Babylon 5 #88: Rising Star

"All love is unrequited, Stephen. All of it."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan is forced to resign, but has another job lined up as president of a new interstellar Alliance. Marcus sacrifices his life for Ivanova's.

REVIEW: JMS certainly thought this was a series finale (with the next episode serving as an epilogue/coda), and running out of time at the end, he really rushes things. But the most mystifying this about this episode for me is the fate of Ivanova. Marcus dies in her place, more or less off-stage, without much fanfare, and she survives, though traumatized by this event. As a viewer, I do feel cheated that after the perfect, crushing finality of her "death" in Between the Darkness and the Light, she's given a reprieve here. Certainly, the circumstances of it do bug me, because I don't think Marcus' romantic arc was worth trumping Ivanova's heroic one. Especially if she's just going to be shuffled off the show anyway, with a freaking ISN report replacing any kind of goodbye scene for the character. So we've lost two people instead of just one, and neither really gets to shine in their last episode. I do like Ivanova's bleak Russian point of view; there's something heart-breaking about her contention that all love in unrequited. Later, Delenn tells Lennier this isn't true "of course", acknowledging for the first time that she knows of his love for her and reciprocating the platonic he's always offered, yet at the same time proving Ivanova correct.

Ivanova isn't the only one shorted by ISN. The long-awaited wedding of Sheridan and Delenn ALSO takes place off-screen. So what DO we get instead? A lot of time devoted to Sheridan's political future and the new Alliance getting birthed, and that means the longest press conference you've ever seen in TV fiction. It felt a little like one of those ISN shows we've gotten before, sticking to news events at the expense of character moments, AND featuring yet more of Delenn's tone-deafness about public relations. I mean, who starts a new era of peace with a huge show of force that feels like an invasion? (Well, the Minbari do, that's been proven.) It seemed so ill-advised, it took me right out of the experience. Beata Pozniak as President Susanna Luchenko gets a huge showcase, but if I were a member of the electorate, I'm not sure I'd want an interim president to make all these momentous decisions. How about holding an election before we throw in with the aliens we've been taught to fear?

There are some good moments here, don't get me wrong. Sheridan going straight to the window and daring Bester to have a sniper get him, for example. Playing the government to make sure it wouldn't prosecute the people under him. His reunion with his father. His cocksure smile when a general has to escort him out of a room after he's named Alliance president. Martian gangsters realizing they made a horrible mistake when Garibaldi sends them an exploding cartoon box (will Bester ever get an exploding cigar?)... But whatever it manages, the ending undoes a lot of good will. As this isn't the true finale, Delenn dribbling out everything that's to happen in the next season is rather anticlimactic and spoilery. If it HAD been the true finale, then we'd have to accept the last scene is one where G'Kar uses his artificial eye in an act of voyeurism on Sheridan and Delenn's marital bed. Ick.

The principles of the new Alliance are remarkably similar to Star Trek's IDIC concept.

- In the rush to finish his story, JMS takes the wrong shortcuts. Still good, but not as good as it might have been on the planned schedule.


Anonymous said...

Could not stand Russian president lady. I realize JMS couldn't have her be reasonable enough to give Sheridan a break, but that line about "all right, you did the right thing, but you did it the inconVEEEEEEEEEEENient way" grates every time. I feel like JMS instructed her to really drill the word, because it's also a completely nonsensical word given the complete lack of "convenient" solutions.

Marcus is dead and I like to imagine he was given the traditional Ranger send-off: everyone sitting around in beer hats and flip-flops, watching "Porky's". No, I will not miss Marcus.

The Delenn / Lennier thing -- it's always tough writing for a smarter, wiser people, but there has got to be a way Delenn could requite enough of Lennier's love that he wouldn't feel like a tool. If anyone would have cracked that, it would be the Minbari. I can't fault JMS for not knowing what to do with it. (My personal suggestion: make sure Lennier knows Delenn not only likes and appreciates him, but at some level needs him. For me anyway, that's sufficient requiting to take the sting off. That said, Delenn ought to cut the boy loose.)

Cradok said...

Now that you've reached this point and know that Ivanova wasn't killed off, seems as good a place as any to talk about a couple of things that did happen.

The next episode filmed, Sleeping in Light, was to be the coda episode for the whole series, and used the season 4 cast, including Christian. Had the show ended here, it would have been shown next, everything would be over, that would be the end of it. But at the last moment, the TNT network decided to pick up not only a further season, but several TV movies, two of which were to be filmed immediately. Since SiL couldn't be shown at the end of season 4 anymore, the first episode of season 5 was written to fill the gap.

