: A View from the Gallery

Throughout this episode we keep getting insights from some kind of maintenance team on Babylon 5 and from the beginning I suspected there’d be something much more important going on with them. 

Dr. Franklin has a great conversation about why he cares about trying to save whatever lives he can save. Once again, it ties back into his father. Seeing his father saved by a doctor, regardless of which side he was on, is what inspired him to become a doctor. As someone who’s experienced recent loss of a close relative, this scene was extremely poignant. I love how frequently Dr. Franklin talks about his dad. And then there’s the clincher at the end–the doctor who helped his father was shot and killed by his own side for being a traitor. Incredible. 

One of the battles in the episode has one of the maintenance guys fixing the station even as the battle is going on, and the lackadaisical way he goes about it in the middle of a warzone is just so endearing. I loved it. Also, bugs eating wiring is a major sci-fi trope, isn’t it? Then, Girabaldi is torn up one side and down another by  Lochley, who is suddenly showing a lot more character than I thought she might have. 

Then the maintenance guys crawl through a warzone and meet up with the rogue telepaths. They then have a number of cryptic conversations with the telepaths before Byron basically puts Bo in the cockpit of a fighter after he says it “matters to him.” Apparently Bo appreciated the experience, but it’s hard to tell where it went from there. Going along with that, we see a conversation between G’Kar and Mollari that is absolutely delightful as Mollari complains about the universe having it in for him as G’Kar relates his own struggles with the Centauri bombing his homeworld. Then we see another hugely touching moment between them as G’Kar tells Mollari “You did not grow up, you grew old.” Their dynamic is so perfect.

The final battle culminates in the White Star fleet saving the day even as our erstwhile maintenance workers watch and talk about the impact of everything on themselves and the station. At the end, we see Mack and Bo being greeted by Delenn as she and Sheridan walk past. This episode was so heartwarming and wholesome and I love it so much. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Primarchs Book 2: “Leman Russ- The Great Wolf” by Chris Wraight

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Leman Russ – The Great Wolf by Chris Wraight 

The Primarchs books so far (an admittedly small sample size) have been short, action packed reads. Leman Russ – The Great Wolf shows us some of the more interesting points of the Great Crusade, as Leman Russ and Lion El’Johnson clash over how to deal with a world, Dulan, that is in rebellion. 

Much to my relief, unlike the previous book in the Primarchs series, Rouboute Guilliman – Lord of Ultrimar, this book has the Primarch Leman Russ actually dominate much of the plot. Here, we see his reactions in the moment as push comes to shove with the Dark Angels opposing his actions on Dulan. We see him clashing with Lion El’Johnson, as well as reflecting upon this clash later. The book is basically a straight-forward action-fest with little time in between scenes to reflect on what’s happening. Here, it works better than it does at times, as the short length of the novella combined with the action made it move very swiftly while still getting peeks at the Primarch. The dialogue, when there was any, was written well enough to keep the plot moving. 

I also enjoyed the small insights into how the Space Wolves recruited and trained on Fenris. I need to go back and read my Space Wolves omnibus to get into them more. The fact that this novella inspired me to do so also shows how much I enjoyed it. It’s not fantastic, but it’s a good read with just enough lore to keep me interested.

Leman Russ – The Great Wolf is a decent read that reveals much more about its titular Primarch than did the previous book in the series. I enjoyed it well enough, but it still lacked as much character development as I was hoping for in this series. 

(All Amazon links are affiliates.)

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.