NOTE: An update is at the bottom
As a child of the 90s, I was blessed to experience some of the most ambitious genre fiction in my formative years. I missed Twin Peaks during its initial run, but had caught up with it by the mid-1990s. I was with The X-Files at the beginning, watching the pilot on September 10, 1993. And of course there was also Millennium (which I've written at length before here) and some of those could-have-been classics like Nowhere Man and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
But a particular favorite of mine was Babylon 5. At the time it was one of the most ambitious narratives ever attempted on a sci-fi TV series (or really any TV series), featuring the early use of a story arc. All five seasons were plotted out ahead of time by creator J. Michael Straczynski (though the story lines of the fourth and fifth seasons were later altered when there were concerns over cancellation) so that the series would flow like a novel. Even seeming stand-alone episodes would feature minor plot points (some times headlines glanced on a newspaper or TV new reports playing in the background of scenes) that would hold major implications for future plot developments.
|J. Michael Straczynski|
B5, like The X-Files, is also loaded with mythological and esoteric allusions along with rich symbolism. I've toyed with writing an extended examination of such things for several years now but have yet to feel like I could do it justice. This feeling was only reinforced of late as I began re-watching the series several weeks ago.
Thus I was quite saddened, upon finishing up two season three episodes in the wake of dinner, to find that Jerry Doyle had passed away on July 27th. Doyle, 60, had recently found new life as a conservative radio talk show host (he had also ran as a Republican for the US House of Representatives in California after leaving the show several years earlier) but he is till most widely remembered (like much of the rest of the cast) for his turn on B5. In the show he had played the cynical security chief Michael Garibaldi, a character said to be the descendant of the legendary Italian statesman and Freemason Giuseppe Garibaldi.
"Central to many recent theories about secret societies, the Sinclairs are a Scottish aristocratic family of Norman extraction --their name was originally St. Clair --with a historic connection to Scottish stonemasonry... it was well enough established in tradition in the early seventeenth century that one branch of the Sinclair family was able to gain the backing of Scottish stonemasons' lodges in two attempts to re-establish their rights over the craft. The Sinclairs were also patrons of the masterpieces of Scottish medieval architecture, the famous Rosslyn Chapel...
"The hereditary rights of the Sinclairs over Scottish masons lapsed with the transformation of Scottish stonemasons' lodges into modern Freemasonry in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In 1736, at the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Willaim Sinclair of Roslin formally relinquished all rights over Masonry. In return, the members of Grand Lodge made him Scotland's first elected Grand Master for a term of one year..."
(The Element Encylopedia of Secret Societies and Hidden History, John Michael Greer, pgs. 560-561)
|was Sinclair supposed to have had famed distant relatives as Garibaldi did?|
|Jeff Conaway as Zack Allan|
"He first learned of his diabetes when he was 17 — complications of the disease had killed his father — but did not face the condition directly until a foot infection in the mid-1990s led doctors to tell him that he might need to have his leg amputated.
" 'Like most severely overweight people, I had to hit a rock-hard bottom before I’d take responsibility for the consequences of neglecting my own health,' he said in an interview with USA Today several years later. The wake-up call led him to a significant weight loss. He began to take a leading role in educating others about the disease."Furst nearly lost the foot while filming Babylon 5. Afterwards he went through a dramatic weight loss that was evident on the show.
On B5 he played Vir Cotto, the long-suffering aid of some-times-psychotic Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik). The Centauri are a bit of a cross between the Roman and British Empires and are every bit as bloodthirsty and genocidal as either was during their prime. Vir was quite an exception, however, being one of the only Centauri depicted in the show who was truly aware of the significant failings of his civilization.
|Furst as Vir|
Furst is now the sixth B5 regular cast member to die. There were eighteen total regular cast members during the show's four year run, meaning a third of the cast is now deceased. Five of the six total cast members have died around the age of 60 --Andreas Katsulas was was 59 while Michael O'Hare, Jeff Conaway and Jerry Doyle were all 60. Furst was 63.
When one considers how many Twin Peaks regulars were still around to film The Return (though a fair number of them have since departed after filming their scenes for The Return...) or that over half of the original Star Trek cast is still around, this is rather striking.
As was indicated above, Babylon 5 dealt with some very heavy, esoteric themes. As Chris Knowles has been exploring in his brilliant series roughly based around the death of Chris Cornell, these kinds of "psychodramas" can have heavy costs for those who perform them. The B5 cast may now be paying such a cost.