4thofeleven: (Default)
Babylon 5 headcanon:

Catagia was probably the most popular Emperor in recent Centauri history. Oh, the nobility hated him, and there were always dark rumours coming out of the palace – but for the average Centauri, there wasn’t anything remarkable about that. The nobles were always feuding and killing each other, after all. To most Centauri, the important thing was that the Narn had been brought to heel, and the Republic, so long in decline, was once more a great power in the galaxy. But it was more than that – Cartagia felt like a real man of the people compared to his predecessors. Wearing his hair short enraged the aristocracy but endeared him to the people, and they loved his eccentricities and the way he ignored the rituals and traditions of the old guard.

Needless to say, given his popularity, the suspicious circumstances of his death fuelled speculation. Nobody believed the official story that he’d died of a heart attack, and rumours abounded on the streets of Centauri Prime over who was really responsible for his death. The Narn, of course, were popular targets. Old aristocrats jealous of his success were often blamed. A few conspiracy-minded Centauri liked to place the blame on an obscure Minbari cult known as the “Anla-Shok”.

In time, a new theory began to gain strength - that Catagia had never died in the first place, that death had been faked to legitimise a palace coup while he was off-world. In the dark days that followed the coronation of Emperor Mollari II, the idea that Catagia could return and undo the humiliations the Centauri had suffered proved popular among the common Centauri. New rumours spread; that Catagia was living in hiding, disguised as a human on Earth, that he was gathering support among the League worlds to retake the throne, that he had made it to Vorlon space and was preparing to return with an armada that would unite the galaxy under his rule.

For a long time the Centauri government ignored these rumours as peasant superstitions. But when a rebellion broke out on the colony world of Davos, sparked by whispers that Catagia was about to make his move, the Centaurum realised something needed to be done to put the story to rest. It was a junior member of the body that ended up suggesting the solution: Why not revive the old tradition of deifying deceased emperors? An official Temple of Catagia would provide a safe, controlled way for the common people to show their affection for the dead emperor, and it would make spreading rumours of his survival not just treasonous but blasphemy against the God Catagia himself!

According to several members of the royal court, the only time they ever saw Emperor Mollari overcome with laughter during his reign was when he was presented with the legislation to ratify it – though some admit they were not sure if it was laughter or tears that overwhelmed him.

While far more popular than his predecessor, many Centauri were somewhat offended that Emperor Cotto seemed to go out of his way to avoid entering temples of Catagia during his reign…
4thofeleven: (Default)
Flying through space in Star Trek Online, I’ve seen a fair few Klingon players who’ve named their captain G’Kar. Hey, always nice to see a fellow B5 fan, and at a glance, it could pass as a Klingon name. Still, I’m a little surprised that not one of them was wearing an eye patch to go with the name.

Similarly, I’ve seen at least half a dozen Thrawns of various ranks commanding starships – but not a single one was Bolian or Andorian. I don’t understand why you’d pick a name that’s a blatant reference to something else, but not go all the way with it.

On the plus side, I have seen Betazoid Alfred Bester and Lyta Alexanders, so at least some people have clued into the obvious choices when it comes to this sort of psedo-crossover…
4thofeleven: (Default)
Because everyone else is doing it.

Leave me a comment saying "Boom-cha" and I will respond by asking you five questions that satisfy my curiosity. Update your journal with the answers to the questions, including this in the post.

Questions by [livejournal.com profile] sunnyskywalker

1. What do you think happened to Talia Winters? Did they really dissect her like Bester said, or was he just trying to rile them?

I always thought dissecting Talia seemed a bit of a waste of resources – even if Talia 2.0 couldn’t access Talia’s telekinetic powers, presumably she still has the ability and the priority should have been on getting it to work again so the Corps could study a living subject and telekinesis in action.

Then again, the alternate personality might not have been designed for long-term operation and might have shut down on its own – considering Talia 2.0’s subtle reaction to being exposed is to pull a weapon on Lyta in front of a half-dozen witnesses while bellowing Psi-Corps slogans, one kind of gets the impression it was a rush job and perhaps not too smart when left unattended.

Anyway, I’m an optimist, and I prefer to think that Talia survived somehow and was eventually restored. Bester might not even have been intentionally lying – he is somewhat out of the loop when it comes to some of the internal conspiracies in the Corps. Maybe Talia was transferred over to Bureau 13 with death and dissection as a cover story.

