Episode 144 – The Wheel of Fire


Garibaldi hits bottom and Lyta becomes a nuisance. Anka joins us to discuss episode 5×19 – “The Wheel of Fire”.

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4 Responses to “Episode 144 – The Wheel of Fire”

  1. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for River of Souls]

    Who would have thought that the single most famous actor ever to guest star on Babylon 5 would do so in a throwaway – and at times schlocky – TV movie that doesn’t even feature most of the main cast? And then would play his part under makeup? OK, Martin Sheen was going through one of the lower-profile periods in his career at the time, but he was still *Martin Sheen*.

    In fact, given that the other major guest performance is by Ian McShane, this is from a 2016 perspective probably the most starry B5 production ever, although at the time McShane was not a familiar figure to most Americans (although apparently Lovejoy was aired on A&E). By the way, when you do watch your Deadwood episode, bear in mind that Al Swearengen is supposed to be from Chicago.

    But, aside from having *Martin Sheen* in it, what is there to say about River of Souls? As usual, JMS is not at his best when writing anything having to do with sex. That element of the plot (especially making Scoggins wear that costume) is beyond cringeworthy. JMS was to go on to do a worse job of this sort of thing on Jeremiah, incidentally, so it can’t just be blamed on the ’90s.

    But aside from the holographic-prostitution subplot, River of Souls isn’t bad. Making the ambassadors watch it at this point isn’t as disruptive as watching Thirdspace when you did, but I think River of Souls is best watched after the rest of the series. It’s basically a sort of glimpse of what the show might have been like if it had continued to tell the story of the station after the main series had ended, with Tracy Scoggins as the lead. And having Captain Lochley as the heroic station commander actually does a lot to refresh what is basically, like Thirdspace, a standard “station in peril” story. I think this might have been quite a good series.

    And you’ve made it clear that you wanted more scenes with “Clarence.” I hope that the love bat is everything you dreamed of.

  2. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for Objects at Rest]

    OK, to begin with I *finally* get to make a very serious complaint that I have been bottling up since you began to talk about season 5.

    You know that wonderful soaring music that plays as Sheridan is leaving the station in this episode? It is my favorite theme in all of Babylon 5. And since Will has been playing the soundtrack as the background to your conversation, that music has come up again and again as you have discussed other episodes this season. At times that don’t suit it. When you’re talking about the most mundane things. This is very wrong. Will should be ashamed of himself.

    But what about Objects at Rest? It’s perhaps the most Season Five of all the Season Five episodes. It could only exist in this form because of the unexpected extension of the show for another season. That means that the actual season finale, next week, is the finale to the show as a whole, while what Objects at Rest has to do is say good-bye to this particular season, and especially Captain Lochley.

    It does a pretty good job of that. I really like the shot of the new command staff and ambassadors who have replaced the old. One of the interesting things about Babylon 5 is that, indebted as it is to midcentury literary SF and especially the idea of a “future history,” it never tries to suggest that its story is somehow the last story. Instead, things will go on and there will be other stories that the show isn’t telling us. I said last week that River of Souls was a sort of glimpse into a continuation of the show that never happened. One of the reasons why that works is because of this aspect of this episode.

    But then the episode itself goes on. Sheridan saluting Lochley and heading out should be the climactic scene, but it isn’t. This produces this odd structure where this is really three episodes in one.

    The next episode is the story of Lennier’s betrayal – the culmination of the story of a key character, and something that (whether one likes the plotline or not) really should have been the centerpiece of its own full episode. But it is something that has to be tied up, so it goes here. Seriously, JMS couldn’t cut *one* of the standalone episodes in the first half of the season to make more room for this?

    And then we have episode number three, Sheridan and Delenn arriving on Minbar and chatting with Londo. I think the point of this is that after the Lennier story, we need a second climax for the episode, and this is provided by the juxtaposition of Londo’s sinister gift and Sheridan’s optimistic message to his son. I do like this, but I’m not sure that its inclusion is what you’d call elegant.

    So Objects at Rest is a strange and ungainly beast of an episode. But it does have something of the saving grace of Objects in Motion – as we know that we will soon be saying goodbye to these characters, it’s nice to spend a little more time with them.

  3. Will Says:

    Not to throw anyone under the bus, but I’m not the one who does the background music and I rarely hear what music has been added. I also have no shame 🙂

  4. Voord 99 Says:

    [Spoilers for Sleeping in Light, and, well, all of Babylon 5, pretty much]

    So that’s the ambassadors’ journey over and done with. Of course, there are a couple of things to tidy up, but, essentially, this is it.

    So what does one say about Babylon 5 when all is said and done?

    It’s a show shot through with contradictions. It’s a show about the need to resist authoritarians, but it’s also a show about worship of the heroic leader. It’s a show about the need for the young to rebel against the old, but it’s also a show about a nostalgic love of old-fashioned science-fiction. It’s a show that’s about how people are not perfect, but it’s also a show that trades in idealism. And, of course, it’s the show that revels in having an overall story from the beginning to the end, but, you know, doesn’t really, because that plan has to deal with the realities of television production.

    That last aspect haunts Sleeping in Light. When I first saw it, I was overwhelmed with the emotion of finally getting to the end – and TNT’s delayed scheduling of the final episodes meant that the mismatch with Season Five was not as obvious as it is if you watch it as a true season finale. Now, I can’t watch Sleeping in Light without being smacked in the face by all the ways that it shows the joins – not just because it was made to finish off the series at the end of Season Four, but because of things like the erasure of Sinclair.

    But it’s still a moving piece of television. One thing, that in my head always feels like the final image even though it’s not, has stuck with me to this day: Claudia Christian’s voice over the image of Garibaldi, saying that there are always second chances “even for people like us.”

    That’s the story of Babylon 5. It didn’t work as it was meant to, but there was a second chance, and a third chance, and it *did* work.

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