The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
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|"The Deconstruction of Falling Stars"|
|Babylon 5 episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Stephen Furst|
|Written by||J. Michael Straczynski|
|Original air date||27 October 1997|
"The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" is the final episode of the fourth season of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5. This was the final episode of Babylon 5 to air on PTEN, produced as a replacement for Sleeping in Light when the show was renewed by TNT.
This episode takes place after the events of the rest of the series. It shows the long-term effect of the Interstellar Alliance from the point of view of one hundred, five hundred, one thousand, and one million years after the founding of the Alliance.
Three viewpoints are debated on an ISN broadcast: pro-Clark elements try to paint John Sheridan as a madman, others (particularly the outer colonies and Mars) view Sheridan and the Babylon 5 forces as liberators, and a third commentator treats Sheridan in a neutral fashion.
A live televised debate presents two historians mistakenly believing that the role of Sheridan and Babylon 5 in the war against the Shadows and overthrowing Clark has been mythologized, and that Sheridan was power-hungry. An aged Delenn makes a surprise entry to the debate, saying that Sheridan was a good, kind, and decent man. She chastises the historians for fabricating "facts" to fill in the gaps of their knowledge.
Amid growing tension between the Interstellar Alliance and xenophobic elements on Human-settled planets, an anti-Alliance faction attempts to set up forged holographic records to show the heroes of Babylon 5 to be megalomaniacal war criminals. These holograms are based on historical data and recorded memories of the original crew, with the forged records overriding their personalities. Sheridan is programmed to make an impassioned speech about conquering Earth before soon-to-be massacred prisoners and Dr. Franklin is programmed to act out a scene showing him talking clinically about horrific experiments involving human children and alien organs. Before Garibaldi is reprogrammed, he stalls by getting the programmer to reveal his faction's plans to launch a sneak attack on civilian population centers as the start of an all-out war while Garibaldi, who is aware that he is a computer program, hacks into the computer network and broadcasts the conversation. Before the programmer can turn off the holograms, an alarm sounds, indicating an imminent missile attack. The programmer, knowing that pro-Alliance forces have launched their own attack, moments before a nuclear explosion envelops the anti-Alliance base.
The resulting war reduced human civilization on Earth to sparsely-populated medieval villages. Two monks in an abbey discuss the greatly mythologized figures from Babylon 5, with the younger doubting that they even existed. The older monk, Brother Alwyn, speculates that the Rangers, prophesied to return to Earth someday, would probably operate on Earth in secret. When the younger monk leaves, it is revealed that Alwyn is a Ranger himself, showing that the pro-Alliance faction won the war and has been slowly and secretly building up Earth civilization to avoid the development of resentful, anti-alien factions.
One million years later
A man is shown to have watched the above archived footage. He instructs his computer to transmit all data to "New Earth". The computer warns that the sun will go nova soon. Before leaving the system, the man transforms into an energy-based life-form that enters an encounter suit similar to the ones used by the Vorlons. As his ship, with a Ranger logo on it, departs the system, the Sun is destroyed.
The footage with Garibaldi and the telepaths foreshadows events in "Phoenix Rising". At the time of filming, Phoenix Rising had not been written and most of season 5 existed only as an outline.
The episode has an unusual history. During the filming of the fourth season, the show appeared destined for cancellation. As a result, plotlines were shortened and resolved ahead of schedule. After the completion of the final episode, but before its airing, the cable network TNT approached the creators of the show with an offer of cable distribution and funding for a fifth season.
The show's creator, J. Michael Straczynski, insisted that the final episode ("Sleeping in Light") not be seen prematurely. As a result, a new fourth-season finale had to be constructed. The episode was filmed as part of the fifth-season production run, and hurriedly constructed for airing in its proper place before the switchover from PTEN to TNT. This is the reason that Claudia Christian, who had left the show prior to the fifth season, appears in the series finale.
The form of this episode is substantially different from most episodes of Babylon 5. All other episodes were shot as unified storylines, but "Deconstruction" exists as a series of vignettes examining society's views of the events of the series from increasingly distant future viewpoints: one year; one hundred years; five hundred years; one thousand years; and eventually one million years in the future.
The episode ends with a dedication:
"DEDICATED TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO PREDICTED THAT THE BABYLON PROJECT WOULD FAIL IN ITS MISSION. FAITH MANAGES."
On CIS, J. Michael Straczynski described this message thus:
"On the one hand, it is a statement of hope to anyone else out there who has a dream, to follow it no matter who speaks against you, no matter the odds, no matter what they say to or about you, no matter what roadblocks they throw in your way. What matters is that you remain true to your vision.
"On the other hand, for the reviewers and the pundits and the critics and the net-stalkers who have done nothing but rag on this show for five years straight, it is also a giant middle finger composed of red neon fifty stories tall, that will burn forever in the night."In billiards, we call that a bank shot."
The vignette that takes place one thousand years later in a monastery bears some similarities to Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz. While writing the episode, series creator J. Michael Straczynski noted the similarities:
It was only when I was about halfway into the act that I thought, "Oh, crud, this is the same area Canticle explored." And for several days I set it aside and strongly considered dropping it, or changing the venue (at one point considered setting it in the ruins of a university, but I couldn't make that work realistically...who'd be supporting a university in the ruins of a major nuclear war? Who'd have the *resources* I needed? The church, or what would at least LOOK like the church. My sense of backstory here is that the Anla-shok moved in and started little "abbeys" all over the place, using the church as cover, but rarely actually a part of it, which was why they had not gotten their recognition, and would never get it. Rome probably didn't even know about them, or knew them only distantly.) Anyway...at the end of the day, I decided to leave it as it was, since I'd gotten there on an independent road, we'd already had a number of monks on B5, and there's been a LOT of theocratic science fiction written beyond Canticle...Gather Darkness, aspects of Foundation, others.