Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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23 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    Ah good stuff. It’s hit the fan now….
    @Patrick you’re right about that being one of the best speaches on B5.

    “treaties are ink on a page” Ring a bell? “Stroke of a pen, law of the land”. The casual disregard for anything that doesn’t get you want you wanted. Laws, convention, society, etc., all get in the way of power.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Why are Mass Drivers illegal? From what I understand in other science fiction stories, they’re the equivalent of a bowling ball going some meaningful percentage of the speed of light.

    They aren’t biological, they aren’t chemical, they aren’t nukular.

    They’re just applied physics.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think they’re considerably larger than bowling balls.

      And they’re illegal because they’re incredibly destructive and completely indiscriminate – by their very nature they target civilians en masse.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

        They don’t need to be larger, really. If you’re interested in taking out city blocks, you’re better off with a smaller bowling ball going a higher percentage of c.

        And I’m uncertain that other races, even civilized ones, would share moral sentiments regarding civilians. Not saying that they wouldn’t, of course… but I also don’t know that they would.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Nukes don’t seem to be generally banned; at any rate, Sheridan used them in the Earth-Minbari War and nobody except the Minbari warrior caste seems to hold it against him (and for them it’s because it was “sneaky”, not because they were nukes).

        There may not be nuclear weapons conventions in the B5 universe, but I can see there being conventions against “weapons of planetary destruction” that don’t just target a specific site, but can wipe out civilization, or even all life, on a whole planet. Mass drivers would fall into that category. It would be the same principle by which we’ve decided that no nation should use nuclear weapons in war: “if one group decides to use these, then others will use them in retaliation and everyone could wind up dead”.

        Or, it could just be a narrative device to show that the Centauri have crossed a very serious line and are disregarding even the most fundamental interstellar agreements.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Or, it could just be a narrative device to show that the Centauri have crossed a very serious line and are disregarding even the most fundamental interstellar agreements.

        Yeah, as I was driving home, I figured it was probably that.

        I kinda wish they had made up something, though. “Greytail bombs” or “Traska bombs” or something that sounds ominous.Report

      • James K in reply to KatherineMW says:

        @katherinemw , @jaybird

        The conventions regarding weapons in space would likely be different than ones a planet-bound species like our would use. For one thing, nukes aren’t so dangerous in space – most of the destructive force of a nuke comes from the air around it absorbing X-rays and heating up. In a vacuum what you mostly get is a lot of X-rays and any space ship would need shielding for that anyway. Weapon conventions may reflect this fact, using nukes on planets may be a no-no, but nukes in space may be fine.

        As for the ban on mass drivers, I assume its more of a ban on planetary bombardment since you don’t actually need mass drivers to ruin a planet you’re orbiting (dropping rocks on them would work nearly as well and be much cheaper). The reason for a ban is probably the same reason its banned in Mass Effect: Smashing large, fast-moving objects into a planet can permanently damage its climate and biosphere (after all, a large-scale mass drop was what killed the dinosaurs). Taking a planet off someone else is OK, because there’s still a usable planet at the end of the process. But if you ruin an inhabitable planet then no one can ever have it again and that’s not cool.Report

      • Patrick in reply to KatherineMW says:

        . Taking a planet off someone else is OK, because there’s still a usable planet at the end of the process. But if you ruin an inhabitable planet then no one can ever have it again and that’s not cool.

        This is more or less how I read it. It also jibes with some other approaches to interstellar war that have cropped up here and there in the speculative literature. In fact, it’s kinda the plot twist behind Ender’s, no?

        It’s remarkably easy – once you are technologically past the point of interstellar travel – to reduce a habitable planet to an uninhabitable one. So you need some sort of prohibition against doing so or you can’t really have interstellar conflict in a meaningful sense. One side blows up the other’s planet and the story is done.Report

      • James K in reply to KatherineMW says:


        It was the plot of the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. The aliens were incensed by nuclear war because it would destroy the biosphere of a rare inhabitable planet. They were fine with humans killing each other so long as they didn’t take the Earth with them.Report

    • Damon in reply to Jaybird says:

      If you recall the video of the bombardment of the Narn homeworld by the Centauri, the mass driver apparatus was very large, and was attached to the underside of the ship. I think it’s safe to say the the rocks being propelled were greater than 100 yards + diameter range. Given that size and the materials making up asteroids, I’d say that launching them onto a planet would be quite devestating. Not to mention the whole nuclear winter aspect of all that particulate matter in the atmosphere. But none of the radiation so the invading troops don’t have to worry about that.Report

  3. James K says:

    Great review Katherine, and I agree that Andreas Katsulas was in top form this week (and the speech itslef was fine writing too). Although I think props are owed to Peter Jurasik as well. The expression on his face as the mass drivers fire up is truly haunting.

    In a way this episode wa sa showcase of who Refa is too. His plan was so prosaic in its brutality. There was no clever strategem or fancy alien weapon, he just smashed the Narn until they begged for mercy. It shows that Refa is utterly pragmatic as well as being utterly amoral and that’s a very dangerous combination.Report

    • Damon in reply to James K says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as to call Refa “pragmatic”. Remember, he’s in the group of Centauri that think they should have held onto their empire, and the loss of the Narn worlds is a blow to Centauri pride. He’s looking for payback, to humiliate the Narn, and create a situation where they are totally dependant upon the Centari, there to be kept under their thumb….Report

      • James K in reply to Damon says:


        Sure, but last time the Centauri invaded rather than relying on bombardment. That’s what I mean about pragmatism – he realised how hard an invasion would be and said “sod it, lets just flatten them”.Report

  4. KatherineMW says:

    Do we have any takers for the next episode (“Comes the Inquisitor”)?

    I can take the season finale if nobody else wants it, but only if nobody else wants it – I seem to have claimed all the pivotal episodes of this season thus far (Coming of Shadows, In the Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum, and this one), so I don’t want to steal it from someone else.Report

  5. Dman says:

    And the good episodes keep rolling on. Very nice review too.

    My favorite scene in this one is Londo looking out the window at the mass drivers destroying Narn. There is one point were they show the destruction from Londo’s ‘eye view’ and it has his image over shadowing the Narn home orld’s destruction. I love that visual representation of Londo being critical to the series of events that have lead to this point, like he was the mastermind behind all of this.Report