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Recap / Babylon Five S 04 E 22 The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars

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"What matters is what we did here, together. In a hundred years it won't matter who we were. They probably won't even remember."

Sheridan and Delenn return to Babylon 5 where they are ambushed... by a surprise party, courtesy of Garibaldi. They have a lot of things to celebrate and aren't going to let John and Delenn get out of it. Sheridan promises to pay him back for it someday. They find newfound attention throughout the station, which Delenn is a little perturbed by. Sheridan says it doesn't really matter what people say, only what they accomplished. Besides, in a hundred years they probably won't even remember it. Delenn is placated and joins him for their the image skips and distorts before a message appears saying the signal has been lost. Command is given to reload the sequence, and options appear for the years 2262, 2362, 2762, and 3262, and autoplay is selected.

2 January 2262

An ISN late-night talk show hosted by Derek Mitchell is shown with John Sheridan as the topic of conversation. It begins with a special report from a special correspondent, Jim Bitterbane, who talks about Sheridan's background. The only son of a diplomat, who served with distinction in Earth Force until that fateful day he broke Babylon 5 away from Earth control. Now the question is can he hold together this alliance, one made up of fickle, bickering, often hostile races? Back in studio, Mitchell turns to his panel of experts, Sen. Elizabeth Meterie from EarthDome, author/journalist Lief Tanner from Mars, and speechwriter and commentator Henry Ellis in Paris.

Ellis jumps right in, saying he's amazed that everyone is trying to turn him into a hero even though it's pretty clear his pardon by President Luchenko was the result of some kind of deal (which, of course, it was). Tanner and the senator try to speak up in Sheridan's defence but Ellis just starts shouting his points at them, declaring the Alliance will end in disaster. The others seem willing to at least give him the benefit of the doubt to see if he actually can make it work before calling him a failure. Mitchell asks if the Alliance can work, to which Tanner says he doesn't know, but he thinks Sheridan deserves the chance. Metarie then pipes up, pointing out it's an election year, and Ellis wasn't just a speechwriter, he was Clark's speechwriter, and now is out trying to discredit Sheridan and the Alliance to improve his party's chances for taking the senate. Mitchell says they're coming up on a break and asks for predictions from the three of them.

Mitchell: Can Sheridan and his people make a go of this new alliance? Do you think they'll make any difference whatever? And what do you consider to be the number one problem waiting for them.

Tanner thinks they've already made a difference in ensuring Martian independence. (Ellis:"At gunpoint!") The senate kept talking about Mars but never actually did anything about it. The senator thinks the next year will be critical as he needs to keep all these worlds in line, many of whom probably don't know exactly what their roles will be in this new alliance, along with a laundry list of other problems here and there, any one of which could suddenly blow up one day, but she thinks he's up to it. Ellis thinks sooner or later Sheridan will need to use military force to make it work, at which point it will all fall apart.

Ellis: He's power-hungry and he's unprepared and that's a dangerous combination!

Mitchell thanks them as the record ends.

2 January 2362

This recording is a broadcast with a panel of professors doing a series on the centennial of the Alliance, concentrating on its origins and founders. On this panel are Jim Latimere of the University of York, Dr. Barbara Tashaki of the University of Japan Tokyo, and Dr. William Exeter from New York University. Their first question is what role did the Babylon station play in the creation of the 100-year peace? Exeter and Tashaki don't think it had any real effect, it was just a vessel for social change that people of the time wanted, and Sheridan and Delenn themselves didn't actually do anything of consequence, they were just convenient figureheads for the hopes and dreams of the people. Exeter thinks their current image is only due to good publicity and that they in actuality very nearly blew it several times. Tashaki adds that only the force of history kept it from collapsing after so many died in its first year. She's about to bring up the incident with their son, but Latimere wants to stay focused on those two.

