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This is the discussion post for the episode 4X22, "Deconstruction of Falling Stars". Spoilers for the whole of the series, including the spin-offs and tie-ins, are allowed here so newbies beware.

Summary:
The last human on Earth watches recordings about the Interstellar Alliance.

We say goodbye to the fourth season with a season finale that was written and produced last minute when the show was suddenly un-cancelled. Is it pretentious or brilliant? You decide! ;)

Extra reading:
The article for "Deconstruction of Falling Stars" at The Lurker's Guide.

Date: 2010-10-04 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selenak.livejournal.com
Oh, and also, dear.

There are many episodes of this show that showcase JMS' strengths as a writer. Others also include his flaws, but have bright spots to make up for them. This one, unfortunately, brings out one of the more obnoxious traits full force. Seriously, that whole sequence with the historians getting bashed for daring to critisize the great Sheridan by Delenn has to count as one of the worst examples of creator fanboying ever filmed. Not to mention that it also showcases another bad trait, to wit, giving the opposition intentionally bad arguments. Years later, when JMS wrote Amazing Spider-man and got to the Civil War issues and had Reed Richards reminisce nostalgically about MacCarthyism so that the reader really understands just who the bad guys in Civil War are supposed to be, I felt reminded of this episode and groaned.

Sidenote I: he doesn't always do that. For example, in "No Surrender, No Retreat" you can see Londo's pov and also G'Kar's with his initial reaction. But then, neither of them has the initials J.S.

Sidenote II: the scene with the historians and the way it exults the great man theory of history and bashes historians who don't follow it gets even worse once you've watched season 5 and know that Sheridan really wasn't that good a president in his first year. He did screw up the telepath situation, and he was helpless and clueless, if well-meaning, in the Centauri situation. Now if the narrative had given an indication of admitting that - i.e. some statement by a sympathetic character to the effect that Sheridan was a great soldier but a lousy politician, which is no shame, the two talents aren't often compatible - that would have been okay. But we're supposed to regard Sheridan as a great president/leader and hang our heads in shame like the chastized historians if we doubt him. Ugh. Just - no.

Naturally, I loved the short Londo and G'Kar scene and their banter. It's easily the best thing about the episode.

Re: the human race first falling into another dark age and then developing into the next first ones, no problem there, and I appreciate the nods to Isaac Asimov (JMG being such a geek endears him to me again); the dark age interlude also reminds me of Terry Nation who had a thing about human future devolvment and dystopia (see: the Blake's 7 episode Terminus). Though if Sheridan and Delenn are venerated through the ages, how come there's no mention of G'Kar who after all is the Thomas Jefferson of the Alliance? The whole concept of fast forwarding through a million years could have made for a cool episode without the self congratulatory stuff and the blatant Gary Stu-ing of Sheridan.

In conclusion: you know what I wish that episode had been, instead of a viewing of historical records? A Centauri opera about the show so far. I bet Chris Franke would have enjoyed composing those arias. The story would be inevitably distorted, but in really entertaining ways.
Edited Date: 2010-10-05 04:17 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-10-05 07:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathrid.livejournal.com
Though if Sheridan and Delenn are venerated through the ages, how come there's no mention of G'Kar who after all is the Thomas Jefferson of the Alliance?

Possibly he went the same way as the authors of the bible (see reading of Sheridan as Messiah). After all, he didn't really create the Alliance, he just wrote the book.

Date: 2010-10-04 07:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexcat.livejournal.com
This episode was mostly filler but I have always liked parts of it. It would seem that Sheridan has suffered greatly in history, much of what we hear the academics say seems based more on the news reports under Clark than how it really was... but if you look at Sheridan objectively and without the inside info that we have, you might see him in the same light.

I did enjoy it when ancient Delenn told the academics that John Sheridan was a good man. They all looked so chastised as she left them.

The burn scene was kinda strange... well, very strange if you want to know the truth. I wasn't fond of it.

I did love the 3262 monks who waited for the return. I remember the first time I saw it... when I didn't know that the monk was a Ranger. I loved it at the end when he reminded the others to leave the gas in an aged can. That part was very much my favorite.

