Tag Archives: Babylon 5

Becoming Superman


“No, not gone. Now we make our own magic. Now we create our own legends. Now we build the future. Now we stop–“

“–being afraid of shadows.”

Delenn and Sheridan (Babylon 5: Into the Fire)

I like to read. I usually read about 30 books a year but I rarely talk about them here. When I say read I am including audio books and maybe that is fudging the data somewhat. Then again I think my brother includes the children’s books he reads to his son. Given that I am 8 books behind schedule for my 39 book target maybe that is something I need to do – although I don’t have children so it might be a bit odd.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann from Pexels

I have recently finished Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski. It is his autobiography and it is amazing. I listened to the audio book while walking to work and I must look like a complete imbecile as parts of it are literally laugh out loud funny. Although maybe that is just because I am a writer – unknown and unpublished but still a writer. To me though some passages were most amusing.

I will not sleep, eat, drink, nothing! The words and I will be locked in mortal combat until one of us surrenders

G’Kar (Babylon 5: No Compromises)

Becoming Superman tells the whole story of JMS’s life. It talks about his abusive upbringing and goes on to his career as a writer across many areas of creativity. He was had an amazing career and the volume of scripts he has written is phenomenal. I find myself rather envious that he has been able to do that full time – even with the financial struggles that came with it.

Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you’ll get ten different answers, but there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us. It’ll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu and Einstein and Morobuto and Buddy Holly and Aristophenes .. and all of this .. all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars.”

Commander Sinclair (Babylon 5: Infection)

JMS is a man of incredible integrity – on more than one occasion he left working on a TV show because he refused to adjust it to what, in his mind, would be a detriment to the work and to the characters. He also kept a promise made to his wife even after they divorced. A promise that she would never have to work in a closed in office if that wasn’t what she wanted. It was wonderful to reed about a divorced couple that still cares about each other after the end of a relationship. The common wisdom of the world would suggest that that is impossible but it is not.

It doesn’t matter if you stand completely alone. Fight for what you believe.

Captain Sheridan (Babylon 5: Objects at Rest)

I have used quotes from Babylon 5 in this review for three reasons. Firstly it is what I know JMS from and it is a work I very much admire, secondly I don’t have a hard copy of the book, and thirdly he puts his feelings in to the mouths of his characters. He describes this idea in episode commentaries of how his character creation can be based around a particular trait of his.

The quote above is very important and it is echoed in Becoming Superman. It is the idea that a writer, or any sort of artist, well have their naysayers. These are the people who say ‘Get a real job’ or ‘You’ll never make money doing this.’ While tenacity and dedication are no guarantee of success the important thing is to keep going. To try every day to make a step towards your goal. As the old saying goes: ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ And a novel of 100,000 words begins with a single word. Even a 500 words a day will get you a first draft in less than a yeah. So keep going and fight to achieve your goals. That is what I take from Becoming Superman. It is a book about the struggles of life and what is important. It is quite simply an excellent read.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.  

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Nitpicking and Reviewing

I like to watch television shows analytically. pexels-photo-143714 I enjoy the process of seeing more than what is there. Some people, citation needed, have the attitude of: ‘It’s a TV show you’re thinking too much.’ – or words to that effect.

I know fiction is fiction. Yes here at Unstable Orbit – we state the obvious! I don’t know who we is!

What I mean is I know that fiction isn’t something that matters in the grand scheme of things but analysing it is fun to me. Again some people say that picking it apart ruins the fun. I disagree.

For a few years I have been watching SFdebris. He does reviews of various TV shows, with Star Trek being his flagship show, and I find these reviews fascinating. He has wonderful insights into what works and, more interestingly, what doesn’t work.

When something doesn’t work in fiction it is interesting to discuss it – and also what could have been done differently. What is most infuriating is when an episode has a flaw but also an easy fix.

I have been thinking for a while of doing reviews on this site. If I did I would probably start with Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager is an interesting series to discuss because, while it isn’t actually bad, it could have been so much more.

I have also been watching ruminations by a You Tuber called Lorerunner. I have been watching his reviews of Voyager too and Babylon 5. Since he is a big fan of Babylon 5 it is very easy to gush over the series. There is still a lot to say about a, for lack of a better word, good series but it is more fun to talk about a flawed series.

Speaking of Babylon 5 reviewing like this is what Captain Sheridan would probably call ‘Armchair quarterbacking’. Although, unlike the strict interpretation of that phrase, I actually have some writing experience.

Experience is a curse sometimes because you can see the gap in fiction and reality. Does that make sense? Let’s say you’re a cellist. If a character is playing the cello you would immediately know that it wasn’t real.
Similarly with writing I can’t turn off my brain so I will  Woman Playing the Violoncello notice when things go wrong in fiction. These can be big nitpicks or small nitpicks.

Small nitpicks are not an issue to me. If the Enterprise fires a phaser from the torpedo tube it is just a goof doesn’t effect the story. However if the Enterprise is suddenly able to beam through shields that is a problem because of how often that has been relevant to the stories.

