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Deconstruction of Falling Stars [Season 4 Finale]

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Possibly once of the most fiercely argued about episodes in the history of B5. Some say it gives too much away, other think it's a masterpiece.

On the ISN program Night Side, most of the people interviewed think that Sheridan has his work cut out for him, but they're willing to give him a try, which is a reasonable way of looking at it.

The next section is far more contentious, and set in 2362. In this education programme about the 100th anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance, the presenter looks at the role that Babylon 5 played in the creation of the hundred year peace. There - a hundred year peace. Do people really want to know what's going to happen in Crusade and in the fifth season? Personally, I don't think he's giving much away, but people will say 'Ah, I know this won't result in war because of the Deconstuction of Falling Stars episode.'

The panellists agree that the Babylon 5 station provided a 'nexus' for others. They tend to dehumanise the figures of Sheridan and Delenn and simply, they concentrate more on their failings that their successes. Not once is their success in defeating the Shadows and Vorlons mentioned - surely this, more than others, played a part in creating a hundred year peace? We know what the Shadows wanted. Sheridan and Delenn were only 'the open vessels in which people poured their hopes and dreams'. Maybe so, but they only learned this respect by becoming strong leaders. You don't just pick out an ordinary person and decide to pour your hopes and dreams into them. After rallying the League of Non-Aligned worlds, the Centauris, the Narns, people felt they could afford to trust Sheridan and Delenn.

It seems fair to say that once person cannot change the universe. After all, do we really think that Churchill alone stopped Hitler from taking over Europe? Most of you would say that he's just one person, but someone has to make the decisions, and in the same way, Sheridan had to make his decisions.

The telepath incident. This, most of all, has annoyed viewers. The telepaths on Babylon 5 are now doomed to hold Garibaldi terrorist, we know this will definitely happen, and it does give the game away. However, its inclusion is very important to this section of the episode. Sheridan isn't perfect, and he made a mistake of letting the telepaths on board, but the panellists seem to dwell over this incident far long than anything he did right.

Exactly why is Sheridan cold, power hungry and pathological? Can you determine this from just looking at him say a few words for a few seconds? What do they expect him to do? Let the terrorists go free?

His death. Something extraordinary happened to him when he's dying, or else the panellists wouldn't have brought up the subject of the PR campaign and the myth of his character. Another myth - Delenn is still alive. To be fair, there would be some reasonable doubt in that Delenn was still alive, but only a little. She is 140 years old, longer than any Minbari has lived before. The panellists could simply question this, but they insist on dragging it out and making it seems like a conspiracy by the Alliance to keep the people in line. Come on, if it's only one person, who cares if Delenn is alive or dead?

From the way all the panellists look down in shame after Delenn has arrived, we know that they are aware that they've been treating the subject atrociously, and that even they know Sheridan wasn't such a bad guy. Maybe there's still hope in 2362.

Not much hope in 2762 though. From what we see at the start, Earth has reverted into a dictatorial state where the ends justify the means. If they need to deconstruct the Babylon 5 senior staff in order to lower public confidence in the Alliance, then so be it. Hardly encouraging. Later, we learn that they're only a splinter faction, and that the good guys win in the end.

In any case, I'd find it hard to believe that people would just take videos of Sheridan killing people for granted. They'd know about these holographic chambers and so on, so they wouldn't be duped. Even we could make something like that now, with CGI. People don't tend to believe everything they see on TV these days any more, and I don't expect they will in the future either.

3262. The civil war must have been pretty damn big to have wiped out civilisation, and you wonder why other races didn't try and help Earth. Maybe the Rangers told them that they'd sort it out, who knows. Anyway, it appears that Sheridan, Delenn and Ivanova have been canonised, but the people are still Christians. Interesting. Brother Michael argues that there's actually no proof they existed, and of course, it's all a matter of faith. This argument about reason and faith has been argued a million times over the years, and Brother Michael has experienced it himself more than a few times as well.

More interesting is how the Rangers intend to rebuild Earth. It seems that they want to kick-start civilisation again by 'discovering' pre-burn technologies. The jump from a dark ages era to one with gasoline engines seems to be pretty big. Do they intend to accelerate technological discoveries that quickly? If so, they'll be spacefaring in a matter of centuries. So why don't they just come down from space and teach them everything? If the Rangers did that, most likely there'd be a war. The Rangers want to rebuild Earth, and educate the populace to be, well, better, in the process. Almost like the Vorlons, in fact. The populace is still afraid of technology, rightly so, and they need to get used to it again.

One thing: I'd love to see the look on Brother Michael's face in 20 years time, when a spaceship lands from the sky.

1002262. Earth is going nova. Before you cry 'Earth can't go nova, it's too small,' JMS said something on the lines of: Just suppose, for a second, that someone formed a series of jumpgates in the centre of the sun. The loss of material would start a nova, wouldn't it? Not completely implausible, is it?

The humans have become Vorlons, which begs the questions, who are the Shadows? Will we repeat the same mistakes the Vorlons did a million years ago? What do they want? Who are they?

The episode ends with the words 'Dedicated to all the people who predicted the Babylon Project would fail in it's mission. Faith manages.' A not-so-subtle jab at the people who didn't believe that Babylon 5 would ever make it. JMS deserved to say that, and I've got to say, it's a great way of getting back at some people.

It might be interesting to know that many B5 fans now use the words 'Faith manages' as a motto, or a tagline.

Arc rating: 9

Deconstruction was never actually planned from the beginning - if there wasn't going to be a fifth series, it would have been replaced by Sleeping in Light. Nevertheless, there's a lot of material in here that's yet to happen.

Episode rating: 10

Who cares about what everyone else thought, I loved this episode. It made me furious about what the panellists said, and any episode that makes you think hard has been made perfectly.


Added section, added value:

Updated thoughts: This is really one of my favourite episodes ever. It's the sort of episode which I watch every month, and I never get bored with it. Let me talk a little more about it.

The discussion in 2362 is wonderful. We find it so difficult to believe that a few people can change the world, perhaps because we ourselves feel that we cannot do anything on our own in the greater scheme of things. So we seek to deconstruct legends, so make ourselves feel better. We don't know what sort of people Churchill, or Lincoln, or Roosevelt were like. We just know that they changed the world. But it is one thing to say that Sheridan was not solely responsible for the Alliance, and another to say that he was an evil person. When Delenn walks in and berates them, they know they are wrong. Why does it matter so much to her, what other people think? Because all she, and anyone else, have of him are memories. And it is so easy to change those memories, and so easy to see the man she loved, a good man, be destroyed by history.

Equally enjoyable is the deconstruction in 2762. With echoes of Orwell's '1982', this section paints a picture of, again, how easy it is to change memories. Thinking about it, I find it a little difficult that they can resurrect the personalities of Sheridan, Delenn, Franklin and Garibaldi, but it is touching to see Garibaldi say 'Rest easy, friends, rest easy.'

The final sequence, in 3262, was a nice departure from the normal B5 universe. 'Faith and reason are like the shoes on your feet. You can get further with both of them than you can with just one.' Quite true. Strazcynski places the familiar notion of faith in God into the context of Babylon 5, with the Rangers coming to the salvation of Earth. Better is the fact that the Rangers are biding their time, letting the humans decide for themselves when they are ready to build themselves up again, anew.