James K

James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    This is one of my favorites.

    As I recall in the elevator scene, after Vir tries to apolgize, J’Kar cuts his hand so the blood drips onto the floor and says “dead, dead, dead, dead, dead…” and some more I don’t recall. Best rebuttal ever.

    As for the test with Sheriden and Delen, “you are willing to give you life, in the darkness, for another, where no one can see. No fame, not remembered, forgotten.” That’s a hero.

    As to the Vorlon–they’ve been on earth. Surely they have had more than just one visit to pick up Sebastion. No, they’ve been there for a long time. It’s the only conclusion. Remember this episode when we get to the part where we see what Vorlon’s look like. Remember what Kosh said if anyone saw his true form: everyone would recognize him.Report

  2. Avatar Patrick says:

    I get the impression that neither party really understands the younger races, which is probably why they are using proxies in the first place.

    This is a plot point that has led to many a discussion among my nerdclan.

    It’s interesting to see how it boils down. You basically have three camps.

    The first camp are the ones who think that aliens would really be alien and have a hard time really accepting the premise of any sf show because even the most inscrutable aliens are still recognizably weird. Their position is generally “if aliens exist we have no real way to know if we would even be able to recognize that they were beings, they’d be so different from us” They have a point.

    The second camp finds the “Elder Race – Younger Race” stories like B5 particularly interesting, and they really fixate on the idea that the Elder Races are typically more advanced than we are, technologically… but they really aren’t necessarily more advanced than we are, spiritually or philosophically. I *think* this is due to a natural inclination to believe that the Universe/morality is a particularly ineffable problem, and that the sorts of struggles humanity has with morality and spirituality are actually transcendent sorts of problems that will continue to vex us well after we’re the youngest of the younger races, and well past the point where we’re the Eldest of the Elder.

    The last camp gets annoyed at the “Elder Race – Younger Race” stories because hey, what the hell, you’re telling me a race that had spaceflight before humans existed hasn’t learned **anything** in the last million years?

    I have noticed a tendency that the folks who are particularly religious typically wind up in the second camp. The ones who are particularly empirical wind up in the first. The ones who are particularly progressive wind up in the last and the ones who are particularly conservative wind up in the second.

    All of the mushy middle are all over the place, so I don’t know that this says anything generalizable. Maybe we should poll the book club.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Patrick says:


      A useful distinction I think, The best piece of fiction I’ve read in camp 1 is Eleizer Yudkowsky’s Three Worlds Collide. Yudkowsky made a real effort to make the aliens as alien (yet coherent) as possible).

      I guess my issue with camps 2 vs. 3 is that the aliens might have made moral progress, but given their minds are alien, there’s no guarantee that their morality would look anything like ours, but I guess that just marks me as a Camp 1 kind of guy.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick says:

      I understand the 1st — and sympathize. I still think there’s a chance that we’ll learn about a comprehensible alien race, before we blow ourselves to bits.

      I liked Brin’s take on older and younger races — the older ones essentially engineering the younger ones.

      If that’s not going on, then I think it’s reasonable to suppose that most aliens didn’t achieve spaceflight, let alone FTL.Report

    • Avatar Nathaniel Costo in reply to Patrick says:

      ” I *think* this is due to a natural inclination to believe that the Universe/morality is a particularly ineffable problem, and that the sorts of struggles humanity has with morality and spirituality are actually transcendent sorts of problems that will continue to vex us well after we’re the youngest of the younger races, and well past the point where we’re the Eldest of the Elder.”

      There’s another way of interpreting the Elder – Younger dynamic: humanity is special, and any seeming intractable problem requires human beings to solve.Report

  3. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Delenn’s psychoanalysis of Sebastian was spot-on. It’s one of her better moments, being able to deconstruct her interrogator that well whilst being tortured.

    I’m not entirely sure of the quality of the Vorlons’ metric for deterring who is a legit “chosen one”. Basing it on a person’s willingness to sacrifice themselves for another, in circumstances where they would receive no glory or fame or achieve any larger goal than the other person’s survival, is a good way to weed out the megalomaniacs. (Although if Kosh had been paying attention, I think Delenn passed that test back in “Confessions and Lamentations”, when she walked into a plague area knowing she might die if the disease changed, without even having the ability to save anyone, merely to offer them comfort as they died.)