Next question: where did they go wrong? Exeter and Tashaki seem to think...everything. They focus on a colony of telepaths Sheridan created, and later admitted was the worst mistake of his career, saying they were going to turn on him sooner or later and that it might have actually led to the telepath war. Latimere brings up a recording from the incident in question:

A rather battered Garibaldi is in what looks like Medlab trying to talk down a group of unseen people, saying they can still work this out. He says he can get them out of this if they work with him, but they don't respond. Sheridan then appears on the monitor. After consulting with Captain Lochley, he has determined that he will not negotiate with terrorists for the lives of hostages. He orders them to surrender or he will use lethal force. As he disappears, Garibaldi mutters, "Swell". Someone then points a gun at him and as the recording ends, a PPG shot is heard.

Latimere asks for comments. Exeter declares Sheridan was pathological, though Latimere points out that is the position of most governments faced with such situations. Exeter doesn't disagree with that, just saying the "coldness" in his voice indicates how power-hungry he was, and that he never let anything get in his way. Takashi disagrees on him being pathological, just the mastermind of a well-crafted mythos machine, particularly about his death. Everyone knows he died on Minbar, but the Alliance's cover story is clearly intended to perpetuate the myth, and most people still believe it.

Latimere then asks them about "the Delenn question", which apparently has to do with rumors that she's still alive somewhere. Exeter and Tashaki both agree that it's just another myth put out by the Alliance to keep the faithful in line and question why they would need such things if they're so powerful? And as for the Alliance, overall, has it been a force for good? Exeter thinks it has, but still the motives of those at its founding are still suspect to him. Takashi thinks Sheridan was a megalomaniac and feeding into that, even after his death, is a grave error...wait, what's going on?

A security alert goes off and before they can do anything, they hear Minbari chimes and a wizened, elderly Delenn appears behind them. As they watch in astonishment, she speaks up

Delenn: John Sheridan was a good and kind and decent man. (turns to leave)
Latimere: Delenn, wait. You came all this way...just to say that?
Delenn: You came just as far to say less.

Tashaki tries to get her to stay and answer their questions, but Delenn has little patience for them, saying their only desire is to be heard, not to hear. They ignore what they know when it is inconvenient and invent the rest.

Delenn: But none of that matters, except that he was a good man. A kind man, who cared about the world, even when the world cared nothing for him.

With that she begins to leave, but Exeter can't keep quiet; of course she would try to defend...Delenn silences him with a look. None of the others can look her in the eye. With a final "Good-bye", she makes her way out, and the record ends.

2 January 2762

A man named Daniel is initiating a holographic simulation of Babylon 5, and begins explaining what he's doing to the Politdivision.

Daniel: The purpose of this simulation is to provide reverse-correct info-speak as support for current changes in Earth policy. It is the new policy that the Interstellar Alliance is restrictive and against the best interests of Earth. Intent is to deconstruct historical figures revered by prole sector, thereby legitimizing current government policies.

He then calls up holographic representations of Sheridan, Delenn, Franklin and Garibaldi which will be programmed with the psychological profiles of their subjects. After verifying that the holograms are operating as they should he begins testing how they can be modified, starting by uploading current events into their programs. After a few moments to process the changes the holograms begin asking questions about what's been happening, while simultaneously finding the answers in their new memories, that they have been created as propaganda tools to attempt justify Earth's break from the Alliance. Daniel smirks and corrects them, good-facts as opposed to real-facts, which the government has endorsed.

Holo-baldi asks why, and Daniel explains that the five-hundred years with the Alliance has caused humanity to become weak, to lose its uniqueness. Holo-Sheridan wants the real story, and Daniel says Earth wants to expand and the Alliance is in the way. Holo-baldi realizes that's what this is, an attempt to discredit the Alliance by discrediting those who created it. Holo-Sheridan picks up more information; EarthGov is split into two factions fighting each other, the verge of another civil war. Franklin sees that the Politdivision is planning an invasion of several Alliance loyalist colony worlds. Daniel proceeds with the next stage.

The simulation changes to a Babylon 5 corridor and he reprograms the holo-Sheridan, who begins marching back and forth in front of a ragged group of surrendered enemies in hopes of finding mercy. He declares that the Interstellar Alliance is not there to provide mercy to the weak. There are only the conquerors and the conquered. He declares that they will take by force or subvert what they want to their own ends. The other holograms watch in horror as he declares that a billion lives are nothing to the perpetuation of his empire. He then orders the security force to gun the prisoners down.