The ranger in the end reminds one of Kosh, of course. Evidently humans have evolved past the need for bodies any longer or at least have the ability to become beings of light, rather than substance. Which sort of begs the question, were the Vorlons once like humans then? Were they humans at some distant time in the past?

After seeing season 5, its easy to explain away the glimpses of the future we see but then I imagine it was terribly suspenseful.







Date: 2010-10-04 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] widsidh.livejournal.com
> much of what we hear the academics say seems based more on the news reports > under Clark than how it really was

I think this was a nice way of showing how history is written (speaking as a historian of sorts myself). I don't think at that stage there was any attempt at Clarkian propagande. Rather the academics were limited by their own thoughts and understanding (as we all are!), and already lacking the evidence of the first-hand witness. Selenak is right that it is exaggerated, but there is something very recognizable in this.

As I am typing I notice it occurs to me that I used to think this bit was about historiography, and the last about faith, but in a way this is about faith too. At the end of the day, how we see history is shaped by what we are willing (or unwilling) to believe, unambiguous evidence becomes scarce very quickly.

> Were they humans at some distant time in the past?

I don't think so, but I think the implication is that they, too, had once been corporeal.

Date: 2010-10-04 08:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexcat.livejournal.com
I actually didn't mean that all history knew of Sheridan was taken from the Clark era but the tone of the academics certainly is hostile. I can see how history rewrites itself in retrospect.

For example, look at George Armstrong Custer, who, as long as his wife was alive, was considered a national hero. Then the society began to view westward expansion and the displacement of the natives in an entirely different light. Custer, by virtue of this, was then cast as an evil man who simply wanted to kill 'Indians'. The truth, as best I can tell, lies somewhere in between. Custer certainly was heroic, riding bravely in the front of his charges. He was also an overbearing, egotistical man who seldom worried over the safety of others and who, for the most part, was actually sent into the West to dispose of any native Americans who did not come in to the reservations.

But I digress. Sheridan was a good warrior. He was smart and brave and seldom asked anyone to what he himself would not. But he rebelled against Earth and he did have aliens behind him, egging him on for their own purposes, possibly even Delenn. If Sinclair suffered too much from being like everyman, Sheridan was his opposite. I'm not sure he understood 'everyman' at all.

Plus, after the war, Sheridan was not on Earth. He became, for all intents and purposes, Minbari. He was the man we saw in our all seeing glimpse into the B5 world and he was the man they saw back home, who defeated Clark then forged an alliance with aliens that did not always seem to be in the best interests of Earth, evidently.

He was the man the academics talked of... but that simply was not the whole story. As history can never be the whole story.
Edited Date: 2010-10-04 08:11 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-10-04 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] widsidh.livejournal.com
I agree - and sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you said these was based on Clark era propaganda, what I meant was that I do not think that any parallels were deliberate.

And yes, Custer seems a good example, also in that he was a man shaped by his time and his circumstances. Looking at him solely from a modern point of view will skew the picture. Similarly, the academics on the board in B5 came from a generation who had only ever lived under the Alliance all their lives and not experienced what led to the making of it.

As for Sheridan becoming Minbari, I do not think he did, or would ever be able to in the way Sinclair could, even as Ranger 1. But this works out well in that she became half human, and he became half Minbari (though not physically), and they meet in the middle. And of course this kind of ambiguity is very difficult for historians to get a handle on...

Date: 2010-10-04 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexcat.livejournal.com
But this works out well in that she became half human, and he became half Minbari (though not physically), and they meet in the middle. And of course this kind of ambiguity is very difficult for historians to get a handle on...
Exactly! It worked perfectly to forge an alliance of planets made up of many different peoples!

Date: 2010-10-04 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nhpw.livejournal.com
My favorite part of this episode is reprogrammed Sheridan's Hitler-esque execution of the aliens at +500 years. I know he was "reprogrammed" but it sure was nice to see the goody-two-shoes bit fall away and to give Bruce a chance to demonstrate that he has Bad Guy acting muscles.