And then there was Claudia Christian.

The two TV movies - In the Beginning and Thirdspace - were fine, she signed up for them, starred in them, did promos for them and for season 5, which she was supposed to be a part of. She was going to have a big storyline about coming to terms with what had happened to her, and coming to terms with what Marcus had done.

But for season 5, everyone had to sign new contracts, and because it was confirmed so late the cast had already started shopping themselves around, and because the already tiny budget the show was running on was cut pay had to be cut, and some reworking of residuals. Christian herself was the first cast member to agree to this, and actually helped talk everyone else around to it.

However, she wanted to take off four episodes in the middle of the season to do some work on a film. And here is where things get a bit fuzzy, and stories start to differ. JMS and CC's accounts both agree that as far as he was concerned, this was a non-issue. He'd done the same for cast members previously, such as for Stephen Furst in season 3, and would be happy to do so again. Even when the higher-ups at TNT balked at this, insisting she be contracted to do all 22 episodes, JMS said that he just wouldn't include her in four episodes, meaning she'd be free to do what she wanted.

What's not agreed on by everyone is just what happened next. JMS says that according to her rep, she wanted to do only 18 episodes, but get full pay for 22, and she wanted that in writing. All the cast of B5 were paid a small fee for every episode they were credited on, and a full fee for every one they appeared in. But this would have effectively given Claudia a raise, and if she got one, everyone would have to get one, and they didn't have the money for that. Claudia herself said that she would have been fine to do 18 for 18's pay, but that that offer was never made, and was told that it had to be 22.

Claudia later told a story about how, during a con in Blackpool, some 'studio guys', probably TNT, plied the cast who hadn't yet signed with alcohol, and then came knocking at their hotel rooms at 3am. She left the convention immediately, and the deadline had passed by the time she got home. She also says that B5's producer, John Copeland, basically shut her out at this point.

What it all seems to come down to is that, despite JMS and CC basically agreeing on things, somewhere along the line things got confused. Somewhere in the morass of TNT, WB, Copeland, her agent, and whomever else was involved, things were messed up, possibly even deliberately.

And honestly, all that is basically the barest summary, there's a lot more in between all that, and some after, with further accounts from both JMS and CC, and from others involved including other cast members. It's a huge shame that it all happened, and we'll probably never know the actual truth.

LiamKav said...

When you add the CC situation with what happened to Foundation Imaging a year before, it certainly seems that there were some people at WB/Babylonian Productions who weren't above (or below) acting like shits to save the show money. Unfortunately this seems to have involved good people also getting hurt.

Cradok said...

Yeah, there's actually a few things in there with Copeland I left out for brevity, but the more you hear about him, the less pleasant he seems. And while at the time JMS acted like he was handling everything fine, the fact that it turns out he was burnt out and actually getting poisoned, you have to wonder just how much he was involved in business decisions anymore.

Ryan Lohner said...

After Cradok's excellent summary of the situation, the one thing I have to add is that JMS has also confirmed that if he'd known A. he would be getting a fifth season and B. Claudia wouldn't be in it, he absolutely would have simply killed her off and left Marcus on the show. Though at least it happened in a way that made sense and had been properly set up earlier, as usual for the show.

This is another one where you can easily see the seams of rushing the story's ending, as this one races to get all the plot threads into place for the finale Sleeping in Light. In fact, anyone who wishes can therefore just skip right from this episode to that one and bypass the often denigrated season 5. Me personally, I think there's still easily enough good stuff in that season to warrant its inclusion.

As for G'Kar peeking in on the marriage bed...I've got nothing. It's one of those things like Uhura's nude fan dance, or Jar Jar Binks, or the entirety of The Room, where you can just stare in horror and wonder what could possibly have been going through the writer's mind to make them think it was a good idea.

LiamKav said...

"Yeah, there's actually a few things in there with Copeland I left out for brevity, but the more you hear about him, the less pleasant he seems.

I always thought it was Doug Netter who was the bad one. He's the one who refused to spend the $5,000 to get FI the widescreen monitor that would have made this rewatch so, so much more pleasant. And if you believe Ron Thorton, he's the one who told JMS white lies about FI going over budget on "Severed Dreams" that allowed Netter to set up his own CGI company and take over the SFX with season 4.

Where's the appropriate point to talk about the Marcus/Ivanova short story that JMS wrote? And who wants to be the one to summerise it for Sisko?

LondonKdS said...

Ooo, let me try.

Several hundred years in the future, Marcus finally gets revived and discovers that Susan's been dead for many years. So he breaks into her tomb, has an illegal clone made from her DNA, implants the clone with her memories up to a few weeks before her near-death, and maroons himself and the clone on an uninhabited planet, making her think that it's still 2261 and their ship got shot down.

