Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Classics: B5 3:12 - Sic Transit Vir

Overall: 8.8

Extra Credit Added to Average Score Due to Episode's Virtasticness: 0.5

Final Score: 9.3

Yes, we are biased, but unlike the mainstream media, we display our biases upfront.

This episode is the coup de grĂ¢ce in the larger case against Vir's status as a "comic relief character." It's too bad even JMS himself missed the significance of what he had penned.

Plot Synopsis:

As Vir's star is rising in the Centauri royal court, Vir's uncle feels obliged to arrange a marriage for his nephew. Vir's future bride is cute and sweet -- but, alas, completely brainwashed by evil. In the end, Vir turns out to be made of pure awesome -- again. More details can be found at the Lurker's Guide here.

The Skinny:

Stephanie S. - Every once in a while, an episode comes along that I love without reservation despite its flaws. Sic Transit Vir is just such an episode. If I'm to be at least somewhat fair, though, I have to quickly note how this episode falls short from a writing standpoint - why this episode would not be a feature were it not for the unbelievable cuteness of Vir.

I think the moment that best exemplifies what is wrong with this episode is the closing line. After the revelation of Vir's heroic subterfuge - and after the simultaneous revelation of the bigoted, genocidal ideology that has been promoted among a significant segment of the Centauri elite - one would expect JMS to end the episode on a more sober note -- and, in fact, that is how the final scene plays out at first. If we had ended on Vir's fervent hope that he will never come to accept Lyndisty's brainwashed view of the Narn, we might've been able to class this episode among the show's best without resorting to awarding Vir extra credit for being Vir. Unfortunately, that scene continues until we come to the following (underscored with cheery music, of course): "Well," chirps Vir, "what relationship doesn't have its ups and downs?" What the heck? After everything that's just happened, why do we make this sudden left turn into light romantic comedy?

If JMS's comments in the guide are any indication, he believed this episode was indeed a comedy -- a "needed break" from the intensity of the arc that concluded (for the time being) with Ceremonies of Light and Dark. That explains the almost surreal final line. The trouble is, by the end of the episode, I doubt anyone in the audience considers the story to be a comedy any longer. Yes - because Vir is Vir, there is a lot of genuine humor in this episode. But Sic Transit Vir is also a central turning point in Vir's character arc -- an episode that reveals Vir to be ten times as courageous as anyone around him could've guessed. And ultimately, a development as monumental as the revelation that Vir has been using a false diplomatic persona to spirit thousands of Narns away to safety deserves far more respect than it gets here.

But that's enough fairness. As I said above, despite this episode's flaws, I love it passionately because Vir is brain-breakingly, heart-meltingly, you-could-almost-die-from-the-sweetness adorable in virtually every scene he's in. I love that his first instinct upon meeting Lyndisty and hearing of his arranged marriage is to hide from Lyndisty behind Londo's hair. I love that his second instinct is to try to convince Lyndisty that he may not be right for her. I love Vir's blushing and stammering and complete lack of knowledge as to what he should do when a beautiful young woman all but throws herself at him. I love that Vir asks Ivanova of all people for advice -- and soaks in her every word as if it's the living Gospel. I love how Vir explains Centauri sex to Ivanova - with sex noises no less! - in the same scene. (I bet Claudia had a hard time keeping a straight face while shooting that moment.) And yes, while Lyndisty is one twisted young woman, I love that Vir steps up and grapples with an angry Narn in her defense without a second thought. Even if Vir's Abrahamo Lincolni persona had not been discovered in this episode, you would still walk away with the impression that Vir is thoughtful, humble, and brave beyond belief. Of course, this episode does reveal what Vir has been doing all this time, and that increases my admiration for the character a thousandfold.

SABR Matt - OK...I get that my sister is annoyed with the mixed tones in this script...I get that sometimes, the dialogue is a little...hard to believe sometimes...especially when Vir starts to fall for Lyndisty ("if kisses could kill, that one would have flattened several small towns")...cute, but really? That's pretty cheesy. But you know what? I don't give a flying rat's patootie. The job of a writer is to tell stories that delight the audience and make us think. This one does both, and the characterization is, IMHO, flawless...even for Lyndisty and Ivanova. I just flat do not agree with the 7.0 rating given this episode by my sister below in the writing department.