Since procrastination is my middle name I don’t know when I will get to reviews. I already have a lot of projects I am interested in doing. However if I don’t ultimately end up doing this I want to leave you with this final thought.

Picking apart a TV series doesn’t mean I don’t also like it. Some series have gaping holes in them and many a head scratchier moment. However if the story is well told we can ignore these flaws.

Amongst Star Trek fans Threshold is often seen as one of the worse episodes. While it is bad it can still be enjoyed – just not, necessarily, in the way it was intended.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.


The pictures here are from: https://www.pexels.com/


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Best Sci-Fi Characters of All Time

This will be my last post before Christmas. I don’t want to talk about Christmas.

The other day the BFI uploaded its picks for ‘The Best Sci-Fi Characters of All Time.‘ At the top of the list was The Doctor.  This to me is no great surprise. Doctor Who is probably the most versatile science fiction that exists. You can tell any story you can imagine in that universe.

What did surprise me was that Kerr Avon was number 4. This is not because I don’t like the character but rather because I’ve always thought as Blake’s 7 to be a little obscure.

For Star Trek Mr Spock was the highest ranked at number 10. Spock is certainly the most iconic of all Star Trek characters. For me he was always more interesting a character than Kirk. When watching TOS I always wonder why Spock isn’t in charge.

Babylon 5 was well represented too with: G’Kar, Londo Mollari, Susan Ivanova, Captain John Sheridan, Delenn (twice), Alfred Bester, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, Lyta Alexander, and Michael Garibaldi.

For Stargate SG-1 we have the whole team with the exception of Cameron Mitchell, which I can understand, and Teal’c which I can’t.

So who would my top ten be? Well I’m going to limit myself to names on their list…

  1. The Doctor
  2. Ambassador G’kar
  3. Captain Benjamin Sisko
  4. Ambassador Spock
  5. Captain Picard
  6. Ambassador Londo Mollari
  7. Brigadier General Jack O’Neill
  8. Ambassador Delenn
  9. Colonel Samantha Carter
  10. Admiral William Adama

There are many others I could mention. I may put together my own list of 100 names.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Best of the Season.

See you on the other side.

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My Imagination

Klingons have ridges and Cardassians have spoons. A lot of aliens don’t even have that. The Centauri only look alien because their entire population, at least the men, have had bad dreams. Unless you factor in their… high numerical value… there isn’t much difference. The reason for this is obvious, casting persons are limited to hiring humans. A trip out of the solar system is a little beyond the budget of most television programs.

Actors like Andreas Katsulas do a great job in presenting alien characters. CGI just wasn’t up to the task back then. Even today it struggles with presenting characters. I don’t need to say the name do I? The film, the infamous film, and its sequels? It will remain nameless, was released 15 years ago. 15 years ago! Goodness me I’m old! I’m old enough, or rather was young enough at the time, to actually think the film was good.

Real actors are therefore the way to go. Film makers though are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I apologise to my writing teachers for employing a cliche – but damn it it’s true. Film makes either have an actor in prosthetics or fake looking CGi.

Consider the Gorn. In Arena the Gorn was played by a man in a suit and in In a Mirror Darkly Part II it was CGI – it is arguable which is worse.

I’ve just been reading Doors into Chaos, the third book in the Gateways series, and featuring the Gorn. I found it hard to imagine them. I kept seeing the CGI blob of their Enterprise appearance and not the ‘real’ creature. Perhaps this is understandable as I’m dealing with a creature I know from TV. However this seems to happen to me even when it is an entirely original piece of work. Yes, I think my mind is defective. When I try to imagine an alien in a novel my mind seems to bring up what it would look like if it was having to be put together for a film – stupid brain.

Sometimes I wounder if having humanoid aliens isn’t the best choice – even in books. If you have an alien that is very different from humans it is difficult to keep track of. You might be left thinking ‘Are they the ones with twelve tentacles or the ones with eighteen fingers the size of cocktail sausages.’ Maybe I just have a short… squirrel.

I’ve used that joke before. I don’t think it was funny then either.

From a story perspective aliens have to have some connection to humans. If we are too different, biologically, culturally, technologically, then there would be little or no interaction. If the aliens require arsenic to live we’re probably not going to enter into a dispute over planet everything-here-can-kill-you. Unless arsenic is of use to us in someway I don’t know – I don’t know a lot of things.

I was going to end with a great quote. It’s late and this is not a university essay so I’m not going to worry too much about exactitude. I’m going to attribute the quote to Dyson, not the vacuum cleaner man, the physicists. The quote is this:  ‘Intelligent aliens may not only be stranger than we imagine; they may be stranger than we can imagine.’






I don’t know where you live so it could be any.

Good day.


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Friday was my brother’s wedding. It was an unconventional wedding, to say the least, but it was fun. The happy couple are…  happy. Yesterday was the reception which was unfortunately cut rather short as we were only able to book the place till 2300.