The others start talking, trying to figure out something they can do. Before they get too far, Daniel proceeds to another simulation, this time reprogramming holo-Stephen, and putting the Delenn program into standby. This one portrays Franklin as conducting experiments to create some kind of hybrid that would serve the needs of the Alliance, and performing those experiments on children.

Daniel is pleased with the results and takes a moment to take some notes. Holo-baldi starts talking to Daniel, asking about what they're going to do once this is all done, probably a preemptive strike, right? Daniel is about to shut him down, but he keeps talking, saying he has some useful information, after all he, or rather Garibaldi, did all the strategic planning. That's a juicy resource that just might get Daniel a promotion. Daniel wants to hear more, but Holo-baldi want to hear the real-facts first: they are planning a first strike. Daniel admits they're going to hit the outer colonies and the enemy nations on Earth at the same time. The fleets leave within the hour. The targets are civilian populations, estimated casualties: 15-20 million. Daniel then asks what suggestions holo-baldi has.

Holo-baldi: Well, I suggest that you put your head between your legs and you kiss your ass good-bye.

He then explains that since he is technically a computer program, and Garibaldi had a knack for breaking into systems, he went through Daniel's computer from one end to the other, recorded their little conversation and sent it out to the opposition, who are no doubt launching a preemptive strike of their own. Since they aren't mass murderers, they'll most likely just target military installations, but that doesn't help Daniel:

Holo-baldi: This little lab of yours, this isn't by any chance located on a military base, is it?

Daniel runs off in a panic and the hologram gives him a Garibaldi trademark canary-eating cat smirk. That's what happens when you give a hologram the personality and skills of Michael Garibaldi. Danny-boy never stood a chance. Holo-baldi, happy that he prevented a mass murder, says goodbye to the recreations of his friends and waits for the missiles to hit. As the base is engulfed in fire, the recording ends.

2 January 3262

In a dark room that appears to be a kind of primitive lab, a guy in a monk's robe, Brother Alwyn, adjusts a camera right before another monk, Brother Michael, comes in. Michael says he's having a Crisis of Faith ("Again?"), wondering what they're doing there. Alywn sits him down to see what's brought this one on. Apparently Rome has turned down another request for them to be recognized. They don't seem to see the importance of their mission, to keep alive the knowledge that might have been lost in the Great Burn. Michael wonders how they know they're on the right path. Alwyn points him to the holy books written after the Great Burn.

Alwyn: "And so it came to pass that in the five-hundredth year of the Alliance the Children of Earth did war one upon another with missiles and terrible weapons, and they burned the Earth and the air and the cities and the sea." You only need look outside to have part verified. Why is the rest suspect?

Michael thinks it's all too clean and points to several figures, such as Lorien the Last of the Firstborn. Others are saying he's a fable created to match scripture, but there's no evidence he existed. Alwyn insists the evidence is in space, which is unfortunately out of their reach. Michael begins lamenting the current state of things, tiny villages where there were one grand cities, the great secrets of ancient days all but lost, but Alwyn insists that's why they are they. They have restored many books, but Michael says they are no closer to the flying machines the books speak of, let alone the stars. Michael begins pointing out other figures, the Blessed Sheridan, Ivanova the Strong, Delenn the Wise; how do they know they are not fables?

He then points to an unfinished illumination portraying a Ranger. There is a prophecy from Delenn III that the Rangers would come again and rebuild the cradle of Sheridan and the Alliance, but after all these years where are they, if they truly exist? And if they are a myth, what of the rest? Has his whole life been a lie?

Alwyn: And if they do not come today, but they come tomorrow, is your life a lie then? I cannot help you, Brother Michael. That is what faith is for. Faith sustains us in the hour when reason tells us we cannot continue, that the whole of our lives is without meaning.

Michael asks why have the capacity for reason if it's useless, but Alwyn corrects him that they are like two shoes; a man will go further with both than he ever could with one or the other. Alwyn gives Michael one more thing to consider, that the Rangers often moved in secret, and that if they had indeed returned, few if any would know about it. Michael asks if he thinks the Rangers are here, and Alwyn replies they could be.

Alwyn: That's all that faith requires, that we surrender ourselves to the possibility of hope. With that I am content.