I think there is a need to balance one's highest aspirations for what a story COULD have been, with the positive realization for what the story actually was. Yes, JMS played this too schmaltzily and the romantic aspects were not a good match for the character development we see in Vir...but one could argue that Vir is an eternal optimist and that someone like him really would think that there was hope for Lyndisty and that they could still have a relationship some day when she grew up and realized the error of her ways. It might even lead him to say something awkward like "what relationships don't have their ups and downs?" I think my co-author may be being too hard on this script relative to other B56 scripts because she wants JMS to see Vir for the person that she sees and express it the way she would...it might not live up to the meteoric expectations of an ardent Vir follower...but I don't think it's more poorly written than, for example, Ceremonies of Light and Dark, which she gave a 7.5. I think the great things the script does for Vir are worth considerably more than the negatives in the typically cornball JMS dialogue.

Writing: 7.0/9.0

Even though this script does so many good things for Vir (whom we love), the dialogue is very purple, and JMS sometimes strains to insert humor where humor should not be included.

SABR Matt Chines In: We don't often disagree as much as we're disagreeing here...but this one I just can't see supporting as weakly as my co-auther did. When viewed as a character piece, I can overlook some of the missteps in the dialogue and embrace the virtues of this story.

Acting: 8.5/ 8.5

Carmen Thomas' delivery is rather bizarre, but it kind of works in this circumstance. Stephen Furst, meanwhile, is absolutely marvelous. His gift for comedy and his humility keep this episode from completely disappearing into the tall grasses.

Message: 10.0/10.0

We believe Vir to be the most heroic character in the series. Confidence bolsters the others; Vir initially has none. All Vir has is his compassion -- and he has to fight an uphill battle every step of the way to act upon it.

We celebrate those individuals who hid and/or rescued Jews during the Holocaust for a reason: they risked everything because of their basic sense of decency. Here, Vir does the same: he risks his job and his status in the royal court in order to do the right thing. He should serve as an inspiration for us all.


First, an obligatory clip:

I think we have all felt like that at one point or another whenever critters invade our personal space. LOL!

LONDO: Anything interesting happen while you were there?
VIR: No, no, nothing. No.
LONDO: (stern) Vir --
VIR: (nervous) Yes?
LONDO: (putting down his paper and brightening) I have a surprise for you.
VIR: A surprise?
(Londo gets up and moves towards his bed chamber door.)
LONDO: You can come out now.
(The door opens, and Lyndisty emerges. Londo claps his hands and starts to chuckle.)
LYNDISTY: Hello, Vir.
LONDO: Is it not glorious, Vir? Your wife has come all this way just to see you.
(Terrified, Vir promptly tries to hide. LOL!)
VIR: Londo, I'm not married.
LONDO: Not yet. But in a few days, you will be. And if you ask me, she's far to good for you. (I wish there was a clip on You Tube for this highlight. It's hard to convey in writing how precious Vir is here. He's so shy, he ducks behind Londo's hair! Hee!)

LYNDISTY: While I was waiting for you, Ambassador Mollari told me everything about you.
LONDO: (teasing) Oh, don't worry, Vir. I only told her the good parts. It was a very short conversation. (He starts to laugh, but his mirth his cut short when those "thrice-damned" bugs run across his floor again.) Ugh! They're getting faster. I swear they are evolving right before my eyes. (Then, to Vir and Lyndisty) If you see something this big with eight legs coming your way, let me know. I have to kill it before it develops language skills. (Heh.)

LYNDISTY: Do you think I'm pretty?
VIR: Oh, yes! Deliriously. But I've always associated delirium with fever, so... there you are.
LYNDISTY: Then let me be a fever from which you never recover and our nights an anarchy of pleasure.
VIR: Lyndist -- (Vir is cut off by Lyndisty's passionate kiss.)
LYNDISTY: (after the kiss is over) Well?
VIR: (overwhelmed and out of breath) If kisses could kill, that one would've flattened several small towns. (Hee!)