And I have – admittedly slim – evidence to support the theory that she was restored. Sleeping in Light, when everyone toasts to absent friends, Talia isn’t one of the dead characters named. Granted, neither is Lyta, but nobody was really close to her except Zack, and he’s not there. So I say, that proves it, obviously she wasn’t named because as of 2281, she’s not dead!

And I refuse to listen to any arguments to the contrary.

2. Tell me your thoughts on orcs, of any brand.

I’ve always had an affection for orcs, going back to when I was a kid and I used to collect Warhammer model soldiers. In the Warhammer game system, the Orc and Goblin army was one of the most unreliable, with special rules to represent the tendencies of orcs to fight among themselves rather than the enemy, the unreliability of most orc weapons, and the generally uncontrollable nature of an orc horde – Orc wizards sometimes overloaded their brains with too much magic and exploded, some of their special unit moved a random amount each turn. Fun army, very characterful, not very effective, but more fun to play than the disciplined, organised ranks of an elf or dwarf army.

One of the things I like about orcs is that they tend to fit into the pseudo-dark ages society most fantasy worlds are permanently stuck in a lot better than chivalrous knights or refined elves. Why’s Gorbad the Stabber the boss? Because he’s got an army of orcs behind him who beat the crap out of anyone who disagrees. What have you got to say to that, Mr. Rightful Heir, True King, Last of Your Ancient Line? Why are we at war with this kingdom? Are we reclaiming our ancestral lands? Are we fighting a last heroic stand against the forces of evil? No, but our soldiers are getting restless and they’ve got shiny things we want. It’s a bit more honest to just admit you rule by strength of arms and brutality, and more true to how most noble dynasties originally rose to power…

3. How did you get into vexillology? Was it just too cool a word?

Flags and coats of arms are one of those things I’ve always been interested in. Unfortunately, most countries to have gained independence in the last few decades have picked terrible flags. Bosnia’s flag seems to have been designed primarily to communicate “We really want EU membership!”. Kosovo stuck a map of their country on the flag, which seems to be missing the point of a flag as an iconic representation of the country. Montenegro just went with their coat of arms on a coloured background, which again seems to be missing the point of having a flag – a mistake a fair number of US State flags have also made. Eritrea just hurts my eyes to look at – I think it’s the red and green right next to each other. Turkmenistan stuck a strip of carpet on their flag, which, well, A-plus for creativity, minus several million for aesthetics, yes?

On the plus side, East Timor came up with a very nice and distinctive design, and most of the former Soviet Republics came up with interesting flags.

And, no, I’m not a fan of Australia’s current flag – looks like a colonial flag, and too similar to New Zealand. Unfortunately, I suspect an Australian Republic flag would be much worse; I’d like to see the Eureka flag chosen, but that’s probably got too much political baggage.

4. Besides Kirk and Spock, who learns Spock Prime's identity? Sarek? The Admiralty? No one?

I assume the Federation was kind of hush-hush about what happened in general – nobody wants to know they’re living in an alternate timeline, and you don’t want other governments trying to work out how to send their ships back in time – or how to make contact with their
counterparts in alternate realities.

I imagine Spock Prime would tell as few people as possible – he probably doesn’t want to be pestered every other week with Starfleet demands for information on future events. Sarek probably knows – hmm, and maybe Pike too. Spock was very loyal to the guy in the prime timeline, it makes sense that if he was going to contact anyone in Starfleet, it’d be him.

5. What is the coolest translation you've done in Greek?

One of the most fun was when we were assigned a passage from Aristophanes’ The Clouds. The point of the exercise, as the teacher explained afterwards, was to check how confident you were at translating when the correct translation produced sentences like “And then he took the flea and dipped its feet in wax. And so it had Persian slippers on its feet!” – the sort of result that makes it very easy to assume you must have screwed up somewhere…
4thofeleven: (Default)
Well, this was a nice change from the general low quality of the first three Dell B5 novels. I suspect Clarke’s Law was the first of the novels to be written by someone who had actually seen episodes of the series, and it references the existing continuity very well. The story is clearly set in the wake of the fall of the Narn homeworld, and there are references to plenty of other episodes from the end of season two – a brief appearance by Lyta Alexander, a mention of Dr. Franklin still being haunted by the recent death of the Markab, a Vir storyline that’s clearly intended to follow on directly from his attempt to apologise to G’Kar. It’s a welcome change from the earlier novels, which were all rather awkwardly placed in points in the show’s timeline the authors were clearly unfamiliar with.