He sends the younger monk off to finish his work. Before he does, Michael expresses the wish to walk among the stars just once before he dies. After he leaves, Alwyn comes over and speaks to the camera, reporting to someone about having enough information to reconstruct a gasoline engine and asks to arrange to have some gasoline "found" nearby - though he exhorts that the Supply Department should use an old container this time, because the last time they tried something like this, the ruse barely held because it looked too modern to have been made pre-Great Burn. He then goes to his wardrobe and pulls out a Ranger's uniform, declaring they will rebuild the Earth. He also thinks Brother Michael is a promising candidate, or will be in twenty years or so. He concludes his report ("We live for the One, we die for the One."), and the record ends.

The program completes and the one who has been watching them says to stand by.

2 January 1002262

The program has completed to a period of one million years from the formation of the Alliance, and requests instructions. The viewer orders the records sent to New Earth for a celebration. The computer acknowledges then reports abnormal solar emissions, indicating an imminent nova. He sends the transmission on but intends to see this himself. As the signal is sent, he watches it leave.

Viewer: This is how the world ends: swallowed in fire but not in darkness. You will live on—the voice of all our ancestors, the voice of our fathers and our mothers to the last generation. We created the world we think you would have wished for us, and now we leave the cradle for the last time.

He turns and walks away, transforming into a ball of light as he does and enters what appears to be an encounter suit. As Sol explodes, taking the Earth with it, a ship bearing the Ranger emblem flies into hyperspace.

2 January 2262

As they lie in bed, Delenn says they should get some sleep, but Sheridan's thinking about what they were talking about earlier. He's wondering if anyone will remember them in a hundred or a thousand year, but figures they won't. Delenn reminds him that they didn't do it to be remembered, they did it because it was right. And history will attend to itself. They kiss and snuggle together for a good night's sleep.

Dedicated to all the people who predicted the Babylon Project would fail in its mission.

Faith manages.

