On Quotes

Day five bids me to share my favorite quote. I am partial to the following.

“Choose any two from fast, cheap, or good.”

The only problem is that this is really more of a saying than an attributable quote, even though it’s really quite true. If you need something fast and good, then don’t skip on the cost, and bring in professionals if needed. If you need something cheap and good, it’ll probably take a while. And anything that is both fast and cheap can’t possibly be very good.

But if I must quote somebody, I’ll quote a character that had many quoteworthy lines, G’Kar from Babylon 5. I can clearly remember him saying this:

“There are things in the universe which will never be adequately explained, or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth.”

A truth I was just confronted with is that I’ve been misremembering this quote all these years. It is in fact a confusion of two completely different scenes. In the first scene. G’Kar has been asked about a mysterious alien ship that appeared in orbit above an ancient and ruined world. He points to an ant, and says:

I have just picked it up on the tip of my glove. If I put it down again and it asks another ant, “What was that?”, how would it explain? There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They are vast, timeless. And if they are aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants…and we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know. We’ve tried. And we’ve learned we can either stay out from underfoot, or be stepped on.

And the other half of the frankenquote is on the origin of Swedish Meatballs. G’Kar welcomes Narn starship captain Na’Kal aboard the space station with a Narn-style meal:

Na’Kal: Breen! You’ve managed to import breen from Homeworld! How?
G’Kar: It isn’t actually breen.
Na’Kal: The smell… the taste!
G’Kar: It’s an Earth food. They are called Swedish Meatballs. It’s a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish Meatballs. I suspect it’s one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth.

Ah, Babylon 5. To fans, it was revolutionary. A space opera with not just continuity, but a story arc, and not just an improvised arc, but an arc that was plotted out since day one. The writing was overseen by the show’s creator and so the characters remained consistent (but not static), and also there were very few (if any) cases of writers painting themselves into corners and resorting to storytelling tricks to free themselves.

As for the special effects, while they may now look cheap by today’s standards, the computer-generated models had many advantages over the miniatures traditionally used. They did not have to be painstakingly fabricated, painted, and decorated with hundreds of tiny light bulbs or fiber-optic cables. More importantly, a group of computer-generated models could move in multiple directions, unlike physical models, which had to move in parallel.

The makeup used on aliens such as the Narn and the Drazi looked really great, unlike other contemporary shows, which often called a rumpled browline a sufficiently alien appearance. It wasn’t until Farscape that I’d seen better alien makeup on a TV series. (And rarely since Farscape, though Doctor Who has occasionally had its moments.)

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