To summarise the plot, leaving out a lot of subplots and minor details – A recently arrived alien delegate has murdered a human while in a maddened state. President Clark recently reintroduced the death penalty for murder, and, of course, doesn’t want to look weak on crime or to let an alien get away with murdering a human. The problem is the alien first wasn’t in her right mind when she killed the human, and has since suffered brain damage due to vacuum exposure, and cannot be considered responsible – indeed, her own people now consider her to be a new individual. Sheridan tries to prevent the execution while avoiding openly opposing Clark, eventually faking the alien’s execution. The apparent failure of the courts to prevent the execution of an innocent leads to a riot on the station between anti-death penalty and anti-alien mobs in which several people die, while the demonstration of the new tough on crime policy shores up Clark’s position on Earth.

There’s some interesting characterisation of Sheridan here. I suspect this is the first novel written by an author familiar with the character, so that on its own is nice. But specifically, I think the author is taking his cues largely from “In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum”, which portrays Sheridan as a far more ambiguous figure than most of the rest of the show – and to me, as a more interesting character. The Sheridan shown here is someone disgusted with his government, with his situation – and also a little disgusted with himself, with what he has to do while walking the tightrope of avoiding direct confrontation with Clark or the Shadows while still trying to work against them. There’s also the subtle theme that Sheridan could be susceptible to Shadow influence under the right circumstances, that he's someone who won’t necessarily do the honest thing first off, but will instead try to manipulate and use people to get what he thinks is right. It’s a very interesting take on the character, and I think it does work in the story, and I think the tension between Sheridan’s obvious frustrations with having to solve problems using the same covert manipulative style as Clarke and his apparent willingness to still grit his teeth and do such things, even knowing there could be unexpected fallout on innocents, is one of the real strengths of the novel.

There are weaknesses in the story, though, particularly in the portrayals of G’Kar and Londo. Londo is a little too much of a straight villain here, lacking any of the complexity or internal conflict that he has on the show. Here, we have Londo casually contacting Morden to have G’Kar killed as part of a complicated plan that is not only out of character, but doesn’t seem to make much sense on its own either. It’s nice to see an author that’s noticed that Londo has moved beyond the simple comic relief role of early season one by this point in the series, but here it’s taken too far to the other extreme.

G’Kar meanwhile… well, the alien delegation in this story? They’re from one of the worlds conquered by the Narn regime, who only managed to regain independence after the fall of the Narn homeworld, and they’re on the station looking for foreign help in repairing the damage caused by the Narn occupation. That’s all well and good, and it’s nice to see consequences of the collapse of Narn power. The problem is that the book also includes a flashback to the conquest of the alien homeworld – a conquest in which G’Kar led the Narn forces, destroying their capital from orbit before landing and blaming the devastation on the Centauri, tricking the aliens into allying with Narn, an alliance that would result in a generation of brutal enslavement. Now, sure, G’Kar’s probably got a few skeletons in his closet – but portraying him as someone guilty of crimes as great or greater than Londo’s and portraying the Narn Regime as literally just as bad as the Centauri… no, that just plain doesn’t work with the characters portrayed on screen.

That’s really the problem with the novel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a real cut above what’s come before (damning with faint praise), well written with interesting ideas and some interesting examinations of aspects of the series and characters left untouched by the show itself. On the other hand, that makes the occasional missteps just that much more glaring. Not just when it comes to characterisation, either – the book’s generally very good with series continuity and bringing in minor characters, but then there’s a couple of inexplicable errors, like asserting that Lyta is deaf or that the Centauri Emperor is called “Narleeth Jarn”. Even more bizarre is a minor character introduced in the prologue who returns in an epilogue… and for some reason now has a completely different name. I’m beginning to think these books didn’t just not have a good editor – I’m thinking they didn’t have one at all.
4thofeleven: (Default)
Three books in to the Dell series, and we’re already seeing the same author again. I realise media tie-in novels aren’t that prestigious, but surely it’s not that hard to scrounge up three different authors?