IVANOVA: Mr. Cotto! You're late.
VIR: I'm sorry. I was otherwise engaged. Engaged and married as it is. Not that I knew about it --
IVANOVA: (interrupting the ramble mid-stream) You're not making any sense.
VIR: I imagine I'm not, but that's the sort of day I'm having. (Cute.)

VIR: I just don't understand it. Every time I show my face around here lately, somebody hits me. First G'Kar, then the riots, now this --
LYNDISTY: It was so brave of you, putting yourself in front of me like that. Even terrified. I'm so proud of you.
VIR: I just don't understand why he did it.
LYNDISTY: With the Narns, who can say? You know how they are.
VIR: Yeah, but he --
LYNDISTY: Shh. You rest now. You've earned it. (She kisses him on the forehead.) You've been the hero long enough today.
(Vir smiles shyly.)
VIR: I've never been a hero before. (Not true.) I won't let them hurt you, Lyndisty. I promise. (Awwwwwww.)

IVANOVA: I heard there was a woman with you. Is she alright?
VIR: Yes, Lyndisty, my wife. (Then the rambling begins.) Well, soon to be. You know, it-it's done -- but it's not really done, you know. It's -- it's a long, long story, but -- you know, first I didn't think, but, you know, now she's, well -- you know, can I ask you a question as long as you're here?
IVANOVA: I suppose.
VIR: Okay. What do women want when things get, um -- you know, when things get, uh, you know -- (He puts his hands together and wiggles his fingers.) -- intimate?
IVANOVA: (suddenly uncomfortable) Uh, you know, Vir, I don't think we should be having this conversation. I mean, isn't there someone else?
VIR: There-there's only Londo, but I don't think that's a good idea, and since, you know, you're a -- a woman, I thought maybe you might have some ideas.
IVANOVA: Well, it depends. There's no single answer to that, Vir. I mean, every woman is different. But if she's your wife, you must know a-a few things about her.
VIR: (shaking his head and gesturing with his hands) Blank slate.
IVANOVA: Oh. Well, um -- well, there must've been other women before this --?
VIR: There were other women, but I never got past one.
(Ivanova is confused for a moment, but then she smiles.)
IVANOVA: You mean first base.
VIR: No, I mean one. You see, we have six, um -- we have six, you see, and each one is a different level of intimacy and pleasure. So, you know, first you have one, and that's 'eh', next there's two, and by the time you get to five, it's like -- (And here, Vir makes sex noises. A horrified Ivanova cuts him off.)
IVANOVA: Vir! Vir! I got it, I got it, I got it! (ROTFL! TMI! TMI!)

LONDO: I hope there is a good reason for this interruption, Commander.
IVANOVA: There is. In the course of our investigation into the attack yesterday, we've learned something very disturbing. Over the past couple of months, Vir has been forging travel papers for as many as two thousand Narns, authorizing them to leave their homeworld for so-called 'work camps.'
VIR: Commander --
LONDO: What?
IVANOVA: Londo, please. Don't pretend you don't know anything about this.
LONDO: I don't. This is a complete surprise to me. What makes you think that I would know anything about this?
IVANOVA: Well, for starters, it's the kind of thing only you could think of, Londo. Second, there's only one logical reason why a Narn would declare a Shankar and try to kill him: revenge. (A beat.) We ran a check on every Narn who left Narn using Vir's travel papers. According to the transit and relocation files, every single one of them - all two thousand Narns - all of them - are dead. That's two thousand murders, Vir. No wonder the Narns are after you and anyone close to you.
(Then, after the commercial break:)
LONDO: Two thousand dead Narns? Well, it's a start. Good to see you showing some initiative, Vir. (He pats Vir on the back, but Vir quickly ducks out of the way.)
SHERIDAN: Initiative? It's murder.
LONDO: You say that as if it were a bad thing. Remember, it's Narns we're talking about here. A few dead more or less --
(At this point, Vir can't stand it anymore, and he blurts out the truth.)
VIR: They're not dead!
IVANOVA: They're not?
LONDO: They're not? Well, then you do have some explaining to do. Can't count on anything anymore.
IVANOVA: But the records, Vir.
VIR: I altered the records so nobody would go looking for them.
VIR: Because I had to do something! There were... women and children... some of the local leaders... the ones who kept their language and their beliefs. Most of them were injured from us bombing their world and sending them to forced labor camps. They weren't getting proper treatment! If I hadn't gotten them out, they would've died. Instead, I sent them to other worlds, got them medical care, and when they were healthy, I had them filtered back to Babylon 5 - or sent elsewhere.
SHERIDAN: Why do the records say they died?
VIR: Because back home, nobody cares about dead Narns - only living ones. (A beat.) While I was here, there was nothing that I could do. But while I was stationed on Minbar, I finally had the chance to do something, and I took it. My only regret was that I couldn't have saved more of them. (Wow. Just wow.)