This episode contains examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The holographic Garibaldi, having been programmed with the personality of the original Garibaldi, quickly snoops around Politdivision's databases, learns of their plans to commit genocide against civilians, tricks Daniel into revealing their plans openly, and transmits their plans to the enemy.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The isolationist faction Daniel belongs to. His uniform even sports a symbol quite similar to that of the Nazi SS
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Daniel talking of Politburo's plan to kill millions of civilians to demoralize the pro-Interstellar Alliance faction. He doesn't sound very happy about it, but...
    Daniel: You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
  • Apocalypse How: Two of them; the "Great Burn", the nuclear war that reduced mankind to a medieval level of society, and then the destruction of the entire planet when Sol goes nova.
  • Artistic License – Space: Sol isn't the kind of star that can go nova, and it certainly wouldn't be a mere million years from now. Background material/Word of God states this was artificially induced by someone opening jump points inside the sun to siphon off its mass and deliberately cause it to become unstable, except that that's not how stars work either.
  • Bad Future: In 500 years Earth will apparently start another civil war that will reduce them to a medieval-esque society. On the upside humanity elsewhere in the galaxy is implied to be doing fine.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: On Post-Burn Earth, the Rangers are working slowly in secret to lift Earth from the ashes of the Burn.
  • Big "NO!": Daniel lets this out once he realizes how badly Holo-baldi has screwed him.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: On quite a large scale; when "The Burn" kills millions and reduces Earth to around a Medieval tech level humans off Earth (presumably on colonies like Proxima and maybe even Mars) are still going strong, secretly aiding those on Earth via the Rangers.
    • Background material /Word of God is that many Earth Colonies did survive the burn, but many were the IA loyal colonies Earth had just confessed to wanting to nuke flat. And so, feeling Earth had gotten exactly what it deserved, they washed their hands of what was left. Leaving it eventually to the Rangers to step in and slowly nudge Earth back to the stars.
  • Call-Back: Ellis tries to make an issue of Sheridan's agreement of amnesty with Luchenko.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Though it takes five hundred years for the "gun" to be shot, the seeds for the Second Earth Alliance Civil War are sown right after the foundation of the Interstellar Alliance: a party sharing Clark's Earth-centric ideology, and the Hero with Bad Publicity/Villain with Good Publicity status of Sheridan pushed by certain academic circles a hundred years after the Liberation of Earth.
  • The Constant: The Rangers will continue their mission of safeguarding galactic peace and the well-being of humanity for a million years, in the face of political upheaval, an expansionist Earth regime, devastating war and, finally, the destruction of Earth itself.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Copied the Morals, Too: Daniel's copies of the main characters are really far better than he needs them to be. Garibaldi in particular has the morality and personality of the real thing, and manages to use that combined with having access to Daniel's computer to trick Daniel into an Engineered Public Confession. So much for Daniel and his plans.
  • Crisis of Faith: Brother Michael is going through one about their cause. Brother Alwyn's response indicates this isn't the first time.
  • Deconstruction: Some of the main cast, or their public images at least, is "deconstructed" by people in the future. Most of them, however, are more interested in pushing their own political agendas and manipulate facts to conform to them, making this episode a deconstruction of this very trope.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Oh boy humanity still has a long way to go and will fall quite low - even lower than during the Clark dictatorship - before taking the place of the First Ones among the stars.
  • End of the World as We Know It: Future humans, or rather their descendants, have left Earth for a "New Earth" (the Vorlon homeworld according to Word of God) before Sol goes nova.
  • Engineered Public Confession: A holographic version of Garabaldi reprograms the computer he's being projected by, then gets the engineer reprogramming him, Sheridan, Delenn and Franklin to explain what he's doing and the genocidal plans of the government, and broadcasts the results out to the resistance.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Sheridan in the "goodfact" scenario created by Daniel.
  • Evil Overlord/Galactic Conqueror: Sheridan, according to the "goodfact" (propaganda) created by Daniel.
  • Evilutionary Biologist/Mad Scientist: Daniel attempts to cast Dr. Franklin as this in his "goodfact" scenario, trying to create human-alien hybrids for the ISA, just like Dan Randall did during the First Earth Alliance Civil War.
  • Foreshadowing:
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: The episode consists of several vignettes depicting the impact of the show's main storyline years and centuries into the future.
  • Future Imperfect: A case study of this going from present-day Earth Alliance to one million years in the future. The misinformation is mostly self-imposed though, as the commentators seem largely more interested in pushing their own agendas rather than presenting accurate historical fact. The 3262 recording plays it straight and justifies it, since this is in the aftermath of a war that destroyed most of the Earth and most of their records, reducing historical figures such as Sheridan and Delenn to myths and legends.
  • Genre Blind: The fascist Separatist "historian" (Daniel) who leaves a recreation of Michael Garibaldi running unhindered on their computer system. He spends his time figuring out how the computer system works, then sends a message warning the Seperatists' targets of the impending attack.
  • Here We Go Again!: Alwyn's reaction to Michael saying he's having a crisis of faith indicates this is not the first time (possibly not even the first time that day)
    Michael: I am having... a crisis of faith.
    Alwyn: That again... So, what is afflicting your conscience tonight, Brother Michael?