On the plus side, Vornholt's writing has improved somewhat... )
4thofeleven: (Default)
A few comments on the cover: this book’s cover features G’Kar as Sir Not Appearing in this Novel. Giving you an idea as to how rushed out the door the first lot of B5 novels were – the covers were commissioned completely independently of the books. Then again, G’Kar had prominent appearances on practically all B5 material at this time regardless of his actual role, presumably because he’s more interesting looking that, say, Londo. I remember specifically the video cassette of “Voice in the Wilderness” featured him prominently on the cover, with his cranium being superimposed over the curve of the planet Epsilon 3, despite him not actually being in the episode.

I’m also feeling it’s unnecessary to have the big Babylon 5 logo, and then have a red sign saying “Based on the hit TV series!” And then, just in case you weren’t clear on things, adding “Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski”. I guess Dell were really hoping they’d be able to churn these out the same way Pocket Books does Star Trek novels. The big “Book #2” is also kind of amusing, considering not only do the Dell books not reference each other, they’re not particuarly in order relative to the series either.

Like “Voices”, the book is largely a murder investigation with the central character being Garibaldi – an understandable choice. As the everyman Garibaldi’s the easiest character to write for - especially if you’ve got no idea where the series might be heading - and a murder mystery’s a nicely generic plot that can fit into any setting with little work. There’s some attempts at continuity – linking the first season raider attacks to the unrest on Mars, and some references to corruption among the upper echelons of the Earth military – which ends up tying in rather nicely to season two’s conspiracy storylines. The writing’s certainly a lot more polished than Vornholt’s novel (Among other flaws, he tends to overuse exclamation points! This can get very irritating to read!), and in general this book feels a lot less rushed.

There is one major flaw, and that’s the characterisation of Sheridan. “Voices” largely kept the captain in the background, with much of the resolution of the story taking place on Earth. “Accusations” takes place entirely on B5, yet Sheridan’s just as ineffectual and irrelevant. At one point, Ivanova’s been accused of murder and treason and is likely to be forced out of her position even if exonerated. Sheridan’s response? To quite literally sit back and muse “What a shame.”

There’s a few token references to the Narn-Centauri war, indicating this is meant to take place after “The Coming of Shadows”, but I suspect that this novel was actually written long before then, before the second season started airing. If the author had never actually seen an episode with Sheridan and had no idea what he was meant to be like, it would explain why she keeps him so much in the background and never has him do anything. Still, you’d think even writing him as a generic action hero character would be a better choice than as the ineffectual non-entity shown here!

Oddly, in a rather blatant example of an editing error, Sheridan is referred to as Sinclair for about two pages half way through the book, implying this book was originally written during season one, then hastily ‘updated’; in which case Sheridan’s characterisation is even odder – the character presented here sure as hell isn’t Sinclair either.

The main problem with these early B5 novels is how restrained they are. I assumed the authors were told most of the interesting elements of the setting (the alien cultures, for example) were off-limits, but stories dealing with the human military isn’t exactly focusing on what was interesting about the series.
4thofeleven: (Default)
Over at the b5_revisited community, the Centauri trilogy of novels came up in a recent discussion, and it reminded me that I haven’t re-read any of the B5 novels I own in a while. That’s understandable, most of them aren’t very good – still, I thought I’d dig them out and give them a look once again.

Read more... )
4thofeleven: (Default)
I really need a B5 icon… anyone got a good Cartagia one? That’d be fun to use…

Anyway, I’ve been rewatching Babylon 5 and posting comments over at the b5_revisted community, which is a lot of fun. We’ve just started season two, and the first episode and the discussion of it has helped me organise some thoughts I’ve been having about the Minbari. Thought I’d post it here, because it’s a bit too long for a comment there, and it’s not focused on any one episode.

(Spoilers for... pretty much the whole series) )
4thofeleven: (Default)

Babylon 5 is one of my favourite shows of all time – I bought the entire show on VHS tapes, and then bought it all again on DVD! Still, I’ll be the first to admit that it rather fell apart in its last season; my understanding is the fourth season was written on the assumption that the show wouldn’t be renewed for a fifth, so when it was renewed after all, all the major plots had already been wrapped up, so the fifth season isn’t as focused and tightly plotted as the earlier ones. Still, it’s annoying how the fifth season’s stories end up going nowhere and just trailing off – specifically, the telepath storyline, which had been subtly building across the entire show.

 

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