In the scene with old Delenn, it does seem a bit like we're supposed to believe Sheridan was perfect as a president, never did anything wrong, was an absolutely wonderful man all the time, and it's a bit much to swallow. The guy who says Sheridan was a megalomaniac kind of had a point. But I DO buy it that at +1,000, the monks would be rebuilding the history of the Alliance and talking about Sheridan and Delenn and Ivanova the way they were. If Humanity has bombed itself back to the stoneage, then it's the outside forces, the other races, who would be restoring the presence of the Rangers, keeping in contact with them, helping them to rebuild. And for the other races, the cornerstone of what they know about Humanity is that Sheridan, a Human, was an all right guy who pulled them all together to fight a war and then he founded the Interstellar Alliance, which might well still be in existence. They might not have any earlier Human history to feed to Earth's inhabitants, because at thet time of the Shadow War Humans really hadn't been space-faring that long. It's entirely possible that they'd use Sheridan and the others as a jumping off point and then build around that, because it's what they know of us.

The guy at the end, the one who's been watching all of this history -- I've always thought him to be a Human-Minbari hybrid (soul-merging and whatnot.) But maybe that's just me.

Date: 2010-10-05 01:26 am (UTC)
ext_20885: (Default)
From: [identity profile] 4thofeleven.livejournal.com
So, JMS has no idea what ‘deconstruction’ actually means, does he? As someone who’s actually studied history, while watching the 2362 section I had the sudden awareness that this must be what it’s like for people who’ve studied physics when they have to listen to Star Trek technobabble...

The odd thing, looking at season five, is that it ends up being hard to argue with the Clark speechwriter in the first sequence or the academics in the 2362 sequence; the Interstellar Alliance seems to blunder from one fiasco to the next, with Sheridan apparently completely out of his depth and the Alliance surviving more because nobody wants the project to fail than out of any personal leadership on his part. Of course, that may just be my innate reaction being to automatically side with the people not espousing Great Man theories of history…

(It doesn’t help that, for some reason, the former Clark speechwriter seems to be the only character in his section making an effort at a coherent argument, with the pro-Sheridan voices saying little more than “Come on!” and “Give him a chance!”)

Minor note on the 2362 sequence – did the comments about “He thought he could control telepaths, when any fool knows that’s impossible, sooner or later they were bound to turn on Sheridan” strike anyone else as faintly ominous? As in, are there any telepaths left on Earth in 2362? If the consensus is that telepaths can’t be controlled and are innately untrustworthy, and the Psi-Corps is long gone…

The 2762 sequence at least avoids the Sheridan-worship somewhat. I am sceptical that five hundred years later, Dr. Franklin is a significant enough figure for it to be worthwhile making propaganda with him – and from a purely storytelling point of view, why show him instead of evil propaganda Delenn? Surely that’d be more fun…

One does have to wonder, considering that the ISA has apparently stood by and watched while Earth collapses into warring factions, whether there might actually be a point to the secessionist faction’s position.

The 3262 sequence is more fun - though it ends up presenting a rather bleak view of Earth’s final fate – which to a degree is part of the problem with the whole episode, it wants to present the ISA as an unquestioned good, even as every segment shows that Earth, at least, benefits not at all from Alliance membership. One has to agree, that, yes, the Rangers might meet a frosty reception if they appeared openly on 3262 Earth… on the other hand, that might not have been the case if the Alliance hadn’t let Earth languish in the middle ages for the five centuries before that.

Finally, one million years in the future – you know what bugs me? Alright, I know it’s just meant as a visual cue to get across that humans have evolved to a higher state… but the future human’s encounter suit bothers me. The Vorlons didn’t wear encounter suits because they were advanced, they wore them to deceive and manipulate the younger races. Are we to take it that humanity is just repeating their pattern? Considering the previous sequence has the Rangers secretly manipulating post-burn Earth, it’s hard not to make the connection.

On the plus side, word of JMS is that the Narn and Centauri never became First One-ish, but didn’t die out either. So they, at least, were able to break the cycle of the past…

Date: 2010-10-05 10:43 am (UTC)
ext_26185: (B5)
From: [identity profile] ufgator1977.livejournal.com
The only thing I have to say about this episode is that it contains one of my favorite quotes ever:

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

Date: 2010-10-05 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nhpw.livejournal.com
I like that one, but am also fond of "Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You can travel further with both than you can with just one." In general, I like Brother Alwyn. He reminds me so much of Vir (perhaps intentional, given that Stephen Furst directed the episode.)

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