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The panelists 100 years in the future cannot wrap their heads around the concept of someone being more interested in creating peace than ruling the galaxy, resulting in this for Sheridan and Delenn.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: In this episode, which flashes forward to different eras of humanity's future after the show's time frame, it is shown that humans evacuate Earth one million years in the future, before an impending mysterious artificially-induced nova explosion of Sol.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Daniel's plan is to cast the members of the Army of Light, particularly Sheridan, Delenn, Stephen and Garibaldi as megalomaniac villains to justify Earth breaking away from the IA and embarking on an campaign of conquest. He is not subtle about it either; his version of Sheridan is positively Sith and his version of Franklin is Playing with Syringes while gleefully anticipating experimenting on children.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Barbara Tashaki and William Exeter accuse the ISA of doing this with Sheridan; both consider him a Villain with Good Publicity. By the time following the Great Burn Sheridan and his companions have become religious figures integrated into Christian-esque mythology.
  • Hypocrite: Both Exeter and Tashaki are quick to lay direct blame on Sheridan and Delenn for deaths during the first year of the ISA and even the Telepath War, while at the same time denying them any individual credit, claiming that any good that came from the ISA is the result of history and the shared common destiny of humanity. In fact, holding them responsible for any great problems while rejecting them credit for any great successes requires the application of two conflicting schools of historic thought, Great Man Theory and Nouvelle Histoire.
  • Insistent Terminology: Not propaganda, good-facts that have been approved of by the current government.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: No sooner do the scholars finish dismissing rumors that Delenn's still alive, she appears in the studio right behind them.
    • In the commentary for the episode, JMS wonders how she was able to get to the studio so fast, then jokes that she must have been in the building for something else and happened to walk by while they were filming.
  • Jerkass: Henry Ellis, Clark's former speechwriter turned political pundit, and William Exeter, the psychologist attending the panel in 2362.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: There are no living witnesses to most of the biggest turning points in Sheridan's rise to power, he made many questionable decisions, and his favored tactics were severely underhanded. While we in the audience know it's all true and the methods were necessary, from the panel's perspective all they have is the word of a politician they don't like making absurdly outlandish claims.
    • Ellis in particular would fall into this when he says there must have been a deal to grant Sheridan and his people immunity, which of course there was, but he makes it out to be this hush-hush backroom deal no one wants to talk about, had Sheridan not openly admitted was one of the reasons for resigning from Earth Force.
  • Karma Houdini: Henry Ellis, former speechwriter for the Clark dictatorship turned pundit and panelist. Although the disdain with which he is being treated suggests his career may not be a long one.
  • Large Ham: Bruce Boxleitner really enjoyed getting to play a villain for once, going so far as to study films of Hitler and copying a few mannerisms.
  • Match Cut: The nova of Sol transitions to a lit candle beside Sheridan and Delenn's bed.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: The entire episode turns out to be this.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delenn delivers a blisteringly short one to a panel of armchair academics a hundred years in the future, who had just asserted that she couldn't possibly still be alive.
    Delenn: John Sheridan was a good, kind, and decent man.
    Dr. Jim Latimere: Delenn, wait! You came all this way just to say that?
    Delenn: You came just as far to say less.
  • The Remnant: Some of Clark's supporters remain active as a political party. According to Word of God the cause is that people don't hold grudges long enough.
  • Shout-Out: Straczynski dropped a little love letter to his favorite subject in each post-B5 age;
    • The revisionist Kent Brockman News station was his personal hate letter to revisionist historians in general.
    • The anti-ISA faction of 2762 has elements of 1984, especially the use of Newspeak.
    • The Feudal Future/The Dung Ages Earth of 3262 occurs after a planetary civil war, where a monastery secretly run by the Rangers is attempting to re-introduce technology. JMS realized halfway through writing the script that he was "channeling A Canticle for Leibowitz".
    • The final era has an in-universe example in the form of the future-human's Vorlon-inspired encounter suit.
    • According to JMS, the Canticle similarity to the 3262 sequence was unintentional, but after it was noticed it was too late in the filming to rewrite the scene.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Gradually happens to Sheridan and Delenn over the course of centuries.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Senator Metarie pulls one on Henry Ellis by reminding viewers he was a speechwriter for President Clark. One hundred years later, Exeter tries to counter Delenn's defense of Sheridan by implying she's being motivated by her relationship with him and she silences him with a simple glare.
  • Show Within a Show: Most of the episode is revealed early on to be video clips from a historical archive being reviewed in the distant future, one million years after the founding of the ISA.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Delenn interrupts the panel 100 years in the future for this.
    Delenn: You came just as far to say less.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien / Transhuman Aliens: One million years after the founding of the ISA, Humans have evolved into this. They also wear encounter suits like their long-vanished forebearers the Vorlons. Word of God establishes that the Minbari have also become this, while the Narn and Centauri have not.
  • Take That!: As listed under Shout-Out, the 2362 sequence is one long one towards "academics" and the like who tend to do, well, exactly what those characters were doing.
  • Vichy Earth: 500 years after the Liberation of Earth, the Earth Alliance will once again be ruled by a fascist, warhawkish, Earth-centric regime.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In the "goodfact" scenario created by Daniel, Franklin vivisects human children to transplant alien organs into their bodies.