LYNDISTY: Ah! Vir, there you are. I've been looking everywhere for you. (Then she notices the look on Vir's face.) You're troubled. I can tell from your expression. (She sits down.) Can you tell me what is troubling you?
VIR: I thought I was doing something good - and I was. Only now it's something quite bad - for me, at least.
LYNDISTY: Well, that covers effect, but I'm reasonably sure I'm no nearer a cause than I was when I sat down.
VIR: It's a long story. It has to do with the Narns.
LYNDISTY: Ah. I should've expected that. Well, whatever it is, Vir, I'm sure it's not your fault.
VIR: How can you say that? I mean, you don't even know what the situation is.
LYNDISTY: Unnecessary. Everyone knows wherever's there's trouble, there's always a Narn at the center of it. That's all they are, you know. Trouble. (Vir stares at his betrothed with growing horror.) It's not their fault. They're simply inferior. It's genetics. They're lazy. They foul their own nests. Everything they touch falls apart. Hence my original conclusion: the sooner they're dealt with, the better for everyone. Especially if they've cause you any kind of trouble.
VIR: (standing) You don't really mean that, do you?
LYNDISTY: Yes, of course I do! My dearest Vir, don't be silly! (She giggles.) You're having fun with me, aren't you? Playing with me? Well, I can play too. That's why I came to find you. I have something for you. Please come.
VIR: (standing his ground) I can't, really. I'm not in the mood. (Yeah, no kidding. As we said, Lyndisty is cute and sweet and totally evil.)

VIR: (upon seeing the Narn tied up on the floor of his quarters) Lyndisty!
LYNDISTY: I knew you'd be surprised!
(Vir walks over and checks the Narn's pulse.)
VIR: He's still alive!
LYNDISTY: Yes, of course he is! I saved him for you! (Oh, Lord.) I almost didn't. After all, he did intend to kill me. But I set a little trap for him. I have been trained quite well. I almost finished him off myself, but --
VIR: Why did he want to kill you?
LYNDISTY: At first, I wasn't sure. But then, when he was unconscious, I studied him for a very long time -- until I remembered. I saw him on Narn. My father and I went there after the war. He was in charge of culling the herds.
VIR: (who can't believe what he's hearing) Culling the herds?
LYNDISTY: Oh, yes! Quite necessary for pacification. He would test their villages to find out which populations had the greatest tendency towards aggression. You cure future aggression by cutting out that part of the gene pool. Our soldiers would bring them in ten - twenty - at a time, and we'd put them to sleep. It was more humane than they deserved, really, but Father's always been overly charitable. Sometimes we would find whole villages where the aggression was just too deeply rooted, and we had to take it all out. You could see the flames blossoming into the night like brilliant flowers embracing the spring -- bright buds opening and spreading wider. (O. M. G. As we said, this chick is totally evil.) This one -- I remember he and his brother escaped from one of the villages we purified. That must be why they tried to kill me. (She takes out the Narn's knife and offers it to Vir.) He was going to use this -- but I saved it - and him - for you. (Thanks, honey, but I think I'll pass.)

VIR: I know we had some... problems towards the end there. And I definitely think we need to talk about it. But I think you can change. It's just some of your ideas. They need... rehabilitation.
LYNDISTY: They say the same about you. They say that you are confused, but that you will get better in time.
VIR: (with passion) I hope not! (Yes, Vir. We too hope not.)

No comments:

Post a Comment