    But it’s pretty clear that by now Sheridan and Delenn are in love. And a person being willing to give up their lives to save a person they’re in love with means something different than being willing to give up their life to save just anyone. All it tells you is that they love that specific person very, very much. It could also mean that if they have to choose between that person’s life and the lives of hundreds, they would choose the former. (This is, to reference another galaxy, my thought on why the Jedi are forbidden personal attachment. Part of the obligation of being a Jedi is that you can’t prioritize the life of one person over another purely based on how close that person is to you. I think that given a direct choice with no other options Anakin would have been willing to die to save Padmé’s life, but he was also willing for a lot of other people to die so that he could [he hoped] save Padmé’s life.)

    For that reason, “Confessions and Lamentations” was arguably a better display of Delenn’s capacity for humble self-sacrifice than this episode.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to KatherineMW says:


      It bothers me too, but for almost the opposite reasons. Valuing one life and a million the same is an inexcusable failure to multiply. I don’t want people with that particular flaw in their decision-making process making life-or-death decisions.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James K says:

        Words like these might justify the murder of an innocent child, in order to save the lives of millions. Not that I disapprove.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to James K says:


        And the reverse might justify sacrificing millions of lives to save one.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to James K says:

        I don’t think the test amounts to “valuing one life and a million the same”. Rather, it’s a sign of humility – showing that the person trusts that if they die, the universe will find someone else to take up the fight against the Shadows. It’s a rejection of the conceited view that “I’m the only one who can win this war, so it’s all right if other people die to keep me alive”.

        Delenn sacrificing herself only endangers herself, not millions.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James K says:

        I’d consider sacrificing thousands of lives to save one. But it would need one hell of a justification. (“In ten years, I can save half the world”, or somesuch).Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to James K says:

        It’s an indication that you’re willing to do what is right and good for the correct reasons….that it is right and good, and not for your own aggrandisement.Report

  4. Avatar Dman says:

    “As much as the Shadows have been painted the Bad Guys here, Sebastian is at least as bad as Mordin is.”

    Guvf vf gur xrl gb zr. Onpx jura V jngpurq guvf gur svefg gvzr, vg jnf gur svefg puvax va gur natryvp nezbe bs gur Ibeybaf. Vs gurl jbhyq hfr Wnpx gur Evccre nf na ntrag, ubj tbbq ner gurl ernyyl? Guvf bs pbhefr vf cebirq bhg bire gur frevrf, ohg V nyjnlf ybbx ng guvf rcvfbqr nf gur svefg fgrc va gung qverpgvba. V xabj fbzr gnyx nobhg Qrngujnyxre orvat gur svefg, ohg V ivrj gung bar qvssreragyl.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Dman says:

      Vg’f abg znqr pyrne gung Fronfgvna vf gur Evccre, bayl fgebatyl vzcyvrq.

      But… yeah.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Dman says:

      Gung’f jul vg qvqa’g dhvgr jbex sbe zr. N frevny xvyyre gbeghevat lbhe urebrf – ng zbzragf, jvgubhg nal pnhfr? Gung’f gbb urnil-unaqrq sbe zr. Gur shaal guvat vf, V qvqa’g ernyvmr vg ng gur gvzr – jura gur fubj jnf bevtvanyyl nvevat, V’q zvffrq fbzr cnegf bs n svefg-frnfba rcvfbqr, naq gubhtug gung Ibeybaf bppnfvbanyyl ngr crbcyr. Gung npghnyyl znqr gurz zber zbenyyl vagrerfgvat guna guvf rcvfbqr qvq ba erjngpuvat.Report

      • Avatar Dman in reply to Pinky says:

        V fgvyy svaq gurz vagrerfgvat orpnhfr bs gur jubyr Pbageby if Punbf gung vf tbvat ba jvgu gur Ibeybaf naq Funqbjf. V yvxr ubj rira gur Pbageby pna or nf rivy naq fpnel nf Punbf.Report