For this event I gave a speech. A title I considered giving it was ‘Operation Lead Balloon’

A speech like this should be hilarious and entertaining. This speech will differ in two important respects.
It is rather embarrassing to admit how tricky this speech was. I have a degree in writing. I should be able to rattle off a speech easily. It wasn’t so much that I had no ideas rather I had too many. So I finally decided to tell you the story of the speech.
My first thought was to begin in this way: Mawage. Mawige is wot bwings us together today. Much like zombies its been done to death. Also I don’t think Wichard would have appreciated it. I also didn’t think I could have sustained it for the next two hours. Richard and Steph
Richard and Steph met at Cardiff university sci-fi society. After some time Richard found the courage to ask her out. Somewhere along the way they fell in love. Love is the greatest thing in the world – except for a nice MLT, mutton lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean.
Sorry… where was I.? Love is the second greatest thing in the world. When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time: parents, uncles, aunts, grandparent, and, yes, brothers, start to ask the question of when you will marry.
Richard and Steph decided not to marry. It wasn’t for them. So if someone had asked me, a few years back, wherever I thought Richard would make someone a good husband; I would have said: ‘Certainly. That’s assuming the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation approves funding for his plans to build fully functioning android companions.
Obviously Richard and Steph changed their minds. I quickly went from being very happy to being slightly terrified. I didn’t consider having to put together a speech.
The next idea was to give the speech in the style of the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small un-regarded yellow sun.
Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet. On that planet, in a country named after a large marine mammal, too people celebrate their wedding.Steampunk
Then I thought I’d embrace my dyslexia and tell you that a wedding is defined as the process of removing weeds from one’s garden. This was too detached and not funny. Telling you that is called lampshade hanging. It’s what writers do to detract from their incompetence.
Over the years I have learned that, in a crisis, Richard is the person you want. That’s assuming he’s noticed the: massive alien space ship, tsunami, asteroid, or zombie apocalypses. He has moments of deep thought that are not necessarily related to what’s going on. Someone once described this as ‘Being off in Richard Land.’
I don’t blame him for this, okay that’s a lie, but his mind must be an interesting place. I have called upon him to explain various science things to me. When I expressed annoyance that it was so complicated be said. ‘Of course its complicated. It is rocket science.’
I digress… Once, many years ago, mum and dad were away and I was cooking. When picking the pan, off the gas hob, I accidentally set fire to the oven glove.
So there I was standing with this flaming glove on my hand. There was a sink right next to me. Did you know water extinguishes fire? I was as clueless as the Pleasantville fire department. Luckily Richard was there. He took the flaming glove from my hand – and extinguished it in the pond.
It is fortuitous that he’s found such a sensible wife in Steph.20140509_155803[1] I think of Richard as a mad scientist. He likes to take things apart – and usually can put them back together again.
I can well imagine Richard in a basement with bubbling… science stuff on retorts. Science stuff is the best this ape-descended digital-watchaphile can manage. Now I feel secure in the knowledge that Steph will be there to say: “Are you sure that’s such a good idea?”
Speaking of bad ideas… once when we went to Malta Richard thought it was a good idea to bring a gun. A spud gun. I can only imagine the eyebrow rising that came with seeing that on the x-ray.

Today Richard and Steph embark on the adventure of marriage. Every marriage is an adventure. I’m sure they will have a fantastic life together as they boldly go where others have gone before.
Had to shoe horn those words into this some how…

Its fair to say that Richard and Steph are a weird couple. And don’t misunderstand the word weird. It is not a bad thing. There is a quote going round the internet which is this:

We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.’
This quote is sometimes attributed to Dr. Seuss. The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy. As Abraham Lincoln once said ‘The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.’

Nevertheless this wedding is proof that Richard and Steph are different and unique. That sentence is proof that I’ve entered the realm of tautology. So it is also fitting that I end this speech before I start to repeat myself.
In closing this speech, before I repeat myself, I plan to fall back on tradition. It is traditional to offer advice to the married couple. So listen carefully: Do not go to Za’ha’dum, never tickle a sleeping dragon, don’t forget to be awesome, never get involved in a land war in Asia, and, always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.’
It only remains to say I wish you every happiness. I know you will have a glorious life together. May you live long and prosper.

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When I was young it seemed that ( life was so wonderful) birthdays took so long to arrive. I was thinking about them a good month in advance.

Today is my 26th birthday. Now it seems birthdays have become stealthy. In someways its nice to be relaxed about the whole thing. These days, in terms of presents, the things I want are either practical or expensive, and sometimes both.

Christmas too can now arrive in its own time. I’m no longer counting down the days and jumping around with excitement. It arrives in its own time and is still fun. Last year it was about two weeks in to December before I really realised how close it was getting.

The one thing is though that now it feels like the magic is gone. Perhaps that is one reason to have children to rekindle that fire of excitement.

To quote Babylon 5: ‘Now we make our own magic. Now we create our own legends. Now we build the future. Now we stop being afraid of shadows.” (Babylon 5: Into the Fire)

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