What’s the matter with my chapter? Everything. Bear in mind that I don’t write fiction; I edit it. Chapter 15 may be written in passable commercial prose, but it sheds no light, tells no stories, leads nowhere, says nothing that hasn’t been said before, and in general has no damned reason to exist.
—Teresa Nielsen Hayden, discussing her contribution to Atlanta Nights.
This is one of those episodes that makes me question my perception of Babylon 5 . I recall the series turning into “all story arc, all the time” after Sheridan was settled into the crew, which means that episodes like this just vanished from my memory of the show. Because despite the way that it’s hooked into the broader storyline of the series—the monster first appeared during the Earth-Minbari war, and it’s headed back to Z’ha’dum like an Orc to Mordor—this is basically a Freak of the Week episode. No major character changes, or is further revealed. No new characters or significant forces are added to the setting. There aren’t even any memorable quotes.
It’s not even an original plot. Basically, it’s a washed-out version of the premise of Alien3: a monster less horrible than the Alien kills fewer sleeping people on a less alarming vessel than the Sulaco’s escape pod before it finds its way to someplace less unpleasant than Fury 161. More competent people in charge of a less destructive population then pursue it in a more efficient manner and kill it, with less collateral damage, before any obnoxious authorities get involved.
Indeed, you know what? Let’s just breeze by what actually happened in the episode. A big zappy alien that eats people’s innards has stowed away on a sleeper ship. Said sleeper ship arrives at Babylon 5, with one dead man and one lovely living woman. She’s African American, so you know she’s going to end up kissing Franklin. She does, despite being only a day, personal time, from being married to a guy now rather unpleasantly dead. The only person who recognizes the danger is a lurker with PTSD, who is dismissed as crazy but turns out to be entirely correct in every particular. Only after the monster has killed another disposable lurker do the command team start listening to the crazy guy, at which point they ambush and kill the creature. The woman then goes away rather than tangle up the storyline of a major character.
Meanwhile…nothing else happens. There is no B plot to provide relief, parallax, or depth to this distillation of tropes.
So you know what would be more fun to discuss? What would have happened had the arriving ship been the Sulaco’s escape pod rather than the rather anodyne Copernicus? How would the population of the station cope? How would the crew find and exterminate the alien? How would the station’s various races help or hinder the extermination effort?
Ideas? Sketches of scenes? The floor is open.
The next writeup will cover Spider in the Web