JMS seemed to think that this was actually a happy ending. Most other people's reaction was "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!".

Siskoid said...

Yeah, that's pretty gross.

Cradok said...

Yeah, my summary would just have been a retching noise.

Anonymous said...

"As for G'Kar peeking in on the marriage bed...I've got nothing. It's one of those things like Uhura's nude fan dance, or Jar Jar Binks, or the entirety of The Room, where you can just stare in horror and wonder what could possibly have been going through the writer's mind to make them think it was a good idea."

I do think our standards on decency have changed, for the better, over the past 15-20 years; and I think the Internet of all things has led to it. The Internet has forced us as a society to re-evaluate our mores on a lot of issues in a short amount of time, including privacy. In the late 1990s it may have been possible to say "Oh G'Kar you rascal!" but in the 2010s we associate what G'Kar did with Youtube abuse.

About that Susan / Marcus epilogue story: please tell me there was a point where Marcus said, "well I guess it's up to us to repopulate this planet".

LiamKav said...

Nah. I imagine that Marcus would have spent the whole time waiting for a perfect moment before trying to have sex with Ivanova. Said moment would have come when he was 87 and about to die, 40 years after clone-Ivanova had killed herself out of frustration.

Okay, now that I've seen it, I have serious issues with Ivanova's speech after she's revived by Marcus. It's basically the speech that every Nice Guy hears in his head coming out of the mouth of the girl he is persuing. "I only ever have bad relationships. I make bad choices. And yet here was a guy who wanted to give me everything and wanted nothing in return, who I just ignored". It's major justification for not being in a relationship, complaining about being "friendzoned". Marcus had plenty of opportunities to do something about his love for Ivanova, up to and including asking her out. He never did, and in fact as recently as a few episodes ago whispered "you'll never know" while she slept. As much as this episode tries to make both of them at fault with Ivanova saying that she knew, it is completely 100% Marcus's fault. If you want someone, you have to fight for it, or at least ask nicely for it. Hanging around as someone's friend hoping that a relationship will spontaneously happen is lousy behaviour, and I say that as someone who both liked Marcus and behaved in similar ways when I was younger. Marcus was someone in love with the idea of a perfect relationship, when there was no such thing. For him, sacrificing his own life for the woman he loves was an easy thing to do. Having discussions about shared bank accounts, when would be a good time to try for kids whilst they both had careers, saying that he didn't want to spend Christmas with the in-laws 3 years running, having a fight over a game of Monopoly, those would have been the hard things that just didn't fit into his childish view of relationships.

(Also, "boffed"? You've actually done pretty well writing a Brit with Marcus, Joe, but no-one over here would ever use the word "boffed". I guess we can be glad Austin Powers was still a few years away so we didn't get "shagged".)

"As long as we speak [Marcus's name], he will always be a part of us" - I'll be keeping an ear out for how many times Marcus's name is mentioned in season 5. I'm pretty sure it's once. So he's obviously not that much a part of them.

This is now two seasons in a row that end with Londo receiving news that he's essentially getting a promotion and has to return to the homeworld.

The whole argument with Sheridan being "inconvenient" is ridiculous. The new president says that several people were prepared to move against Clark. A Senator was ready with a large security force the second Sheridan's forces arrived. Are all those people going to have to face charges of mutiny too? If the argument was framed as Sheridan murdering other EarthForce officers and their family members wanting revenge, it would make some sense. But if it's based around overthrowing Clark, then the new President herself (and presumably all the staff who aren't up on war crimes charges) should also be on trial.

The speed that everything happens at is also fairly crazy. In the space of what seems like a week, Earth goes from a fascist, xeonphobic police-state to a member of an Interstellar Alliance. And is the President really the one to be making these decisions? She can't have been voted in. Who's on the Senate? The same people that Clark had put in place? Earth should really be sorting it's own shit out before doing all this other stuff. (And it doesn't help that they've been really pressured into joining, both by having the new IA president be the one that saved Earth, and also with Delenn's fairly terrible show of force.)

LiamKav said...

Sheridan is (was) a captain, so how can he promote Ivanova to the same rank? I'm pretty sure that's not possible.

Also, am I the only one that would have liked to have seen the wedding? I never really cared for Delenn-Sheridan on my first viewings, but they've grown on me this time as a fairly mature relationship - two people who have done this thing before, know what's involved and know what they want. I'd have loved to have seen the main cast at the wedding reception, drinking champagne and being confused when Vir caught the bouquet.


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